Thursday, 10 January 2019

2018 wrap and 2019 kicks off

Not a lot to say about the end of 2018 as the lists stayed the same, no point in replicating them, they are at the end of the previous post. The disappointing sting in the tail was driving to Pennington Flash on Boxing Day and finding all the hides locked and all the feeders empty. So gutted I mooched about for 20 minutes and gave up with a list which was all common stuff plus a goosander on the main lake.
Dawn over County Down
2019 dawned clear and bright and we were able to be out on January 1st for the first time in quite a few years as my birding pal David is now retired and was not required in work. We did the west side of Strangford Lough, starting at the Quoile Pondage and working north through Killyleagh, Ballymorran, Whiterock, Castle Espie, Islandhill and finished at the Floodgates in fading light. We hit 61 species, dipped on the spoonbill but saw peregrine on two occasions - possibly the same bird - and a long-tailed duck at the Quoile.  Other notable species were pintail at the Floodgates, 1000 + golden plover, goldeneye, greenshank, red-breasted merganser and fieldfare. All in all a good start to the year.

Quoile by David Miller
Grey heron by David Miller
Whiterock snipe also by David Miller
David's arty shot of black-headed gulls at the Quoile
David's other snipe shot

Long-tailed duck (This one is mine)
Rough Island looking south for the spoonbill
Sunset at the Flood Gates
WOW kicked off with 50 species and put me half way to my 100 target on the first day! The highlight was a hunting peregrine plus linnet, redpoll and reed bunting at the feeders. This week I added another 5 including goldcrest, snipe and guillemot. Here are a few shots from the last couple of visits. None from today as the light was not at its best but it was better than it is in work!!

Gadwall pair

Mallard pair

Shovelers shoveling
I had two walks along the coastal path plus the garden so the West Bangor patch now stands at 42 - more than half way to the target of 70. Highlights were curlew (which took me till mid-October in 2018), moorhen, grey heron (both can be hard to get), sparrowhawk, guillemot, and purple sandpiper. The garden added linnet and bullfinch on the feeders and goldcrest and long-tailed tit within minutes of each other in the rowan tree while I was registering the new washing machine on the phone!! I actually managed to birdwatch for the first five days in January. Since then things have quietened down a bit and a walk along the Lagan towpath produced very little.

Tuesday saw a trip to Whitehead for black redstart and twite, while a stop at Macedon Point on the way home added red-throated diver and pheasant. The latter nearly became dinner as it exploded from the roadside across the front of the car.

2019  
82: Red-throated diver

Bangor West
42: Bullfinch

Belfast WOW

51: Buzzard
52: Snipe
53: Goldcrest
54: Cormorant
55: Guillemot

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Ton up at WOW

Surprisingly last week bird number 100 on the WOW patch  was a kestrel which flew over and away. I have seen kestrel there but not for some time although one was spotted in the autumn by one of the regulars over the waste ground to the east. This was one of 29 species including all the regulars plus buzzard, redpoll, snipe and a male pochard. Water levels continue to rise and there has been more rain this week. We are down to two Koniks and they are on their last hurrah as they are to be replaced by Dexter cattle next autumn.

The millet is pulling birds up to the window and one of the eight snipe we saw came over and gave excellent views to a visiting bird group.

Teal

Matching teal

Snipe

Sod's law, best snipe shot photo-bombed by a moorhen.

Common snipe, note central cream stripe on head

Wigeon
Spring shot of Koniks for old times sake.
Heading off to Bolton for a week and hopefully nuthatch and water rail providing I get a morning at Pennington Flash. Should get a post towards the end of the year with summaries and totals. Happy Christmas.  🎅 🎄 🎅

2018  
157: Twite

Bangor West
71: Curlew

Belfast WOW

100: Kestrel

Saturday, 1 December 2018

WATER

Now you have the answer to the clue as WOW is now back to normal and water levels are slowly rising to the accepted level. There have been good numbers of birds around the reserve and counts have been 30+ each Thursday morning. First an update on the younger of the two black-tailed godwits mentioned in the last post. This is the eleven year old bird which was ringed in Iceland and has been a regular winter visitor to WOW and also across Belfast Lough in Whitehouse Lagoon.It goes by the quaint title of  GG - ORf  which translates from the Icelandic as green, green (Left leg) - Orange, red flag (right leg)




Here is the sighting history from its ringing in Iceland in July 2007


16.7.2007 Iceland,N Ice,Skagafjarðarsýsla,Fljót,Langhús 66.0610 -19.121
8.9.2007 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
12.10.2007 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Down,Strangford Lough,Castle Espie 54.5324 -5.6901
12.10.2007 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Down,Strangford Lough,Castle Espie 54.5324 -5.6901
12.10.2007 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Down,Strangford Lough,Castle Espie 54.5324 -5.6901
15.10.2007 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Down,Strangford Lough,Castle Espie 54.5324 -5.6901
17.5.2008 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
16.4.2009 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
15.4.2010 Iceland,W Ice,Mýrasýsla,Mýrar,VogalÌkur 64.5296 -22.205
16.4.2010 Iceland,W Ice,Mýrasýsla,Mýrar,VogalÌkur 64.5296 -22.205
19.4.2010 Iceland,W Ice,Mýrasýsla,Mýrar,VogalÌkur 64.5296 -22.205
21.4.2010 Iceland,W Ice,Mýrasýsla,Mýrar,VogalÌkur 64.5296 -22.205
23.4.2010 Iceland,W Ice,Mýrasýsla,Mýrar,VogalÌkur 64.5296 -22.205
26.4.2010 Iceland,W Ice,Mýrasýsla,Mýrar,VogalÌkur 64.5296 -22.205
14.2.2012 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
25.2.2012 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
14.4.2012 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
6.3.2013 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
17.4.2013 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
18.4.2013 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
17.4.2014 Iceland,E Ice,S-Múlasýsla,ÁlftafjÜrður,Starmýri 64.5345 -14.552
21.3.2015 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
25.2.2016 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
6.3.2016 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
31.7.2016 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
5.10.2016 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
26.10.2016 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
27.10.2016 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
10.11.2016 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
10.12.2016 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
4.10.2017 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
4.10.2017 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
23.12.2017 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
5.4.2018 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Down,Strangford Lough,Castle Espie 54.5324 -5.6901
17.4.2018 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Down,Strangford Lough,Castle Espie 54.5324 -5.6901
19.8.2018 Northern Ireland,E N-Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Whitehouse Lagoon 54.6538 -05.909
8.11.2018 Northern Ireland,E N-Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Whitehouse Lagoon 54.6538 -05.909
10.11.2018 Northern Ireland,E N-Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Whitehouse Lagoon 54.6538 -05.909
11.11.2018 Northern Ireland,N Ire,Antrim,Belfast,Belfast harbour RSPB 54.6538 -05.909
39 records

As you can see it is a much travelled bird with a good sighting history and we were delighted to be able to help in scientific research and can only imagine the delight of the ringer when they get a sighting. Other than that not a lot to report, but birds are closer in.

Moorhen
Teal
The rising water levels at WOW meant that the staff decided to float the tern islands back to their winter quarters.This disturbed a young female peregrine which was snacking near the swift tower. It hung around  and gave good views especially when it had a go at the local buzzard.They also shifted about 600 wigeon, 60 moorhen, 60+ wigeon and 40+mallard. The second tern island re-location took an interesting "turn" with a hint of a Rod Stewart number about it. 


Clear the furniture
Wait for the assistant to return
Pretend we are on the Cam punting
Suddenly realise there is a brisk westerly wind, so open the sails and cruise across the lagoon to a Rod Stewart soundtrack, "We are sailing"
It actually worked very well and they made good progress before they had to down sails and head north to winter quarters with the poles and a bit of a push. As you can see WOW is still stuck on 99 and has been since early October, I need a diver or a sea duck and I need it soon. Keep looking!!

2018  
157: Twite

Bangor West
71: Curlew

Belfast WOW

99: Jay

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

1 Across: HIJKLMNO (5)

The title is a cryptic crossword clue which hopefully you will get by the end of this post. If not the answer will be on the subsequent post. Please feel free to post the answer in the comments section plus any other observations you may have.

First a quick trip to Castle Espie on November 6th on a rising tide in the hope of  nice pictures. Unfortunately heavy rain put paid to that and by the time it cleared the tide was well in and the birds had moved on. We did seee grey plover, little egret, greenshank, kingfisher, golden plover and 46 whoopers at Islandhill as well as all the regulars. Bonus was a flock of twite from the Limestone Observatory which we decided were redpoll rather than linnet. We never considered twite as they are relatively rare here, but closer examination of the photographs and a bit of help from NI birds gave us an unexpected bonus tick.

Wet and cloudy
Willow brent at Castle Espie

Wader roost on the saltmarsh with brent behind

Twite
Twite
The Greater Belfast area had serious rain on three days in the last week and at last water levels rose significantly at WOW. From nowhere we suddenly had water and birds - there were over 500 teal, 60 wigeon, 200 curlew, 60 knot, 20 dunlin, 200 lapwing, 150 black-tailed godwit, a snipe  and a shelduck!! This plus the usuals gave us over 30 species for the first time in about 5 months. Added to the excitement of counting we had three birds with rings. The first was a greylag goose with a white 212 on the right leg. We suspect this was one of the geese ringed and collared as part of the study to see where the geese go and how they impact on the Harbour Airport. The other two ringed birds were black-tailed godwit and these were much more exciting.

Ringed godwit GG-ORf
This bird has been seen regularly here since it was first ringed in Iceland in July 2007. We saw it in May of this year and it was seen in Whitehouse Lagoon in August this year, now it is back at WOW at the age of 11. In many ways it was like welcoming back an old friend. I'll post a full history next time. 




The second bird was new to the reserve  so we forwarded the description to the relevant authorities and this is what came up!!


L-GW//W
09.09.02
Holbeach, the Wash estuary, Lincolnshire, E England
25.10.15
Rahasane Turlough, Co. Galway, W Ireland
29.07.16
Snettisham, the Wash estuary, Norfolk, E England
21.08.16
Snettisham, the Wash estuary, Norfolk, E England
23.08.16
Snettisham, the Wash estuary, Norfolk, E England
24.11.16
Dee estuary, Cheshire, NW England
20.08.17
Frampton Marsh, the Wash estuary, Lincolnshire, E England
13.07.18
Snettisham, the Wash estuary, Norfolk, E England
08.11.18
Belfast Lough, Co Antrim, N Ireland
         
Having been ringed in The Wash in 2002 it was not seen for 13 years, suddenly it popped up in Galway and has been regularly sighted since and is now 16 years old. How cool is that for a godwit. This sort of staggering feedback shows us how important ringing programmes are in building up a picture of bird migration and we were well chuffed - to coin a phrase.

As well as bringing in birds to the reserve the rising water levels pushed the birds towards the observation room and gave better photo opportunities than we have had recently.

Redshank

Mallard pair

Black-tailed godwits
Three photos to finish with showing that WOW is back in business and perhaps you can now solve the clue.

November 8th

November 11th

November 11th
2018  
157: Twite

Bangor West
71: Curlew

Belfast WOW

99: Jay