Friday, 18 July 2014

New Patchwork team member - Ireland

Hi there. My name is Niall Keogh and I’ll be representing the Irish birding contingent through my involvement with the Patchwork Challenge as one of the newly appointed admin team members. Born and raised in Dublin yet I’ve always spent most of my time birding outside the county, often at meccas such as Tacumshin Lake or The Bridges of Ross. Whilst this has meant I’ve been treated to superb days with multiple species of yank wader or insane seabird passage, patch birding has always featured strongly for me and I’ve ‘worked’ several less frequently birded or seemingly less productive sites within striking distance from home through the years.

I guess the patch which I’d be most associated with is that of Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow. This is where I started birding as a kid on day trips by bus from home with my father, later developing into solo forays where I found some of my first good birds as a teenager and then spending four summers in a row living on site as a Little Tern warden at the colony there (which now hosts 100+ pairs in a good year).

A full detailed description of the patch and the list of birds seen there can be found here and here. For the purposes of this blog post I’ll give you a quick run through. Essentially the patch is comprised of a series of coastal marshes, lagoon, a small estuary, shingle beach, rough grazing, reedbeds, wet birchwood, alkaline fen etc. along a relatively straight stretch of coastline. With the UK sitting between Kilcoole and the continent, eastern migrants are often at a premium but it does well for species such as Hobby and Yellow Wagtail (at least in an Irish context, i.e. might see one of each a year!). Falls of passerines are certainly possible but hard to predict. I’ll be a happy chappy the day I see a Redstart! Scarce seabirds are, well, scarce and with a lack of large expanses of open, deep water and only a small estuary at hand means that birds like Pochard, Knot etc. often make a days birding here very much worthwhile when they do show up.

Pintail... #patchgold
But no point dwelling upon what I don’t have. Everyone’s patch has something special and I’m lucky at Kilcoole to have a decent number of wintering wildfowl to look through (peaks of 1,000 Light-bellied Brent, 300 Icelandic Greylag, 750 Black-tailed Godwits etc.), a successful breeding colony of Little Terns and continuous variety with plenty of oddities moving North and South along the coast throughout the year resulting in an often surprisingly high species diversity. When it comes to Nearctic vagrants it does surprisingly well for an East coast site (but being in Ireland no doubt helps!). Twenty individual waders of six species, three species of duck and a gull all of North American origin have been seen through the years. No complaints there! Total patch list to date is 203 with 176 of these seen since 2011. Taking part in PWC in 2013 lead to my highest patch year list of 152 and I’d be certainly keen to try and break that again this year (but it will take some amount of effort and luck). Patch ticks I’d like to get in the coming months?... Red Kite, Woodcock, Iceland Gull and maybe a Black-throated Diver!

One of three Wilson's Phals seen on patch through the years... a bizzare run of records! 
Webb's field & lagoon, where the magic happens!

So all in all I’m very much looking forward to contributing to the development of the Patchwork Challenge as I see it as a very worthwhile exercise which more birders should take part in. I’m an avid BirdTracker too and hope to work on that aspect in an Irish context in particular. Get those records coming in! I’ll be knocking about on the various PWC social media outlets so be sure to say hi (or whisht!) if you read some of my babbling posts. And if you’re ever in Wicklow then feel free to get in touch and we can go in search of Tufted Duck at Kilcoole and ignore all the Roseate Terns passing by in the process!

Updates, news and pics from various Irish mini league participants can be found on the Patch Birding Ireland blog so be sure to give it a look from time to time and see how we're all getting on.


  1. Hi Niall, great to hear about your exploits around Kilcoole, I've always admired your ability to dig flying gems out of there.
    I have a little bit of a problem with the PWC website, in that I haven't been able to submit scores for my patch(killough and st johns point)since february/march time. It used to be possible through a form on the right hand side of the page, but I can no longer see any sign of it? Can you help please?

    1. Hi Tim.

      Many thanks for the kind comments. It takes an awful lot of effort to dig the good birds out at Kilcoole but I usually get there in the end!

      The score form still goes up on the right hand side of the PWC blog at the start of each month but usually only remains there for about a week, then it's taken down. I wonder if you're missing this allotted time for submitting scores?

      If you'd like to be added to the Irish Mini League mailing list then get in touch with me at I send around a reminder about updating scores and throw in a few links to blog posts of interest at the start of each month. I can set you up on the Irish Mini League blog too if you wish to post news & pics from your patch?

      Hope the patching is treating you well this year.

      All the best,