Blessington, Wicklow - 11th February 2018.
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South Dublin members on Kilbride Road, 11th February 2018 (picture: Joe Hobbs)
We took in two locations near Blessington during our February outing. The first proved very rewarding, with plenty of birds on show, the second not so much. After meeting up on Main Street, Blessington, we first headed northeast to a spot on the Kilbride Road, near Three Castles and later traveled back through Blessington to the Baltyboys Bridge carpark on the shore of Blessington Lake. It's worth noting that the lake is not natural and is actually that portion of the River Liffey that was dammed many years ago during the building of the Poulaphouca Reservoir and hydroelectric station.
Conditions were pretty good for the time of year, with a cool north-westerly wind, partly cloudy skies, excellent visibility, and, best of all, the forecast of rain showers and snow flurries never materialised. Our Chairman, Frank Doyle led the outing.
Greylag Geese and Whooper Swans, off Kilbride Road, 11th February 2018 (picture: Bill Rea)
We took up a position on the Kilbride Road that gave us uninterrupted views across the flat landscape. In the distance we could see mixed flocks of Greylag Geese and Whooper Swans that were busily grazing on grass. Both these noble wildfowl are winter visitors from Iceland favouring open farmland, stubble fields etc., although Whooper Swans have bred on several occasions in the north and west of the country. These Greylags are true migrants, unlike their feral cousins living all year round in various parts of the country.
Next we turned our attention to large flocks of thrushes and Starlings feeding in fields to the right of the wildfowl. Both winter thrushes, Redwing and Fieldfare, were present, as well as the resident Song Thrush. Every now and then mixed groups would get up and fly short distances, when the red-underwing of Redwings stood out. Groups of Starlings began to gather in flight forming small, yet impressive murmurations, but they didn't last for very long and soon dispersed.
Song Thrush, off Kilbride Road, 11th February 2018 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)
Far off to the northwest three dots circled in typical 'Buzzard-like' glides, but as we strained hard to make out any details they began to look more gull-like, then again, perhaps they were Buzzards, or maybe gulls... difficult to say for certain, and in the end they disappeared from view and we never did find out. So, when a Buzzard did fly overhead, we confidently added it to the daily tally, and it gave us great views, much more satisfying than a distant miniscule dot!
One of the first birds to breed each year is Raven, and we saw two of them flying overhead, so guessed they were probably a pair. They are traditionally associated with more remote upland areas, so perhaps these two had wandered from a home territory somewhere in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains.
Ravens, over Kilbride Road, 11th February 2018 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)
Leaving the Three Castles area, we headed back through Blessingtown and on to the well appointed carpark at Baltyboys Bridge on the shore of the lake. On the way some Teal that were swimming in the Burgage Moyle inlet were spotted from the road. However, when we arrived at the carpark, there was a whole lot of nothing to see, apart from a single Little Grebe on the lake and a Great Black-backed Gull that flew over us and that was that.
Some More Pictures
As it didn't much look like the absence of birds was going to change anytime soon, it seemed an appropriate time to finish up, so Frank thanked everyone for coming along and we all headed off home.