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!!
Wednesday, 17 March 2021
Wednesday, 10 March 2021
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.
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|
|Better view |
|Moved again to give the best view|
|Duck pond in Ward Park|
|Kingfisher sits in overhanging tree!!|
Thursday, 18 February 2021
|Long Hole on a rising tide|
|High tide at Long Hole|
|Where's the biscuits?|
|Jackdaws, woodpigeons & magpies looking for biscuits|
|Long hole rock pipit|
|Interesting couple on the feeder|
Sunday, 24 January 2021
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|
|Two blackcaps, there was actually another male below the female but I couldn't get all three in at the same time!|
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.
Friday, 8 January 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.