Tuesday, 21 April 2015


This has been a bogey bird for the patch and was the main reason I added Castle Park to the patch. It is about the only place I will see treecreeper in Bangor. To date I have dipped out despite several visits to the Park. Today I went again en route to a game of Boules and treecreeper "no day" as they say in Freetown. As I wandered into Ward Park I was actually mulling over whether it would be better to drop Castle Park and extend the patch along the coast to Crawfordsburn when BINGO a TREECREEPEER..................  in Ward Park which is not on the patch! Quelle Domage as they say in France. At least they are around, and if they are foraging in Ward Park, they will certainly be in Castle Park. I still think I will change the patch next year though.

Quoile Pondage Nature Reserve

Friday morning (April 17th) saw David Miller and I at the Quoile for a dawn chorus. Yes we were there at 0550 having been up since 0430. We had a brilliant time with 48 species including the first house martin of the year, the first little gull for some time and a range of singing migrants. The water levels were spot on for wildfowl and waders and we also heard a drumming great spotted woodpecker from Finnebrogue Estate across the other side of the river.

Good water levels at Castle Island hide

Little gull

Little gull and black-headed gull
 There were willow warblers every 20 metres along the road and at least 6 chiffchaffs as well. As well as the little gull Collector's Bay still had good numbers of mute swan, mallard, tufted duck, shoveler, teal, wigeon and 3 pintail. There was also about 20 black-tailed godwit well into breeding plumage. We arrived back tired and happy at the aural experience as well as the bird list. Just for the record I recorded my first swallow and willow warbler at Oxford Island on April 10th.

Migrants streaming in.........

.......but not on the patch which remains on 59 which is where it was at the end of March. Being away has boosted the year list but not the patch list. The Wetland Centere at Barnes is greening up nicely and had a wheatear and sand martins as well as a range of singing migrants - blackcap, willow warbler, chiffchaff , sedge warbler and cetti's warbler. I managed to miss the little ringed plover and under time pressure did not get to see the oystercatcher which is not on my site list.

I hope to be back in May an add a few 2015 ticks to the list. If you are ever in London try to make half a day for this superb site. There is enough there to interest children and non-birding partners as well.

Spring migration

A lot to catch up on as I have been busy over the last couple of weeks and migration is in full swing. First stop was Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park en route to a meeting in Reading. The red kites there gave brilliant views and there were 8 in the sky at one time.  I hoped to get red-crested pochard and mandarin and as you can see I managed both. 

Mrs Mandarin on the post

Mr Mandarin at my feet

Red-crested pochard

Mandarin pair

The mandarin led me a merry dance as I started at the Peter Pan statue where the posts are and walked right round the lake and back. This took the most of an hour. When I arrived back the female mandarin was perched on the post and whilst trying to get a shot I noticed a movement at my feet and there was the male on the path! I also saw and heard chiffchaff and willow warbler. The highlight of the day was the little owl which popped out of his hole around 1900. While I was looking for the owl the parakeets were coming to be fed by the local lady who feeds them.

 I was watching the little owl and was being buzzed by tits clearly expecting to be fed so I stood still and held my hand out and both blue tit and great tit landed on my empty hand, looked at me in disgust and flew off. Next time I will bring food and have the camera ready.There is no bother adding Egyptian geese to your lists, they are everywhere in the Park.

Very photogenic invasive species
Norman nomates the gull
I also saw the pigeon eating lesser black backed gull but as you can see the pigeons are giving him a wide berth and catching his tea is not as easy as it once was. His favourite hunting method is to sidle up to the prey and catch it unawares before flying off with it to drown it. Once dead it is ripped apart at leisure. The pigeon corpses round the lake put people on to this and eventually he was seen in action. There is a YouTube clip somewhere you can look at.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Spring and migrants

After a mild St Patrick's day and a settled spell we exited March with gales and rain. These lasted into early April and suddenly over the weekend a high moved in and the temperature shot up to a year high of 17C. More importantly the wind dropped and swung into a southerly direction so we have hopes of better birding and a few year ticks.

Started off on the patch at the end of March with gannet and meadow pipit bringing the patch total to 58 and 67 points. On April 1st I had a visit to the Harbour reserve with a friend from Scotland and although there were no stunning birds we saw  little grebe, red-breasted merganser and the black-tailed godwits which are showing a lot of breeding plumage. I even remembered to take a few photos for those of you who do not know the reserve.
View from the road, sorry about the tape, they are still working at it.
The lagoon.
The observation gallery

Sand martin bank
 The following day I took a drive with Tanya and a couple of friends to Kearney, Killard and the Quoile pondage. The strong NW wind meant that the birds were not singing and keeping hidden yet we still managed 39 species including a flock of around 200 golden plover on the beach near Kilcleif Castle. Most of these were well into breeding plumage and were a sight to behold. We also saw a carrion crow in Strangford close to the ferry terminal, and a jay on the way to Castle Island where high water levels and the strong wind made viewing difficult. There were still a few goldeneye around and a small party of brent geese near Killard. 

At long last  I did an early morning walk on the patch today and added reed bunting to the list. There were two song thrushes singing loudly and most of the regular birds were singing or calling. A sandwich tern gave a fly past and there were good views of wren, dunnock, bullfinch, goldfinch, greenfinch and linnet - all singing and calling. As you can see it was quite a spectacular sunrise.

Low tide at Smelt Mill Bay

Looking East towards Bangor

The sun breaks the cloud

The final port of call today was Scarva for a walk along the canal towards Poyntzpass. There were at least four chiffchaff holding territory and we lost count of soaring buzzard including three over the tea room at Scarva and a soaring sparrowhawk over the village. Managed to dip out on swallow and martin but they are hopefully on the way.

 57 meadow pipit
 58 gannet
59 reed bunting