Details of NR's Honey-buzzard Sightings in Ireland


7/11: Wexford N Slob, a juvenile Honey-buzzard came out of the plantation, flapping slowly (almost Harrier-like) and then landed in a stubble field, scattering birds in all directions; later at 16:02 it tangled briefly with a Common Buzzard, just before the latter caught a substantial prey item and returned to the plantation carrying it (stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11 derived from video, 1125). Honey-buzzard on the E coast of Ireland are likely to be Scottish-bred birds, moving from Galloway into Northern Ireland and then continuing S to Wexford before facing a hazardous sea crossing. Go SE (or SSE if cutting it finer) and make SW England or Brittany; go SW and you're out into the Atlantic. It's very mild here, 13º today and sunny on moderate W breeze, with lots of insects still around so the birds can linger for a bit longer.


20/5: Monasterevin, not every day you add a new potential breeding species to a country's list! At 15:16 a Honey-buzzard female was seen floating for 10 seconds over pastures in the afforested area near Monasterevin, Co Kildare; 15 minutes later she came higher, while languidly exploring her territory, mobbed by a Corvid! Fantastic discovery and latter action captured on video. Here's clip with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11 (1500). Stills 1-8 show the bird out in the open, with long tail and neck, small head and narrow tail base. The tail is rounded at the tip. Stills 9-11 show the bird continuing low-down over a wood. All centred on spectacular woodland at Moore Abbey near the town, which spotted from motorway on outward leg of trip! Here's shots of the wooded area 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 and of the information boards 1  2  3  4. The area around is quite rough pasture and scrubby woodland, which is another major plus for Honey-buzzard. Weather did not help: dull today with drizzle from time to time but fairly mild on light E breeze.

7/11: The Raven, Co Wexford, brilliantly fine day, moderate SW breeze, good visibility, sunny and dry; went for long walk of 11 km from 11:45-15:40 right around The Raven: a marvellous conifer wood (mainly Pine 1  2  3 ) on the dunes on the N side of the Wexford Harbour. The end (The Point 1  2) was very dramatic with swirling currents, many shoals and large breakers. A large gathering of Atlantic Grey Steel 1  2  3  4 was hauled-up on a sandbank, isolated by the dangerous channels. No swimming notices 1 seem apt! And yes, following last year's Honey-buzzard in this area, had another juvenile Honey-buzzard in the dunes just N of the wood. It was up at 11:55, heavily mobbed by 3 Hooded Crow, and had clearly been disturbed in the dunes where it was presumably feeding. It moved N and didn't see it again. Good views and clear clips were obtained. Here's the Honey-buzzard clip (1201), with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8, in lightly wooded area 1 on edge of dunes, taken with the new Panasonic camera and processed with AVS software. Derived still 1 shows the sparse broad barring on remiges and tail, the long narrowish tail and small head, the extensive black on wing-tips; stills 2-5 confirm these features; stills 6,7 emphasis the small head; still 8 shows the dark secondary tips and pale greater coverts. So this place seems to be a holding area for juvenile Honey-buzzard, offering good feeding, while they work out what to do. It could be a Scottish bird, having drifted into Ireland from Galloway, or an Irish one, after the discovery in Co Kildare this May. Hopefully it will go on to Pembroke, doing a Strongbow in reverse: it's not far! 8/11: insect summary for trip 1/11-8/11: no butterflies were seen but wasps were still present in significant numbers at all localities visited.


4/11: Monasterevin: very efficient transfer to Ireland, leaving home at 08:40 and starting fieldwork at Monasterevin, Co Kildare, some 60 km W of Dublin, at 14:30! Good for Ryanair. Strange place to start maybe but this was the wooded area where had a female Honey-buzzard up on 20/05/13, looking very much in territory. I've now posted the clip of the bird and shots of the landscape and information boards on the 2013 NB; funny how such postings can be triggered by a subsequent visit! Had slight hopes of seeing a Honey-buzzard today here but rather late in season; was more interested in looking at the habitat 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 (4110), which is very good with rough meadows and scrubby woods surrounding the high trees, just about perfect, so suspect this will be a regular site with birds crossing from Pembrokeshire to Wexford, just like Strongbow and his conquering force. Have stronger hopes of picking up a lingering bird in Wexford, maybe hesitating before crossing the sea.

5/11: Wicklow Bay: great day weather-wise with continuous sunshine on cool light N breeze, bird-wise with the Honey-buzzard season continuing as a pale grey juvenile was located in Wicklow Bay area and fitness-wise as did a coastal walk of 10km. Was walking out from 10:30-15:50, taking advantage of good weather before rain promised tomorrow. Raptors comprised 1 Red Kite, soaring slightly inland to SW as out hunting, 2 Sparrowhawk, both males soaring to SW, 2 Kestrel, both hunting 1w, 2 Common Buzzard, close-by hunting near water channels, 1 Honey-buzzard juvenile, a pale grey bird 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 up on N side of bay inland from 12:30-12:40 heavily mobbed by 10-20 Jackdaw, and moving slowly SW towards forests on mountain-edge where it came down with surrounding habitat 9  10  11  12  13 (4111). The presumption is that the Honey-buzzard is a Scottish-bred bird that has made the short water crossing from Galloway to Northern Ireland further north; that was one reason for the Monasterevin check: to see whether Irish sites were still occupied.

6/11: Avoca: rained all day, actually becoming heavier in afternoon after a brief lull at midday. Visited Vale of Avoca in southern Co Wicklow from 12:20-14:20 as it is central to the Red Kite introduction programme to Ireland. Wasn't expecting to see too much in the gloom and was pleasantly surprised to have a Red Kite up in the drizzle at 12:52 over Avoca NE; it was soon joined by 4 more giving 5 up in view at the same time; had 1 more some distance to E and on returning to town had 2 more over the chimney tops; so total of 8 seen in the drizzle. Here's some piccies 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9. Thought habitat 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 of the whole Vale was superb for raptors, including Honey-buzzard with extensive woodland, mainly deciduous by the river, and rough pastures surrounding the woods. On return leg of walk at 13:44 noticed a 'buzzard' floating just over some trees slightly to N; thought it looked like a Honey-buzzard and took some pictures and was rather surprised when a very solid looking Common Buzzard came closer into view from the same area moving E low over the fields; another Common Buzzard appeared in the area it had come from a short time later. The pictures confirm the Common Buzzard 1  2  3  4  5 but also show a rufous juvenile Honey-buzzard at the start of the series 1  2  3 (4112), which was obviously interacting with the Common Buzzard, just over the tops of the trees and had not come forward. So that's 8 Red Kite, 2 Common Buzzard, 1 Honey-buzzard, in very poor conditions.

10/11: Rathmacknee: in driving rain, a juvenile Honey-buzzard at Rathmacknee: what a record!! You couldn't make it up!! Weather was appalling today: did start off dry but by mid-morning the rain started and quickly became heavy, made worse by the fresh ESE breeze; it rained all the rest of the day! Started the day's business at Rathmacknee, 7km W of Rosslare, ancestral home until dispossessed by William of Orange! Was in area in the rain for a long time,11:20-13:20, the reason being the relative shelter of the high hedges between the small fields 1  2  3  4 and the presence of the Honey-buzzard. Unlike the previous 2 sightings on the trip, this was a drawn out affair with at 11:34 the juvenile seen flying low between trees on the N side of Rathmacknee Castle, c300m from it. The bird perched on a branch showing the usual horizontal stance for the species, with long tail, elongated body, small head, horizontal stance and broad tail barring. It stayed there for about 10 minutes while the rain poured down, eventually at 11:45 moving 50m to the top of an exposed tree-trunk where it watched the ground below very carefully as the rain got heavier. At 11:48 it dropped off the tree trunk to land on the ground below, obviously some feeding opportunity it had spotted. I didn't stay any longer as they can spend ages on the ground (walking around!). The bird was a grey-brown colour. Here are some piccies 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18, a clip 1 and some derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 (4113). There were quite a few wasps still around on the ivy in the lanes.


12/11: Rathmacknee: so visit to the capital for Rossiters – Rathmacknee Castle – from 14:15-15:45 in pretty horrific conditions with driving rain on a SW gale. Was rather intrigued to see 4 Common Buzzard up in this weather over a small wood to N of the Castle at 14:35; the obvious family party looked agitated and it was several minutes before another raptor was seen to emerge from E end of their wood and move S towards the Castle in vigorous flap-flap-glide motion. This bird had long tail and wings and was thought to be a Honey-buzzard on structure and jizz. I moved a little to the W down the lane and saw what looked like a Pheasant feeding in a field to the immediate N. But it wasn't: it was a dark brown juvenile Honey-buzzard feeding on the field. I took a 6+ minutes video at 14:50 through a gap in the hedge before it moved out of sight. On trying to get it back into view at a gate, I realised there were 3 'buzzard' feeding on the winter-wheat field, the other 2 being Common Buzzard. They all flew off to S to nearby fields. The Honey-buzzard had an unusual feeding jizz, moving forward quickly in between the morsels with wings open as if about to take off but it always kept its feet on the ground in spite of the strong headwind. Here's piccies (5900) of the Honey-buzzard with long video clip and stills 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15, plus those of the Common Buzzard also with video 1 and stills 1  2  3  4. For the Honey-buzzard id points are the horizontal stance with attenuated appearance including the long tail projecting beyond the primary tips, the small head with very noticeable pale yellow cere and the coarse barring on the tail (4 broad bars, including subterminal, slides 3,4) and remiges (4 broad bars, slides 6, 8, 9) and extensive black on primary tips. Single adult Common Gull and Black-headed Gull were feeding on the field alongside the raptors. The morsels were presumably small invertebrates. [At the time I thought the bird probably originated in Scotland but having seen the growing population in the Irish Midlands and further E in Ireland in May 2016, it's quite possible that it's Irish in origin.]


15/5: Laois/Kildare: Perfect weather as made the fairly long drive of c280km from Rosscarbery to Dublin with strong sunshine and polar airstream giving fantastic visibility. Stopped at Cahir in Tipperary; this has some interesting plantations around it, just about suitable for Honey-buzzard though not the ideal habitat including established timber. The first Kestrel of the trip was perched on a post near Burncourt on M8 at the start of this wooded section at 11:30. Honey-buzzard action started in the Midlands with 2 sites near Portlaoise (see above); main stop was at Monasterevin as known site prior to today. Got some piccies of the male Honey-buzzard at Monasterevin, which are very useful (6006) 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8. 1,2 show the aerodynamic pose adopted in diving in the display with carpal pushed well forward, long tail emphasised and long neck protruding; 3,4 show a fast glide with elongated wings, tail and neck with 3 also showing one of the inner tail bands; 5 shows the bird pausing in the activity; 6-8 show typical appearance at distance high-up. At Monasterevin SE the butterfly display took place from 14:45-14:48. At a considerable distance of 3km to E from Monasterevin SE, a pair of Honey-buzzard were picked up in full display at the Mayfield E area from 14:47-14:57 with mutual circling and a limited amount of diving 1  2  3  4 (6007, distant shots but small head of male clearly visible). It appears that the colonisation of Honey-buzzard thought to commence in ideal habitat at Monasterevin, Kildare, has been very successful and is spreading both to W into Co Laois and to E within Co Kildare.

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