Ornithological Notes from North-western Ireland, Warren 1899

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By Robert Warren.


It may interest some of the readers of 'The Zoologist' to learn that the White Wagtails (Motacilla alba) have again visited the island of Bartragh (Killala Bay) this season on their northern migration. Mr. A.C. Kirkwood, on April 27th, met a solitary bird in the stable-yard at Bartragh, and secured the specimen for a friend's collection. A few days after he met another bird at the same place, which remained only for a few days, and then disappeared. This bird was succeeded by a pair that were seen on May 4th picking up insects on a manure-heap in the farmyard, but they stayed only for a couple of days, disappearing, like the other bird, after they fed and rested. From the fact of these Wagtails having been observed during the spring migration on the island of Bartragh in 1851, 1893, 1897, 1898, and in April and May of the present year, it is more than probable that they pass over Bartragh every spring on their way to Iceland, but are not seen by observers unless northerly winds are blowing at the time of their passage, which cause some birds, from fatigue, to drop down on Bartragh, and feed and rest before continuing their northern journey.

The Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica) are still remaining about the sands of the bay and estuary. On June 13th I observed several flocks which altogether might number one hundred and fifty birds, and in the midst of a small group, near Moyne Abbey, was a bird exhibiting the red plumage of summer, a very unusual sight in this locality, for out of the many hundreds of birds seen here in summer I have observed only two or three birds in a similar stage of plumage. The birds frequenting this western coast are apparently all immature, too young to assume the red breeding plumage. When at Bartragh on the 5th inst. I saw fully one hundred Godwits on the shores of Bannros Island, and all appeared in the light grey plumage.

When I was returning from Bartragh on the 5th inst. I observed a dark-coloured Duck diving in the channel near Goose Island, and, not being able to identify it satisfactorily with my glass, I let the boat drift up with the tide until within range, when I fired, the bird diving at the shot; but on coming up it rose, when, with my second barrel, I secured a beautiful specimen of an adult male Black Scoter, in perfect plumage. It was the first I met in summer, and, although numbers frequent the open bay in winter, none ever came into the channels of the estuary, so I felt very fortunate in obtaining such a fine specimen so very unexpectedly.

For some days past[1] both Curlews and Redshanks have begun to return from their breeding grounds to the estuary, and on the 28th June I was surprised to see three or four Greenshanks on the shore here, the earliest date on which I have ever known them to return from their breeding haunts.

The Sandwich Terns, as usual, were the earliest of our visitors. I saw one on March 26th, but the main body of the flight did not appear in the estuary until the first week of April. Although the Lesser Terns arrived on May 4th, the Common Terns were some days later in arriving. When visiting the Terns' breeding haunts near Killala on June 13th, I found, as usual, the Common Terns confining themselves to the gravelly "Inch," about thirty pairs having nests on it, and perhaps eight or ten pairs of the Lesser Tern; while the Arctic Terns were scattered all over the Ross sands for over half a mile along with the majority of the Lesser, laying their eggs on the bare sand and gravel. The numbers of the Common Terns have diminished, while there has been a great increase in those of the Arctic Tern.


  1. This communication is dated July 8th.

This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.