Tuesday, 15 May 2018

May update

Didn't realise it was so long since I updated, how time flies when your'e chasing migrants. We had a week in England which delivered a few goodies then once back things were kicking in at home and at WOW. Let's go in date order.

Firstly a couple of garden shots before the feeders come down for the summer.

Goldfinch and linnet

I had a walk along the coastal path early one morning in April and got some nice shots but no new birds. Lots of singers, swallow mipit, eider and a pair of merganser. Haven't seen merganser in years and suddenly twice in a month - that's birding for you. The boat was dropping lobster pots along the shore.

A walk round Elton Reservoir in Bury - the local patch when I am in Bolton - gave me the first sand martins, house martins and swifts as well as two little ringed plovers.  A long weekend in Center Parcs in the lakes was surprisingly good. Whinfell Park is set in one corner of a large forest where two thirds of the trees are Scots pine and it is a red squirrel sanctuary. Willow warbler was the first bird I heard when I wound down the window at security and it was followed by chiffchaff and blackcap. It has several feeding areas and wildlife is all over the place and common species are easy for children to see.  The stand out bird was a pair of displaying tree pipits between the quad bike course and the archery Picked up by the unknown song, and then the textbook parachute display flight. We also had drumming GSW, treecreeper, siskin and singing song thrush. 

Join the tufty club.....

Freddy (4) says duck, Tilly (1+) says bird, Grandad (21+vat)  says mallard
Really close views of birds for the kids

Very well camouflaged female
We managed a day at Leighton Moss RSPB, a place which has long been on the wish list. There are 5 specialities of which I managed one - marsh harrier, but there was ample compensation in a total of 47 species and a few 2018 ticks I would struggle for at home - garden warbler, reed warbler, cetti's warbler and marsh tit. There was a scaup which is unusual for Leighton Moss but I wasn't as enthusiastic as some of the locals who were flocking to see it. Bitterns weren't boming, ospreys weren't fishing, avocets were too far away on a limited time scale and it was too windy for bearded tits. Must get back some day!

Leighton Moss from the Causeway hide
Largest reedbed in NW England
Pochard and bhg

 Back home and summer had hit WOW, winter ducks are gone or in single figures and we got a full set of hirundines, swift, common and arctic terns, little gull and common sandpiper. There are at least four Mediterranean gull nests and 13 individuals have been spotted. There was also two ringed black-tailed godwits, one an old friend we have seen quite often, the other a "new" bird to WOW. We're still waiting for the history. The mute swans are on eggs and at least one set of coot chicks have hatched. In the near future you will be getting lots of baby photos.

Black-headed gull on eggs
Coot on eggs
Resting godwits
Godwit with bling
As above
Gadwall pair
119: House nartin
120: Sand martin
121: Swift
122: Little ringed plover
123: Tree pipit
124: Marsh harrier
125: Garden warbler
126: Cetti's warbler
127: Reed warbler
128: Marsh tit 
129: Common tern
130: Arctic tern
131: Little gull

 Bangor West
61: Swallow
62: Raven
63: Swift 
64: House martin

Belfast WOW
79: Swallow
80: Swift
81: Sand martin
82: House martin
83: Common tern
84: Arctic tern
85: Little gull
86: Common sandpiper

Friday, 20 April 2018

The spring has sprung.....

The spring has sprung
The grass is riz
I wonder where dem boidies is?
The little boids is on de wing......... all over the patches!!

At last we have movement, rising temperatures and a flood of migrants. Mind you I haven't managed to connect with them all just yet, but I have managed a few. The coastal path finally turned up a sandwich tern and the WOW patch added quite a few, especially on Saturday when I helped to take some members round the Harbour Meadows site. This area is normally closed to the public but the RSPB are holding a series of guided walks to let members see where their money is going. This was a fascinating insight into what goes on in this area and the changes that have had to be made as the site is next door to Belfast City Airport. The highlight for me was a small marsh where we put up 22 snipe and 2 jack snipe. We also saw reed bunting, buzzard, heron, stonechat, willow warbler, blackcap, chiffchaff and meadow pipit. Water rails were heard as well. I was so busy taking photographs for the RSPB I forget to take some for myself, fortunately Margaret sent me one taken near WOW. I will try to see if Chris can let me use the ones I took for him!

Walking at WOW by Margaret Adamson

The garden is still pulling in birds as you can see, nothing extravagant except for a female blackcap which I managed not to snap.

Bully singing
Collared dove
Punk greenfinch

Mr & Mrs
Passer domesticus (F)
WOW is still between winter and summer with wintering ducks being serenaded by willow warblers and blackcaps. Only one tern so far - a sandwich, and only one migrant ruff. The big attraction is the Mediterranean gulls which appear to be in breeding mood again this year.Numbers vary between one and five on the big island.

Other attractions are as follows

Black-tailed godwit getting more orange
Eider on the river
Hunting heron
The herons and hooded crows will not be around much longer as the gulls and terns will chase them once they are on eggs.As you can see they are getting "jiggy-jiggy" and for a short time we are able to tell male from female! They are probably two to three weeks later than they were last year.

Home decoration

Late news from today (Saturday) was a Patch Gold wheatear on the rocks at Stricklands, the first I remember seeing in 25 years of walking the coastal path. Right place right time, the 4 purple sandpipers near Pickie were also not expected in April, but were starting to show signs of breeding plumage and will not be around much longer. It is always nice to see a winter leaver and a summer arrival in the same area at the same time. My first wheatear last year was in the Bocquer Valley in Majorca.

113: Chiffchaff
115: Ruff
116: Willow warbler
117: Jack snipe
118: Wheatear

Bangor West
59: Sandwich tern
60: Wheatear

Belfast WOW
71: Rook
72: Snipe
73: Long-tailed tit
74: Ruff
75: Jack snipe
76: Willow warbler
77: Blackcap
78: Chiffchaff

Friday, 30 March 2018

Winter hangs on in there

It looks like spring is finally on the way as things are happening albeit slowly. Birdsong in the garden is ramping up- I was doing a bit of cutting and tidying the other day and had robin, dunnock. woodpigeon. collared dove, great tit coal tit, chaffinch, and a bit of blackbird all singing. Not sure if the calls of hooded crow, jackdaw and herring gull count as song but they were vocal. I have been along the coastal path several times in the last ten days with a view to connecting with as much as possible and have added lesser black-backed gull, meadow pipit, jay and a patch gold red-breasted merganser. It was very close inshore just west of the marina and it is a first patch tick in four years. I also saw three male mallard in and around Strickland's Glen and saw the jay twice on separate visits. As the days get longer the sun moves round and sets further west increasing the opportunity for nice sunsets.
Patch gold mallard
Looking up the Lough
Nothing like a nice bit of cirrus
More cirrus looking east
Garden jackdaw, almost too close to digiscope.
Standing guard
WOW is still more brown than green but the first sandwich tern appeared and lots of the black-tailed godwit are starting to show a bit of orange as they change into breeding plumage. Thursday March 22nd had 42 species including 2 buzzard, 1 raven, 40+ bar-tailed godwit and 60+ knot as well as two scaup in the reserve and two more offshore. There was also a red-breasted merganser in the reserve. Two little grebes swam across in front of the observation room which is not their usual haunt. They are normally off the reeds across at hide 2 and more difficult to see.  The feeders had redpoll, reed bunting and linnet as well as all the usual suspects. All in all a good three hours with the hint of spring on the way. Water levels are still high as there has been a lot of rain and plans are afoot for new tern rafts. Both islands are covered in black-headed gulls- over 300 at present,  plus a few Mediterranean gulls - between 1 and 5. The smaller island has been decorated to deter the gulls.

Not all gulls are deterred!
The new islands will not be floated out until the terns arrive - ie late April/early May by which time most of the gulls will have nested and be sitting on eggs or feeding young.

Orange coming through

Little grebe and obligatory gull

Six species here, can you name them?

Little grebe close in, not their usual haunt.
Spot the Med gull

A lonely knot with a godwit

The knot was on its own with over 100 godwit and unusually came over to the observation room, normally the are distant on the far side. The attached video shows how close and active it was.

112: Sandwich tern

Bangor West
55: Lesser black-backed gull
56: Meadow pipit
57: Jay
58: Red-breasted merganser

Belfast WOW
69: Sandwich tern
70: Carrion crow