Wednesday 27 March 2019

Irish Birding in February - The Eurasian Curlew

The Eurasian Curlew is a common winter bird in Ireland. Birds from continental Europe use Ireland as a important wintering ground.  There is only record of this species in Newfoundland and that was at Ferryland, Avalon Peninsula 7-8 January 1991. There are a few other records from northeast North America including Nova Scotia and Massachusetts.  It is annual in small numbers on Iceland. It could occur again in Newfoundland. Most likely to be found at something resembling a tidal flat but also could show up in a field. The following photos are all from Ireland during my 5-15 Feb 2019 visit.

 Eurasian Curlews are gregarious and are often found in flocks of 10-50 or more.

They have a loud call that sounds like it is saying  'curlew'.

The like feeding in soft mud sometimes driving their long bills all the way into the max resulting in a muddy face.

There is a great range of bill lengths.  Adult females have the longest bills. This must be a female.

 This one could be a male based on a relatively short bill.

Eurasian Curlews stand as big a gull out on the mud flats.

Eurasian Curlews have a striking wing pattern for a curlew with a largely white under wing.

Keeping with most median to large shorebirds in Ireland Eurasian Curlews have a conspicuous clear white wedge up the lower back.

Friday 22 March 2019

Irish Birding in February - More Shanks

Common Greenshank was an uncommon but widespread species during my February visit to Ireland. It was present most places that there were many shorebirds but usually in ones or twos or a handful at best. They resemble a Greater Yellowlegs in their actions though not nearly as noisy. Common Greenshank does not breed in Iceland meaning the species has to stray from mainland Europe to reach Newfoundland. There are just two Newfoundland records: 1) 3 December 1983 to 2 February 1985 and 2) 27-29 May 2001. Both birds are amazingly from the same location at Harbour Grace, Conception Bay.  If it happens again you don't want to miss it. It will always be an extremely bird in Newfoundland and eastern North America.

A Common Greenshank flanked by Black-tailed Godwit and Common Redshank.

Common Greenshanks are bigger than a Common Redshank and stand up to or ignore all stare-downs or bullying attempts by its feisty relative.

 Just of glimpse of the white wedge up the back.

 A Common Greenshank could slip under the radar of a carefree scan of a coastal inlet. They are similar in size, structure and feeding habits to the ubiquitous Newfoundland Greater Yellowlegs.  Even without seeing the legs the whiter underlay to the head and neck markings of a Greenshank stands out from the darker gray and browns of the head and neck of the Greater Yellowlegs. Overall the Greenshank is much whiter and pale gray.

A Newfoundland Greater Yellowlegs on 27 October 2018.

The Common Redshank is a very successful bird being found in good numbers everywhere there are shorebirds in winter in Ireland. So common that it wasn't until I got home that I realized I all but forgot to take pictures of them.  There have been eight Common Redshanks in Newfoundland. All of them spring, though one found in March may have actually overwintered.  Common Redshank is an Icelandic breeder and certainly a bird Newfoundland will see more of during spring influxes of Icelandic overshoots.

Friday 8 March 2019

Irish Birding in February - A Redshank Standoff.

It is a dilemma when on a birding holiday and taking so many pictures that you are so overwhelmed you can hardly show any show any of them.  I've been home three weeks from 9 glorious days of birding in Ireland and have just now completed weeding through the 8280 photos. They are mainly personal reference photos but some are quite interesting.  What follows here is a battle between a Spotted Redshank and two different Common Redshanks.  It took place at Timaleague, Co Cork on the south facing coastline of Ireland. Four of us - Anthony McGeehan, Julian Wyllie, Paul Connaughton and myself watched in awe as this battle out of no where formed and then quickly ended.  It lasted for a prolonged two minutes. 

The Spotted Redshank is a very slender member of the tringa group of shorebirds that includes our Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.

The Spotted Redshank uses its long legs and extra reach to reach eatable morsels where normally only a duck would feed. It likes to swim.  

The Spotted Redshank is a scarce bird in Ireland with a few dozen found during fall migration and a few known individuals lingering through the winter season.  The bird under observation flew toward us all standing on a small bridge with panoramic view of the tidal estuary in the strong late afternoon sunlight.  . 

It flew at this Common Redshank minding its own business and getting its fill of invertebrates for the day.

It became apparent that this was not sociable visit as the Spotted Redshank rushed in on the Common Redshank.

Common Redshanks are continually squabbling among themselves and are fit to handle most situations in the feeding zone but an attack from the larger Spotted Redshank  was something to flee from now and consider counter actions later.  

The Common Redshank decided to stand ground and went straight for the jugular.

 Note the white wing wedge classic of the Common Redshank. 

Quickly the redshank advantage is neutralized and the Spotted Redshank takes a breather. 

 Thankful for that breather, the Spot Red would rather obliterate the Common Redshanks and tries for a 'the end all wrestling hold' - a.k.a  the holding the head under water move.

Can't be a good feeling when something as big as you holds your head under water with all its weight.

The squabble ends when the Common Redshank gets free and retreats to an opening. 

The Spotted Redshank  (left) was successful in ousting the Common Redshank (right) from its feeding area.

While the battle was ragging, an another Common Redshank flew into the unguarded length of shoreline mudflats. This outraged the Spotted Redshank once again.

The new King of the Beach is an ankle biter - 
Too tired to fight anymore a defeated, Spotted Redshank retreats to quieter waters.

Flying down the tidal channel.

The Spotted Redshank flew well down the estuary.