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Monday, September 15, 2008

Returning and new Birds among other things

“The worst of it over the Republic of Ireland, a very bad end of a very wet and windy week.” Looking out of the window, I saw a different picture and was going to take advantage of it too.

Having a date with the Sun was a precious commodity this summer, even now in September, which was supposed to be our real summer, the one with a bit of Sun, Light and gentle breeze, nor heavy rain.

On my out of the village, I saw a peculiar structure on the bank along the road. As soon as I reached it proper, one thinks how you could have missed it before. About 50-65cm high, hairy and with a long spike, brewing yellow flowers. It looked massive wich of course it wasn’t, however everything about it looked large; the leaves, spike and the flower buds within the spike. Also, I had the sense that it had not quite stopped growing upwards yet.

My heart jumped as I approached the bay and noticed some familiar humps among the Seaweed, spread out across the mudflats of low tide. My eyes had often given me a headache from the intense peering across these, trying to spot any foraging bird. I didn’t mind which it would be. The rounded humps made me think of a small flock of Common Teal, five lovely little Ducks, which had delighted me on so many trips this winter.

It was a club of Mallards though; six of them, lounging on their beds of Seaweed. They were joined by a Whimbrel and three Redshank. A Couple of Black Headed Gulls were perched on a tiny clump of Seaweed, their feet still dangling in the very last puddle they had been able to find after negotiating the Avian dowser. I think that the sight of the Whimbrel and Redshanks which made me continue along the bay, instead of turning right at the church of Ireland to make my way uphill onto the little back road. I must add though that I have seen a couple of Mallard Ducks during the summer and it was not necessarily the sight of these birds which made my day, the three Redshank had though. Last winter, it had been surprising me that in every picture I’d made that winter of any birds found in the bay, one Redshank or more could be found in it. It might have been nestled in a little hump of seaweed in front or to the side of my Subject, or it could be sitting/standing right in the corner of my photo. Another Redshank, one with its feet rooted in the wet ground of a narrow drain, caught my eye when I went on past the pier. A Grey Heron flew past, leaving me to wonder where it had left its mate.

Not much was going on at the shingle strand, a couple of Black Headed Gulls again; no sign of Herring Gulls. Something caught my eye and I crossed the road, thinking that I saw a LBJ crossing to the river. Needing to find out which bird it was, I went to the other side also. Of course it was nowhere to be seen and a game of hide and seek had been set in motion. Despite having to be careful with the traffic on the road, we did manage to play the game for a bit, me running after it, in an attempt to a, either get a picture of it, or b. it would sit still for once and show its particulars to me.

I had to give up when it flew off over the strand. A male Chaffinch seemed to laugh at me while shrugging; did he have the same problem as I had? Don’t think so. I had hoped to see one of the Grey Wagtails down here, which often forage there where the river’s fresh meets salt water. Rooks too used to pose here now and then, as did a couple of Blackbirds sometimes, fleetingly and too far off.
On te high back road, I was almost feeling as dismal as that the plants did; only here and there, a Hedge Parsley would still be in flower, the Fuchsia was sheltering all which were slowly compiling resources, in order to produce that vital fruit which would make sure that this fleeting life of the annuals, would be continued hence forth. As I had left earlier than I usual would, {also thanks to the tides, at half one, I felt I had loads of time.
This was good because the critters I met next needed all my attention.

Some readers might remember my post in which I reported that I thought I had heard Goldcrests on this little road, some time ago. Well, I did manage to get them in sight. Only they were not Goldcrests, but the Zee-zee-ing came from another tiny little bird.
This was a first for me; As soon as I spotted one flit from one side of the road to the other, it soon became clear that I would never be able to get a picture of them. Never mind.
I sat in the middle of the road, looking left to right trying to follow these little creatures. Anyone of you, who has seen or who has these birds in their garden and on their feeders, will understand my total sense that life stopped around me.

I was surprised at their agility, yet, having Coal Tits in my garden, I was used to something similar, I thought. But my, was I wrong! Long Tail Tits, or LTTs in common birders speak, seem to have this need to be wherever they are not at that very moment.

I just sat there, observing, watching and mostly just enjoying these tiny birds, swishing and swooshing from one bush to the next. Now and then an adult would allow me a fleetin view of their pink body in contrast to the white(ish) one of the juveniles. I let my mind wander and forgot about anything else.
The birds didn’t mind me, it seemed, and by flitting from left to right, whilst moving a few metres forwards with every crossing too, I followed, and often waited till a car came to coincide the moving of my wheels. I was going as slowly as possible, the way I like to use my wheels most because my wheels are as good as silent whilst moving.. The problem comes however as soon as you stop. When letting go of the joystick causes my wheels to click loudly, a noise coming from underneath my seat, where the main motor is housed. The birds have no trouble as long as I move; and like training your birds to the clicks of your camera, it takes sometime to show them that this sound at the end is harmless also. On the road, you don’t have this luxury of getting other wild birds used to it. I had noticed though that they had no problem with any of the few cars which passed me.
I would have loved to stay where I was for a couple of hours, this first time I only stayed a little over an hour. Now that I know where to find them, I can return here again, even bring a little seed perhaps?
Before I’d spotted them, I had already noticed the abundance of berries along the road, blackberries, and two types of red. Ivy’s and Holly’s fruit, enjoyed by so many birds in the hardest and coldest period of winter, too will be available. Insects were still feeding on late flowering shrubs along the road and fruit too, so I doubt this lovely flock would move from this larder anytime soon. Mind you, the members do have to share with a family of Blackbirds, some 10-20 Starling, 3 species of Corvids and Gulls. Of course these last two families might be a bit heavy to land on these shrubs long enough to feed.

A Spear Thistle, having been chopped at about 20cm with the Council’s shearer, was flowering from new shoots.

Food for the birds, Red berries of Honeysuckle, and the fruit of Hawthorn.

Golden Rod; I always forget the name of this yellow beauty. There were still a lot of Insects about, Like the Speckled Wood Butterfly, 3 of which were flying around me for awhile when I sat listening to the calls and watched the flitting from branch to branch or tree of the Long Tail Tits.

Hooded Crow

Unknown specie, flocking into the village, in a 10+group; Starling?

Mallard Ducks, a Whimbrel and 2 Redshank.

Some of the Wild Flowers I saw:

The LBJ> I think it is a Rock Pipit. A flock of about 15-20 flew up from the grassy growth when I rode past a field, sloping up from the road and sheltered with hedgerow. Perhaps their roosting site?

I could not! manage a photo of the Long Tail Tits, however I did find one in this image, so it is more a puzle than a picture of a LTT. If you look at the right, along te stem, a blob sits there. This picture is just for fun


  1. Thanks, Pete; I think I saw a few more today. I dismissed Meadow Pipit as it had no supercillium, only an eye ring.

  2. Another lovely adventure. Great pictures. That alien plant looks familiar, I think something similar grows wild here but can't think of it's name.

  3. I passed it again yesterday, on my way to the LTT's; never made it up there though.

    Something else caught my eye, entirely.

    Thanks for your comments, Crow. I will have to ask Jenny Seawright of IrishWildflowers what that plant is.


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