Outing Report

Wexford Coach Outing - 6th October 2013.

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

South Dublin members on arrival at Rosslare Harbour (picture: Niall Hatch)

Branch tradition has it that the annual coach outing to Wexford takes place in November, however this year we decided to bring it forward a month to take advantage of the longer hours of daylight. Assembling at Dun Laoghaire's Ferry Terminal we set off shortly after 8:30am, arriving at the Ferrycarrig Hotel about 10:15 where we took a comfort break. We decided to follow the same route as 2012 taking in Rosslare Harbour, Our Lady's Island Lake, Tacumshin Lake and the North Slob. During the day it was mainly overcast with occasional drizzle, southerly winds force 5 or 6 and mild temperatures. Best of all the light was perfect for bird watching.

Black Guillemots on the harbour wall at Rosslare. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Black Guillemots, Rosslare Harbour Wall, 6th October 2013 (picture: Colum Clarke)

On arrival at Rosslare Harbour, Niall Hatch formally greeted everyone and then led us across the Ferry Terminal carpark to the seawall. To our left on the harbour wall were about 10 Black Guillemots, a great sight. From time to time some of them flew down to alight on the water. There were some gulls on the small beach with Great Black-backed, Herring and Black-headed all loafing about, there were plenty of Kittiwakes both in flight and on the sea including a 1st winter, a single Common Gull in flight and a nice surprise was an adult Mediterranean Gull that was dip-feeding close to the shore. We had heard there were still some terns around and this was confirmed when we saw two Sandwich Terns in flight. We had distant views of Gannets way out towards the Tuskar Rock; fortunately they are so big we could make them out in scopes. Also on the sea were Cormorants and Shags. In addition, a rather splendid non-avian sight was the Rosslare Lifeboat returning to port.

Next we turned our attention to the carpark and the bushes surrounding it. There were at least three Wheatears in the vicinity, a male and two female types. In flight the flash of white rump is immediately obvious and beautiful. Wheatears spend the winter in tropical Africa and no doubt these three would soon be on their way south. Its scientific name Oenanthe comes from the Greek meaning 'the first shoot of the vine', suggesting perhaps that its appearance coincided with that event? Around the terminal were Meadow Pipits, Linnets, Goldfinches, a Mistle Thrush, a Stonechat, a Reed Bunting and Swallows, another that will soon be departing. A Rock Pipit was heard, a Small Tortoiseshell was about on the rocks and a Grey Seal was just off the beach.

Getting ready to depart our shores, a Wheatear at Rosslare Harbour. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Wheatear, Rosslare Harbour, 6th October 2013 (picture: Colum Clarke)

On the way to Our Lady's Island Lake we saw a Kestrel from the bus and on arrival the first bird seen was a Sparrowhawk just over the church that was being harassed by Rooks and Jackdaws, with all that hassle it didn't hang around. We set off around the lake, stopping every now and then to scan the area. There were large numbers of wildfowl, mostly Mute Swans, Mallard and Wigeon but also a few Teal and some Gadwall that unfortunately soon moved off behind the islet of Inish and did not reappear. There were at least five Little Egrets at various locations around the lake and Grey Herons. There were good numbers of Coot, especially on the western side. A few Little Grebes were present, at times coming close enough to get excellent views. Surprisingly they were the only grebes we saw all day.

There was a fine selection of waders present, some on the small islets of Sgarbheen and Inish and some around the lake's edge. Both these islets are designated as Special Protection Areas under EU Law as they host internationally important numbers of breeding terns, especially Roseate Tern. Inish was the site of the first successful breeding of Mediterranean Gull in Ireland when a pair raised a chick there in 1996. There were good numbers of Dunlin on Sgarbheen as well as Curlew but just a few Redshank. Two Snipe were seen, one on each side of the lake, a small flock of Golden Plover and brief views of two Whimbrel in flight. As we had nearly completed the circuit Niall Hatch announced that he had an interesting wader flying in, which then landed on the far bank from us; it didn't take him long to realise it was a Ruff. Everybody got to see this great bird it in the scope.

South Dublin members on the their around Our Lady's Island Lake. Picture by Ronan Browne.

South Dublin members at Our Lady's Island Lake (picture: Ronan Browne)

Surprises are part and parcel of bird watching and it was a surprise when we heard a familiar yet unexpected song at Lady's Island, the Skylark! We craned our necks to look up and sure enough there it was, in the usual place overhead. Best of all, as we continued around the lake, we heard more and all in all there was at least five of these magical birds. We also saw Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails, Goldfinches and when we had completed our circuit of the lake we had Long-tailed Tits and Goldcreasts calling from some conifers. Butterflies encountered were good numbers of Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood.

By now it was time for some grub so we found a nice spot and got out our flasks and lunch boxes. As we sat eating we bumped in to Dublin birder Aidan G. Kelly who was in Wexford for the day. He told us he was heading to Tacumshin next and if he saw anything he would let us know; that turned out to be a very fortunate meeting indeed.

That's a big bird! Grey Heron in flight at Lady's Island. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Grey Heron, Our Lady's Island Lake, 6th October 2013 (picture: Colum Clarke)

After lunch we made the short journey across from Our Lady's Island to Tacumshin Lake. Technically speaking they are lagoons rather than lakes, as both are shallow bodies of water separated from the sea by sand and shingle barriers. The bus took us as far as the narrow approach roads would allow and we walked the rest of the way to the north-east carpark where we could scan across the lake. Just as we were getting off the bus Niall Hatch shouted, 'what's that bird'. That bird turned out to be a male Hen Harrier, which dashed across our field of view disappearing all too quickly.

As usual Tacumshin did not disappoint as there were thousands of birds on view, mostly wildfowl but also large numbers of waders. There were Mute Swans, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Pintail in various numbers. Waders present were Redshank, Lapwing and a small flock of Golden Plover.

Just a small selection of the wildfowl on Tacumshin Lake seen from the north-east carpark. Picture by Colum Clark.

Wildfowl, Tacumshin Lake, 6th October 2013 (picture: Colum Clarke)

As we were enjoying all of these Aidan Kelly rang to say he had two Yellow Wagtails within 20 feet of where he was standing on the opposite side of the lake and that he had just seen a Wood Sandpiper in flight! More in hope that expectation we began scanning the other side of the lake for these great birds. I managed to pick up a wader in flight, at first it was more a question of what it wasn't than what it was, but gradually I noticed the pale underwing and the penny finally dropped that it was a Wood Sandpiper just as it dashed away to our left. I assumed that was it gone, until I noticed two Wood Sandpipers flying back in the opposite direction. They hung around but we could never pick them out on the deck and only saw them in flight.

Now we needed to pin down the Yellow Wagtails if possible, not an easy task to pick out two small passerines across the lake. So, hats off to Mary Fitzgerald whose due diligence with the scope paid off when and she was able to let everyone know she had found them. There was a male and a female or perhaps it was an immature bird. In the end everyone got a view of them. On our way back to the bus we saw Greenfinch, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Great Tit and Collared Dove.

One of two Yellow Wagtails that were on Tacumshin Lake. Picture by Aidan G. Kelly.

Yellow Wagtail, Tacumshin Lake, 6th October 2013 (picture: Aidan G. Kelly)

Our final stop on the day brought us to the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve on the North Slob. The group broke up as some headed for the Main Tower in the Interpretive Centre and others to the Pump House Hide, the Seawall Hide and the Bob Jobson Hide. The reserve is jointly owned by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and BirdWatch Ireland. It is probably best known for hosting about one-third of the world population of Greenland White-fronted Geese in winter. The North Slob was reclaimed from the sea in the 19th century and is now protected by a embankment that keeps the sea out.

On heading to the Tower Hide we were told there were not many geese on the reserve, perhaps as few as 16, so we were not very optimistic of seeing any and unfortunately that's the way it turned out. However, there were Mallard and Teal on the nearby pools and a Little Egret and a Redshank giving good views. A large flock of Black-tailed Godwit then flew in heading for the main channel. We also saw another North Slob regular, an Irish Hare, which is a subspecies of the Mountain Hare. Unlike the European Mountain Hare, ours does not change colour during winter.

Three of the five Ruff observed from the Bob Jobson Hide. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Ruff, Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, North Slob (picture: Colum Clarke)

There were plenty of wildfowl and Coot to be seen from the Pump House Hide. This hide looks out over one of the channels that crisscross the reserve. Above the Pump House Hide is the Seawall Hide which gives a fine view over Wexford Harbour. A single Red-breasted Merganser was seen in flight and a well marked female Common Scoter was on the water, diving from time to time. A Greenshank flew in and landed on rocks close to the seawall, closely followed by a second where they joined some Curlew and an Oystercatcher. Those few of us that decided to head for the Bob Jobson Hide were rewarded with the sight of five Ruff in a field. With the carpark due to close at 5pm we all headed back to the bus, arriving with just minutes to spare before the carpark gate was locked. The journey back to Dun Laoghaire added one more bird for the day, a single Buzzard sitting on top of a hay bale near Gorey.

Some More Pictures

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Stonechat in the Rosslare Ferry Terminal carpark. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Some more pictures from Wexford taken on the day by Colum Clarke, Robert Busby and Ronan Browne.
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Black Guillemot at Rosslare Harbour. Picture by Robert Busby.
Oystercatcher with a Mussell at Rosslare Harbour. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Down among the seaweed, Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull. Picture by Colum Clarke.
1st winter Lesser Black-backed Gull at Rosslare. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Adult Mediterranean Gull at Rosslare. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Leisurely Starlings at Lady's Island. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Wildfowl on Sgarbheen, Lady's Island. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Wildfowl on and around the tip of Inish, Lady's Island. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Mute Swans arriving at Tacumshin Lake. Picture by Colum Clarke.
South Dublin members at Rosslare Harbour. Picture by Ronan Browne.
South Dublin members at Tacumshin Lake. Picture by Robert Busby.

On the way Niall Hatch called the log to discover the day's totals. The final tally came to 78 species seen with 1 heard (Rock Pipit), a Grey Seal, an Irish Hare and 3 Butterflies. All in all, we had a great day's bird watching.

Joe Hobbs

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