Friday, 12 July 2019

Good news and bad news

No point in beating about the bush here, like a demented whitethroat. The good news was the rose-coloured starling which turned up in a housing estate in Dundrum. The bad news is that the arctic tern nest in front of the observation room at WOW has failed. The terns were off the nest and looking puzzled, then they were not sitting/changing and a quick check revealed no eggs or no chicks. They are still hanging round the area and we hope they will lay a second clutch. We have no idea what happened. There are four hours of daylight before anyone comes in and five hours after we lock up so they could have been predated by a magpie, crow or gull. Definitely not a fox. Despite the pall of gloom over the volunteers WOW still has lots to see and last week turned up dunlin, greenshank, common sandpiper and a roseate tern which I have yet to connect with. Kinnegar shore had two sandwich terns as well as all the usual birds. I spent some time two weeks ago at the feeders as the lagoon was only giving good views of black-headed gulls.

Linnet (F)
Young linnet ??
Chaffinch (F)
Goldfinch with redpoll
Linnet (M)
Out on the lagoon this week we had some nice birds, including the obligatory tern on the plank shot.

One of the arctic terns from the nest
Large visitor
Common tern
Attentive coot parents
Arctic tern on the marker stone
Young lapwing, hopefully one of ours from the reserve but who can tell?

Bee orchid
The rose-coloured starling hit the headlines midweek so we went off on Friday to see if we could find it. Fortunately it was one of those occasions where it was not a hard job. Find the street, walk down and hope for a man with a large camera pointing over a fence at  a feeder and bingo there it was, very little effort involved and the chance to take a few pictures. We had a chat with the finder and that was that, duly ticked and recorded. A celebratory lunch in Newcastle was followed by a walk from Dundrum along the old railway line to Ardilea and Dundrum Inner Bay north. This produced lapwing, curlew, shelduck, grey heron, cormorant, mallard, three species of gull and 11 little egrets roosting right in the north of the bay near the inflow. The Shimna River had a pair of grey wagtails but I was unable to find any mandarin ducks at the boating pond.

The coastal path finally produced a few goodies in the late evening on a calm millpond sea. I took the scope down to a vantage point and was able to see quite far out. Gannet, manx shearwater and razorbill were supplemented by guillemot, black guillemot, eider duck, oystercatcher, cormorant, sandwich tern leser black- backed, black-headed and herring gull. Singing blackbirds and wood pigeons plus hunting house martins made for a very pleasant thirty minutes.

Finally the pictures you have all been waiting for, the star of the show all the way from Asia via eastern Europe..........roll of drums..............rose-coloured starling!!

144: Manx shearwater
145: Rose-coloured starling - LIFER  😎

Bangor West
61: House martin
62: Gannet
63: Manx shearwater
64: Razorbill

Belfast WOW

87:Sandwich tern
88: Common sandpiper
89: Bullfinch


144: Manx shearwater

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Peregrine watch and the north coast boat trip

Fair Head from Ballycaastle Bay
We signed up for a long awaited boat trip along the North Coast from Cushendall to Carrick-a-rede, and then to Bull point and round the north coast of Rathlin, down the east coast, into Church Bay and back to Fair Head and Cushendall - seven and a half hours at sea on a 12 seater RIB.  The aim was to check nesting peregrine falcon sites from the sea and we did get good views of nests, chicks and flying adults. Where and how many must remain a secret. The trip turned up 29 species including fabulous views of auks off Bull Point, Carrick-a-rede from a boat and and stunning views of all three of the Rathlin lighthouses from the sea. Throw in a millpond sea, the odd rock dove, blue sky and the chance to see parts of the coast inaccessible from the land and you have some idea of what a perfect day would be like. Thanks to Jim Wells and Charlie Stewart for organising a trip I have long wanted to do.

Fair Head from the sea is just stunning
Grey Man's path, and since you ask, yes I have climbed it.

Kenbane Head
Port More, inaccessible from the land without serious effort

Different viewpoint from below

Scary/not scary, delete where applicable
Amazing colours
West light and Bull Point
Auks at Bull Point

East light
South light at Rue Point
The RIB at Cushendall, we detached the tractor before setting out.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Events dear boy......!!

Too much happening and two lots of visitors mean time is at a premium and other events took precedence. I was halfway through composing a blog when a patch megatick turned up and everything went on hold till the visitors left. What follows is a summary of birding adventures since the end of May ie four weeks worth!!

First a round up of birding in England such as it was. We managed a couple of outings to sites we have visited before and prospected a new site at Rumworth Lodge. This proved hard to access and difficult to park so we may not go back. A walk round Elton Reservoir gave some nice views of common species with nothing unusual. We also called in at Brockholes near Preston. This is a Lancashire Wildlife Trust reserve created from a disused quarry which is eight years old. We visited it when it was newly opened and still bare and it has come on in leaps and bounds and greened up nicely. One downside is that the west boundary is alongside the M6, so the noise is awful. Nevertheless 35 species were seen or heard,  including common tern, sand martin, whitethroat, chiffchaff, sedge warbler, reed bunting,  lapwing and redshank - all breeding on the reserve. A surprising find was two nuthatches in Richard's garden in Bolton - an adult feeding a fledgling. He also spotted two jays in the garden the day after we left and they have joined tawny owl on the garden list.

Brockholes HQ is a floating village

River Ribble
Back home to WOW on June 6 and two garganey appeared. I saw the report when I was in England and was afraid I had missed them but lo and behold there they were giving point blank views along with an arctic tern nest and a distant greenshank. Total was 30 species for the morning including newly hatched shelduck, coot, mallard, moorhen, black headed gull, lesser black-backed gull and Mediterranean gull. 

Scruffy male 1
Elegant male 2
Arctic tern nest
Female on nest?
Male chilling
WOW then turned up 35 species including garganey again, blackcap, arctic tern, Mediterranean gull and all four summer aeriel specialists - swallow, house martin, sand martin and swift. Last Thursday however it trumped even that with 40 species and a long-billed dowitcher. A visiting birder was able to see the dowitcher, garganey, Mediterranean gull and arctic tern on the same reserve at the same time!! The dowitcher has been there for over a week and there have been some cracking photographs as the great and good of Irish birding turned up to fill their boots. It is in breeding plumage and how it got to WOW when it should be in NE Siberia or NW Alaska we will never know. We are however grateful that it took a wrong turn and brightened up our summer.

Tern nest boxes waiting for roseates
Marker stone shows we have had a bit of rain
Tern island floated out near hide 2, also with nest boxes and hiding the dowitcher.
From Hide 2 with godwits
Supercilium shows well
Size difference notable
A snipe on steroids
Heads up
Without zoom and head down it's harder to be sure.
An absolute cracker as I am sure you will agree and worth 4 points on the patchwork challenge. Well done Daniel for spotting it and calling it in correctly. I am not sure I would have been that confident!!

136: Sedge warbler
137: Whitethroat
138: Garganey
139: Arctic tern
140: Rock dove
141: Razorbill
142: Puffin
143: Long-billed dowitcher

Bangor West
60: Common tern

Belfast WOW

82: Garganey
83: Arctic tern
84: Greenshank
85: Blackcap
86: Long-billed dowitcher

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Dawn chorus

Yes it's true I managed a dawn chorus for the first time in many years, and you know what - I really should do it more often!! My pal David, he of the good camera, is now retired and offered to help the RSPB with farm surveys. This means a visit around dawn on four occasions in spring/summer recording birds seen and heard, any breeding/nesting behaviour and checking for six key species (yellowhammer, reed bunting, linnet, tree sparrow, lapwing and skylark). He was given an arable farm near Greyabbey and I joined him for his fourth visit  this week. We were there at 0500, walked nearly 6 miles round the fields and finished around 1030. We saw 25 species including a pair of linnet. I started off with four layers and finished off with one as the sun rose and temperatures headed up. All in all a worthwhile experience and one I would be happy to repeat, but not just at the minute as I am still catching up on sleep. The following pictures give a flavour of the morning but in no way do justice to the sounds and vistas of the experience.

Moonset to the west
Sunrise to the east

Distant Scrabo

Winter barley

Spring barley
WOW continues to entertain with a lot of common terns now present and going through the display/mating routines. Water levels continue to slowly drop, there is about two inches outside the observation room which might make floating the new tern islands a bit difficult, Hopefully they will soon be in place and give the late arrivals a chance. The black-headed gulls have quite a few chicks although many of them are still incubating. Lapwing chicks seem to have been predated, but there are coot and moorhen chicks to be seen. We have not seen any mallard ducklings and the swans are still incubating. Tufted ducks abound so fingers crossed and there were four pairs of gadwall on the reserve so they may nest as well.The first swifts apeared over the reserve last week and a little egret and a ruff dropped in as well as four greylag geese.

Gull chick taking a risk

Mr shoveler

Gap year godwits

Two eggs revealed

A "dread" when everything flies up including the incubating gull.

Exposed chick
The marker stone with two common terns
Last month I fulfilled a long standing ambition to visit the UWT site at Bog Meadows. We managed to find the entrance off the Falls Road and had a wander around. Lots of activity and singing but spoilt slightly by the proximity of the M1 which is the boundary of the site to the south. The traffic noise was loud and persistent. They are conducting guided walks in July and August and we hope to return for an informative tour . The downside will be the ever present traffic noise, I doubt it is ever quiet!! There is a large water area surrounded by reedbed, scrub and trees with a couple of rough grazing fields and some hedgerows. Mostly we saw and heard common birds of the urban fringe including swallow and tufted duck. Fingers crossed we will do better.

Lake and swift nesting tower

Lake view

133: Whimbrel
134: Common tern
135: Swift

Bangor West
55: Willow warbler
56: Greylag goose
57: Swallow
58: Swift
59: Jay

Belfast WOW

78: Whimbrel
79: Comon tern
80: Little egret
81: Swift