Friday, 20 April 2018

The spring has sprung.....

The spring has sprung
The grass is riz
I wonder where dem boidies is?
The little boids is on de wing......... all over the patches!!

At last we have movement, rising temperatures and a flood of migrants. Mind you I haven't managed to connect with them all just yet, but I have managed a few. The coastal path finally turned up a sandwich tern and the WOW patch added quite a few, especially on Saturday when I helped to take some members round the Harbour Meadows site. This area is normally closed to the public but the RSPB are holding a series of guided walks to let members see where their money is going. This was a fascinating insight into what goes on in this area and the changes that have had to be made as the site is next door to Belfast City Airport. The highlight for me was a small marsh where we put up 22 snipe and 2 jack snipe. We also saw reed bunting, buzzard, heron, stonechat, willow warbler, blackcap, chiffchaff and meadow pipit. Water rails were heard as well. I was so busy taking photographs for the RSPB I forget to take some for myself, fortunately Margaret sent me one taken near WOW. I will try to see if Chris can let me use the ones I took for him!

Walking at WOW by Margaret Adamson

The garden is still pulling in birds as you can see, nothing extravagant except for a female blackcap which I managed not to snap.

Bully singing
Collared dove
Punk greenfinch

Mr & Mrs
Passer domesticus (F)
WOW is still between winter and summer with wintering ducks being serenaded by willow warblers and blackcaps. Only one tern so far - a sandwich, and only one migrant ruff. The big attraction is the Mediterranean gulls which appear to be in breeding mood again this year.Numbers vary between one and five on the big island.

Other attractions are as follows

Black-tailed godwit getting more orange
Eider on the river
Hunting heron
The herons and hooded crows will not be around much longer as the gulls and terns will chase them once they are on eggs.As you can see they are getting "jiggy-jiggy" and for a short time we are able to tell male from female! They are probably two to three weeks later than they were last year.

Home decoration

Late news from today (Saturday) was a Patch Gold wheatear on the rocks at Stricklands, the first I remember seeing in 25 years of walking the coastal path. Right place right time, the 4 purple sandpipers near Pickie were also not expected in April, but were starting to show signs of breeding plumage and will not be around much longer. It is always nice to see a winter leaver and a summer arrival in the same area at the same time. My first wheatear last year was in the Bocquer Valley in Majorca.

113: Chiffchaff
115: Ruff
116: Willow warbler
117: Jack snipe
118: Wheatear

Bangor West
59: Sandwich tern
60: Wheatear

Belfast WOW
71: Rook
72: Snipe
73: Long-tailed tit
74: Ruff
75: Jack snipe
76: Willow warbler
77: Blackcap
78: Chiffchaff

Friday, 30 March 2018

Winter hangs on in there

It looks like spring is finally on the way as things are happening albeit slowly. Birdsong in the garden is ramping up- I was doing a bit of cutting and tidying the other day and had robin, dunnock. woodpigeon. collared dove, great tit coal tit, chaffinch, and a bit of blackbird all singing. Not sure if the calls of hooded crow, jackdaw and herring gull count as song but they were vocal. I have been along the coastal path several times in the last ten days with a view to connecting with as much as possible and have added lesser black-backed gull, meadow pipit, jay and a patch gold red-breasted merganser. It was very close inshore just west of the marina and it is a first patch tick in four years. I also saw three male mallard in and around Strickland's Glen and saw the jay twice on separate visits. As the days get longer the sun moves round and sets further west increasing the opportunity for nice sunsets.
Patch gold mallard
Looking up the Lough
Nothing like a nice bit of cirrus
More cirrus looking east
Garden jackdaw, almost too close to digiscope.
Standing guard
WOW is still more brown than green but the first sandwich tern appeared and lots of the black-tailed godwit are starting to show a bit of orange as they change into breeding plumage. Thursday March 22nd had 42 species including 2 buzzard, 1 raven, 40+ bar-tailed godwit and 60+ knot as well as two scaup in the reserve and two more offshore. There was also a red-breasted merganser in the reserve. Two little grebes swam across in front of the observation room which is not their usual haunt. They are normally off the reeds across at hide 2 and more difficult to see.  The feeders had redpoll, reed bunting and linnet as well as all the usual suspects. All in all a good three hours with the hint of spring on the way. Water levels are still high as there has been a lot of rain and plans are afoot for new tern rafts. Both islands are covered in black-headed gulls- over 300 at present,  plus a few Mediterranean gulls - between 1 and 5. The smaller island has been decorated to deter the gulls.

Not all gulls are deterred!
The new islands will not be floated out until the terns arrive - ie late April/early May by which time most of the gulls will have nested and be sitting on eggs or feeding young.

Orange coming through

Little grebe and obligatory gull

Six species here, can you name them?

Little grebe close in, not their usual haunt.
Spot the Med gull

A lonely knot with a godwit

The knot was on its own with over 100 godwit and unusually came over to the observation room, normally the are distant on the far side. The attached video shows how close and active it was.

112: Sandwich tern

Bangor West
55: Lesser black-backed gull
56: Meadow pipit
57: Jay
58: Red-breasted merganser

Belfast WOW
69: Sandwich tern
70: Carrion crow

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Still winter

Another mini cold spell meant few migrants have arrived and a lot of the winter visitors are hanging on.  I decided to post  rather than wait for loads to happen at once so here goes. The most exciting find at WOW was a ringed black-headed gull which came all the way from Comber! It was ringed at Castle Espie in June 2014 but has not been spotted since it was seen in Mill Quarter Bay on the west side of Strangford in October 2015. Hopefully it will breed at WOW this year.

 I managed 37 species including a greenshank at Kinnegar and five litttle grebe - the most we have ever seen at WOW. No odd gulls but Med, iceland and ring billed were seen later in the week. The Bangor patch is also quiet but a brief walk on Saturday turned up three mallard on the top pond at Strickland's Glen and a pair of mistle thrush on the adjacent football pitch as well as a couple of song thrush. The garden was busy, but nothing new this week. Ducks at WOW continue to give nice views as seen below.


Migrants are appearing in ones and twos in Southern Ireland but nothing will venture north until the wind changes direction and the temperatures rise. We wait in hope of warmer days and the clocks spring forward next weekend  :-).

2018 111: Mediterranean gull

Bangor West
53: Mallard
54: Mistle thrush

Belfast WOW
68: Greenshank

Monday, 12 March 2018

Patch birding

Seemed easier to do a couple of posts as there was a lot to catch up on with so much time spent looking at the garden. So here is an update on both patches. WOW on Thursday produced 40 species and boosted the patch total by three - Mediterranean gull, jackdaw and little grebe. The good news is that the  five Mediterranean gulls are back and the black-headed gulls are flocking to the nesting islands again - we had 350+ as well as all the regulars. The new video camera is working well and hopefully will give good views of the nesting med gulls. The terns use the other island so we might get a lot of black-headed gulls on camera. There are three new roosting platforms in front of the observation room so hopefully we will get nice tern views in spring and summer.

"Tern" island  - all gulls - spot the med gull!
Med gull screenshot taken from the monitor in WOW. The camera is on the island
Breeding plumage creeping in to the head of the godwit
I like millet too
Bhg trying out the new roosting planks in front of the observation room.

 A walk along the coastal path from Bangor to Ballyholme added a rock pipit to the list as well as a diving shag and a wader roost.
Nearly missed it!
Up for 10 seconds, down for 90
Spot three waders at the Long Hole
The absolute patch gold highlight on Sunday afternoon in the garden was a pair of siskin, the first in two years. The male proved slightly more obliging and hung around long enough for a sprint upstairs to grab the digiscoping equipment,  sprint back to set it up and get a couple of shots before a starling spooked him. His mate meanwhile munched on sunflower hearts but never came to the front of the feeder.
Patch gold siskin

Good bird to practice id skills?

And a nice robin to finish

111: Mediterranean gull

Bangor West
50: Goldcrest
51: Rock pipit 
52: Siskin

Belfast WOW
65: Mediterranean gull
66: Little grebe
67: Jackdaw

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Catch up time

A round up of the last couple of weeks including more garden birds, and some of David's pictures from Northumberland. We'll start in Northumberland.

QE 2 Country Park - the barnacle goose!
QE 2 Country Park
QE 2 Country Park
Teal at Druridge Pools
Pink feet at Druridge
Waders at Hauxley - spot three
Purple sandpipers at Hauxley
Cresswelll at dusk
The rather small puppy dog from the east finally reached Bangor but it was not as bad as other places.  We avoided snow, but temperatures reached -3C one day, which meant I had to break the pond ice three times. The wind was easterly and bitter and despite an abundance of food the garden was pretty bird free. It is open to the east so I think they re-located to more sheltered areas. Over the week I managed a few photos and finally nailed the local house sparrows. A goldcrest finally passsed through but was too quick to get a shot.

Coal tit
House sparrow (F)
House sparrow (M)
The happy couple