Thursday, 14 June 2018

Muck in the Mist

June 2nd saw us heading for Ballylumford and a trip to the Gobbins via Muck Island. The target was breeding seabirds. There was good news and bad news. The good news was that the sea was millpond calm, the bad news was that the sea fret was in, and there were times we could not see the coast even though we were no further than 50 metres away. Fortunately it lifted a bit at the Gobbins, but on our return journey it closed in from Muck Island home and we saw very little.

Auks at Muck Isle, the nearest bird is a puffin!!

Razorbill & guillemots

What peregrines??

More auks

Gobbins walk


Mist drifting back in

Disembarking at Ballylumford.
We had a good selection of birds and apart from peregrine we saw everything we hoped to see albeit through a mist. Gannets loomed out of the mist a couple of times and disappeared. Anyone shooting film in black and white was well served, but the birds gave good close views and were not spooked as much as we loomed out of the mist as well. All told we saw fulmar, gannet,cormorant, shag, herring gull, great black-backed gull, kittiwake, sandwich tern, guillemot, black guillemot, razorbill and puffin.

I also had a couple of trips which gave nice birds. The first was a whinchat on the Starbog Road near Cappanagh, the second was a skylark on a walk up to Quolie Reservoir near Broughsnane. The latter also gave good views of wheatear, a sand martin colony and meadow pipits.  

Whinchat courtesy of David Miller

And again
Quolie Reservoir

Looking down the valley
Quolie River
There are two reservoirs and not much birdlife on them, the best part is the walk up the valley with good views of the surrounding hills and a wide range of habitats - one of my favourite walks on the planet in May or June, never fails to give interesting birds and butterflies and is just a stunning walk. There is a ruined farmhouse at the top of the second reservoir and it is an idyllic spot for a picnic or an overnight camp. It just ticks all the boxes.

Nothing startling at WOW today (June 14th) apart from 600+ godwits, 1500 black-headed gulls and young, 160+ common tern and up to 8 arctics, 4 knot and 3 dunlin. There were at least 7 Mediterranean gulls on show but some seem to have lost chicks to lesser black backs and herring gulls. There were also 3 young lapwings but we are not sure where they came from or whether they hatched here. Next stop Tallinn and St Petersburg, a family holiday with a bit of World Cup football but I am bringing the binoculars and the travel scope!!

132: Gannet

133: Whimbrel
134: Whinchat
135: Whitethroat
136: Kittiwake
137: Puffin
138: Razorbill
139: Skylark
 Bangor West
65: Gannet

66: Whimbrel
67: Whitethroat

Belfast WOW
87: Raven

88: Gannet
89: Pochard

Thursday, 7 June 2018

May round up at WOW

Once again I waited for a week or three and then discovered I had loads of photos and not a lot of time so here goes on a catch up of the last three weeks at WOW. The garden and NDCP have not been neglected but are not turning up new birds or meaningful photos. The first point is if you want good views and pictures of terns and gulls come to WOW.

Arctic tern

Arctic (L) and common (R)
Common tern
Common tern

Arctic tern, red bill, short legs, tail longer than wings
The black-headed gulls are feeding young, mostly on the islands but also in front of the observation room.There are chicks of all shapes and sizes from newly hatched to flying.
Two seems to be the norm
Nest, egg and chick


The same nest one week later, the grass has decided that summer is here!

We're cute (and gull food)
 The other species on the reserve are also coming in close, still looking for millet I supppose. Unfortunately they are out of luck as we are not supposed to go out during the breeding season in case we spook the birds and the gulls and crows make a raid on the eggs/chicks.

Things got really exciting last week as we had swans with cygnets, a shelduck brood and the new tern islands finally went live. They were supposed to go out at the start of May but the terns were late in arriving so it was decided to hang on in case the gulls took them over. There are two small ones in front of the observation room and a larger one over at hide two. In less than 24 hours  there were two gull nests on the smaller ones, although the terns are showing interest.

Hi-jacked by gulls
More gull takeover!!
Small tern islands in front of the observation room, note sea fret!
Shelduck brood
Mute swan family
Bl-hd gulls, Med gull and common tern
New tern island from hide 2
Redpoll and greenfinch
Redpoll and goldfinch
Latest news is that there are at least six Med gull chicks on the main island. They are easier to see on the camera monitor so here are a couple of screen shots.

I'm skipping the list update as I need to do another post on the trip to the Gobbins on June 2, when we sailed through mist and fog in pursit of seabirds.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

May update

Didn't realise it was so long since I updated, how time flies when your'e chasing migrants. We had a week in England which delivered a few goodies then once back things were kicking in at home and at WOW. Let's go in date order.

Firstly a couple of garden shots before the feeders come down for the summer.

Goldfinch and linnet

I had a walk along the coastal path early one morning in April and got some nice shots but no new birds. Lots of singers, swallow mipit, eider and a pair of merganser. Haven't seen merganser in years and suddenly twice in a month - that's birding for you. The boat was dropping lobster pots along the shore.

A walk round Elton Reservoir in Bury - the local patch when I am in Bolton - gave me the first sand martins, house martins and swifts as well as two little ringed plovers.  A long weekend in Center Parcs in the lakes was surprisingly good. Whinfell Park is set in one corner of a large forest where two thirds of the trees are Scots pine and it is a red squirrel sanctuary. Willow warbler was the first bird I heard when I wound down the window at security and it was followed by chiffchaff and blackcap. It has several feeding areas and wildlife is all over the place and common species are easy for children to see.  The stand out bird was a pair of displaying tree pipits between the quad bike course and the archery Picked up by the unknown song, and then the textbook parachute display flight. We also had drumming GSW, treecreeper, siskin and singing song thrush. 

Join the tufty club.....

Freddy (4) says duck, Tilly (1+) says bird, Grandad (21+vat)  says mallard
Really close views of birds for the kids

Very well camouflaged female
We managed a day at Leighton Moss RSPB, a place which has long been on the wish list. There are 5 specialities of which I managed one - marsh harrier, but there was ample compensation in a total of 47 species and a few 2018 ticks I would struggle for at home - garden warbler, reed warbler, cetti's warbler and marsh tit. There was a scaup which is unusual for Leighton Moss but I wasn't as enthusiastic as some of the locals who were flocking to see it. Bitterns weren't boming, ospreys weren't fishing, avocets were too far away on a limited time scale and it was too windy for bearded tits. Must get back some day!

Leighton Moss from the Causeway hide
Largest reedbed in NW England
Pochard and bhg

 Back home and summer had hit WOW, winter ducks are gone or in single figures and we got a full set of hirundines, swift, common and arctic terns, little gull and common sandpiper. There are at least four Mediterranean gull nests and 13 individuals have been spotted. There was also two ringed black-tailed godwits, one an old friend we have seen quite often, the other a "new" bird to WOW. We're still waiting for the history. The mute swans are on eggs and at least one set of coot chicks have hatched. In the near future you will be getting lots of baby photos.

Black-headed gull on eggs
Coot on eggs
Resting godwits
Godwit with bling
As above
Gadwall pair
119: House nartin
120: Sand martin
121: Swift
122: Little ringed plover
123: Tree pipit
124: Marsh harrier
125: Garden warbler
126: Cetti's warbler
127: Reed warbler
128: Marsh tit 
129: Common tern
130: Arctic tern
131: Little gull

 Bangor West
61: Swallow
62: Raven
63: Swift 
64: House martin

Belfast WOW
79: Swallow
80: Swift
81: Sand martin
82: House martin
83: Common tern
84: Arctic tern
85: Little gull
86: Common sandpiper