Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Vorkstaartmeeuw / Sabine's gull

After the last day of picture taking in Cobh I felt the only thing missing was the Sabine’s gull that visits Cobh regularly every winter. It is in fact the first bird I had planned to photograph once I got my 300mm lens and is also near the top of my list of gull species to photograph this winter, right below Glaucous and Little. With all this in mind I decided to return for a quick hour in Cobh.

When I got there, I soon found the gull off the pier in the town, quite willing to do some flybys. Unfortunately the light was less then ideal. In fact glare from the sun and the grey of a cloudy sky had banded together to make it near impossible. With some grey and silhouetted pics under my belt I decided to wander and wait for the light to get better. It didn’t! but no matter, I got some half way decent flight shots of the sabine’s though I think the shoot would have turned out much better with even a slightly faster shutter speed! I may yet return if the bird sticks around after Christmas.

Some background on the species. The sabine’s gull (Xema sabini) is pretty unique in that it has a slightly forked swallow like tail, a trait that it shares with only one other gull species, the Galapagos swallow tailed gull, the worlds only nocturnal gull. Despite the tail similarity it is apparently not closely related at all. The bulk of its population summers in the Artic circle. Like the kittiwake, it reminds me a bit of a tern. It is the only member of its genus Xema and like many gull species develops a black hood during the summer.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wax on, wax off

With the country slowly filling up from top to bottom with waxwings lately I figured keeping an eye out for this small but colourful songbird might be worth my while. With an appointment to go to Cobh and see the waxwings there the next day with Floss I was content to go about other business. We had an awareness day for our sanctuary in UCC with a couple of reptiles and fudge that we where intending on selling. Halfway there in the taxi we realized we had forgotten the fudge so I volunteered to run back to the house. I backtracked to the house through an estate and heard a squeaking noise I had never heard before. I looked up and came face to face with a single waxwing. Holy crap! The lone bird was as surprised as I was seemingly and flew up to a nearby rooftop. I still got a pretty good shot. Epic!

Next day, we drove to Cobh and found the famous flock of just shy of 20 birds sitting around on a large bush all busily feeding. They where slightly more flighty then I would have expected for what essentially looks like a feeding frenzy, but that didn’t take away from the experience. They love those berries!

Then onto Cuskinny where a gadwall revealed itself right by the bird sign! There where also wigeon and teal in the distance and the usual mallards.

A small army of black headed and common gulls greeted us, especially when a car parked nearby and its occupants threw a large quantity of bread into the water. A ring billed gull soon showed itself too, but alas, no sabine’s gull.

Here is the ring bill, first time I have managed to get a common gull and a ring billed gull in the same shot for comparison. The ring billed gull IS lighter, I’ll be damned!

To top it all off a little egret flew past and gave some nice views in a tree and the usual statuesque great black backed gulls posed down at the piers!

A good morning out all in all with Floss who also has a birding blog which can be found here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Circle of shovels

Last week I set out to take some headshots of birds at the Lough. I discovered that its that time of year when some of the shovelers have joined the armies of begging birds around the edges of the water. Usually they keep their distance from people in the area.

I like watching shovelers as they seem to have more obvious behaviourisms then other ducks around at the moment. Several pairs where isolated from the group and where feeding in a pinwheel formation circling each other with their heads down. Forums and what not seem to suggest that this helps churn up the water so more food is available.