Thursday, 10 September 2020

WOW with water again

 Starting off with another hedgehog video of the male roaming and feeding. I'm hoping to set the camera up for daylight shots, but don't hold your breath.

WOW seems to be back to normal again as it is full up with water and there isn't a lot of  mud for the waders to feed. There are some common tern chicks at last - I counted 30 plus last week - and also the first two wigeon of the autumn. No shelduck as they are all in Holland, and the mute swans put in an appearance. I hope they find somewhere else to breed as they have been spectacularly unsuccessful at WOW. I also twitched a roseate tern, sanderling and a curlew sandpiper in the aftermath of storm Ellen plus 40+ razorbills off shore at Kinnegar.  The autumn passage is underway and Kinnegar had good numbers of turnstone and ringed plover as well as all the usual suspects. Brent geese mixed with sandwich terns as summer visitors give way to winter visitors. There was a young shag in the channel and a white wagtail among a mixed flock of meadow pipits and pied wagtails.

The highlight of the last couple of weeks was an unexpected little gull on the beach at Donaghadee. I was there with the family for an ice cream from The Cabin, looked over the wall while the grandchildren were in the playground and bingo - little gull kindly sitting beside a black-headed gull for the purposes of comparison. 

The coastal path has thrown up some nice birds as well. A very late swift  for Northern Ireland (September 8th), a buzzard and quite a few razorbills and guillemots dispersing from the breeding areas. Some of them were quite close to shore in Bangor Marina. 

Photos include a migrant wheatear at Ballyhalbert - one of three seen around the harbour area

Common terns

Chicks chilling out

Common tern

Camouflaged curlews

Ballyhalbert wheatear (David Miller)

Kittiwakes in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I forgot to post this last time. Place was coming down with them. Glad I don't have to powerhose the buildings, lamps and bridges once the breeding season is over.

Lapwings at WOW

2 blackwits and a ruff through dirty angled glass!!

Razorbilll in Bangor marina, one of five with two guillemots.

151: Curlew sandpiper
152: Roseate tern
153:Little gull
154: White wagtail

Bangor West 
69: Buzzard

Belfast WOW
85: Curlew sandpiper
86: Sanderling
87: Roseate tern
88: Razorbill 
89: Shag 
90: White wagtail

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

150 up

 Quite an enjoyable and productive trip to England with some birding squeezed in between family comittments. We managed a quick trip to Cresswell and Druridge Pools in Northumberland, a couple of hours at Leighton Moss RSPB near Lancaster , a quick round of Martin Mere WWT in Lancs  and a few walks in Leverhulme, Tonge and Elton Reservoir around the Bolton/Bury area. The weather was kind and the 2020 list crawled up. The local lists have not changed despite a couple of local walks and a quick trip to WOW. 

Richard's garden in Bolton gave a good variety of birds including nuthatch as a regular visitor. He has had a great spotted woodpecker but not while I was there. Here's a selection taken whilst waiting to see if the nuthatch would drop in - it did - but only briefly and the shots are what we poor photographers call "record shots".  I have nicknamed him "Lightning" as he is in and out in a flash. Hopefully the regular food supply will attract both nuthatch and woodpecker regularly over the winter. Bolton also provided a calling tawny owl on more than one occasion and an early walk at Elton finally added great spotted woodpecker to the list and I also learned to listen for the contact call.

Red admiral

Christmas robin

There is rainwater in the gutter, so it's bathtime.

Lightning the nuthatch

.....and again

Goldfinch are regular, up to six at a time, greenfinch a bit rarer

Mrs chaffinch

Long-tailed tits were also regular at the sunflower hearts as well as the fat feeder.

Great tit trying to get peanuts which were wedged in the bark to attract the nuthatch.

Druridge and Cresswell added avocet, barnacle goose, whimbrel and sedge warbler. There was also a nice ruff which had me thinking mega wader!

Lapwing, ruff and dunlin

Common sandpiper, ruff and dunlin


Ruff and common sandpiper

Leighton Moss added hobby and marsh tit, two birds which are virtually impossible to get at home, so all in all it was a good trip. I managed to get back in time to find the spotted sandpiper at Castle Espie - a five mnute sighting in a two and a half hour wait, plus an earlier one and a half hour no show. I suppose that 4 hours is worth it for getting a lifer. Unfortunately I could not get a shot of it but there are quite a few on the NI Birds website.  Also managed a lucky wheatear in the Antrim Hills, it flew across the road in front of the car!!

I have borrowed a trailcamera to see what happens in the garden as I have posted a couple of photos of hedgehogs previously. Here we have hedgehog cam showing two hogs, one on the grass and one at the back near the edging. I am now experimenting with different foods. Unfortunately the bird-killing cat seems to think that the food is for him.

141: Tawny owl
142: Avocet
143: Barnacle goose
144: Sedge warbler
145: Whimbrel
146: Hobby
147: Marsh tit
148: Great spotted woodpecker
149: Spotted sandpiper - LIFER 😎
150: Wheatear

Bangor West
68: Manx shearwater

Belfast WOW
82: Chiffchaff
83: Gannet
84: Little egret

Friday, 24 July 2020

Still waiting for waders

Another visit to WOW on July 16th saw much of the same birds with no tern chicks as yet. It is still a bit wet but not flooded and evaporation is kicking in. The following selection gives a flavour of a July reserve and a July garden with finches and tits still raiding the sunflower hearts. No additions to the lists except a Mediterranean gull at Whitehead which was a first for Co Antrim.

July 16th

Arctic tern


Godwit & curlew


Common sandpiper




Nice pair of tits

A further visit to WOW this week (July 23rd) and a couple of pictures showing that the water situation is slightly better and  common terns are posing on posts. The tern situation is worrying as this time last year we had fledged chicks and this year we have not seen any at all and the terns appear to still be sitting on eggs. If we do the math we should have had fledged chicks around the week of July 19th providing they laid eggs around the end of May. That plus a lot fewer terns/nests than last year is ringing alarm bells. There are so many variables outside our control especially on the wintering grounds and at sea it is hard to work out what has happened, but clearly something has upset the balance somewhere. On the up side I added gannet, chiffchaff and little egret but am still missing a lot of waders which I should have added in the spring.There was a common sandpiper around as well as swallows and sand martins No more WOW for a couple of weeks as we are off to Bolton on a long overdue visit to the family. Hopefully a bit of birding will be squeezed in.

July 23rd

Common tern

140: Common sandpiper

Bangor West
68: Manx shearwater

Belfast WOW
82: Chiffchaff
83: Gannet
84: Little egret

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Autumn passage!

Apparently autumn waders are on the move. I am still hoping for a few late spring migrants like sedge warbler and cuckoo!! I did connect with a family of spotted flycatchers in the Antrim Hills having given up on them. The last time I saw one in Northern Ireland was in June 2013 along the Newry Canal so it was nice to see them again. WOW was wetter than it has been on July 9 and I came up with  arctic tern and common sandpiper. Unfortunately I had a camera malfunction so the photos were all on the phone and digiscoping was not good. The garden is not a lot different than it has been over lockdown and the coastal path has also been fairly quiet. Walks in local areas have also been quiet, birds are harder to see and apart from blackcaps there is very little singing. Autumn in the world of birds is indeed on the way as birds go quiet, hide and moult. Hopefuly WOW will open soon and we have half  a chance of some wader passage from the observation room. Oh to be back with the Thursday club again and arguing over biscuits.

July 9

Arctic tern

Arctic tern
Black guillemots in Bangor

136: Peregrine falcon
137: Puffin
138: Kittiwake
139: Spotted flycatcher
140: Common sandpiper

Bangor West
66: House martin
67: Common tern
68: Manx shearwater

Belfast WOW
77: Manx shearwater
78: Peregrine falcon
79: Sandwich tern
80: Arctic tern
81: Common sandpiper

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Rathlin by sea

Probably the best way to do it, but this year it is the only way to do it as the island was Covid free and they were determined to keep it like that. Until recently it was forbidden to land and even when things eased up there was nowhere to go and nowhere to shelter. People were advised to bring their own food and if it rained eat it in the bus shelter. Things are slightly better now as I think the pub has opened but the seabird centre is still closed and the staff are furloughed. The word on the cliffs is that it will probably remain closed this year as the climb to and from the platform makes social distancing very difficult. So off we went with Redbay Powerboating and the Kintra ably skippered by Charlie Stewart. Due to tide and wind we did the trip anti-clockwise and started off with a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins coming out of Ballycastle. Unfortunately I discovered that my camera was still clamped to the scope which was in the house so all photos were taken on the phone. The list included all that was expected including peregrine, raven, manx shearwater, gannet and all the gulls except black-headed. We dipped on great skua - they were following the wrong boat!  All in all a cracking thre hours with the usual stunning views of Rathlin from the sea, highly recommended. Here are two sites with photos taken from the Kintra.

The first site is the boat page which has some nice photos, the second one is the RSPB page and some of the punters put their photos up on the site, scroll down and look for Gary Gray and Brian Fullerton.  Even if I had brought my camera I could not have bettered the shots by Brian and Gary.





East light


Rue Point

Stacks at Bull Point

Auks at sea

West light