Bird race, 22 March 2008
summary by Mícheál Cowming
Today (22/03/2008), an attempt was made, by John Power, John Joe Cahill, Colum Flynn, Bernie Sheridan and myself, to beat the previous peak Waterford day-total of 105 seen by 3 or more members of a team. It was felt that up to 110 species could be found if everything went according to plan but due to the usual mixture of weather, timing and luck, the final tally was a mere 99 [or 103 including birds seen by <3 team-members]. Still, not bad for a late winter/early spring attempt.
The day began in Ballysaggart in the hope of at least hearing Red Grouse but inevitably ended up in a trot across the moors in a vain attempt to flush a bird. Still, we remained optimistic as this was preceded by 3 headlamp-assisted Woodcock on the way through the plantation. A stiff northerly wind was blowing and this continued throughout the day although it did remain sunny and clear throughout.
Most of the morning was concentrated in West Waterford from Ballysaggart to Lismore, Ballinvella, Camphire, Knockanore, Newport, Youghal, Ardmore and Villierstown. Highlights were:
Knockadav/Ballysaggart: 3 Woodcock, 4 Crossbill. Lismore: 2 Dipper, 2-3 Treecreeper, 12 Shoveler + 3 Shelduck ( Blackwater Callows ). Camphire: 1 singing Chiffchaff. Knockanore: Jay. Ballinvella: 1-2 Yellowhammer, 5 Sandmartins. Newport: 1 Buzzard, 1 Merlin, 1 Female Hen Harrier (only seen by 1 observer), 8 Cattle Egrets opposite side of river, close to usual haunt of Ballycrompane. Youghal: 2 Iceland Gulls (Both birds on Cork side of Tourig "border" so collective conscience did not allow for them to be included in the final tally.....that and the fact we had not reached 105 by the end of the day ;). Ardmore: 1st RTD of the day and no Med Gulls, however, at Springfield/Ballysallagh a flock of 9 Tree Sparrows did not let us down. Villierstown: We doubled back to Villierstown from Ardmore in the hope of seeing the Green-winged Teal but this bird did not show.
From Villierstown, we headed along the "Bog Road" back towards the Brickey River and Dungarvan. Not far from Two-mile Bridge a Green Sandpiper showed well on the banks of the Brickey before we tried our luck in Dungarvan town. Due to a rather big strip, not much water was in the bay so the pickings were few and far between. Best bird by far was a Common Sandpiper at the Barnawee Bridge/Kilminnin. Ballinclamper: Most of the "old faithfuls" were on show, amazingly excluding our friend the red-billed crow!!!! 1 Whimbrel, 1 Purple Sandpiper, 1 Dunlin, 1 Grey Plover, 1 Ringed Plover . (As you can see, it's not very often we can say we saw as many Buzzards in Waterford as these birds!!!).
As the day was pushing on, it was decided that we had to travel east to keep the momentum going. Ballyvooney: No Leatherback Turtle and very few birds. Guillemot, Razorbill and the only GND of the day the best. Bunmahon: 1 Sandwich Tern, 1 Kingfisher. Tramore: 1 adult Ring-billed Gull (Has definitely developed a taste for free sandwiches!). Knockaderry: Main lake absolutely duckless!!! First Dabchicks of the day on the smaller lake. Ballyshunnock: 14 Whooper Swans, Tufted Ducks.
At this point, faced with fading light and dropping temperatures, we decided to head back to Dungarvan for a final scan of the bay. The only addition to the list was a Black Guillemot at Ballinclamper and so ended another attempt to move the magic number to "beyond 105".
Amazingly, some very common birds, usually seen on any given day in the county were absent. The list includes Pochard, Eider (2 birds seen throughout the winter at Ballinacourty), Water Rail, Coot, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Knot, Rock Dove (Yes!!! even feral pigeon), Skylark, Blackcap, Redpoll and CHOUGH (Where did they go?????????). Admittedly, due to time constraints specific attempts were not made to target some of these species but it would still be feasible to come across most of them on any given day.
On the up side, the first Sandwich Tern of the year was a welcome surprise and the Sand Martins at Ballinvella kept the migrant flag flying but no Wheatears were seen.
Undoubtedly, the stiff northerly airflow played a significant role in the final outcome. Numbers of divers, waders, gulls and ducks were well down on what was anticipated. Still, an enjoyable day was had by all. There's nothing like a 13-14 hour day of birding to blow away the cobwebs. The record still stands..........as do the potential record breakers! We'll be back!
On an additional note, the following mammals of were seen:
Otter @ Villierstown
Otter @ Templemichael
Otter @ Old Youghal Bridge
Mink @ Brickey River
Brown Hare @ Knockadav
See Below for full list of birds seen.
Great Northern Diver
Great Crested Grebe
Cattle Egret (8)
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Sand Martin (5)
Birds seen by less than 3 observers (i.e. not included in official total tally ):
Iceland Gull (Cork side of Tourig)