195. Wilson's Phalarope
Peregrine's Birding Facts : The Wilson's Phalarope was named after a Scot, Alexander Wilson.
At 7.30 last night I got a text from Anthony McGeehan to say that a Wilson's Phalarope was on the reserve and he reckoned it would stay the night. So I set the alarm for 6.30 and on getting up I headed to Belfast. When I got there I wasn't surprised to see that Derek Charles was there before me. This meant that if the bird was there he would be able to tell me where it was, which he duly did.It was a smaller than I was expecting.It appeared to be in 1st winter plumage. It was also on the far side of the reserve and photographing it was a waste of time. However it came closer after a time. The hide also started to fill up with birders and by the time I left there had been fourteen or fifteen in to see the bird.
Who was Wilson? As there is Wilson's Storm Petrel, Wilson's Plover, Wilson's Phalarope, Wilson's Warbler and even Wilson's Bird of Paradise.
Alexander Wilson was born in 1766 in Paisley in Scotland. The son of a Whiskey Distiller. When he was 28 he left for America for a better life. He became a school teacher in Pennsylvania. It was here he met William Bartram a famous American Naturalist who inspired his interest in ornithology. In 1802 Wilson decided to publish a book illustrating all the North American birds. With this in mind he travelled widely, watching and painting birds.The result was a nine-volume American Ornithology (1808-1814), illustrating 268 species of birds, 26 of which had not previously been described. There is a page from volume 7 HERE There is even suggestion that when he met James Audubon in 1810 that it inspired him to do the same.
The Belfast Harbour Reserve managed by the RSPB I have to say is an absolutely brilliant wee spot. I fortunately only work about seven minutes away and would come from work for a ten minute visit most days. Yesterday I came down and there was an adult Peregrine attacking the waders. I think this is a great spot if you want to see a Peregrine at work. The only draw back is that it makes the waders very nervous. The Curlew seem to be fairly unconcerned but the small waders such as the Redshank and Dunlin are the most wary. The Redshank tend to form small concentrations beside the Tern Islands when they spot the Peregrine or Sparrowhawk.Here is a shot of a Peregrine chasing a Knot. The Knot escaped but only just.
The other interesting thing I observed was that a Kestrel flew right over the centre of the reserve and none of the waders were concerned at all only the Wagtails. Talking of Wagtails there has been an amazing amount on the reserve in the last couple of weeks and on one day there was in the region of seventy. These are a mix of Pied Wagtail and White Wagtail heres a photo of a White Wagtail.