Musings and photos of wild and everyday life

Posts tagged “Bird

Goodbye Lizzie, Hello Caoimhe

Looking like a small alien blob, it takes a while to recognise the tiny baby birds huddled together for warmth in a small nest.

In previous years Lizzie had rared families of Blue Tits but last year our camera nest box stayed idle, despite a brief bout of grass depositing.

This year we hadn’t seen any movement near the box and on the infrequent times we had checked the video, there was nothing happening, although again, some grass had been collected early on.  This month we checked again just to be sure there was nothing there.  In another nest box, with no camera, wasps had built a nest a few years back.  Anyway we were surprised and delighted to realise that not only was there a nest but there were eggs – very small oval shaped eggs with few markings and a slight pink tinge, although this could have been caused by the light reflecting off the wooden box.

Only about a week later, we saw one of the birds seemingly breaking an egg.  But as she moved, the strange outline of a fleshy, scrawny, awkward baby could be seen.  The parent was actually getting rid of the broken egg.

Now there are at least six babies.  There could be 7 or even 8 – they tend to sit on each other in the confined nest hollow.  There were 8 eggs, so maybe all hatched safely – more to find out!

Welcome Caoimhe.

 


2015 Review

Gannet Stare
Sorrell Hill from Lugnagun

Sorrell Hill from Lugnagun

Canon EOS 7D

Canon EOS 7D ready for new careful owner

Looking back 2015 was a mixed year, starting cold and ending with the wettest weather that I can remember.  In between there were decent warm and dry spells and from my perspective, at least, a good year for wild things and places.

January started cold with plenty of Finch flocks, particularly Goldfinch around the lakes.

Small flocks of flighty, restless Long-tailed tits tested my camera and patience and Redwing & Fieldfare appeared as usual. (Winter Birds)

It was a good time for walks and enjoying the clear winter air and views.  Lugnagun is one of our favourites offering views of the Lakes on one side and the mountains on the other with chances to see Ravens and small birds and perhaps Peregrines.

It was also the time to sell and upgrade my trusty 7D camera which had served very well for years.

 

Dunlin Flock, Bull Lagoon, Dublin

Dunlin Flock, Bull Lagoon, Dublin

February showed signs of Spring but it was our old haunt, the North Bull Island, that brought fondest memories.  Many hours have bben spent here in the past when it was on my doorstep.  Now it is a good journey but always rewarding.

Thousands of waders were there as usual, as well as Brent Geese and ducks such as Shellduck and Teal.

For me, the huge, wheeling flocks of waders in the sky when they are disturbed, beats any sight in Dublin.

Mute Swan with attitude

Mute Swan with attitude, Kensington Gardens, London

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March saw various creatures getting ready for the amorous season.

This Swan in Kensington Gardens in London seemed to have an extra dose of hormones.

He chased anything that moved and many that hadn’t intended to, seeing off all and sundry, including large Canada Geese, just for being there.

Rat sniffing air outside home, Russborough

Rat sniffing air outside home, Russborough

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Nearer home, a rat had made the base of a tree into a complex home with a network of paths and exits.

Wren on branch

Wren on branch

 

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Regularly hated, shunned and feared, these are interesting creatures and not in any way ugly to my eyes, although they are associated with a number of human diseases.

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Along with blooming plants, the nesting season accelerated in April.  Birds marked their territories by singing and despite being tiny, this little guy sang with the best of them – an unmistakeable high-pitched song to brighten any day.

Howth Head view

Howth Head view of Bull Island to Lambay Island

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May is the official start of Summer.  Flowers that had brightened Spring, spread and developed and showed the countryside at its best.

Howth Head is a great place to visit in May (or most months) and is a favourite trip of ours.

It may be unique in displaying such a diversity of scenes and habitats in such a snall area, still bustling with human life.

To the North is the well-known busy harbour with restaurants, fishing industry, Gulls and Seals.

A brilliant walk takes you all round the cliffs or up over the top of the head.  The cliffs host seabird ‘towns’ – vast numbers of closely nesting Auks, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Cormorants – while the head hosts many lovely small birds, such as Wheatear and Stonechat.

Gannet Stare

Gannet Stare, Great Saltee Island

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The Saltees welcomed us for our annual visit in June.

A bit like Howth only more remote, quieter and with better weather, this is an absolutely brilliant Island.

Puffins Courting

Puffins Courting and Bill-clacking on cliff edge, Great Saltee

Thousands of seabirds, lovely wild flowers and an island away from it all – what’s not to like?

However it is a toss-up as which of 2 birds is the greatest attraction – Gannets or Puffins.

 

Both are magnicifent.  The gannets nest in great numbers  – one of the most important sites in Europe, while the tiny Puffins vary in number each year, depending on the availability of Sand Eels.

But they are strikingly coloured and impossibly cute.

Apart from the sea birds, the island also had Choughs and Gull species as well as Oystercatchers.

Heath Spotted Orchid

Heath Spotted Orchid, Pollardstown Fen, Kildare

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Pollardstown Fen in County Kildare was visited in July.

Fed by a spring, this marsh area is now designated as a Special Area of Conservation.

It has an old feeder canal to the Grand Canal and was important to that transport system.

Many different plants and animals can be found there including a number of Orchids and a car park, path and boardwalk make access easy.

Green Vervet Monkey

Green Vervet Monkey, Nairobi National Park

 

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Business required a visit to Nairobi in Kenya in August and, well, you can’t go there even for a short time without seeing some African wildlife!

Nairobi National Park is not huge and lacks quite a few animals, such as elephants, that had to be removed for their safety.

But it is very close to the city and has Rhinos, Zebra, Lions, and many other animals and birds.

The Green monkeys are cheeky and get quite close.

Elephants bathing and playing in pool

Elephants bathing and playing in pool, Etosha National Park Namibia

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September saw most of the Summer birds and animals still around – butterflies in the garden, terns at the coast, etc.

But holidays took us back to Africa on a brilliant trip from Victoria Falls to Cape Town.

Amongst so many sights, we took in Chobe and Etosha National Parks, the dunes and deserts of Namibia and Penguins in South Africa.

So many mammals and birds but particularly, many many elephants.

A great trip in great company.

Autumn Colours Mount Usher gardens

Autumn Colours Mount Usher gardens

 

 

Water levels in the lakes were quite low in October which saw little rainfall – quite unlike the end of the year!  Now if there could just be some storage scheme to even it out (and maybe have the rain fall at night!) :).

Autumn colours predominated and few places show this better than Mount Usher gardens.

Apart from the foreign trees and plants, there are many native species and the Vartry river flows peacefully through.

Also Butterflies, Herons, Dippers and Wagtails, amongst others, are regularly seen.

Tufted Duck male

Tufted Duck male, St. Stephens Green, Dublin

 

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We had a wedding in November and a number of visitors, so it seemed a more indoors time than outdoors.

But life in the great outside continued as normal, where the mild weather was well appreciated, especially by the smaller birds.

St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin, one of my regular walks, seemed to be back near to Spring levels with Ducks back in full plumage and Swans and Pigeons being fed (although too much bread, I fear).

Tufted Ducks dived and preened and water rolled off them like worries should for us.

 

Wigeon feeding in Rogerstown estuary

Wigeon feeding in Rogerstown estuary

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Rogerstown estuary in North Dublin is a very good birding site with a tidal estuary, bird hides and some pools and a wooded area.

In December it was teeming with ducks and waders including Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck, Pink-footed Geese, Redshank, Greenshank and Lapwing.

There were also Peregrines and Buzzards.  Not bad for one site.

As the tide receeded, hundreds of mostly Wigeon, formed a line along the diminishing channel as the light became more and more golden.  Hard to leave.

Sunken Boats on Blessington Lakes

Sunken Boats on Blessington Lakes at Russborough

Christmas came and went with more parties! The weather outside however was stormy and rainy with many places flooded.  The only good part was that it remained warmer than usual.

With cold weather creeping in, I wish everyone a great 2016.

 

 


Winter Birds

Swans beside 18th Green Tulfarris under heavy frost
Swans beside 18th Green Tulfarris under heavy frost

Swans beside 18th Green, Tulfarris, under heavy frost

We’ve had frost, snow, winds and rain but it hasn’t been a bad winter so far.

Of course golf hasn’t always been possible!

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Birds have had a mixed time. There has been a good deal of wild fruit on trees and on the ground and people these days put out more food in gardens.

On the other hand, some of those aweful shrubs with ‘lasting’ berries (meaning that birds don’t like them, which makes them close to useless in my book) have begun to see some bird harvesting.

Fieldfare in front garden

Fieldfare in front garden

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Whooper Swans and Greylag Geese still visit the fields beside our garden.

See previous post – ( https://wordpress.com/post/14866330/2493/ )

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In the garden, Fieldfare and Redwing arrived in December.

These thrushes are in the same family as the more familiar Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Blackbird but arrive in some numbers here only in winter from Scandinavia.

They are definite signs of cold weather if that’s not already obvious.

Redwing in field

Redwing in field

The Fieldfare is pretty much Mistle thrush size and has a grey look.

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The Redwing is closer to Song Thrush size and appearance but has a red patch under its wings.

Both can be a bit shy and scare off easily.

Chaffinch Male feeding on fallen crab apples in front garden

Chaffinch Male feeding on fallen crab apples in front garden

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The Fieldfares love the fallen Crab Apples in our front garden.  Strangely we usually get a bumper crop of these every second year and were not expecting them again this year.  They still came and fell in large numbers which attracted the Fieldfares as well as the more common and less shy Chaffinches and Blackbirds.

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Goldfilch charm on Larch cones Blessington Lakes

Goldfilch charm on Larch cones Blessington Lakes

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Down at the lakes I heard and then saw a large flock of Goldfinches (Charm, Drum or Troubling of Goldfinches according to ‘Birds of Ireland, Facts, Folklore & History). There must have been at least 50 birds making quite a racket as they attacked the cones high in the Larch trees beside the lake. They moved quite fast, making them difficult to photograph and showed good agility.

Long-tailed Tit Blessington Lakes

Long-tailed Tit Blessington Lakes

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Also close to the lake, a flock of Long-tailed Tits flitted amongst the trees

They also move quite fast and don’t stay in one tree too long.

It is an unfortunate fact that Ireland has a much smaller number of bird spesies than the UK – who in turn have a much smaller selection than the continent.  We miss out on some really cute members of the Paridae family, such as Crested, Marsh and Bearded Tits.

However the Long-tailed is one of the most beautiful birds in Ireland with its long tail and pinkish feathers.

Its nest if you ever find one (not easy), is beautifully constructed in a tree from moss and spider webs, with a small entry hole – something to keep an eye out for in spring.

Heron fishing Blessington Lakes

Heron fishing Blessington Lakes

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Finally, checking out the lake near Russborough House, this Heron was happily fishing away. He (or she) didn’t seem to be catching anything large but seemed to have plenty of small successes. The prey looked like insects.

Hopefully the rest of the winter will be as enjoyable.


Harry the Heron

Harry with fish SSG
 Harry the Heron in Pond SSG Dublin

Harry the Heron in Pond SSG Dublin

Walking to and from work can be a drudge.

Walking by or preferrably through a green space, can lift the mood and is probably a bit better for the ould lungs!  I am lucky to have 3 possible green areas to traverse depending on the path chosen.  St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin is one of those and it should already be clear from previous posts, how much I believe it benefits the city and its people.

Harry in Willow Tree SSG

Harry in Willow Tree SSG

One of the things that ‘amuses one’  is playing ‘Where’s Harry?’  Harry is a Grey Heron that is commonly seen in different areas of the park and finding where on a particular day is the aim.  OK, it mighn’t be rivetting but it beats listening to the news on the radio.  Also there could be 100 different Herons but if so they are all considered to be Harry:)

Sometimes he is in the open and easy to find.

Harry in Willow Tree SSG Dublin

Harry in Willow Tree SSG

Harry near bridge SSG

Harry near bridge SSG

Other times he could be somewhere in the large Willow Tree or at the edge of the stagnant end of the pond, at the SE, Baggot Street end.

Harry on Rock beside bridge SSG

Harry on Rock beside bridge SSG

Harry & friend on rocks SSG

Harry & friend on rocks SSG

Harry may not be around every day but he can often be seen although sometimes hard to find.

Other common places include the rocks under the viewing point at the West end and the rocks on the NE side of the bridge. In both of these places he can be very close.

Harry preening SSG

Harry preening SSG

Looking around the rocks a metre or two from the pond’s edge in the middle of the park (S side of the pond) can also be fruitful.

 

Inactive can be a common theme for Harry, perhaps having a post-breakfast rest.

However if you have time or are lucky, some typical behaviour can be observed.

 

This includes preening – the systematic cleaning of feathers to keep them waterproof.

Harry calling SSG

Harry calling SSG

Herons can make quite a racket and Harry makes himself very obvious when he calls out.

You may even see him catch a fish – yes there are some fish in the pond and even large eels.

Harry with fish SSG

Harry with fish SSG

Harry waiting SSG

Harry waiting SSG

Harry on Willow tree SSG

Harry on Willow tree SSG

So next time you are in Stephen’s Green, look out for Harry.


Springing Up

Ducklings Grand Canal

Ducklings on Grand Canal

What a great change to the weather and suddenly, it seems, Spring is everywhere.

.The great hope of light and warmth and growth, after the dark and cold of winter, is inspiring.

Of course, as usual, everything is a bit later here in the foothills of the mountains!

Snowdrops

Snowdrops in garden

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Snowdrops have bloomed,

Snowdrop

Snowdrop in garden

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Crocus hybrids

Crocus hybrids in garden

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Crocuses are waning.

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Daffodil in garden

Daffodil in garden

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And now Daffodills brighten our roads and gardens and confirm the Spring promise.

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12 of 13 Mallard Ducklings on Grand canal

12 of 13 Mallard Ducklings on Grand canal

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It seems early  but we have already seen ducklings in the canal.  13 tiny balls of puffed up fluff darting around under the watchful eye of Mammy Mallard and 2 Drakes.

13!  That sounds like a lot of painful egg producing effort.

I don’t know if one of the Drakes was a friend, lover, brother or a security guard?  If a guard, he doesn’t seem to have been much good, as a couple of days later, no ducklings could be found!

We can hope they moved elsewhere but they seemed too tiny to go far and the birds on the Grand Canal do suffer great predation.

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Lamb in field Co Kildare

Lamb in field Co Kildare

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This is also lambing time around here and little white quadrapeds have been appearing in the nearby fields for about a month now.

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On the other hand we start to say goodbye to the Geese & Swans.

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Greylag Geese in rear field Blessington

Greylag Geese in rear field Blessington

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The Whoopers have already dissappeared but the Greylags are still feeding in the grass fields – probably stocking up for their long flights. .

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Anyway here’s looking forward to plenty more springing up in the coming weeks.


18 Shades of Green

9th green and Blessington Lakes Tulfarris Golf Club Autumn evening
10th hole Tulfarris Golf Club & Blessington Lakes Autumn evening

10th hole Tulfarris Golf Club & Blessington Lakes Autumn evening

There seems to be a lot of polarisation over golf.  So many people play it and enjoy it but there are also a lot of people who think it a waste of space.

I am biased here.  I do like my round of golf and would argue that whatever else, golf courses tend to preserve a plot of nature – land, plants, scenery and wildlife – that otherwise might be destroyed in another commercial exercise.

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This post is about Tulfarris Golf Club, one of the many fine courses in Ireland, and indeed Wicklow, and one of the prettiest.

Aiming at the 14th green Tulfarris Golf Club Wicklow in evening sun with moon

Aiming at the 14th green Tulfarris Golf Club Wicklow in evening sun with moon

18th Fairway & Green from 13th tee Tulfarris Golf Club Wicklow Autumn evening

18th Fairway & Green from 13th tee Tulfarris Golf Club Wicklow Autumn evening

13th green & Blessington lakes Tulfarris Golf Club Wicklow in evening sun

13th green & Blessington lakes Tulfarris Golf Club Wicklow in evening sun

9th green and Blessington Lakes Tulfarris Golf Club Autumn evening

9th green and Blessington Lakes Tulfarris Golf Club Autumn evening

Putting from the fringe 9th Green Tulfarris

Putting from the fringe 9th Green Tulfarris

…………………….Tulfarris is a challenging course but its real charm lies in its trees and views which help even the worst rounds and encourage wildlife.   Deer, Foxes, Buzzards, Ravens, Little Grebes, Sedge Warblers, Mute and Whooper Swans as well as many other species can be found here.

Little Grebe feeding Baby on small lake Tulfarris Golf Club

Little Grebe feeding Baby on small lake Tulfarris Golf Club

Jackdaw at nest in Copper Beech Tulfarris GC Blessington

Jackdaw at nest in Copper Beech Tulfarris GC Blessington

Blackbird M with Leatherjacket in the rain Tulfarris GC Blessington

Blackbird M with Leatherjacket in the rain Tulfarris GC Blessington

Mute Swan claims victory on 8th Green Tulfarris

Mute Swan claims victory on 8th Green Tulfarris

At the end of the day, though, it is the magnificent Oak and Beech trees that really show Tulfarris off.

Oak Trees beside 15th Tee from 13th tee Tulfarris Golf Club Wicklow Autumn evening

Oak Trees beside 15th Tee from 13th tee Tulfarris Golf Club Wicklow Autumn evening


Swans & Cygnets

Cygnets Preening St Stephens Green, Dublin

Cygnets Preening St Stephens Green, Dublin

If you go down to the pond today you’ll see 7 lovely cygnets under the watchful eyes of proud parents.

Well you will if you go to the pond in St. Stephen’s green, Dublin.  Today they are already a good deal bigger than in the photo from the end of May, but they are still seriously cute, swimming almost at random and getting into contortions as they copy their parents preening.

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These are our resident Mute Swans. (See  http://wp.me/p10npw-rX
for our winter visitors, the Whooper Swans).
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Mute Swans courting St Stephens Green

Mute Swans courting St Stephens Green

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Amazingly, they were conceived while the parents were still looking after the remnants of last year’s brood.
The courtship (foreplay?) is very elegant – a kind of dance by heads – and reminds me of Gannets or Great-crested Grebes although the Grebes’ dance is longer and more elaborate.
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On the other hand the mating act looks quite brutal to us with the female risking drowning.  It is not unlike the mating habits of many ducks.
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While one of their cygnets from last year looked on in an inquisitive way, people in the park sat or walked by, mainly oblivious.
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Mute Swans mating in fromt of their Cygnet St Stephens Green

Mute Swans mating in fromt of their Cygnet St Stephens Green

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5 cygnets were produced last year and I believe 4 lasted through the winter.  In fact there were still 4 hanging around home while the parents were ‘planning’ the current lot.
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Perhaps they are mimicking the current human trend of staying home longer.
Cygnets Preening St Stephens Green, Dublin

Cygnets Preening St Stephens Green, Dublin

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Charlie the Swan man with Swans & Cygnets & St Stephens Green 2012

Charlie the Swan man with Swans & Cygnets & St Stephens Green 2012

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When they emerge from the egg, the cygnets are fluffy grey and grow quite quickly.  After a few months they start to get brown feathers which are slowly replaced by white and they begin to look more like teenagers!
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This is one of last year’s mob, already the size of an adult.
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Part of the success may be due to Charlie, ‘the Swan Man’, who pretty much set himself up as the granddad last year and visited the family most days, sitting closely with them and feeding them.
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Mute Swans often have reasonably big clutches – usually 3 to 7 eggs – and families but the attrition rate is often high.  Those on the Grand Canal, for example are usually lucky to bring one cygnet up.  They fall victim to dogs, rodents, humans and sometimes disease, amongst others, despite the strong defence capabilities of the adults.

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Despite this, there are large numbers of Mute Swans in Dublin, particularly along the canal!

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The current cygnets are amusing visitors in St. Stephen’s Green.  May they live long and prosper!

Hungry Visitor

Sparrowhawk M BG through window

Male Sparrowhawk in Back Garden

The Geese are finally gone and Swallows and House Martins are alreadywheeling through the skies, shrieking and endlessly seeking flies.  Temperatures are up and there is great activity amongst the birds.

I think that is why a silent spell in the garden made me look out the window.  A quick shift in direction of grey wing in the bushes looked different, unusual.  Looking closer I was surprised to see a male Sparrowhawk that seemed to have come to feed on the nut-feeding small birds.

Having the camera close as I was about to head down to the lake, I got a few pics through the window, trying not to scare him.

The small birds seemed to have taken refuge in a woody bush and were now giving the vocals the full treatment, while himself, perched on top of the bush, seemed to be wondering how to get in or perhaps just hoping that one of the little ‘uns would make a break for it.

He seemed to be very keen on a meal so I had a go at opening the creaky back door a little and was lucky enough to be tolerated while I got some better shots.  Such a magnificent creature, albeit built to kill.  Eyes, beak clews, wings – all intended to allow sharp movement and precise, lethal hunting.

Its interesting to note the differences between the sexes – the female (see https://cliffsview.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/sparrowhawk-f-with-twig-st-annes-dublin-1732xl.jpg) is larger but duller.

Eventually he got fed up – not literally, unfortunately for him – and flew off low along the old hedge.

Fantastic encounter with a stunning creature.

Sparrowhawk M BG


Moving On

Greylag Geese in Blessington FieldA very brief ‘less cold’ spell seems to have convinced the Whoopers to migrate back north.  The Greylags were not so easily fooled and still graze in Willie’s field.

Walking down the Liffey quays towards the lifting bridge, a group of Brent Geese had gathered a couple of weeks ago.  They are probably about to, or in the middle of migrating.

It is interesting to note their amazing travels while we lament their passing.

Whoopers typically fly to Iceland and northern Europe from Ireland while Greylags mainly return to Iceland.

Brent Geese, quite common flying over Dublin or grazing on grass fields, including football fields, in the Winter, head for Greenland or Canada.

Brent Geese on Liffey at Toll Swing bridge Dublin.

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It seems that when temperatures are beginning to get tolerable for us, the winter migrant birds get hot under the collar and feel the pull for colder climes.

Of course the weather this Winter and ‘Spring’ has been pretty miserable – one of the coldest March months on record.

But spring really is in full swing regardless of the cold and frost.  Witness the Crows at their rookeries, the Jackdaws sitting on wires or branches in pairs, not to mention the cute spindly-legged foals and the gorgeous young lambs.

Sheep & Lamb in Frosty field Rathmore Co Wicklow


Frosty Birds

Whooper Swans and Greylag Geese Frosty field BlessingtonMid-March and Spring is still springing but the weather has regressed – frost, snow and hail-stones seem to be more common than warming termperatures.

So the Whooper Swans and Greylag geese are still close-by.

The very idea of sitting with your belly on the frozen ground is enough to give the collycobbles!

When the birds move you can see a ‘melted’ space!  It can leave a patchwork pattern on the field.Whooper Swans in Frost field with Greylag Geese BlessingtonGreylag Geese in Frost field Blessington