Tolka Branch Trip Report

 Slieve Bloom Mountains, Co. Offaly - 21st April 2012

by Gerald Franck
photos by Ciaran Walsh

The Tolka Branch outing for April was a trip to the Slieve Bloom Mountains. A motor rally taking place over the same weekend in the Slieve Beagh area of Monaghan had meant a change of destination for the outing. 

The group met up in the village of Kinnitty, and then travelled on towards Wolftrap Mountain, stopping along the road to scan over the landscape to the south. A male Siskin high in a larch tree gave brief views before moving off. Chaffinch, Raven, Wren and Woodpigeon appeared at intervals, but the main interest was provided by some Sika Deer in the valley below, so well camouflaged that even with the 'scopes it was difficult to pick them out. 

With no sign of Hen Harriers the group moved on towards the summit of Wolftrap Mountain, making the last part of the gentle climb on foot. With seemingly empty bog on either side, a heavy squall fast approaching, and only a singing Skylark for company, the wisdom of this ascent appeared questionable. 

Skylark at the Slieve Blooms (Photo by Ciaran Walsh)

However as the summit was gained, and the hail shower arrived, so the birds appeared. It was eyes in the back of the head time as 6 Red Grouse, 3 Snipe and Meadow Pipits were to be fleetingly seen in flight. A Curlew flew over and a group of Golden Plover was spotted, only when they briefly took flight could it be seen that the flock consisted of about 25 individuals. One member of the group had decided to return to the cars as the shower had arrived, and as a result was in the right place to get good views of a female Hen Harrier quartering over the bog. 

Red Grouse at the Slieve Blooms (Photo by Ciaran Walsh)

We then moved on to Monicknew Woods, a Blackcap singing near the car park as we walked down towards Monicknew Bridge and the walk along the stream. Walking under the bridge the leading group jumped out of their skins as a Dipper flew off its nest, situated as it was right beside the path. Unwittingly we had disturbed the birds, but it was impossible not to do so. As a result we got a great close up look at a Dipper nest, but so will everyone else when they pass that way. It was hard to be very optimistic about the chances of this nest remaining undisturbed. The walk along the stream was surprisingly quiet so it was decided to head to Glenbarrow in the hope of getting more sightings of Hen Harriers. Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs could be heard singing, and several Swallows seen as we made our way to Glenbarrow. We got several tantalizing, distant views of Harriers, and another Red Grouse showed up, but in general things remained distinctly on the quiet side. 

It was time to think about heading home, and returning to our first stopping point we got several more Siskins, along with Blackbirds, Chaffinch, Raven and a Kestrel. Returning through Kinnitty several House Martins were flying around, inspecting their nesting site on the gable end of one of the houses.

At 6.30 p.m. we decided to call it a day and headed back to Dublin satisfied that nothing new could match all the fabulous sightings we had seen over the whole day.  And for good measure a Buzzard on the M1 brought the trip full circle.

Golden Plover at the Slieve Blooms (Photo by Ciaran Walsh)



Copyright, Tolka Branch, Birdwatch Ireland 2006