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Monday, 21 August 2017

Late Barn Owl nest in Kerry

Four newly hatched Barn Owl chicks, east Kerry, 10th August 2017 (M.O'Clery, under licence from NPWS).

This nest box in east Kerry was checked on Thursday 10th August and the young Barn Owls were just hatching. Eggs are laid one to two days apart, so there is always a difference in size between chicks, yet the oldest was only a few days old, and there were still two unhatched eggs. The eggs would have been laid in the first week of July.

If they survive, the chicks will be fledging in mid-October, an extremely late date.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Med Gull, Black Rock

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull (left) with Black-headed Gull, Black Rock, 17th August 2017 (David O'Connor).

Numbers of 'Med' Gulls continue to rise in Kerry, with record numbers seen in the mid-summer period though, as juvenile birds disperse away quickly from their breeding colonies, their appearance at that time doesn't necessarily mean they have bred nearby. 

Nesting Mediterranean Gulls have been spreading north and west in Europe in the last decade, first nesting in Ireland at Lady's Island Lake in Wexford in 1995, and nesting has been regular ever since. 72 pairs bred there in 2016 (see the National Park and Wildlife Report HERE) while in Northern Ireland, seven pairs nested at Larne Lough and two nested at the RSPB reserve in Belfast Harbour in 2017 (see HERE). Fledged juveniles had left the nest site in Wexford by 11th July.

A common characteristic of colonising Mediterranean Gulls is that they have a strong preference to nest within colonies of Black-headed Gulls (often with Sandwich Terns present too) for added protection from predators. Unfortunately, the chances of them colonising Kerry are now considerably lessened by the recent demise of Kerry's only Black-headed Gull colony at Kilmacalogue Harbour in Kenmare Bay.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Immature Spoonbill, Fertha Estuary

Sub adult Spoonbill, Fertha Estuary, near Caherciveen (with thanks to P.Mullarkey).

This bird appeared at the Fertha Estuary around the 27th July and was seen on several subsequent evenings going to roost nearby with up to 17 Little Egrets. It was also occasionally seen feeding on the estuary. 

At the time, with the age of the bird unknown, it was thought that it might be the adult which has wintered at Cromane for the last eleven winters, but the broad area of pale, rather than yellow on the tip of the bill shows it to be an immature, possibly in its second year, and therefore obviously a 'new' bird.

With thank to P. Mullarkey and D. Kavanagh.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

The two oldest known Barn Owls are from Kerry

The Kerry male at his nest box near Tralee in spring 2016. He is by now nine years old, (M.O'Clery).

Ireland's oldest known Barn Owl - covered in a post from last March HERE - has survived the summer, and raised two chicks at his nest site near Tralee. However, his crown is now challenged by the discovery of another male of the same age.

A few days ago, a ringed male Barn Owl, discovered at a nest site near Ballinskelligs, was trapped, and found to have been ringed in 2008 about ten km away, in the same year as our old timer from the Tralee site.

The Ballinskelligs male, now also nine years old, August 2017 (C. Nelms).

Let's hope they both survive the coming winter and keep going. 

Ringing of Barn Owls in Ireland only really started in earnest in Ireland in 2007, so it is possible that we might yet encounter an even older Barn Owl somewhere in Ireland.

See the Irish Raptor Blog HERE for a full rundown on the story of the Tralee bird, and HERE for info on the Ballinskelligs bird.