Outing Report

Wexford Coach Outing - 9th November 2014.

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South Dublin members on the bank over Rosslare Harbour car park. Picture by Eleanor Keane.

South Dublin Members at Rosslare Harbour (picture: Eleanor Keane)

What a great weekend it was! The Irish rugby team beat South Africa on Saturday, followed by our branch outing to Wexford on Sunday. Both were memorable events!

We departed Dun Laoghaire at 08:30 am with 23 on board. We arrived at our first birding stop, Rosslare Harbour car park, shortly after 11am. Birdwatching in a car park sounds a bit grim, but it is a real hot spot for birds in winter, especially when there are few cars there to block our view. Standing on a bank overlooking the beach and the miniature hedge rows that sub-divide the car park we had a feast of sightings such as four Black Redstart, showing that splendid red flash on the tail as they whizzed about. A pair of Rock Pipits and Turnstones on the harbour wall fed on a great supply of insects. There were many waders including our only Sanderling of the day.

Black Redstart wintering at Rosslare Harbour is becoming a regular sight. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Black Redstart at Rosslare Harbour, 9th November 2014 (picture: Colum Clarke)

Offshore, the best birds were four Common Scoter. These sea-ducks are so often far away appearing as nothing more than lively black dots but this time they were close enough to catch the white cheek patches with telescopes. A Great Northern Diver showed well and was the first of this autumn for many. A distant Gannet was sighted, and Stephen McAvoy got a large flock of Starlings arriving in over the sea from the east, presumably having departed Wales that morning to spend the winter here.

Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and Greenfinch flitted about the car park, again giving close up views. A Painted Lady butterfly landed close to us causing great delight, to see one in November is so unexpected. Further non-birding highlights included a Red Admiral and a Harbour Porpoise.

Male Stonechat watching us watching him. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Stonechat, Rosslare Harbour, 9th November 2014 (picture: Colum Clarke)

On to Our Lady's Island where the water level was high and a stiff cold breeze and some dark clouds changed the feel of the day to winter. We saw a large flock of Wigeon, up to ten Little Egret, a large flock of Curlew and a good number of Lapwing, that most stunning looking plover. In and about the old ruin and graveyard it was eerily quiet, no small birds showing.

The Wigeon and Curlew are winter visitors to Ireland and very much part of the ornithological landscape at this time of year. Historically Curlew was a widespread breeding species also. However, in more recent years their numbers have crashed to the point where concern over their continuing future as an Irish breeding bird has been raised. This is the result of a number of factors which have all led to a fragmentation of their breeding sites. BirdWatch Ireland have highlighted their plight with their 'Cry of the Curlew' appeal.

Wigeon flying in to Our Lady's Island Lake, a typical winter scene. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Wigeon, Our Lady's Island Lake, 9th November 2014 (picture: Colum Clarke)

On the southeast side of the lake a Kestrel hovered and quartered the area. We picked up several Buzzards and they put on quite a show flying and perching and being mobbed. A Peregrine Falcon was seen by a few of the group, as was a possible Merlin. We got a few small birds by sound rather than sight. A picnic lunch was eaten in the lee of our coach and then on back across Wexford town to the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve (WWR) which occupies much of the North Slob. The reserve is jointly owned by BirdWatch Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

South Dublin members enjoying lunch at Our Lady's Island Lake. Picture by Rachel Hynes.

Lunch time, 9th November 2014 (picture: Rachel Hynes)

We got there by three o'clock and made it to the top of the Tower Hide to get the best views over the fields in the reserve. Among the large number of Greenland White-fronted Geese we got six Barnacle Geese and a lone Canada Goose, a lifer for many.

Canada Goose is a New World species that has recently been split by various taxonomic authorities in two, i.e. Canada Goose and Cackling Goose (Cackling Goose now includes the various small forms that were previously included with Canada Goose). Their exact status in Ireland is confused by the very many that have been introduced to and escaped from wildfowl collections since the 1800s, with many of them now established as feral breeding populations. There is no doubt that some records are genuine vagrants and the general consensus is that the bird we enjoyed today is a wild one from North America. As to identity, there are some suggesting that it is an example of a parvipes type. The Irish Rare Birds Committee (IRBC) recently published a report on the status of all presumed vagrant Canada Geese reported to them since 1954, which makes very interesting reading. A copy of the report may be read on their website by clicking HERE.

In addition, some may be interested in further details of the Canada Goose split on the IRBC website; click HERE for a summary of the split and click HERE for the IRBC's announcement of the split.

Canada Goose with a Greenland White-fronted Goose on the North Slob. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Canada & White-fronted Goose, North Slob, 9th November 2014 (picture: Colum Clarke)

Again Buzzard featured and entertained. Shortly after a Marsh Harrier being harassed by a Hen Harrier flew in to nearby fields and were seen from two hides. This was the highlight of the day for those lucky enough to be in the right place at the time but sadly I missed all the action. Interestingly, the Marsh Harrier carried green tags on the wings and some research showed that it was ringed as a youngster in Norfolk this year.

Historically Marsh Harrier was a widespread breeding bird in Ireland with the last reported in 1917. That is until 2009 when a pair bred in Co. Down after a gap of 92 years! In recent years their numbers have increased, especially around south Wexford, thus raising the possibility they might re-establish themselves as a regular breeding bird again.

Greenland White-fronted Geese and Curlew on the North Slob. Picture by Colum Clarke.

White-fronted Geese & Curlew, North Slob, 9th November 2014 (picture: Colum Clarke)

A large group of Black-tailed Godwit wheeled in, their pale underside flashing silver as they came in over the fields. A darkening sky to the north produced a thunder storm with heavy rain. The reserve hides proved to be good sheltering spots and thankfully the storm passed by quickly. Over the sea wall on Wexford harbour we found a large raft of Red-breasted Merganser and some Great Crested Grebe. A large flock of White-fronted Geese, disturbed by the storm flew south over the estuary making a beautiful silhouette.

Our last stop was Curracloe Beach a few miles further north where we noted several more Common Scoters and a fly-by Lesser Black-backed Gull. However, the light was fading fast so we called it a day and headed for home.

Some More Pictures

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Meadow Pipit at Rosslare. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Some more pictures taken on the outing by Colum Clarke, Rachel Hynes and Angela Mason.
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Reed Bunting in need of some reeds at Rosslare. Picture by Rachel Hynes.
Female Stonechat on stone. Picture by Colum Clarke.
... and in a shrub. Picture by Rachel Hynes.
Three of the four Common Scoter off Rosslare. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Black-headed Gull at Rosslare. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Redshank in flight. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Mute Swans, young and old at Our Lady's Island Lake. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Robin down among the reeds at Our Lady's Island Lake. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Anyone seen a Robin? Goldfinch at Our Lady's Island Lake. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Teal showing its beautiful colours. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Common Snipe and Teal. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Barnacle Geese and a Lapwing on the North Slob. Picture by Colum Clarke.
South Dublin members at Our Lady's Island Lake. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Last one out please switch off the lights Frank. Picture by Angela Mason.
Light fading over the Pump House on the North Slob, time to head home. Picture by Angela Mason.

The final tally for the day produced a count of 82 species, quite a few heard but not seen. Young, sharp eyed Joe Proudfoot drew our attention to two Red Kite on our southward journey, which gave us a total of six birds of prey and the Kite, which must be a record for a branch outing.

Eleanor Keane

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