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A Rosy Kind of Day

December 13, 2015  •  3 Comments

It has been quite some time since I found the time, energy and urgency to get out and about with my binoculars and camera. Too long, in fact. I was trying to figure out the last time I took out the camera with any anger at all. It has been that kind of year really. Full of activity, full of tasks, jobs, and duties. Not much time for hobbies or such. Not much time for sitting still for a few hours, with only the bite of winter's cold for company. No time for the purpose of numbing one's toes being to photograph a chosen subject. It had been quite a while since I had done that and I looked forward to the cold, cramps, numbness and chilled bones. I like the wait. I like the quiet. I like the calmness that it brings. People often ask whether or not I get bored sitting in one spot for hours. I generally don't. I find it cathartic to be honest. And I needed to find some catharsis. 

The subject of this first outing in quite some time was a juvenile Rosy Starling in Howth, Co. Dublin, which was a great find by Dublin-based birdwatcher, Mark Stewart. Rosy Starlings breed in easternmost Europe and migrate westwards towards Asia. Ireland gets one or two stragglers  of this species every year, but typically on the south coasts. It would be my fourth time seeing one in Ireland. It was a good bird for Dublin. 

Rosy Starling (Pastor roseus)Rosy Starling (Pastor roseus)

The bird was there when I arrived, just on the southern side of the harbour on the water front. It was feeding voraciously in amongst the rotting seaweed, accompanied by our resident Eurasian Starlings (or Eurasian Starlings having arrived here for the winter from mainland Europe). The juvenile birds are generally tatty and in moult when they arrive here. They stand out from the Eurasian Starlings in that they are very pale, have dark wings and have very pale and long legs. The adults are much more striking, with vivid pink and black plumage. While sitting there, along with Rob Vaughan (one of the best wildlife illustrator's I know), a few of the local Eurasian Starlings and Pied Wagtails came to visit and walk around our feet. They were obviously used to the local humans feeding them. Always nice to see up close. The colours on the winter plumaged Eurasian Starlings are quite something and often overlooked, I feel. 

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (Glasóg shráide)Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (Glasóg shráide) The Rosy Starling stayed with us for about 20 minutes and then flew off. It came back after about 45 minutes, stayed for another 10 minutes then flew off again back in the same direction. I got a call from Rob, who had moved on to look for the bird, to say he had found it a couple of hundred meters away in the neighbouring cove. The bird was showing down to a few metres in front of the gathering birdwatchers, showing no fear at all. With that news, I got back up from my cramped sitting position and made my way to the cove. And I was glad I did. The Rosy Starling was indeed showing down to a few metres, as it busily fed on invertebrates and insects under the foliage along the edge of a concrete stand. It was a cracking bird. The only problem here was that there was no light at all. The light was stopped by the high cliffs and the eastern facing vista and absorbed by the dark clouds. The downside to the dark and dreary Irish winter weather is that it makes for slow shutter speeds despite using a high ISO. However, it was great just watching the Rosy Starling go about its business. It did look a bit ill, with drooping open wings and constant retching-like actions.

MC000165 RosyMC000165 Rosy Rosy Starling (Pastor roseus)Rosy Starling (Pastor roseus) Rosy Starling (Pastor roseus)Rosy Starling (Pastor roseus)

MC000401 RosyMC000401 Rosy MC000493 RosyMC000493 Rosy MC000381 RosyMC000381 Rosy MC000453 RosyMC000453 Rosy MC000633 RosyMC000633 Rosy MC000667 RosyMC000667 Rosy

What was quite a lovely surprise on this particular day was a pair of extremely tame Stonechats that fed around our feet as we watched the Rosy Starling. The tamest Stonechats I have ever experienced. Stunning little birds. 

European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) So it was a good few hours spent out in the cold grip of a winter's morning. The Rosy Starling was seen again the following day but it has not been seen since, as far as I know. I just hope the bird decided to move on to a different location rather than moved on to the lunch menu for the local critters of Howth. 


Comments

Dave Galavan(non-registered)
great find Mark. I'll be more vigilant in Howth from now on. Super commentary also.
Mary(non-registered)
Good to get out in the fresh air and get to see some beautiful birds
Brian Carruthers(non-registered)
Good one Mark
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