Not much to report from the garden, the best being a male Blackcap today, which may or may not be the same as the bird last seen in January, and a flyover Eurasian Goldfinch again a few days ago.
Last Friday (19th), a male Baikal Teal was found at Tacumshin, Co. Wexford by a little-known local birder called Killian Mullarney. I was busy that day, doing Atlas fieldwork in probably the least productive 10km square in Co. Cork, and fancied a lie-in the next morning, but I got a text from a friend at around 10am, and by 11am we were on our way. Having gotten lost briefly, we arrived to find that the bird wasn't handily lined up, but we soon located it and got decent views...this was just as well, as, after 5 minutes or so, the bird flew off, and we never relocated it (it was seen the next day, however, and subsequently). 'Back-up' birds included a Green-winged Teal, a Long-billed Dowitcher (found while we were there), huge numbers of wildfowl (three swan species, including my first Bewick's Swans for a few years (they are very rare in Cork nowadays, only seen a flock of 7 ever here), hundreds of Pintail and Shoveler etc) and a Hen Harrier. We missed the lingering Glossy Ibis, but others saw this also.
Now, it is very possible that this bird was an escape...the species is held in captivity, though apparently it is difficult to breed in captivity...and, indeed, for many years, most records in western Europe were tainted with the escape stigma. However, isotopic analysis has as good as proven that a bird in the early 20th century in Britain, and also a bird shot in Denmark as recently as 2005, were genuinely wild: the juvenile feathers had isotopes consistent with having been grown in Siberia, and the 2nd gen feathers consistent with having been grown in western Europe. As a result, and also due to a record from 2002 having been accepted to Category A in Britain, any record of Baikal Teal at the right time of year that doesn't seem like an escape should at least be given due respect: even if this bird fails to make Category A here in Ireland, it is being taken seriously. It is unringed and unpinioned...
2013 and beyond
It's pretty simple: the most birds seen or heard from one's yard during 2013 will be the "winner". Want in? O.k....then do it despite that.
2013 promises to be a lot less mean but still a carbon-free birding competition, even if slightly less exciting than a MEGA x EPIC hybrid.