Tag Archives: ornithology

An Autumn Anachronism

Autumn is at its peak at the moment, but amazingly, after three freezing nights and with temperatures of -1 C predicted for tonight, there are still Swallows to be seen in the sky. The photo below is not particularly good, but I took it shortly before sunset this afternoon when a flock of about seven swallows flew overhead and made their way south. I’m fairly certain this is the latest I have ever seen these summer migrants in Irish skies. Keep your eyes on the skies – you never know what you might see.

A poor photo, but a Swallow in a November sky nonetheless.

Stunners in the Undergrowth

One of the most beautiful creatures in the Wicklow countryside is the male Ring-necked Pheasant. It is as beautiful as the most exotic birds of the most far-distant jungles, and more gaudy than even the Resplendent Quetzel. The territorial call of the male pheasant is now a fundamental part of the background noise of Ireland, but it wasn’t always the case. These birds genuinely are exotic, having been introduced into Europe from southern Asia in the 18th century by hunters. And those poor creatures certainly were hunted, to the point where it’s hard to understand how it could be considered a “sport”. For example, most hunters kept copious notebooks recording the amount of pheasants they shot during their careers. Lord Carnarvon, who famously financed Howard Carter’s archaeological excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt, is said to have personally killed almost 23 million (23,000,000) pheasants! It boggles the mind. Clearly a man with too much time on his hands.

A male Ring-neck Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) at the edge of some rushes on the East Coast Nature Reserve near the village of Newcastle.

Anyhow, at this time of year the pheasants comprising the wild (naturalised) populations in Ireland can be found hiding in the long grasses of meadows, woodland and roadside verges and in the rushes around lakes and rivers in Ireland. The magnificent males are now usually accompanied by small hareems of superbly-camouflaged females. They are so well camouflaged that they can simply stand still in a field and disappear.

A hen Pheasant cautiously stalking across a field recently cut for sileage.