Saturday, 22 April 2017

Slow migration and holidays

Hadn't realised its been over a month but two weeks were spent in Bolton and then at home with family so birding outings were limited. Then gout  and sinusitis  struck me down so as I am not getting out and about as much as I would like. Wakening at 0500 to a dawn chorus is nice but not if your nose is streaming and a headache is kicking in. As a result my intention to visit both sites early took a back seat.

Before jetting off to Bolton I picked up a sandwich tern, swallow and greylag at WOW plus a garden bullfinch and two  garden chiffchaff. First time I have seen chiffchaff in the garden for quite a few years, so long I cannot remember. I also clocked a raven on a day out to Rowallane.

Bolton gave two outings to Elton Reservoir and Pennington Flash for a range of spring migrants - sand martin, willow warbler, white wagtail and singing chiffchaff. I also nailed cetti's warbler and nuthatch. Really pleased wih the nuthatch as I got it by song - call I didn't know, started scanning and there was a nuthatch calling and moving in the tree above my head. Re-inforces the value of knowing your common birdsong and then saying, "Hang on a minute, I don't know that one!"

Elton reservoir

Elton again

Tourists in Wigan!!
Back home things took a tern for the better with a sandwich tern off  Bangor and the first common tern of the year at WOW. That turned a dull grey, low tide lagoon into something a bit more exciting. Despite that I still managed 35 species last Thursday including a mallard with 8 ducklings, 3 tufted duck, nesting mute swans, 2 med gulls and 8 brent at Kinnegar. Nice to get brent and common tern on the same day - outgoing and incoming migrants!! The feeders are tailing off, still getting a range of species but much smaller numbers.

WOW has had good migrants passing through but you need to be there at the right time, they do not hang around as they are geared up to get north and breed. Autumn is better as they are in a less of a hurry and hang around more. Wednesday had common sandpiper, whimbrel and wheatear so I staggered in for my shift on Thursday  despite not feeling 100%, needless to say the birds had moved on. Re-inforces the old birding refrain,  "You should have been here 10 minutes/ yesterday/ an hour/last week........" - delete where applicable.

Hopefully as the anti-biotics and steroids do their job I will feel more like a dawn chorus at WOW to see what I can add to the list. One more Thursday at WOW then Majorca for a week and believe you me the cripplers are streaming through - red-rumped swallow or bee-eater anyone?

Bangor West
56: Bullfinch
57: Chiffchaff
58: Sandwich tern
Belfast WOW
72: Sandwich tern
73: Swallow
74: Greylag goose
75: Common tern
121: Sand martin
122: Sandwich tern
123: Raven
124: Swallow
125: Willow warbler
126: Nuthatch
127: White wagtail
128: Cetti's warbler
129: Common tern

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Still waiting for migrants

Not much to report although the two lists are ticking over nicely with jay and goldcrest both appearing in the garden and lesser black back in Stricklands Bay. Two flyover goldies at WOW were joined by a guillemot in the channel and brent at Kinnegar.

WOW continues to be hit and miss as they are still working at both islands when the tide is low so as they can finish the work before the breeding season kicks off in earnest. Thursday was windy with heavy showers so the feeders got  a few looks as there were up to 6 redpolls present.

 Most birds are tucked over on the far side and only the black tailed godwits come across for the millet seed. Their bar tailed cousins stay as far away as possible.

Shelduck, oystercatchers, barwits & knot
Moving into breeding plumage
Bangor West
53: Jay
54: goldcrest
55: lesser black-backed gull
Belfast WOW
69: Golden plover
70 Guillemot
71: Brent geese: 

120: Ruff

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Birds are on the move

It isn't officially Spring tilll the equinox on March 21st but the birds are already on the move prompted no doubt by increasing daylight and warmer temperatures.  We had a ruff at WOW on Thursday as well as a pair of Mediterranean gulls. The weather and light were all good and I had 30 species all told with 6 redpolls on the feeders and 22 bar-tailed godwits roosting. Duck numbers are well down as they start to head north and from 160 lapwings we were down to 10. There are over 30 coots whereas in early February there were none. At one stage there were over 650 black-headed gulls and they are displaying and posturing, low tide and work on the island cleared them off. Some of the godwits are definitely more orange than others as they start to change into breeding plumage. Four nice shots below, as you can see not all the gullls are deterred by tape, ropes and CDs. Hopefully there will be some space for the terns to nest when they arrive.

The birding highlight for me was my first ever american wigeon in Dundrum Bay. No photos I'm afraid but there is a nice video of the bird here.

We hit low tide when the ducks were well spread out so it took a bit of finding, I suspect it might be better at high tide when the ducks push up onto the grass near the A2 to roost. There were also litttle egret and brent geese on display.

 Two patch walks along the coastal path failed to turn up any new birds, roll on spring!!

Bangor West
52: Redwing
Belfast WOW
67: Mediterranean gull
68: Ruff

119: American wigeon
120: Ruff

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Wallington Hall & WOW

A last post from our meanderings across England takes us to Wallington Hall a National Trust property in Northumberland where there is a wildlife hide which is supposed to be good for red squirrels. We dipped out but saw some nice birds. For the third time in a week I managed not to get nuthatch at a site where they are regular, but as you can see my birding pal and good friend David got some good shots at the feeders. He missed the brambling as it did not hang sround long enough for a photo, but the siskin did.



Mr Pheasant

Troglodytes troglodytes


Who's that coming?

We planned to do the red kite trail through Galloway en route to Stranraer but the weather intervened and we were lucky to get through never mind see any birds. I don't know what your weather was like on Monday 27th February but it probably was better than this!!

Back home to WOW on Thursday with the good news that the camera is up and running and the WOW list went up a few. A walk along the BangorWest patch added a surprising redwing and a Mediterranean gull in the Marina, probably the same one which has been around Bangor for the last two to three weeks.

Med gull

Turnstones at Stricklands Bay

Hopefully March will bring some migrants on both patches as the daylight lengthens and temperatures warm up.

Bangor West
52: Redwing
Belfast WOW
63: Bullfinch
64: Jackdaw
65: Starling
66: Rook
117: Siskin
118: Brambling

Friday, 3 March 2017

Doris day zaps the shorelarks

So we move on to the north-east  and a dawn to dusk birdathon round the Druridge/Cresswell area. On Thursday I decided to suss out the seven shore larks which have wintered at Chevington Burn. They were there and gave good views in deteriorating conditions. I also had a look at some of the other sites we were hoping to cover but by early afternoon Doris had arrived and heavy rain put paid to any detailed exploration.

Friday dawned dry, clear and calm so we cancelled our traditional route and went straight to Chevington Burn to find that Doris had completely redesigned the beach. The stones/shingle/seaweed area had been covered in blown sand and the birds had gone. We made three visits with no success.

Sunrise at Chevvy
Those of you who ticked the shore larks will struggle to recognise the site, obliterated with blown sand!!

There was a pied wagtail!!
 We then moved on and looked at both pools at East Chevington  before heading for Snab Point, Cresswell, Druridge Pools, Druridge Bay Country Park, Hadston Carrs and Hauxley which was indeed still closed. With some daylight left we had a quick look at the QE 2 Country Park and then headed for Longhirst Flash as another birder had said it had quite a lot around. This proved an inspired move even though the flash has totally changed since it was featured in Brian Unwin's guide to birding sites in the North East. Firstly there was no flash, secondly no mound and thirdly it was improved grassland with a few muddy puddles. Nevertheless it produced large flocks of pink-footed geese, two short-eared owls, five bean geese and seven white-fronted geese. This pushed the total to 77 for the day. We had scanned large flocks of PFG earlier with no luck and in fading light, bingo!! Other highlights were red throated and pacific diver, 2 little egrets at Druridge Pools, pochard, scaup, fulmar, slavonian grebe, scoter, sanderling, purple sandpiper, stonechat, fieldfare, tree sparrow and twite plus a lot of the usual suspects seen en route and at various stops. In previous years we have had a lot of finches a the home made feeders en route but these seemed to be mostly empty and it seems that whoever was responsible for them has not been topping them up. A lot of them were not in a good state and full of wet, rotten seed. Maybe some of the locals need to either maintain them or remove them??  As a result we struggled for goldfinch before we found 2 at Hadston Carrs and we missed yellowhammer for the second year running. The  pictures which follow were all taken by my pal David and are used with his permission. He has a better camera than me and loads more patience so enjoy!!

Sparowhawk at East Chevington

Passing pinkies

Spot the snipe, this would make a cracking jigsaw!!
All pinkfeet

Little egret at Druridge Pools
Scaup & pochard
Pacific diver
Pacific diver

Lapwing, redshank & knot

Twite arrived but no shore larks

Plenty of ringed plover
For those of you who have stuck with me so far, go and have a rest but come back later for a final post on our trip to Wallington Hall where we hoped to see red squirrels, but failed. However there were a few avian compensations and some more nice pics.

Bangor West
51: Grey heron
Belfast WOW
62: Carrion crow

105: sanderling
106: shore lark
107: Fulmar
108: Scoter
109: Pink-footed goose
110: Greykag
111: Stonechat
112: Slavonian grebe
113: Pacific diver
114: short-eared owl
115: Bean goose
116: White-fronted goose

Home from the holidays

So much to add and so many photos I am going to do this in two parts starting with Lancashire, Pennington Flash and the drive north to Tyneside via Upper Teesdale and Weardale. Pennington Flash produced a few year firsts and a list of common species. The notable birds were great spotted woodpecker, willow tit, stock dove, sparrowhawk and scaup. The Bunting hide was well stocked and well populated with tits and finches - a joy just to sit there and watch birds coming and going. At one stage there were 15 stock doves feeding. Later on  I overheard a remark from another visitor in another hide that the Bunting hide wasn't worth a visit as it was "full of pigeons". Here is a shot of some of those pigeons which I appreciated even if others didn't.

Feeding area at Pennington Flaash

GSW on the nuts

5 of the 15 stock doves

The drive north was via Langdon Beck in the hope of seeing black grouse a bird which has eluded me. Our luck was in as there were between 15 and 20 males and one female in a field where the birds lek. Photos are poor due to trying to digiscope from the car in poor light and fading batteries. Birders are asked to watch from the car as any attempt to get out for a better view just scares them away.

We also saw several red grouse en route across the moors, truly a gallinaceous day when you throw in the occasional pheasant. All in all then a nice set of birds which are difficult to get in County Down. Didn't realise that canada goose was a 2017 tick as I used to see them in London all the time!

Bangor West
51: Grey heron
Belfast WOW

62: Carrion crow

99: Great spotted woodpecker
100: Canada Goose
101: Willow tit
102: Stock dove
103: Black grouse
104: Red grouse

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Steady work and progress

A couple of visits to WOW and a walk along the coastal path helped to add a few ticks to the patches. The Long Hole in Bangor produced a rock pipit and a good variety of waders and shore birds. The little egret was too far off the patch to count being at the eastern end of Ballyholme beach.

WOW addedl lesser black back, great crested grebe, linnet and an unseasonal chiffchafff at Kinnegar which unfortunately was not singing. Signs of spring abound with the next stage of the camera installation being put in place and the tern island weeded and decorated to keep the gulls off. There are windows which have to be met and tides which have to be worked round never mind lack of daylight.

Cable ready for digging in

Ropes and CDs
The low tide allows millet to be spread under the window and this attracted 3 reed buntings on Thursday and black-tailed godwits on Sunday.
Mr Bunting

Mr & Mrs Bunting

Black-tailed godwits
 If you look carefully you will see our old friend from Iceland back again. Nice to see him returning and bringing a lot of his friends with him.  He was last seen at WOW on10th November and I mentioned him here:

A quick walk along the coastal path yesterday added heron, mallard and grey wagtail. The four mallard were on the pond at the top of the Glen. While I was scanning the beach five minutes later they flew overhead towards the Marina and disappeared. Just goes to show - right place right time!! WOW today produced 39 species but only added little grebe and carrion crow to the list. Mind you carrion crow was a first for the reserve which also had 2 mergansers and a cormorant  fishing inside the reserve.

Mallard on the pond in Stricklands Glen
Off to England tonight with the scope and the binoculars. Firstly to Bolton for family duties and then to Cramlington in the North-East for the dawn to dusk yomp round Cresswell, Druridge and Hauxley. Report will follow but not for a couple of weeks. I hope to do some incidental birding on the way - watch this space!!

Bangor West
48: Rock pipit
49: Mallard
50: grey wagtail 
51: Grey heron
Belfast WOW

57: Lesser black-backed gull
58: Great crested grebe
59: Linnet
60: Chiffchaff 
61 Little grebe
62: Carrion crow

97: Lesser black-backed gull
98: Chiffchaff