Outing Report

Wexford Coach Outing - 11th November 2012.

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South Dublin members taking part in the Wexford coach outing at Rosslare Harbour. Picture by Joe Hobbs.

South Dublin members at Rosslare Harbour (picture: Joe Hobbs)

A November outing to south Wexford is a well established and popular fixture on the South Dublin branch calendar. The region includes many renowned birding locations such as the North and South Slobs, Curracloe, Tacumshin Lake, Our Lady's Island Lake, Rosslare Back Strand and Harbour, Nethertown and Carne Beaches, Carnsore etc, all of which are relatively close to each other. So it was no surprise that a full coach load of members, led by Branch Chairman Stephen McAvoy, made the trip south taking in Rosslare Harbour, Our Lady's Island Lake, Tacumshin Lake and the North Slob for what turned out to be a great day's birding in glorious winter weather.

We departed Dun Laoghaire at 8.30am and by 10.30am we had arrived at the Ferrycarrig Hotel where we took a comfort stop. The only notable sightings from the coach en route was a Buzzard near Jack White's Pub and a Lesser Black-backed Gull on the River Slaney at Enniscorthy, both seen by a lucky few only. At the hotel one of the party took a walk around the car park and found 2 Redpolls and a male Blackcap in a large Sycamore and soon after departing for Rosslare Harbour a Kestrel was observed from the coach; the omens were looking good!

Black Guillemots just off the breakwater in Rosslare Harbour. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Black Guillemots, Rosslare Harbour, 11th November 2012 (picture: Colum Clarke)

On arrival at Rosslare Harbour the group headed across the car park to the breakwater behind the ferry terminal building and began scanning the sea. Almost immediately a group of 5 Black Guillemots in winter plumage were noticed sitting on the water close in to the pier while nearby there were some Black-headed Gulls and a single Common Gull. As we watched the gulls, 2 Turnstones flew in landing on the breakwater rocks. In the other direction towards Greenore Point and the Tuskar Rock, at least 2 Red-throated Divers were observed intermittently while further out 3 Gannets passed north. In addition we saw Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, Cormorants, a single Shag, Guillemot, a Razorbill and a Grey Seal on and over the sea from the same vantage point. Flitting about the breakwater was a Rock Pipit and later we noticed about 5 Meadow Pipits which were busy in and around the ferry compound. Both Pied and Grey Wagtails were seen in the car park area and a nice surprise was a Small Tortoiseshell on the breakwater rocks.

Next we moved the short distance along the breakwater to overlook the strand where there were 2 Ringed Plover but little else. Some of the group noticed birds in an area of long grass above the strand. Despite our best efforts we were never able to pin them all down but at least one of them was a Stonechat. At one point a group of 4 Goldfinch flying in off the sea passed almost directly over our heads.

Common Gull in Rosslare Harbour. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Common Gull, Rosslare Harbour, 11th November 2012 (picture: Colum Clarke)

From Rosslare Harbour we made the short trip to Our Lady's Island. While taking lunch a very large flock of birds were spotted over fields to the west of the lake. They turned out to be Woodpigeons and we estimated there must be at least 3,000 in the air! Something had clearly disturbed them and most likely that something were raptors, so it was no big surprise when 2 large birds of prey were spotted in the same area. We assumed they were both Buzzards, until Des Higgins announced that one of them had a forked tail - bloody hell, it must be a Red Kite! For the next 10 minutes we all enjoyed the sight of Buzzard and Red Kite soaring together over Lady's Island, what a treat! No sooner had they disappeared from view when Stephen McAvoy shouted, 'Peregrine over the island' and then 'Kestrel' - all these great birds were observed in the space of about 15 minutes.

A Reed Bunting at Our Lady's Island living up to its name. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Reed Bunting, Our Lady's Island Lake, 11th November 2012 (picture: Colum Clarke)

The group next proceeded along the path to the west of Lady's Island stopping every so often to scan for birds. Another Buzzard was found, sitting on a pole on the other side of the lake. As we watched it flew down on some prey, before taking it to a post for plucking and eating. Further on, a Red Kite reappeared along with 2 Buzzards; at times both Red Kite and a Buzzard were in the same field of view. There were Shoveler, Wigeon, Little Egret, Snipe, Redshank, Lapwing, Blue Tit, Dunnock, Reed Bunting and a small flock of Linnets on and around the lake. By now it was getting on for 2pm and we decided to depart for Tacumshin Lake. On our way there we disturbed about 6 Collared Doves that were feeding on the road causing them to fly up in to some trees.

West side of Lady's Island Lake including the islet of Inish with its Monterey Pine. Picture by Tom Shevlin.

Our Lady's Island and Lake, Co. Wexford (picture: Tom Shevlin)

We decided to park the coach by the ruined castle near the lake and walk the rest of the way. Soon our attention was drawn to a small pool in a field beside the road. As we watched, Reed Bunting, Song Thrush, Robin, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Wren and Coal Tit in various numbers all flew in and out of the reeds and bushes surrounding the pool.

We pushed on down the hill towards the Forgotten Corner of Tacumshin Lake where we were greeted by the magnificent sights and sounds of thousands of birds, mostly wildfowl. There were Mute and Whooper Swans, Mallard, Wigeon, Pintail, Gadwall, Coot and Black-headed Gulls on the water and Little Egret, Golden Plover, Curlew and Lapwing around the edges and fields. Some time later 3 Greenland White-fronted Geese flew in from the east, wheeling over the lake before settling on the far shore from us.

Just a small selection of the birds viewed from the Forgotten Corner. Picture by Colum Clark.

Wildfowl and gulls, Tacumshin Lake, 11th November 2012 (picture: Colum Clarke)

We had heard that a Northern Harrier, the North American form of Hen Harrier, had been frequenting Tacumshin and we were hoping to see it. After a short while we noticed a ringtail Hen Harrier on the far side of the lake from us, which was soon joined by a second. Various scopes and binoculars were trained on them and our good luck on the day continued as Northern Harrier was confirmed, most likely a juvenile female.

Fortunately, these were not the last Hen Harriers for the day, as a beautiful male bird flew in front of the coach somewhere near Tagoat as we headed for our final stop, the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve on the North Slob. By the time we got there the light was already beginning to fail, although it did not prevent us spotting 3 Pheasants from the coach on the way there. As we had a little over 40 minutes before the car park closed so some of the group headed for the Tower Hide and some for the Pump House Hide.

The Wexford Wildfowl Reserve Interpretative Centre, Tower Hide and Duck Pond. Picture by Stephen McAvoy.

Wexford Wildfowl Reserve Interpretative Centre, North Slob (picture: Stephen McAvoy)

From its heightened position the Tower Hide gives a wonderful view over those pools and fields adjacent to the centre. From here we had great views of Greenland White-fronted and Brent Geese. The Greenland White-fronted Goose is very much the standard bearer for the reserve and is the emblem of BirdWatch Ireland. They breed in western Greenland on alpine bogs and glacial plains before migrating through Iceland to winter in Ireland and north-west Britain. It is estimated that about one third of the world population spend the winter in Wexford! Although all forms of Brent Goose have occurred in Ireland we generally expect our birds to be Pale-bellied Brent which breed in the Canadian High Arctic from Melville Island eastwards. The most recent official wildfowl count on the reserve took place on the 2nd November 2012 when 6,568 White-fronts and 1,000 Brent were noted.
Also seen from the Tower were Teal, Moorhen, Coot, Curlew, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher and an Irish Hare.

The upper-tier of the Pump House Hide looks out over Wexford Harbour. From it we could see 2 Goldeneye, good numbers of Great Crested Grebes and a single Slavonian Grebe which proved to be elusive at times.
With time pushing on towards 5pm and darkness falling the group reluctantly headed back to board the coach for the return journey.

Some More Pictures

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Not so common? Common Gull off Rosslare. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Some more pictures from Wexford taken on the day by Colum Clarke and Joe Hobbs.
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Grey Wagtail on the breakwater at Rosslare Harbour. Picture by Colum Clarke.
An eponymous Rock Pipit at Rosslare Harbour. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Dunnock at Our Lady's Island Lake. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Snipe coming in to land at Our Lady's Island Lake. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Greenland White-fronted Geese over Tacumshin. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Spread out in a bunch! South Dublin members at the Forgotten Corner of Tacumshin. Picture by Joe Hobbs.
And again! Picture by Joe Hobbs.

As is the custom, the day's log was called by the outing leader, Stephen McAvoy as we headed back to Dun Laoghaire. The final tally came to 76 species seen with 2 heard (i.e. Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit), a Grey Seal, an Irish Hare and a Small Tortoiseshell. Not bad for a winters day in November!

Joe Hobbs

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