Tuesday, 15 October 2013

If you go down to the woods today .......

Autumn in the midlands ! These misty dew drenched mornings of autumn have a magical feeling about them. The woodlands around the lakeside, my local birding patch, have an eerie stillness about them these days, the rust and crimson hues of the falling leaf shot through with early morning sunlight, the sharpness of the air, the smell of dampness mingled with wafting fruitiness from the blackberry laden briars, the splashes of red and purple and more red of the Rowan, Elder and Hawthorn, the alarm calls of Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, the occasional burst of Robin or Wren song in the stillness..... this is Woodville in October!
When I walk in these woodlands on days like this, my thoughts go back to school days and the poet Hopkins...
"And for all this, nature is never spent;
  There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
  Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs”

 On this morning's walk, no rarities, no passage migrant warblers passing thru, just the local everyday comings and goings of birdlife in this quiet corner of Longford as they search the bountiful hedgerows and treetops for an early morning repast.

On this morning, pausing to admire the Rowan, laden with its vivid red fruits, gloriously backlit by the early sunshine, and then the Mistle Thrushes, stopping by to feed, later a pair of Bullfinches and all around, the chit chat of Coal  Tits, Goldcrest and Long Tailed Tits,  everywhere the muted sub sounds of early morning !

Along the path and up the hill towards the remains of the "big house", a male kestrel glides overhead and comes to rest on a beech tree, its grey  and rust colouring brilliant in the sunshine, surveying the undergrowth briefly before it resumes its glide towards the lakeshore and disappears over the distant alders. A female Blackcap, a late reminder of summer visitors to the woodland, makes a brief appearance from among the brambles, to where it returns and proceeds to broadcast  an urgent and prolonged alarm call. Down by the lakeshore, a pair of Great Crested Grebe cackle and chatter on the almost still lake...and then, moving stage left at speed, low over the water, a momentary flash of blue and orange ...a Kingfisher skirts the wooded shoreline and is gone! A few skittish Mallard feeding in the nearby reedbed, sensing my intrusion, take wing and off to the far side of the lake , towards Derrycassan.  

Woodville is a Coillte forest, a mix of spruce and broadleaf trees, a mini wilderness, a place apart, away from everywhere, a place of peace and tranquillity on this autumn morning ....a place of renewal for body and spirit and perhaps some day ..a rarity or two ?





Monday, 23 September 2013

Glen Lough SPA

Made an early morning visit this morning to Glen Lough SPA , near Edgeworthstown, on the Longford /Westmeath border. This freshwater marsh, once an open water lough before drainage in the 60's, holds a variety of wintering wildfowl, notably Whooper Swan, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon ,  Grebes etc..  Water Rail and Lapwing are also  recorded here.
Due to overgrown foliage and low water levels,  good viewing over the site is quite restricted currently, despite access to the very useful hide provided by the NPWS.
Winter flooding of the marsh creates better viewing opportunities with a few areas of open water visible.
This morning's visit was rewarded with a brief sighting of a female Hen Harrier, quartering the reedbeds on the eastern side of the marsh. This site is a regular haunt of Hen Harrier in Winter/Spring, along with Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. 
No wintering wildfowl arrivals observed on this morning's visit-  from previous site trips here, best time to catch wintering flocks is from mid October onwards.
Access to the site is via minor roads off the N4 (Dublin/Sligo road, just east of Edgeworthstown) or off N55 (Athlone/Cavan road , south of Edgeworthstown)

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Welcome to my local patch

As this is my first attempt at blogging, better that I locate my local birding patch - it's mainly centred around north Longford,  principally around the shores of Lough Gowna, its satellite lakes and adjacent woodlands and countryside.
Lough Gowna  is a complex winding lake system in  the River Erne basin, about 10k north west of Granard, on the Longford/Cavan border , with numerous small satellite lakes linked by small streams and rivers. The northern end of the lake forms the border between both counties, with the southern end of the lake in County Longford. A narrow channel divides the lake into north and south  sections at Dernaferst Bridge, west of Lough Gowna village. The lake has many hidden bays and inlets and is bordered by peat bogs, farmland, willow  and alder fringed shoreline and a number of mixed Coillte woodland plantations, notably at Derrycassan, Woodville and Erne Head , the latter of which is part Sessile Oak, planted in the 1800's. Despite it's indented outline, the lake system has a number of easily accessible viewing areas for birding with a few "off the beaten track" locations for the more intrepid birder.
Water bird populations on Lough Gowna and it's satellite lakes and rivers, while not reaching levels of national importance in recent times, is varied and widespread across the system, with wintering Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Whooper Swan, the occasional Great Northern Diver, Cormorants, Great Crested and Little Grebe, Grey Heron.  Wader numbers are small and birds move between the local lakes and bogland, mainly Curlew, Golden Plover, Common Snipe, with a few breeding Redshank and Whimbrel recorded on passage. Raptors present in the area are Buzzard (increasingly plentiful here !) Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, with wintering Hen Harrier recorded.
All the common passerines abound in the woodland and bogland habitats around the lake. Across all habitats here, there is the potential for rarities turning up as this area is under watched.... as they say in all the best site guides !!
I've been attempting to rectify this situation through recording sightings for the Atlas Project 2007-2011 and IWeBS annually. I plan to post occasional  IWeBS count data here over the coming winter should anyone be interested !
Hopefully, my occasional postings in this blog will shed some light on the birdlife of this scenic little  corner of  the midlands and perhaps prompt the occasional excursion/fieldtrip ?

Sin a bhfuil go foil a chairde !