Although many of the best birds did not linger long, there were two species added to the Irish list in 2009, a Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum (Galway) in October and a long awaited Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus (Cork) in November.
A Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus at sea in September came tantalisingly close to being added to the main list but the recorded location was just beyond the 30 kilometre inshore zone. Recorded for the second time, a Royal Tern Sterna maxima (Cork) in June was the first live record of the species which consequently moves onto the full Irish list, having previously been placed in Category D. In October, both Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura (Cork) and Common Nighthawk Chordeiles minor (Kerry) were recorded for the second time. The third Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus (Dublin) was found in July and the fourth Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus (Mayo) in October. Rare subspecies recorded during the year included the second Balearic Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator badius (Wexford) in May. This report also includes details of the fourth Arctic Redpoll Carduelis hornemanni (Mayo) recorded in October 2008.
For the second year in succession, the early months of the year were characterised by a large influx of Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, although the numbers involved were considerably less than the exceptional influx of 2008. The end of the winter was marked by the occurrence in mid-February of a Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius and an Ivory Gull Pagophila eburnea in early March, both in Cork.
Spring migration was generally quiet, with low numbers of rare herons and Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus, and no Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus for the first time since 2002. Although there were two White-winged Black Tern Chlidonias leucopterus, Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida were surprisingly absent despite record numbers in Britain (Hudson et al. 2010). Some species however, bucked the trend, with an early, near record influx of Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans while Hobby Falco subbuteo also occurred in near record numbers.
More evidence that the colonisation by Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major is continuing to take hold was apparent throughout the year with multiple pairs present in Wicklow. In addition to Terek Sandpiper and Royal Tern, the mid year period, although quiet, as usual provided a few other high class rarities. Single Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia and Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus put in appearances and the Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus re-appeared in Mayo for her fourth summer. Seawatching was variable, with record numbers of Wilson's Petrel Oceanites oceanicus and above average numbers of Long-tailed Skua Stercorarius longicaudus but the lowest numbers of Fea's/Zino's Petrel Pterodroma feae/madeira since 2004.
In a generally good autumn, there were record numbers of Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus and Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola in early September with a Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala mid-month. Although there was a good variety of Nearctic waders, with ten species occurring, numbers were generally lower than in previous years with only American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica and Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis occurring in good numbers. In contrast, vagrants from the east were in better supply. Phylloscopus warblers were well represented with Greenish Warbler P. trochiloides, Arctic Warbler P. borealis, Dusky Warbler P. fuscatus, Radde's Warbler P. schwarzi and Pallas's Warbler P. proregulus, all occurring in the same year for the first time on record. On the other hand, Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina and Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta continued their recent poor form. Nearctic passerines had their quietest year since 2002, when there were none. In addition to Cedar Waxwing, only Blackpoll Warbler Dendroica striata and Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens crossed the Atlantic to our shores and there were no records of Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus for the first time since 2003.
The year ended with the occurrence of singletons of two species which, although not regular, are typically found as the year tails off, Shore Lark Eremophila alpestris and Killdeer Charadrius vociferus.
Since January 2005, the backbone of the IRBC's system for recording occurrences of rare birds in the Republic of Ireland has been the Provisional List, published online and updated on a monthly basis. Most of the data in this report was taken directly from the 2009 Provisional List. The IRBC expresses its sincere gratitude to all those who provided information during 2009, either directly or indirectly, to the many photographers who have provided photographs both for assessment and for publication and to Keith Naylor for his assistance in correcting some of the statistics. With the exception of two very old records, there are no new records from Northern Ireland in this report due to publication deadlines. We thank the members of the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Association Rarities Committee for the continued close working relationship between that body and the IRBC.
K.Fahy (on behalf of the Irish Rare Birds Committee)
BirdWatch Ireland, Unit 20, Block D, Bullford Business Campus, Kilcoole, Wicklow.
Hudson, N. & the Rarities Committee 2010. Report on rare birds in Great Britain in 2009. British Birds 103: 562-638.