Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Ruff day at WOW

Switched from Thursday to Monday this week as they were short of volunteers. This proved a good move as it was very quiet and I had time to count and bird rather than inform and educate. There were over 770 black headed gulls, 440 + common terns, at least one arctic tern and possibly two if they are breeding. There were some more interesting birds as well with a curlew  and a redshank dropping in. There was also a juvenile ringed plover a greenshank and three ruff - male and two female. The male still had remnants of his breeding finery.  The mute swan's family is down to three and there are four separate mallard broods. The shelduck family is still at seven. I had 27 species in all despite not seeing a swallow, you usually get one or two in a three and a half hour stint, but not on Monday. Interesting that the lone male wigeon was not in view at all yet was seen in the afternoon along with a roseate tern. There was a buzzard attack which resulted in a chick being lifted but no herons were on view.Water levels are still dropping and the tern island is, as predicted, a tern platform.

3 ruff and an inconvenient passing tern

Male ruff

Falling water levels

Arctic tern

Had a late walk along the coastal path this evening at sunset, not much in the way of birds,  but a stunningly beautiful walk in 20 degrees at ten o' clock at night. If we had this sort of weather for six weeks in summer there would be no need to travel anywhere else. It is light again by 4.30, I am led to believe!!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Mediterranean at WOW

A walk along the coast on Wednesday produced an arctic tern fishing round the yachts in the Marina and boosted the patch list to 65. There was also a whitethroat singing in a different location to the previous one. Bird song is starting to die down although the blackcaps and wrens are still going strong. The garden has fledgling great tits and coal tits and the grey squirrel has returned. Battle has been joined and the feeder moved.

WOW was very quiet on Thursday as the tide was low, there were only 2 lapwing, 5 blackwit and 3 shelduck. The swans are down to 3 cygnets and the gulls and terns make up the great bulk of the birds. We only managed 22 species but one of them was a second summer Mediterranean gull. This proved a hit with the RSPB regional managers who were meeting there, especially the Midlands rep who struggles with gulls. Suffice to say he was a bit excited! There were three redpolls on the feeders including a very brightly coloured male who was very flighty. Hopefully I will get a shot next week. Water levels held up thanks to last weekend's cloudbursts, but we still need serious rain or the tern islands will be tern platforms.

65  Arctic tern

Med gull

Med gull

Common tern


Friday, 19 June 2015

Belfast WOW

Another stint of volunteering on a cloudy but dry morning. We had 25 species on view including buzzard which  made  four separate flyovers all with the same result - everything lifted and panicked. We also had a lesser black backed gull attempting to lift a moorhen chick. It dropped the chick which was then surrounded by excitable black headed gulls trying to hassle it or perhaps seeing an easy meal. In the confusion the chick staggered around and eventually sprinted for the safety of the reeds while the mother attacked the gulls.  If the gull had not dropped it when it did it was dinner, as the mother was too far away to intervene. In a split second the gull was down, grabbed the chick and away.  

The feeders were busy with goldfinches and greenfinches both of which had fledged young.  There were also three redpolls around.


Three adult and one young goldfinch

 Most gull chicks have fledged and the terns are still on eggs. The swan family is down to four cygnets from six, there were six shelduck young and at least three broods of mallards.Worryingly for all concerned the water levels are dropping and we need substantial rainfall soon. Sorry for all you holiday makers!!

Much more of this dry weather and we will be able to walk out to the tern island. and the terns will be posing on posts on dry ground.
Common tern

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Patch inertia and Belfast WOW

Nothing new to report in terms of the challenge as I have not seen anything new for quite some time. I have finally bit the bullet and volunteered at Belfast WOW. One morning a week and helping out with school visits so far. I think next year I will do a patchwork challence at WOW, the shipping chanel and Kinnegar. That should sustain interest over the year. A recent visit produced thesse shots from the observation room. The posing post is now high and dry as water levels are falling due to lack of rain. The tern island will soon be dry at this rate. The gull chicks have mostly fledged and the terns are on eggs. Hopefully they will hatch in late June. An average morning produces 25 - 30 species depending on what turns up and what way the tide is. High tide is better than low tide. The feeders attract chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch and redpoll on a daily basis.

Arctic tern

Black-headed gull


London (again)

In May I was in London again and visited Kensington Gardens, Barnes Elms and Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve. Barnes Elms is greening up nicely and gave good views of little ringed plover. The Kensington little owl appeared again but too far away for a good picture. Red-crested pochard and mandarin were good spots, but easy to find this time. 

This feeder at Barnes has (from the back) collared dove, stock dove and wood pigeon all at the same time.

Red-crested pochard pair at the Serpentine

Mandarin and two ducklings

There is a little owl in this tree,
 Rainham Marshes is built on an old army firing range and is an excellent reserve to visit if you are in London. It is 30 minutes by train from Fenchurch Street station, then a 15 minute walk along the Thames path. A three hour visit produced good views of nesting kingfishers, stock doves at the feeders, two flyover Mediterranean gulls, little egret and excellent views of singing warblers – chiffchaff, blackcap, reed warbler, sedge warbler, whitethroat and cetti’s warbler which was heard but not seen. Again the bearded tits eluded me. I have had four attempts over five years and have yet to see them; apparently I need a calm sunny day!! There is also quite a bit of military history associated with the site which was the main gunpowder store since Napoleonic times until it was de-commissioned and turned into a bird reserve 

The Purfleet Pools for ducks and waders

The flyover behind the reserve carries the Eurostar to France!
Looking towards the centre.  

 The centre sits up above the reserve and if the weather is bad you can see the whole reserve from there. There is a circular walk which takes about an hour with four hides en route. Like Barnes it never fails to produce something different.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Foreign travels

A long weekend in Vence added a few year ticks but was not as productive as I had hoped. There were good numbers of swifts overhead and collared doves galore but very few singing warblers, and raptors were scarce. A walk round Cap Ferrat produced yellow-legged gull and a singing garden warbler.

Cap Ferrat

 A walk up the gorge of the River Loup produced a golden eagle, a family of dippers, crag martin and grey wagtail. This is a spectacular walk as the Gorge narrows in as you get higher.

A really spectacular walk

 We also visited a hilltop village called Gourdon where there was a black redstart on a TV aerial and we were able to look down on a peregrine falcon perched on a rocky outcrop 200m below us. 

Gourdon is on the top of the pointed hill, apparenrently you can walk up to it!