Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Kingfisher video

I have tried different ways to add this video so as it appears in the blog and you click on it, but it has defeated me. The best I can do is add a link to it on You Tube - I hope it works. You can hear the park noises in the background and just before the end it clearly spots a fish and down it goes. It disappeared round the cormer with its catch and that was that.

Not much else to report at present, basically waiting for spring arrivals. Walking has been a bit limited as I tweaked my back lifting a table, continued walking anyway until my back said stop!! Our last two walks we have been hunting woodpeckers and we failed to see or hear them. Otherwise it's garden birds again. The blackcaps are still visiting so it must still be winter!!

89: Carrion crow

56: Carrion crow

50: Dunlin


Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Garden birds and kingfisher update

Just finished the Birdwatch Ireland survey which unlike the RSPB one off runs for 13 weeks. The idea is that you record the maximum number of birds you see over a week. So if you see 6 blackbirds on a Monday that is your target to beat for that week. It resets on Monday morning. This was interesting as it meant every time you sat down and looked out you might beat an existing target or even better find a new species for that week. I managed 27 species and the usual suspects headed the charts - magpie, blackbird, starling etc.. What proved interesting was when I compared the winter list to the spring/summer list done during the first lockdown

 I had 25 species in both lists, summer and winter: robin, dunnock, house sparrow, linnet, blackbird, woodpigeon, collared dove, magpie, hooded crow, herring gull, greenfinch, chafffinch, goldfinch, great tit, blue tit, long-tailed tit, coal tit, rook, jackdaw, bullfinch, blackcap, starling, wren, goldcrest,  and sparrowhawk.  These are the basic garden birds which I can expect to see at any time of year. Some occur in greater numbers than others, goldcrest is occasional whereas blackbird is daily and in winter I had as many as 12 in the garden. The winter list only added mistle thrush and siskin to this list giving a total of 27. The summer list however added 6 - chiffchaff in the garden and swift, swallow, house martin, lesser black-backed gull and black headed gull as flyovers. So now I know what I can expect to see regularly and what is an unexpected visitor. Interesting to take part in a citizen science programme and to have an idea what a small suburban garden can produce.



Great tit

Coal tit

Blue tit

Collared dove

The two patch lists continue to tick over slowly with the North Down list adding a singing song thrush  an offshore great-crested grebe and a carrion crow on the shore. WOW is still off limits as the hides are all closed but I have been having a look round there and Kinnegar as we meet our son in Victoria Park for a walk once a week and I can swing round  Airport Road on the way home. I have again added stuff I should see on a Thursday morning - mute swan, greylag goose, buzzard, lesser black-backed gull, wren, dunnock, magpie, goldfinch, linnet, dunlin and starling!!  The 2021 list crawled up by four with a ring-billed gull in Carrick, a jay on the local golf course, a carrion crow on the coastal path and a redpoll in Victoria Park. This time last year at the beginning of March numbers were as follows, this year in brackets: 

Year list 120 (89)

WOW 67 (50)

NDCP 54 (56)

The year list suffers from an absence of a trip to England and Druridge Bay in particular, WOW suffers from closed hides and lack of a weekly visit. The North Down patch is two up because I am walking it regularly as it is the only thing I am legally allowed to do and it has been well worked. Roll on June/July if and when when things open up. 

The other big news this bulletin was that I finally caught up with the kingfisher - not in the harbour but in Ward Park. There are two theories on this one, firstly it is the same bird which fishes in the harbour when the tide is low and flies to Ward Park to fish at high tide OR there are two different birds. The harbour bird has been around since September and has also been seen in and around the marina. The Ward Park bird has been regularly seen and is also a female but one seems to have more and brighter orange  on the lower mandible - the jury is still out!! For those of you who do not know Bangor, Ward Park is a typical urban park with caged birds, feral pigeons, feral greylags, a playground and ducks for the kiddies to feed. It is noisy, popular with families, dog walkers and joggers and  easily accessible and is definitely not a place you would expect to see a kingfisher. Whilst I was taking photographs the world and its mother were wandering past totally oblivious to a special bird perched in a tree over the water. I have thrown in a picture or two of Ward Park to give you an idea of how far this is removed from kingfisher habitat. It also hosts  grey wagtail and treecreeper which are more expected in that sort of area. I spent a very pleasant 40/45 minutes following the kingfisher round the large duckpond as it moved from tree to tree looking for fish. As a fellow birder says, "It's better to be lucky then good", and that day I was lucky!!

First view across the pond
Back view obscured by twigs

Better view

Moved again to give the best view

Duck pond in Ward Park

Kingfisher sits in overhanging tree!!
86: Ring-billed gull 
87: Jay
88: Redpoll
89: Carrion crow

54: Song thrush 
55: Great-crsted grebe 
56: Carrion crow

40: Mute swan
 41: Greylag goose
42: Buzzard
43: Lesser black-backed gull
44: Wren
45: Dunnock
46: Magpie
47: Starling
48: Linnet
49: Goldfinch
50: Dunlin

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Half term report - must do better!!

Not out and about as much due to lockdown and staying home. Apart from exercise, which has to be local, we have not really been anywhere. I managed a brief trip to WOW and added nine species I had missed earlier in the year. Really it is stuff I would have mopped up in early January if I had been going regularly. I also cleared up lapwing, curlew and rock pipit from the local patch as well as a Mediterranean gull in the Marina with a load of black-headed gulls. The real bonus was a kingfisher at the Long Hole which has been over-wintering and been around since November. I only heard about it in mid January and managed to see it twice before deciding a photograph would be nice. Unfortunately my arriving with the gear coincided with the very cold easterly wind and below zero temperatures and the kingfisher vanished and has not been seen for about ten days. Either it succumbed to the cold or it moved on. It had been successfully fishing on a rising and falling tide and roosting in the Marina. It became quite a local celebrity and featured on the local facebook page as it had a couple of favourite perches which allowed good photographs without spooking it. Here is a link to the Long hole Facebook page and a lot of good shots of a very approachable bird - a female nicknamed Queenie! Best looked for about an hour and a half each side of low tide when it can see the bottom and therefore the fish.

Long Hole on a rising tide

High tide at Long Hole
I added fieldfare, trecreeper and raven while out exercising but otherwise it has been garden birding with the RSPB garden birdwatch and the on-going Birdwatch Ireland winter garden survey which has two weeks to run until the end of February. The east wind put the numbers down, as the garden is not well sheltered from an east wind. Having run out of mince pies I was putting down out-of-date gluten free chocolate digestives which proved very popular with herring gulls, jackdaws, magpies and hooded crows. I still have three blackcaps  and a varying number of other birds, even the siskin has stayed around. I have counted 12 blackbirds at one time but there are almost certainly more as they are always on the move and in under all the bushes

Blackbird central

Where's the biscuits?

Jackdaws, woodpigeons & magpies looking for biscuits

Long hole rock pipit

Interesting couple on the feeder



82: Mediterranean gull 
83: Fieldfare 
84: Raven 
85: Treeecreeper

49: Curlew
50:Rock pipit
51: Mediterranean gull
52: Kingfisher
53: Lapwing 

 31: Grey heron
32: Shoveler
33: Goldeneye
34: Lapwing
35: Common gull
36: Great black-backed gull
37: Woodpigeon
38: Blackbird
39: Blue tit

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Winter lockdown

Happy days are here again with another six weeks of lockdown which will bring us to early March and the spring migrants. Last year I despaired of hearing willow warbler and it looks like the same again this year if it is extended over Easter. I am still out exercising - mainly along the coastal path but I have mopped up all the expected ticks except curlew and lapwing and the list is now on 48. The lapwing flock which was there in early December has legged it somewhere else and I haven't managed a curlew yet. I'm afraid you are getting a selection of garden birds and an update on the Birdwatch Ireland garden bird survey which runs for 13 weeks and wants to know the highest numbers of each species seen in the garden a week at a time. To date I have logged 28 species including a maximum of  3 blackcaps, 4 bullfinches, 11 blackbirds, 11 starlings, 1 goldcrest, 1 house sparrow and 5 linnets.  Today I had a pair of siskins, the first since 2018, they are not annual and not easily seen but today's cold spell might have helped. I have added herring gulls by putting out mince pies which were past their sell by date. I'm not supposed to count flyovers but there hasn't been anything which didn't drop in for a quick bite.  My spring lockdown list ended up at 31 but that had swallow, house martin and swift on, so  I have basically the same species all year round.

 A couple of rays of light to cheer you up, it is light till five o' clock and I have snowdrops and crocuses in flower in small numbers. Also my outside Christmas lights are still on to provide some winter cheer. Apparently you can keep decorations up until Candlemas which is February 1st. Mine will stay until the batteries run out. I will also throw in a few pictures of the garden as I haven't featured it for a few years. 

Fat block, sunflower hearts and suet pellets at the back on the apple tree

Fat balls and chopped nuts at the garage, softbill food on the table below the solar panel and sunflower hearts in the silver birch.


I ground feed a softbill mix, raisins and mealworms which pulls in the blackbirds, magpies, woodpigeons and collared doves. The tits, finches and smaller stuff use the feeders and occasionally the ground (dunnock and robin especially). Here is a selection of visitors.

Jackdaw, a pair breed in the neighbour's chimney

Herring gull on the lookout for mince pies

Great tit

Hooded crow



Blue tit


Two blackcaps, there was actually another male below the female but I couldn't get all three in at the same time!

Siskin (M)

Siskin (F)

A quick visit to WOW en route to an essential run to Belfast added 7 to the list which has reached 30 - in two visits. The highlight was 300 shelduck and 60+ wigeon as well as rook and jackdaw.

76: Purple sandpiper
77: Stonechat
78: Lesser black-backed gull
79: Rock pipit
80: Meadow pipit
81: Siskin

32: House sparrow
33: Eider
34: Turnstone
35: Redshank
36: Great black-backed gull
37: Pied wagtail
38: Black guillemot
39: Grey heron
40: Ringed plover
41: Dunlin
42: Brent goose
43: Mistle thrush
44: Sparrowhawk
45: Wren
46: Purple sandpiper
47: Guillemot
48: Siskin

24: Wigeon 
25: Tufted duck
26: Coot
27: Knot
28: Black-tailed godwit
29: Jackdaw
30: Rook

Friday, 8 January 2021

Early days of 2021

Up and out before dawn for a socially distanced two car birdathon round the northern and western side of Strangford Lough. We went anti-clockwise and kept to minor roads as much as possible but we still hit 68 species. I am not going to list them all, just mention the highlights which were many. We started at the Flood Gates in the NE corner wher we had up to 2000 golden plover in the air, a nice flock of knot and pintail. All photographs of our jaunttaken by David Miller.

Dawn with flying golden plover

Golden plover and green plover


Islandhill next for tree sparrow and then round to Castle Espie for kingfisher.

Comber river at Islandhill

Egret at Castle Espie

Whiterock gave us shag, black guillemot and little grebe as well as snipe and buzzard

Teal and snipe if you can find them

Then to Killyleagh which we nearly left out and were glad we didnt as we ticked grey wagtail, red-breasted merganser, guillemot and three overwintering sandwich terns!!

Always check your gulls!!

Terns on New Year's Day

Finally to the Quoile for the overwintering bufflehead, redwings, shoveler, gadwall, goldeneye and sparrowhawk. By that time the light had gone, and we finished there and headed home.

All redwings, not a fieldfare among them.

The local patch is ticking over nicely and  the garden added bullfinch, goldcrest and blackcap to the 2021 list as well as all the usual suspects including five linnet. I even managed a buzzard along the coast being mobbed by hoodies. WOW is closed apart from Hide 2 and we are not supposed to leave home except for essential journeys. This rule came in on Friday so on Thursday we drove to Belfast Waterworks for our exercise and happened to see an iceland gull - quelle surprise! All photos from here on in are mine.


Waterworks, top pond largely frozen

Iceland gull. We walked past this point five times and only spotted it once.

On the way home we swung round WOW and Kinnegar and added eider, great crested grebe and ringed plover to the list and ticked off 20 other species for the WOW patch. I think there won't be a lot added to WOW until mid-February but the local patch will get a battering over the next four weeks and the garden is always liable to turn up something unexpected. Stay safe and bring your binoculars on your daily exercise even if you are only going to the shops. 


Long-tailed tit


Greenfinch pair

1 - 68 round the lough on January 1st
69: Blackcap
70: Bullfinch
71: Goldcrest
72: Iceland gull
73: Eider
74: Great-crested grebe
75: Ringed plover

30: Goldcrest 
31: Dunnock
23: Ringed plover