Sep 252012
 

Like Irelands Wildlife on FacebookWoohoo! The Ireland’s Wildlife page I manage on Facebook sailed past the 4,000 “likes” mark some time last week, and continues to grow apace. It’s great to see the level of engagement on the page continue to grow, and is a good sign for the overall level of enthusiasm and engagement for wildlife and nature in Ireland.

The website is also growing steadily, and I’m trying to add content as regularly as I can to keep the momentum going. Part of what I’m hoping to achieve with the Ireland’s Wildlife website is to encourage more engagement with and empathy for nature and wildlife in Ireland. It also serves as a handy general interest hub of Irish wildlife content on the web, and offers a jumping off point to some of the great niche wildlife and nature resources out on the web.

I’m in the process of approaching potential advertisers to sponsor / advertise on the site — starting with leading optics manufacturers who have submitted products for review. My goal is to attract advertising that’s useful and relevant to Ireland’s Wildlife readers, connect advertisers with a highly targeted audience with an interest in wildlife and nature and get the site to start paying its way so that I can spend more time developing its content and features.

It’s early days yet… but I’m pretty hopeful that Ireland’s Wildlife has value, and that it will ultimately pay its own way, allowing me to develop it into the outstanding resource I know it can be.

For now though, it’s great to see the numbers continue to grow… and to look forward to a time when I can legitimately go out with a pair of binoculars and call it “work”!

If you don’t already “Like” Ireland’s Wildlife on Facebook, what are you waiting for? And don’t forget to check out the Ireland’s Wildlife website while you’re at it!

May 042011
 

After much deliberation and procrastination I’ve finally set the Ireland’s Wildlife Website free into the wilds of cyberspace.

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It’s still very early days, and it’s a bit thin on content (I’m working on it… so please bear with me), but I think there’s a great foundation to build an online wildlife hub and resource for everyone who’s interested in Ireland’s wildlife, the places they live, and the people who work with the,

Take a look, and let me have your feedback, thoughts, ideas and suggestions.

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Apr 202011
 

Woodchat Shrike, Rosscarbery -- photo by Colin Barton

Today was an amazing day.

You know those balmy April days that practically taste of the promise of summer… the vanilla-citrus scent of gorse blossom hanging in the unseasonably warm air. Well, this was one of those.

I had a meeting in the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery this afternoon, after which the plan was a leisurely stroll across the causeway and down towards the Warren Strand to meet the family for a picnic on the beach. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? But it gets better.

A quick circuit of the reed-bed revealed an assortment of warblers in the deciduous trees at the western end… willow warblers, chiff-chaffs and a full on X-Factor-style sing-off between three male blackcaps.

DSCI2711There wasn’t much happening from the causeway – some late black tailed godwits and a couple of little egrets in their breeding regalia… they look so much “swankier” when they’re all dressed up.

So it was onto the Warren road, heading for the beach. Something made me stop scanning the estuary for waders and look up into the stubble field behind the houses on the other side of the road. A bird flew up and landed on the electricity wires… I swung up the bins.

Surely not…! I looked again… I was definitely seeing an adult female Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator).

I made my way into the field for a closer look. What a magnificent bird… a first for me, and a fabulous bird to find for yourself. I sent the news in to Colin Barton who runs @corkbirdnews and he was on the scene from Galley Head in short order. I’ve used one of Colin’s photos of the shrike above, as mine are a bit ropey (only had the compact camera with me, and handheld digibining is a tricky skill to master, see below).

These are my best two digibining efforts:

Woodchat ShrikeWoodchat Shrike

And here’s another one of Colin’s – a flight shot – to finish off.

Woodchat Shrike -- Photo by Colin Barton

A yellow wagtail in the same field (dubbed the “Woodchat field” by Colin – which has a nice ring to it, I have to say) was a bonus too, and the picnic with the family was a great way to round off a really fabulous day!

Apr 112011
 

Wood Warbler on Galley Head, Co. Cork

Serendipity is a wonderful thing.

Our house was complete chaos last weekend. The twins and the little one had their friends over on Saturday for a sleepover (more accurately described as a stay-awake-over). That meant that bright and early on Sunday we had a houseful of over-tired, hyperactive girls ranging in age from seven to ten.

It was mayhem. Then a friend of Sally Ann’s arrived with her daughter, and the female/male quotient hit critical mass. This lone male had to escape of risk terminal meltdown!

And so, somehow, me, the binoculars, the bird book and the camera ended up in the car. Quarter-of-an-hour later I was standing at the salubriously dubbed “Shite Lane” crossroads on Galley head, looking at a lovely example of a wood warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix).

Don’t you just love it when things work out?

I had a quick scoot along the Top Lane too, seeing as I was already in the vacinity. Secretly I wanted to bag a hoopoe (love that name… but the scientific name is even more impressive. Upupa epops anyone?)  on Galley, just to annoy @CorkBirdNews AKA Galley Head Birding, who was away from his home patch at the time. But no such luck, and he’s back now, so opportunity lost.

Did get some fantastic views of a peregrine on the deck (but crap photos – too far away for my poxy glass, and a mist rolling in didn’t help), and lots of hyperactive choughs mobbing a very vociferous raven. It was a happy reminder that great birding, even in the midst of spring-migrant-mania, isn’t all about rarities.

Peregrine on the deckLots of choughs aroundChoughs just after dive bombing the ravenRaven, trying hard to stay one step ahead of the choughs

That said, a few woodchat shrikes (Lanius senator) have been cropping up further east and west along the Cork coast, which makes me think there must be at least one or two lurking on nearby headlands too – Galley, Toe Head, or along the coast in between.

I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled… or failing that will monitor @CorkBirdNews on Twitter and let a more competent / dedicated / single / child free / retired birders find one for me Winking smile.

Mar 312011
 

Lesser Redpoll (top) v Mealy Redpoll comparisonThe mealy redpoll that spent the winter hanging around my garden is still making regular appearances at the feeders. During the recent spell of decent weather I managed to get these shots of first a lesser, followed a few seconds later by the mealy on the same station at the seed-feeder. Identical light, identical camera settings, etc. make for an interesting comparison.

It highlights the significant differences between two birds that in Ireland are still considered sub-species of the common redpoll, but in the UK are split into different species.

The Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis flammea cabaret / Carduelis cabaret) is on the top, the Mealy Redpoll (Carduelis flammea flammea) is on the bottom.

Click on the pic to see a larger version.

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Feb 222011
 

No really, it isn’t… although in all fairness you could be forgiven for thinking it was morphing into one of late. That’s just a reflection of me rekindling an interest that’s been there since I was a wee nipper.

Inevitably life gets busy, and things fall by the wayside, but they’re always there, to be picked up again when time allows. That’s what’s happening now.

I’m enjoying re-acquainting myself with the common and not so common birds around me, brushing up very rusty fieldcraft and ID skills and generally re-calibrating the bird-radar.

It’s also seems to be rekindling my enthusiasm for this blog, which is no bad thing.

Where am I finding the time for this real life stuff? To be honest I’m mostly slotting it in around all the other stuff. It’s amazing what you can do with a spare ten minutes here, quarter of an hour there.

So… I hope you’re enjoying the wildlife and birding related posts, and I will get back to writing about other things soon.

Feb 212011
 

Arse! Tufted duck taking a dive.Damn… don’t you just hate it when birds are too far away, and moving too quickly for a positive ID?

The rain finally stopped and the sun was out. While I was waiting for the kettle to boil I grabbed the bins for a quick scan from the front garden.

The usual suspects – mostly tits and finches — were going about their daily grind. A grey heron was making it’s leisurely way towards where Corran lake sits hidden in a dip about a mile from the house. Behind it, and gaining rapidly, were two ducks, going like the clappers.

If they were anything other than mallard, tufted duck or teal they’d be a new species for my loosely defined patch. But they were just that bit too far away to make out features for a positive ID with the bins… and were travelling too quickly to go get the scope.

I’m pretty sure they weren’t any of the three aforementioned duck species, and for some reason a little voice in the back of my head keeps whispering wigeon… but I guess we’ll never know.

Feb 212011
 

… but hey, it’s a start!

Just spotted this on the Birdwatch Ireland Facebook page. It’s a post from the warden of the Cape Clear Bird Observatory, Steve Wing, confirming that they saw the first swallow of the summer pass by yesterday, 20 February.

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Typing this with frozen fingers, looking out the office window at the lashing rain, it doesn’t feel much like summer, but with the frogs a spawning, swallows arriving and bumblebees on the wing (saw my first one on Saturday) nature is certainly hinting that the winter is well and truly on its way out.

So chin-up, and look on the bright side… we might not get much dry weather, but at lease we have warmer rain to look forward to!

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Feb 082011
 

lesser redpoll and mealy redpoll in West CorkOnce upon a time, not very long ago, I used to be content with the notion that a redpoll was a redpoll was a redpoll. All that changed just over a month ago when a mealy redpoll (Carduelis flammea flammea) joined the gang of lesser redpolls (Carduelis flammea cabaret) visiting my garden bird feeders.

I get lesser redpolls in the garden every winter, and lovely little birds they are too. But back in early January I was casually watching a few of these charming little finches jostle for position on the feeder, when I noticed one bird in particular that looked very different. It was noticeably chunkier, and much paler in appearance – more of a frosty grey-brown than the usual warm brown and buff tones of the lessers.

I dived for the books… and opened up a real can of worms. Redpoll identification, it turns out, can be a real NIGHTMARE!

After a bit of reading, comparing and some more watching… followed by more reading and head-scratching, I was convinced that the paler bird was a mealy redpoll — the nominate sub-species of the common redpoll (Carduelis flammea flammea).

Continue reading »

Dec 062010
 

My wife tells me I’m in danger of becoming binocular obsessed since getting my fantastic Swarovski SLC 10X42HD binoculars. I have to admit she may have a point, but I cant help posting this up here….

Over on their Facebook page Swarovski Optik is raffling three pairs of it’s outstanding binoculars among its fans when their page reaches 3,000 “likes”. At the moment they’re on 2049 and climbing.

The three models they’re raffling off are the fantastic EL 8×32, the EL 10×32 Traveler, and the Pocket 8×20.

Win Swarovski Binoculars on Facebook

Could one of these amazing binoculars be heading your way for Christmas?

For your chance to win, head on over to the Swarovski Optik Facebook Page, Like the page, and submit your details via the “Raffle” tab. It’s that simple.

Good luck!

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