Outing Report

Avoca and the Meeting of the Waters - 12th May 2013.

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South Dublin members getting ready for the off! Picture by Niall Hatch.

South Dublin members gather at the Beehive Pub car park, 12th May 2013 (picture: Niall Hatch)

The weather forecast for our May outing to Wicklow was not enticing as it included the prospect of rain showers, heavily overcast skies and a cool westerly breeze. On the other hand at our indoor meeting, on the previous Tuesday, no less an authority than Dr. Marc Ruddock, the Project Manager for the Red Kite Re-introduction Scheme had declared that, ‘If you stand in the church car park in Avoca you are guaranteed to see Red Kite within five minutes’. In bird watching parlance this amounts to 'good gen' so it was no surprise that well over thirty South Dublin members made their way to the Beehive Pub car park at 10.30am to be met by Niall Hatch, who was leading the outing. Niall greeted everybody and announced that we would head directly to Avoca in convoy where we would put Marc Ruddock's claim to the test.

Back in Irish skies, one of the Wicklow Red Kite Re-introduction Scheme birds. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Red Kite, Avoca, 12th May 2013 (picture: Colum Clarke)

A short drive later we gathered in St. Patrick's Church car park and began searching the sky; soon five minutes became ten, then ten became fifteen and fifteen became twenty, with just a singing Blackcap to report. We were about to depart for the bridge over the Avoca River when Pat Twomey said, 'Red Kite in the distance' and sure enough, there it was, no mistaking the jizz of it, even though it was way off. As we watched a Raven flew in to the same view emphasizing the size of the Kite. Encouraged, we rambled off down the village to assemble on the bridge. It took a while to refind the bird, which at first it remained far in the distance, however, bit by bit it came closer and closer until it was circling nearly overhead giving fantastic views to all (above). From what we could tell there was only a single bird involved throughout that period and it was most likely an adult male. Unfortunately we were never able to read the bird's wing tags and at times they were even difficult to see.

During this time we had several views of Ravens and Rooks that were flying back and forth over the river. Further up the river on a shingle bank were 2 Mallards as well as some Wood Pigeons and at one point a Grey Wagtail (below) appeared briefly under the bridge before flying off.

Definately not Yellow! A Grey Wagtail on the Avoca River. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Grey Wagtail, Avoca, 12th May 2013 (picture: Colum Clarke)

From Avoca we travelled the few miles to the Meeting of the Waters and the well appointed Thomas Moore Memorial Park situated where the Rivers Avonmore and Avonbeg meet to become the Avoca River. Here, we were able to get right down to the water's edge where we had excellent views in all directions.

This paid off almost at once when a Grey Wagtail was spotted. It was busy foraging along the bank, then it flew across the river where it was joined by a second bird! They did not remain together for long and separated to continue with their business while still giving us good views from time to time.

The Avonbeg at the Meeting of the Waters, Dipper country! Picture by Niall Hatch.

River Avonbeg at the Meeting of the Waters, 12th May 2013 (picture: Niall Hatch)

We felt that it was only a matter of time before we would see a Dipper; the conditions were just too perfect not to. As it turned out we eventually saw two, most likely a pair. At first there was just a single bird and the views were fleeting and mostly fly-bys, then it lingered on various rocks, sometimes 'dipping' down in the river in search of food. Niall Hatch spoke about the bird's translucent eyelid known as the nictitating membrane, a compulsory branch outing requirement when Dipper is encountered! Finally this individual flew up river under a bridge and within minutes it was joined by a second bird. Several scopes were trained on them and we got superb views of the pair.

During this time we got brief views of a Red Kite. It may have been the same individual that we had seen earlier at Avoca however more likely it was a second bird. There were good numbers of Swallows and a few Swifts hawking over the river and some of the group thought they noticed a couple of House Martins but these were never confirmed. What was confirmed was a Grey Heron in flight which was getting plenty of attention from the local Jackdaws and Rooks. Also seen were Great Tit, Pied Wagtail and a male Pheasant which flew across the river.

Some More Pictures

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Bridge people. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Some more of the pictures taken on the outing by Colum Clarke and Niall Hatch.
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There it is, over yonder! Picture by Colum Clarke.
River Avonmore near the Meeting of the Waters. Picture by Niall Hatch.
South Dublin members at the Meeting of the Waters. Picture by Niall Hatch.

By early afternoon we were beginning to wind down and call it a day. Despite the gloomy weather we had enjoyed some great birds in beautiful scenery. I suspect it will not be the last time we visit this part of the Garden County of Wicklow on a Branch outing.

Joe Hobbs

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