There have been no birds in my blog since October. I looked through my files and opened one with a note saying “for revision”, a long forgotten walk along the estuary in Tramore, Co Waterford. This place is known for its great diversity of waterfowl, gull and wader species, especially in winter months, but there is a number of songbirds residing there throughout the year. I selected some photographs and was not surprised to find that all the birds were facing the same direction. They are facing the wind. They will fly into the wind using its energy and the currents.
The same like the airplanes, these Lapwings take off and land into the wind.
All young birds must learn it.
I spent hours there that day, till the golden sunset, and even after.
What I want to say is that facing the wind is an advantage. Wind is not an obstacle. Flying into the wind gives birds the lift they need, and control of flight. Birds knew this from the beginning of the World. When we face something that resists the forward motion, this might as well be the right time to fly.
February is my Blogoversary month. Thank you for your friendship and support. I love you all.
We are walking along the St. John’s River out of town, into the reed wetland. All the pictures for these blogs were taken in late autumn and winter when the reeds are golden and the trees are bare. No butterflies and wildflowers, but some bird species arrive from as far as Russia.
Alder cones are a source of food for many bird species, including this female Lesser redpoll.
Goldcrest is a busy bird with a high-pitched thin call and an acrobatic manner of foraging. Weighing only 5 gm, Goldcrest is Ireland’s, and also Europe’s, smallest bird.
Most of my pictures are about the walkway, but let’s see what is going on in the river itself.
There is a Cormorant supervising this stretch of the river. He perches on a tall pole waiting until the water is deep enough for his liking. If you are lucky, you can see him land on the surface and dive.
The cormorant swims on the water between dives, and after he is done fishing, he runs on the surface flapping his wings and making terrible noise that can be heard from a distance.
Then he returns to his pole.
Common chiffchaff is another visitor who shows up in March to stay over summer.
In the picture below, Friends of St. John’s River on their weekend rubbish pick mission. From what I observe, the housing estate across the river is the main source of chemical pollution. When somebody is doing laundry, all the detergent-polluted water is going straight into the river. I have seen a rat frantically trying to swim away from the milk-white stream spreading from a pipe. Littering is another problem. People walk home from the supermarket across the road munching on a bun or crisps, and while crossing the pedestrian bridge simple drop the empty plastic or paper bag in the water. Sometimes this is where a used shopping trolley goes too. Even in this remote area of the river I have seen many kinds of litter. Obviously, St. John’s river doesn’t have enough friends, which is sad.
A group of birch trees provides the last canopy of green over the walkway.
On the other side of the river stretches a sea of reed sprinkled with the islands of willow trees bursting with bird songs – Kilbarry Bog. I am glad it hadn’t been drained in the 19th century when St. John’s river was straightened in order to make a canal that would reach the seaside resort of Tramore. Now the wetland is a protected natural ecosystem. In these blog posts I shared photographs of many bird species, but there could be more. The reed swamp is an important summer home for Reed warbler. I don’t have pictures of Reed warblers – something to look forward.
A wide strip of reed separates us from the busy Tramore road and continues on the other side. Here we can see an occasional Blue tit and Wren.
There is always a wren somewhere 🙂
The old railway left the wetland and crossed over the Tramore road at the Black Rock. Here is another video – a piece of first-hand history.
Black Rock, the end of the river walkway.
However, we can turn to the left and walk along the Tramore road to the Ballindud Roundabout – we will, in a minute 🙂
According to Google Maps, the source of St. John’s River is somewhere there in the reeds…
I don’t always trust Google Maps. We keep walking in the direction of the roundabout. The river, hidden in the reeds, flows through the bog parallel to our path. Suddenly it makes a 90º curve so that we can see it again, and then disappears beneath the road! The tiny stream that emerges on the other side doesn’t have a name… It meets with other unnamed streams… I guess we won’t be able to identify the source, but we have found the place from where the unnamed stream becomes the St. John’s River 🙂
Thank you for loving our river! After the long and eventful walk I want to share a beautiful song for all those who love and respect nature, for all the Friends of the rivers and oceans, mountains and meadows, deserts and rain forests of the world.
Robert Burns and Rioghnach Connolly – Now Westlin Winds🙂
This is the part of the river you see from the Cherrymount foot bridge.
And this is the walkway.
You can hear birds sing on both sides of the river. I love taking photographs of birds simply to acknowledge their beautiful presence, but usually I make them a part of a composition. In these blog posts I share both kinds of pictures to showcase the diversity of bird species around the St. John’s River.
Magpies check the ground for crumbs and dog kibble.
Male Blackbird and female Chaffinches: size against the numbers 🙂
Male Blackbird stares disapprovingly, and continues his lunch. Blackbirds are sexually dimorphic species – males and females look very different.
This is a female Blackbird foraging in the undergrowth.
Beautiful Siskins more likely have traveled from Scandinavia or Russia. They arrived in flock, and I spotted them feeding in the Alder tree. In the photographs below: two males and a charming female Siskin.
Of course, there is always a curious Robin.
Male Chaffinch is singing his heart out.
The walkway is beautiful, with many species of trees and shrubs.
Golden willow on the other side of the river is a delightful sight in the grey of winter.
Daffodils planted by Friends are blooming from February.
There is a little pool I always worry about. Frogs are a rare sight, and each one is precious. Tadpoles stay in a tight group when the weather is cold. It takes one thirsty dog to gulp down a whole generation.
All four Tit species can be seen around St. John’s River.
This is a Great tit.
Who wouldn’t like this funny face 🙂
Blue tit is a stunningly colourful little bird. The hue of blue is the most vibrant in the winter months.
Coal tit has a distinctive white mark on the back of its head. Like the other tits, it is a busy and cheerful bird.
Tiny Long-tailed tit is another beauty in the family.
If Robin likes to watch you openly, from a close distance, Wren will stay behind the scenes. Don’t be fooled – Wren is always somewhere there 🙂
We will meet again in two weeks. Thank you for joining the walk!
St. John’s river walk continues 🙂 You will start at Poleberry, walk along the sport grounds and Tramore Road Business Park, cross the Inner Ring road and stop at the Cherrymount foot bridge. I will leave some short captions over the photographs – you can read them as you walk. But first please watch two videos.
A video courtesy of a Friend of St. John’s River Eoin Nevins brings you back to 2007 – it shows the part of the river you have visited in my previous blog posts.
The other video is about the old Waterford-Tramore railway. The part of the cycling/walkway you are on was constructed along the line of this railway and opened in August 2015.
Starlings gather on the sports field netting after the sunset.
Wrens are common on this stretch of the river. They will wait until you walk past, and start singing right behind your back.
Female Blackbird is jerking her tail in annoyance: too many dogs, too many people.
Cormorant is getting ready for his fishing trip.
Cormorants can stay under water a whole minute.
A couple of very shy Moorhens settled at this stretch of the river. They are safe behind the high fencing.
After crossing the Inner Ring road, you are greeted with the bird songs. This is a great bird watching opportunity close to the city boundaries.
Dunnock on the other side of the river sings his head off. Generally shy birds, Dunnocks are seldom seen in the open space. You can read some interesting facts about dunnocks in this article.
A great singer, Eurasian blackcap, could be a winter guest from the Central Europe. Irish population of Blackcaps migrate to North Africa in the autumn.
More wrens in the bushy area. They are one of my favorite birds.
The song thrush is speckled with dark heart-shaped spots, and both male and female look similar. The male Song thrush has a loud and clear song.
You can listen to the Blackbird’s song here to compare. The bird in the picture is a female, you can hear a female song in this video, just wait a couple of seconds. These birds are very vocal, and they have a range of warning calls.
The Collared dove and Wood pigeon are common along the river walk.
This is a male Collared dove, and he is singing ( look at his throat).
Female Collared dove.
Napping Wood pigeon.
This is our winter guest Redwing, a Thrush family bird from Iceland. More pictures in my blogpost here.
Greenfinch is also a rare guest.
Goldfinches are abundant around the Cherrymount foot bridge. When they are busy, you can come up quite close.
That is it for today. We continue our walk in two weeks. More bird sighting as you move closer to the source.
Looking into the viewfinder I spotted a tiny bird flitting about in the waist-high vegetation before it landed on top of the cement pole.
The bird looked like a young female, and later I learned it was a European stonechat. It was flipping from one pole to another, and finally settled so I could take these pictures. After about a minute of chirping there came a male stonechat.
I don’t know if they were a couple; they rather looked like a dad and a teenage daughter.
Your pole looks nicer. Can I come over?
No way. Stay where you are!
Didn’t you hear me? Don’t even try!
But she already took off and landed almost on top of his head.
I walked about a mile and sat on a bench to rest and enjoy the evening light. A Grey heron was standing in the middle of the river, quiet and patient skinny bird looking grave and funny at the same time. I thought I might stay and wait for him to catch a fish.
No such luck. He changes position, striking at imaginary prey.
Maintaining his dignity he takes off and departs. So do I.
Another half an hour back to the parking lot. Stress management: accomplished 🙂
A blogger friend Aquileana, inspiring mythology expert and a lovely person has nominated me for a Versatile blogger award. I am very honored and grateful for the nomination, especially from Aquileana who is such a great example of knowledge and personal charisma.
Here are the Award Rules:
1) The nominee shall display the Versatile blogger Award logo on her/his blog.
2) The nominee shall nominate ten (10) bloggers she/he admires, by linking to their blogs and informing them about it.
Here are the bloggers I nominate for this award. Please visit their blogs!
Photography tip of the day: There is a link to the page where professional photographers share their advice. I have noticed ( and not only in this article) that the younger photographers often use the word “confidence” . Their older colleagues don’t seem to care:)