26 Aug 2006

Osprey again!

150. Tree Sparrow

I was on my way home from Belfast and stopped in the Quoile Hide at Collectors Bay this afternoon and there were hundreds of Mallard and little else. Then there seemed to be an uneasiness with the ducks and my first thought was there must be a Peregrine around but no there was a juvenile Osprey. I was well chuffed seeing my second osprey within a week and sixty miles apart, especially as I have not seen any in Ireland before last weekend.

This Osprey then dived at a fish twenty yards in front of the hide unsuccessfully, but what a sight. As it was rising some mallard and Teal flew off and out of the corner of my eye I saw a Peregrine stoop at one of the Teal missing it by millimetres. The Teal then landed a foot away from some rushes which it hastily made for. The peregrine then climbed higher and higher in the sky before yet again diving down at a pigeon which it also missed. This year I have watched probably ten attempts by a Peregrine to catch its prey and only twice have they been successful. Well needless to say after watching the Peregrine I lost sight of the Osprey also typically my camera is at menders so no photos.

Yesterday evening I was walking from my sitting room into Kitchen and glanced out of the window and there were four Spotted Flycatchers sitting on the garden wall flying off to catch insects and then flying back again. I assume they must have been this years juveniles. Another tick for the house list. They were then joined by a juvenile Robin and a Wren so a good evening it was. I wonder whether the Flycatchers had been nesting nearby. I hope so. I am now off to Killard with the dog as she hasnt been out alot recently due to being on heat. I bumped into a very old priest who walks out there quite regularly and he asked me the other day where she was and I told him. His response was " I am glad you are keeping her away from temptation"!!

Returned from walk with another tick for the year aTree Sparrow in a hedgerow which is on the whole very good for birds. There were Whitethroat, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Tree Sparrow. The Tree Sparrow is on the Red List that is to say it is

Globally threatened
Historical population decline in UK during 1800-1995
Rapid (> or =50%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years
Rapid (> or =50%) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years

So now I have reached 150 I need to get to 160 which was my target for the year. While I was on my walk I also saw for the first time in Northern Ireland a Clouded Yellow Butterfly

20 Aug 2006

Three new birds to my List. Two of them lifers. Crane, Osprey and Pectoral Sandpiper.

147. Pectoral Sandpiper
148. Osprey
149. Crane

WOW what a day. It was a nice morning and I went down to the Blackstaff River which runs into Dundrum Bay as a Lesser Yellowlegs had been seen earlier in the week. (I went down twice earlier in the week to no avail) The tide was pretty high and the only birds around were about nine roosting Greenshank and a few Redshank. I walked up the river and suddenly sighted a Kingfisher flying away from me. I edged closer and got it in my scope only to notice there was another just behind it. They do have to be one of the UK's prettiest birds. This is the second time in the last ten days that I have seen a Kingfisher the other I watched for about fifteen minutes fishing up in Belfast on the Whitehouse Lagoon.

I then went home and had lunch ( Very little lunch as I am on a diet for about the first time in my life. I got on the scales a few weeks ago and was just shy of eighteen stone. I am already down to sixteen and a half. I hope to get down to about fifteen over the next few months. I find dieting very similar to giving up cigarettes which I did about nine years ago. I have had sugar in my coffee and tea all my life and for the last three weeks none at all amazingly I dont really miss it. It seems to be habit more than anything else. No cheese, No chocolate, No Snacks between meals unless its fruit are my other rules. I hope it works.

My phone beeped and there was a text to say there was a Juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper had been seen at the reserve in Belfast. an American wader. Into the car I got and headed the thirty miles to Belfast, my nails being chewed in anticipation. (My next task after the diet stop chewing my fingernails!) The last two occasions I have gone specifically to see a bird I had dipped so this time was pleased that it was not far from the front of the hide. Derek Charles pointed it out to me it was a wee bit bigger than a Dunlin and had a certain resemblance to me off a ruff. ( Infact while my camera is at the menders all the photos that I post have been taken by him unless otherwise mentioned).
There was also a Green Sandpiper along the shoreline of the lagoon. I then went and saw Anthony McGeehan who was photographing with Ivan at another hide on the lagoon.Anthony told me how the pec's migrate and that some come down through Uk and on to South Africa whereas they would normally migrate to South America.

I had arranged for Derek Charles to show me how to get toLough Beg where he had seen a pair of Cranes and a pair of Ospreys over the summer. I met him at a gas station outside Toome and then we drove the five miles to a spot where we could observe the lough. We set up our scopes and there sat on a post was an Osprey. Absolutely brilliant I have seen them in Scotland and also on Marthas Vineyard where I lived for about five years in the eighties. It then lifted off the post and started ot fly over the lough hovering very similarly to a Kestrel before diving down attempting to catch fish. This happenned three times before he caught one which he then flew back to his post and proceeded to eat. It was a real case of being eaten alive as the fish was wriggling for a long time.

Then Anthony's brother and friend turned up. Suddenly they shouted the Cranes are coming in and they were; very majestic birds they are too. What a day.

Now my only downer for the day is that September 1st is approaching. Its the start of the duck shooting season and this lough is renown for the duck shooting. Only in Northern Ireland would they allow shooting on a Lough where two very rare birds live. I am sure both the cranes and the ospreys will leave as soon as the shooting season starts. :-( Why our very ineffective Dept of Environment wont do anything I do not know.

13 Aug 2006

A Spotted Redshank and some great views of Reed Warblers

145. Spotted Redshank
146. Mediterranean Gull

Today I added two more to my year list. I am really looking forward to getting to 150 and even better my target of 160 for the year. I was on duty again at the RSPB Hide on Belfast Harbour. It is a great spot considering it covers about 25 acres. It has a list that is approaching two hundred different species of birds in the last ten years. For example this year we have had seven different types of tern visiting Arctic, Common, Roseate, Sandwich, Forster's, Little, White winged Black tern. Well I personally havent :-(

Today I was looking out of the hide at a little shingle bank thirty yards from the hide and I said to Anthony that the Redshank looked a little odd and he looked and said yes a Juvenile Spotted Redshank, I raced out side and told four birders who had just left, who gratefully returned to have a look. This bird had been seen the previous day by Derek Charles and when he came in he pointed out a Mediterranean Gull to me. Gull identification is not easy for me I suppose the more I look at them the more likely to notice the differences between say Med Gull and Black Headed Gull. I have a very good reference book on gulls Which I read when I can.

Last week Anthony cut a path through the reeds outside the hide which made it alot easier to see the family of Reed Warblers, infact I had four in view in the scope and there were a few sedge warblers around as well.

8 Aug 2006

A Yellowhammer but no Franklin's Gull and other birding news from the last few weeks.

144. Yellowhammer

(You may or may not notice this is the same number as before. Somebody pointed out that I had linnet on my list twice.

Finally I have seen a Yellowhammer. I have never seen one in Northern Ireland. I have been asking over the last couple of months where I might find them and have been out specifically looking for them. I was told below Scrabo Tower I might find them and nearer to home I was told of a few places. So on my way home from work (of course via the Belfast Hide, which is six minutes from work) I was thinking I must look at all birds on the telephone wires and within thirty seconds of thinking it and about five hundred yards from my friends David and Celia I saw a bird singing from the top of a telegraph pole. I pulled the car over opened the sunroof and bingo there was an adult male yellowhammer singing its heart out.

Three days ago on saturday I received a text from Joe Lamont to say he had found a Franklins Gull at the Whitehouse Lagoon. As it arrived in the evening and I was 30 miles away in Strangford I decided not to bother. As driving to Belfast twice in a day can be tiresome and not to mention the cost of petrol nowadays. Anyway I was on duty at the RSPB hide on Sunday afternoon and during which time I heard that it had been seen again by another birder Phil. So I headed off there after work. I hadnt been there before so took a wee while finding it but the row of birders with scopes alerted me to the fact I must be in the right place. I seem to have a habit of turning up within a few minutes of a rarity flying off and for them not too return.

As I cant upload images at present I will post and add images at a later date.