Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tac um shin

Left the house at 8am, picking sarah up on the way, headed down the N11. Within 10 mins we had pulled into a layby to get a better look at the 4 Redkites and Buzzard we spotted whilst driving (never a good thing). Unbelievable to see them flying so contently over a busy main road.

cropped image of 1 of 4 Red Kites flying over N11, both wings tagged - didn't get a reading.
Common Buzzard with massive wings and body - poss juv moulting (no black tip to tail?) Left fingers either worn or not grown properly.

After another couple of hours driving down the N11, we reached the meeting point and met up with Eric and the rest of the class.
It was a bit weird to arrive at Tacumshin after hearing so much about it from other birders, it was like a 'finally' I'm here. It did not disappont, it was different to how I imagined it to be though. I imagined it would be a bit more coastal and sparse and maybe on a different day it would appear that way, but we had a scorcher of a day and it felt like a holiday hotspot. In fact, not able to complain about windy or rainy conditions, we found a certain happiness in complaing about the big heat haze making it difficult to see the birds.

Why do most people spell it Tacumshin when the sign spells it Tacumshane?
The massive sighting of the day, for me, was the amazing views we managed of the female Hen Harriers. We didn't get a definite sighting of a male Hen Harrier but that didn't stop nearly Everyone referring to the female hen harrier as though it were a male. 'Well, it's convention to refer to all birds as males isn't it?' Not for me.
With the white rump and brown uppers there was a 'possibility' that it could be a juvenile male, but Eric said he couldn't see the grey feathers suggesting it was a male juv and was pretty sure we were looking at female Hen Harriers. Anyhooooo.
They were fantastic to see. I don't have any decent photos because I wanted to see the birds through my scope mostly. We also saw the Northern Harrier, which was pretty cool. A gorgeous bird with a great red body - really strong looking.
In the absence of Hen Harrier photos, I'm offering these Greater Black backed gulls who put on a synchronised air display show for you.

Greater Black backed gulls, Tacumshin Lake, Wexford
Better then Hen Harrier photos? No? Didn't think so.
I should have asked Sarah what her total species list was for our visit to Tacumshin, I know she filled 3 pages in her little notebook anyway. To be honest, a lot of the ducks and waders there you'd see most places. We saw Shovelers, Pintails, Shelducks, Tufties, Wigeons, Mallards, Greenshank, Redshank, Golden Plovers, Dunlins, Lapwings, Reed Bunting, Tits and Finches. What made the place for me, was the closeness of the raptors - Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Hen Harrier, Northern Hen Harrier and possible Merlin were all great to see in the one place. It'd be great to go down and just stake out the place for the day to get a better feel of what a day is like for the raptors there. Without a heat haze you'd definitely see a killing or two. There were also some Greylag geese and White fronted geese for the geese fans. Do geese fans even exist?
Golden plover, Dunlins, Redshanks and Lapwings lifting
Kestrel keeping a watch
cropped image of Kestrel
White fronted geese in with the Greylags
Whooper Swans, Rhona heard them before we saw them
Wedgey Whoopers
These Whoopers were over at the Lady's island lake, but not at Tacumshin, which is apparently unusual. We also saw a Pochard at Lady's Lake and a Ruddy Duck.

Haven't offered bonus points for a while, but bonus points for anyone who notices anything unusual in the photo below, other than the Ruddy duck in the centre of the picture.
Ruddy Duck, centre of pic, white cheeks, dark body..and what else???

Anything? No?
Anything about the Swans?
None of us noticed anything either until Eric realised that the 4 Swans in front of us were the much rarer Bewicks Swan.

Blotchy Bewick
Wigeon, Bewick Swan, Coot (back of head) and Ruddy Duck, Tacumshin Lake
The other bird to cause a stir at Tacumshin was this one below
Mystery duck (left) - blue winged teal was called...
but having Eric present meant this duck was given the even rarer id of bluewingedtealshoveler hybrid. Green shoveler sheen to head and yellow eye = shoveler

To finish the day, we drove back to where we started to see if we could catch the sounds of the Tacumshin Bittern booming. A trampling figure emerging through the reed beds told us he'd just heard the Bittern booming twice. So we waited in silence. Whilst waiting we were gifted with more Hen Harrier fly overs and a lovely sunset which finally turned our sunny day to dark. Unfortunately no sound of a Bittern this time, but I actually like when you don't get too much of everything on demand.
Thanks massively to Eric for driving us around and for answering all of our many questions with great patience. It's obviously all the herbal tea he's been quaffing lately.