Rare bird sightings in County Clare

Rare bird sightings in County Clare


Surf Scoter
Surf Scoter in flight. Pic John Murphy

A species of sea duck more commonly found along the Californian coastline has been sighted in County Clare, according to the Chairperson of the Clare Branch of Birdwatch Ireland.

Sightings of the Surf Scoter have been recorded in Liscannor Bay and at Gleninagh Castle, near Blackhead.

Surf Scoters are more typically found in Pacific coastal locations of the United States and also in Baja California (Mexico). They feed mostly on freshwater invertebrates, especially molluscs.

Ecologist John Murphy from Ballycar said the appearance of the bird on Clare’s coastline is most likely the result of “reverse migration”, whereby a bird’s genetically programmed migratory route is thrown off-kilter.

John Murphy
John Murphy

“The Surf Scoters sighted in Clare most likely ended up here while migrating north over Alaska and the Canadian Arctic. It is likely their journey took them over the North Pole, into Siberia and west to Ireland via Scandinavia where they linked up with Common Scoters.

“Common Scoters are relatively common visitors to Clare. I would expect their Californian cousins to migrate north with them to Iceland during April and May,” said Mr. Murphy.

Meanwhile, a rare of sighting of a Canadian Black Brent Goose was recorded at Aughinish Island, near New Quay, on Monday. This is only the second every reported sighting of the bird in Clare.

John Murphy said: “This bird most likely joined in with Pale Belly Brent Geese from Arctic Canada as they migrated across the Atlantic last October. This bird has obviously been here for a number of months but has only been sighted in recent days.”

Meanwhile, Clare Birdwatch has confirmed that the iconic Puffins have returned to the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. Over 20 Puffins arrived back to breeding holes at Goat Island, the Cliffs of Moher this week.