Thursday, 13 February 2020

Pre England catch up

Just a quick catch-up before I head off for even more child minding in Bolton followed by a trip to Tyneside and the traditional dawn to dusk round Druridge, Chevington and Hauxley. I have been doing a bit of garden watching, had a walk along the coastal path and been to WOW, so progress is as follows. It being a waxwing winter I ticked them for 2020 in East Belfast, no photos as they were very flighty and as I was half way through a count in a rowan they took off and didn't come back. The coastal path added goldcrest, carrion crow and sparrowhawk to the local patch - all expected but nice to get them out of the way. Photos attached from the garden and the coast. I have also added in a couple of red squirrel shots from Castlewellan Forest Park. I stumbled on this little beauty near the castle while looking for jays, which I also got.

Patch tick for redwings - a record shot!
Blue tit
Blackcap
Goldfinch on niger seed
Bullfinch (F)
Chaffinch
Linnet (F)
Linnet (F)
Eider duck
High tide roost
Patch grey wagtail
Castlewellan FP
Castlewellan FP
WOW today turned up 36 species including a nice snipe, a siskin, a blackbird and a little grebe. Here are two from this morning.


Shelduck
Snipe
2020
95: Waxwing

Bangor West
49: Goldcrest
50: Sparrowhawk
51: Carrion crow

Belfast WOW

58: Redwing
59: Sparrowhawk
60: Mistle thrush 
61: Blackbird
62: Little grebe

Friday, 7 February 2020

Patch gold redwings

Brief update as we move into February with increasing daylight and rising temperatures. Redwings featured well this year so far. They have been in and around the garden, one actually sat in my hawthorn tree recently but two appeared at WOW this week - perched above the buzzard in the buzzard tree. Checking back revealed that they were the first redwings I have ever seen at WOW in over 20 years of visiting the site. We also had song thrush and mistle thrush on the same day but so far I have not yet recorded blackbird in 2020 - isn't birding wonderful!! I also added a sparrowhawk to the WOW list as it flew over harassed by a hooded crow. The species list hit 37 for the morning which is a good number for  three hours on the site. With a bit of diligence and a walk to Hide 2 I would have hit 40 fairly easily. The following photographs were taken recently around the observation room and the feeders.

Reed bunting
Mrs Shoveler
Mr Shoveler
Buzzard enjoying lunch, no idea what bird it was!!
WOW always gives you a nice teal
The following photo explains why my seed feeder was being emptied on a daily basis. The rook was sitting on a nearby branch happily munching sunflower seeds. A bit of pruning with the saw removed his perch so hopefully he will have a bit of a challenge in future. Now all I have to do is remove the cat which hides in the shrubbery looking for a meal. I think a mega super-soaker is called for!!



2020
93: Tree sparrow 
94: Sparrowhawk

 
Bangor West
47: Blackcap
48: Brent goose

Belfast WOW

58: Redwing
59: Sparrowhawk
60: Mistle thrush

Friday, 31 January 2020

January update


Time for a catch up from the patches. The coastal path/garden has moved slowly mainly because I have not walked  the coastal path of late and I have cleaned up most of the garden species. I finally nailed a male blackcap during the garden birdwatch - only a month late. WOW has been very quiet as well. I normally add a few species every week in January but this week we had 32 species none of which were new. Last week a blackcap visited the feeders and the estuary added black guillemot.

I have been in four primary schools this week doing the big schools garden birdwatch and that was its usual fun time. Highlights were as follows:
Bangor Central has a small stand of alders which were visited by two treecreepers who spent 20/25 minutes giving the best treecreeper views I have ever seen - in over forty years of birding!! Two classes and their teachers had brilliant views of a bird they had never heard of never mind seen. 
St Comgalls had a blackcap and a flock of redwings. 
Grange had a hooded crow. 
Crawfordsburn had its usual house sparrow flock, a greenfinch, 7 redwing and brilliant views of a singing wren. I had heard it and used a playback tape and it popped up to the top of a bush and gave us all full welly. The pupils and teachers were well impressed by how much noise a small bird can make. 

I visited a site today and picked up yellowhammer and tree sparrow after a tip off. Can't say where but suffice it to say its the first yellowhammer I've seen in Northern Ireland for over ten years. I usually pick them up at Cresswell in Northumberland but even there not since 2017. I was one happy bunny today. As the days are stretching out and temperatures edge up birds are singing (wood pigeon, collared dove, blackbird, wren and robin all singing today.) and starting to do a bit of chasing around. As they say in Sierra Leone they are getting "jiggy jiggy" - roll on spring. PS All treecreeper pictures were taken by my birding pal David who had his point and shoot camera with him just in case!! I think he did very well. There are also a few from the WOW feeders and a wren in the garden. The WOW feeders had 10 greenfinches last week which is great as they have had a hard time recently.




Redpoll
Greenfinch
Wren in the garden - it's on the pot!!
Redpoll with linnet behind?
Goldfinch and redpoll
2020
90: Blackcap
91: Treecreeper
92: Yellowhammer
92: Tree sparrow
 
Bangor West
47: Blackcap
48: Brent goose

Belfast WOW

56: Blackcap
57: Black guillemot

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Round the Lough

So to Strangford Lough and a grand total of 63 species. Highlights were a male scaup at Castle Island  Road, little egrets everywhere, 250+ bar-tailed godwit with 150 pintail south of the flood gates, 8 snipe at Bishop's Mill, 30+ whooper swans between Ards and Comber and 28 golden plover at Whiterock. We were fooled by the snipe as when first spotted three of them were swimming. We harked back to the excitement of 2008 when we first saw an egret on our Strangford trip, this year they were everywhere, a sign of changing times. Strangely we saw neither heron nor coot. How can you drive round Strangford without seeing a heron? A most unusual occurence especially when we remarked at the Quoile that we hadn't seen one and started actively looking for one. Anyway we had a cracking day despite the Castle Island hide being less productive than usual due to a reed cutter. The upper stretch of the Quoile had very few birds compared to the 1970s and 1980s. We're unsure whether this is lack of food or birds coming in fewer numbers due to milder winters. Some of the places which used to have feeders were either empty or missing. There was house near Ardmillan which gave us tree sparrow and redpoll, but the owner moved to a care home and the new owners don't bother. The nature reserve at the Quoile also had empty feeders. I don't really see the point of putting feeders up if you don't keep them topped up!! By the time we reached Castle Espie it was too dark so I have no idea what state the feeders were in, last time they were active but tree sparrows were absent. Greenfinch is also less common as is kestrel. It was a zero raptor day - again a bit unusual as we usually get buzzard. First seven photos are from David whose camera as you know is way better than mine. The last five are mine as scenes don't move about.

Pintail
Bar-tailed godwits
Pintail and brent goose, note mill pond water
Shelduck
Green plover and golden plover
Arty mute swans at the quoile

Snipe
Dawn at the Flood Gates
Dawn at Islandhill
Scrabo view
Reed cutting
Reed cutting
I am not going to list all the birds seen since the start of the year in the three lists, too boring to read, you will just have to take my word for the robins, dunnocks, blackbirds, magpies and black-headed gulls etc..

Since then I have chipped away at the lists and added a few species such as the two ravens which flew over the garden kronking one morning and grey wagtail mallard and mistle thrush locally as well as as lesser black back, merganser, common gull, cormorant, dunlin, goldeneye, pied wagtail and great-crested grebe at WOW. Today WOW was frozen over apart from a couple of small areas crammed with teal and shoveler. Here are a few shots from WOW.


Snipe

Snipe
Wigeon

West Bangor sunset

Winter  coastal path

Frozen WOW 

Highest tide ever at Strickland's Bay


2020
88: Raven
89: Grey wagtail
 
Bangor West
43: Raven
44: Mistle thrush
45: Mallard
46: Grey wagtail

Belfast WOW

48: Lesser black-backed gull
49: Red-breasted merganser
50: Common gull
51: Cormorant
52: Dunlin
53: Goldeneye
54: Great-crested grebe
55: Pied wagtail



Thursday, 16 January 2020

Early 2020 birding

So 2020 dawned dry and cloudy in Bolton and the first bird was a magpie followed by carrion crow. I managed a couple of trips out, once to see ring necked parakeets which are breeding in a nearby cemetery and then to Pennington Flash to try and get 2020 off to a flier. I managed to get Canada goose, willow tit, goosander and stock dove  which are all birds we either don't get in Ireland or are very hard to find. I also had brilliant views of kingfisher as well as a wide range of common species including a small redwing flock.  I got a little egret which is still quite unusual in Greater Manchester and the hide was well stocked, open and coming down with at least 24 grey squirrels. I must be honest and say that Pennington Flash rarely disappoints unless I am pushed for time.

Kingfisher
Kingfisher in the tree, keep looking it is there.
Blue tit
Bullfinch & long-tailed tit
Stock dove
Willow tit - best I could do
Reed bunting
There it is, check back and find it in the tree.

Back home and a walk along the coastal path gave all the usual suspects including purple sandpiper,  rock pipit, guillemot and black guillemot with a bonus red-throated diver. There was also singing song thrush and great tit The garden gave bullfinch, greenfinch, linnet and a surprising extra of 7 redwings in a nearby tree plus all the regular cast of visitors. Over half way to the target in three days.

WOW on a high tide clocked up 47 species in 3 hours the highlights of which were  snipe, buzzard,  Brent, knot and bar-tailed godwit at Kinnegar. The highlight on the feeders was a male siskin and a couple of redpoll. Nearly half way to the target in one visit


2020
86: Golden plover
87: Red-breasted merganser
 
Bangor West
42: Greenfinch

Belfast WOW

47: Ringed plover