Thursday, 26 November 2015

Wexford Slobs

South Slob

I was up at seven and out of my B&B at 7:45am. I was determined to make the most of the short daylight hours available at this time of year. After all, this was to be my first visit to that renouned Irish wildfowl reserve, Wexford Slobs and I didn't want to waste a minute.

The Slobs are on either side of the River Slaney which runs through Wexford (or Loch Garman to give it it's Irish name) and much of it is private farmland. However, on the north side of the river is the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve with a few hides and an information centre. This was where I was planning on spending the majority of the day.

However, the reserve didn't open until 9am and  I was like a kid at Christmas, I was far to excited to wait until nine, I wanted to be out and birding well before then. It was just a short journey from my B&B in the centre of Wexford to South Slob so I headed in that general direction in great anticipation, with no clear idea of exactly where I was going or how far I would be able to get before I came to private land.

Eventually I crossed a canal and then a railway level crossing and the tarmac road petered out and became a dirt track. I hadn't actually seen a private sign yet and one of the farmhands in a field had given me a cheery wave as I passed by  (at least I think it was a cheery wave!), so I just kept going until I came to a sea wall where I parked up and got out of the car with the sea to the left of me and a reed bed and channel to the right. Almost immediately I saw a ringtail hen harrier putting up hundreds of teal and wigeon as it quartered the reeds, and in the distance a flock of 80 whooper swans in a field. Off to a good start!

Then I turned my attention to the sea, which was flat and like a mill pond. There wasn't a breath of wind and ducks and grebes stood out well. There was nothing outstanding on the water, but plenty of goldeneye, red-breasted mergansers, shelduck and great crested grebes. Occasionally a flock of whooper swans would fly over from the south, presumably heading for North Slob on the other side of the river, and a flock of 100 Pale-bellied brent geese flew over. All in all a nice start to the day.

Part of the South Slob.

Whooper swans over South Slob.

Just my luck, I find an Irish rarity and it's a  carrion crow!

Wexford Harbour

After leaving South Slob I headed back through Wexford and over Wexford bridge on my way to North Slob. I stopped off for a few photo opportunities and spotted a few nice waders on the beach.

Wexford bridge.

Looking towards Wexford.


Oystercatcher, greenshank and bar-tailed godwit.


North Slob

The reason I wanted to visit Wexford Slobs was to see the Greenland white-fronted geese which occur here in their thousands every winter. This race of white-front has declined rapidly in the UK, but Wexford is one of their major strongholds and around 10,000 still winter.

Unlike European white-fronts whose global numbers (I think) are relatively stable but which visit the UK in declining numbers because milder winters mean they can stay in Europe rather than cross the Channel to the UK, Greenland white-fronts are threatened globally because their population is only relatively small and they are being outcompeted on the breeding grounds by an increasing number of Canada geese.

One thing which stood out to me straight away was that they didn't flock together in large tight knit flocks like pink-feet. In fact they were scattered in smaller groups all over the fields, in it's own way just as impressive a spectacle, but without the drama of a huge pink-foot flock.

There are lots of other wildfowl here as well, and being on the coast these include flocks of Pale-bellied brent geese. On the sea there were two great northern divers and lots of great crested grebes, goldeneye and red-breasted mergansers.

 Brent geese over North Slob.


Ringtail hen harrier.

The channel as viewed from the Pat Walsh hide. I was able to pick out a 1st winter ring-necked duck from here, but it was way too distant for photography.

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