Musings and photos of wild and everyday life

Posts tagged “Swan

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

.

.

.

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

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

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

 

.

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.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

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

.

.

.

.

.

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

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

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

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

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

 

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

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

.

.

.

.

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

 

.

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

.

.

.

.

.

.

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.

 

 

Advertisements

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.

.

.

.

.

.

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.

.

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

Mute Swans courting St Stephens Green

.

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.
.
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.
.
While one of their cygnets from last year looked on in an inquisitive way, people in the park sat or walked by, mainly oblivious.
.
Mute Swans mating in fromt of their Cygnet St Stephens Green

Mute Swans mating in fromt of their Cygnet St Stephens Green

.
.
.
.
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.
.
Perhaps they are mimicking the current human trend of staying home longer.
Cygnets Preening St Stephens Green, Dublin

Cygnets Preening St Stephens Green, Dublin

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

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

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
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!
.
This is one of last year’s mob, already the size of an adult.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
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.
.
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.

.

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

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

River Liffey. Part 1 Freshwater

Best known as Dublin’s river and for its tidal sectionKippure from Liffey Head Bridge and port area, the river Liffey rises in county Wicklow and tumbles down gathering tributaries before calming and spreading out into Blessington Lakes.  it then crosses into Kildare and meanders around before ending up for only a small part of its journey, in Dublin.

Raven Silhouette over LiffeyIts source lies in the heathery bog land near Kippure mountain in a small dark peaty pool.

Expansive and fresh, this is the land of Ravens.  Their far-carrying ‘croak’ and unusual tail shape are distinctive.

.

.

.

.

.

Click Beetle at Liffey side.

.

.

In fact the area often looks pretty deserted of wildlife at first glance.  However patience will usually be rewarded and there is also plenty of insect and smaller  life in the water and bog nearby if the beauty of the landscape doesn’t grab you.

Grouse and other ‘game’ birds used to be reasonably common amongst the heather but I haven’t seen any up there in a long time.

.

Coronation Plantation & Liffey.

Gathering pace, the Liffey’s rocky descent continues through the Coronation Plantation, now looking more like a river.
Grey Wagtail F flying Liffey Ballysmutton
Merlin can sometimes be seen here while Grey Wagtails often flit from rock to rock.

Dipper with food LiffeyDippers like fast water with plenty of insects and bugs and this section of the Liffey is nearly ideal.

Dippers nest at a number of locations along the river, each pair keeping a lenght of river for their territory.  Sand Martins also nest here where the river bank is suitable.

Sand Martin flying LiffeyDescending further in a wide meandering circle around Dublin, the volume of water increases and the flow becomes a bit calmer.  It flows through Blessington Lakes where Great Crested Grebes and a variety of Duck can be seen including Goldeneye.  Past the Poolaphuca dam and power station the river enters Kildare.  Getting nearer  to Dublin, Herons become more common.Heron on Lock Liffey Lucan

Reaching Dublin the water is non-tidal up beyond the Strawberry Beds.  Birds such as Swans, Cormorants  and Little Grebes come to the fore. 3 Swans on Liffey Dublin

 

Cormorant Flying over Liffey………………

Serenity is now fast disappearing as the Liffey Little Grebe & young Liffey
Liffey running through Dublin Centre from airencounters the buzz of the city.


Wildlife – Saint Stephen’s Green Dublin

Right in the heart of Dublin City, Lake SSG DublinSt. Stephen’s Green is an oasis from shops and offices.  People come here to relax, to hear music from the bandstand, to sunbathe and to have their sandwich for lunch.

But this small green haven is also an oasis for wildlife.  A small stream and waterfall feed a lake / pond and a mixture of well kept lawn and flower beds contrast beautifully with large trees and thick bushes.

The lake is the usual focus for people looking for wildlife and as usual this is well represented by Ducks.

Mallard are the most numerous but there are a good few Tufteds.

In late Summer the ducks moult and tend to sit around in lazy non-descript groups keeping their feathers dry.

It is one of those places where a pocket camera can deliver good pictures.

.

Mallard Duck M St Stephens Green Dublin
.

While common, Mallard, at least the males, have really brilliant colours that change depending on the angle of view and the sun.

.

.

.

.

Male Tufted Ducks on the other hand are very formal Black and White and seem to resemble the shape of the bathroom ‘rubber duck’.

Tufted Duck M St Stephens Green

.

.

.

.

From time to time more exotic ducks arrive.  This year there were a few Mandarin Ducks.  The female  below was resching for the Willow leaves for which they have a ‘sweet tooth’.

Mandarin Duck F or juv reaching for willow St. Stephen's Green

Lesser Black_backed Gull St Stephens Green Dublin

Regarding the ever-present Gulls, Black-headed and Herring Gulls predominate but other species can be seen like this Lesser Black-backed Gull which has yellow legs and whose back is a grey in between the light grey of the Herring Gull and the near black of the Great Black-backed Gull.

.

,

,

,

Common birds such as Robins, Chaffinches, Rooks, Thrushes and Blackbirds roam freely here.

Blackbird M St Stephens Green.

As they are used to people, it is often possible to get closer than usual so that more details of the birds can be seen.  It is hard to beat whiling away a few minutes in the city park with a Blue-tit taking a bath right beside you.

Blue Tit bathing St Stephens Green

Mute Swan drinking St Stephens GreenEveryboby’s idea of a park bird, the Mute Swan, is accessible as always but nore unusually, Herons can sometimes be seen up close if care is taken.Heron on Rock SSG Dublin

.

Grey Squirrel SSGMammals live in the park too but as usual are not as easily seen.  Most of the rodents such as Rats and Mice go about their foraging largely un-noticed.   Not so the Grey Squirrel which is now unfortunately found in most of the city’s parks.

.

.

.

Young Foxes playing St. Dtephen's Green

A surprise for many will be the foxes which live in the park and go mostly unseen!  How many commuters pass by with heads bowed or with heavy thoughts and unseeing eyes on warm mornings when the foxes sunbathe or frolic in the foliage?

Moorhen struggling with large leaf on nest SSG pondLet’s close this short view of the park’s wildlife with a common, likeable bird, the Moorhen.

Strong colours, a busy demeanour and huge feet make them, for me, the cutest of the parks residents.

Every year they nest and rear young, many of whom are killed by predators.  Many times their nests are flooded or vandalised and yet they rebuild.  No wonder they are so common in waterways around the country.

Moorhen baby walking in pond SSGMoorhen looking to feed baby SSG pond
.

.

.

.

.

Finally a big thanks to all those responsible for keeping the park so clean and vibrant and a home for so many wild things.

Flower display SSG


Waterford weekend – Birds & Lambs

Just had a nice weekend in Waterford.  Kittiwakes on ledge Dunmore East Weather wasn’t great – cloudy and hazy – but it was dry.

Visited a good few lakes and reservoirs as well as coastal towns and harbours.

In Dunmore East, a Kittiwake colony seems to be more or less permanent. Certainly I didn’t expect to see them on a cliff ledge in early March!

These gulls are distinguished by their plain yellow beaks and black legs as well as their call from which they get their name.

The scenery in this part of the country is great but we had to imagine how its real brilliance in sunshine.

The various lakes didn’t seem to have too many birds but there were a good few Mute Swans.  On one reservoir I came across this unfortunate specimen amongst a small group of Mute Swans.  It seems to be a Whooper from the beak colour but has an unusual bump on its beak.   Perhaps it has a deformation or is the result of a mixed species relationship?

Whooper Swan variation reservoir Waterford

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back we had lunch in the beautiful Inistioge in Kilkenny and a walk along the Nore and in the grounds of Woodstock House with its magnificent trees.

Some of the fields sported fairly new lambs complete with baggy skin and fussing mothers.

New Lambs Inistioge Kilkenny


Swans & Rugby – Review of 2010 – Feb

February

This month starts the international rugby season.              

Ireland played Italy at Croke Park and Paul O’Connell was in command.

I’m lucky to live near Dublin but in the countryside.  The fields nearby are important as wintering feeding grounds for whooper swans and Greglag Geese.  Regrettably the National Roads Authority is planning to build a 4 lane road right through these fields which will seriously endanger these fantastic birds which are supposed to be protected in Ireland.

What is really craszy is that there is already a perfectly good road – the N 81 serving Blessington and Carlow, and local people really want a better bus service or preferrably a train or tram service.  Maybe the economic crisis will kill the madness for a while.

Anyway Whooper Swans arrive every winter.  Here is one of them siting on and melting the heavy frost.

Whooper Swan in frost

Whooper Swan head

The most obvious difference between Whooper Swans and our more common Mute Swan is the beak colour, which is red in the Mute and yellow in the Whooper.  We also have another Swan, Bewick’s, with a yellow beak but it is a little smaller than the others.

Mute Swan