Thursday, 29 January 2015

Brisk walk today along the coastal path in cold conditions, around freezing but felt like -2C. I was rewarded with a grey wagtail at the bottom of Strickland's Glen where the Bryansburn flows into the sea. There were a few black guillemots about and one common guillemot fishing in the Marina, otherwise nothing untoward.

 Stricklands Glen
Strickland's Glen is a small mixed woodland surrounded by housing. It is about 500 m from top to bottom and contains a small stream, the Bryansburn. There are a number of paths leading down through it to the coastal path and the sea. It is popular with dog walkers and underage drinkers (weekend evenings, mainly in summer).

Sorry to say I have never seen a dipper here in 30 + years, although they do breed occasionally in Crawfordsburn Country Park about three miles East.

Where the burn flows in it has been dammed to create a small pond

The overflow then meanders down to the sea      

Where it reaches the sea it widens out

Today there were a lot of passerines busily feeding. We did not have a lot of snow and the ground was clear and unfrozen. There were robins, wrens, blackbirds, song thrush, chaffinch and wood pigeons all looking for food.

Monday, 26 January 2015

I did the big garden birdwatch for an hour on Saturday morning and had a very busy time. 22 Species all told with the numbers as follows:

Blackbirds (12), chaffinch (12), Starling (6),  linnets (5), goldfinch (3), jackdaw (3),  greenfinch, house sparrow, blue tit, great tit, coal tit, long-tailed tit, collared dove, robin, dunnock, blackcap, rook, (all 2), and brambling, wood pigeon, wren, song thrush & Magpie (1).

The RSPB also asked about feral pigeons which I thought were flying rats and choose not to count. I have them well trained now, as soon as I open the patio door they are off. Any advice on how to keep feral pigeons out of your garden will be gratefully received. I suppose it is one of the drawbacks of an urban area. There are probably about 200 or so around the sea front area so having around two or three at a time isn't that bad. I reckon if I can keep them away for an hour then the other birds have had a good crack at the food. What happens on days I am absent from the house, I dread to think. I have had as many as seven but they are now easy enough to spook and the real birds are back in no time at all. Hopefully the sparrowhawk will help out.

I can see you.......

4 of the 5 linnets

The juvenile rook was back pretending to be a finch and trying to get sunflower seeds. I also have a blackbird which does this as well but as it involves furious wing flapping it is just a blur.

Today I had a fly through male sparrowhawk again. As before it missed everything and didn't hang around for a picture. I also had my first 2015 visit of this little charmer. His wife appeared as well but proved camera shy.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Quite a lot to catch up on. First the Round the Lough on Saturday which started at dawn at Islandhill and finished there at dusk. We got 72 species and really did not miss out anything we expected to find. The record is 76 and the total species seen over 30+ years of doing this is 110.Bird of the day has to be grey plover which we worked hard for and finally got at 1615 in fading light at Islandhill.

Secondly a walk along the coast yesterday added four new birds, mistle thrush, wren (x3) and bullfinch were all seen at Strickland's Glen and grey heron along the coast. Bird watching in this area usually throws up 5 easy ticks in coot, moorhen, mallard, mute swan and heron. It was only recently that I realised that these would not be easy to get on the patch, although I have heron as a garden bird, it appeared early one morning looking for fish in the pond. The remaining four may prove challenging although I have seen mallard and moorhen in Strickland's Glen but not for some time. Time will tell if they turn up. If I can work Ward Park into the patch I will knock off a couple of them.

Finally extended garden watching today added  what can only be described as patch gold in the form of a splendid male brambling. I also had a male blackcap to go with my female.

The brambling proved elusive and was only there for a sort time. The blackcap is more regular but instead of feeding on the fat feeders as they usually do, this one favoured the grass under the sunflower feeder and the feeder itself. It was holding its corner even with greenfinches and linnets.

Blackcap, greenfinch & chaffinch
All in all a very satisfactory few days, now I need to find redpoll and siskin either in the Glen or the garden.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Two notable patchwork ticks today, one an outsider you hope for but normally do not get, the other one I should get with a bit of work, but which fell into my lap in the garden. Photos of the jay below.

 Not a co-operative subject as it was  a very mobile jay and well tucked in feeding on scattered peanuts.  A notable visitor to an urban garden. The second was even more unexpected as I was sitting in The Salty Dog overlooking Bangor Marina with Tanya and a couple of friends having a leisurely lunch  when a peregrine put in an appearance, circled a couple of times and as I scrambled for binoculars it flew over the building we were in and that was that. The coffee order was a bit of a shambles and I am sure the waitress wondered what was going on. There are three breeding pairs within ten miles so there is always a chance of one. I have seen them at Ballymacormick Point and Groomsport in the past - about three miles east, but never over Bangor. Nice way to end the week. Tomorrow my birding pal David and I are heading off on our annual trip round Strangford Lough. There will be no patch ticks but hopefully a lot of 2015 birds. I will throw in a report in the near future.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Walk this morning to coincide with the low tide. Gale force 7-8 was fun. Normally I wouldn't have bothered but the effort paid off with one purple sandpiper and a razorbill along with 3 guillemots.  Passerines were hard to come by due to the wind, but it was a good walk and I managed to get back before the rain set in. The garden has had up to 10 blackbirds which are going mad for Kemps apples.  I am putting out 3 or 4 a day and they disappear overnight.  I also had a song thrush in the garden and another redwing in the nearby trees.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Finally got to walk the coastal path into Bangor and added all the expected birds: shag, cormorant, eider, oystercatcher, curlew, redshank, lapwing, turnstone, common gull, greater black backed gull, and black guillemot. Also a nice song thrush and a pied wagtail. The biggest surprise was a  guillemot as well as its more common cousin. There were up to eight black guillemots around the harbour and marina, some of them well into their summer breeding plumage. Despite the cold and windy conditions the local wood pigeons are staking out their territory. On the down side I have had to accept that my supposed carrion crow is in fact a juvenile rook, so please ignore my Calpol fuelled rant on January 10th. I have gone back in and edited it accordingly. Attached is my friendly local blackcap, and a couple of views of the patch in case any of you do not know it.


Carnalea to.....

.....the Long Hole

Saturday, 10 January 2015

A combination of strong cold winds and a throat infection/cough confined me to the garden room today. The walk along the coast will be at a later date. However if I had been out I would have missed another male sparrowhawk fly through, and again it missed everything. This time however it sat high up in a tree behind the garden and gave good views. I also had a house sparrow, rare in these parts recently,and a carrion crow. Attached photos of crow for your judgement on whether I was under the influence of Calpol at the time and seeing things. Apparently I was, it is in fact a juvenile rook.  The blackcap was back as were the linnets. I managed to set up the digiscoping equipment to get some pictures and it wll stay up for the time being.


Juvenile rook

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Coastal path looking West

The North Down Costal Path runs from the centre of Belfast to Donaghadee, about 20 miles all told. My patch is a two mile stretch from Carnalea into Bangor and the Long Hole - the old harbour. It follows the South shore of Belfast Lough and as well as the usual shore birds and waders the Lough attracts passing migrants. Hopefully I will be in the right place at the right time to add a few to the list.
Cold clear January day
This is the back garden and the nerve centre of the patch. I can sit here with an espresso and birdwatch to my heart's content. There are feeders around the solar panel on the roof of the bird table. The panel drives a pump in the pond which feeds a small waterfall. Most of the action is in the back left in the apple tree and the hawthorn tree in the back corner. This is where the birds sit en route to and from the feeders. It is where the sparrowhawk ended up. Hopefully Saturday will se a few more ticks as I am working this week and leave in the dark!!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Good day in the garden

Had a bit of time today and got three good patch ticks in goldcrest, redwing and sparrowhawk. Nice to get them early in the year and not have to panic later on. The goldcrest comes through every so often but is only present for a couple of minutes at a time. Redwings are infrequent and are only driven in by cold weather. I saw two on Dec 30th but there was one today in the trees behind the garden . When I am more competent I will add a photo or two of the garden and the coastal path. The sparrowhawk shot into the garden about a second or two after everything scattered for cover. He failed to kill, wheeled into the hawthorn and sat looking round him for a minute or so. Long enough to get a good view and not long enough for a photo. Then he was off behind the  garage and gone. Now I need to get down to the coast for a walk and add a few coastal birds to the list.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Patch boundaries

After a lot of estimating and measuring I have worked out the area of my patch. It follows the North Down Coastal Path (NDCP) from Carnalea Golf Club east through Bangor to the Long Hole.It goes inland as far as the B23 so as my garden is included. This left me enough area to include Castle Park as well so as I get  a patch of parkland and woodland. Garden watching today brought in 5 linnets, 7 long tailed tits and a female blackcap as well as all the usual garden birds.