Friday, 27 April 2012

More migrants, at last!

After the early rush in March, and great weather to go with it, we have had a very quiet month in April and pretty dismal weather to boot..

This week I managed to squeeze in a bit of fieldwork for the CBS (Countryside Bird Survey) in between the downpours and high winds.  I had my first Swift of the season, this morning, flying over the house and heading due North. 

On the CBS square, down on the Coast near Killoughter, a Grasshopper Warbler gave its weird but distinctive reeling song, not seen of course!  A Sedge Warbler was also in song but the most welcome sight was 4 Stonechats, presumably 2 pairs and 2 fledged juveniles.. After a
near disastrous drop in population in 2009 and particularly in 2010, brought about by hard winters ( 2011 figures are not yet published), it was great to locate them back on familiar haunts with young birds too..


Male Stonechat ( John Fox)

Back in the garden, the Jays are still in the hunt for scraps and peanuts, in fact they are getting more relaxed and skilled on the feeders.. it will be interesting to see if they bring young birds in, later on in the season.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Flying Kites

Red Kite, C7, Blue/White

My luck was in yesterday: I had a sunny afternoon in the garden and the neighbouring fields were being ploughed for a spring sowing:

Straight into the field, a Common Gull and 20 Lesser Black backed Gulls appeared, unusual enough round this part of inland Wicklow: its incredible how they can zoom in on the one field thats being tilled.. I probably won't see gulls here again until the winter months when birds commute from Arklow on the coast up to the Vartry Reservoir at Roundwood.

The real excitement was yet to come: The assembled crows were aggitated as one and then a second Red Kite began patrolling the turned earth.  They put on a few tumbles before landing to search for earthworms and other insects exposed by the plough.  I managed to read the tags on the wings of one bird: C7 I think, pale blue on the left wing, white on the right. 

 A Buzzard put in a brief appearance too, tumbling in on the Kites which seemed to operate as a pair.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Sale Agreed

                                                   (pic C Mac Lochlainn)

The Blue Tits that were inspecting the non furnished box on the trellis ( see previous post), have made a nest in a matter of just seven days.. It might be to keep them warm rather than raise a brood, such has been the poor weather round these parts of late..

looking down on the nest, no eggs yet.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Crowing Pheasants

A regular wake up call (or song) of late, is the early morning crowing of a male Pheasant or two.  The di syllabic notes 'not unlike clearing one's throat, immediately followed by a short noisy wing flutter' (Collins Bird Guide), are a staple of the countryside. 

 Yet Pheasants, despite being around Ireland since the 16th century and being pretty impressive in stature and plumage, are not really on the radar of birdwatchers.  They are of course held in high esteem by the hunting fraternity and the annual autumn release of hand reared birds for the incoming huntng season is a key factor in their familiarity across the land. 

 The introduction of Pheasants to Ireland traces back to the 16th century: the wild population is native to the eastern Caucasus and Asia, including China.

Hand reared Pheasants have a reputation for being a bit static in the countryside, and many birds end up as roadkill victims, (if they survive the shoots at all), somewhat ironically being picked over by Magpies and Hoodies, species regularly driven out of the hunting estates. Their is a recent record of Pheasants, run over by the Dublin-Wexford mainline train near Avoca,  being in turn picked up as carrion by Red Kites, one of which also made fatal contact with the iron horse!

We have a pair regularly walking through the garden, checking for morsels under the seed feeder, the males never cease to fascinate in the depth and range of colour to their showy plumage.  The females are in the opposite: they have a superb plumage designed for concealment as a ground nesting species.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

April come she will..

Narcissus Thalia

A showy Magnolia: petals falling already!

Before March was out we had Willow Warblers and Blackcaps in song, joining the earliest spring arrival, a Chiffchaff which arrived a week or more earlier, all ahead of normal arrival dates for us. 

The rain showers and more traditional mixed weather of the last couple of days haven't put a dampner on activity around the garden: A pair of Blue Tits are inspecting a bird box daily, just checking it out and pecking around the entrance hole: no nest material or anything like that just yet.

The rain showers have helped the trees leaf out, and the vegetable patch has at last shown progress with garlic, onions and early potatoes all shooting.  No doubt the weeds are right up there, but we have made good steady progress clearing weeds from cultivated areas, they are all in the compost bin now, ready to give back nutrients. Fionnuala Fallon, writing in the Irish Times a few weeks back, made that very good point that the really successful (and most annoying) weeds, are nutrient rich for survival in hard conditions, so tapping into that richness via composting is really worthwhile.  Suffice to say I have a separate bin for composting the weeds: they will take longer to breakdown and I want to avoid any Lazarus tricks!

 Early flowering plants have had a really good run with the benign conditions in March: hope todays cold northerly wind wont be too much of a setback!

A lone red tulip with a carpet of saxifrage