Friday, 27 February 2015

RSPB Belfast Harbour Reserve

The Harbour Reserve has been closed for a year due to re-building and it was nice to get back in there this week and look out over the lagoon again. They have added better facilities for staff and groups and there is a proper toilet as well, but the observation room is much the same only without the office in the corner. The roadside hides have been revamped and there is a sand martin bank. They are also putting in a swift tower which will be a novelty for me as I have never seen one. The stars of the show amid the 33 species seen were Iceland gull, redpoll and black-tailed godwit. The first two boosted the year list to 116 but neither looked likely to fly NE for 8 miles and be a patch tick.  The staff are keen and enthusiastic and there are some new volunteers. At least one of them can now tell a coot from a moorhen!!They are charging £3 for non members which will cut down their passing trade and lunchtime visitors from the call centres. I was led to understand that the Rathlin reserve will also be charging £3 when it re-opens later in the year. As a member this does not affect me but I am not sure it is that good of an idea as the harbour reserve will not attract passing trade and the extra charge on Rathlin on top of the boat and the bus will make it an expensive day out for a family of four desperate to see puffins. Rathlin visitors will probably bite the bullet, but folk who dropped in regularly to the Belfast reserve will be less likely to do so at £3 a visit. Forgot to take photos this time but will try to do that the next time I am there. The nearby Kinnegar shore has had reports of spotted redshank and Mediterranean gull but I failed to find either.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Patch update for January

I finished with 49 species and 56 points and the wonder of it all is that I am not last, not even in the relegation zone!! I still cannot get dunlin or ringed plover despite scouring the Long Hole on various states of the tide. Because I spent 10 days away in February my performance this month is dire as I have only added rock pipit to the list on the patch. The garden seems to have produced all it is going to produce and I am still missing siskin and redpoll. I have seen another guillemot and a razorbill in the marina, but nice as that is they do not score points. The grey wagtail was on the beach at Stricklands again.

Razorbill in Bangor Marina

There is a grey wagtail on the boulder!

The seaweed bank was attracting feeding black-headed gulls and turnstones. I have seen similiar feeding behaviour in Hauxley although on a much bigger scale.  

The beach at Hauxley had 3 types of gulls and 5 species of waders all feeding furiously and lifting on a big wave.

 However spring is on the way and the garden has a bit of colour again. Hopefully the early migrants are on the way to boost my score in March.

Northumberland and Lancashire

I have been visiting relations in Northumberland since 1971 and have always enjoyed the scenery and the birding. Recently however my birding pal David and I have taken to doing a dawn to dusk expedition to see how many species we can get. We started this in 2001 and usually hit 60+. Our best year till now was 2012 when we logged 74. This year we managed 75. When I look at what we missed we could have hit 80! We managed not to get great crested grebe, golden plover, greenfinch, bullfinch and whooper swan. Anyway lets be positive as we had a cracking day,met a few local birders and thoroughly enjoyed our outing. We started at Linton Lane at dawn and then proceeded to QE2 Country Park, Woodhorn, Lynemouth, Snab Point, Cresswell Pond, Druridge Pools, East Chevington, Druridge Bay Country Park, Hadston Carrs and Hauxley. We finished at Widdrington and Stobswood in fading light but by that time there was not a lot to see. I managed to boost my 2015 list by 15 species and add black-necked grebe to my Northumberland list. We also had good views of pink-footed goose, goosander, GSW, red-throated diver, common scoter, sanderling, stock dove, twite, tree sparrow and yellowhammer. Kestrel was a common occurrence and thanks to Deggsy we got brief views of a stoat in ermine and a water rail at Cresswell. Our bird of the day was 6 fulmar at Snab Point. We have never seen  fulmar there this early in the year.

Snab Point had a good arrray of waders including purple sandpiper, sanderling and red-throate divers offshore.

Cresswell Pond

Druridge Bay beach looking South from Hauxley, finally got grey plover here.

I had two goes at the great grey shrike near Cramlington and failed both times. This was in spite of excellent directions from Liverbirder.  I also went to the Derwent Valley in nearby Gateshead to look for red kite and willow tit. The Thornleigh Wood feeding station was disappointing in the range and number of birds and although I walked the area for two plus hours the red kite eluded me. However I was able to add dipper to the 2015 list and saw a fine pair of goosander on the river.

So it was on to Bolton to visit more family, with restricted opportunities to bird. A  woodland walk with the family produced a treecreeper and I was able to get to a local wetland reserve called Pennington Flash for an hour one afternoon. Unfortunately I arrived at 3.30 and the hides were locked at 3.45, so the hoped for willow tit eluded me yet again. Note to self: get up early and get out!!  Hopefully I will have a bit of time to work the patch again and add to the 49 species for January.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Had a walk round Castle Park for the first time to try and add treecreeper and raven to the patch list. Neither showed up but it is early days yet. I have not seen treecreeper in the park for some time and was wondering if the amount of grey squirrels would have anything to do with it? The park was full of them and I can't see them passing on treecreeper eggs if they can get them. The park is actually the grounds of Bangor Castle, once the home of the Ward family, now the Town Hall. It contains deciduous and coniferous trees and an area of parkland with specimen trees planted by the previous owners.

Couple of typical views
Apart from raven and treecreeper I will not see anything I won't get elsewhere so I may have a rethink about the patch boundaries. Might be advisable to drop Castle Park and extend the coastal path to Crawfordsburn River?The most interesting items were a heron, two mistle thrushes and two singing song thrushes - the first I have heard this year.

The garden proved interesting today as the clever rook turned up, the coconut feeder was in place and the video was set up on the scope. See the results below. I managed a minute and a half before the battery ran out on the camera.

Mrs bullfinch finally turned up and the long tailed tits are now daily visitors rather than appearing every couple of weeks.

female bullfinch
Long-tailed tit

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Was in London for two days this week and as usual I booked a later flight to make a short trip to the WWT reserve at Barnes Elms near Hammersmith/Putney. I have been calling in here for about 7 years on a bi- monthly basis and I think I can truly say I have never been disappointed. My list has always at least one good bird. It may only be a green woodpecker, but for someone from Northern Ireland that is a rare bird indeed. This week was no exception as I had peregrine, bittern and cetti's warbler before I ticked blackbird. I added nine species to the 2015 list: bittern, cetti's warblergreylag, egyptian and canada goose, pochard, green woodpecker, ring necked parakeet and stonechat.Total was 42 (the best is 48 in March 2013).As you can see there was a light snow fall which gave the place a wintry look. Hopefully I will be there later in the year and you can see what the seasons do to the vegetation.


Wader scrape looking to Charing Cross Hospital which has breeding peregrines

The bittern was sitting on the point at the end of the reedbed
I left a trifle early as I was heading for London City Airport, so I broke my journey in Central London to have a look for the owls in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. Unfortunately I was too early for the owls as they tend to appear in the late afternoon and I was away by 2.30. I did however see nuthatch and parakeets coming to be hand fed.

I know where the little and tawny owls are to be found and with luck I will see them later in the year.There is an excellent blog about birds in the Park which can be accessed here.