Monday, 18 March 2019

# patch gold megatick

Let's not beat about the bush here, this afternoon I saw a water rail in Strickland's Glen. One of those moments you dream about as a birder -  an unexpected bird in a famliar place. As they are reedbed specialists I have no idea what it was doing there in a wooded glen. There is a tree down across the river at that point and in heavy rain the water backs up and the path floods. Once the flood subsides there is a mass of flotsam behind the tree - mud, leaves, branches, plastic bottles, dead footballs etc.. I stopped to look, saw a movement and thought dunnock, no too big, possibly moorhen, so got the binoculars onto it and bingo, it is a water rail which picked about long enough for Tanya to get a good look at it as well. After taking our fill of the bird, we walked on and it was still picking about. The hoped for grey wagtail and first lesser black backs of the year did not appear, but hey, who cares I'll get them again!

Other than that, it has been reasonably quiet as most of the winter stuff has been mopped up and the spring migrants are not here yet. I added a garden song thrush, and a walk along the Broad Water at Moira turned up two redwings in a flock of 20 - 25 fieldfare. WOW was very quiet with a low tide and heavy showers. The milder weather this week with south-west winds might pull in an early chiffchaff or sand martin, both have been seen locally. The other piece of news happened in Carnalea where my friend David - he of the good camera - spotted a brambling on his feeders on St Patrick's day. It did not hang around and has not been back or found its way to my garden but you never do know - if you can get a water rail in Stricklands Glen anything is possible. It just proves the old adage, anything can turn up anywhere.

Dunlin at Whiteabbey
Black-headed gulls at Smelt Mill Bay
A rainy WOW last Thursday, there were around 1000 black-headed gulls present.
Water rail spot on the river
It was behind the orange football!!
David Miller's brambling
Great tit with large tick
The great tit was photographed by David as well at Castleward. He thought it looked a bit off colour and let him get close without moving, only later did he realise it has a large tick attached to its neck. probably not long for this world unfortunately. 

117: Redwing

Bangor West
48: Greenfinch
49: Song thrush
50: Water rail

Belfast WOW

67: Lesser black-backed gull 

Monday, 4 March 2019

England Part 3 - Lancashire

The main reason for the visit was to cover half term and look after Freddy (age 5) and Tilly (age 2). Birding had to be fitted into the schedule as and when, but you know me, I managed to squeeze in the odd session. When we discovered that the NW England puddle jumping championships were being held at Martin Mere, how could we resist? However ideas of leaving Tanya minding the boy while I sat in a hide were soon dispelled. We did see short-clawed otters and lots of captive ducks but I managed a quick sprint (literally) to see avocets and then went to see the swans being fed. This involved large numbers of whooper swans and more shelduck than I have ever seen in my life. Their WEBS count gave over 600 and I think most of them came over to feed. They were joined by mallard, pintail, wigeon, teal, coot and moorhen as well as black-tailed godwit. A small shingle islet just offshore had over 20 ruff on it among all the mayhem and there were the usual numbers of lapwing, gulls, geese and three pochard. Wasn't expecting this show so all photos were through glass with an ipod. The "feeder" has a mike headset and gives a running comentary on the swans which is broadcast on speakers into the hide for the assembled punters. Even Freddy was impressed by the sheer number of birds on view despite his urge to get back to see if he had won the puddle jumping. Unfortunately he hadn't and had to be consoled with an ice cream.

At WOW we go out with a bucket

If you feed them they will come

Whoopers and shelduck, mostly

Make a good jigsaw

20 ruff on the island at the back

Spot the pintail
 A quick afternon trip to Elton Reservoir near Bury was looking like a washout until I looked at the wildfowl in the middle of the reservoir and saw a pochard, seven scaup and three goosander. While checking a couple of coot two birds flashed across my line of sight so I tracked them and found I was following  two kingfishers. A feeding little egret made for a very pleasant 45 minutes.

The last port of call was an early start to Pennington Flash, another site I have visited before with good results. I think I was allowed out for two hours for good behaviour. The target was to sit in the hide and tick great-spotted woodpecker and nuthatch, neither of which had the decency to turn up at the well stocked feeders. Ah well I will just have to go back later in the year! I did however have 15 stock dove, three jays, long-tailed tit and treecreeper along with all the expected birds that turn up at feeders. The best bird however was a water rail out feeding in the open as unconcerned as the abundant moorhens.

What's that odd looking moorhen?

It's a water rail.

"The spit" at Penington Flash, scope essential.

Long-tailed tit

Stock dove & woodpigeon

Three stock doves
Overview with jay, there are as many feeders off to both sides.

The last night in Bolton provided the icing on the cake with a pair of tawny owls calling around the house for well over an hour. I had a good look and listen but could not work out where they were, but it was an absolutely smashing way to wrap up the trip.

Returning home saw a greenfinch on the garden feeders, a ruff, Med gull and lesser black-back at WOW and a ringed bill gull at Carrickfergus so here are the current totals.

92: Red kite
93: Fulmar
94: Pink-footed goose
95: Canada goose
96: Scaup
97: Smew
98: Grey partridge
99: Water rail
100: Grey plover
101: Sanderling
102: Stonechat
103: Willow tit
104: Goosander
105: Green sandpiper
106: Stock dove
107: Red-crested pochard
108: Great white egret
109: Avocet
110: Ruff
111: Kestrel
112: Kingfisher
113: Tawny owl
114: Treecreeper
115: Mediterranean gull
116: Ring-billed gull

Bangor West
48: Greenfinch

Belfast WOW

65: Mediterranean gull
66: Ruff
67: Lesser black-backed gull 

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Update from England - Part 2 South Yorkshire

We travelled south down the A1(M) to Bawtry to catch up with our friends who are now home from Cambodia. A trip there a few years ago seriously boosted the life list! We had a day at RSPB Old Moor reserve followed by a day at a newish Nottingham Wildlife Trust Reserve in the Idle Valley. First lets look at a shot from Hauxley which didn't make the cut, it shows waders at Hauxley and there are a couple of grey plover in it. One on the left with a group of dunlin and one sitting on a rock out in the water. The lapwing are all on the grass.

Hauxley waders
We have been to Old Moor before and had a good wander about. There were reports of booming bitterns, but not while we were there. The highlights from a list of 40 were sparrowhawk, green sandpiper, lesser black-backed gull, stock dove, tree sparrow and reed bunting.

The Idle Valley proved a bit of a challenge as it is a vast site which is still being developed. There is still sand and gravel extraction as well as farming activities mixed in with reserve areas and innumerable walks. We visited the new centre which overlooks a large lake and walked some of the paths along the River Idle. Then we went looking for a great white egret which was in one of the northern meres. We eventually got a half decent view through trees and later on got a better view but no photographs. The site list was a modest 38 but as well as the egret we also saw a red-crested pochard which has now colonised the area. Previously I have seen these in London parks but they have now spread north and are breeding in Notts. We also had a couple of ringed plover, not especially remarkable I hear you say, but the locals were coming to see them as they are rare in Notts which is about as far from the sea as you can get and they are normally coastal birds. I managed to resist the urge to say I had these within ten minutes walk from the house along the coastal path!

Chainbridge Scrape
The photograph shows the sort of habitat in the newer area where the sand and gravel extraction areas have been restored. The egret and plover were in this area, the pochard was in an older area where there was more vegetation, fishng facilities and parking areas. I reckon you could spend two days there between the newer northern areas where there are several meres such as the one in the photograph and the older southern area where there is more woodland and riverside walks. A very pleasant day out with several village pubs serving good food and beer close to hand.  Here is a link to their web site just in case you are ever in the area and looking to bird. There is a map on the site and you can get good maps with walks from the Information Centre. You really would need a map and a bit of time to do the site justice.

So we moved on to Lancashire with the 2019 list climbing well over the hundred.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Update from England - Part 1 Northumberland

Two weeks in England did wonders for the year list, so much so that I plan to split it in two, hence the title. The ferry to Cairnryan passed at least 1600 eider in two large rafts in Belfast Lough as well as the usual gulls and auks and a red-throated diver. The route East passed through the Galloway kite trail and joy of joy we saw 4 red kites west of Castle Douglas along the main road. Blue sky, good light and stunning views. The dawn to dusk birdathon in Northumberland was as good as usual and racked up a respectable 69 species. Yes we missed out on birds we should have got but we also saw birds we do not normally see. The goodies on the trip included a long staying scaup at Cresswell and a redhead smew at Widdrington Lake. Add to this the first fulmars of the year at Snab Point, large numbers of pink-footed geese and a covey of grey partridges near Cresswell and we were off to a good start.  The day also added canada goose, water rail, grey plover, sanderling, stonechat and willow tit. There were also good views of purple sandpiper, tree sparrows, whooper swans, gadwall, pochard, sparrowhawk,kestrel and pintail. Bird of the day for me was the willow tit at the feeders from the Skua Hide in Hauxley. All photos courtesy of David Miller and his trusty camera.

Reed bunting

Dunlin, sanderling and purple sandpiper

Hauxley feeders

Tree sparrow and willow tit at Hauxley

...... and again
Amble harbour for eider

Too rough and choppy at sea, sensible birds were in the harbour!
We dipped on goosander but were in Morpeth the next day and bingo, with mallard at the park.

River Coquet

Birding made easy!!

Bird of the day
Lists will be updated after part two (or maybe even part three) such was the joy of birding in foreign parts where there was always the possibility of something we do not get here.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Always expect the unexpected

Updating the blog before heading off to England for a grand tour of Northumberland, South Yorkshire and Bolton. Hopefully will have lots of goodies in three weeks time. A frozen WOW added raven and mistle thrush but species and numbers were low as there was an ice field instead of water. Note the comparision with last August. The coastal path added a rock pipit and I added dipper (Threemilewater) and jay (Castlewellan) to the lists. Otherwise fairly quiet. A walk along the Lagan at Lisburn gave nice views and an unexpected single whooper swan. Apparently it has been there for some time and is either unable to fly, totally lost or a combination of both. Interesting that both of us just assumed it was a mute swan until we had a closer look as we walked past. Always expect the unexpected.

River Lagan (David Miller)

Whooper swan (David Miller)

Whooper swan (David Miller)
August 2018

February 2019
88: Meadow pipit 
89: Dipper
90: Raven
91: Jay

Bangor West
47: Rock pipit

Belfast WOW

63: Raven
64: Mistle thrush

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Steady work and progress, must try harder

Yes it is school report time on the 2019 lists and as you can see I don't get out enough and need to try harder. Apart from WOW I really haven't been anywhere else. I did manage a short visit to Oxford Island en route to look at kitchens and added pochard and ruddy duck. A walk along the coastal path added brent, mallard and meadow pipit but not rock pipit which was what I was going for. Mallard on the lough at Stricklands Bay was a bit of a surprise as it is never an easy bird to get on the patch. I finally saw a garden goldfinch, and have seen them regularly since. WOW has added seven species including a fly through sparrowhawk and three hard to get species in siskin, long-tailed tit and song thrush. I made a conscious effort today to try and get some feeder shots as there were not any different birds up near the window.  The wren was a bonus last week as it was trapped inside the door in the entrance, was carefully put outside where it sat in shock long enough for me to take a couple of shots. Closest I have ever been to one, they really are incredibly tiny.

Spot the wren

There it is!!

Nice teal

Black-tailed godwit
Greenfinch & goldfinch

Greenfinch & redpoll

Reed bunting
Greater long-tailed field mouse

Mute swan

Millet-stuffed godwit - a first for the reserve!

83: Rock pipit
84: Pochard
85: Ruddy duck
86: Siskin
87: Song thrush
88: Meadow pipit

Bangor West
43: Goldfinch
44: Brent goose
45: Meadow pipit
46: Mallard

Belfast WOW

56: Little grebe
57: Siskin
58: Long-tailed tit
59: Coal tit
60: Wren
61: Song thrush
62: Sparrowhawk