Sunday, 4 December 2011

Late Lesser 'throat

I mentioned in my previous posting that the Lesser Whitethroat I saw at the campsite on Knockadoon Head was quite sandy looking and that a number of people believed it may well be of the eastern form 'halimodendri'. Same as the Drogheda bird from earlier this year and potentially the bird I found in the plantation on the Old Head of Kinsale in late October ('A few days off').
Anyway, Saturday morning was sunny and unseasonably mild so I thought I'd go to Knockadoon Head and try to get a better look at the bird. I arrived at the campsite at about 11.30am and parked up. Sure enough there was the bird feeding in the brambles on the bank opposite the campsite itself. I decided the best way to see and photograph the bird was to park my car on the opposite side of the road to where the bird was and wait. Cars make great hides after all! The brambles and the elder trees actually held quite a few different birds. In the time that I spent waiting on the Lesser 'throat to show well I had a male and female Blackcap, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Stonechats and several Song Thrushes and Blackbirds. However the Lesser 'throat just wasn't playing ball so I abandoned my comfortable hide and decided to do a walk-about of the campsite. I re-found the Lesser 'throat feeding in the cordylines along with a female Blackcap. However close approach was difficult so I let it be. I decided that it would be well worth checking the beach for Pipits and Black Redstarts so I moved my car around and as I got out the Lesser 'throat was right in front of me feeding in the brambles. I got a couple of shots as the bird moved around about 15-20 feet away.

Lesser Whitethroat - Knockadoon Head 3rd December 2011

As you can see the bird's upper-parts are quite sandy brown. Given that it appeared at the same time as several 'tristis' type Chiffers and a Pallas's, it is possible that it origins are somewhat eastern.
Just at that point Michael John O'Mahony arrived and the two of us elected to check the beach below the pier. Michael picked up a single Black Redstart. I didn't get great views of the bird though as it flew into a small cave and hid. The beach itself is very sheltered and insects were plentiful so it should have plenty to sustain it for the winter. Michael also picked up a Short-eared Owl hunting distantly over the fields. A couple of minutes later it flew over our heads mobbed by a single Hooded Crow.
Before I headed for home we checked the caravan park on the off-chance that the Pallas's Warbler from 2 weeks ago had hung about. Returning to the area behind the football pitch were the bird had previously been seen I played a few snatches of Pallas's Warbler calls. After a minute a bird came in looking in size and jizz like a Pallas's but it disappearred before either of us could get anything on it. No sight or sound of the bird after that, whatever it was. However if anyone is around in the next fews days the caravan park is worth checking just in case.
All in all Knockadoon Head has been a great late Autumn spot this year. In November alone it's had Garden Warbler, RB Fly, Firecrest, Pallas's Warbler, Black Redstart, Lesser Whitethroat, Siberian Chiffchaff, and a possible Hume's Warbler. In November 1980 it had Ireland's first Pied Wheatear and in December 2003 it had Ireland's first ever Hume's Warbler. It has lots of cover, is very sheltered in parts and best of all only 30 minutes from home!!

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