Eight of us took a trip to Ireland in late May/early June to golf, see the country, and, of course for me, to informally bird watch. In the meantime, while I was abroad, I heard from three Munds Park residents who sent me their photos of two birds we have here: Western Tanager and Yellow-Headed Blackbird.
The Western Tanager is a brightly colored, red headed/yellow bodied/black-winged bird that appears in late spring. Western Tanagers are stocky song birds that inhabit coniferous environments, foraging though the upper parts of pine and juniper branches in a methodical manner. They don’t frequent seed feeders but can be attracted with fresh or dried fruit. I’ve read that their song is a hoarse, American Robin-type song, but I don’t think I’ve ever recognized it. Note to self: pay more attention to what bird songs you are hearing, especially right before dusk. I need to make myself differentiate between the song of the Western Tanager and the Black-Headed Grosbeak.
The photo I received from a reader of the Yellow-Headed Blackbird was taken at Lake Odell. I saw these Blackbirds this year also at the pond on the Pinewood Country Club golf course between #1 and #10. And, exciting news, the Ospreys are again nesting in the same tree as last year to the south of #13 on the golf course. I haven’t been around enough to know how many birds are in the nest. But it sure it fun to make the turn at 12 and look up to see the nest and know the birds still favor Munds Park.
As for Ireland, birding there was easier than in Africa, where we were last year. Ireland has a human population of only four and a half million people, and the bird population parallels that statistic. Ireland has a rather low number of bird species because of its isolation. I bought a field guide, The Birds of Ireland by Jim Wilson, and packed my pair of binoculars along with its shoulder harness, and was able to see 35 new bird species without going off our travel itinerary. Ireland has a Blackbird, which is the size and shape of our American Robin, and it I completely black except for a bright yellow beak. Their Robin is red/orange from the beak to the breast, and when I spotted it, it flitted like a fly-catcher rather than moved like our Robin. On the final afternoon we were in Dublin, I took a walk through a city park and saw three life-birds in the span of an hour: Robin, Tufted Duck, and Grey Wagtail. The Wagtails really do wag their tails, and I found two species, the Grey and the Pied.
Ireland’s one-and-only Swallow is very similar to our Barn Swallow, and the House Martin, which our group identified while we were in a golf course clubhouse sipping on pints of Guinness, is a lot like our Violet Green Swallow.
The Blue Tit and Great Tit resemble our Mountain Chickadees. I saw my first Ireland’s Hooded Crow in a little village we stopped at for ice cream (Irish people love their ice cream, and large ice cream cone statues in front of stores indicate that you can find some there). Unlike our American Crow, which is all black, the Hooded Crow is part grey and part black, and therefore rather easy to contrast with another bird in Ireland, the Raven.
What was my favorite bird of Ireland? It had to be the Lapwing. The Lapwing resembles a Killdeer, but it has a top-knot similar to our Gamble’s Quail, which is found only in our desert, not at higher elevations. The Lapwing is featured in the logo for the Portmarnock Golf Club in Dublin, so I just had to buy myself one of the golf shirts there to wear as a fond memory of our golf and birding.