Friday, 6 November 2020

And the nights are drawing in

Not only are the nights drawing in but we are under sort of lockdown again.Fortunately we can get out and about, unfortunately WOW has been forced to close. The hides are still open and we had one glorious week of coffee, heat and toilets, but it was a low tide so there was not a lot to see. Walks along the coasts and local wooded areas have not produced much in the way of birds either. I managed a three mile walk in Clandeboye Wood and the sum total was a singing robin. Even the garden has been on the quiet side with only coal and great tits in any numbers and the feeders have not needed topping up regularly.  I have also attempted to chase a few exotic visitors but that did not work out at all and yellow-browed warbler at Kearney, great white egret at Castle Espie and grey phalarope at Barr Hall Bay all saw me coming and legged it. The birding highlight of the last week or more was three buzzards on Sunday as we went to church. Church is in suburban Bangor West and to see three buzzards over the nearby houses was a bit of a shock, albeit a very nice shock. To be fair Carnalea golf course is just behind these houses and it does have rabbits in abundance so at least there is a rational explanation. I remember having to go to North Antrim in the 1980s to see buzzards and now they are on the local patch. 

I have been to Castle Espie twice to hit the rising tide, the first time we missed it so we had to go back. It's not nice when you look down the path and see water. Well it is nice in its own way but not when you are hoping to see mud and waders. First six photos by my birding pal with the good camera David Miller

What no mud!

Whoops the tide's in
The day was not wasted however as we got to see nature at its smartest. As the tide floods in it pushes through a sluice into the reserve and fills the saltmarsh with water. We noticed a little egret standing on the stones at one side looking intently at the incoming water. It dipped in a couple of times for a small morsel. Swung the binoculars across and there was a kingfisher on the other side doing the same. We watched it dive twice and catch a small fish. On our second visit we had a little egret, redshank, grey heron curlew and greenshank checking out the inflow for a meal. We also managed a smart grey plover and a goldcrest.
Sluice patrol

Distant kingfisher

That's better, mud, waders geese and ducks

50+ great crested grebes with shelduck and eider - very far away!!

Fishing in the creek

Shelduck

Tanya and I did an interesting walk along the northern edge of Strangford Lough from the Flood Gates to the sewage works, an out and back walk of 4 miles. The tide was out but rising slowly and we had good views of the birds of Strangford Lough plus a few species in the hedges and fields. For those of you who do not know this walk it is a raised tidal barrier with Strangford Lough and areas of saltmarsh on one side and Ards Airport and fields on the other side. We had good views of brent geese, shelduck, curlew, redshank, oystercatcher, dunlin, knot, lapwing,  black-tailed godwit and little egret on the Lough and buzzard, kestrel, stonechat, linnet  and skylark over the fields.

Brent on the Lough

Salt marsh  
Dawn record shot from the Flood Gates. This area is good for teal lapwing and pintail.

Tidal barrier

The sign warns of low flying aircraft!!

It is my intention to walk it at high tide as the waders use the fields to roost in while the geese and shelduck float on the water. In summer the lough is virtually empty but the fields and airport support breeding skylark and linnet as well as summer visitors such as swallow and warblers. The airport cafe (Cloud 9) is open to visitors and does scones, coffee lunches etc.. What's not to like about this walk?? The beauty of Strangford and Castle Espie is how quickly the lough changes on a rising tide, these last two pictures were taken about 35 minutes apart.
 
 

 

 
 
2020  
154: White wagtail

NDCP
69: Buzzard
70: Stonechat
71: Pheasant

WOW
90: White wagtail
91: Raven
92: Stonechat




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