Monday, 8 October 2012

Belted Kingfisher ... should have been a Kingbird.

Not The Fens!!!

Saturday 6th October 2012
Heading West across Ireland as the sun rose behind us.
An eventful ferry crossing (courtesy of a very, very drunk and slightly bonkers Irishman) eventually led to us dashing across Ireland in search of our prize - the Eastern Kingbird, the first ever to be seen this side of the Atlantic. But, for some, there was potentially more bounty to be had as the description of a kingfisher received yesterday seemed bang on for a Belted. I'd seen the famous Shugborough bird in 2005, which did a Friday night flit and was refound later in Aberdeenshire, only to do another Friday night flit leaving many with a big double disappointment.

But, in typical birding fashion, it didn't take long for another mood change, as news filtered through that there was no sign of the Eastern Kingbird on Inishmore Island. But we don't give up that easily, so we carried on to the ferry terminal at Rossaveal where several car loads of birders congregated and discussed plans of action - to go for the Belted Kingfisher and risk not getting on the boat if the Kingbird was found, or to at least give it till 10:30, when the ferry would depart, before giving up on it.
Obviously some were most keen to get to the BK. Others saw it as a very poor consolation prize - amazing to think that such a mega bird as this, a giant kingfisher from all the way across the ocean, could be thought of in such a way.
Eventually a compromise was reached as we managed to arrange that the ferry would do a special run for us later in the day should the Kingbird be refound.

So the secondary twitch was on, across the astoundingly beautiful countryside of Connemara. We arrived at Lough Fee and it wasn't long before someone spotted the Kingfisher perched in a loughside bush near the road. But it was quite a wary bird, raising its crest and cocking its tail, and it soon flew low over the water along the lough and around the corner. But it didn't take long to refind and showed pretty well for a couple of hours, though it was always mobile and we never saw it catch a fish. We did hear its delightful, rattling, Gatling gun call several times, usually uttered as it landed.

Belted Kingfisher - a very rare bird on this side of the Atlantic.
My second, so scant consolation for the missing Kingbird.

The BK favoured this sheltered bay on Lough Fee.
Had it been in England there may have been a few more cars!
Meanwhile, there continued to be negative news of the Kingbird on the nearby Inishmore Island, so we began to make plans to check out the gardens on nearby Slyne Head, just in case any more transatlantic vagrants had been dumped down on the Irish coast. That was until, quite incredibly, the Kingfisher decided enough was enough and flew high south...very high. In fact it flew so high that only two of us managed to track it as it flew over the mountains and became an ever diminishing dot, before suddenly plummeting downwards, seemingly into the next valley.
Mindful that many of the twitchers who had come for the Kingbird would be pretty desperate to catch up with this belted beauty, we decided to at least take a cursory drive into the next valley and check the banks of Kylemore Lough, though chances of relocating the bird would be small.
Now, Kylemore Lough was more a series of loughs and lakes and many of the best looking overhanging trees were unviewable from the road. Eventually we found ourselves on a bridge across the water, a popular place for tourists to stop and photograph the dramatic scenery in which was set the monumental Kylemore Abbey.
The view on one side of the bridge.

and on the other side, Kylemore Abbey.
It was as we stood here that, to our utter amazement, low over the water and right over our heads, came the kingfisher! It continued towards the abbey and, despite us willing it to land again, carried on straight over the end of the lake. From there the map showed a stream or river continuing the last few kilometers back to the coast.
At least we could let the other teams of birders know its last known location, but for us the rest of the day would be spent searching likely spots for any more rarities.

We had no more luck, and the Kingbird never was refound, so there was nothing for it but to head back across Ireland toward the late evening ferry. We did hear on the way that another team of birders had managed to refind the Kingfisher in the vicinity of the abbey, but that it had again flown and eluded everybody else later that day.

I arrived back on the farm in The Fens and set my alarm for sunrise, in 2 hours time!

Can't wait for the next one.

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