Wednesday 29 March 2023

This brightly-coloured finch which is about the same size as a robin has become a familiar sight at garden nut feeders in recent years. Striking black and yellow wings usually catch the eye first, but the scarlet red "face" and black and white head markings are equally eye catching. Younger birds lack the colourful face markings. The bird frequently calls during flight and can occur in large flocks.

Juvenile goldfinch
The best way to tell the difference between a male and a female Goldfinch is the amount of red on their head - for males, the red extends behind the eye, but for females it doesn't!


Goldfinches prefer to feed on fine seeds, but in summer they will eat insects and in winter they will eat peanuts at garden feeders. In the wider countryside that means the seeds from grasses, dandelions, ragwort, teasels and thistles - so that rough un-mowed patch at the back of your garden or side of your field is really valuable for them! Believe it or not, it's only in the last 30 years they've started coming to bird feeders before that they were very rare in gardens!

Goldfinch feeding on thistle seeds

“The Birds of Ireland”, in 1900 describes the goldfinch as “Resident, widely distributed. Breeds in every county, but is rare where bird-catching is rife”. Thankfully the goldfinch is still widespread and the trapping of wild birds has been illegal in Ireland since 1931.


Goldfinches are partial migrants - some stay in Ireland for the winter, and others fly abroad. Their movements vary year-to-year depending on conditions - so if it’s cold in the UK we might get some of their birds over here, and some of the Goldfinches from the colder parts of Ireland and the UK might move south to Spain and France. So that Goldfinch on your feeder this winter might be from the hedgerow in the field at the back of the house, but it might be from much further away too!


If you would like to record the birds you see in your garden this winter then why not get involved with the Garden Bird Survey organised by BirdWatch Ireland where each week over the Winter months you make note of the highest number of birds of each species that you see in your garden. 

Goldfinch feeding on nyjer seeds

Goldfinch-friendly plants for your garden include lavender, dandelions, sunflowers and teasels; and their preferred feeder food is sunflower hearts followed by nyger seeds, then sunflower seeds and then peanuts.

Post by Tom Broe  (Cavan Branch Secretary )

Photos by Liz Mc Kenna

Information on BWI Garden Bird Survey

Thursday 25 November 2021

WETLAND BIRDS OF COUNTY CAVAN ,Presentation by Niamh Fitzgerald Sunday 7th November, Killeshandra.

Niamh Fitzgerald, national co-ordinator of the Irish Wetland Bird Survey, gave a very enjoyable presentation on the birds you might find on Cavan lakes. She talked about distinguishing features of water birds – for instance the mute swan has an orange bill, while whooper swans have a yellow more wedge shaped bill. She highlighted all the striking plumages of the male ducks you might see (females are usually a variety of shades of brown to help them camouflage in the reeds during breeding season) and spoke of the different shapes of these birds as very often you might only see a silhouette in the poor Winter daytime light and being able to recognise a longer neck or a tuft of hair as in the case of the tufted duck may be the only clue to identify the bird. She also gave helpful tips on how to estimate the size of flocks as its not always easy to count individual birds and many flocks contain multiple species.

Thankfully when we got to Derrybrick Lake the sun was still out and we were able to see a wide variety of water birds including: mute swans, whooper swans, tufted ducks, mallards, wigeon, great-crested grebes, coots and canada geese. We were particularly fortunate to see a flock of lapwing land at the waters edge.

Special thanks to Niamh Fitzgerald for an excellent presentation, to Ben Malone from the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO) for coordinating the day and to Anne and Anna May for getting Killeshandra Community Hall ready and providing refreshments.

Report and Photos by Tom Broe, Branch Sec.

This event was supported by the Cavan Branch of Birdwatch Ireland and the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO).

Saturday 2 May 2020

Memories of the Dawn Chorus May Events

Blackcap by Michael Mc Nulty

This is a very special time of year and the countryside is alive with birdsong. One of our most popular Brach events The Dawn Chorus walks have had to be cancelled this year due to the Corona virus Restrictions. Although disappointing, we do understand how important it is to stay at home and within our 2km range while out walking.

However, it's not all bad news! We can still all enjoy birdsong in our gardens and while out walking for the next number of weeks.Although the events are  cancelled ,the birds will continue to sing!

 It really does enrich a walk to take time to stop and listen to the birdsong. It 's an added bonus if you can identify the song that you are hearing but not necessary to enjoy the experience!

There is a lot of information online to help you identify birdsong. Follow link below
Green News Birdsong

Follow link below to listen to a Dawn Chorus and enjoy!
Dawn Chorus recording from The Mooney Show RTE

A superb Dawn Chorus Soundscape by RSPB well worth checking out!

MyFlickr Album -Birds of the Cavan Countryside in Spring.
Countryside Birds

Below are some memories from past Dawn Chorus events held in the County over the last number of years.  This year would have marked the 14th year of the Dawn Chorus walk in Castle Lake Forest. At this stage the event has become like an annual reunion for the regular Dawn Chorus participators. Over the years people have come along with cakes and treats to enjoy after the walk. All very much appreciated!

I will miss meeting everyone again this year and hope we can meet up again same time next year! Stay safe and stay well.

Best Wishes

Below is a selection of  posts and photographic memories from past events at Castle Lake Forest, Bailieborough and events that took place in West Cavan over the years.

 Castle Lake Forest May 2010

 Dawn Chorus Belturbet 2018

Dawn Chorus 2018 Belturbet

report by Heather 

A 4.30 a.m start is likely to test the strongest of wills; yet a good turn-out of 11 interested people met at Turbet island carpark to greet the day. A song thrush on a nearby TV aerial  started our listening and was soon followed by the blackbird; with less musical notes from the grey crow in the background!
The walk is an enjoyable loop of a very easy grade and very popular with locals. Bats swooped overhead as we passed through the wooded area. The mist rose off the river and looked very atmospheric as the sun rose. A single grey heron stood still on a tuft mid-stream  looking very statuesque.
The list of heard birds was typical for a dawn walk; robin, wren, rook, blackcap, dunnock, goldcrest, wood pigeon, blue tit, great tit, chaffinch, willow warbler all were heard singing.
With the daylight, visibility improved and we saw pied and grey wagtail, ,mallard, bullfinch, mute swan, swallow, coot, jackdaw, starling sand and house martin.
The walk ended with a much-appreciated mug of tea and scone. Thanks to all who attended and those with sharp ears for identifying individual species out of the vast display of song.

Castle Lake Forest 2013

Report by Elizabeth
The group met at the Castle Lake car park at 4.30am on Sunday 19th May. Thankfully it was a pleasant dry morning. Birds such as song thrush, mistle thrush and blackbird were already singing and a few bats were having a final feed before heading to roost as we set out from the car park. 
Over the course of our walk around the lake the songs of many species of bird were heard including wren, robin, chaffinch, goldcrest, blackcap, chiffchaff and willow warbler. A whitethroat was also heard in the young conifer plantation- a new record for the forest! We were also treated to brief views of a sparrowhawk.
We stopped at the lake to view the great crested grebes and to listen to the song of a
sedge warbler. There was great excitement to see that the mute swans had hatched at least 4 new cygnets! 

We finished up the morning with tea and refreshments and an added treat for all was close-up views of a treecreeper. We watched him feed as we enjoyed our tea and treats.
Thanks to everyone who brought along refreshments on the day - much appreciated!

Castle Lake Forest 2011(Olive, Mary and Patricia. Dawn Chorus regulars and treat suppliers!)

Castle Lake Forest 2011
Report by Elizabeth

A National Dawn Chorus day outing took place at the Castle Lake Woods on Sunday 15 May. We gathered in the car park at 4.30am. It was great to see such a good turn out so early in the morning. As we began our walk we enjoyed the sight of bats flying overhead and the sound of thrushes and blackbirds which had already begun singing. Over the course of the walk we recorded many species including sedge warbler, blackcap, chiffchaff, willow warbler and reed bunting.  We finished off the morning with a cup of tea and refreshments. Thanks to Mary, Olive and Patricia for the buns and homemade bread!
Castle Lake Forest 2014

Castle Lake forest 2012
Report by Elizabeth

The group met up at the car park of the castle-lake woods at 4.30am on Sunday 20th May.  The sun was already beginning to rise, and the song of blackbirds and song thrushes and the sight of mist rising over the lake made for a very atmospheric start. We enjoyed the song of a variety of birds including sedge warbler, willow warbler, chiffchaff but possibly the most impressive singer was the blackcap, quite a few of which were noted during the walk. We got great views of a pair of bullfinches and also some lovely views of a goldcrest before pausing along our route to observe the lakeside birds - a mute swan on the nest along with good numbers of great crested grebes, one of which was observed on a floating nest. The real treat of the morning was a sighting of a red squirrel which distracted our attention away from the birds for a few moments. All agreed that a walk in the forest at dawn is certainly a worthwhile experience! We enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and a good chat before heading home. A special thank you to all who brought along  refreshments. 

Farnham Estate May 2011
Report by Heather: 2011

We walked from the hotel to Farnham lake through some very nice habitat of old mixed woodland, big mature oak pines and fir. At the beginning all three thrushes and robins were serenading us. As light increased wrens, goldcrests, and the warblers joined in. Chaffinch, bluetit and coal tit near the end. We picked up swans, coots, greatcrested grebes, herons and mallard at the lake. No sign of terns or blackheaded gulls ( this was  a breeding site in the past). The highlight for me was a red squirrel moving about the front lawn of the big house where there are several very old big conifers.
The Cavan branch is very grateful to the Farnham estate for permission to visit such a rich  interesting habitat . It has interesting native flora with a high density of song birds.

Garvagh Lough 2012
report by Heather
Dawn chorus 2012 at Garvagh lough, which is in west Cavan, near Blacklion  was a very enjoyable morning.   Situated in an upland area we got fine views of Cuillcagh mountain and neighbouring hills. We compiled a diverse list of songsters with highlights of cuckoo, skylark, meadow pipit,whitethroat, stonechat and flocks of redpoll. (the total was 29 species) The area is to be highly recommended not just for the birds , but also the orchids , rare plants and rare butterflies. 

Arva 2013

Report By Heather.
The Cavan branch of birdwatch Ireland took the annual dawn chorus walk
 to Arva this year. This is a chance to celebrate spring and publicise birdwatch ireland. It was a mild morning after the previous days rain and there was lots of bird activity. plenty of singing thrushes, blackbirds, robins, wrens, goldcrests and warblers including whitethroat. We walked up Brankill lane and down to Garty lough. Afterwards the intrepid Arva birdwatchers gathered in the Breffni Arms for coffee , with many thanks to Eamon Gray who had not long been to bed!

Castle Lake 2016 PJ provides a Cake to celebrate 10 years of The Dawn Chorus!

Killeshandra 20 15
Killeshandra By Heather
4.30 a.m. saw a slightly smaller group of birdwatchers (4 to be exact!) congregate at Town lake in Killeshandra. Bats swooped overhead and 2 herons flew to shore to investigate as we started off along the lake. The earliest singers were the robin, song thrush and blackbird, joined later by a whole host of birds; willow warbler, wren, blackcap, wood pigeon, chaffinch, goldcrest, chiffchaff, moorhen, sedge warbler, grey wagtail, collared dove, swallow, starling, coal tit, treecreeper, blue tit and great tit. The woods varies from native trees to coniferous plantation and one of our group remarked on the noticeable difference in levels of birdsong leaving the former and walking through the latter.
The slightly less musical tones of the jackdaw was dominant as daylight brought us from our loop through Derrygid woods back to the lake. Things were busy on the water with a flock of juvenile mute swans, some great crested grebes, a black-backed gull, an unidentified duck in the distance with a brood of ducklings as well as a Canada goose. Town lake has numerous colourful birdboxes built by local Cub Scouts which brighten up the trees!
Garden warblers have been sighted in these woods in previous years, these are a scarce summer visitor so a trip to Killeshandra might be rewarding! 

A Special memory of  PJ (RIP) May 2016

Castle Lake 2014

  report by Elizabeth
We met up at the Castle Lake forest lakeshore car park on Sunday 17 May at 4.30am for our Dawn Chorus walk. As we gathered in the car park to set off on our walk around the lake, we had the pleasure of listening to the beautiful songs of the blackbird and song thrush who were already in full song by 4.30am!

There were still a few bats on the wing as we set off, and it was not long before we started to also hear the song of the robin and wren. As it brightened up, we were able to observe nesting great crested grebes,moorhen, mallards and mute swans on the lake. No sign of any cygnets just yet but hopefully they should hatch any day now! Further on, we stopped  to listen to a variety of bird song including goldcrest, chaffinch, willow warbler, blackcap and chiffchaff. It was a lovely surprise for us all when we encountered a red squirrel during the course of our walk as this species is on the list of endangered species for Ireland! 

A special thanks to PJ Byrne for adding an additional interesting route to our walk this year. We finished up with a nice cup of tea and a chat in the car park before heading home. Thanks to all for bringing along refreshments to share.

Tuesday 4 February 2020

Outing to Lough Sheelin Sunday 9th February

Mallard (Liz Mc Kenna)

A Branch outing to the shores of Lough Sheelin will take place on Sunday 9th February. 

Meet at  the car park of The Crover House Hotel at  9.30am

We will car share from this point and visit a number of sites in the area. 

The shooting season has now ended ,so hopefully there will be a good number of birds present!

This event should last approx 2 hours. It is recommended to wear warm waterproof clothing and footwear.

Link here for directions to Crover House Hotel 

Branch contact on the day is Michael on 086 8854989.

Beginners welcome! 

Tuesday 7 January 2020

Outing to Lough Oughter Complex

Whooper Swans with  Mute Swans ( photo Liz Mc Kenna)

A Branch outing to The Lough Oughter Complex will take place on Sunday next 12th January.

Meet at Milltown Lake, Drumlane Abbey Car Park at 10am. 

We will carry out I-WeBs counts in the area with a particular interest in Whooper swan counts for the International Swan Census.This Census takes place every 5 years to order to monitor the status of Whooper and Bewick swans. 

The weekend of 11/12 January is International Swan Census day and if you happen to see any Whooper (or Bewick) Swans at any locations around the County in the next week, Please forward details of the location, flock number, date and time to Brian Burke at Brian would really appreciate any information provided.

For information on this important survey click the following link International Swan Census 2020

More information on Whooper swans click here Whooper swans ID

More information on I-WeBs click here Irish wetland Bird Survey

Event to last approx 2 hours. Warm waterproof clothing and footwear recommended.

Branch Contact on the day is Michael Mc Kiernan 086 8854989 (Branch Chairperson)

Upcoming Event

 February Sunday 9th  Lough Sheelin's shores. 

Meet at Crover House Hotel carpark at 9.30 am

March Sunday 8th Dundalk BayMeet at the Spirit Store,Dundalk Docks at 11am. 

There is parking in the car park at Lidl which is close by.

Friday 22 November 2019

November Outing to Dundalk Bay

Teal by Colette Gemmell

Redshank by Colette Gemmell

Lapwing by Colette Gemmell

Oystercatchers and redshank by Colette Gemmell

oystercatchers and knot by Colette Gemmell

 Gulls and waders in flight at Dundalk Docks by Colette Gemmell

Curlew by Colette Gemmell

Turnstone and knot at Blackrock by Colette Gemmell

A number of enthusiastic birders and photographers braved the cold for a trip to Dundalk Bay on Sunday 17th November.

We met up at the Docks and later went on to the Park between the two bridges.

Here we enjoyed good views of a variety of waders.

Later we went to Navvy Bank to search for the Short billed Dowitcher, but with no success.

Navvy Bank Walk by Catherine Waldron

Lapwing at Navvy Bank by Liz Mc Kenna

Lurgangreen by Catherine Waldron

We drove around by Blackrock and then on to Lurgangreen.

The tide was high so a lot of waders were roosting. We completed the day with a drive by Seabank.

A good variety of birds were seen with the slavonian grebe and a merlin being the highlight!

Many thanks to all who attended.

Report by ,Michael Mc Kiernan