23 Jul 2006

A Green Sandpiper and witnessing nature at its worst.

144. Green Sandpiper

Sorry I havent been writing for a while. I have found my work is taking up alot of my time, plus wife and children gives me less time to bird. Anyway today I was on duty at the Belfast Harbour Reserve. I got there to find Anthony (the warden) had come back from a week at Cape Clear in Co.Cork The lagoon at the Harbour Reserve had dried up completely after the lack of rain and high temperatures we have been experiencing recently. Anthony is going to try and arrange with the Water Service to pump some water into the lagoon so that the waders continue to visit.

We spotted a lapwing in distress near the hide, in that it couldnt fly and was wobbling about.... botulism maybe. Within a very short period of time a Magpie arrived on the scene and started to peck at its eyes with the lapwing screaming away. The lapwing vainly tried to resist but didnt last long before the magpie had taken its eye and then pierced its brain killing it. Not a pretty sight especially as one couldnt do much about it.

As I was leaving the hide I got a text from Derek Charles that a Green Sandpiper had been seen on the Blackstaff river which runs into Murlough Bay . After finding out exactly where it was I headed down there. When I got there I parked near a bridge over the river and walked down the river, which I assume is tidal at this stage and the tide was well out. I immediately saw three common sandpipers and the Green Sandpiper, which I didnt see on the ground , took off and zig zagged down the river. I memorised its call and it was exactly the same as my guide. I tried to get to it quietly but it was very shy and flew off before I could get a really good view off it. There was also a family of young shelduck and a Greenshank chasing fry in the shallows. I will definately come back to this spot as I hadnt been there before.

8 Jul 2006

My latest for my birdlist 2006

143. Stock Dove

I was on duty at the birdhide on Belfast Harbour Reserve and two woodpigeons landed very close by followed by at first glance another immature woodpigeon, however on closer examination it was a Stock Dove .Stock doves are similar in plumage and size to rock doves/feral pigeons. They are largely blue-grey with an attractive iridescent bottle green band on the back of the neck. In flight they show black edges to the wing and two partial black bands near their back. Unlike rock doves/feral pigeons they do not have pale rumps. They are widely distributed in the UK, except for parts of northern Scotland and Ireland, with particularly high densities in the English Midlands and South West. Over half their European population is found in the UK.

My Birding is going very slowly at the moment as I have set up the kitchen in my new job and I have now started getting up at 3.45am to go to work to make the soup, sandwiches, panini's and Ciabatta's for the seven cafes, soon to be eight. Once the initial problems have been ironed out I should have some more time.

3 Jul 2006

I dipped a Forster's Tern by a minute

I was on duty at the RSPB Hide on Belfast Harbour Reserve yesterday from 1-5 It was a very bright day but there were alot of birds to be seen. This google image was taken a few years ago as there are now two manmade tern islands in the lagoon.

Common Tern
Arctic Tern
Sandwich Tern
Curlew Sandpiper
Black Tailed Godwit
Little Gull
Herring Gull
Black Headed Gull
Lesser Black Backed Gull
Greater Black Backed Gull
Reed Bunting
Sedge Warbler
Willow Warbler
House Martin
Sand Martin
Wood Pigeon
Ringed Plover

A phonescoped photo of the Curlew sandpiper

At the end of the shift I went up a crane which Anthony (The Reserve Warden) had hired to count the tern nests on the islands without disturbing them and there was a brilliant view of the reserve. I think the RSPB should build a high rise hide! Earlier in the day some Roseate Terns had been spotted and I didnt see them so we then went to Kinnegar Shore less than a mile away to see if we could see any again sadly not. I then had to race to Sainsburys to get buy an organic chicken for supper when I got a call from Anthony to say that there was a Forsters Tern in front of one of the hides. I raced back to the Reserve at high speed and as I was driving up the adjoining track to the hide I was told it flew off. Anthony and his brother and brothers friend saw it less than 30 yards away and he got a good shot of it. It didnt return. A Forsters tern would be a very rare bird for Northern Ireland in that it would have come from America.Within minutes the birding grapevine was working as more and more birders turned up to be dissapointed. I hope it will be seen again I am going to Dentist in the morning and will stop off beforehand at the reserve. Crossing my fingers.