Outing Report

Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow - 11th October 2015.

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South Dublin and Wicklow members assemble in Kilcoole station carpark. Picture by Bill Rea.

South Dublin members at Kilcoole, 11th October 2015 (picture: Bill Rea)

Our October outing took us to the familiar location of Kilcoole. On this occasion we were delighted to be joined by members of the Wicklow branch, swelling our numbers to about 40. Branch Chairman Frank Doyle greeted everyone and announced that we would cross the railway tracks and proceed south along the grassy path stopping every now and then to scan over the marsh and out to sea. The weather was very mild, with a light easterly breeze and good visibility throughout.

The regular Kilcoole dabbler trio of Mallard, Wigeon and Teal were present. Not in huge numbers but enough to indicate that winter is on the way. Some of the Wigeon were moving about the marsh in small flocks as well as heading out to settle on the sea. A few present got views of a bird that resembled American Wigeon, but subsequent searches for the bird were not successful and we had to let it go. Also present on the main marsh were small numbers of Shoveler and a couple of Mute Swans. There were good numbers of Cormorants both on the sea and around the marsh and at least two Red-throated Divers were seen, including one in flight.

Eclipse male Teal, Kilcoole Marsh, 11th October 2015. Picture by Bill Rea.

Teal, Kilcoole, 11th October 2015. (picture: Bill Rea)

The only Moorhen seen were two in the Flooded Field. In contrast there were at least 20 Grey Herons and ten Little Egrets, all on the Main Marsh. Until about 25 years ago Little Egret was a rare bird in Ireland, indeed the first Irish record was as recently as 1940. Nowadays they are a regular feature of the Irish birding landscape, especially in the south and east and breeding has been confirmed in recent years.

The only bird of prey observed was a Buzzard that showed an extensive white breast. It was not very co-operative as it perched in a distant tree, then moving even further off and turning its back to us. Even when viewed in the scope it was a small target, but some of the group managed to get on to it. When given the choice a Buzzard's food preference is for Rabbit, but it will take a variety of corvids and other prey also. On this occasion it was surrounded by a bevy of Wood Pigeons that were keeping a close watch on it.

South Dublin and Wicklow members, Kilcoole Marsh, 11th October 2015. Picture by Bill Rea.

Kilcoole, 11th October 2015. (picture: Bill Rea)

Gulls were not so evident. As might be expected there were small numbers of Black-headed and Herring Gulls of various ages around the marsh and on the sea. We were fortunate to have Masen along with us, a very observant young man, who found a winter-plumaged Guillemot close in to the shore. It was one of the best birds of the day and everyone got great views.

There were good numbers of wading birds, mainly confined to the Main Marsh. That said, the first waders we noticed were Curlew that were in a field beyond the Flooded Field. As an Irish breeding bird, Curlew numbers have declined drastically in recent years. These birds were most likely winter visitors from further east. There were good numbers of Lapwing, both on the deck and in flight. Large flocks of Lapwing are a common sight in winter especially around farmland and marshland and they can be readily identified by their slow and deliberate flapping flight. Around the Main Marsh we also saw Snipe, Greenshank and Black-tailed Godwit.

Linnet on a wire, Kilcoole. Picture by Bill Rea.

Linnet, Kilcoole, 11th October 2015. (picture: Bill Rea)

Linnet, Goldfinch and Starling flocks were noticed. In a willow there were some feisty Reed Buntings that were chasing each other back and forth. The characteristic 'sip sip' of a Meadow Pipit was heard. A nice surprise was a Skylark that flew up from some grass and soared overhead for a while. It uttered a few calls, but nothing like the continuous flight-song of spring and summer.

A male Stonechat sat on top of a willow and was joined by a Robin. From the same location a Wren was heard to call. Then a Northern Wheatear was spotted on a fence. This bird is on the move, on its way south to winter in Africa. The Greenland race of Wheatear, which is larger and more colourful on the chin and chest, also passes through Ireland on migration, mostly along the west coast. Greenland Wheatears undertake a mammoth migration twice a year from Africa via Ireland, Britain and the Continent to Iceland and Greenland and back again.

Wheatear stops off at Kilcoole on its southward migration. Picture by Bill Rea.

Wheatear, Kilcoole, 11th October 2015. (picture: Bill Rea)

By about half-past noon we had gone as far as a stretch of Buckthorn bushes on the grassy path and we decided to call it a day and finish up. Branch Chairman Frank Doyle thanked everyone for coming along and reminded those present about our coach trip to Wexford next month. We had a great morning's birding and a nice non-birding bonus was seeing the Irish Light's tender, the Granuaile, that was working on the Arklow Bank just off-shore.

Joe Hobbs

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