Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Garden birds and kingfisher update

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.



Great tit

Coal tit

Blue tit

Collared dove

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
Back view obscured by twigs

Better view

Moved again to give the best view

Duck pond in Ward Park

Kingfisher sits in overhanging tree!!
86: Ring-billed gull 
87: Jay
88: Redpoll
89: Carrion crow

54: Song thrush 
55: Great-crsted grebe 
56: Carrion crow

40: Mute swan
 41: Greylag goose
42: Buzzard
43: Lesser black-backed gull
44: Wren
45: Dunnock
46: Magpie
47: Starling
48: Linnet
49: Goldfinch
50: Dunlin


  1. Great Garden list. Blackcap a rarity on my garden list and don't think I've seen an overwintering bird although there are some nearby in Ashington. However Chifchaffs are seen throughout the winter in Druridge bay mainly at the Country park.

    1. Had 4 blackcaps, 2 male and 2 female. They are still around this week but expecting them to disappear once it warms up.