Cabinteely Park - 10th December 2017.
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South Dublin members in Cabinteely Park, 10th December 2017 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)
A Met Éireann 'Orange Warning' of snow, freezing temperatures and easterly gales could not deter 25 South Dublin members to turn up for our final outing of 2017 to Cabinteely Park. It was certainly cool enough, but as it turned out the snow and gales never materialised and the worst we experienced was some drizzly rain. We met in the main car park, where we were welcomed by Branch Chairman Frank Doyle, who then handed over to Niall Hatch to lead the outing. He announced that we would make an anti-clockwise circuit of the park beginning along various wooded tracks around Cabinteely House, so, well wrapped up we headed off in search of good birds.
Treecreeper, Cabinteely Park, 10th December 2017 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)
Just ten minutes in to the outing, a calling Treecreeper caused us to halt near a stand of tall trees. We soon spotted it clambering mouse-like up a conifer on the hunt for insects. The park is a reliable location for these birds and this was the first of at least four that we saw and heard during the outing, their white bellies and piercing calls very noticeable.
As we watched the Treecreeper a Jay was spotted high in the canopy. It seemed agitated, constantly on the move, sometimes disappearing from view, then returning, but it remained in the vicinity for fifteen minutes allowing everyone to get good views and hear the harsh call of this colourful corvid. On one occasion it was spotted well to the left of where it was first noticed and we wondered if there were two birds involved? However, we never had more than one in sight at any time so we will never know.
Jay in Cabinteely Park, 10th December 2017 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)
We then proceeded further along the track to a wooded area behind Cabinteely House. A Robin was on the path ahead of us, and a Dunnock popped out, then vanished just as quickly. Some movement was spotted in the trees and a Mistle Thrush flew in to view, then a flock of Long-tailed Tits made their way past us, Blue and Great Tits were seen, Wrens seen and heard, Chaffinches heard as well as Woodpigeons and a Grey Squirrel that performed some nimble gymnastics on the most miniscule of branches.
Leaving Cabinteely House behind we headed off towards the park's pond and stream, stopping to watch a Goldcrest that was flitting about in a tree. It was totally indifferent to our presence and at times came within a few feet of us. This little diamond is the smallest bird in the Western Palearctic and even a big one weighs only seven grams. It needs to feed continuously during the short hours of winter daylight to make it through the night, and this one was tucking in like crazy. We carried on towards the pond, and on the way spotted a Little Egret with a group of Black-headed Gulls.
Little Grebe, Cabinteely Park, 10th December 2017 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)
The pond threw up the usual selection; Black-headed and Herring Gulls, including a third-winter Herring, plenty of Mallard, both males and females, Moorhens, a Mute Swan and a Little Grebe that was continuously ducky diving for fish. We lingered there for a while, then were heading back across the small bridge over Cabinteely Stream, when the shout of 'Kingfisher' went up.
Sure enough, a splash of turquoise was observed flying quickly away and it looked like we would have to settle for those few seconds. Instead, it returned to a nearby perch where we all got good views. It then moved to a different branch and we circled around to get a better look, which must have spooked the bird, as it took off and disappeared out of sight. We followed the course of the stream to the next bridge where we have seen Grey Wagtail on previous outings, but on this occasion the cupboard was bare.
Redwing, Cabinteely Park, 10th December 2017 (picture: Rachel Hynes)
We were now on the final leg heading back up the hill towards the park entrance. Some thrushes were feeding on the grass close to the cover of hedges. As well as the resident Mistle and Song Thrushes there were Redwings in their midst, a winter visitor from Iceland and Scandinavia. We were treated to great views of these attractive birds with their red flanks and underwing, and creamy white supercilium. It was now getting on for half-past noon and time to withdraw to the park's Bramble Cafe for coffee. As we made our way there a flock of Goldfinch flew overhead, the final birds of our great morning's birding.
Some More Pictures
This outing marks the end of another year of successful South Dublin Branch activities. For the first in our history we have run outings in all twelve months of the year. We are very grateful for the continued support of our members who so consistently turn up to our indoor and outdoor events and we hope to see you all again in 2018.