Monday, November 29, 2010

Annagassan, Co Louth

Sat 26 Nov was supposed to be a trip up to Dundalk with Eric, but snow fell and the trip was cancelled. It was the right call to make at 8am, but later about 11am, it had cleared and me and cara drove up, she had plans with her sis and I wanted to go birding.

The highlight I guess was 7 Goldeneyes up in Annagassan. It was cool to see them in the sea rather than a lake (saw them for the first time earlier in the year at the lakes in Oxford Island) - seemed more wild that way. I watched them for a while and noticed the males throwing their heads back at their own private joke. It must have been hilarious because they were throwing their heads back a lot. This type of behaviour wouldn't look too out of place in the breeding season (May - Aug) but chucking heads back as a display to the female ducks in late November puzzled me.
2 male and 3 female Goldeneye (and Cormorant on the post), Annagassan, Co.Louth
Heads back - why this display at the end of November? Annagassan, Co.Louth
7 Goldeneyes, 3 males 4 females. I don't think they were juveniles because they had the yellow tip to beak = adult females

7 Goldeneyes Cooley Mountains in background, Annagassan, Co Louth

I found this cool youtube someone took of the Goldeneye display - very ducking funny.

Moving along the little bit of shoreline at Annagassan, I examined every rock for the little Snow Bunting we saw there in February, just incase it had arrived early, but I didn't see it.
I checked out this spot both sat and sunday- y'know, just in case.

I did see a Redshank sporting new shoes though.
Pebble Shoes - all the rage.

Turnstone and Redshank, Annagassan, Co.Louth
4 Ringed Plover, Annagassan, Co.Louth
Ok, now for some Gull talk.
I did lots of gull scanning this weekend, and for my efforts I didn't see anything unusual.
I did wonder whether a few Common Gulls I spotted were Ring Billed gulls, but if there were any around, I didn't see them.
poss 2nd Winter Common Gull
poss 2nd Winter Common Gull - large adult white mirror visible
Common Gulls and Ring billed gulls look very similar except a RBG would have a pale eye, a common gull has dark eyes, Annagassan, Co.Louth

adult Common Gull, large white window and broad tertial crescent. A RBG would have a smaller mirror and narrower tertial crescent.
A little easier - an adult Blackheaded Gull - white leading edge to wing, Annagassan, Co.Louth

Greater Black Backed gull, Annagassan, Co.Louth
 Sunday morning was icicle cold and while Dublin and Wicklow was snowed in, Dundalk was still snow free. To take a break from the seabirds I headed inland towards my favourite kind of turf - farmlands. I kept my eyes peeled around the fields for geese, white fronted or pink footed, I didn't mind, but didn't see a single goose to gander at.

I did see fields with flocks of beautiful, noisy Lapwings, Hooded Crows, Golden Plovers, the most Chaffinches I have Ever seen (100's on roadsides), Wood pigeons, Hooded Crows, male and female Pheasants swaggering around, it was lovely. Especially with the light sprinkling of snow which had just fallen.
I had the luxury of being able to drive around really slowly as I had the little lanes pretty much to myself, but still - I had gone slowly past a Kestrel sitting in a tree right next to the roadside, before I noticed it. I slowly braked and reversed, but the Kestrel spotted me at the last minute and flew off. Pretty much exactly the same happened with a Buzzard - it was sitting on a telephone wire and flew off when it was too late to stop the car. I also saw 2 more buzzards hunting in fields out near Dunany Point later in the day.
Golden plover, Stabannan, Co Louth
I could have stayed around the fields for the rest of the day but I had it in my head that I should drive out to Cruisetown Strand and Clogher head to check out the seabirds and the snow was getting heavier and the sky darker, so I moved on.
Around Salterstown I stopped and put the scope onto the sea. There were approx 100 Mallards bobbing up and down on the freezing, choppy, grey sea, 30ish Shelduck, 20ish Wigeon and lots of Gulls - again, nothing unusual that I saw - and I did look.
Shelduck, Salterstown, Co louth

Mallard and Oysterctachers, Salterstown, Co. Louth

Mallards - not on a pond or canal.

My fingers suddenly numbed up and seconds after this photo, the snow became a blizzard and it was really time to leave - even though I didn't want to, but the thought of being trapped out on a road only 2 cars had passed down in 20 mins was not something I fancied, so I walked back to the car and headed home down the M1 with the car registering -4 degrees outside.
No waxwings, that I saw.