Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas break?

 Have had little time in the field since I finished college for christmas. After a failed search for some waxwings, I sat down to check the gulls. No sign of anything strange so I spent some time sketching the black-heads as they were fed by the locals. Have had med and glaucous gulls here in the past and an adult ring-billed gull last march so I always check when I am passing.
In a small patch of scrub I found a chiffchaff, it looked and sounded good for a siberian, but just wouldn't give itself up. It was still there the following afternoon, but not seen on subsequent checks. Fingers crossed it will turn up again.

 Black-headed gulls, Goldenbridge luas stop, Drimnagh.
 Upland Sandpiper study.
Dropped into the Natural History museum for a look around after finishing the christmas shopping. Despite having a few projects due by the end of January, I am already looking forward to the next one where I get to make up the brief. Have a few ideas, waders in flight or harrier id plates being the two favoured options at the moment.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Some more recent work

 It has been a while since I have posted on the blog. At the first chance I got in a while I went down to Tacumshin in Wexford to try and catch up with the northern harrier and hopefully a few other birds also  around. In the end I stayed between Lingstown and the forgotten corner all day, over 20 reedlings fed along the road although mostly low down and would have been very difficult to pick up if not for their constant calls. I also had five flying south high over head while walking across the patches, they stalled and circled for a minute before dropping towards the forgotten corner. It was bizarre to see them so far from reeds!
 The flock was made up mostly of males, but it was one lone female that gave the best views as she sat for a few minutes just visible above the densest reeds.
 An adult female hen harrier sitting on the shore of the main lake made a nice subject.
The northern harrier finally appeared late on in the afternoon but quatered the reeds for almost an hour. I worked these sketches up from a lot of quick roughs done while watching it.
 I have tried to scrutinise every stonechat I come across, from a distance this female looked ok for siberian with a seemingly pale throat. It took a while before I got close enough to it to make out some dark feather bases to the throat and a spotted rump.

 A flock of over 100 waxwings were feeding on berries along the walls of James' hospital last week very close to my front door. I had a good bit of work to get through for college but it was too good to ignore and I spent most of the afternoon enjoying the close views.
 Collared dove, I sketched this in my parents house as it sheltered under a rowan tree from a heavy shower.
As part of college we had to produce a range of christmas products for a christmas fair. I made a series of cards and present tags using prints of original illustrations. Was delighted that they sold well and I may have to make a few more for another sale next monday.
1 of the many waxwings distracting me from college work last week!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Finished project

I finally got to finish this project last night after a few weeks having to work on others. The pallas' warbler was one of my favourites to work on, one of my favourite species, I got to work on several roughs before I settled on the final layout. It has been a long time since I sketched pallas', hopefully it won't be the last this autumn.

 Snow buntings, some recent sketches from Tory Island and last winters flock at greystones were used for this.
 Waxwings, I havn't seen a waxwing in two years, but this autumn has seen big numbers arrive into Britain, hopefully it won't be long before they make their way further west.
 Puffins, it was great to be able to use the many sketches and photographs from Tory Island last spring. The birds are full of character, and even when they are just sitting around, they look like they are about to do something stupid!
 Bearded tits, the small population that has established itself in the south east has spread quite a bit in the last few months. Always a welcome sight, I hope to get out and see them again soon now that the first round of projects for college is almost over.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

More college work

 Have been working away on the roughs for one of my college projects. I have to illustrate 5 pages from a book I read recently and chose 100 birds to see before you die. I have since decided to refine it down to 5 of my favourite birds seen in Ireland, snow bunting, puffin, bearded reedling, waxwing and pallas's warbler.

 I used photographs and sketches to work from.
A colour and layout rough, have quite a bit of work still to do but am happy enough so far.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tory Island

 One of the first birds I saw on Tory was this male snow bunting in the harbour as I got of the boat, I was thinking it would be the 1st of many. After dropping of my gear I went back with the camera and sketchbook and it was briefly joined by a 2nd. They were the only 2 of the week.

 Whooper swan. 13 on the island during my stay. 10 on my 1st day, 2 on the monday and this juv was on its own on my second day.

 Eider, one borealis was seen amongst 16 eider as I approached the harbour, numbers dropped down after that to 5 until my second last day. The upper male in the photo showed quite an orange tinge to the bill and rounded frontal lobes. Perhaps some borealis or even dresser's influence??
 Buzzard, 1 of 3 on the island. The rabbits on the island are dying in their 100s from myxamatosis and the buzzards are doing well.

 Blyths reed warbler. Some great views of the bird, but like most rarities, the need for photographs comes ahead of field sketching. Should have spent a lot more time on it.

Tory lighthouse.

Mute swan-         2 pairs and a lone juv. A lone adult on the west lake on the 9th driven off by the local pair
Whooper swan-   10 (8 ads,2 juvs) 6th, 1 juv 7th, ad and juv 8th
Barnacle goose-  over 200 on the islands on the 6, with several flocks of 20plus circling the island daily.
Mallard-              Roughly 5 on each lake.
Wigeon-              Lone male west end
Teal-                   5 west end and 3 east end
Eider-                  16 on the 6th included one Borealis, 5 daily till it rose to 12 on 9th and 10th
Pheasant-             1 female behind Graces daily
Fulmar-                small numbers daily around the island
Manx shearwater-  1 from the boat on the 6th
Gannet-                good numbers daily
Cormorants-         common
Shags-                 common
Grey Heron-         1 daily, probably 2 on 10th
Common buzzard- 2 daily with a 3rd on the 10th, fattening up on 100's of dying rabbits.
Sparrowhawk-       male on the 8th caught a starling, circled high and south late in the eve, juv female on the 8th.
Kestrel-                2 everday, joined by a third on the 8th.
Merlin-                 Female type from the 8th, juv male on the 10th
Peregrine-            2 adults daily, 1 juv daily and another at Maheroarty
Oystercatcher-     30 west end
Ringed Plover-      1 on the morning of the 9th, grew to 22
Grey Plover-         1 juv 8th
Golden Plover-      1 calling and flying west on the 9th
Lapwing-              30 west end
Purple sand-        3 on the 10th
Turnstone-           common
Dunlin-                 1 in the harbour on the 10th
Redshank-           common
Curlew-                3 most days, over 20 on the 10th
Snipe-                 flushed a few most days
Black headed gull- 2 a few times around the harbour
Common gull-      scarce, but a few around the harbour
Herring gull-         common
Great b b gull-      common
Kittiwake-            common, amazed they didn't lure in a sab's!
Black guillemot-   a few around Maheroarty, none on Tory
Razorbill-             a few mostly distant
Guillemot-            1 in close east end harbour, a few out to sea
Feral pigeon-        20 mostly west town
Skylark-               1 calling overhead on the 10th
Rock pipit-           common
Meadow pipit-      common, noticable daily fluctuations
Tree pipit-            1 on the 9th looked a lot brighter than 1 seen well on the 10th
Pied wagtail-        10 or more most days
White wagtail-      1 6th and 7th, a different bird on the 8th
Dunnock-             1 west town 6th
Robin-                  from 2 on 6th, grew to 5 on the 10th
Wheatear-            2 most days, 4 on the 9th
Song Thrush-       1 7th, and 1 daily afterwards,
Redwing-             noticable daily movement in small numbers, 12 on the 8th
Blackbird-           2 daily, atleast 4 on the 8th
Blackcap-           1 male on the 9th
Blyth's reed warbler- 1 on the 8th, east end garden
Chiffchaff-            2 6th, 1 everyday after and 2 on 10th
Wren-                 common
Chough-              atleast 2 pairs
Hooded crow-      common
Raven-                5-6 daily
Starling-              100's
Tree sparrow-       6 west town, 20 or more east town. No house sparrows seen
Linnet-                 8 on the 9th
Goldfinch-            min 7 on the 10th
Reed bunting-      2 6 and 7th, 3 on the 8th, 1 9th
Snow bunting-     2 on the 6th, 1 on the 7th, apparently around the graveyard for the previous week atleast
Lapland bunting-  2 on the 8th,

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tory delivers again

Decided I would bite the bullet and finally give Tory some of the time it deserves in Autumn. Despite some slow days, there was a constant turn over of birds. No great numbers and only one star. Will put up some sketches over the weekend and a bit of a trip report, a few shots for now.


 After almost identifying it on posture I started to try and get some 'proper' criteria. The wings were constantly drooped and made accessing the primary length difficult, even shots of the bird are mis leading at times. Grey brown above contrasting with a rusty tinge through the wing, starkly white underparts with a grey cast along the flanks and a distinctive 'chic' call all added to identification of blyth's reed warbler. A first for Donegal, and probably not many more than 10 Irish sightings before?
 Tree pipit. A bird on the 9th landed briefly on a wire before continuing east, appearing a lot yellower on the breast than this bird on the 10th. There are quite a few Tory records surprisingly considering there isn't a tree on the island!
Lesser legs. Checked Swords estuary this evening, 4 golden plover and an adult med gull hardly worth the effort. I stopped into twitch the legs at the causeway on the Bull. Great close views, shame about the light, and that I forgot my pencil case!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Aranmore or Tory....

Was up on Aranmore off the west coast of Donegal today for a bit of scouting. Wasn't particularly optimistic about the prospects before we set off, and rain all the way didn't do much to raise the hopes.
I have planned to head north for 5 days starting saturday and was torn between Tory and Aranmore so todays trip was a well timed excuse. After a short look for the snowy owl, we set off in search of migs and it couldn't have got off to a better start. I had barely stepped out of the car, raised my bins and there was a yellow browed warbler! Over the next hour or 2, I had it or another 2 as I worked my way down a valley to the shoreline. Peter and Ger had another in and around the harbour.
A distant flock of starlings circling over the fields caught my eye and I thought it would be great to find a rosy, so raised my bins and immediately found a milky tea shaped dot amongst the 2-300 black dots! After a few mins running around I found it sitting on some wires before it flew in and landed beside me with the main flock. Peter and Ger got lost on the way upto me and while searching for them, the whole flock somehow disappeared! We went back to the harbour and searched for some interesting redpolls Ger had found but failed to relocate most of the flock before trying again for the starlings. As we approached the area I had it in, a few starlings rose up onto the wires, soon enough, the whole flock were there and the rosy in the middle. A second new bird for Ger and only a second rosy for Peter.
We got back to searching the seemingly endless gardens, some fantastic habitat and no doubt we missed plenty. Only one question, Tory or Aranmore for next week....

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

College work

Its been a while since I have posted anything as I have been busy getting back into the swing of college. Am hoping to get back upto Tory Island for a few days this weekend and am going to Aranmore tomorrow in search of a few migs. For now just a few roughs from my first college project due to be handed up at the end of next month.

 The brief was to illustrate 5 pages from a book read over the summer. I picked out two I thought would be great, the jewel hunter and 100 birds to see before you die. I started by roughing out several ideas and species, starting with guerneys pitta.

 I tried out a few species from various previous trips, cock of the rock above.

 I finally decided to settle on illustrations of 5 Irish birds to see before you die. White tailed eagle was an obvious choice as I have sketched them many times in the last few years at falconry centres, and the success of the re-introdution in Kerry.
 Barn Owls are another favourite, although I have only seen one wild bird in the last few years despite a few stake outs.
 Bearded tits and waxwings were also high on the list. I have a rough list of 10 species, but nothing set in stone just yet. Have until the end of October to finish the project.