Crowds of bird-watching enthusiasts from around Ireland flocked to Newtown Cunningham, Donegal, over the weekend after a sighting of an extremely rare bird.
The black-winged pratincole was first spotted by Chris Ingram on 14 July in Blanket Nook Wildlife Sanctuary, Newtown Cunningham, and has since attracted over 100 wildlife enthusiasts from as far south as Cork, travelling to the site to try and get a glimpse through the telescope.
This is the third official record of a black-winged pratincole being seen in Ireland, with the previous two sightings being from 1935 and 1974.
The rare bird, whose breeding grounds are located in warmer parts of southeast Europe and southwest Asia, is believed to have been blown off-course during migration and made its way to the local bird sanctuary.
Individuals migrate to wintering sites predominantly located in South Africa, though some individuals occur in the west of Africa during the winter months.
The bird is about the same size as a lapwing and, although classified as a wader, they typically hunt their insect prey on the wing, like swallows, but can also feed on the ground.
Can’t believe it!! Absolutely delighted to have identified Irelands third Black-winged Pratincole at Blanket Nook, Donegal with @Victor_Caschera after it was found yesterday by Chris Ingram. The first in Ireland since 1974. @BirdGuides pic.twitter.com/Q6sE7XTiL5— BMcCloskey (@BMcCloskey_98) July 15, 2023
Blanket Nook Wildlife Sanctuary is a nationally important bird sanctuary, with internationally important populations of geese and swans, which use the surrounding farmland during the winter months.
In 2019, another rarity of the pratincole species, a collared pratincole, was recorded at the sanctuary.
Several wildlife projects funded through the Heritage Council, NPWS, Birdwatch Ireland and the Cooperation Across Borders for Biodiversity (CABB) are on-going at the site, with the support from a local farm, Drumbuoy Farm.
These projects include the installation of a predator-proof fence around an important breeding wader site and the establishment of fodder beet crops for foraging geese.