Monday, 10 August 2015

Golden eagle

We had a trip up the North Coast last week and had a couple of outings to Rathlin and Malin Head as well as a look at the Barmouth hide.

Barmouth hide
An hour here produced all the usual estuary/mudflat birds and a juvenile peregrine which landed briefly on one of the seaweed covered rocks. The trip to Malin also turned up a juvenile peregrine but not the hoped for chough. Basically there were too many people about. I did pick up fulmar and gannet offshore but other than that everything was as expected.
Malin Head

Chough free zone

The Rathlin trip was to attempt the Kinramer North walk which is the most difficult of the five off road walks,   " For the intrepid walker",  according to the leaflet. It cuts North at the Kebble to the North cliffs, along the cliffs and then back to the road. Like all walks on Rathlin the scenery is spectacular and the bird list always turns up the unexpected, in this case 4 great skua using a lake  to bathe in and then an immature golden eagle between us and the West lighthouse.  The minute I got the binoculars on the bird I said to my two companions, "That is a golden eagle". Then I thought to myself, don't be daft it is probably a buzzard, but the longer I looked the more sure I was - white patches above and below on the wings and the sheer size of the bird. It flapped and soared over a valley between us and the seabird colonies but would have been impossible to see from there. It was in sight from the road but there were no birders, only tourists to see the puffins! It eventually dropped in to the dip and out of sight and despite being in the area for around two hours we did not see it again. Never mind, a first for Northern Ireland, all Ireland and Co Antrim. I have been looking for an eagle here for a long time and when I finally got one it was on our 44th wedding anniversary, how good is that? The total for the trip was 33, well down on Rathlin standards but we also saw buzzard, kestrel, stonechat, skylark, reed bunting and about 15 manx shearwaters from the ferry. All in all a good day. We finished off at Harry's Shack for a meal - good food but slow service - the eagle was the more memorable experience of the two.

North cliffs looking East

Stunning view

Looking West, this is where the eagle appeared about five minutes later.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Coquet Island

Following the boat trip theme I was able to do a trip round Coquet Island, a small RSPB reserve off the Northumberland coast. Landing is not allowed on the island so we were confined to floating around just offshore. There is a breeding colony of almost 40,000 puffins as well as arctic, sandwich, common and roseate terns. The 100 pairs of roseate terns are the largest colony in the UK. We managed to see all of these plus fulmar and kittiwake. The boat trip from Amble also gave good views of eider, cormorant, 4 gull species and merganser. 

Coquet Island lighthouse

Dripping with puffins

Tern and puffin

For the rest of the day we explored the coast  and saw 50 species in all including barwit, blackwit, little egret, avocet, stonechat, linnet and tree sparrow. 

Cresswell Pond, there is an avocet here!!

 I returned to Belfast WOW on Thursday last hoping to see the white-rumped sandpiper which had been present for three days when I was in England, unfortunately despite the best efforts of eight quality birders it could not be located, the bird had flown. Nevertheless we managed 31 species including 2 common sandpiper, snipe, ruff and around 130 dunlin all of which were eagerly scanned several times over. It is probably not a good idea to look at NIBirds when you are in England as it can be a little frustrating. The last time this happened I was in Northumberland while a snowy owl was up around Binevenagh.

Patch watching remains static as I have found most of the birds I expect to see. The latest addition was a buzzard which was soaring somewhere over Bangor West before heading back towards Crawfordsburn. I am on 66 species and would like to think I will make 70. Anything over and above that will be a bonus.