Sunday, 28 April 2019

Where did April go?

Yikes, April is nearly over and there are still migrants to catch up with. The trip to England netted a few but apart from 1200 black -headed gulls, WOW is still evolving slowly into spring. We managed a couple of walks in Lancashire. Elton Reservoir served up no less than three bramblings, Hollistone Lake chipped in with common sandpiper and sand martin while I picked up two nuthatches by call, one at a playground in Bolton and the other at a National Trust property (Garforth Hall) near Burnley. A visit to Pennington Flash for woodpecker again disappointed, indeed there was no sign of woodpeckers at Elton, Hollistone or Garforth either despite suitable habitat and a fair bit of walking, listening and diligent scanning through trees. There were also willow warblers galore, blackcaps galore, the occasional chiffchaff and an oystercatcher at Hollistone which is north of Rochdale and a fair bit from the sea. Penninington Flash bird feeders had up to 6 stock doves and a jay with the usual good views of reed bunting and bullfinch. 

Stock dove
Stock dove

 Wow did come up with the first house martins and sand martins of the year but is now totally dominated by the 1200+ black-headed gulls (bhg) preparing to breed. The issue every week is trying to spot what is not a bhg. Having said that, last week we had a few herring gulls, nearly 30 lesser black backs, over 130 common gulls, 1 great black-backed and 9 Mediterranean gulls. There are still a few wintering ducks(teal, wigeon, shoveler) 8 pairs of gadwall, 40+ mallard, 70+ shelduck and a dozen or so tufted ducks. The feeeders have gone quiet and we rejoiced at adding a pied wagtail to the list!!

Island 1
Black-headed gulls
Island 2
The issue we have is where will the terns breed when they arrive? A handful have been seen already but the main bulk are yet to arrive. There are three floating islands to push out but we need to time it right so as they are not covered in gulls before the terns arrive or worse they are too late and the terns nest elsewhere. It is a fine balancing act and I am glad I am not calling the shots!!

There is also the low water levels already as we have not really had a lot of rain and the levels are already down from March. This photograph of the rock in front of the window shows the lack of water. Three weeks ago the water was over the lip of the rock shown by the black band and about a third of the way up the slope. This suggests about 2 - 3 inches of loss due to evaporation as it has been warm and dry. If we get a summer as warm as last year we may end up with a muddy desert again. Sorry to say but we still need significant rain in the next 8 weeks.

Marker stone we use to judge water levels

Finally a walk up the Quolie Water on Easter Monday added wheatear and skylark to the list plus reed bunting, meadow pipit, stonechat and sand martins. The River Braid at Broughshane added a grey wagtail but not a mandarin could be found. Hopefully a few more walks along the coastal path will push up the numbers and this year I really must add cuckoo - I missed it last year.

127: Nuthatch
128: Brambling
129: Common sandpiper
130: Sand martin
131: Wheatear
132: Skylark

Bangor West
54: Sandwich tern

Belfast WOW

76: House martin
77: Sand martin

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