Sunday 12 February 2012

Carrigrennan Point

Carrigrennan Point, Little Island is about 10 minutes from home and a perfect location for a few hours of birding when I don't want to drive too far. Located just past the entrance to Harbour Point Golf Club, it starts at a small carpark and childrens playground, with a path that runs for about 1.5km in a loop eventually returning back around to the car park. On that path you will pass by several pools, some small areas of relatively young woodland, open areas of grass and furze and open views of Cork harbour as it works its way in around Fota Island, Little Island and the Douglas estuary.

Fota Island from Carrigrennan Point - February 2012
It was Brian Lynch who first put it on the map for me when he found a Surf Scoter there in January 2007. Its fair to say its probably underwatched, but it has had more than its fair share of good birds over the last 5 years. Apart from Brian's Surf Scoter, one of the pools there held a male Garganey for about 3 winters in a row (2008, 2009 and 2010). In fact that particular bird became known amongst a few of us as 'Gary the Garganey'. Gary would appear sometime in mid-winter on the pond and before that particular pond became too overgrown it was possible to get quite good views of Gary out in the open and up close.

Gary's pond, Carrigrennan Point, February 2012
Gary was sufficiently nervous to make me think his origins were wild and not from a collection. I remember one year sneaking up on poor Gary on my belly and getting this shot before he saw me and took off. It was in my early days with a DSLR and I was very pleased with the shot at the time although I felt a little guilty about spooking poor Gary.

Gary - Carrigrennan Point, Little Island, Cork - 2009 

After he was first found in 2008, Gary stayed for three consecutive winters on that pond. Last year, Gary's pond was frozen over for more than a month and there was no sign of him. I checked today more out of hope than expectation but predictably he wasn't there.
Anyway apart from Gary, Carrigrennan has also had Slavonian Grebe and Pied-billed Grebe and my own particular favourite, a male European Nightjar which I picked up one evening in August 2009 as I was walking back towards the car. I remember searching the area for about an hour in the hope of picking it up again but that was it, given the time of year I expect it was a bird on passage. Still only my second ever sighting of European Nightjar.
I recalled several weeks ago that Brian had told me he'd had a Kingfisher in one of the pools and that it might be a decent photo opportunity. I was thinking of heading over towards Ballycotton pier to check out the white-winged gulls but Carrigrennan was closer so that's where I headed for first. Sure enough on reaching the pool there was the Kingfisher perched proudly albeit distantly on a post sticking up out of the water. I saw my first ever Kingfisher when I was 9 years old somewhere near Lough Owel Co. Westmeath and for a long time after it was one of my favourite birds. It still is in fact and I reckon that of all the kingfisher species in the world the Common Kingfisher is the most handsome. Now, good shots of Kingfishers don't come too easily and I would say that some of the very best images taken in bird photography have been of this species. A good Kingfisher image has to be really good because there are some stunning images out there. You only have to look back through the galleries on birdguides to see that. So I'm not sure why, without a hide or decent light or a gillysuit or whatever, that I even bothered to try and take some shots of this chap (because as you can see from the all dark bill he is a 'chap') but here's some for the record anyway.

Male Kingfisher - Carrigrennan Point, February 2012

Sitting in a distant willow - Kingfisher, Carrigrennan Point, February 2012

I may go back for some better shots in the next few weeks. At the same time Carrigrennan is a popular spot for walkers and families so several people stopped to ask me what I looking at and I was very pleased to be able to show a few punters their first ever Kingfisher. I know I made at least one persons day!
There was a slight feel of spring today also, a mildness and brightness that first comes in February. Teal had began to pair up and Blue Tits were busy displaying in the willows along the path.

Eurasian Teal - Carrigrennan Point, February 2012

I even found some frog spawn in a small ditch as I headed back to the car.

Spring is here - frogspawn.

With the maker of the spawn still lurking innocently nearby.

Common Frog (I think) - Carrigrennan Point, February 2012

Time was pressing on so I didn't get a chance to do a full circuit of the path. I headed back to the car just as the sun was setting.....roll on springtime!

Cork harbour looking back towards Douglas estuary - February 2012

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