Clare Bird Report
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Compiled by John. N. Murphy
on behalf of the Clare Branch of Birdwatch Ireland

List of Contributors
E. Archer                   B. Madden
P. Archer                   D. Manley
                                  T. Mee
C. Batty                     A. Meehan
I. Beatty                     C. Meehan
D. Berridge                G. Meehan
Birdnet Team             M. Meehan
C. Bradshaw             K. Mullarney
D. Breen                    J. N. Murphy
P. Brennan
M. Borkowski            E. A. MacLochlainn
G. Butler                    D. G. McAdams
T. McCoy
M. Carey                   C. McGuigan
D. Cooke                   C. McGuire
J. Coveney                D. McNamara
P. Davies                  J. Ohlsson
H. Delin                     Fergus O’ Connor
B. Dempsey              Frank O’ Connor
P. Dempsey              D. O’ Keeffe
                                 D. O’ Sullivan
K. Fahy                    O. O’ Sullivan
S. Farrell
B. Finnegan             G. Pearson
                                A. J. Pinson
N. Gricks                  J. Power
T. Griffin
                                 P. Rowe
B. Haslam
J. Hobbs                   A. D. Smith
M. Hoit                      M. Smyth
S. Holohan
C. Honan                  T. Tarpey
A. G. Kelly                A. J. Walsh
P. Kelly
S. Kennedy              Irish Rare Birds Committee
T. Kilbane                 Birdnet Team
A. Kiely                     Loop Head Log
E. Larrissem             T. Lowe
P. Lonergan              D. Low

 

Clare Bird Report 1997

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Whooper Swans at Tullagher Bog.

John N Murphy, 5 Ballycasey Grove, Shannon, County Clare.

John N Murphy, 5 Ballycasey Grove, Shannon, County Clare.

 

Editorial
Once again 1997 was an exceptional year for birds in Clare. Four new species were added to the county list, in the form of a Pied-billed Grebe, a Black-necked Grebe, a Gyr Falcon and a Red Kite. Clare’s third Soft-plumaged Petrel appeared in August found by two Scandinavian visitors, who after spending a morning scanning the coast between Kilkee and Loop Head, eventually found their way to the Bridges of Ross. Here they were rewarded with close views of this much sought after rarity.
Migration was also well documented, especially seabird passage and passerine movements on the Loop Head peninsula. Very little ringing was carried out in the county in comparison to other years and this is reflected in the Ringing Report at the end of this publication.
Another year of Irish Wetlands Bird Survey (I-WeBS) counts were successfully carried out by volunteers of the Clare Branch of Birdwatch Ireland, producing a clearer picture of wader and wildfowl numbers in the county. Work on Mutton Island also progressed after a meeting with the owners who indicated their interest in the island becoming a wildlife haven. This augurs well for the future of the breeding species present and the visiting Barnacle Geese. The autumn of 1996 saw an influx of Snow Buntings into Irish coastlines with many of these birds remaining into January and late winter of 1997. There were flocks reported from Quilty, north Clare and the usual scattering from Loop Head.
February brought severe westerly gales mid month forcing an unusually large build up of divers in Galway Bay, with many taking shelter in Ballyvaughan and other inlets of this region. Over 100 Black-throated Divers were recorded on 22nd February. This was twice to three times the amount of birds normally counted on a good day in past years at this location.
The 8th March saw one of the counties five new bird species arrive at Fanore on the north-western side of the Burren. Here a white phased Gyr Falcon was spotted chasing Oystercatchers across the main road towards the shore. This was more than likely the same individual as that recorded in Kerry over previous days, making its way northwards to its breeding grounds.
Spring migration on the Loop Head peninsula was light with few passerines but the regular passage of seabirds. Early summer was marked by an invasion to Ireland of Common Crossbills from central and northern Europe. Large numbers in other Irish counties were not reflected in Clare, with no sizeable flocks of note and only a small dispersal of breeding birds in the usual localities of the east Clare Hills.
The most outstanding feature in the late summer of ’97 was the huge passage of Sabine’s Gulls at the Bridges of Ross and along the West Coast of Ireland. Unprecedented numbers past after westerly storms in late August with a peak of 215 on 29th being the maxima day count during this period. This coincided with large movements past Brandon Point, Kerry, where on the same day a maximum of 300 birds were counted. This period brought the best seawatching of the year with many shearwaters, petrels, skuas and phalaropes streaming past the Bridges of Ross and the Clare coast.
Waders marked the remainder of the autumn with three second time appearances for the county. An American Golden Plover put in a four day stopover at Fodry, Loop Head from 30th September to 3rd October. A Dotterel also arrived at Loop Head on 21st September and was only seen for a day, but a juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher stayed for over a month at Lough Donnell between 27th September and 5th November. What was interesting about both birds was the fact that they were seen in the exact locations, as the two previous records. Dotterel in 1988 within the same field at Loop and Long-billed Dowitcher in 1993 was also a long stayer at Lough Donnell. Who says lightning doesn’t strike twice?
After the west and south-westerly storms of early September, mid month saw winds shift to persistent south-easterlies. Things were looking up. Hopes were high for possible good falls of migrants at Loop Head. A small number of migrants did arrive with the highlight of these being an Icterine Warbler caught at Kilbaha on the 23rd September. This was another second county record; the first was in October 1995.
Unsettled weather throughout October played havoc with normal migration patterns. Northern thrushes were late, the usual influx of finches and Blackcaps seemed to be non-existent at Loop Head, never-the-less good birds did arrive.
Easterly winds around mid October did produce the counties first Red Kite. This bird turned up at Lough Donnell on 18th and travelled the coast arriving at Loop Head the same evening remaining in the area to the following morning. This bird proved to be a major wanderer. It was wearing colour wing-tags and had originated in Scotland, this might have been one of two birds wearing similar wing-tag combinations, which were spotted later in the year in east Cork (details in the colour ringing section).
The 25th of the month saw yet another first county record and the third for the year. A Black-necked Grebe joined a small flock of Little Grebes near Moyasta, Poulnasherry Bay, but unfortunately did not take up residence in the locality for the winter as birds often do in other parts of the country.
November was quiet with few scarce or rare species. Many late arriving Northern thrushes and finches passed through early in the month with wader and wildfowl numbers also rising.December was surprisingly one of the most interesting months of the year. Easterly winds early in the month forced some unexpected migrants into the country. In Clare on the 5th there was a Yellow Wagtail feeding the same area of salt marsh near Cleenagh Castle on the Fergus Estuary as a Water Pipit. Both these birds were good finds. The Yellow Wagtail was well out of season and was closely scrutinised, with taughts of the rarer Citrine Wagtail on the observer’s mind. The Water Pipit was only the second county record. Coincidentally the first Water Pipit in 1995 was also found at this exact site and by the same observer.

A shift in wind direction about 8th of the month to strong gale and storm-forced north and south Westerlies produced excellent conditions for a trip to the Bridges of Ross in search of wrecked seabirds. Little Auks were always on the cards and did turn up in small numbers, but no one expected a Pied-billed Grebe on the Loop Head peninsula. After a sea watch at the Bridges of Ross on 11th December a search of the headland and Kilbaha were inevitable. At Cloghaun Lough just east of Kilbaha a Pied-billed Grebe was found feeding within a flock of Teal. This was again a first county record and remained to 13th giving good views during its brief stay. This was for many county birders the icing on the cake to what was overall a memorable ornithological year.

 

Acknowledgements
I would like to thank all that contributed to this report, especially Myles Carey and Tony Mee for their encouragement, proof reading and advice. To Brian Madden for his advise and help on the layout of this publication. To Paul Milne and Killian Mullarney for records supplied on behalf of the Irish Rare Birds Committee. To Graham McElwaine of the Irish Whooper Swan Study Group and Congella McGuire of the National Parks & Wildlife Service, for information on darvic ringed Whooper Swan sightings. To the British Trust for Ornithology, Wader Study Group for colour ringing details. To Sr. Mary O’ Connell and her class for Puffin work.
Finally special thanks to all Clare members of Birdwatch Ireland for their records, support and work throughout the year. This includes the Meehan Family, Brian Finnegan, Andy Smith, Frank O’ Connor, and Antoine Kiely.

 

Systematic List
The sequence followed is that of Professor K H Voous’ "List of recent Holarctic Bird Species" (1977). Some records within this report may not have yet been accepted by the Irish Rare Birds Committee (I.R.B.C.). These records are marked with an asterisk *. The letters (ph) per hour in brackets appears after counts of some seabird species on passage at Bridges of Ross. Rare bird species with bracketed numbers e.g Icterine Warbler (1, 1), the first number stands for record of appearance within county Clare to date and the second one for number of appearance within the year covered by this publication, 1997. Where the letters nc appears in tables stands for no count received during that month for that site.

 

RED-THROATED DIVER. Gavia stellata.
Regular winter visitor and passage migrant.
Frequents two main sites, Liscannor Bay and Galway Bay, with light spring passage and heavier autumn migration past Bridges of Ross.
Ballyvaughan Bay: Five on 9th and four on 22nd February. Three on 9th and one on 18th November. One on 13th December.
Bridges of Ross: One on 9th January. Two on 18th February. One on 1st, two on 4th and 11 on 12th September. One on 6th and 7th, four on 9th and one on 30th October. One on 11th and one on 27th December.
Carrigaholt: One on 4th March.
Carrowmore Point: Ten on 7th April.
Liscannor Bay: Eight on 14th, one 17th and 12 on 22nd January. 11 on 9th February. One on 1st, two on 7th, and four on 14th November.
Quilty: One on 14th January. One on 25th February. One on 8th March.

 

BLACK-THROATED DIVER. * Gavia arctica.
Regular winter visitor.
Confined mainly to Galway Bay with a light scattering further south. The end of 96/97 winter was an exceptional season for this species with numbers reaching international importance in north Clare as records show.
Aughinish Island: 12 on 15th February (A. D. Smith).
Ballyvaughan Bay: 17 on 26th and 22 on 30th March (A. D. Smith).
Eight on 9th November (C. & M. Meehan).
Five on 29th November (C. & M. Meehan).
Two on 13th December (A. D. Smith).
Black Head: 60 on 9th and 100 on 22nd February. One on 9th November (C. & M. Meehan).
Doonbeg: One on 18th January (C. & M. Meehan).

One on 25th February (C. & M. Meehan).

Kilkee: One from 28th to 30th March (A. D. Smith et al).
Liscannor Bay: Two on 22nd January. Seven on 9th February (C. & M. Meehan).
One on 15th March (B. Finnegan).
18 on 1st November (B. Finnegan & J. N. Murphy).
One on 12th and 13th November (J. N. Murphy et al).
Two on 14th November (M. Meehan).
New Quay: Seven on 10th January (J. N. Murphy).

Quilty: Three on 26th January (C. Meehan et al).

GREAT NORTHERN DIVER. Gavia immer.
Common winter visitor and passage migrant.
1997 was an average year with peak site counts and best months listed in Table 1 below.

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                                                  Jan        Feb        Mar        Oct        Nov        Dec

Ballyvaughan Bay                      18          35         20            8           25          32
Liscannor Bay                              5            3           3            5           10            7
Loop Head/Bridges of Ross         1            5           1            6             1            1
Quilty to Kilkee Bay                       7            6           3            2             9          10
Shannon Estuary                          5            5           7            3             4            3
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Table 1

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Great Northern Diver off north Clare coast John N Murphy.

PIED-BILLED GREBE. Podilymbus podiceps. (0, 1).
Rare north American vagrant.
One at Cloghaun Lough, Loop Head on 11th to 13th December (J. N. Murphy, A. D. Smith et al). This is only the fifth Irish record and a first for the county.

 

LITTLE GREBE. Tachybaptus ruficollis.
Common resident.
Ballyallia Lake: 36 on 22nd February. 43 on 10th November.
Lough Inchiquin: 31 on 6th January.
Shannon Airport Lagoon: 32 on 29th September.

 

GREAT CRESTED GREBE. Podiceps cristatus.
Common resident.

40 at Lough Derg on 24th January. 20 at Clonderlaw Bay on 29th September. 15 at Poulnasherry Bay on 30th October.

RED-NECKED GREBE.* Podiceps grisegena. (8, 2).
Rare winter visitor.
One at Poulnasherry Bay on 19th January (C. & M. Meehan). One at Ballyvaughan Bay on 8th March (D. Cooke et al).
SLAVONIAN GREBE. Podiceps auritus.
Scarce winter visitor.
Two at Poulnasherry Bay on 19th January and one there on 25th October.

BLACK-NECKED GREBE.* Podiceps nigricollis. (0, 1).
Rare vagrant.
The first county record made a short appearance at Poulnasherry Bay on 25th October (Frank O’ Connor, C. & M. Meehan).

FULMAR. Fulmaris glacialis.
Localised resident and regular passage migrant.
Highest counts were from Loop Head where 6,000 passed on the 18th February after severe westerly gales and 2,700 (ph) at Bridges of Ross on 28th August. Blue phased birds were also observed at Bridges of Ross on these two days, with one on 18th February and five on 28th August.

FEA’S / MADEIRAN SOFT-PLUMAGED PETREL.

Pterodroma feae/madeira. (2, 1).

Rare vagrant.
One bird at Bridges of Ross on 31st July (H. Delin & J. Ohlsson). This was a third county record with sightings becoming more frequent in recent years.

 

CORY’S SHEARWATER.* Calonectris diomedea.
Rare passage migrant.
A good year with all records from Bridges of Ross. Three on 30th July (I. Beatty et al). August:three on 23rd (Birdnet Team), six on 25th (Birdnet Team) and five on 30th (Loop Head Log).

 

GREAT SHEARWATER. Calonectris diomedea.
Rare passage migrant.
A typical year for this species with all records from Bridges of Ross.
August: One on 23rd, 340 on 25th, five on 28th and four on 30th.
September: Two on 4th.
SOOTY SHEARWATER. Puffinus griseus.

Regular passage migrant.
An average year with no records for the end July, early August as in most years off the Loop Head peninsula. Records from Bridges of Ross were as follows;
August: Eight on 22nd, 30 on 23rd, 14 on 24th, 40 on 25th, 80 on 28th, three on 29th and 28 on 30th.
September: One on 1st and 2nd, 44 on 3rd, 1,165 on 4th, 36 on 6th and 15 on 12th.
October: Six on 6th, 11 on 7th, 51 on 9th, eight on 10th and one on 16th.

 

MANX SHEARWATER. Puffinus puffinus.

Common passage migrant.

Returning birds were first recorded on 18th March with 28 at Bridges of Ross. Counts of over 500 at Bridges of Ross were,

 

July: 1,600 on 7th and 500 (ph) on 16th.

August: 500 on 22nd, 6,500 on 23rd, 500 on 26th and 2,000 (ph) on 29th.

September: 3,400 (ph) on 4th.

October: Last sighting was 18 on 10th.

 

BALEARIC SHEARWATER. Puffinus mauretanicus.

Regular passage migrant.

A good year at Bridges of Ross with all sightings coinciding with large movements of Manx Shearwaters during August and September.

August: Four on 23rd, one on 24th and 25th, six on 28th and one on 29th.

September: One on 1st, two on 3rd, one on 4th and 6th.

 

STORM PETREL. Hydrobates pelagicus.

Common passage migrant.

Birds were recorded along the West Coast from as early as April through to the end of October, with the majority of sightings from the Bridges of Ross. All records in Table 2 are monthly totals observed at the Bridges of Ross between July and October. The highest day count from these figures was 700 on 29th August from a total of eight days of seawatching.

___________________________________________________________

July Aug Sept Oct

___________________________________________________________

 

Bridges of Ross 56 1,967 167 10

56 1,967 167 10

 

Table 2

 

LEACH’S STORM PETREL. Oceanodroma leucorhoa.

Regular autumn passage migrant.

This was another relatively good year for this species with all records coming from the Bridges of Ross and Loop Head.

August: 140 on 28th and 14 on 29th.

September: 42 on 3rd, 263 on 4th, 16 on 6th and 24 on 12th.

October: One on 7th and 10 on 10th.

GANNET. Sula bassana.

Common passage migrant.

Highest counts from the Bridges of Ross were 400 (ph) on 15th July. 300 (ph) on 16th July. 1,500 (ph) on 7th, 2,400 (ph) on 9th and 2,500 (ph) on 10th October.

CORMORANT. Phalacrocorax carbo.

Localised resident.

Birds breed at one inland site and some coastal locations. Highest counts were 46 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 5th January. There were 22 nesting pairs at Illaunanaraun on 16th June. 40 at Liscannor Bay on 7th November.

 

SHAG. Phalacrocorax aristotelis.

Common coastal resident.

47 at New Quay on 10th January. 25 at Quilty on 14th January. Over 50 at Quilty on 14th May.

 

LITTLE EGRET. Egretta garzetta.

Regular winter visitors in small numbers.

Similar records during 1997 compared with 1996. Three at Poulnasherry Bay on 1st January. One at Rineanna Point, Fergus Estuary on 21st January. Three at Ballycar Lake, Newmarket-on-Fergus on 27th February. One at Ballyallia Lake on 6th April, this was a first for this site. One at Lough O’ Grady on 3rd June another first site record. One at Poulnasherry Bay on 30th October joined by two others in mid December to end of year.

 

GREY HERON. Ardea cinerea.

Common resident.

14 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 9th June. 12 at Poulnasherry Bay on 9th August.

 

MUTE SWAN. Cygnus olor.

Common resident.

Lough Atedaun: 104 on 6th January. 113 on 14th January.

Lough Inchiquin: 86 on 13th January.

Shannon Airport Lagoon: 76 on 31st July.

 

BEWICK’S SWAN. Cygnus columbianus.

Scarce winter visitor.

Numbers seem to be declining with fewer birds visiting the county each winter. Two at Moanmore, Kilrush on 14th January. 14 at Lough Inchiquin on 10th January. Three at Querrin on 19th January. Three at Williamstown, Lough Derg on 24th January.

 

WHOOPER SWAN. Cygnus cygnus.

Regular winter visitor.

Peak counts from the top ten sites were,

Ballyallia Lake: 58 on 15th January. 48 on 22nd February.

Farrihy/Tullagher: 40 on 26th January. 27 on 22nd February.

Kells Lake: 104 on 20th March.

Kilfenora: 83 on 28th February. 52 on 17th December.

Lough Atedaun: 64 on 5th January.

Lough Inchiquin: 23 on 10th January.

Lough O’ Grady: 60 on 17th March. 67 on 12th November.

Shannon Airport Lagoon: 138 on 28th November.

Tullabrack Lake: 56 on 5th January. 40 on 22nd February.

 

Information on all darvic ringed birds in the colour ringing section.

 

 

PINK-FOOTED GOOSE. Anser brachyrhynchus. (3, 1).

(3, 1).

Rare winter visitor.

One at Lough O’ Grady from 24th November to 16th December (A. D. Smith).

 

 

GREENLAND WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE. Anser albifrons.

Winter visitor in small numbers.

Burren: 35 on 6th January to 6th March. 30 on 11th November.

Tullagher Bog: 72 on 26th January. 34 on 29th October. 57 on 22nd November. 60 on 30th December.

 

GREYLAG GOOSE. Anser anser.

Scarce winter visitor, with much confusion between domestic and wild flocks.

One at Shannon from 11th to 13th January. Three at Farrihy Lake on 19th January.

26 at Lough O’ Grady from 28th August to 23rd September probably of domestic origins.

 

CANADA GOOSE. Branta canadensis.

.

Rare vagrant, with some confusion between domestic and wild origins.

Two at Kells Lough, Burren throughout late winter (Congella McGuire).

 

BARNACLE GOOSE. Branta leucopsis.

Winter visitor and passage migrant.

Illaunanaraun: 108 on 28th January. 170 on 15th February.

Loop Head: One on 11th October.

Mutton Island: 57 on 14th January. 70 on 5th March.

 

BRENT GOOSE. Branta bernicla.

Winter visitor and passage migrant.

120 at Querrin on 8th January, 100 there on 4th March. 100 at Ballyvaughan on 10th January and 26th March. 200 at Poulnasherry Bay on 2nd February. 93 at Querrin on 5th February. Four at Loop Head on 12th September and five on 10th October.

 

SHELDUCK. Tadorna tadorna.

Resident and common winter visitor.

The largest congregations were 200 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 5th January. 50 at Bell Harbour on 11th January. 200 at Poulnasherry Bay on 19th January. 185 at Clenagh Bay, Fergus Estuary on 19th January.

 

RUDDY SHELDUCK. Tadorna ferruginea. (1, 1).

(1, 1).

Rare vagrant with some confusion between collection and wild origins.

One male at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 18th May (J. N. Murphy).

 

WIGEON. Anas penelope.

Common winter visitor, occasionally summers.

Highest counts from the top four sites for 1997 were:

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Jan Feb Mar Oct Nov Dec

Ballyallia Lake 1,500 905 235 nc nc 780

1,500 905 235 nc nc 780

Burren Lakes 520 182 nc nc 300 nc

520 182 nc nc 300 nc

Lough O’ Grady 230 425 200 nc nc nc

230 425 200 nc nc nc

Poulnasherry Bay 382 nc nc 480 1,000 1,000

382 nc nc 480 1,000 1,000

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Table 3

 

Elsewhere: 1,100 at Lahinch on 7th January, 300 at Lough Donnell on 27th February.

Summer records: Two males and one female at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 2nd July.

Two males and one female at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 2 July.

 

GADWALL. Anas strepera.

Scarce winter visitor, rare breeder.

Ballyallia Lake: 40 on 5th January. 28 on 12th January. 39 on 17th March.

Lough Bunny: 14 on 14th January.

Lough Donnell: Eight on 19th January. 20 on 8th November.

Lough Gash: 26 on 23rd January. 47 on 22nd December.

Lough Inchiquin: 34 on 6th January. 70 on 13th January. 26 on 4th February.

Shannon Airport Lagoon: 36 on 9th February. 26 on 29th September. 48 on 24th October.

 

TEAL.* Anas crecca.

Common winter visitor, scarce breeder.

The largest records were from Ballyallia Lake where there was 316 on 12th January, 200 on 22nd February and 351 on 17th February. 160 at Lough Inchiquin on 6th January. 110 at Lough O’ Grady on 12th January. Over 100 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 19th January and 180 at the same site on 24th October. There were 400 at Lough Atedaun on 6th November.

 

Male Teal showing the characteristics of the north American race A.c.carolinensis were as follows: One drake at Bell Harbour in early January (T. Griffin et al). Another male at Ballyallia Lake on 29th March (M. Carey). One male at Lough O’ Grady on 12th January (A. D. Smith). One drake at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 23rd November (A. D. Smith).

 

MALLARD. Anas platyrhynchos.

Common resident.

110 at Lough Inchiquin on 6th January. 110 at Lough O’ Grady on 12th January. 315 at Ballyallia Lake on 12th January with 365 there on 20th September. 250 at Lough Atedaun on 26th November. 180 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 28th November.

 

PINTAIL. Anas acuta.

Scarce winter visitor.

Records from Shannon Airport Lagoon were 11 on 5th January, 18 on 9th February, 22 on 29th September and 10 on 28th November. 15 at Lough Atedaun on 14th January. 14 at Moanmore Lough on 14th January. 25 at Poulnasherry Bay on 14th January with 38 there on 28th February. 24 at Lough O’ Grady on 24th January.

 

GARGANEY. Anas querquedula. (4, 1).

(4, 1).

Rare vagrant.

One drake at Ballyallia Lake on 23rd March. This was only the fifth record for the county (M. Carey).

 

SHOVELER. Anas clypeata.

Common winter visitor, scarce breeder.

Records from Ballyallia Lake were 337 on 12th January, 150 on 22nd February, 131 on 17th March and 338 on 14th December. 74 at Lough Atedaun on 6th November. 179 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 28th November.

 

POCHARD. Aythya ferina.

Common winter visitor.

There were 38 at Moanmore Lough, Kilrush on 14th January. 90 at Ballyallia Lake on 6th January. 100 at Lough Inchiquin on 10th January. 43 at Lough Gash on 23rd January. 0 at Lough Atedaun on 2nd February.

 

TUFTED DUCK. Aythya collaris.

Common resident and winter visitor.

Over 100 at Lough Inchiquin on 10th January. 135 at Ballyallia Lake on 12th January with 120 there on 14th December. 180 at Lough Derg on 24th January. 160 at Lough Atedaun on 26th November.

 

RING-NECKED DUCK. Aythya collaris. (1, 1).

(1, 1).

Rare north American vagrant.

Presumably the same adult male that was present at Lough Inchiquin in late autumn of 1996, re-appeared there on 2nd February. It is believed that the same adult male turned up at Ballyallia Lake from 24th March and remained for one month to 25th April, where it had paired off with a female Tufted Duck. Later in the year this bird was once again re-located at Lough Inchiquin on 31st October, where it remained up to mid November before moving on to Ballyallia Lake over-wintered into late spring of 1998 (M. Carey, J. N. Murphy et al).

 

Drake Ring-necked Duck © John N Murphy

 

SCAUP. Aythya marilla.

Winter visitor.

Largest count was 40 at Clonderlaw Bay on 25th January and 76 at Islandavanna, Fergus Estuary on 25th March.

 

EIDER. Somateria mollissima.

Scarce winter visitor.

One immature/female at Ballyvaughan Bay on 17th March (J. N. Murphy & A. D. Smith). Two immatures at Liscannor Bay on 12th November (J. N. Murphy).

LONG-TAILED DUCK. Clangula hyemalis.

Scarce winter visitor.

15 – 20 at Aughinish Island on 14th January. One at Poulnasherry Bay on 9th April.

 

COMMON SCOTER. Melanitta nigra.

Common winter visitor and passage migrant.

Found mainly at two sites, Liscannor Bay and Galway Bay with autumn passage at Loop Head varied from year to year.

 

Bridges of Ross: Six on 16th July. Two on 11th, one on 23rd, 12 on 25th, two on 27th, 15 on 28th, five on 29th and eight on 30th August. 18 on 4th, two on 6th and six on 12th September. Three on 7th, two on 9th, two on 10th and three on 11th October.

Galway Bay: 40 at Black Head on 13th December.

Liscannor Bay: 300 on 14th January. 350 on 22nd February. 650 from 1st to 14th November.

 

VELVET SCOTER. Melanitta fusca.

Scarce winter visitor.

One at Aughinish Island on 10th January (J. N. Murphy). Three at Black Head on 22nd February (C. & M. Meehan). One at Liscannor Bay on 1st November (B. Finnegan & J. N. Murphy). Two at Liscannor Bay on 31st December (B. Finnegan & J. N. Murphy).

 

GOLDENEYE. Bucaphala clangula.

Regular winter visitor.

This species is commonly found in the east Clare lakes and Burren Lakes system. The highest count was 120 at Lough Derg on 24th January. Other noteworthy counts were 20 at Lough George on 20th March. 20 at Lough Atedaun on 6th November.

 

RED-BREASTED MERGANSER. Mergus serrator.

Common winter visitor, scarce breeder.

The largest count was 70 at Finvarra Point on 11th January.

 

RUDDY DUCK. Oxyura jamaicensis. (3, 1).

(3, 1).

Rare vagrant.

One female at Ballyallia Lake on 14th January to 8th February (A. D. Smith et al).

 

RED KITE. Milvus milvus. (0, 1).

(0, 1).

Rare vagrant.

One bird wearing colour wing tags was seen at Lough Donnell in the early afternoon on 18th October. Later that day the bird was seen at Loop Head and was again recorded the following morning 19th near the lighthouse (M. Carey, B. Finnegan et al). This was the first record for Clare.

 

HEN HARRIER. Circus cyaneus.

Scarce resident and passage migrant.

Ballyallia Lake: One on 2nd January.

Core Bog: One on 28th August. One on 19th September. One on 24th November.

Farrihy: One on 5th November.

Feakle: One on 21st November.

Kilrush: One on 18th September. One on 3rd October.

Loop Head: One on 2nd, one on 8th, one on 16th and one on 23rd October.

Lough Atedaun: One on 23rd January. One on 29th September.

Lough Donnell: One on 28th September. One on 1st and 4th October.

Lough O’ Grady: One on 17th March.

Maghera: One on 1st June.

Poulnasherry Bay One on 5th July. One on 7th and 25th September.

Shannon: One on 29th September.

Tulla: One on 21st February.

Tullagher Lough: One on 10th March. One on 25th October.

 

SPARROWHAWK. Accipiter nisus.

Common resident.

14 days observations at Loop Head.

 

KESTREL. Falco tinnunculus.

Common resident.

22 days observations at Loop Head.

 

MERLIN. Falco columbarius.

Scarce passage migrant, rare breeder.

Loop Head had a total of 16 days of observation, with peak passage between 3rd and 26th October. Elsewhere records were as follows;

Aughinish Island: One on 30th September. One on 2nd December.

Ballyallia Lake: One on 2nd January.

Bodyke: One on 14th February.

Core Bog: One on 25th November. One on 27th December.

Ennis: One on 25th February.

Farrihy: One on 12th October. One on 1st November.

Kilkee: One on 28th March.

Kilrush: One on 8th May. One on 10th September.

Maghera: One on 23rd January.

Poulnasherry Bay:One on 22nd November.

 

 

GYR FALCON. Falco rusticolus. (0, 1).

(0, 1).

Rare vagrant.

The first Clare record was a white phased bird seen briefly hunting over a roadside near Fanore on 8th March (D. Cooke & P. Rowe).

 

PEREGRINE. Falco peregrinus.

Scarce resident.

One nest site was raided during the breeding season with high disturbance levels at two other sites. Observed at Loop Head on a total of 29 days throughout 1997.

 

RED GROUSE. Lagopus lagopus

Scarce resident.

Two at Lough Ea, Maghera on 1st April.

 

PHEASANT. Phasianus colchicus.

Widespread and common.

 

WATER RAIL. Rallus aquaticus.

Scarce resident.

Highest count was five at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 19th January and four on 28th November. Smaller numbers were observed during the year at Lough Atedaun, Williamstown, Lough O’ Grady, Lough Donnell, Scariff Bay, Doora Dump, Kilrush and Kilcredaun Marsh.

 

MOORHEN. Gallinule chloropus.

Widespread and common resident.

38 at Lough Gash, Newmarket-on-Fergus, on 22nd December was the largest count.

 

COOT. Fulica atra.

Common resident.

266 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 24th October and 302 on 28th November. 370 at Ballyallia Lake on 5th January with 329 there on 20th September.

 

OYSTERCATCHER. Haematopus ostralegus.

Common winter visitor, scarce breeder.

Best counts were 154 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 12th January. 148 at Quilty on 14th January. 300 at Shannon Town on 16th February. 250 at Poulnasherry Bay on 7th September with 206 there on 26th December. 70 at Lough Donnell on 27th September. 350 at Loop Head on 27th December. 150 at White Strand, Doonbeg on 29th December.

One albino bird spent the later part of the year at Poulnasherry Bay.

 

RINGED PLOVER. Charadrius hiaticula.

Common resident and winter visitor.

60 at Lurga Point, Quilty on 11th January. 260 at Poulnasherry Bay on 25th September and 26th October. 200 at Doonbeg on 26th October. 96 at Clahane, Liscannor Bay on 12th November.

 

DOTTEREL.* Charadrius morinellus. (1, 1).

(1, 1).

Rare vagrant.

One juvenile at Loop Head on 21st September only stayed for the day (G. Pearson).

 

AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER. Pluvialis dominicus. (1, 1).

(1, 1).

Rare north American vagrant.

One juvenile at Fodry, Loop Head from 30th September to 4th October (J. N. Murphy, T. Mee et al).

 

GOLDEN PLOVER. Charadrius apricaria.

Common winter visitor.

Highest counts were 701 between Shannon Town and Bunratty on 19th January, 250 at Poulnasherry Bay on 19th January, and 1,500 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 2nd March with 2,000 there on 18th. 1,000 at Poulnasherry Bay on 23rd March. 500 at Islandavanna, Fergus Estuary on 25th March. 600 at Lough Donnell on 1st November. 500 at Aughinish Island on 2nd December.

 

GREY PLOVER. Charadrius sqatarola.

Common winter visitor.

There were 300 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 5th January and 9th November. 100 at Poulnasherry Bay on 19th January.

 

LAPWING. Vanellus vanellus.

Common winter visitor and breeder.

500 at Ballyallia Lake on 12th January, with 1,120 there on 14th December. 500 at Lough O’ Grady on 12th January. 220 at Lough Inchiquin on 13th January. 300 at Kells Lough, the Burren also on 13th January. 1,000 at Poulnasherry Bay on 19th January. 400 at Lough Donnell on 14th January. 2,680 between Shannon Town and Bunratty on 19th January. 1,000 at Clarecastle on 23rd January. 400 at Farrihy Lake on 22nd November. 1,000 at Poulnasherry Bay on 30th November. 300 at Querrin on 20th December. 1,200 at Bunratty on 28th December.

 

Lapwing numbers were down during the I-WeBs winter counts of 1996/97 in comparison to previous season of 1995/96.

 

KNOT. Calidris canatus.

Common winter visitor.

500 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 5th January and 2nd March. 250 between Shannon Town and Bunratty on 19th January. 500 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 9th November. Summer records at Shannon Airport Lagoon were one on 31st August with five there on 9th.

 

SANDERLING. Calidris alba.

Scarce winter visitor.

The two main sites are Lurga Point, Quilty and Kilkee Beach with smaller numbers at Liscannor Bay and Ballyvaughan. Peak counts were 60 at Quilty on 14th January, 72 at Kilkee on 8th August.

 

LITTLE STINT. Calidris minuta.

Scarce autumn passage migrant.

One at Loop Head on 12th August. Two at Lough Donnell on 28th September with one there on 1st November. One at Kilkee on 19th October. Two at Quilty on 8th November.

 

CURLEW SANDPIPER. Calidris ferruginea.

Scarce passage migrant.

Aughinish: One on 30th August.

Ballyvaughan: One on 10th January.

Kilcredaun: One on 12th August.

Kilkee: One on 2nd November.

Lough Donnell: Two on 20th, six on 26th, three on 27th and two on 28th September.

Poulnasherry Bay: One on 28th September.

Quilty: Five on 3rd October.

Shannon Airport Lagoon: One on 8th, 18th and 22nd May. One on 9th August. Two from 15th to 28th September.

 

PURPLE SANDPIPER. Calidris maritima.

Scarce winter visitor and passage migrant.

This species is found at one main site on the beach at Lurga Point/Seafield just outside Quilty. Here the flock is of international importance with numbers for 1997 slightly down on past years. It is remarkable that few records are received annually from other parts of the county, emphasising the importance of this site for the species.

Loop Head: Six on 11th December.

Lurga Point, Quilty: 100 on 11th and 170 on 14th January.

 

DUNLIN. Calidris alpina.

Common winter visitor and passage migrant.

 

Table 4 below shows the peak winter monthly counts for the top county locations.

below shows the peak winter monthly counts for the top county locations.

____________________________________________________________________

Jan Feb Mar Oct Nov Dec

Lurga Point, Quilty 1,600 350 250 100 100 600

1,600 350 250 100 100 600

Poulnasherry Bay 2,100 500 100 200 300 1,000

2,100 500 100 200 300 1,000

Shannon Estuary 4,300 500 5,000 1,000 3,000 5,500

4,300 500 5,000 1,000 3,000 5,500

____________________________________________________________________

Table 4

 

RUFF. Philomachus pugnax.

Scarce passage migrant.

Six at Kilkee Reservoir on 9th April. One at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 8th May, another there on 31st July with two on 20th September and one remaining to 29th. One at Kilcredaun on 12th August. Three at Islandavanna on 31st August. Three at Ballyallia Lake on 20th September. Two at Lough Donnell on 26th with one remaining to 27th September. One at Clenagh Lake on 20th September. One at Lough O’ Grady from 24th to 27th September and one on 30th November.

 

JACK SNIPE. Lymnocryptes minimus.

Scarce under-recorded winter visitor.

One at Loop Head on 19th October.

 

1983 1988 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996

 

2 1 1 3 2 1 1 3

 

Table 5

Figures in Table 5 above show how under-recorded this species has been in Clare over last 15 years.

 

SNIPE. Gallinago gallinago.

Common resident.

There was noticeable migration along the West Coast during the first few days of October with highest counts as follows.

At Loop Head there were 34 on 1st, over 100 on 2nd, 68 on 9th, 65 on 11th, 24 on 16th, 18 on 19th and 16 on 23rd October. There were 42 at Lough Donnell on 1st October. Over 50 at Lough O’ Grady on 27th September with 40 on 13th November. 35 at Poulnasherry Bay on 30th November with 50 there on 27th December.

 

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER. Limnodromus scolopaceus. (1, 1).

(1, 1).

Rare nearctic vagrant.

One was located at Lough Donnell on 26th September and remained to 7th November (C. & M. Meehan et al). This was the same location where the first bird was found on 30th October 1993 and another unidentified Dowitcher species in October 1983.

 

WOODCOCK. Scolopax rusticola.

Scarce under-recorded resident and winter visitor.

One at Querrin on 3rd January. One at Tuamgraney on 23rd January. One at Loop Head on 19th October. One at Whitegate on 6th December.

 

BLACK-TAILED GODWIT. Limosa limosa.

Common winter visitor and passage migrant.

558 between Shannon Town and Bunratty on 19th January. Records from Shannon Airport Lagoon were 1,000 on 31st March, 800 on 13th May, 600 on 8th June, 1,000 on 31st July, 1,500 on 9th August, and 3,000 on 29th September. 4,000 at Islandavanna, Fergus Estuary on 6th April. Largest inland count was 100 at Ballyallia Lake on 24th October.

 

Black-tailed Godwits © John N Murphy

 

 

BAR-TAILED GODWIT. Limosa lapponica.

Common winter visitor.

There were 80 at Ballyvaughan on 10th January. Records from Shannon Airport Lagoon were 80 on 18th March, 200 on 8th May and over 450 on 26th December. 40 at Quilty on 3rd November.

 

WHIMBREL. Numenius phaeopus.

Common passage migrant.

 

Winter: Two at Liscannor Bay on 15th January.

Two at Liscannor Bay on 15 January.

Spring: Earliest record was one at Ballyvaughan on 30th March. Peak migration was in late April with largest counts being 48 at Cappagh, Kilrush on 29th April. 130 at Lough O’ Grady on 2nd May. 30 at Lurga Point on 1st May. 18 Shannon Airport Lagoon on 13th May. 48 at Poulnasherry Bay on 14th May with 84 at Quilty the same day.

Earliest record was one at Ballyvaughan on 30 March. Peak migration was in late April with largest counts being 48 at Cappagh, Kilrush on 29 April. 130 at Lough O’ Grady on 2 May. 30 at Lurga Point on 1 May. 18 Shannon Airport Lagoon on 13 May. 48 at Poulnasherry Bay on 14 May with 84 at Quilty the same day.

Autumn: Passage at Loop Head was as follows. The first bird went through on 7th July. There was a build up in late August of 80 on 23rd, 18 on 25th, five on 27th and 135 on 29th. Passage continued with 15 on 3rd, 96 on 4th, 32 on 6th, five on 10th, 12 on 12th and three on 18th September. The last bird was recorded on 10th October.

Passage at Loop Head was as follows. The first bird went through on 7 July. There was a build up in late August of 80 on 23, 18 on 25, five on 27 and 135 on 29. Passage continued with 15 on 3, 96 on 4, 32 on 6, five on 10, 12 on 12 and three on 18 September. The last bird was recorded on 10 October.

There was 12 at Poulnasherry Bay 25th August and 29 on 9th September.

 

CURLEW. Numerius arquata.

Common winter visitor and scarce breeder.

200 at Lough Donnell on 14th January. 250 at Carrowmore Point on 22nd February. 100 at Poulnasherry Bay on 23rd February. 100 at Lough Cullaun on 20th March. 100 at Kells Lake on 20th March. 120 at Lough O’ Grady on 8th August. 300 at Kilrush on 18th September. 200 at Farrihy Lake on 22nd November. 150 at Moyasta on 30th November. 150 at Querrin on 20th December.

 

SPOTTED REDSHANK. Tringa erithropus.

Regular passage migrant.

Clenagh Bay: One on 19th January. Two on 20th September. One on 5th December.

Clonderlaw Bay: One on 19th January.

Kilbaha/Loop Head: One on 15th October.

Manus/Fergus Estuary: One on 22nd March.

Poulnasherry Bay: Two on 4th and 5th December.

Rine/ Ballyvaughan: One on 11th January. One on 26th March.

Rineanna Point: One on 19th January.

Shannon Airport Lagoon: One on 15th July. Two on 8th October.

 

REDSHANK. Tringa totanus.

Common winter visitor, scarce breeder.

Highest counts were 200 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 1st and 5th January. 1,138 between Shannon Town and Bunratty on 19th January. 4,000 at Shannon Town on 9th February. 360 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 9th July with 500 there on 9th November. Counts from elsewhere were 150 at Poulnasherry Bay on 26th September.

 

GREENSHANK. Tringa nebularia.

Common winter visitor and passage migrant.

Aughinish Island: Five on 15th February.

Ballyvaughan: Seven on 28th March.

Carrigaholt: Five on 7th October.

Clenagh Bay: Six on 20th September.

Doonbeg: Ten on 14th October.

Lough O’ Grady: Two on 30th July.

Poulnasherry Bay: 15 on 29th August. 24 on 28th September.

Querrin: Ten on 5th February. Nine on 5th October.

 

GREEN SANDPIPER. Tringa ochropus.

Scarce passage migrant, occasionally overwinters.

Two winter records of one at Kilkee Reservoir on 19th January and one at Lough Atedaun on 2nd February. Three at Lough Donnell on 8th August.

 

WOOD SANDPIPER. Tringa glareola.

Rare passage migrant.

One at Lough Atedaun on 2nd February (A. D. Smith) and one at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 15th September (J. N. Murphy).

 

COMMON SANDPIPER. Actitis hypoleuco.

Scarce breeder and passage migrant.

Largest count was 12 at Loop Head on 11th August. Singles at Lough O’ Grady on 3rd and 4th June. One at Moyasta on 12th August. One at Clenagh Bay on 20th September. One bird overwintered at Kilbaha, Loop Head from 1st November to the end December.

 

TURNSTONE. Arenaria interpres.

Common winter visitor and passage migrant.

There were 300 at Quilty on 14th January. 50 at Kilkee on 17th October. 60 at Farrihy on 1st November and 26th December. 200 at Loop Head on 27th December.

 

GREY PHALAROPE. Phalaropus fulicarius.

Regular autumn passage migrant.

Numbers slightly lower that other years with all records from Bridges of Ross.

August: One on 25th and 29th, and three on 30th.

September: Eight on 1st, four on 3rd, 14 on 4th and 48 on 12th.

October: 13 on 7th and four on 10th.

 

POMARINE SKUA. Stercorarius pomarinus.

Regular autumn passage migrant.

An average year for this species with all records from Bridges of Ross as shown in Table 6 below.

____________________________________________________________________

August September October

 

Bridges of Ross 18 56 35

18 56 35

____________________________________________________________________

Table 6

 

ARCTIC SKUA. Stercorarius parasiticus.

Regular autumn passage migrant.

A normal year with all records from Bridges of Ross, but no July records as in previous years.

____________________________________________________________________

August September October

 

Bridges of Ross 122 97 25

122 97 25

____________________________________________________________________

Table 7

LONG-TAILED SKUA.* Stercorarius longicaudus.

Rare autumn passage migrant.

At the Bridges of Ross there were eight records in 1997.

One juvenile on 28th, 29th and 30th August (A. G. Kelly, E. A. MacLochlainn et al).

Two juveniles on 3rd September (P. Lonergan et al).

One juvenile on 12th September (T. Kilbane & J. N. Murphy).

One juvenile on 13th September (P. Kelly, E. A. MacLochlainn et al).

One juvenile on 10th October (K. Mullarney, O. O’ Sullivan & M. Smyth).

 

GREAT SKUA. Catharacta skua.

Common autumn passage migrant.

Lower numbers than previous years with one winter record of three on 18th February and one mid summer bird on 16th July at Bridges of Ross. One at Quilty on 1st October.

Table 8 shows monthly totals of Great Skuas past the Bridges of Ross.

shows monthly totals of Great Skuas past the Bridges of Ross.

____________________________________________________________________

August September October

 

Bridges of Ross 214 132 19

214 132 19

____________________________________________________________________

Table 8

 

MEDITERRANEAN GULL. Larus melanocephalus.

Scarce winter visitor.

This was the second best year since 1995, with records mainly from the south and west of the county. Some of the birds in this area are possibly the same individuals feeding up and down this coastline.

Ballyvaughan: One second-winter on 9th February.

Doonbeg: One second-winter on 18th January.

One second-winter on 12th October.

One second-winter on 29th December.

Doora Dump: One first-winter on 25th to 28th February.

Kilkee: Three on 3rd January.

One adult on 9th November.

One second-winter on 16th November.

One second-winter on 18th December.

Loop Head: One adult on 11th August.

One adult and one second-winter on 16th October.

Quilty: One second-winter on 14th October.

 

Adult winter Mediterranean Gull.© John N Murphy

 

 

LITTLE GULL. Larus minutus.

Scarce winter visitor and passage migrant.

Six at Liscannor Bay on 17th January. One adult at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 9th August. One immature at Bridges of Ross on 29th August. One immature at Kilkee from 30th September to 3rd October. One first-winter at Kilbaha, Loop Head on 23rd December.

 

SABINE’S GULL. Larus sabini.

Regular autumn passage migrant.

 

Sabine’s Gull immature at Loop Head.© John N Murphy

 

As stated in the introduction 1997 was an exceptional year for this species. One immature at Liscannor Bay on 28th August was the only record away from the Loop Head peninsula. Records from the Bridges of Ross were.

August: One on 23rd and 24th, 14 on 25th, five on 27th, 118 on 28th, 215 on 29th and three on 30th.

September: Two on 1st, four on 3rd, 52 on 4th, six on 6th and 35 on 12th.

October: One on 7th and 9th with two on 10th.

 

BLACK-HEADED GULL. Larus ridibundus.

Common and widespread.

Some of the highest counts were, over 700 at Doora Dump on 2nd January, 300 at Core, Scariff on 22nd February. 300 at Islandavanna, Fergus Estuary on 25th March. 600 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 18th March, 300 there on 2nd July, 500 on 9th August and 200 on 29th September. 190 at Lough O’ Grady on 30th July.

 

COMMON GULL. Larus canus.

Common winter visitor, small breeding numbers.

150 at Doora Dump on 2nd January. 100 at Quilty on 4th January. 120 at Lough Donnell on 27th September.

 

RING-BILLED GULL. Larus delawarensis.

Rare north American migrant.

An average year for this species with sightings as follows.

One adult at Ballyvaughan from January throughout to spring early summer. Absent during mid summer months. But an adult bird probably the same individual as earlier in the year returned on 9th November. (C. & M. Meehan, J. N. Murphy, A. D. Smith et al). One adult at Clarecastle on 23rd January (J. N. Murphy). One first-winter at Doora Dump on 2nd and 23rd January (J. N. Murphy). One adult-winter at Doora Dump on 1st February (J. N. Murphy). One adult at Liscannor Bay on 9th February (C. & M. Meehan). One second-winter at Doora Dump on 28th February (J. N. Murphy). One adult at Loop Head on 14th December (G. & M. Meehan).

 

LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL. Larus fuscus.

Common summer visitor, breeds in small numbers.

There was another successful breeding season at Mutton Island where largest congregations are in summer months, with highest counts from elsewhere being 120 at Doora Dump on 30th June.

 

HERRING GULL. Larus argentatus.

Resident.

There were 420 at Doora Dump on 15th January and 250 at Kilkee Dump on 23rd December. These were the largest counts during 1997.

 

YELLOW-LEGGED GULL.* Larus argentatus michahellis/cachinnans. (2, 2).

(2, 2).

Rare Vagrant.

One adult at Doora Dump on 25th March (J. N. Murphy), and another adult at the same location on 30th June (J. N. Murphy). It is believed that these were two separate individuals.

 

ICELAND GULL. Larus glaucoides.

Scarce winter visitor.

A good year for this species with records as follows, one second-winter at Kilkee on 4th and 5th January. One second-winter at Lurga Point on 11th January. One first-winter at Doora Dump on 15th January. One second-winter at Doora Dump from 3rd to 28th February. One adult-summer at Doora Dump on 14th March. One second-winter at Kilkee on 8th February. One first-winter at Kilkee Dump on 18th February. Two second-winters at Ballyallia Lake on 22nd March. One second-winter at Clahane, Liscannor Bay on 15th March. One first-winter at Kilkee on 18th November.

 

GLAUCOUS GULL. Larus hyperboreus.

Scarce winter visitor.

Counts were as follows, one adult at Doora Dump on 2nd January. One second-winter at Kilkee on 4th January. One sub-adult at Ballyvaughan from 10th to 12th January. One first-winter at Kilkee on 28th January. One at Querrin on 5th February. One second-winter at Quilty on 6th April. One at Lough Murree on 11th November. One adult at Loop Head on 16th December. Two first-winters at Liscannor Bay on 31st December.

 

GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL. Larus marinus.

Common resident.

Breeding numbers on Mutton Island and Illaunanauraun were stable. Highest counts were 230 at Lough Donnell on 14th January. 50 at Illaunanauraun on 19th January. 70 at Loop Head on 16th October.

 

KITTIWAKE. Rissa tridactyla.

Common resident and passage migrant.

Highlights from Bridges of Ross and Loop Head were, 1,000 on 18th February, 400 on 18th March, 1,000 on 9th May, 200 (ph) on 16th July, 600 on 10th October and 1,000 (ph) on 30th October.

 

SANDWICH TERN. Sterna sandvicensis.

Common summer visitor and passage migrant.

The first records of this species were from Ballyvaughan on 15th March. The last bird was seen at Lough Donnell on 3rd November.

Observed on sea passage in autumn at Loop Head on a total of 16 days between 15th July and 2nd October.

 

COMMON TERN. Sterna hirundo.

Common summer visitor and passage migrant.

The first records of returning birds were two at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 30th April. There was light passage at Bridges of Ross from 22nd to 24th August. The last sighting was 42 at Poulnasherry Bay on 18th October.

 

ARCTIC TERN. Sterna paradisaea.

Common summer visitor and passage migrant.

Early returning migrants were five at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 30th April. Records at Loop Head peninsula shown in Table 9 overleaf, depicts peak passage between 25th

 

August and 11th October with a total of 561 birds, out of which 202 on 4th September was the largest day passage.

____________________________________________________________________

August September October

Bridges of Ross 68 376 72

68 376 72

____________________________________________________________________

Table 9

 

LITTLE TERN. Sterna albifrons.

Scarce passage migrant.

One at Bridges of Ross on 30th August.

 

BLACK TERN. Chlidonias niger.

Scarce passage migrant.

An average year for this species with records from Bridges of Ross the only records for 1997. Singles on 23rd and 24th August. Four on 28th August. One on 1st September.

 

GUILLEMOT. Uria aalge.

Common breeder and passage migrant.

There was an estimated 3,000 on the breeding colony at Loop Head on 16th June.

Largest passage numbers at Bridges of Ross was in October where 1,500 (ph) passed on 7th, 2,500 (ph) on 9th and 2,000 (ph) on 10th.

 

RAZORBILL. Alca torda.

Common breeder and passage migrant.

A calculated 800 to 1,000 were on the breeding colony at Loop Head on 16th June. Largest autumn passage at Bridges of Ross coincided with Guillemot movements between 7th to 10th October.

 

BLACK GUILLEMOT. Cepphus grylle.

Scarce breeder and winter visitor.

Aughinish Island: Four on 10th January. Ten on 15th February

Ballyvaughan: Three on 9th and nine on 22nd February.

Carrigaholt: One on 4th March.

Liscannor Bay: Six on 7th January.

Loop Head: One on 29th May. One on 7th, 8th and 16th July. One on 23rd August. One on 2nd and 3rd September.

 

LITTLE AUK.* Alle Alle.

Rare winter visitor.

All sightings were at Bridges of Ross in December, four on 11th (J. N. Murphy & A. D. Smith), one on 12th (M. Carey & J. N. Murphy), three on 14th (G. & M. Meehan), six on 27th (J. N. Murphy).

 

PUFFIN. Fractercula arctica.

Scarce summer visitor and passage migrant.

A count of the breeding colony at Cliffs of Moher was made in early June with 800 pairs taught to have been present. Passage at Bridges of Ross was light with best count being 34 on 7th July.

 

ROCK DOVE. Columba livia.

Scarce resident.

Seen on a total of 18 days at Loop Head throughout the year with largest count 20 on 3rd October. Elsewhere there were 14 at Illaunanauraun on 9th January. 10 at Aughinish Island on 2nd December.

 

STOCK DOVE. Columba oenas.

Scarce summer visitor.

Single birds were observed at Loop Head, Shannon Airport Lagoon and Sixmilebridge.

 

WOODPIGEON. Columba palumbus.

Common resident.

Largest count was 150 at Ballyallia House on 2nd and 14th January.

 

COLLARED DOVE. Streptopelia decaocto.

Common resident.

Spring passage at Loop Head is common. Records from the Loop Head peninsula were, one on 12th April, two on 14th May with eight on 29th May and five on 16th June. There were two autumn records of singles at Kilbaha on 3rd September and 3rd October.

 

TURTLE DOVE Streptopelia turtur.

Scarce passage migrant.

Four at Loop Head on 30th May.

 

CUCKOO. Cuculus canorus.

Summer visitor.

The first record was one calling at Cullaunysheeda Lake, Kilkisken on 16th April.

 

BARN OWL. Tyto alba.

Scarce resident.

One near Moveen, Kilkee on 1st March. One at Knockcarragh Cross near Cree on 4th March. One at Tuamgraney on 4th March. One heard at Core, Scariff on 8th July and seen on 1st and 23rd November. One near Illaunanaraun on 30th October. One at Shannon Town on 1st December. One at Drumline, Newmarket-on-Fergus on 11th December.

 

LONG-EARED OWL. Asio otus.

Scarce resident.

One heard at Core, Scariff on 2nd July. One at Inch, Ennis on 7th and 8th September.

 

SHORT-EARED OWL. Asio flammeus.

Rare winter visitor and passage migrant.

One at Loop Head on 26th October (T. Mee et al).

 

SWIFT. Apus apus.

Common summer visitor.

Two late records were singles at Loop Head on 18th and 23rd September.

 

KINGFISHER. Alcedo atthis.

Scarce resident.

One at Williamstown on 24th January. Singles at Core/Lough O’ Grady on 23rd February, 9th and 10th July, 9th, 19th, 21st, 23rd, 25th and 27th August. One at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 3rd August. One at Moyasta on 11th August. One at Carrigaholt on 2nd September. One at Doonbeg on 14th October.

 

SKYLARK. Alauda arvensis.

Common resident.

Best counts were. 60 at Loop Head on 29th May. 50 there on 6th June. 80 at Loop on 18th September. There were 62 at Inishcullen Hill, Shannon on 24th September. A flock of 263 at Poulnasherry Bay on 25th September one of the largest flocks ever seen in the county.

SAND MARTIN. Riparia riparia.

Common summer visitor.

Earliest date was 42 at Drumcliff, Ballyallia Lake on 14th March.

 

SWALLOW. Hirundo rustica.

Common summer visitor.

The first record was at Shannon Town on 8th April with last sighting of the year, one at Ennis on 13th November. 300 at Lough O’ Grady on 25th August.

 

 

HOUSE MARTIN. Delichon urbica.

Common summer visitor.

The earliest record was at Tullagher Bog on 6th April and last sighting was eight at Scariff on 3rd October.

 

TREE PIPIT*. Anthus trivalis. (3, 1)

(3, 1)

Rare passage migrant.

 

One at Loop Head on 12th April (B. Finnegan & J. N. Murphy). It is hard to believe that this is only the fourth county record. All previous records in Table 10 were also found at Loop Head.

 

1985 1991 1995

 

One on 20th October. One on 2nd August. One on 31st October.

 

Table 10

 

MEADOW PIPIT. Anthus pratensis.

Common resident.

Largest count was 250 at Loop Head on 18th September. These birds were probably migrating through the headland. There was no other noticeable build up at Loop Head throughout the remainder of the autumn.

 

ROCK PIPIT*. Anthus petrosus.

Common resident.

A bird of the northern race Littoralis was at Loop Head on 6th April (J. N. Murphy).

 

Rock Pipits are plentiful along the Clare coast © John N Murphy

 

 

WATER PIPIT. Anthus spinoletta. (1, 1).

(1, 1).

Rare vagrant.

One at Clenagh Castle on 5th December the exact site as the last record (A. D. Smith).

 

YELLOW WAGTAIL. Moticilla flava.

Rare passage migrant.

One unusual winter record at Clenagh Castle on 5th December (A. D. Smith).

 

GREY WAGTAIL. Motacilla cinerea.

Scarce resident.

Poulnasherry Bay: Three on 26th February. Three on 2nd March. Six on 9th April. Three on 12th December.

Quilty: One on 5th March.

 

PIED WAGTAIL. Motacilla alba yarrelli.

Common resident.

Pre-roost flock 42 at Loop Head on 7th October.

 

WHITE WAGTAIL. Motacilla a. alba.

Regular passage migrant.

There were three at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 20th September.

 

DIPPER. Cinclus cinclus.

Scarce resident.

 

WREN. Troglodytes troglodytes.

Widespread and common resident.

 

DUNNOCK. Prunella modularis.

Widespread and common resident.

 

ROBIN. Erithecus rubecula.

Widespread and common.

 

BLACK REDSTART. Pheonicurus ochuros.

Scarce passage migrant and winter visitor.

One at Kilrush on 2nd January. One on the pier at Knock on 3rd January. One at Loop Head on 19th March and 12th April. Two at Farrihy on 26th and 27th December.

 

REDSTART. Pheonicurus pheonicurus.

Scarce passage migrant.

One at Loop Head lighthouse on 27th September (G. Pearson). One at Kilbaha, Loop Head on 6th October (O. O’ Sullivan & M. Smyth).

 

WHINCHAT. Saxicola rubetra.

Scarce passage migrant.

One at Loop Head lighthouse on 15th April, with another there on 1st October. One at Moyasta on 15th September. One at Kilbaha, Loop Head on 23rd October.

 

STONECHAT. Saxicola torquata.

Widespread and common resident.

 

WHEATEAR. Oenanthe oenanthe.

Common summer visitor and passage migrant.

The first record of the year was one at Ross Bay, Loop Head on 18th March. There was 17 at Loop Head on 7th April, 22 on 9th May, with 20 there on 5th and 6th June. Last bird recorded was one at Kilkee on 30th October.

 

BLACKBIRD. Turdus merula.

Common resident and winter visitor.

Light passage at Kilbaha, Loop Head on 3rd and 27th October.

 

FIELDFARE. Turdus pilaris.

Common winter visitor.

There was a noticeable mid winter influx during December 1997, which saw mixed thrush flocks throughout the whole county with some very large inter-county movements. 200 at Bunratty on 12th January. 200 at Coolreagh, Bodyke on 25th November. 600 at Loop Head on 12th December.

 

SONG THRUSH. Turdus philomelos.

Common resident and winter visitor.

Light passage at Kilbaha, Loop Head on 27th October.

 

REDWING. Turdus iliacus.

Common winter visitor.

As with Fieldfare, large mixed mid winter flocks, but fewer large individual flocks of Redwing than Fieldfare were evident. 400 at Loop Head on 9th January, 300 at Bunratty on 12th January and 300 at Shannon Town on 22nd January. 100 at Kilrush on 16th March.

 

MISTLE THRUSH. Turdus viscivorus.

Common resident and winter visitor.

Largest sightings were 40 at Core, Scariff on 26th July. 27 at Shannon Golf Club on 29th September.

 

WHITETHROAT. Sylvia communis.

Scarce summer visitor.

Earliest record was one at Tullabrack, Kilrush on 19th April.

 

GARDEN WARBLER. Sylvia borin.

Scarce passage migrant.

One at Kilrush Wood on 16th April (Frank O’ Connor).

 

BLACKCAP. Sylvia actricapilla.

Common winter visitor, scarce breeder.

Winter: One male at Stonehall, Newmarket-on-Fergus from 5th to 10th January. One at Kilrush Town on 4th January. One male at Shannon Town on 22nd January. One male and one female at St. Michael’s Villas, Ennis on 23rd January. Two at Pine Grove, Ennis on 20th September. One male and three females at Kilrush throughout December. One male and one female at Ballycasey, Shannon on 14th December to end of month. One female at Clonmoney on 14th December. One male at Kilkee on 15th December. One male at Lough Gash on 22nd December.

One male at Stonehall, Newmarket-on-Fergus from 5 to 10 January. One at Kilrush Town on 4 January. One male at Shannon Town on 22 January. One male and one female at St. Michael’s Villas, Ennis on 23 January. Two at Pine Grove, Ennis on 20 September. One male and three females at Kilrush throughout December. One male and one female at Ballycasey, Shannon on 14 December to end of month. One female at Clonmoney on 14 December. One male at Kilkee on 15 December. One male at Lough Gash on 22 December.

Summer: One male heard singing at Core, Scariff on 30th March, 29th April and 1st May. One singing male at Ministers Cross and two at Castle Lake, both Sixmilebridge on 10th April. Two males at Hurlers Cross, Clonmoney on 13th April. One male at Cratloe Woods on 27th April. Two at Kilrush Woods on 2nd May. Two males at Magherabawn on 1st June. One male at Raheen Woods on 3rd June. Singles at Lough O’ Grady on 13th June, 7th and 9th July.

One male heard singing at Core, Scariff on 30 March, 29 April and 1 May. One singing male at Ministers Cross and two at Castle Lake, both Sixmilebridge on 10 April. Two males at Hurlers Cross, Clonmoney on 13 April. One male at Cratloe Woods on 27 April. Two at Kilrush Woods on 2 May. Two males at Magherabawn on 1 June. One male at Raheen Woods on 3 June. Singles at Lough O’ Grady on 13 June, 7 and 9 July.

Migration: One at Loop Head on 12th April. One male at Loop Head on 19th October, with one female there on 23rd.

One at Loop Head on 12 April. One male at Loop Head on 19 October, with one female there on 23.

 

CHIFFCHAFF. Phylloscopus collybita.

Common summer visitor and passage migrant. Occasionally winters.

Earliest record was one singing male at Shannon Town on 14th March with latest birds present at Kilbaha, Loop Head on 30th October.

 

WILLOW WARBLER. Phylloscopus trochilus.

Common summer visitor and passage migrant.

The first bird of the year was at Shannon Town on 26th March and last record was one at Loop Head on 23rd October.

 

GRASSHOPPER WARBLER. Locustella naevia.

Common summer visitor.

Earliest record was a singing male at Shannon Town on 15th April.

 

SEDGE WARBLER. Acrocephalus schoenobaenus.

Common summer visitor.

First record was one at Shannon Town on 15th April.

 

ICTERINE WARBLER. Hippolais icterina. (1, 1).

(1, 1).

Rare passage migrant.

One caught and ringed at Kilbaha, Loop Head on 23rd September with last sighting on 8th October (J. N. Murphy et al).

 

LESSER WHITETHROAT. Sylvia curruca. (6, 2).

(6, 2).

Rare passage migrant.

Still a rare bird on the West Coast of Ireland with two records from Loop Head.

One near Gull Island on 12th September (Frank O’ Connor).

One at Kilbaha on 26th October (T. Mee & D. Manley).

 

Lesser Whitethroat © John N Murphy
GOLDCREST. Regulus regulus.

Common resident and passage migrant.

Birds believed to be migrants were observed at Loop Head on a total of 11 days between 23rd September and 27th October.

 

SPOTTED FLYCATCHER. Muscicapa striata.

Summer visitor.

The only record of note was three on spring migration at Loop Head on 29th May.

 

PIED FLYCATCHER. Ficedula hypoleuca.

Scarce passage migrant.

A poor year for this species with only one record of an immature/female at Kilbaha, Loop Head on 3rd October.

 

LONG-TAILED TIT. Aegithalos caudatus.

Common resident.

 

COAL TIT. Parus ater.

Common resident and passage migrant.

Birds noted at Loop Head were as follows.

September: Four on 23rd and 30th.

October: Three on 1st, one on 2nd and 3rd, four on 6th, two on 7th, six on 8th and 9th, two on 10th, seven on 18th, three on 19th, four on 23rd, one on 25th, three on 26th and 27th and one on 30th.

 

BLUE TIT. Parus caeruleus.

Widespread and common resident.

 

GREAT TIT. Parus major.

Widespread and common resident.

 

TREECREEPER. Certhia familairis.

Resident.

 

JAY. Garrulus glandarius.

Scarce resident with a steady decline in numbers.

Ballyallia: One pair throughout the year.

Cratloe Woods: Four on 12th January.

Coolreagh: One on 9th November.

Kilrush Woods: Two on 21st February.

Maghera: One on 12th October.

Raheen Woods: Three on 16th January. One on 3rd June. One on 8th November.

 

MAGPIE. Pica pica.

Widespread and common resident.

 

CHOUGH. Pyrrhocorax pyyrhocorax.

Resident.

Highest counts were 30 at Illaunanauraun on 30th April. 24 at Loop Head on 8th July. 19 at Loop Head on 3rd and 12 on 19th October.

 

JACKDAW. Corvus monedula.

Widespread and common resident

Noticeable build up over the lighthouse at Loop Head where there was a flock of 400 on 19th October.

 

ROOK. Corvus Frugilegus.

Widespread and common resident.

 

HOODED CROW/CARRION CROW. Corvus carone corvix.

Common resident.

Largest counts were a flock of 186 at Kilrush Woods on 28th April and 78 at Shannon Airport Lagoon on 31st October.

One Carrion Crow at Loop Head on 7th and 16th October.

 

RAVEN. Corvus corax.

Resident.

Largest counts were seven at Poulnasherry Bay on 28th January. Seven at Loop Head on 22nd July and 12 on 6th September.

 

STARLING. Sturnus vulgaris.

Common and widespread resident.

Pre-roost flock of 10,000 at Shannon Town throughout March.

 

HOUSE SPARROW. Passer domesticus.

Widespread and common resident.

 

TREE SPARROW. Passer montanus.

Confined to the Loop Head peninsula with all sightings listed below.

January: One on 9th.

April: 12 on 12th and one on 29th.

May: Two on 9th, one on 14th and six on 29th.

June: Two on 5th and 6th.

July: Two on 7th and 8th, six on 16th and five on 27th.

August: Eight on 12th.

September: Seven on 23rd and four on 30th.

October: Seven on 1st, 12 on 2nd, four on 3rd, three on 6th, four on 7th, 10 on 8th, one on 9th and 11th, three on 15th, 13 on 16th, four on 19th, 14 on 23rd, two on 24th, 10 on 25th, 18 on 26th and 14 on 30th.

December: One on 11th.

 

CHAFFINCH. Fringilla coelebs.

Common resident and winter visitor.

Largest numbers were 100 at Querrin on 3rd January.

 

BRAMBLING. Fringilla montifringilla.

Scarce winter visitor.

Bealaha: One on 26th January.

Doonbeg: Three on 1st November.

Dromoland Castle:One on 2nd January.

Kilkee: One on 3rd November.

Loop Head: One on 19th, 23rd and 27th October.

Meelick: One on 24th January.

 

GREENFINCH. Carduelis chloris.

Common resident and winter visitor.

 

GOLDFINCH. Carduelis carduelis.

Scarce resident.

There were 30 at Maghera on 23rd January. 20 at Bodyke on 11th November.

 

SISKIN. Carduelis spinus.

Scarce resident and winter visitor.

Over 140 at Cratloe Woods on 12th January. 60 at Maghera on 23rd January. 40 at Williams Town Lough Derg on 24th January. 40 at Raheen Woods on 28th January with 110 there on 12th February. 10 pairs at Maghera on 1st June.

 

LINNET. Carduelis cannabina.

Common winter visitor.

70 at Finvarra Point on 11th January. 200 plus at Carrowmore Point on 22nd February. 100 at Poulnasherry Bay on 7th August. Over 100 at Loop Head on 12th August, with 150 there on 30th September and 1st October. 100 plus at Clenagh, Fergus Estuary on 20th August.

 

REDPOLL. Carduelis flammea.

Resident and winter visitor.

30 at Cratloe Woods on 12th January. A flock of 200 at Maghera on 23rd January. 40 at Kilrush Woods on 7th February.

 

Birds showing characteristics of the north European race Mealy Redpoll C. f. flammea were.

One at Kilrush Town on 6th November (Frank O’ Connor).

One outside Kilrush on 11th December (J. N. Murphy & A. D. Smith).

 

CROSSBILL. Luxia curvirostra.

Scarce breeder and winter visitor.

Cratloe Woods: Nine on 12th January.

Core: One on 1st, nine on 10th, one on 18th and one on 19th July. One on 26th November.

Doonbeg: Five on 26th October.

Glendree: 25 on 26th July. One on 21st September.

Maghera: Four on 23rd January. Four on 2nd August. Six on 12th October.

 

BULLFINCH. Pyyrhula pyyrhula.

Widespread and common resident.

 

LAPLAND BUNTING. Calcarius lapponicus.

Rare passage migrant.

One at Rine, Ballyvaughan on 23rd March (J. N. Murphy). One at Loop Head on 19th March (M. Meehan & J. N. Murphy), and one on 23rd October (J. N. Murphy).

 

SNOW BUNTING. Plectrophenax nivalis.

Regular passage migrant and winter visitor.

Ballyvaughan: 23 from 22nd to 26th March.

Loop Head: Four on 9th January. One on 21st September. One on 8th October.

Poulnasherry: One on 10th and one on 19th October.

Quilty: 34 on 14th January. Three on 20th February. Four on 5th March.

 

Snow Bunting at Fodry, Loop Head.© John N Murphy

 

 

YELLOWHAMMER. Emberiza citrinella.

Scarce resident.

The only records received for 1997 was one pair near Kilnaboy on 21st March with three at the same location on 11th June. One near Corofin on 10th December.

 

REED BUNTING. Emberniza schoeniclus.

Common resident.

The largest count was 50 at Core Bog on 21st November with 30 remaining into December.

 

Rare Bird Sightings.

 

Rarities.

All records of national rarities (see Irish Birds 4: 116 – 118 for complete list, and Irish Birds 4: 258 – 260, 5: 80 for amendments to list) should be sent for assessment to Irish Rare Birds Committee (IRBC). This should be done as soon as possible after the bird has been found. Prompt submission facilitates assessment and helps to ensure early publication. Rarity description forms can be obtained by sending a S.A.E. to the secretary Mr. Paul Milne, 62 The Village, Bettyglen, Raheny, Dublin 5, to whom all descriptions should be sent.

 

Local Rarities.

The editorial committee reserve the right to request substantiating notes from inexperienced observer’s for certain scarce species, which do not have to be submitted to the IRBC. Observers not known to the committee and regardless of experience may also be requested to supply brief descriptions to support their records. We reserve the right to withhold from publication any records, which we feel, has not been fully substantiated.

 

The list of local rarities is as follows:

Black-throated Diver Sightings of this species within Galway Bay do not require a description to be sent to IRBC. If one locates thisspecies in any other part of the county, then a description is necessary for the IRBC.

Slavonian Grebe Mediterranean Gull

Great Shearwater Sabine’s Gull

Mediterranean Shearwater Ring-billed Gull

Leach’s Petrel Black Tern

Pink-footed Goose Nightjar

Dark-bellied Brent Goose Tree Pipit

Garganey Yellow Wagtail

Velvet Scoter Redstart

Ruddy Duck Reed Warbler

Marsh Harrier Lesser Whitethroat

Buzzard Yellow-browed Warbler

Quail Firecrest

Pectoral Sandpiper Carrion Crow

Wood Sandpiper Twite

Grey Phalarope Lapland Bunting

Pomarine Skua Corn Bunting

 

All local and scarce bird sightings as listed above, should be sent to the county recorder: John Murphy, 5 Ballycasey Grove, Shannon, Clare.

 

 

 

Ringing Report 1997

 

Icterine Warbler ringed at Kilbaha © John N Murphy.

 

Phil Brennan, The Crag, Stonehall, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare.

 

As can be seen from the report overleaf little ringing of note was carried out during 1997, as in past years. Only two ringers reside in Clare, Phil Brennan & John Murphy and few visiting ringers nowadays make the annual pilgrimage to Loop Head for migrant passerines. This is due mainly to loss of suitable habitat at the site, and a certain amount of enthusiasm for the location from birders seems to have past.

The majority of birds ringed in Clare during 1997 were Storm Petrels from the Loop Head Peninsula and winter garden Chaffinches. Two new species were ringed for the first time and added to the county list. These were the Icterine Warbler at Kilbaha, Loop Head on 23rd September and a Long-eared Owl at Shannon Town on 9th September. Other noteworthy birds ringed were four Yellowhammers, a species much on the decline in Clare as in other Irish counties.

 

 

Ringing Totals for Clare 1974 – 1997

1974 – 1996 1997 1974-97

Species Pulli Adult Total Pulli Adult Total Grand T

Little Grebe 3 3 3

Fulmar 2 2 1 1 3

Storm Petrel 1563 1563 74 74 1637

Leach’s Petrel 1 1 1

Cormorant 1 1 1

Shag 1 1 1

Grey Heron 1 1 1

Mute Swan 7 7 4 4 11

Wigeon 15 15 15

Teal 25 25 25

Mallard 41 41 41

Pochard 1 1 1

*Hen Harrier 26 26 26

Sparrowhawk 4 17 21 21

Kestrel 3 7 10 10

Merlin 1 1 1

Water Rail 77 77 77

Moorhen 30 30 30

Coot 2 2 2

Oystercatcher 22 22 22

Ringed Plover 8 22 30 30

Golden Plover 9 9 9

Grey Plover 1 1 1

Lapwing 1 49 50 50

Knot 55 55 55

Sanderling 2 2 2

Little Stint 1 1 1

Curlew Sandpiper 11 11 11

Purple Sandpiper 7 7 7

Dunlin 4289 4289 4289

Ruff 3 3 3

*Snipe 14 62 76 76

Woodcock 183 183 183

Black-tailed Godwit 19 19 19

*Whimbrel 225 225 225

*Curlew 747 747 747

*Redshank 641 641 641

Spotted Redshank 2 2 2

*Greenshank 4 4 4

*Green Sandpiper 6 6 6

*Wood Sandpiper 2 2 2

*Common Sandpiper 25 25 25

Turnstone 45 45 45

Laughing Gull 1 1 1

*Blk-headed Gull 2122 23 2145 2145

Common Gull 2 2 2

Lesser Blk-Bk Gull 2 2 2

Great Blk-bk Gull 6 6 6

*Sandwich Tern 37 37 37

*Common Tern 222 222 222

Woodpigeon 2 14 16 16

Collared Dove 14 14 14

Cuckoo 3 3 3

Long-eared Owl 0 1 1 1

*Short-eared Owl 3 3 3

Swift 22 22 22

Kingfisher 10 10 10

Skylark 65 65 65

Sand Martin 2231 2231 2231

Swallow 444 2496 2940 2 3 5 2945

House Martin 114 114 114

Tree Pipit 1 1 1

Meadow Pipit 12 390 402 402

Rock Pipit 138 138 138

Grey Wagtail 8 39 47 47

Pied Wagtail 3 229 232 232

Dipper 24 27 51 51

Wren 420 420 5 5 425

Dunnock 336 336 2 2 338

Robin 25 1018 1043 2 2 1045

Bluethroat 1 1 1

Black Redstart 9 9 9

Redstart 5 5 5

Whinchat 2 2 2

Stonechat 30 254 284 284

Wheatear 15 15 15

Gray-cheeked Thrush 1 1 1

Blackbird 36 1116 1152 6 6 1158

Fieldfare 84 84 84

Song Thrush 20 418 438 9 9 347

Redwing 312 312 11 11 323

Mistle Thrush 18 31 49 49

Grasshopper Warbler 106 106 106

Savi’s Warbler 1 1 1

Sedge Warbler 3 8074 8077 15 15 8092

Icterine Warbler 0 1 1 1

Reed Warbler 8 8 8

Barred Warbler 1 1 1

Lesser Whitethroat 3 3 3

Whitethroat 58 58 2 2 60

Garden Warbler 31 31 31

Blackcap 233 233 2 2 235

Yellow-browed Warbler 10 10 10

Wood Warbler 2 2 2

Chiffchaff 405 405 1 1 406

Willow Warbler 14 1778 1792 12 12 1804

Goldcrest 741 741 8 8 749

Firecrest 2 2 2

Spotted Flycatcher 36 16 52 52

Red-breasted Flycatcher 3 3 3

Pied Flycatcher 8 8 8

Long-tailed Tit 339 339 7 7 346

Coal Tit 485 485 11 11 496

Blue Tit 44 1535 1579 10 10 1589

Great Tit 10 732 742 5 9 14 756

Treecreeper 6 115 121 121

Jay 2 2 2

Magpie 6 47 53 53

Jackdaw 20 56 76 76

Rook 54 54 54

Hooded Crow 4 40 44 44

Raven 1 1 1

Starling 499 499 7 7 506

House Sparrow 341 341 341

Tree Sparrow 24 24 24

Red-eyed Vireo 2 2 2

Chaffinch 4 3193 3197 63 63 3260

Brambling 13 13 13

Greenfinch 5 2846 2851 25 25 2876

Goldfinch 41 41 41

Siskin 87 87 87

Linnet 9 211 220 220

Redpoll 470 470 470

*Crossbill 2 2 2

Bullfinch 300 300 300

*Hawfinch 2 2 2

Yellow-rumped Warbler 1 1 1

Yellow Warbler 1 1 1

*Yellowhammer 217 217 4 4 221

Rustic Bunting 1 1 1

Little Bunting 1 1 1

Reed Bunting 2 1037 1039 1 1 1040

 

Grand Total 3229 42297 45526 7 289 303 45839

 

Note: Species that appear with and asterisk * before them might have been birds ringed outside of Clare.

Note: Pulli = pullus or young in nest.

Pulli = pullus or young in nest. Species that appear with and asterisk * before them might have been birds ringed outside of Clare. Pulli = pullus or young in nest.

 

Selected Recoveries in 1997.

The format to understanding the recovery details is as follows:

 

Under the species name in column 1 appears numbers (FC845971), these are the bird’s individual BTO identity numbers, which are marked on the ring. The next line on the same column is the status of the bird when recovered.

 

On the second column 2 appears the age and sex of the species (FG).

 

Ad = Adult.

Juv = Juvenile able to fly.

Pull = Nestling.

FG = Fully grown, age hard to determine.

1W = First winter bird.

M = Male.

F = Female.

 

The dates of species ringed are in column 3, first date on line one is when it was ringed, and the date on line two is finding date.

 

Column 4 is self explanatory, giving the place, country and co-ordinance where bird was first ringed on line one, line two the place, country and co-ordinance where bird was located, line three consist of the distance and direction the species flew.

is self explanatory, giving the place, country and co-ordinance where bird was first ringed on line one, line two the place, country and co-ordinance where bird was located, line three consist of the distance and direction the species flew.

 

 

A selection of recoveries for 1997 is set out below. Only one bird ringed in Clare was controlled or recovered from abroad during this time frame.

 

FULMAR. Fulmaris glacialis.

FC845971 FG 05.08.95 Fife, 56.01′ N, 03.08′ W (Scotland)

Found dead 10.03.97 Kilkee, 52.41′ N, 09.39′ W (Clare)

561km South West

 

STORM PETREL. Hydrobates pelagicus.

2453118 FG 20.07.96 Loop Head, 52.35′ N, 09.52’W (Clare)

Controlled 01.08.97 Leganagh Point, 51.34′ N, 08.43’W (Cork)

138km South

 

REDWING. Turdus iliacus.

RS74189 FG 02.11.95 Loop Head, 52.34′ N, 09.52′ W (Clare)

Shot 15.02.97 Beira Alta, 40.30’N, 07.42’W (Portugal)

1353km South

 

Colour Ringing.

 

Details of birds with colour bands found in Clare during ’97 are highlighted as follows: All the following are Whooper Swan sightings.

WHOOPER SWAN. Cygnus cygnus.

Band: 6HT Age: Age: Adult.

Age: Adult.

Ringing Details: Anavatn, N Iceland as juvenile on 18/08/96 (birds mother 4XL).

Anavatn, N Iceland as juvenile on 18/08/96 (birds mother 4XL).

Movements: L. Foyle – N Ireland on 29/10/96, Farrihy Lake – Clare on 28/01/97, Corofin – Clare on 05/02/97, River Foyle – N Ireland on 06/04/97,

L. Foyle – N Ireland on 29/10/96, Farrihy Lake – Clare on 28/01/97, Corofin – Clare on 05/02/97, River Foyle – N Ireland on 06/04/97,

L. Swilly – Donegal on 07/04/97.

Band: 7BV Age: Adult.

Adult.

Ringing Details: Skjalftavatn, N Iceland as an adult on 04/08/96.

Skjalftavatn, N Iceland as an adult on 04/08/96.

Movements: R. Foyle – N Ireland on 29/10/96, Corofin – Clare on 5/2/97,

R. Foyle – N Ireland on 29/10/96, Corofin – Clare on 5/2/97,

L. Donnell – Clare on 22/02/97.

Band: PDC Age: Adult.

Adult.

Ringing Details: Anavatn, Jokuldalur, E Iceland as an adult on 17/08/88.

Anavatn, Jokuldalur, E Iceland as an adult on 17/08/88.

Movements: L. Swilly – Donegal on 15/01/93, Farrihy L. – Clare on 22/01/95,

L. Swilly – Donegal on 15/01/93, Farrihy L. – Clare on 22/01/95,

L. Donnell – Clare on 05/02/95, Farrihy L. – Clare from 13/11/95 to 13/02/96, L. Donnell – Clare 13/12/96, L. Donnell – Clare from

28/01/97 to 22/02/97.

Band: 4YS Age: Adult.

Adult.

Ringing Details: Anavatn, Jokuldalur, E Iceland as a juvenile on 15/08/95.

Anavatn, Jokuldalur, E Iceland as a juvenile on 15/08/95.

Movements: L. Donnell on 13/12/96 and on 22/02/97, Tullabrack – Clare on 23 & 26/02/97.

L. Donnell on 13/12/96 and on 22/02/97, Tullabrack – Clare on 23 & 26/02/97.

Band: 5AI/5AC Age: Adults (a pair both ringed on same date & same location).

Adults (a pair both ringed on same date & same location).

Ringing Details: Skjalftavatn, N Iceland as an adult on 05/08/95.

Skjalftavatn, N Iceland as an adult on 05/08/95.

Movements: These two birds spent from 05/11/95 to 21/02/96 at Drumcliff, Ballyallia Lake – Clare. They then returned 24/11/96 at the same location until 27/02/97.

These two birds spent from 05/11/95 to 21/02/96 at Drumcliff, Ballyallia Lake – Clare. They then returned 24/11/96 at the same location until 27/02/97.

Band: 3TU Age: Adult.

Adult.

Ringing Details: Rangalon, Iceland as a juvenile on 15/08/95.

Rangalon, Iceland as a juvenile on 15/08/95.

Movements: Norfolk – England on 06/01/95, Dundrum Bay – Down on 01/02/95, Blindwell Turlough – Galway on 25/03/95, Rangalon – Iceland on 22/06/95, Saenautavatn – Iceland on 15/08/95, Lancashire-England on 20/10/95, Norfolk – England on 21/10/95, L. Swilly – N Ireland on 04/01/96, Saenautavatn – Iceland on 18/08/96, Norfolk-England on 24/10/96 and Corofin – Clare on 05/02/97.

Norfolk – England on 06/01/95, Dundrum Bay – Down on 01/02/95, Blindwell Turlough – Galway on 25/03/95, Rangalon – Iceland on 22/06/95, Saenautavatn – Iceland on 15/08/95, Lancashire-England on 20/10/95, Norfolk – England on 21/10/95, L. Swilly – N Ireland on 04/01/96, Saenautavatn – Iceland on 18/08/96, Norfolk-England on 24/10/96 and Corofin – Clare on 05/02/97.

 

Other colour banded birds observed in Clare during 1997 were all also ringed on nesting grounds in Iceland and over-wintered in three main sites Corofin Lakes, Tullagher Lough and Ballyallia Lake. These birds include two juveniles 5FY and BF2, and seven adults 4XT, 3J77, 4YS, NSL, PTN and NTP. A full paper on Whooper Swans will appear in the 1998 bird report.

RED KITE. Milvus milvus.

Colour wing-tagged combination. Ringing details. Date.

Inverness, Scotland. 1997.

Right Wing: Orange Finding Details. Date.

Left Wing: Blue Lough Donnell, Clare. 18/10/97.

Blue Lough Donnell, Clare. 18/10/97.

Loop Head, Clare. 18/10/97

Loop Head, Clare. 19/10/97

 

 

RINGED PLOVER. Charadrius hiaticula.

Colour ring combination. Ringing details. Date.

Shannon Airport Lagoon. 09/08/97

Right Leg: White over Orange over Finding details. Date.

White over Orange over

Red below knee Hampshire, England. No exact

Left Leg: Black over knee date

Black over knee date

DUNLIN. Calidrus alpina.

Colour ring combination. Ringing details. Date.

Ottenby, Sweden. 27/07/92.

Right Leg: Yellow over Blue Finding details. Date.

Yellow over Blue

Left Leg: White over Red Liscannor Bay, Co. Clare. 26/01/97.

White over Red Liscannor Bay, Co. Clare. 26/01/97.

metal below knee
BLACK-TAILED GODWIT. Limosa limosa.

Colour ring combination. Ringing details. Date.

Wash Estuary, England. 30/08/96.

Right Leg: Red over White Finding details. Date.

Red over White

metal below knee Shannon Airport Lagoon 13/05/97.

Left Leg: Red over Yellow Co. Clare.

Red over Yellow Co. Clare.

Wildlife of Mutton Island

 

Watch Tower on western side of Mutton Island © John N Murphy

 

Introduction

Mutton Island or Inishgaorach as it was once known, lies 1km north west of Lurga Point, near Quilty on the West Coast of Clare. The locality is steeped in ancient history and fishing has long been associated with the small village of Quilty, dating back to shellfish picking on the shore in pre-famine times. This coastal region is made up of pastured meadows, marshy marginal land, which leads to a roughed rocky shoreline scattered with sandy beaches. It is the area of sand dunes and decaying seaweed at Seafield on Lurga Point, which draws birds and ornithologists alike to this windswept coastline.

The region is a vitally important feeding ground for migratory wildfowl and waders. Annually thousands of migrating birds arrive en route to and from their winter and breeding quarters. During spring waders like Whimbrel, Dunlin, Turnstone, Ringed Plover and Sanderling gather in large flocks to feed on this rich invertebrate coast. The majority of these birds over-winter on the beach at Seafield, traversing between Mutton Island and the mainland during tidal cycles. Purple Sandpiper wintering here reaches peak counts of national importance. The pasturelands of the Island are also vitally important for a grazing herd of approximately 300 Barnacle Geese, which overwinter, from Greenland.

In summer the Island is home to diminishing colonies of breeding gulls. There are also smaller numbers of breeding waders, seabirds and passerines. Little of this Islands wildlife has been regularly recorded before the Clare Branch of Birdwatch Ireland (C.B.B.I.) decided to monitor for changes in the early 1990’s. Preliminary studies by Roger Goodwillie on behalf of An Foras Forbartha in 1970/71, and seabird colony counts by Ruttledge et al and Merne for the Irish Wildbird Conservancy in conjunction with the Wildlife Services, were the only known fieldwork’s prior to our visits.

 

The following report is based on winter counts from the mainland and fieldwork trips carried out mainly during summer visits in 1990/93 and a week’s observation in May of 1995.

 

Historic Background.

Earliest recorded history dates back to the period 700AD, to the times of St Senan’s monastic settlement. Here he founded a small church and shrine near the landing spot above Port Tobacco Cove. Today all that stands of the church are fallen walls and a little galvanised roofed house. At Gorraun Rock there are remains of a small fort "Dun-Gorraun". An earthquake shook Clare’s West Coast in early 800AD. It was about 16th or 17th March and was responsible for killing an estimated 1010 people. This quake was supposedly responsible for cutting the island in three, creating the present day makeup of the area, Mutton, Mattle and Craggaun Rock. During the Spanish Armada invasions the island was used as a prison and small fortress with prisoners jailed here for short periods before being hanged. Throughout the ages seven families inhabited the island. Gallagher, Kelleher and Griffin were three families associated with Mutton but it is now sadly uninhabited.

 

Location and Topography

Mutton Island is about 1.5km in length and runs in an east west direction. It is made up of 185 acres of small stone walled meadows, sparsely covered hills of heather and jagged rocky foreshore. To its north side, flaggy rock slopes gently to the sea with rising rocky cliffs to the eastern end near Goolar Bay. To the west a bare rocky outcrop occurs at Carricklea where there is much evidence of erosion from prevailing westerly winds and accompanied high seas. Visible from the northern shore are Seal Rock and Carrickaneelwar, both less than half a kilometre away.

The south and eastern shores are low lying cobbled bolder and sandy beaches at Coonnaluinga, Port Tobacco Cove and Coonabaud. Along this shoreline, the cliffs rise to a height of 15 to 20 feet. A small ruined house and church on this height overlook Port Tobacco Cove facing east towards Lurga Point. Craggaun Rock lies just off the island to the Northeast and Mattle Island 2km to the south. High cliffs to the western side rise to nearly 100 feet between Carricklea and Gorraun Rock. The sea has eroded a puffing hole near Coosnadread and another spectacular one called Taylor’s Hole north of the watch house (old telegraph tower) at Iffinbeg. The centre of the island rises to a hill of about 150 to 200 feet above sea level with gentle slopes, descending east and westwards. The only other high ground on the island is an area north east of Goolar Bay, which slopes gently southwards.

 

 

Vegetation and Flora

For such a small island a good diversity of plants can be found with activities of man in the past adding to this diversity. There are remnants of tillage and domestic grazing animals. The old ruined house area near the landing spot at Port Tobacco Cove is dominated by nettles Utrica dioica , typical of nutrient enriched grazing. On the freshwater pool the main plant was Bulrush Scripus lacustrus, a typical fresh water species. One important species found on the cliffs was Spleenwort Asplenium marinum. This is a species confined to sea cliffs, which tolerate certain amount of sea spray. It appears to be particularly prone to pollution and is reportedly declining in Britain. Where the cliffs had been heavily grazed there is a Plantain sward, comprising three different species, Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata, Buckshorn Plantain Plantago coronopus, Sea Plantain Plantago maritima, Sea Thrift Armeria maritima and Red Fuscue Festuca rubra. Beyond the salt spray area there is good acid grassland. Within this grassland where there is a build up of water, there are good wet flushes with Sphagnum sp. and Heath Spotted Orchids Dactylorhiza maculata. A total of 54 plant species in all were found on only one brief check in spring and no species of rarity.

 

The following was the list of plants found:

 

Yarrow Achilles millefolium Common Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza fushii

Creeping Bent Agrostis stolonifera Heath Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza maculata

Bog Pimpernel Anagalis tenelia Marsh Hellebrine Epipactus palustrus

Vernal Grass Anthoxanthus odoratum Common Cotton Grass Eriophorum angustifolium

Kidney Vetch Anthyllis vulneraria Common Cleavers Galium aparine

Lesser Burdock Arctium minus Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium

Thrift Armeria maritima Marsh Pennywort Hydrocotyle vulgaris

Spleenworth Asplenium marinum Yellow Iris Iris psuedacorus

Sea Aster Aster tripolium Soft Rush Juncus effusus

Daisy Bellis perennnis Birdsfoot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus

Heather Calluna vulgaris Field Woodrush Luzula campestris

Cuckoo Flower Cardamine pratensis Purple Loosesrife Lythrum salicaria

Glaucous Sedge Carex flacca Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula

Black Sedge Carex nigra Buckshorne Plantain Plantango coronopus

Carnation Sedge Carex panicea Ribwort Plantain Plantango lanceolata

Common Mousear Cerastium fontanumSea Plantain Plantango maritima

Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense Annual Meadow Grass Poa annua

Cocksfoot Dactylis glomerata Smooth Meadow Grass Poa pratensis

Amphibious Bistort Polygonom amphibium Broad-leaved Dock Rumex obtusifolius

Heath Milkwort Polygala serpyllifolia Procumbent Pearlwort Sagina procumbens

Broad-leaved Pondweed Potamogeton natans Creeping Willows Salix repens

Silverweed Potentilla anserina Bulrush Scripus lacustrus

Tormentil Potentilla erecta Searush Scripus maritimus

Greater Spearwort Ranunculus lingua Sea Campion Silene maritima

Creeping Buttercup Ranunculus repens Lesser Stitchwort Stellaria graminea

Sheep’s Sorrel Rumex acetosella Devilsbit Scabious Succisa pratensis

Curled Dock Rumex crispus White Clover Trifolium repens

 

 

Wild bird species account

The island is probably of most importance for Barnacle Geese, which visit in winter months. Other waders, duck and birds of prey do visit the island during winter, but little is known of activities on the island during this season. This is due to unpredictable and bad weather making crossings to the island impossible throughout most of the winter. It is suspected that waders feed on the pond and shoreline, crossing from nearby Lurga Point and Seafield to feed during hide tides. They also possibly roost on the island, Mutton being ideal for such activities with little or no disturbance.

 

Summer Breeders: During visits since the early 1990’s, the main priority has been to monitor and count the breeding colonies of gulls. Four species in all breed on Mutton, these being Common, Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed (see distribution map on the following page). There were once small colonies of Terns recorded during the 1970’s and Cormorants also bred. But now both these species have deserted with Cormorants breeding on nearby Mattle Island to the south and no sign of any terns breeding in the surrounding area. Another seabird species, which did breed up to recent times, were Storm Petrels. Searches in early summers of 1990, ‘93 and 1995 were fruitless. Even with the aid of tape lured singing petrels and two night-time efforts to catch and ring, no birds were found or believed to be breeding. Shags and Fulmars frequent and loaf on the cliffs to the western end of the island. Both probably do breed though nesting was not observed. Caves on this western side also play host to breeding Black Guillemots with seven pairs recorded in 1990. Since this count there have only been on average of two pairs per annum during recent visits.

During visits since the early 1990’s, the main priority has been to monitor and count the breeding colonies of gulls. Four species in all breed on Mutton, these being Common, Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed (see distribution map on the following page). There were once small colonies of Terns recorded during the 1970’s and Cormorants also bred. But now both these species have deserted with Cormorants breeding on nearby Mattle Island to the south and no sign of any terns breeding in the surrounding area. Another seabird species, which did breed up to recent times, were Storm Petrels. Searches in early summers of 1990, ‘93 and 1995 were fruitless. Even with the aid of tape lured singing petrels and two night-time efforts to catch and ring, no birds were found or believed to be breeding. Shags and Fulmars frequent and loaf on the cliffs to the western end of the island. Both probably do breed though nesting was not observed. Caves on this western side also play host to breeding Black Guillemots with seven pairs recorded in 1990. Since this count there have only been on average of two pairs per annum during recent visits.

 

Annually a pair of Ravens nest in a traditional site near Gorraun Rock as marked on distribution map overleaf.

 

Other passerines found breeding include Meadow and Rock Pipits, Skylarks, Wrens, Swallows, Wheatears and one old House Martin nest in the watchtower, evidence of past breeding.

Wading birds can be present during high tides even in summer months but few were found to breed. A couple of pairs of Ringed plover breed most years with favoured traditional spots marked on map overleaf.

 

The lack of certain common bird species was evident on all visits, with no thrushes or finches other than Linnet recorded during summer trips. This is probably due to the lack of cover with no trees or bushes to provide nesting sites for many or our resident species. Also in spring one would expect to find lost or displaced summer migrant passerines but none were found.

 

Distribution map of selected breeding birds on Mutton Island.

 

Great Black-backed Gull (A) Lesser Black-backed Gull (B) Herring Gull (C)

 

Common Gull (D) Ringed Plover (E) Raven (F)

 

Winter visitors: Mutton is of huge importance to a flock of 200 – 300 Barnacle Geese, making the island a nationally important site for this species. Occasionally figures reach high enough for international status of importance. This is also the most southerly feeding site in Ireland for such large numbers of this species. There is only one other site further south in this country that gets a tiny number annually. This is the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve. Mutton’s birds arrive in October and depart for breeding grounds in Greenland during late March early April. It is also of importance for Purple Sandpipers, which feed on Lurga Point and the beach at Seafield. This species traverse between the mainland and island during tidal cycles.

Mutton is of huge importance to a flock of 200 – 300 Barnacle Geese, making the island a nationally important site for this species. Occasionally figures reach high enough for international status of importance. This is also the most southerly feeding site in Ireland for such large numbers of this species. There is only one other site further south in this country that gets a tiny number annually. This is the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve. Mutton’s birds arrive in October and depart for breeding grounds in Greenland during late March early April. It is also of importance for Purple Sandpipers, which feed on Lurga Point and the beach at Seafield. This species traverse between the mainland and island during tidal cycles.

To date there have been 56 species recorded on the island and these include scarcer migrants like Slavonian Grebe, Eider Duck, Glaucous and Sabine’s Gulls, Great and Arctic Skuas.

 

Use of the island by introduced and domesticated animals

Over the years local farmers have used the island as grazing grounds for cattle, sheep and goats. Past residents also had small herds of livestock and the island derives its name from the farming of sheep that were once grazed here being highly prized mutton. Presently a herd of fifty goats roam the island but no cattle have been transferred there from the mainland since the late 1980’s. These goats are in direct competition with wintering Barnacle Geese, which depend on the island as main grazing grounds. To what extent the goats are having on the islands plant life is not yet known, but close monitoring over the coming years may give a better picture. The goats might be a good thing for some plant species on the island, as they might help scatter seeds throughout. This may also be of advantage to the geese, as they might be helping to keep the grasses short making feeding easier for the Barnacle Geese. Fluctuations in the geese numbers might also be a direct cause of over grazing by goats and further work will have to be done to verify this theory.

Mutton is of huge importance to a flock of 200 – 300 Barnacle Geese, making the island a nationally important site for this species. Occasionally figures reach high enough for international status of importance. This is also the most southerly feeding site in Ireland for such large numbers of this species. There is only one other site further south in this country that gets a tiny number annually. This is the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve. Mutton’s birds arrive in October and depart for breeding grounds in Greenland during late March early April. It is also of importance for Purple Sandpipers, which feed on Lurga Point and the beach at Seafield. This species traverse between the mainland and island during tidal cycles.

 

Other animals inhabiting the island are Brown Hares Lepus capensis and Rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus. The hares are taught to be present on the island for hundreds of years with mainland hares introduced in recent times by the Miltown Malbay Coursing Club. Members visit the island frequently to release or catch hares for transportation to course meetings throughout Clare. Talks with the group have lead to an agreement to visits Mutton less frequently during the winter, hence causing fewer disturbances to the geese. The rabbits were only introduced to the island in recent years. During my visits in May of 1990 none were present. It has been learnt that a local shooter released the rabbits for hunting and ferreting purposes. The presence of rabbits on Mutton, is a concern as huge numbers might build up, devouring the island of its vegetation. I also fear that if a ferret were to escape on a hunting expedition, breeding birdlife would be quickly slaughtered and forced to desert.

 

Other amphibians and mammals present were Common Frogs Rana temporaria in the small freshwater pools and frequently seen hauled up on rocks, sun bathing Common and Grey Seals. Future plans are afoot to search for bats and set Longworth traps to check for mice and shrews.

 

 

Brown Rat Rattus norvegicus infestation of the island

The brown rat Rattus norvegicus probably first appeared on Mutton island during the 16th Century after the Spanish Armada fleets were wrecked near Mal Rock and other rocky shelves of this coastline. Rats might have also reached the island from the mainland by swimming or walking during times of extremely low tides. Locals informed me that it is possible to walk a sand bank to the island in such conditions. For as long as anyone can remember, brown rats were always present on the island and it was only after I visited in May of 1990, that I realise the extraordinary large numbers present. On this overnight stay while surveying the island under spotlights for breeding seabirds, large concentrations of rats were observed pouring out of holes and crevices throughout. These vermin must have a huge detrimental effect on breeding bird populations, and would possibly do most damage to burrow nesting species like Storm Petrels or Manx Shearwaters, if they were present. Worldwide studies have shown that rats predate nests in many isolated islands as food source eating eggs and young as well as adults in some cases. My personal belief is that brown rats are one of the main causes for falling breeding gull numbers on Mutton Island. I also believe that they are the main reason for the desertion of Storm Petrels to nearby Mattle Island. On Mutton rats live a relatively undisturbed life with few predators to effect populations. The presence of Ravens, the odd passing raptor, or visiting humans is the only treats affecting their lives. I believe that rats have an all year round food supply, eating vegetation, seeds, plant roots, seaweed and any small invertebrate found on the shoreline. They must also eat eggs and birds especially sick or injured individuals. I have seen on the island remains of dead goats, hares and rabbits stripped of their flesh by rats. Occasionally dead mammals such as seals and dolphins get washed ashore. These carcasses would keep rats fed for weeks, eating their hosts from the inside out. Other food sources include mammal and Barnacle Geese droppings, all of which graze the island in winter. Both eat tons of grass, leaving behind thousands of nutrient enriched droppings giving a wealth of food supplies for rats.

Attempts to locate and count the rats were made in the early part of May 1993, when members of the Clare Branch of the Birdwatch Ireland place chew sticks throughout the island. Chew sticks were simply small pieces of inch-by-inch sized wood, varying in lengths and hammered into the ground, then laced with margarine. These sticks were left in place for a couple of weeks and later checked to see if rats had eaten through them. This was a method used by the Ailsa Craig Woking Group in Scotland to try and estimate numbers of brown rats, so that they knew areas in which to concentrate a rat eradication programme. Our findings were that rats on Mutton were concentrated mainly around the old ruined buildings and near the pond.

 

Invertebrates

During all visits little attention was made of flying insects. Obvious insects like butterflies and moths were noted and included; Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae, Cabbage Whites Pieris brassicae, Peacock Inachis io, Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines, Garden Tiger moth Arctia caja, and one Emperor Saturnia pavonia. Bumblebees Bombus sp. were seen feeding on some flower species. Limpets and periwinkles were noted on the rocky seaweed tide line. Much more work is required.

 

Emperor Moth © John N Murphy.

 

 

Discussion and Recommendations

Further counts and survey work on the island is essential with aims to manage and control certain aspects. The rabbits could possibly create a problem in years to come when the present population explodes. Culling might be necessary. Summer grazing by goats or sheep could be beneficial for the pasturelands leaving short-cropped grass in winter months for geese to feed. But goats grazing there all seasons of the year will only rape the island of its vegetation. I think goats should be remove during winter months allowing the grasslands to replenish to some extent. This would also benefit future control of the brown rats. Goats should be removed because harsh winter conditions create hazardous elements, killing them, hence creating feeding for rats. I personally believe that extermination of the brown rats would be beneficial to the islands bird life. Catriona Brady suggests that elimination of rats is good for plant species recovery in the short term, but in the long term it is bad. She states that large bird populations will alter the vegetation composition through manuring and nesting activities. Catriona goes on to say that such an activity will only reduce the diversity of plants and one only has to look at Irelands Eye or the Saltees for such an example. This is probably true, but I still feel it is essential to eliminate as many rats from the island as possible. This might allow burrow-nesting species like Puffins, Manx Shearwaters or Storm Petrels to return to the island, similar to that on Ailsa Craig in Scotland. Domesticated grazing herds like sheep and goats should help to spread plant seeds over the island and their presence might deter a large build up of nesting gulls or cormorants, allowing plants to re-colonise.

 

Acknowledgements

I would greatly like to thank the island owners the Hufty Family, along with acting solicitor Mr Michael Nolan, for permission granted to enter the island to carry out studies. Thanks to Catriona Brady, her colleague Paddy and Geoff Pearson for their description and listing of vegetation. To Stewart Holohan for information on similar studies carried out in Canada and Oscar Merne for his advice and support. Also a special thanks to Patricia Dempsey, a local resident who gave freely of her time preparing much of the ground work in the locality. To the boatman Peter Murrihy for his seafarers skills and to the residents of the area for their co-operation. A special thank you to Sister Mary O’ Connell and her pupils for efforts with Puffin work on Mutton.

Finally thanks to my fellow ornithologists and committee members of the Clare Branch of Birdwatch Ireland for their time and effort, especially: Gerry Wheeler, Maeve Meehan, Christy Meehan, Congella McGuire, Myles Carey and Brian Finnegan.

 

References

Norman F I. 1975. The Murine rodents Rattus Rattus, Exulans, and Norvegicus as avian predators. Atoll Research Bulletin No.182. The Smithsonian Institute.

 

Lloyd C, Tasker M L, Partridge K. 1991. The Status of Seabirds in Britain and Ireland. Poyser, London.

 

Zonfrillo B, Monaghan P. 1992. Rat eradication on Ailsa Craig. Applied Ornithology Unit, Zoological Dept, University of Glasgow, Glasgow.

 

 

 

COUNTY CLARE SPECIES CHECKLIST.

 

1. RED-THROATED DIVER

2. BLACK-THROATED DIVER

3. GREAT NORTHERN DIVER

4. PIED-BILLED GREBE (1 record 1997)

5. LITTLE GREBE

6. GREAT CRESTED GREBE

7. RED-NECKED GREBE

8. SLAVONIAN GREBE

9. BLACK-NECKED GREBE (1 record 1997)

10. SOFT-PLUMAGED PETREL (3 records 1980’s, 1995 & 1997)

11. FULMAR

12. CORY’S SHEARWATER

13. GREAT SHEARWATER

14. SOOTY SHEARWATER

15. MANX SHEARWATER

16. LITTLE SHEARWATER (4 records 1985, 1991, 1995 & 1996)

17. WILSON’S PETREL (3 records 1985, 1990 & 1995)

18. STORM PETREL

19. LEACH’S PETREL

20. GANNET

21. CORMORANT

22. SHAG

23. BITTERN (1 record 1983)

24. LITTLE EGRET

25. GREY HERON

26. PURPLE HERON (1 record 1996)

27. MUTE SWAN

28. WHOOPER SWAN

29. BEWICK’S SWAN

30. BEAN GOOSE

31. PINK-FOOTED GOOSE (3 records 1993, 1994 & 1996)

32. WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE

33. GREYLAG GOOSE

34. CANADA GOOSE

35. BARNACLE GOOSE

36. BRENT GOOSE

37. SHELDUCK

38. WIGEON

39. AMERICAN WIGEON (2 records 1976 & 1991)

40. GADWALL

41. TEAL / GREEN-WINGED TEAL

42. MALLARD

43. PINTAIL

44. GARGANEY

45. SHOVELER

46. POCHARD

47. RING-NECKED DUCK (1 record 1995, 1996 & 1997)

48. TUFTED DUCK

49. SCAUP

50. EIDER

51. LONG-TAILED DUCK

52. COMMON SCOTER

53. SURF SCOTER (7 records 1 in 1975, 1 in 1977, 4 in 1984 & 1 in 1985)

54. VELVET SCOTER

55. GOLDENEYE

56. SMEW (3 records 1968, 1993/94 & 1995)

57. RED-BREASTED MERGANSER

58. GOOSANDER (1 record 1989)

59. RUDDY DUCK

60. SPOONBILL (4 records 1945, 1973, 1975 & 1976)

61. GLOSSY IBIS (4 records 1857, 1902 & 2 in 1906)

62. WHITE-TAILED EAGLE (last recorded in 1849)

63. GOLDEN EAGLE (last recorded in 1896)

64. MARSH HARRIER (3 records 1981, 1989 & 1993)

65. HEN HARRIER

66. SPARROWHAWK

67. BUZZARD

68. OSPREY (3 records 1864, 1984 & 1992)

69. KESTREL

70. MERLIN

71. HOBBY (4 records, 1 in 1987, 2 in 1993 & 1 in 1995)

72. GYR FALCON (1 record 1997)

73. PEREGRINE

74. RED GROUSE

75. GREY PARTRIDGE

76. RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE

77. QUAIL

78. PHEASANT

79. WATER RAIL

80. SPOTTED CRAKE (1 record 1989)

81. CORNCRAKE

82. MOORHEN

83. COOT

84. COMMON CRANE (2 records 1986 & 1993)

85. LITTLE BUSTARD (1 record 1916)

86. OYSTERCATCHER

87. BLACK-WINGED STILT (1 record 1987)

88. AVOCET (1 record 1981)

89. STONE CURLEW (1 record 1844)

90. COLLARED PRATINCOLE (1 record 1953)

91. RINGED PLOVER

92. DOTTEREL (2 records 1988 & 1997)

93. AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER (2 record 1996 & 1997)

94. GOLDEN PLOVER

95. GREY PLOVER

96. LAPWING

97. KNOT

98. SANDERLING

99. SEMI-PALMATED SANDPIPER (1 record 1995)

100. LITTLE STINT

101. WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (2 records 1969 & 1990)

102. BAIRD’S SANDPIPER (1 record 1996)

103. PECTORAL SANDPIPER (2 records 1981 & 1990’s)

104. CURLEW SANDPIPER

105. PURPLE SANDPIPER

106. DUNLIN

107. BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (6 records 3 in 1990, 3 in 1996)

108. RUFF

109. JACK SNIPE

110. SNIPE

111. LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (2 records 1993 & 1997)

112. WOODCOCK

113. BLACK-TAILED GODWIT

114. BAR-TAILED GODWIT

115. WHIMBREL

116. CURLEW

117. UPLAND SANDPIPER (1 record 1995)

118. SPOTTED REDSHANK

119. REDSHANK

120. GREENSHANK

121. GREATER YELLOWLEGS (1 record 1990)

122. GREEN SANDPIPER

123. WOOD SANDPIPER

124. COMMON SANDPIPER

125. TURNSTONE

126. WILSON’S PHALAROPE (2 records 1981 & 1994)

127. RED-NECKED PHALAROPE

128. GREY PHALAROPE

129. POMARINE SKUA

130. ARCTIC SKUA

131. LONG-TAILED SKUA

132. GREAT SKUA

133. MEDITERRANEAN GULL

134. LITTLE GULL

135. SABINE’S GULL

136. LAUGHING GULL (1 record 1981)

137. BLACK-HEADED GULL

138. RING-BILLED GULL

139. COMMON GULL

140. LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL

141. HERRING GULL

142. ICELAND GULL

143. GLAUCOUS GULL

144. GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL

145. ROSS’S GULL (1 record)

146. KITTIWAKE

147. SANDWICH TERN

148. ROSEATE TERN

149. COMMON TERN

150. ARCTIC TERN

151. LITTLE TERN

152. GULL-BILLED TERN (2 records 1984 & 1992)

153. BLACK TERN

154. WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN (3 records 1893, 1984 & 1992)

155. GUILLEMOT

156. RAZORBILL

157. BLACK GUILLEMOT

158. LITTLE AUK

159. PUFFIN

160. PALLAS’S SANDGROUSE (1 record 1888)

161. ROCK DOVE

162. STOCK DOVE

163. WOODPIGEON

164. COLLARED DOVE

165. TURTLE DOVE

166. CUCKOO

167. BARN OWL

168. SNOWY OWL (1 record 1907)

169. LONG-EARED OWL

170. SHORT EARED OWL

171. NIGHTJAR

172. SWIFT

173. BELTED KINGFISHER (1 record 1984)

174. KINGFISHER

175. BEE-EATER (1 record 1990)

176. HOOPOE (3 records 1957, 1960 & 1996)

177. WRYNECK (1 record 1931)

178. GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER (3 records, 2 in 1968 & 1 in 1990)

179. SKYLARK

180. SAND MARTIN

181. SWALLOW

182. RED-RUMPED SWALLOW (1 record 1987)

183. HOUSE MARTIN

184. RICHARD’S PIPIT (3 records 1987, 1990 & 1994)

185. BLYTH’S PIPIT (1 record 1995)

186. TREE PIPIT

187. MEADOW PIPIT

188. ROCK PIPIT

189. WATER PIPIT (2 records, 1 in 1995 & 1 in 1997)

190. YELLOW WAGTAIL

191. GREY WAGTAIL

192. PIED/WHITE WAGTAIL

193. WAXWING

194. DIPPER

195. WREN

196. DUNNOCK

197. ROBIN

198. BLUETHROAT (1 record 1982)

199. BLACK REDSTART

200. REDSTART

201. WHINCHAT

202. STONECHAT

203. WHEATEAR

204. PIED WHEATEAR (1 record 1988)

205. ROCK THRUSH (1 record 1995)

206. RING OUZEL

207. BLACKBIRD

208. FIELDFARE

209. SONG THRUSH

210. REDWING

211. MISTLE THRUSH

212. GREY-CHEEKED THRUSH (1 record 1991)

213. GRASSHOPPER WARBLER

214. SAVI’S WARBLER (2 records 1980 & 1992)

215. SEDGE WARBLER

216. REED WARBLER

217. ICTERINE WARBLER (2 records 1995 & 1997)

218. MELODIOUS WARBLER (1 record 1991)

219. BARRED WARBLER (2 records 1985 & 1994)

220. LESSER WHITETHROAT

221. WHITETHROAT

222. GARDEN WARBLER

223. BLACKCAP

224. ARCTIC WARBLER (1 record 1986)

225. PALLAS’S WARBLER (1 record 1995)

226. YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER

227. WOOD WARBLER

228. CHIFFCHAFF

229. WILLOW WARBLER

230. GOLDCREST

231. FIRECREST (2 records 1980 & 1989)

232. SPOTTED FLYCATCHER

233. RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER (5 records, 2 in 1985, 1988, 1989 & 1991)

234. PIED FLYCATCHER

235. LONG-TAILED TIT

236. COAL TIT

237. BLUE TIT

238. GREAT TIT

239. TREECREEPER

240. GOLDEN ORIOLE (2 records 1847 & 1862)

241. GREAT GREY SHRIKE (1 record 1971)

242. JAY

243. MAGPIE

244. CHOUGH

245. JACKDAW

246. ROOK

247. HOODED / CARRION CROW

248. RAVEN

249. STARLING

250. ROSE-COLOURED STARLING (3 records 1808, 1830 & 1989)

251. HOUSE SPARROW

252. TREE SPARROW

Norman F I. 1975. The Murine rodents , , and as avian predators.

253. RED-EYED VIREO (3 records 1995)

 

254. CHAFFINCH

255. BRAMBLING

256. GREENFINCH

257. GOLDFINCH

258. SISKIN

259. LINNET

260. TWITE

261. REDPOLL / MEALY REDPOLL

262. CROSSBILL

263. COMMON ROSEFINCH (1 record 1987)

264. BULLFINCH

265. HAWFINCH (2 records 1991 & 1993)

 

266. YELLOW WARBLER (1 record 1995)

267. YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (1 record 1986)

 

268. DARK-EYED JUNCO (1 record 1905)

269. LAPLAND BUNTING

270. SNOW BUNTING

271. YELLOWHAMMER

272. ORTOLAN BUNTING (1 record 1988)

273. RUSTIC BUNTING (1 record 1985)

274. LITTLE BUNTING

275. REED BUNTING

276. BLACK-HEADED BUNTING (1 record 1991)

277. CORN BUNTING

 

 

 

The following records relate to birds found in Clare and believed to be of possible captive origins or escapees and cannot be accepted as wild specimens in accordance to the IRBC.

 

GREATER FLAMINGO (1 record 1995 & 1996)

RUDDY SHELDUCK (2 records 1993 & 1997)

YELLOW-THROATED BUNTING

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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