Tolka Branch Trip Report

 Slieve Beach, Monaghan - 19th April 2014

by Frank Turpin

The day dawned bright and breezy promising good birding and so it proved as we headed for Monaghan to track down Hen Harriers, Red Grouse and maybe Cuckoo.  Fourteen of us gathered at the first viewing spot after finding the elusive left turn for the “Penal Cross” on the road from Monaghan Town to Tydavnet.  Almost immediately a fine male Hen Harrier showed well off to our left.  Shortly later two ringtails, possibly a female and an immature, were on view to our right.  It was not long before a striking male Red Grouse was sighted below the road.  We had good views of the grouse flying. Their strange whirring flight is surprisingly strong. There we heard and saw, distantly, a Cuckoo.  

As the day progressed we had several more sightings of the Hen Harriers including nice views of a male perching prominently in a conifer.  We also had another Red Grouse who condescended to do a good imitation of the one adorning the “Famous” Scotch Whiskey label.  This was on the north side of Slieve Beagh and actually in Tyrone.  Here also, a Sparrowhawk was spotted flying at pace along the tree line. 

Other observations included several Swallows as we drove to the site, many Willow Warblers seen and heard, Chiffchaffs heard, Redpolls, Chaffinches, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tits, Song Thrush, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Robin.  Our illustrious leader also spotted a male Blackcap

Very interesting was a very tatty and faded Red Admiral seen feeding. It had obviously been able to survive over the mild winter.  Other butterflies seen included Orange Tips, Tortoiseshells and a Peacock.   

Four cars headed for Lurgangreen in a futile search for the Avocets reported that morning.  This group did see and were impressed by the new Oscar Merne hide. One other car driving home added a Common Buzzard to our raptor count. 

A good outing was enjoyed by all.  The weather cooperated and the target species were all spotted.



© Copyright, Tolka Branch, Birdwatch Ireland 2014