Monday, March 19, 2012

Wexford highs and lows

I began early on Saturday morning at Ballycarney in search of a great egret which has been in the area for a few months now. Dense fog for the first half hour was replaced by heavy rain for the second and I left at 8am having seen nothing. A poor start but I quickly moved towards blue skies and the South Slob. I was hoping to see a siberian stonechat which had been present for a few weeks, I thought I knew where I was going but after phoning a friend for directions I was completely lost. A hour wasted I phoned a few others and eventually I found where I was supposed to be, unfortunately there was no sign of the bird. I searched the area for over 2 hours, walking along every hedge and ditch but nothing more than a few meadow pipits and reed buntings, 3 circling buzzards drew my attention up towards rapidly darkening skies. The leg on my stool broke as I hunkered down for the a heavy shower, things were slowly getting worse! Half covered in mud I gave up and made my way back to the car, a final scan before crossing the bridge and there was the chat, sitting up on the closest snag! It spent the next hour or more keeping low in the strong wind on brambles in the reeds but showed really well.

From here I moved towards Tacumshin in the hope of bearded tits, not knowing that 2 pairs would be found on the slob that afternoon by birders watching the chat! I spent the afternoon over-looking the east pond, a stunning male hen harrier landed in the sedge and cruised the area for a while. A young (male?) marsh harrier spent the afternoon quatering the area also. Unfortunately I only heard a tit briefly in the few hours waiting and saw little else. Ileft in time to guarantee a seat in the nearby pub for the rugby, really wish Ihadn't bothered!

Dawn of the following morning was glorious, strong sun and a light breeze and I went straight for Carnesore point. Afew whimbrel were the only sign of life, no wheatears on on beach or anything of note out to sea. I made my way to Ring Marsh in another optimistic search for bearded tits. I staked out a few vantage points but it was only at the end as I was about to give up that I heard the fantastic pinging calls of a pair. The female sat briefly on the top of a stalk but quickly disapeared, the male gave fantastic views for the next 30 mins, popping up all around me and feeding acrobatically. Another or the same as yesterdays marsh harrier passed  by but quickly disapeared, a buzzard soon afterwards had me questioning the harrier! I left the reeds and had a pair of stonechats on the way back to the car, a great comparison with yesterdays bird.

 The belly was rumbling and Iheaded for Ladies Island but found the deli empty of anything appetizing. A quick scan of the island produced a min 46 med gulls, 8 sandwich terns and a single ruff. I was too hungry to stop and sketch so made my way to Kilmore for a much needed breakfast roll. A few distant great northern divers, but no black throats here was a little disapointing. Continuing onto the Cull for the sun was still shining and I regretted bringing my heavy fleece on the walk down to the estuary! I immediately picked up one of the dowitchers, which was then joined by the second. Unfortunately these birds were flushed and after walking both sides of the channel, the views weren't worth the effort. With the tide rising I finally sat down able to get reasonable views of one of the birds. It was interesting to see the very distinct difference in bill length between the pair. A short eared owl and a juv harrier cruised the dunes and 2 swallows bolted north were a nice distraction. I searched for the water pipit but had no joy, more and more families descended on the area as the afternoon wore on.

I decided to try for the great egret again on the way home as it has been a long time since I have sketched one and there have been a few gooseanders seen in recent days. I drove along both sides of the river, stopping to scan from every vantage point and lay by but no joy. It was great to see plenty of buzzards in the area, my first time seeing double figures in a day in Wexford. After giving up on the egret I continued north to Black hill in Wicklow in the hope of crossbills but again there was I was out of luck. All in all a mixed weekend, plenty of time to sketch, some good weather to do it in, but some frustrating birds, and that rugby match! Will upload some sketches shortly.

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