Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 Over and out!!

2017 is all done and dusted and the totals haven't changed despite two spells at WOW and two coastal walks. WOW the week before Christmas was fascinating, not only could we not see the Rathcoole Flats, we couldn't see the other side of the reserve!! This week it was again a trifle icy.

No Stena boat - and it was there!
Looking to Hide 2?

Cranes and a tanker on our side of the channel!!
What buzzard tree?
Teal on ice
Teal on ice (2)
Normal visibility
Green plover/peewit/flapwing
Tomorrow is another year and three new lists, watch this space.

212: Short-toed treecreeper
Bangor West  
67: Greylag  
Belfast WOW
99: Razorbill

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Morelli time

Those of you familiar with Morellis of Portstewart will know all about the legendary "99", a vanilla cone with a chocolate flake. You may also know that the founder of the company passed away at the age of 99, an apt and fitting time to go. If you have been following this blog you will know that I am marooned on 99 at Belfast WOW/Kinegar with only 12 days to go. Last week I went in to help with a school only to be told by the other two helpers that long-tailed tits were around the building. You guessed it they vanished. (The reserve was completely iced over so the pupils struggled to see many birds.) The white wagtail was a pied wagtail and the shags are all cormorants!! Anyway enough of my complaints I still have two visits to WOW in 2017. Light recently has not been good so pictures are limited and I have not been anywhere else as I try to shake off the cold. I cannot remember the last time I walked the coastal path either - too busy in the run up to Christmas. Anyway here are a few pics taken since November 20th.

Still moorhen central

Birds, what birds?

Photogenic teal

You can barely see the Stena Terminal............

............ never mind Rathcoole Flats

There they are!!

Wigeon close in

Buzzard lunching on a shoveler

Shoveler keeping its head down

Close in male, usually they are further away.

Teal pair looking for millet

Will hopefully see something and push the totals up, last sighting at WOW was in October while the coastal path delivered in late September, so no change to the totals.

212: Short-toed treecreeper
Bangor West  
67: Greylag
Belfast WOW
99: Razorbill

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Basel yes, Moscow no

Since I last posted the legendary green and white army finally failed to clinch a birding trip to Moscow. Not so much their fault as a deranged Romanian referee who saw a penalty no one else saw. It's been a while since I posted, due to the usual circumstances of travel, tiredness and then the worst cold I have had in a long time. This attacked me in Bolton almost two weeks ago and I am still struggling to do much without having to sit down and recover. The  48 hour jaunt to Basel with GAWA probably contributed to tiredness and made the cold that much worse. The  0 - 0 draw was actually a good result for an away trip but the penalty that never was in Belfast stopped my Russian list getting off the ground.
By working a late flight from Basel on Monday I managed to get a day's birding there. I linked up with a local birder known only as Mcnswiss2 who suggested the area around the Swiss Deer Park. This is close to the River Weise which is a tributary of the Rhine and both banks of the river are covered in  mixed deciduous forest.  This looked good for woodpeckers and also had the potential of late storks and flyover cranes. (A white stork was seen the day before and cranes the day after.) Target birds were woodpeckers, short toed treecreeper or continental long-tailed tits.
Unfortunately Mcnswiss2 was on holiday in Majorca and was posting mouth watering sightings on the Majorcan bird forum page.( ) Follow him on to pages 63 and 64 as well. Then the deer park, which is a small free private zoo was closed despite never ever closing!! Apparently it was a one day health and safety issue but that meant I spent a lot of time in and around the river area finding some feeding areas and a canal area I might otherwise have missed. The Swiss transport system is free for visitors which made getting around really easy, so I was so soon heading down a suburban road which gave house sparrows, great tits, GSW and blackbird. The deer park entrance area gave good views of magpie, jays, another gsw, buzzard, black-headed gulls and carrion crows. Having decided the zoo was closed I walked towards the river which was in flood.  There's a path up top along the dyke, then a parallel path about 10 - 20 metres away from the river but lower down.  A look at Google showed several crossing points upstream so I was able to wander up and downstream along and away from the river while checking every tree in the area. All photos using an ipod, hand luggage only.
River channel
River channel
Tucked in to the bank out of the current

Lovely views

Just chillin'

 The river came up trumps with 6 goosander and heron and I eventually found the first of three small feeding stations which pulled in great tit, blue tit, nuthatch and marsh/willowtit. Northern Ireland has neither so I'm always playing catch up, but have seen willow regularly in Northumberland and Manchester.  I've only seen marsh tit once in Beds but I felt I was looking at them again. Thanks to the wonders of the internet I was able to contact Mcnswiss2 in Majorca re the default tit in the area to be told it was marsh tit - happy days. Having been advised to keep looking up for late storks which breed in the zoo I was presently surprised to see Egyptian geese flying around. These are all round London but I wasn't expecting to see them in Basel. Two of the three feeding stations gave very good views of red squirrels which I haven't seen for some time. I spent some time at each one simply observing and picked up robin and chaffinch.
Very well camouflaged squirrel

Slightly clearer

If you build it they will come

Must be a treecreeper here somewhere!!

The canal area, like the river, was brown and flooded and I only saw mallard and grey heron. By early afternoon I had criss crossed the area several times and decided to follow the Weise towards its confluence with the Rhine and Basel harbour at Kleinhuhningen  The river course here is urban but the walkway follows the bank down to the Rhine. The walk added grey wagtail and the river/harbour area held cormorants, tufted, pochard, little grebe, more goosanders herring gull and a large flock of Mute swans on the French side of the river. It was strange to see gulls and cormorants so far from the sea. If they came up the Rhine it is over 750 miles. 


The mighty Rhine 750 miles from the sea!!
Basel port entrance
By the time I walked back to the Deer Park (still closed) I was tiring, light was dropping and temperatures dropped as well. One more circuit of the river and time to head for the bus, but about 100 m from the exit tunnel a small tit flock caught my eye and I scanned it hoping for long tails, no luck only great tits but lo and behold a treecreeper sneaked past up the trunk. I got good silhouettes as it climbed three trees and then  I lost it. I would have liked better views of my second only short toed treecreeper but I'll take it - the last bird of the day. My appetite was whetted in Basel and I would have a notion of going back for a holiday, there's not many places sit easily on the borders of three countries and gives free transport to visitors. Thanks to Mcnswiss2 for help and guidance on the day. If I make it back, and Tanya seems interested we'll maybe get that trip.
Back home both patches are below their targets and WOW was very quiet although the feeders pulled in bullfinch, reed bunting and redpoll. Teal number over 300 and common gulls are re-appearing while coot have disappeared. The area out front remained moorhen central.

Peak count was 97
210: Egyptian goose
211: Marsh tit
212: Short-toed treecreeper
Bangor West  
67: Greylag
Belfast WOW
98: Meadow pipit
99: Razorbill