Outing Report

Rogerstown Estuary - 11th January 2015.

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South Dublin members assemble in Turvey car park. Picture by Niall Hatch.

South Dublin members in Turvey car park (picture: Niall Hatch)

The morning was dry and bright but a strong and gusty westerly wind and a temperature of 7°C meant that standing around too long was not an option. Twenty two hardy birdwatchers assembled in the car park at Turvey allotments at 10:30am under the leadership of Niall Hatch and Steven McAvoy.

Even as the group was gathering the birds began to show themselves. A trio of Mistle Thrush were doing their stop and run behavior in the field at the carpark and were enjoyed by the earliest to arrive. A Kestrel hovered motionless over the adjacent field which was quite an accomplishment in the strong wind. A short pan to the right revealed a Common Buzzard sitting out in the open on top of an ivy covered tree and a few observers had already seen a Sparrowhawk circling quite high to the south. Not a bad start as we hadn't moved a step.

Mistle Thrush on a wire. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Mistle Thrush, Rogerstown 11th January 2015 (picture: Colum Clarke)

As the group moved along the path through a rough weedy and seedy field a flock of at least 40 linnets flew up from feeding and landed on a very small tree giving the impression of a tree decorated for the occasion. They continued to alternately settle on the ground and then fly a loop of the field no doubt agitated by the presence nearby of the hunting Kestrel.

As our group moved along the path we scanned the rough pastures hedgerows and farmland for wintering thrushes but only a single Mistle Thrush, a Song Thrush and a Blackbird were seen even though there were still a few hawthorn berries remaining on the trees. As we moved further along the track another flock of Linnets were flushed from a stubble field.

Because of the strong wind the smaller birds were probably keeping a low profile. Then Steven drew our attention to the contact call of a Reed Bunting and a female bird was seen atop a Hawthorn bush.

Linnet tree decorations. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Linnets, Rogerstown 11th January 2015 (picture: Colum Clarke)

It was soon clear that we were approaching the estuary as large flocks of waders could be seen in the sky ahead of us. Firstly a loose flock of Lapwings flew over with their unmistakable broad floppy wings and black and white appearance. This was in total contrast to the very large flock of Golden Plover that appeared a few seconds later, which were in a very tight flock, fast and wheeling in the sky.

By the time we reached the hide we could see the waders had settled back on the mudflats, which are quite extensive at low tide. The channel also held large numbers of duck, mostly Teal and Wigeon with some Mallard and many Shelduck . There were big numbers of Brent Geese both on the mud and some closer at a pool on a rough pasture just to the west of the South Hide.

Mix of Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal at Rogerstown. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Wildfowl, Rogerstown 11th January 2015 (picture: Colum Clarke)

Other waders included Redshank, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit and one Greenshank. Several Little Egrets drifted backward and forwards over the salt marsh with their 'Daz' white plumage visible from a great distance. The light was excellent as the weak sunlight was behind us and the large flock of Golden Plover looked spectacular and really lived up to their name. Three smaller diving birds of uniform buffy colour and powder puff rears, were interspersed with the Teal and later drifted closer to us and were as suspected - Little Grebe.

Suddenly most of the waders and ducks took flight and the sky was full of birds. As we eagerly looked for the cause, someone shouted Peregrine, and one appeared quite close almost overhead, closely followed by a second giving excellent views. A third Peregrine, this time an adult male landed in a marshy area on the far side of the channel and all got great views as he sat in waiting. To complete the raptor list of the day a Merlin was spotted sitting on a grassy bank on the other side of the channel probably enjoying a Linnet lunch. The birds then seemed to be repeatedly flushed as a Peregrine kept re-appearing and soaring above the estuary looking for suitable targets.

Look out, there's a Peregrine Falcon about! Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

Peregrine Falcon, Rogerstown 11th January 2015 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)

The tight wheeling strategy gives safety in numbers as it makes it more difficult for a such a predator to lock onto a single bird, so it is wise for them to flock together. Common Buzzards were also putting in quite a show from the hide, up to five seen at one time and one was observed to harass a Peregrine that had made a kill and steal the prey from it. Finally a small flock of Goldfinches floated past the hide and as if to say farewell and a very confiding Robin came to check us out hoping for a few crumbs from our lunch.

As we started our return walk the wind was strengthening and a few spots of rain sped up our return, but we had been well rewarded for braving the cold. Whilst we were able to get into the warmth of our cars, we may have felt some sympathy for the estuary birds having to tough it out finding food in a cold and muddy environment whilst always being on high alert.

Some More Pictures

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Grey Heron down among the rushes. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Some more pictures taken on the outing by Colum Clarke and Stephen McAvoy.
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Brent Geese, Shelduck and Wigeon. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Flock of Brent Geese in flight at Rogerstown.... Picture by Colum Clarke.
... then coming in to land. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Wigeon in flight. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Tight flock of Golden Plover over Rogerstown. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Some of the Lapwing present at Rogerstown during our outing. Picture by Colum Clarke.
South Dublin members getting ready to head off to the estuary... Picture by Stephen McAvoy.
...nearly ready... Picture by Stephen McAvoy.
... and we're off. Picture by Stephen McAvoy.

Species seen on the day came 36, despite it being a poor day for small birds as they sensibly hunkered down in the very wild conditions.

Mike Bowtell

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