Sunday, 18 February 2018

Birding on the mainland

Back in the province with the 2018 list nicely boosted with birds I can’t get here or hard to get birds which I tripped over in England. Elton Reservoir in Bury produced 24 species in and around the feeders and lake including two GSW one of which was drumming, as well as kestrel and treecreeper. Unfortunately I only had an hour there in the late afternoon. 

Woodpeckers in the woods behind the yacht club and below the dam
Next stop was Old Moor RSPB reserve in the Dearne Valley in Yorkshire. This gave us 50 species and I added pochard, goosander, green sandpiper, lesser black-backed gull, stock dove, and reed bunting to the 2018 list. We also had a covey of grey partridge fly across the road in front of the car en route to the reserve – nice bonus. 

Erithacus rubecula

Chilling on the spit
Green sandpiper
Potteric Carr near Doncaster the following day produced willow tit as one of 36 species which unfortunately did not include bittern which are seen there regularly. As you can see from the vast acres of reed beds you have to be very lucky! However we did pick up a red kite en route north along the A1 (M), another little bonus. 

Spot the bittern - we didn't
Finally to the main event, and our annual dawn to dusk birdathon around Druridge Bay in Northumberland. We started off in heavy rain and overcast grey conditions but as the day wore on the weather improved and we finished off in clear blue skies. 73 species were seen from 7.30 to 5.30 and the 2018 list jumped up quite a bit – red-throated diver, great northern diver, fulmar for the third year running, barnacle goose, common scoter, grey plover, sanderling, snipe and little owl for the first time ever. If we were to hit all the birds we should get, we could break 80, but there is always one or two we miss out on – this year it was yellowhammer, twite and greenfinch. We also missed the whooper swans which are becoming harder to get and we missed great crested grebe as well. But let’s dwell on the positives of a great and glorious day – cracking views of purple sandpipers on the beach at Hauxley along with a stunning grey plover and clockwork sanderling. Then the  GND at Widdrington Lake, barnacle goose at QE2, early buzzard at Linton Lane, flocks of pinkies, 10 snipe at Druridge Pools, 20 – 30 stock doves near Widdrington village and all capped off with a late little owl in fading light. We were blessed to be there and to have the health and strength to enjoy the day. 

Druridge Pools as the sun broke through

Purple sandpiper


Little owl
 On the way across for the boat at Cairnryan we finally got to visit the kite feeding station at Bellymack Farm near Castle Douglas. £5 well spent! We got excited at seeing one or two kites on the way up to the farm, then five, then seven. About 1.45 I counted 20+ but when the feeding started at 2.00 there were between 70 and 80 red  kites in the air and I again was regretting not having a better camera.  You just really don’t know where to look and point the camera as they are all round you soaring and then zooming down to lift meat. We also saw one buzzard and heard ravens -  apparently they come in later after the main event. My videos were not good but if you Google kite feeding and Bellymack farm you will get a flavour of what goes on. Feeding is from October to March every day at 2.00. I would love to be there in early April to see the assembled kites realise there is no grub!!

Red kite

Feeding frenzy

All I could get in to one shot!!


Every bird in the tree is a red kite
 Back home and WOW added lesser black back to the list although poor weather means I have not been able to walk the coastal path yet, perhaps next week! Unfortunately on good days gardening has to take precedence so as I can finish the raised beds, top and prune the birch and lug bags of manure about. Who said retirement was easy? I am busier than ever!! 

I.D. quiz, 4 species
87: Kestrel
88: Great spotted woodpecker
89: Treecreeper
90: Pochard
91: Goosander
92: Green sandpiper
93: Lesser black-backed gull
94: Stock dove
95: Reed bunting
96: Grey partridge
97: Willow tit
98: Red lite
99: Red-throated diver
100: Great northern diver
101: Fulmar
102: Barnacle goose
103: Common scoter
104: Sanderling
105: Grey plover
106: Snipe
107: Little owl
Bangor West
48: Redwing

Belfast WOW
61: Lesser black-backed gull

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