Saturday, 28 September 2019

More nice migrants

Birding has been confined to WOW recently with a couple of walks along the costal path. New ticks are hard to get but the high tide roost at Seacliff Road produced nice numbers of winter waders - redshank, oystercatcher, turnstone, ringed plover, dunlin and 2 purple sandpiper. There were also large numbers of birds feeding in Belfast Lough  - eider, gannet, black-headed gulls, herring gulls, lesser black-backed gulls, razorbill and guillemot. Other observers picked up skuas off Helen's Bay - well off my patch - but try as I might I could never see anything out of the ordinary. I didn't do a count but there were close to 1000 herring gulls between  Carnalea and Bangor as well as 500+ razorbills. I tried very hard to spot a kittiwake but failed.

WOW came up with some nice stuff in the last two or three weeks. There were over 70 red-breasted merganser off Kinnegar as well as three little egrets on the beach fishing on a dropping tide. I also saw my first brent geese of the winter - a family party of four. The reserve turned up a spotted redshank which has been about for over nearly two weeks and a pectoral sandpiper which stayed for a day or two. We also have had a few visits from a kingfisher and I was lucky enough to connect. There have been up to 9 ruff and 4 curlew sandpiper and the winter ducks are drifting back in. Only shelduck are missing. Coot numbers are dropping fast as they move to their winter quarters and there were still a couple of common tern about on the 19th. Last week there were none but I saw small parties with young birds along the coastal path and resting on the rocks. Kinnegar turned up a few bar-tailed godwit and half a dozen knot as well as chiffchaff  in the trees behind Hide 2. All in all an autumny feel to the area with linnet and jay in the garden and leaves on the lawn. Here is a selection of recent images including a large visitor to the harbour.

Feeding redshank
Spotted redshank
Spotted redshank
Redshank front and spotshank behind
MSC Meraviglia which is bigger than Titanic and holds 6500 passengers and crew, it was hard to miss!!

152: Pectoral sandpiper
153: Spotted redshank

Bangor West
65: Wheatear

Belfast WOW

94: Pectoral sandpiper
65: Spotted redshank
96: Razorbill
97: Kingfisher 

Saturday, 14 September 2019

WOW delivers..........again......and again.

As the autumn migration started in earnest we were hoping for a few nice waders as the water levels were spot on - especially compared to August 2018. Tern numbers remain high despite predation by lesser black-backed gulls. Roseate terns have drifted north from the Rockabill colony and we have breeding success from shelduck, shoveler, mallard, coot, moorhen and mute swan. We also have had regular sightings of swallows, sand martins, house martins and swift all hunting over the reserve at the same time. The following photographs give a flavour of what we have had recently starting with the complete and utter patch gold megatick - a cattle egret - which appeared one Thursday and was gone by Friday.

Initial call was "Oh look there is a little egret between two herons beside Hide 2".

Max zoom did not help much as it roosted with it's back to us.
 Only when it started to preen did we realise that it did not have a thin black bill and it did not look right for a little egret. We called it in as a possible cattle egret and about 30 minutes later changed this to definite as it started to move about. There followed a rush to Hide 2 for better shots,

No doubt, check the head and neck plumage.

Always struggled to see the feet, but hey you can't have everything.
The nice ruff up at the window was sort of overlooked!!
We have also had little stint, up to seven ruff, roseate terns and three curlew sandpipers. Thursday September 12th provided two late swift, my latest ever as well as knot, whimbrel, sandwich tern and still up to 50 common terns. A smattering of images gives a flavour of the return wader migration over the last month as well as a stunning wheatear on a walk up Divis - one of four we saw very close together. Add to that one on the North Down Coastal Path and it was a good autumn for wheatears.

Little egret for comparision

Lapwing and curlew sandpiper
Common tern and black-headed gull, I didn't think they were that different in size.

Curlew sandpiper
Curlew sandpiper photobombing a lapwing
Sandwich tern
Dunlin and little stint in setting sun

Little stint

Wheatear on Divis walk
Wheatear on Divis walk
Wheatear by David Miller - he of the better camera than mine!!
Small tortoiseshell on Divis walk
Along the coastal path today there were large numbers of gannets, razorbills, eider, gulls and terns all feeding frantically just off shore with one ot two guillemot as well, quite a spectacle. All in all autumn has well and truly kicked in and hopefully there will be a few more nice birds before things settle down for the winter.

148: Cattle egret
149: Roseate tern
150: Little stint
151: Curlew sandpiper

Bangor West
65: Wheatear

Belfast WOW

90: Cattle egret
91: Roseate tern
92: Little stint
93: Curlew sandpiper 

Sunday, 11 August 2019

July doldrums

Just checking in and putting up a few photos of WOW to keep the blog ticking over. England produced little tern at Long Nanny Burn near Seahouses and Bolton turned up nuthatch, jay and tawny owl in the garden again and little else. Pennington Flash feeders were flooded and empty!! We got a nice walk on the lower slopes of Winter Hill and saw kestrel, sparrowhawk, chiffchaff and a few of the commoner species but nothing to write home about. Twenty minutes from Bolton and you are on the lower slopes of the Pennines with views to Manchester. Stunning views and a nice walk but cut short by a tropical downpour.

Manchester on the skyline

Winter Hill in the background with rain heading our way
Good mix of habitats, fields, rough pasture, hedges, woods.

WOW was quiet with a lot of birds hiding, feeding and moulting, I only had 33 species and 11 of those were at Kinnegar as it was a low tide. A late Saturday visit had 40+ swifts over the trees and 3 little egrets in Kinegar lagoon. Common sandpiper was still around with good views of common terns and butterflies. The long-billed dowitcher was seen later on but not by me. There are a few roseate terns as well but they tend to be seen roosting on the planks outside hide 2 in the late evening.

Painted lady - one of 15 million apparently

Common terns

Common tern

The light was as good as I have seen and the water was absolutely still, no wind at all. Hopefully as autumn and migration kicks in we will get a bit of excitement.

147: Litle tern

Bangor West
64: Razorbill

Belfast WOW

89: Bullfinch 

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Garden birds

Heading off to England to child mind tomorrow so nothing scheduled today, so a chance to tidy, chill, pack and watch the feeders which are being emptied faster this month than they are in the depths of winter. The fact that I was about meant that magpies, flying rats and squirrels were chased, so the smaller stuff got a chance to feed. I only missed chaffinch and linnet from the regular visitors. Some a little blurry as the feeders were swinging in the wind. I also had collared dove, jackdaw, magpie, hooded crow, robin and dunnock. Herring gull and lesser black backed gull flew overhead.  Enjoy.

Mr sparrow
Mrs Sparrow
Long-tailed tit family -  up to six
With a great tit
Young blackbird, we have three feeding.
Posy pigeon
Great tit
Blue tit
Coal tit
There is a queue
The niger feeder is emptied daily at present. Also used by linnets, but not today!!

Mr bully, mum was there as well, but is camera shy.
Still I wait for redpoll at the niger feeder. The only addition to the list is a great skua on Rathlin where we had 29 species on a day trip. Nothing unexpected and being a dull wet day in July we missed quite a few regulars. Need to go in May/June when they are singing. WOW had 28 this week including the long-billed dowitcher which re-appeared briefly. We also had a common sandpiper, 5 ravens and a brood of shoveler - mum and five young.

England here we come and hopefully a two owl day like I had a couple of years ago.

146: Great skua

Bangor West
64: Razorbill

Belfast WOW

89: Bullfinch

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