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Waterford birding targets

Some challenges or targets are set below - mainly trivial but perhaps will provide some motivation. Any further suggestions welcome!  Added 13/7/2010, latest updated 22/3/2013.


Increase the county list to 300 (then 350!)
The first bit is just about achieved, but getting to 350 species is likely to take at least several decades.  The current provisional list is 305 species (updated 24/1/2013 - details), subject to acceptance or in some cases formal submission of records of 8 species.
Likely contenders for addition to the county list, based on their status elsewhere in Ireland, include:  American Wigeon, Wilson's Phalarope, Laughing Gull, Short-toed Lark, Red-throated Pipit, Ortolan Bunting and Little Bunting.  Red-legged Partridge is also a likely addition, if it can be shown that escaped or released birds have formed a self-sustaining population.
Less likely in terms of numerical frequency elsewhere, but taking into account habitat availability and patterns of birding activity in Waterford, "expected" future additions might also include such species as American Black Duck, Pacific Golden Plover, Franklin's Gull, Arctic Warbler, Dusky Warbler, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Marsh Warbler, Hume's Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler.  As for the unexpected, who knows?  Updated 23/11/2011

Achieve a county life-list of 300 in Waterford
A tall order, but several birders have now achieved a Waterford life-list of 250+ species - so 300 may not be totally out of the question over the coming decades?  Updated 27/10/2010

Achieve a county year list of 200 - overall county and individual
In a good year 200 should be possible (done in 2011 with Crane on 20/11), across all observers, and a determined individual might even achieve it.
Update: Total of 202 species confirmed in Co Waterford in 2011, and 188 species achieved by one Co Waterford birder in 2011, 186 in 2012.

Beat the Co Waterford day-list record (105 species)
This was achieved by a team of four birders in January 1993 (details), and other attempts have yielded up to 99 species in a day. 

Add a few more Irish "firsts" to the Waterford list
Waterford falls well behind counties such as Wexford, Cork and Kerry in terms of species added to the Irish list - a possibly incomplete list for Waterford includes Wryneck (1877), Yellow Warbler (1995) and Iberian Chiffchaff (2010), and the only documented live sighting of Great Auk (1834). Passerine vagrants seem the most likely bet for the next addition here - Blackburnian Warbler or Eastern Bonelli's Warbler perhaps?

Achieve observatory-type coverage at selected Waterford sites
At the main migration sites, it would be worthwhile attempting daily coverage during at least one spring or autumn month annually - in particular Helvick Head (combined with Dungarvan Bay and Clonea Strand) and Brownstown Head (combined with Tramore Backstrand and perhaps Ballymacaw/Rathmoylan).  Obviously this would be difficult to achieve given the small numbers of observers currently active in Waterford.  But similar coverage has been achieved or attempted elsewhere in Ireland, and in some autumns the Waterford sites have probably come close to this level of coverage.

Confirm a regular pattern of spring rarities
Spring in Co Waterford can be quiet compared with Cork and Wexford - but look at what was found in 2008 (Alpine Swift, Little Bittern, Bluethroat, Subalpine Warbler, Tawny Pipit & Glossy Ibis among others) or 1994 (Whiskered Tern, 2 Squacco Herons & Red-footed Falcon, with a supporting cast of Hobby, Marsh Harrier, Quail & several Golden Orioles).  More frequent coverage at Brownstown Head, Helvick Head or almost anywhere along the Waterford coast could pay off.  Update 26/7/2011: April to early June 2011 produced a Bee-eater, Night Heron, 2 Woodchat Shrike, as well as Quail, Garganey & a handful of Marsh Harrier records, probably the 3rd best spring yet in the county.

Extend the late-autumn season
With the exception of Pallas's Warbler in 2003 and Chimney Swift in 2005, and a late Yellow-browed Warbler in 1995, November has been a quite month for landbirds in Waterford.  Improved coverage could turn up something like Dusky Warbler, Hume's Warbler or Desert Wheatear.  Update 26/7/2011:  A new (second of the year) Buff-bellied Pipit was found at Clonea Strand on 12 November 2011. Update 03/02/2012:  Pallas's Warbler 16/11, Crane & Bluethroat 20/11, Desert Wheatear & Buff-bellied Pipit 22/11.

Increase the Waterford list of North American landbirds
We haven't done too badly so far, with Northern Parula in 2003, Ireland's first Yellow Warbler in 1995, Blackpoll Warbler in 1993, Yellow-billed Cuckoo in 1989 and three Red-eyed Vireos 1985-1996.  But we're due another one soon - Yellow-rumped Warbler or Grey-cheeked Thrush are almost expected, but Tennessee or Blackburnian Warbler would really do the trick!  Update:  Buff-bellied Pipit added 17/10/2010.

Confirm a regular spring passage of Black-throated Divers
Several May records of 1-2 birds from west Waterford in recent decades suggest a spring passage, but the pattern of occurrences off the nearby south Wexford coast suggest the potential for larger numbers to occur. Update 26/7/2011: 3 records of single birds in April-May 2011, from Clonea Strand (1) and passing Brownstown Head (2).

Confirm more frequent occurrence of Fea's Petrel
Only one record so far (Helvick Head in September 1998) - but with the right weather, or just lots of patience, more will surely be found.  Helvick may be the best bet for more, but one flying west of Hook Head (Co Wexford) a few autumns back just missed being seen from Brownstown Head.

Find Wilson's Petrel on a pelagic or a seawatch
Helvick Head might well be the spot, as Storm Petrels regularly feed close inshore here.

Establish  the occurrence of Aquatic Warbler as a rare but regular autumn migrant
Despite its regular occurrence as a rare migrant at reedbeds in southwest Britain, believed to be part of a regular migration southwest from breeding grounds in NE Europe, Aquatic Warbler is currently considered an extreme rarity in Ireland, especially so in recent decades.  (Only 13 Irish records, the last in 1989.)  More targeted ringing efforts or observations at reedbeds and coastal marshes might help, although regular ringing at Belle Lake (east Waterford) and at Ballyvergan marsh in nearby east Cork has so far failed to turn up the species.  Click here for an IRBC website article on finding Aquatic Warblers.

Get those unsubmitted rarities submitted
Still not officially "on the the books" for Waterford are records (sometimes first county records*) of a range of species.  These include, from the mid-1980s onwards, records of Ring-necked Duck, Black-necked Grebe, Red Kite, Hobby, *Goshawk, Avocet, *Black-winged Stilt, *Little Ringed Plover, *American Golden Plover, *dowitcher species, Long-tailed Skua, *Bonaparte's Gull, White-winged Black Tern, Water Pipit, Melodious Warbler, Barred Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Golden Oriole and Red-backed Shrike.  Not to mention lesser rarities such as the hordes of Cory's Shearwaters seen in 1999 plus various other species no longer treated as rarities by the Irish Rare Birds Committee.  Some older records/reports are less likely to see the "official" light of day, but most are probably just buried in notebooks that could be dusted off on a rainy day... 



Map the detailed distribution of Waterford's breeding birds
Almost there - just one more full season of the ongoing Waterford Atlas 2006-2013 project which will produce tetrad-scale (2-km) maps of most species.  Click here for further details.

Fill in the gaps for upland breeding birds
Red Grouse seems reasonably well-established in the Comeragh and Knockmealdown Mountains, albeit sparsely distributed and seldom seen.  But the few recent upland sightings of Merlin and Ring Ouzel suggest these species are just barely hanging on as breeding species (if at all) - then again, a lot of ground would need to checked and re-checked to establish their true status, and quite a bit of searching has already been done during 2006-2012.

Find breeding Storm Petrels on the Waterford coast
Storm Petrels in the Mediterranean often breed in sea-caves, and it may be that the small numbers do so on the Irish mainland, including Co Waterford.  Small numbers might possibly also nest on some of Waterford's small inshore islands, though the presence of rats (and gulls) reduces the chances. 

Confirm breeding Puffins
Puffins regularly pass close inshore at Helvick Head in summer, and have also been seen sitting on the water close inshore or even (in summer 2010) on the cliffs.  Perhaps these are just visitors from the nearest known colony, on Great Saltee (Co Wexford), but it does seem likely that they are at least prospecting for potential breeding sites.  A possible recent fledgling has also been seen in July 2010, apparently accompanied by its parents, but just-fledged Puffins can fly (unlike young Razorbills & Guillemots) so local origin is not certain.  Any observations of adult Puffins carrying fish into burrows on the cliffs or nearby islands would provide a good indication of breeding.  Update 26/7/2011:  A Puffin carrying several fish was seen passing west close inshore at Helvick Head on 15 July 2011, apparently evidence of breeding (given that Puffins are not known to breed further west on the Waterford or east Cork coasts).

Find the missing Barn Owl breeding sites
The species is obviously much scarcer in Waterford than in the past (e.g., three pairs were known inside Waterford city limits in the 1970s).  But a wide scatter of recent records, from perhaps 10-12 locations, have only produced one or two confirmed breeding sites.

Find breeding Great Spotted Woodpeckers
Now breeding widely in Leinster, and reported as close to Waterford as south Kilkenny, it's surely only a matter of time before the species is reported here (last seen in Co Waterford pre-1900).  Woodlands along the River Suir, from Little Island west to Mount Congreve, Kilsheelan and Clonmel, seem the best bet, though a bird visiting a nearby bird table in winter may be the first indication of their arrival. Update March 2013: One as yet unconfirmed report of drumming in winter 2012/2013.

Find breeding Wood Warblers
With only one confirmed county record of a migrant and none from breeding habitat, Wood Warbler seems strangely absent - surely the odd pair establishes a territory in some of our oak or birch woodlands inland?

Find breeding Cetti's Warblers
With just three Irish records of singing birds up to spring 2011, presumed migrants or wanderers in Wicklow, Wexford and east Cork, the prospects seem slim.  But Cetti's Warblers breed just across the Irish Sea in south Wales, and has been extending its range in Britain - so colonisation of Ireland seems likely, and Waterford is a good a place as any...


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