Thursday, 8 November 2012

200 Fieldfares + 1 Redwing, Donegal, Nov 3rd 2012

I was in Donegal last weekend, 4 hours 20 it took me to drive there Friday after work.
4 hours 20!
2 packets of crisps, a bueno bar, a bottle of water and an earl grey tea (very nice one from Applegreen) kept me going.
The N3 after Cavan up to Donegal is a dark one, throw in some stop start rain, a squeaky wiper, 1.5º temp and ice warnings on the car dashboard, lots of bends around Lough Erne and every other car seeming to leave on their full beams, and you've got one helluva drive.

Anyway, I got there, and I was excited to be going up to Donegal town, never been. I've been to Mizen head and around there, but never the West of Donegal.

Woke up early the next morning, way too early for a Saturday, knew I wouldn't get back to sleep, and didn't want to stay in when Donegal was outside, so I headed out in my car and found myself driving to Lough Eske.

The dashboard was reading 1.5º / 2º, it was cold, there was snow on the ground and the peaks of the Blue stack mountains were all white. It was raining and the light was pretty bad, but outside felt wild, bit similar to Wicklow wild - same terrain.
Despite the rain I got out and walked a bit along the road, a flock of 40+ birds flew overhead.
Starlings? Nope, Redwings? Too big, way too big.
The rain was too much to put my binoculars up to them and then they were gone.
I got back into the car and drove on further, more of these flocks of birds flew over in patches.
Thankfully the rain took a break and I was able to get out again.
I took out my big Sigma lens to take a shot of one of the birds in flight, hoping to zoom in and see what it was.
The auto focus didn't work, the camera wouldn't take a picture.
All settings were correct, but the big Sigma lens had decided it wasn't playing along.

My Sigma 150 - 500mm lens doing a great job of focusing.

Me swearing

Luckily I had my Nikon 18-55mm lens with me, so I swapped lenses and the auto focus worked just fine thank you very much and I was able to take photos. I was annoyed though, another trip to Conns with the Sigma lens. I think I'm on my 3rd? but can't think of any other cheaper option to get the 500mm reach.

Misty mountains North West side of Lough Eske, Donegal, look at the colours. It would have been great to walk up.

I took this from the car (think it was raining again), I was in awe of the vibrant red coloured berries everywhere, they were nearly glowing.

Driving round a corner, through the heavy rain, I spotted one of the flocks of birds land in some berry laden trees in a field to my right.
I pulled into the side of the road, got my binocs on them and could vaguely make out that they were indeed Fieldfares, about 200 of them.
Never in my life had I seen so many, 20 tops would be my most, but usually I'd only see 2 or 3, I've always seen more Redwings than Fieldfares.
To see the trees and shrubs filled with these large, impressive visiting Scandinavian / Eastern European thrushes was such a treat.
I really wanted a good look at them, well as good as the weather would allow, so I pulled out my scope from the boot and in the pouring, freezing rain with numb, cold hands, I set myself up at the roadside and zoomed in on them.
Madness to onlookers, a complete delight to me.

Welcome, Welcome, sorry the weather's so shit, but better than where you've just come from eh? Fieldfares, Corracramph, Lough Eske, Donegal

You can't really see, but the Fieldfares were on every branch of every one of these trees in the photo, especially up in the trees on the right.

Cropped and lightened, just to show the Fieldfares.

So as well as the Christmas lights going up everywhere now, the Fieldfares are also in town.
Winter is here.
There was one Redwing in there too.
I could have stayed watching these birds all day.
Text message recieved "Where are you?'

In the afternoon, we went for a drive around Mountcharles, St John's point, Killibegs and Ardara, the scenery was stunning, as was the china collection in Nancy's bar.
The following day we took a beautiful route out to Pettigo and then onto Rossnowlagh beach.

It was in Pettigo that I saw 2 Dippers on the river Termin, bobbing away on the rocks and flying under the bridge.
On the road (I think it was the L2225?) out to Rossnowlagh beach we passed several loughs, one of them had 10 Whooper swans honking away, I think it was Shivanagh Lough from looking at google maps.

2 Dippers on the Termin river, Pettigo, Donegal

The Donegal coastline from Rahan far, St John's point, Donegal

Didn't hugely have much time to explore here, only saw a solitary Oystercatcher, but there was obviously lots more to be seen.
That goes for the whole weekend really, the 2 hours I had to myself when I saw the Fieldfares was perfect, I haven't had much time to be out birding over the last few months, so that treat was extremely welcome.