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

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!!

Holbeach, the Wash estuary, Lincolnshire, E England
Rahasane Turlough, Co. Galway, W Ireland
Snettisham, the Wash estuary, Norfolk, E England
Snettisham, the Wash estuary, Norfolk, E England
Snettisham, the Wash estuary, Norfolk, E England
Dee estuary, Cheshire, NW England
Frampton Marsh, the Wash estuary, Lincolnshire, E England
Snettisham, the Wash estuary, Norfolk, E England
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.


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
157: Twite

Bangor West
71: Curlew

Belfast WOW

99: Jay

Monday, 5 November 2018

Patch Gold curlew

After several weeks of walking to and from Bangor I finally nailed a curlew on the patch. That should be it for the year unless I get really lucky with a diver or sea duck close in. Reed bunting was a spring absentee and is unlikely now, redpoll also missing but could turn up on the feeders in the garden. I will keep walking the patch anyway - at this time of year it is a pleasant walk with less people to disturb the birds. The other notable sighting was 3 razorbill offshore at Carnalea.  I also managed to get to Seacliff Road high tide roost on a sunny afternoon and was happy to get a few shots. There were 5 black-headed and 3 herring gulls, 3 oystercatcher, 3 redshank, 6 turnstone, 4 dunlin, 5 purple sandpiper and over 60 ringed plover. Offshore there were eider, black guillemot, cormorant and shag. All in all a very pleasant 30 minutes and I was able to point out birds to some passing walkers who were totally oblivious to the avian riches on display

Ringed plover

Ringed plover & dunlin
Pied wagtail
Gulls & waders
Ringed plover, purple sandpiper & turnstone

Ringed plover & purple sandpiper
WOW finally received some water as you can see from the following photographs taken on October 18. A shelduck, two shoveler and 19 golden plover were highlights of the day as well as a few teal.


Shelduck reflected in water!!

Golden plover reflections as well.

Look Chris has built a second hide.
Unfortunately there has been little or no rain since, so by November 1 it was still damp but had dried out considerably. Apart from the teal and a few lapwing everthing else had moved on. There were however 18 snipe on the mud in Kinnegar Lagoon and up to 5 little grebe in the pool.  These may be  the ones which breed in WOW and hopefully they will return once we have water. Offshore there were black guillemot, eider and merganser. This week has been wet and it is forecast to be very wet over the next two days so fingers crossed.

156: Sooty Shearwater - LIFER 😎

Bangor West
71: Curlew

Belfast WOW

99: Jay

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Still no water

Not a lot to report really as the lists are stuck where they were and there has not been a lot of rain. We managed 21 species at WOW including two buzzards and two ravens. Kinnegar added a few more including a count of over 170 red-breasted mergansers. Mallard and shelduck both flew over the reserve, had a look, and flew on.There was the usual curlew roost which contained some oystercatchers and a few black-tailed godwit, otherwise it was same old, same old as the following photos show.

Buzzard eating a meal, possibly a moorhen.

Curlew and oystercatchers

Resident hooded crow


Raven with magpies in attendance

Flotilla of moorhens on the mud

Every dot is a moorhen

Sometimes there are no moorhens to see and then gradually they appear out of the reeds and spread over the mud. We still have 80+ around the reserve, but then they get spooked and dive for cover. These 40+ are down to the right of the observation room. There are another 40+ over to the left and quite a few on the far side where Hide 2 is. A visit at the minute guarantees moorhens, hooded crows, magpies and wood pigeons, anything else is a bonus or a flyover. If the feeders are operational we can add goldfinch, greenfinch, chaffinch, plus blue, coal and great tit. As usual it is worth checking Kinnegar lagoon and shore, this week we had knot, 2 sandwich tern, bar-tailed godwit and teal. It has been a trifle damp of late so hopefully water levels will start to rise - watch this space!!

The coastal path has not produced much, but then there isn't much left to add. The high tide roost at Seacliff Road gave good views of waders but I decided not to bring the scope and camera as I could
not be bothered carrying it - bad decision - as high tide and bright sun behind me made conditions perfect for pictures. The following are taken with an ipod, think what a good camera wuld have done with ringed plover, turnstone, purple sandpiper, redshank, and oystercatcher all perched up on the rocks. Throw in a great-crested grebe close in at Strickland's Bay and I could have had a field day. This was the first time I have ever seen a grebe here and the first time I have seen one so close in. Normally they are scoped somewhere in Ballyholme Bay at the outer limits of the patch. Note to self is to look for a high tide and a good day and bring the equipment!!

Ringed plovers

Ringed plovers and turnstone


There's the grebe


Nice gannet, very close in to the shore.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Steady work and progress

WOW is still very dry and giving around 20 species with a bit of effort, add in Kinnegar and you get up and around the 30 mark. Unfortunately we are struggling to find wintering wildfowl and waders at WOW and are relying on Kinnegar shore and the lagoon. Teal and mallard are common but so far we are missing out on shelduck, gadwall, shoveler and wigeon. Either they have not yet arrived or they have moved elsewhere. Any interesting birds are usually on the far side of the reserve and well out of range for pictures.

Close up magpie

Lets look at the tern islands

........ could do with a drop of water!
Since I last posted I have observed over 20 meadow pipits, ravens, swallows and house martins (Sept 24). We also have had a pair of stonechat and wheatear briefly a well as a fly through jay. Kinnegar turned up a little egret and a kingfisher while there were razorbills offshore and sanderling on the beach.

Walks to Kearney and Ballyquinton Point turned up all the usual suspects including my final swallow on September 30th and a mixed flock of about 150 finches feeding in stubble. The coastal path has been well walked this week to try and add curlew which is a major omission on the NDCP patch. Still three months to go however so all is not lost. The gannets have gone as have the terns and the brent geese have arived in numbers. They have been seen at Kinnegar and eleven flew over WOW last week.

156: Sooty Shearwater - LIFER 😎

Bangor West

70: Common tern

Belfast WOW

94: Sanderling
65: Razorbill
96: Wheatear
97: Little egret
98: Kingfisher
99: Jay

Monday, 17 September 2018


Seeing as WOW is still dry and not producing a lot of birds, Kinnegar is worth a visit as you swing in and out of the Harbour Estate. There is a small stream flowing in to the sea at this point. It drains the marshy area betwen Holywood Exchange and the A2. This is the area bisected by the railway line  between Holywood and Sydenham. It usually has coot, moorhen, mute swan, tufted, mallard, moorhen, grey heron etc.. I am sure there are interesting birds in the reeds but access is either impossible, illegal, dangerous or possibly all three!!

Still a bit on the dry side
There is a causeway at the landward end of Kinnegar Pool accessed by a rough path close to the Clare House Overflow Car Park. Cross the causeway and you are into an area of reed and scrub which is good for passerines and spring migrants.

Causeway looking upstream towards B&Q

Causeway looking towards the lough
Where the river reaches the sea you can look upstream to the causeway or out to the Lough. At low tide the mud is covered with waders and gulls. At high tide they can roost on the shingle or on the lagoon. The lough itself needs checked for sea duck, divers, auks and grebes particularly in winter. The scrubby woodland around the lagoon can produce lots of small birds and apparently holds reed warblers - I have failed to see or hear them . The lagoon is good in summer for hunting/roosting terns and is a favourite hunting ground for swallows and martins. House martins and swallows collect mud here for their nests.

From the road looking towards the causeway

From the road to the beach
River mouth looking to Belfast at low tide
River mouth looking to the Irish Sea at low tide
Lapwing in the lagoon
High tide from the road

Roosting waders in the lagoon at high tide
The exposed mud at low tide gives scope views of a variety of birds - oystercatcher, redshank, knot, dunlin, turnstone, ringed plover, bar-tailed and black-tailed godwits, curlew, shelduck, brent goose, and up to five types of gulls. The lagoon holds mallard and teal with occasional shelduck, gadwall and tufted duck. Like any body of water it can throw up unexpected visitors. Roseate tern, little ringed plover and yellow wagtail have been seen. Lists have not been updated as there is nothing to update. NDCP has reached the expected 70 and WOW is on 93, hopefully some wintering ducks and auks will push it up. Until we get serious rain at WOW I am not expecting any exotic waders to boost the list. At the minute we are looking forward to returning winter wildfowl but are worried that they will go elsewhere.