15 hardy souls turned out for the annual dawn chorus meeting. This year there was a change of venue. It was decided to stake out Dartry Forest between Rockorry and Cootehill. This is an excellent place with mixed mature woodland, open scrub and a large lake. Blackbirds were most dominant, but Blackcaps were singing in good numbers as were willow warblers. Highlights included a cuckoo seen flying over the lake and spotted flycatchers in a local churchyard, always good to see these. Oddly there were no song thrushes
On my local patch 2 spotted flycatchers were seen plus a reeling grasshopper warbler in a bog and a male whitethroat, rare on my patch.
I have been observing small flocks of crossbills around Monaghan town over the last week. Most seem to be at Rossmore Park where they are very vocal and one or two actually sing. Always a nice bird to see in these parts.
Cheers for that Niall. The oak woods at Dartry would certainly be good habitat for them. There was an unconfirmed report of one being heard there about 2-3 years ago. Must take a look sometime.
There is believed to be a pair at a secret location on the Monaghan/Tyrone border. I cannot give any further details on this.
Iceland gull at Emyvale today seen by birders Joe Shannon and John McKenna. Could be a first for the county. Has been around for a few days on farmland owned by John's father. Might take a peek there tomorrow during lunch.
Took a trip around the Ballybay Wetlands recently. It was very cold with a mixture of wintery showers and bright spells.
Good numbers of birds about: Mute Swan, Lapwing c. 20, Mallard, Wigeon, Rook, Grey Crow, Teal, Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Snow Goose (2), Snipe, Grey Heron, Blackbird, Whooper Swans c.14 (group of 9 in a grass field just as you would drive into Ballybay itself), Mistle thrush, Great crested Grebe, Starling, Robin, Coal-tit, Blue tit,Curlew (8), Sparrowhawk, Black-headed gulls, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Great-tit, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, House sparrow, Jackdaw.
Also spotted a distant Red Fox hunting the hedges around the wetlands centre.
Not the best day for a walk around but yet some good views of birds and new species for this years list.
A visit to Slieve Beigh this morning produced a pleasant surprise. An adult Red Grouse with six chicks in tow were ambling about the edge of a road. Unconcerned by my presence they allowed me to get close before lurking off slowly into the cover of heather and bog cotton. In over 40 years of birding I have never witnessed a family party of these normally elusive and hard to find gamebirds. I originally went here to see hen harriers but there was no sign of them. There appears to be considerable disturbance to their habitat by increased turf cutting. Cuckoos were about though and I heard a bubbling female.
A surprise sighting in my local area this afternoon. A juvenile hen harrier passed over fields near my house before disappearing behind some trees. This is only the 4th record on my patch of this magnificent bird of prey. The previous three were all in the spring of 2007. May well have been a wandering bird from the Slieve Beagh area.
This morning while out walking the dog, I saw a kingfisher at the stream at the bottom of my road, on my patch in the townland of Coolmain. It landed briefly on a rusty old iron gate straddling the stream before darting off. This was a first for my patch.
While walking my patch with the dog this morning, I saw a male yellowhammer fly low over some farm buildings. This is a new and unusual sighting for this neck of the woods as yellowhammers, as far as I know, no longer breed in Co Monaghan although there have been sightings on the Monaghan / Louth border. What made it all the more strange is there are no ploughed or arable fields in the local area. Maybe just a single bird venturing around.
Also grasshopper warbler reeling away in one of the local bogs.