Sunday, May 8, 2011

Common waterbirds

heron1I guess you could call this part 2 of my last post, yesterday I looked at the most common songbirds that Cork city has to offer. Today I’ll do the birds I see every day that aren’t song birds, namely the wildfowl, cormorants and herons of Cork city. Arguably these entertaining birds have adapted better to city life then most Irish animals, this is especially true in Cork city which is constructed around two large canals and hence offers plenty of water.

First up are the wildfowl; a family that includes swans, geese and ducks, these photogenic and often tame birds are a familiar sight to nearly every European. Mallards and Swans have become such a common occurrence in Ireland and Britain that they have even become a part of the culture itself. Mallards are probably the easiest birds to photograph in the whole city, both canals, the Atlantic pond and the Lough all have an abundance of these birds and they are more than willing to be fed. They are also very entertaining to watch raising their chicks which can be easily approached this time of year (May).

Alongside the mallard can often be found tufted ducks, these beautiful birds are also very tame and can be quite entertaining to watch diving periodically for food.

Mute swans can also be found around the city, they can usually be seen in groups of between five and twenty. These birds are easy to photograph because of their size and are also more than willing to be fed.

Please note feeding these animals with bread in bodies of still water is ill advised, bread in the water can cause dangerous outbreaks of fungus that is bad for local wildlife (see UCC video below). Instead feed these animals’ bird feed or vegetables.

In Winter Pochards and Shovelers join the year round ducks in Cork Lough. They are more cautious then their regular counterparts but in cold weather can be tempted to the edges of the water. Shovelers are especially entertaining to watch as pairs can often be seen doing an elaborate bonding dance.
(Pochard on top, Shoveler on bottom)

Also common are grey herons and their smaller and more cautious relative, the little egret. Both these birds can be found along nearly every river bank and have over time become a familiar sight. Herons are an imposing sight with their almost 2 meter wingspan and impressive height. Though more cautious then wildfowl they can at times be lured over by food. At the Lough and in Fota Wildlife Park they regularly walk around by the water’s edge in search of food. They nest high up in trees in massive platformed nests and can easily be seen tending to their chicks. The little egret is harder to photograph as it tends to fly away but perseverance is worthwhile on this species as its startlingly white plumage makes it very photogenic. 
(Grey heron on the left, little egret on the right)


A particularly interesting species that can be seen in the city is the great cormorant. These large black birds have become very common along the river Lee. They are distantly related to pelicans and unlike most water birds don’t have waterproof feathers, consequently they can regularly be seen sitting on branches with wings spread out to dry off. When in the water they dive for fish in the river. The best place to view them is the river walk near Sundays well where dozens regularly roost in the trees by the skate park.

(Photo at top is of Grey heron, I have dubbed this shot ‘Heron having a bad day’)


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