Friday, 18 March 2016

Med gulls galore

Belfast WOW on Thursday was different. First we had the ponies right up at the window on a calm warm sunny day.

Konik ponies

Then we had two med gulls on the tern island and redpoll at the feeders.

Med gulls


 With the tide low at 1150 and the one month window to work on the tern islands from March 17th to April 17th just open Chris and Monica donned their waders and set off to work. The result was an exodus of birds but hopefully the refurbished tern islands will attract even more breeding terns later in the year.

I think the idea is to do the work as the winter visitors leave and before the summer ones arrive. You also need a decent day and low tide when the birds are feeding on the Lough. Next week tides are high so work might not happen. Despite this we saw 32 species with one addition to the WOW patch list in the form of a greylag goose.

Today I walked the patch and managed to up the list by three grey heron, rock pipit and after 15 months of checking every black-headed gull in Bangor PATCH GOLD  in the form of a Mediterranean gull at the Marina. First spotted flying round and landing for short periods, then having a wash in the pool where the pedalo swans are!! Quick record shot and it flew off for another circuit of the Marina.

Shot through two fences

 On the way back when things were quieter there it was again sitting on the flag pole at the gangway down to Bangor Boats.

Really chuffed to finally nail this one on the patch. The heron was a bonus as it is also a hard one to pin down, last year it was raiding my garden for frogs but there has been no sign of one this year and the frog spawn has been there for 2 - 3 weeks. I also saw a purple sandpiper at the Long Hole whilst looking for the rock pipit.

WOW patch list:
60 Greylag goose

West Bangor patch list:
52 Mediterranean gull
53 Grey heron
54 Rock pipit

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Spring at WOW

Beautiful morning, excellent visibility, no wind and a high tide, just the job for three hours at WOW. The highlight was a mediterranean gull, a second winter apparently.
Record shot
 The 700 + blackwits are starting to moult into their summer breeding plumage and with some millet spread around they were right in front of the window, so close you did not need binoculars. The black-headed gulls are back in force with 750+, but duck and lapwing numbers are on the slide and the wigeon have gone.

The future's bright the future's orange

Close up

Spot the not godwit!!

Despite not being able to see many birds it is quite nice at night as well especially when it is as flat as this.

The Bangor West front has been very quiet of late but the garden has produced a bit of sparrowhawk action. Still hasn't caught anything but has been through at least three times in the last week. First shot he sat in the tree and refused to turn round.

However on Tuesday he posed on the bird table , presumably looking for lunch. Fortunately for them they had all vanished when he wheeled over the hedge.

WOW patch
58 Mediterranaean gull
59 Jackdaw

Bangor West patch
51 Wren

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Belfast WOW

First visit in three weeks and I had 32 species including over 150 black-headed gulls who are back on the islands displaying and posturing. There were also 8 reed buntings, 5 linnet, 1 buzzard,  1 red-breasted merganser, 2 redpoll and a song thrush. Coot numbers were 34 while duck and lapwing numbers are on the way down. Apart from lapwing there were no other waders as it was low tide.but there was a fair bit of bird song in and around the reserve so winter is slowly giving way to spring.

One eighth of the buntings
Belfast WOW
57 Linnet


Another trip to London and a wander round Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park en route to a meeting in Greenwich. I spent some time encouraging birds to feed off my hand and managed to tempt great tit, blue tit starling and parakeet. I also saw one of the little owls and nuthatch. The nuthatch does not come to hand, but will lift pine nuts if you set them on the railing and move back. Mind you he has to beat the tits that are in quickly if he hangs around. Again all pictures  are taken with the iPod or phone, I really should invest in a good camera. 

The famous black swan was around the Lido area, he features on the following blog where his daily philanderings/menage au trois is chronicled by RalphHancock here:

Serpentine sunset
The following day I decided not to visit my usual haunt at Barnes WWT site as I have been there a fair bit and was there at the start of February. Instead I went to one of London’s historic cemeteries, Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park where a firecrest had been regularly seen. To cut a long story short I did see it after two and a half hours and several false alarms. The false alarms were a wren, two blue tits a treecreeper, a goldcrest and a chiffchaff. The goldcrest in particular had me for a minute until I saw the head clearly and realised there was no eye stripe. No mistaking the firecrest once I saw it, bigger, obvious eye stripe and more orangey bronze on the shoulders – a cracking little bird. Two displaying sparrowhawks and four jays were also seen in a small wooded area in the east end of London. I logged twenty species in three hours including a couple of flyovers and a drumming woodpecker. If you think of your local woodland and add a lot of old gravestones then you have an idea what it is like. It is managed as a nature reserve rather than a cemetery. There is a link to more information here, and if you were in the area it is a nice peaceful spot to wander around in a very built up inner city:

2016 list
118 Little owl
119 Nuthatch
120 Firecrest
121 Chiffchaff

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Pennington Flash

After our trip to Northumberland we headed down to Bolton for some family time. I managed to get to Pennington Flash a Country Park between Leigh and Wigan. I spent most of the time in the Bunting Hide at the feeding station and got excellent views of a water rail.  Having left the camera in the house the water rail photos were taken with an iPod, hence the poor quality, but it is a water rail. There were up to 8 moorhens around the feeders and suddenly I am looking at this bird and saying to myself, “Hang on, that’s not a moorhen?”  A quick look with the binoculars and I realised there is a water rail wandering round the area. Watched it for a good five minutes and it was one of the best views I have ever had. Normally you only see them when the frozen conditions push them into the open.
General view

That's not a moorhen

That's a water rail

As well as the rail I had good views of GSW, stock dove and bullfinch. 

About 2 metres from the hide

One of eight stock doves

GSW on the bottom of the nut feeder (should really get a better camera)
 I managed 39 species in just under two hours but only added the water rail to the 2016 list. All this as well as hearing a tawny owl from the bedroom window about 0430 

2016 list 
116 Tawny owl
117 Water rail