Sunday, May 27, 2012

No newts at Sally Gap

Pretty much everything else, but no newts.
Sorry Hannah.

'Amazeballs' birding yesterday!!

A Wicklow branch outing to Sally Gap, Coronation plantation and some pine woods along Military road was made to order.
I was happy out to start with, we were going to spend the morning around moorland/ bogland looking for upland birds, there was a scorchio sun in a pure blue sky (23º), the roads around the Sally gap were empty and because I arrived a little early I had the babbling river Liffey to myself before the mob arrived.

Coronation plantation, Wicklow. Great spot to have to yourself, saw 2 grey wagtails along this stretch of the River Liffey, no Dippers though. May 26th 2012

The empty R759. I felt like I was driving through bandit country in New Mexico or Arizona, the heat and sunshine changed the environment completely. Kept wondering when the Magnificent 7 plus John Wayne plus Clint Eastwood were going to gallop past me

The Wickla Mob

The day's list of what I saw, Saturday 26th May, 2012, 9am - 2.30pm
(maybe more species I didn't see, eg I think someone saw a Whitethroat)

Cuckoo (a calling and displaying cuckoo no less)
Red grouse x 2, flushed by accident within 5 mins of walking from the Military rd carpark near Sally Gap
Whinchats, Niall counted 4 at Coronation plantation - my first time seeing one
Crossbills - seen where Tolka Branch saw them at their outing last week (bilberry woods)
Grey wagtails x 2, at boulders Coronation plantation
Spotted flycatchers - Coronation plantation and Bilberry woods
No Newts - anywhere
Chaffinches (galore) - everywhere
Goldcrests - Bilberry woods
No Dippers - at the boulders Coronation plantation
Meadow pipits - everywhere
Skylarks - everywhere
Red Squirrel - running along the ground Coronation plantation
Siskins - flying over Coronation plantation
Swallows - everywhere
Sika deer - side of Gravale

Later on my own
Stonechat (male chick) along the side of R759 going back home
Kestrel - Sallygap
Spotted flycatcher nest - Bilberry woods
Cuckoo again, possibly 2 of them at Coronation plantation
20 Crossbills - Bilberry woods
Wheatear - Military rd towards Laragh
Grouse calling (great sound) in a completely different area of Sally gap, going towards Laragh

I'm afraid my photos from yesterday aren't up to much, weird blurring on most of them, didn't manage one of the Whinchat or Cuckoo or Red Grouse, and all the ones of the Crossbills are far away and blurry.
Mind you after such a good weekend of sunshine - who really cares.
Not me.

These are the bilberry woods which are along military road going towards Laragh from Sally gap, you can't miss them if you keep a look to the left. If you're here mid summer there'll be loads of people hunched over the bushes filling their boots with bilberries. I don't know the official name of the woods so for now, they're Bilberry woods. The Crossbills were in the trees near the road to the right and also in the middle of this picture. The cuckoo was flying around trees to the left of this picture, and did a display flight above. There's an old unused animal pen to the left and it landed on the fence and sat for a while.
Female crossbill, Bilberry woods, Military rd, Wicklow. May 26th 2012
Female Crossbill, Bilberry woods, Military rd, Wicklow
Spotted flycatcher feeding a wasp to a juvenile
Meadow pipit, Military rd, Wicklow
Skylark, Military rd, Wicklow
Wheatear, Military rd, Wicklow
Irish Hare, Military rd, Wicklow. It was here where I heard the unmistakable call of a Red grouse (going up towards Luggula)
I stopped to take a photo of the River Liffey glistening along the R759
And heard an unusual tsk, tsk, tsk from the gorse below
Hopeful looking plumage
We seek him here, we seek him there.. Stonechat- a few years ago in dangerous decline, which always makes it great to see one, especially a juvenile

Thanks loads to Niall Keogh for organising the day and for answering all our questions, thanks to the other birders who spotted and named birds I otherwise wouldn't have seen.
Thanks also to Sinead Cummins who gave a really interesting talk on upland birds on Thursday in Kilcoole, she set our sights high for what was possible to see around Wicklow, so it was pretty special to see most of the birds she mentioned, plus her favourite (of many) Stonechat.
My own highlight was the Cuckoo.
You're in the middle of nowhere, sitting next to a glistening, babbling River Liffey, the sun is shining, the sky is blue, the air is pure fresh, it's quiet and you can see around you for miles and miles; then you hear a real life cuckoo.
Not the sound of next door's cuckoo clock through the walls, not a playback sound from an app - an actual real life cuckoo - calling, a few hundred metres away.