Friday, 3 September 2021

American megatick

Now and again the patch at WOW turns up a good bird. There are a few reasons for this. It is nicely situated alongside Belfast Lough, there are a range of habitats and it is well watched. Most birders will visit Kinnegar beach and lagoon on their way to WOW or vice versa. It is a magnet for waders and gulls so observers happily check out flocks and those whose idea of a good day out is to scope through 1000+ gulls can have a good time within easy reach of Belfast. Over the weekend we hit the jackpot when Stuart McKee found a Bonaparte's gull. It spent most time on Kinnegar beach, as well as roosting in the sewage works or in WOW. I finally found it on my fourth visit and it was hard enough scanning through 4-500 black-headed gulls, plus herring gulls, lesser black backs and sandwich terns. Last saw one here in Bangor in 1979, but also saw them on their home turf in Niagara in 1991. here are a few shots, for really good ones go to the NI birds web site here:

Despite falling water levels WOW is pulling in passage waders. This week we had our regular oystercatcher, curlew, lapwing, redshank, dunlin and black-tailed godwit, but we also had eight snipe feeding out in the open, nine ruff, two sanderling, three curlew sandpiper and two little stint. Kinnegar added ringed plover and turnstone. All in all I had over 30 species and as the feeders aren't up there were very few small birds on the list. No finches, tits, dunnock, robin or blackbird. Could hit 40 on a good day. Kinnegar lagoon and the sewage works holds most of the ducks as the reserve is too dry, it also had ten little egrets and two grey herons. Normally these are occasional visitors - usually single birds - but for some reason they are there in their droves. Presumably there is food to be had or they wouldn't be there.

Little egrets and mallard

Roosting curlew

Snipe and moorhen

Might have to cut down the predator perch!!

Teal each side of a dunlin with a tiny little stint in behind.

The local coastal path is still getting walked but nothing new has popped up. Winter waders have returned with redshank and turnstone, once I see a purple sandpiper I'll know winter has arrived. The garden is quiet so the list stays at 69 - I need a raven cronking overhead.

144: Little stint
145: Bonaparte's gull

69: Razorbill

77: Little stint
78: Bonaparte's gull

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Autumn passage

There has not been a lot to write about lately as I have not been out and about birding and when I was, there were few opportunities to take pictures. A couple of weeks in Bolton were taken up with child minding so there wasn't an exciting day out to a bird reserve!! Any birding was incidental but the garden produced the local nuthatch (or two), a jay and finally a great spotted woodpecker on the feeder - an immature bird from this year. I also managed a red kite near Castle Douglas in Scotland. 

WOW has been quiet and dry but we have had a bit of water recently and it is around 50% wet but still shallow enough for hooded crows to wade around like gulls. I have managed to add meadow pipit, guillemot, razorbill, sparrowhawk, snipe and sanderling to the list. The  terns have all but gone and the ducks are all in eclipse plumage. There is very little close in and I didn't go as far as Hide 2 for pictures. 

The coastal path added - finally - house martin, common tern and razorbill. An interesting feature was a sea mist which rolled in and blanketed the edge of the shore. Our house was in sunshine and blue skies while down on the shore visibility was about 100 m and the sound scape was foghorns from anchored ships. 

July 22

August 19

August 26

Curlew, lapwing and lesser black backs



Sea mist on the patch

Same view last Tuesday evening!!

140: Roseate tern
141: Great sp0tted woodpecker
142: Red kite
143: Sanderling

66: Manx shearwater
67: House martin
68: Common tern
69: Razorbill

70: Black guillemot
71: Meadow pipit
72: Guillemot
73: Snipe
74: Sparrow hawk
75: Sanderling
76: Razorbill

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Jura revisited

 Jura was a great trip and there were some good birders, good cameras and good craic on the trip. I met John Mason and he also went to Rockabill so we had a bit of a chat. I took him a tour round WOW and showed him how to access Victoria Park, he fired me a few photos for the blog and pointed me at his new Facebook site where he is putting photographs up. I am struggling to share a link but if you put a search for "Jstudios" on Facebook it should come up. Here's a few of his excellent photographs from Jura, WOW and Victoria Park. I threw a flower in at the end. 😎😎

Juvenile little egret at WOW

Female tufty at WOW

Distant black-tailed godwit at WOW

Much closer black-tailed godwits at Victoria Park

Jura sea eagle

The broad leaved marsh orchid is mine!!

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Back to earth and the mainland

After the excitement of three islands in two weeks it is time to settle back to patch birding and WOW. The North Down coastal path has settled into its summer torpor with very little new to be seen. The number of walkers, joggers and cyclists doesn't help and the foreshore is full of rock poolers and stone throwers - such is the delight of an Irish summer. I did manage a jay flying across the road and a gannet and two shelduck flying up the lough. A late evening scope turned up a Manx shearwater. Birdsong has dropped off and passerines are well hidden and moulting. The garden has few visitors although the trail cam shows that the garden is well visited in early light i.e. 4.30 am onwards. Magpies, woodpigeon and blackbirds are common. The magpies are looking for hedgehog food left behind by the nocturnal visitors.  Here's a wee hedgehog video.

WOW is full of nesting terns and fledging gulls and it is also drying out as high temperatures and low rainfall kick in. There is usually something of interest to see, a passage ruff, a hunting buzzard or a family of new moorhens being helped by young from the first brood so as you get three generations of moorhens at the one time. There are a lot of swifts and sand martins around, but only occasional swallows and house martins. The mute swans still have their  four cygnets and lapwing numbers are building up to 30+. With falling water and a large fence the swans are going to struggle to leave the reserve and the cygnets cannot fly, or walk out. It does not look good for them at present and we await developments. A couple of photos attached from John Mason who visited recently. He has a good camera and knows how to use it so enjoy  his pictures. The little egret was an unexpected visitor, they turn up now and again. I also added a black guillemot in the channel.


Bee orchid

Sandwich tern

Sandwich tern, common tern and black-headed gull



Young woodpigeon (no white collar)

Evaporating fast

Tufted duck (John Mason)

Juvenile little egret (John Mason)

No water from Hide 2 but the plants are doing well!!

131: Rose-coloured starling
132: Spotted flycatcher
133: Peregrine falcon
134: Great northern diver
135: Barnacle goose
136: Ruff
137: Storm petrel
138: Sea eagle 
139: Common sandpiper
140: Roseate tern

63: Jay
64: Shelduck
65: Gannet
66: Manx shearwater

65: Swallow
66: Ruff
67: Sandwich tern
68: Common sandpiper
69: Little egret
70: Black guillemot

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Island hopping - 3 - Rockabill

 Another day another island. This was a 4 hour trip out of Malahide to Rockabill and Lambay which are in Dublin Bay. They contain significant seabird colonies on Ireland's east coast. Rockabill in particular is a haven for the rare roseate tern (1700+ pairs) with common (1600+) and arctic terns (55) as well as kittiwake(200) and black guillemots (60). It is off limits to people but we had special permission for a small group to land for a couple of hours. The island is only the size of a football pitch and has a lighthouse and accommodation which is used by Birdwatch Ireland wardens from May to September when the terns are present. It is an exhilarating place to go as you are surrounded by the sight, sound and smell of seabirds. You are also under attack and need a reasonable hat and old clothes as you may be shat upon (I was). Forget long lenses, you don't need them, as the terns are seen close up and personal. For once the point and shoot camera and the phone did the job. Lambay Island has a gannet colony plus the usual guillemots, razorbills, puffins, cormorants and shags. We cruised off the cliffs but did not land. We did however see fallow deer and wallabies which are on the island. There is an excellent one hour documentary about Rockabill on Vimeo which is well worth a watch as it will fill in a lot of background and give views which I will never get. 

Rockabill on Vimeo

I am only going to post a few photos, I took far too many on the grounds that I might not be back. As one of the other guys said, his computer will crash and die when he goes to edit everything he has on his Canon set up. 

Roseate tern

Black guillemots


Common tern nest, 2 eggs & 2 chicks

Kittiwake ledges

Roseate tern boxes

Roseate tern

Common tern

Common tern and chick


Gannet colony on Lambay

Common tern nest on top of the wall

Under attack!!

I will hopefully catch up on the patches and general birding in a further post, but felt the islands deserved their own space as the three trips were equally memorable in their own way. Rathlin for peace and solitude, Islay and Jura for the sea eagles and Rockabill for the most amazing tern spectacle I have ever seen or am ever likely to see.