Friday, 18 January 2013

Outing – Sunday 13th January – Lough Gowna & Glen Lough Nature Reserve, Edgeworthstown.

A special word of thanks to Tom Murtagh for guiding the outing to Gowna and Glen lough and to Clare Driver and Michael Mc Kiernan for providing the lovely photos.

A report by Tom on the outing follows:

Photo by Clare Driver - mute swans
As with our winter 2011 visit to Lough Gowna, the weather conditions on Sunday last (13th January) were anything but conducive to an enjoyable days birding. Despite temperatures managing only a few degrees above freezing and persistent drizzle throughout the morning, those who braved the elements had an interesting day’s birding around Lough Gowna and nearby Glen Lough Nature Reserve at Edgeworthstown (Co. Longford).

Swam Lake Gowna

Our first stop was at Swan Lake, near Lough Gowna village,in south Co. Cavan, where a sizeable flock of Mallard (c.150—200) were observed.  Small numbers of Teal and Wigeon were also present, as was a solitary Shoveler and a few Great Crested Grebes.

Photo by Clare Driver - Whooper Swans at Church Lake
The group’s next stop was Church Lake, an inlet of Lough Gowna, near the village, with good access and viewing via a lane way from the Aughnacliffe Road. It was here that our “birds of the day” were spotted – a pair of Great Northern Divers. These birds are winter visitors to Ireland from northern climates - probably Iceland, Greenland or possibly Canada. The main wintering populations of Great Northern Divers in Ireland are to be found in coastal waters from Donegal to Cork. They are rarely observed on inland lakes.  On Church Lake, good views were had of the divers, with the mist and drizzle abating somewhat as the morning wore on. Our sighting of these birds was a real bonus and reward for those who ventured out in very trying weather conditions.

Photo by Clare Driver - Distant view of the great northern divers
 Also of note at Church Lake, was a flock of Whooper Swans, approx. 70 birds, with a small number of Mute Swans in the mix, all grazing in fields overlooking the lake. A small party of Lapwing and a pair of Goldeneye made up the species tally for this site.
Photo by Michael Mc Kiernan - Some of the group at church lake 
Our travels next took us along the western shore of Lough Gowna towards Erne Head and Dring, and along the way further small flocks of Goldeneye and Wigeon were spotted, also some Cormorants and a Kestrel at Dernaferst.

In the late afternoon, the group made the short road trip to visit Glen Lough Nature Reserve on the Longford/Westmeath border, near Edgeworthstown in Co Longford. At this stage, although visibility was still poor with lingering mist, the drizzle had cleared  and the temperature had recovered a few degrees. Glen Lough is a National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Reserve and is a designated Special Protection Area (SPA) under the Birds Directive. Its importance is, in the main, as a wintering wildfowl habitat. On our visit, Whooper and Mute Swan were noted, also Mallard, Little Grebe, Grey Heron and Water Rail (heard). Whooper Swan numbers here on the day were small, but regularly recorded numbers reach 100+ at this site. Also, a variety of duck species recorded here regularly (Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted Duck) were absent on the day.The scarcity of ducks however was somewhat compensated for by a good showing of raptors, with several Buzzard, a Sparrow Hawk and a Kestrel observed. We were also treated to good views of a pair of Stonechats in the nearby reed beds.

Photo by Clare Driver - stonechat at Glen Lough Nature Reserve
The viewing experience at Glen Lough Reserve is enhanced by the availability of a purpose build hide, provided by the NPWS, which offered a welcome shelter from the chilly January air for our intrepid birders ! There was a general consensus that this site is well worth a return visit in more favourable weather conditions!