Friday, 19 June 2020

Deja vu

I am trying to get back into the routine of visiting WOW on a Thursday morning even though I can only visit the two open hides and wander round Kinnegar. Unfortunately since I was last there two weeks ago the water has disappeared and we are looking at a rerun of 2018 when the reserve was dry from late July until October. This year it has dried up in mid June and the tern islands are high and dry. I have managed to add swallow, swift and house martin to the WOW patch but the chances of migrant waders in autumn are not looking good without significant rain. Here are a few pictures (windows still not cleaned) plus two orchids from Kinnegar.

June 4th

June 18th


Black-headed gulls, chicks and terns

Curlew and black-tailed godwits


Pyramidal orchid

Common spotted orchid?

The garden continues to keep us entertained as we have families of blue, coal and great tits visiting the feeders and the goldfinches have suddenly decided that niger seed is  the must have delicacy - the feeder is being re-filled daily. My birding buddy David with the good camera visited recently for a socially distanced lunch so the first five photos are his.

Coal tit


Coal tit



House sparrow

Long-tailed tit family

Blue tit

Herring gull


I suppose the herring gull and the rook need an explanation. I have been ground baiting with past their sell by date rich tea biscuits to try and get a nice magpie shot. Three gulls suddenly appeared and all hell broke loose. They are massive brutes in a suburban garden and they didn't hang around. The rook appeared later and was much more wary. I did get the magpie and also the local jackdaws. I'll try jaffa cakes tomorrow to see what turns up. Local walks have added manx shearwater, fulmar and arctic tern to the list. Tollymore Forest gave good views of dipper, grey wagtail and jay. The dipper is a phone photo. What sort of idiot goes for a walk without a camera?? Anyway there was an adult and a juvenile on the Shimna.


Shimna river also a bit on the dry side

I have also been woodland walking and looking/listening for woodpeckers. Unfortunately they were drumming while we were locked in. Now they are rearing young and not making a lot of noise so I will just keep trying. You only need to be lucky once.

131: House martin
132: Sand martin
133: Arctic tern
134: Manx shearwater
135: Fulmar

Bangor West
66: House martin

Belfast WOW
74: Swift
75: House martin
76: Swallow

Monday, 1 June 2020

WOW, WOW and thrice WOW

With apologies to Frankie Howard and Up Pompeii we have no further truck with lockdown editions. WOW is again accessible with the two "free" hides open although the centre is still locked. No toilets and no coffee/tea, bring a flask and an empty bladder. Despite this it was great to be back (twice) and I managed 39 species between WOW and Kinnegar. Highlights were mute swans and 5 cygnets, sand martin, whitethroat, lapwings, black-headed gulls and hatched chicks, common terns, 80+ black-tailed godwits, singing blackcaps, greenfinches and willow warbler, a small blue butterfly and a knot in winter plumage??

large tern island
Large tern island and gull chicks

Common tern

Common terns and a coot

Grey heron

Knot and black-headed gull

Elsewhere we have branched out with walks to Orlock, Portavoe, Ballymacormick Point and Clandeboye Wood. House martin has been added to the list and we have enjoyed some stunning sunsets and views over the North Down coast and Belfast Lough.

Orlock Point with a flock of starlings

Smelt Mill Bay near Bangor

Take 2

Take 3

Ballymacormick Point

The garden lockdown list is now at 31, with a flyover swallow, and the garden continues to provide views of common species and a few fledglings. I suppose the standout bird was the chiffchaff. We also finally managed to see two hedgehogs late one evening. I have long suspected they were around but late one night I went out to hunt for snails on the hostas and there they were on the lawn. One legged it but the other one sat long enough for a poor photo

Daily visitors


House sparrow


131: House martin
132: Sand martin

Bangor West
66: House martin

Belfast WOW
71: Whitethroat
72: Sand martin
73: Greylag goose

Friday, 22 May 2020

Don't tell Boris - I escaped!!

This is lockdown edition number 5 but I sneaked out of my local area and exercised at Kinnegar and Airport Road to see if I could hear a willow warbler and I heard at least three in the Kinnegar scrub. I also added bullfinch and common tern. Although WOW is still locked up it was nice to walk along the Airport Road and see how things were going. The winter ducks are gone and the black-headed gulls are nesting as the terns arrive. Birdsong filled the air, as well as willow warbler there were blackbirds, blackcaps, wrens, great tits, dunnocks and a song thrush. There were also at least three singing greenfinches, a sound I no longer hear around home. They are common on the WOW feeders so hopefully they are doing well. My spirits were uplifted and my mental health received a boost.

Locally the twice weekly walk round the local golf course came to an end this week but not before I had a singing whitethroat near the 9th tee in a patch of bramble. Swifts appeared overhead in the garden and swallows over the Marina. The garden is noticeably quieter and there are fewer birds around. My garden lockdown list is firmly stuck on 29. Dunnock remains the commonest bird with jackdaw, magpie, woodpigeon, starling and coal tit. The jackdaws have a nest in a blocked chimney and are frequent visitors. Gulls and crows pass overhead but finches are scarce and house sparrows occasional. Few bird photos I am afraid, mainly nice views of the coast and a few of the usual suspects in the garden. The garden bird photos were taken at breakfast as we sat in the garden. By sitting quietly the birds were quite unconcerned as long as we didn't move too much. In Ulster-Scots terms my favourite is the hedgeling or shufflewing which is so descriptive of the bird.

Look how early we are up!
Black guillemots in the Marina
View from the ninth
Sally picker, sally wren or willow wren in the garden, it was calling and moving and being followed by a youngster.
Croodlin doo, quest or wild pigeon
This is a blue wren, field sparrow, futtock, grey robin, hedgeling or shuffle wing.
A pair of slaters, snowburds, stares or stuckys

Caff or whitewing

Male whitewing or caff


Pink, Corney of the cap, or goldspring

Coal tit, can't imagine it didnt have an Ulster-Scots name!!

Finish off with a nice one of our back garden which I have sent off to be made into a jigsaw. This is how we pass the time in lockdown. To date we are on number 14, mainly 1000 pieces with a few 500 pieces thrown in for light relief. We are getting quite good at them and have a jigsaw station in the dining area with three tables to put all the pieces out. We also do the odd wasgij for fun. Google it and see what you think!! Hopefully we will have a few more trips out and a few less jigsaws and wasgijs.

127: Swift
128: Whitethroat
129: Willow warbler
130: Common tern

Bangor West
64: Swift
65: Whitethroat

Belfast WOW
68: Bullfinch
69: Willow warbler
70: Common tern

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Lockdown edition part 4

Basically more of the same with fewer birds in and around the garden. It is reaching the stage where there is not a lot visiting the feeders as there is more food in the parks, fields and gardens. I think I only get a few adults topping up their own appetites with suet pellets, fat and sunflower hearts. I only have a couple of feeders up (sunflower hearts and fat balls). The garden list hasn't moved for two weeks despite searching the skies for swifts, swallows and martins. Here's the latin name for these birds. Six I knew (sad), two I had to look up. Interesting seeing the dunnock (prunella modularis) at the feeder. I think it is because it is cheap sunflower hearts from B&M which have lots of tiny bits in rather than whole seeds. My thinking is that some bits are so small the dunnock can eat them. I had to clean the feeders if they got wet, as the bits/dust clogged the feeder and I ended up winnowing the sunflower hearts before I re-filled the feeder. Note to self next year - buy decent hearts and try not to save money.

Pica pica
Erithacus rubecula
Fringilla coelebs
Sturnus vulgaris
Prunella modularis
Pyrrhula pyrrhula

Carduelis carduelis
The coastal path is essentially the same as it gives the same birds with a few minor variations on each walk. The birdsong remains stunning but I have missed song thrush and greenfinch from areas they used to sing from, although there were two song thrushes on the golf course this morning and a mistle thrush as well. We also got a good look at a fox before it saw us and dived into a bramble patch and disappeared.  Blackbirds, dunnocks, wrens, blackcaps, robins and chaffinches dominate the songsheet with occasional excerpts from blue, great and coal tits. The chiffchaff and blackcaps are singing in the glen. Sandwich terns are around but I am still waiting for common or arctic to turn up. With WOW closed I don't have the heads up from Chris as to when they have arrived. I have at last added swallow to the list as well as a male and female reed bunting along the coastal path. This morning saw a patch gold megatick for West Bangor when 7 shelducks flew west up the coast. I have never seen shelduck on the North Down patch  and they became bird number 91 on the patch list. They are common at WOW in winter but let's not dwell on past glories.

Next post we'll look at a few Ulster-Scots bird names for a bit of light relief. 

125: Razorbill

Bangor West
60: Razorbill
61: Swallow
62: Reedbunting
63: Shelduck

Belfast WOW
67: Red-throated diver (Stalled since March 19th)