Wednesday 18 October 2023
Wednesday 27 September 2023
Monday 11 September 2023
Saturday 8 July 2023
Finding rare birds part 1:
The story of finding my dream bird, Black-winged stilt, Cahore marsh, Wexford, 10th May 2023.
After twitching a black-winged stilt on the 11th of April with a friend of mine, Mark Stewart I thought this maybe my only chance of seeing this magnificent wader species in Ireland this year at least (as I am sure I’ll see quite a few more throughout the years 🤞). This long winged and legged elegant wader species has been always on my radar as a ‘find’, especially at my local patch, Cahore marsh, Co, Wexford. The habitat here in early spring is always absolutely bang on for this species, though in most years we don’t have an influx like we did in spring 2023.
Anyway, down to the two days of mega patch birding. The 9th and 10th of May. I spent the morning and early afternoon at a work site like I do most days depending on the survey and then I would tend to go for a ramble down to Cahore marsh. The habitat over the previous days I had been here was incredible looking and Brian Haslam had found a great white egret around the south pools and flood the morning of the 9th of May. I had been very keen to see this bird and after my survey headed for the south end of the marsh. Almost immediately after arriving I could see the great white egret feeding among some grey heron in the south pools/flood. A fine start to any afternoons birding in Ireland! As I began to walk down the south track I picked up a glossy ibis flying over the south end before dropping in and walking out of view. Luckily I managed some ropey record shots before it disappeared into cover and I didn’t see it again! I also had some brief views of a drake garganey among vegetation in the back marsh along with the two singing Cetti’s warbler that had been present for some time now. This was a fantastic day on the patch, but still no black-winged stilt!
The drought conditions in southern Europe seem to have had an effect on why Ireland and Britain saw such unprecedented numbers of rare vagrants such as black-winged stilt, night heron and purple heron mainly.
On the 10th of May I did pretty much the same as on the 9th. Working, this time quite close by in Co, Wexford leaving me with a little more time to spend walking Cahore when I was done my surveys. Was today to be the ultimate days patch birding? You bet your life it was. The afternoon actually started out rather quiet and I didn’t see much while walking the south end of the marsh, hearing one of the male Cetti’s singing and drake garageny were the only bird of note. I then decided to walk into the central marsh to see if I could find any rare herons such as night or purple that had been showing up around the country over the past month or so. No joy there, but I did see a couple of bearded reedling which is always a treat. After a couple of very heavy downpours I was beginning to think that many of the birds I had seen the previous day had perhaps left or maybe they were just hiding from the heavy rain and thunder like I should have been! As I began to get tired I was undecided whether to walk into the back marsh field for a nice height advantage over the flooded areas. Knowing that if I didn’t check it and someone else found something I would be kicking myself so I walked slowly into the main back marsh field with my scope over my shoulder being to fade of any hope of finding something juicy! How wrong was I! As I began to set myself up and get my scope ready for scanning I looked into the eyepiece onto a small area of flood and I could not believe my eyes, I had to look in, look away and look in again to make sure this wasn’t tiredness playing tricks on me! But no, there was actually a stunning adult male black-winged stilt sitting among some mallard in the corner of Cahore back marsh. My dream had finally become a reality! If there had been any year in recent times to find a black-winged stilt then it was this year! I quickly took some distant phone scoped record shots just in case the bird flew off. I then sent a very panicked voice note to two of my great friends telling them what I had just found. They are both birders and had known how much I wanted to find this species. The bird just sat among some rocks at the waters edge for some time. Giving me the opportunity to get the news out and let my father know to get down here right away and bag himself a lifer! As I waited for his arrival some birds began to get up and flew around the back marsh, a raptor was around it seemed. And this was exactly the case. A female type marsh harrier began to fly straight for the black-winged stilt area!! Oh no I thought, great to see a marsh harrier but I had really hoped it wouldn’t flush the stilt. As the harrier flew right by the stilt I fired the camera up getting some images of both the stilt and harrier in one image! Boom, not something you will see too often in Ireland. As the stilt returned and the harrier landed out of view my father arrived. I then picked up the great white egret at a distance feeding in a large channel. My father got onto the stilt, phew! While watching the stilt the marsh harrier flew up and gave some very nice views and disturbed a drake garganey on the large pool. Two half days on the patch rewarded me with a black-winged stilt, great white egret, 2 Cetti’s warbler, 2 garganey and some bearded reedling! Not bad!! I had arrived home and had some dinner when I received a phone call from Brian Haslam to say well done on finding the stilt and that an adult night heron had just flown past him at the back marsh! Amazing but quite frustrating also considering I had been there less than 1 hour previously. I did manage to catch up with the night heron over the next few days and weeks and got some nice views. Patch birding at its very best! What will my patch throw up next?! Who knows, but I’ll keep searching.
So far this year I have seen some fantastic birds, long may it last!
#explore #Irishbirding #patchbirding #birdfinding
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