Monday, 16 September 2013

Diamonds in the rough

Little Egrets, Grey Plovers and Black-tailed Godwits

The numbers of waterbirds in Dublin Bay are still building, but as we wait for the big numbers to arrive, we shouldn't overlook what’s already here.

Just north of the Bull Island causeway, you’ll often find an aggregation of Little Egrets – we've had up to 31 while out doing surveys recently. With their beautiful white plumage and diagnostic yellow ankle-socks, these small herons are the better looking cousin of the better known and more widespread Grey Heron.

Little Egret. John Fox.

These guys are recent arrivals from the Continent– 20 years ago such an aggregation would have resulted in hundreds of birders racing to see them – but we’re getting used to them now. That said, the Little Egret’s beautiful white plumage and their characteristic little chases after prey in our wetland pools are well worth stopping to take a look at.

Grey Plover. Richard T. Mills.
Also worth looking out for are the beautifully contrasting summer plumaged Grey Plovers – spotted black and white upperparts and black underparts with a white border. As their winter plumage takes over in the coming weeks, the drab factor will increase, and we’ll just be looking out for their black “armpits” (if you know what I mean!) to distinguish them in flight.

Black-tailed Godwits. Clive Timmons

And how can I talk about beautiful summer plumaged waders without mentioning Black-tailed Godwits! This rusty-orange plumage stands out wonderfully from the browns and greys of the mudflats. Enjoy this beauty when you can, because like the Grey Plover and the others, it will soon fade.

Don’t worry though; a host of colourful ducks have just arrived to provide another splash of colour to the mudflats.
A Black-Tailed Godwit in winter plumage, with a Wigeon.
Colum Clarke.

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