Late Winter at Portmore Lough (featuring a Glossy Ibis)

The recent days seem to be full of all kinds of weather, one minute sunshine the next hail, snow and gusty winds; biting and snatching the coming of Spring. The transition of seasons. There are Spring hints everywhere though, catkins, buds, birdsong and primroses. At this point in Winter, I very much long for Spring. The blackbirds are structuring their melodies and the other garden birds are hyperactively waiting for their chance to cavort. The days are lengthening and it’s been lovely to watch our garden birds after school.

It’s always great when the heaviness of waiting is lifted by blue skies and the promise of a day out, somewhere special. Portmore Lough – An Port Mór – the great fort (of O’Neill) is a wonderful reserve managed by RSPB On our long journey east I saw two separate Sparrowhawks, the salmon chest of a male, beautiful in the sunlight. As we neared Portmore the skies had lost their brightness but a statuesque buzzard shape caught my attention! Always on the lookout! Proud and tall it sat a fair bit away, but not too far.

When we arrive at Portmore the avian orchestra is in full symphony. Woodland birds, the noisy cluck of coots and the distant trumpet of whooper swans. Glorious! I love the sounds and can pinpoint each note. I can breathe a sigh of relief. The sun is fading to grey but it’s still beautiful, long-tailed tits randomly jig with carefree abandon on the feeders and they are joined by their namesakes but not relatives.

We are called over by the warden who inquired if we’d like to see the Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus). I had heard it was present and had hoped to see it, but honestly, native woodland lured me first. The Ibis, perhaps brought here on the wind of one of our recent storms is a rare visitor here. We look for a while through our scopes and finally see its gracefully stalking form, happily foraging for insects and molluscs in the grass. A dark stranger, sickle like beak (from the Ancient Greek plegados and Latin falcis) looking more like our Curlew and so, kind of in place. In summer their breeding plumage transforms into an iridescent glossiness of reds, blues and greens. Our Ibis was looking rather dowdy but it was really lovely to see. I feel a little strange seeing non-native birds on our shores but Ibis’ have made breeding attempts in the UK (a pair tried to nest in Frampton Marshes in 2014) and the Portmore bird is one of a handful on the island of Ireland right now. They normally reside in the Mediterranean, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean and I wonder how it is faring in our comparatively harsh conditions. Laura, the warden and I try to recapture a sighting for some photography and when all hope was lost, we found it again after much searching. It was very far away!

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As we walked around the fen and waded (yes, it was flooded, as fens do) to the bird hide we saw rafts of Tufted Duck, Pochard, Coots and Teal. Looking out across the neighbouring fields we saw Whooper Swans rooting in the grass. Their honking never ceases to make me smile and of course they will be gone soon, Home to Iceland. Sigh.

We walk around the muddy path leading to the pond. A patch of primroses brightens the late afternoon drizzle and snowdrops with bowed heads, bade us farewell.

It was a wonderful day, searching the reed beds, listening to birdsong, wading towards battering shoreside winds to watch ducks disappearing under the waves.

Oh, news wise – my fundraising total for Ramble for Raptors – £6,170!! My school have supported me in my campaign – I gave a school assembly speech last Monday (gulp, nerves, anxiety – but I did it!) and we had a bake sale the following Wednesday (£120 raised). I’m so chuffed!!! More coming on the project soon. Also, I’m writing a blog series on a special place here in Fermanagh, chronicling its seasonal changes and those changes within myself too. First blog tomorrow!

Thanks as always for reading


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