Saturday, August 18, 2012

Grey Phalarope

I made a visit to Carrownouskey near Louisberg in Mayo where I came upon this storm wrecked adult  Grey Phalarope, that was moulting into winter plumage.  The bird was exhausted and I wonder did it make it through the night and back out to sea.

Grey Phalarope © John N Murphy

Ireland or Iceland

I spent all of last week in parts of Connemeara where there is some superb scenery very reminiscent to parts of Iceland.  I reckon this is where the Irish Rock Group U2 got their lyrics for one of their most famous songs "Where the Sheep have no names"?

West of Ireland between Maum Cross, Leenaun and Delphi © John N Murphy

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Goose like Shelduck

Adult Shelduck © John N Murphy

As the summer draws towards an end, we find our mudflats and estuaries completely emptied of birdlife.  The thousands of wading birds and ducks that bred in the high Arctic for our summer, are slowly making their way south. Only few birds remained to nest in these locations. One such bird is the goose like Shelduck.

These large ducks breed on the shores of these vast mudflats and estuarine basins. The Shelduck is one of the most attractive of our waterfowl.  It is white and black with a vibrant red bill that has a shield or shell like appearance to the inner/upper bill. At this time of the year the female has finished incubating the eggs and the young ducklings that have hatched are just about ready to march out of their downy nest from within an old rabbit burrow or from under a bramble bush.  In recent years Shelducks have begun to move inland, breeding more frequently on lakeshores and riverbanks.

Shelduck © John N Murphy

These large ducks eat the smallest of invertebrates within the mud.  They specialise in a small cone shaped snail the Hydrobia ulvae, which is present in almost all estuaries, and often in large numbers. Spatial distribution of Shelducks is strongly influenced by the behaviour of this prey, particularly in relation to water depth. They can even feed at night, detecting prey by tactile clues using their bills.
What makes these Shelducks unique is that after breeding they do something that no other waterfowl does. Once the young have grown to adult size the family parties prepare themselves for a long journey.  Every year over 100,000 Shelducks from the North-west European population of Ireland, Britain, Belgium, Holland and many more countries, depart on a migration to the Waddenzee, or Wadden Sea that lies between Holland and Northern Germany. They head their every year so that the adults can moult new feathers after the breeding season. The Waddenzee consists of many square miles of gently shelving sand and mudbanks largely covered at high water. All Shelduck except those bred during the year need to renew wing and tail feathers simultaneously. For about four weeks they are unable to fly.
Once moult has completed and new features are renewed, birds return to their old breeding grounds in early to late autumn.  This migration begins in a rather leisurely fashion. Shelduck returning to breeding areas in this country will often arrived back by late October. But in some years return can be delayed by up to two months.
Adult Shelduck © John N Murphy
Juvenile Shelduck eating Eel Grass © John N Murphy

Little Egret

This young Little Egret has spent the last week or so feeding along the rock pools at Seafield, Quilty.  Little Egrets are scarce in this part of the county and it is the first bird that I can recall spending so much time at this location.
Little Egret fishing in rock pools © John N Murphy

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Common Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper have started to build up in numbers throughout Clare as they make migration south for the winter.

Common Sandpipers feeding in the mud at Ballycorick Creek © John N Murphy


There are many young birds out and about in the garden all this week, these include Greenfinch, Linnet, Blue Tit, many House Sparrows all dodging the rain showers to feed during the dryer periods.

 Greenfinches in my back garden © John N Murphy
The House Sparrow population in my garden is thriving this summer © John N Murphy

Friday, August 3, 2012

Grey Heron

This Grey Heron hangs out on the weir at Annacotty in Limerick.  He has been missing his left foot for about six months now and is known locally as 'STUMPY'.   But as you can see from this series of images, the loss of one limb has not impeded his skill to catch food.

Grey Heron catching an Eel © John N Murphy

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sedge Warbler

Juvenile Sedge Warblers are fattening up for soon they will be departing for West Africa.  Parent birds are also still feeding young, trying to get chicks out of the nest in time for their long migration before the Autumn hits.
 Sedge Warblers © John N Murphy