3 Oct 2007

Finding one's own scarcities (Little Stint and Pectoral Sandpiper)is far better than twitching somebody else's.(Great White Egret)

196. Little Stint
197. Pectoral Sandpiper

Peregrine's Bird Facts The Little Stint is one of the four Dark-Legged Stints. The others are the Semipalmated Sandpiper, the Western Sandpiper and the Red-necked Stint.

After work on Saturday morning I headed to the RSPB reserve at Belfast Harbour and went to the central hide. It was a pretty grey morning and there was another birder there Mark Killops ( I hope I have got that right) and we simultaneously spotted a very small wader dropping into the far side of the lagoon. With my binoculars I couldn,t quite identify it but assumed from size it was a Little Stint. I remember Anthony McGeehan saying to me last year it is either going to be Little Stint or Semipalmated Sandpiper. So while Mark kept the scope on it I went to get the Collins Guide. It was after a short discussion decided to be a Little Stint. Photographs at this distance were out of the question but fortunately it came closer after a while.

I texted Derek Charles to let him know about it and he texted me almost right back saying he had one at the Castle Island Hide on the Quoile!! It turned out that a few others had also arrived in Northern Ireland on the same night. I went back on monday morning as the light was a bit better and took another photo comparing with the size of Dunlin.

While I was in the hide all the waders suddenly all flew up into the air. A sure sign that a falcon of some sort was around. I wasn't to be disappointed I thought initially it was a Merlin as it came low in from the west but by the time it had gone past me it was obviously too big winged. It came directly at the hide.

Before chasing some Dunlin and the Stint unsuccesfully.

On the way home I dropped into the Castle Island Hide on the Quoile and there were a couple of birders there. One whom I regularly see up in Belfast but whose name escapes me. He pointed out five Whooper Swans . I had a look out the front and saw at first what I thought was a Snipe .All I could see was its back view then it turned sideways and I realised it was a Pectoral Sandpiper. The first that I have found on my own! I again texted Derek and received one back saying to look closely to see if it wasn't a Sharp Tailed Sandpiper. Well I had no idea what a ST Sandpiper ( also known as a Siberian Pectoral Sandpiper) looked like so again it was out with Collins and back to the scopes to double check. It wasnt. I took a few photos but it was quite a distance away and I had 700mm on camera and still not really enough. I can see the digiscoping set up calling.I went home really chuffed. You can just about make it out in front of the Teal.

Yesterday after work I decided to go up to Lough Beg and try and find the Great White Egret that had been spotted. I had seen one earlier in the year in Italy at vast distance but never in Ireland. I had been up briefly to look about a week ago but no joy. On Flightline ( Our free of charge Northern Ireland rare and scarce bird line. I am in much admiration of George Gordon who night after night after night leaves an answering machine message of all the sightings) there was mention that it was North of Church Island. This was exactly the same place that I saw an Osprey and a pair of Cranes.

I arrived and put the wellies on got the camera, scope and binoculars and tripod. It was alot tougher going than I had imagined I was walking across the a large area of wet grassland that is flooded each winter.It also has never been drained or improved agriculturally apart from the cows that graze there. So I was regularly getting stuck in deep muddy areas. Church Island is at the centre of this reserve and in the spring and autumn is a hot spot for migrating birds.

As I got closer to the small bay to the left of Church Island there it was the Great White Egret.

I didn't really have to look for it at all!! So pretty pleased to get close enough to get a photo. As I was crawling closer and closer it flew off northwards. There were 10 Black Tailed Godwit in the vicinity and one Bar Tailed Godwit as well as hundreds of Mallard, some Teal and a few Widgeon. I then decided to go and look at the church. Or rather the ruins!! of an old church, dating back to the time of Saint Patrick. It is thought that Patrick used the Bann to navigate to the Island on Lough Beg where he met with Taoide who found an early Christian settlement in the 5th Century. That settlement is recorded as Inis Taoide (Taoides Island) in the Annals of Ulster of the 11th century. The current church dates from 12th Century but there is a stone known as the Bullaun Stone featuring a hole which can hold water. The Bullaun Stone is most likely associated with the first monastic settlement. Local anecdote has it that the hole in the stone was made by St Patrick as he knelt to pray.(Don't they all!!!! I live near Downpatrick and he was supposed to be buried there. I think its all myth personally so little is actually known about him when it comes down to it.) I took this photo of a gravestone

It is one of the things about birding that I really like is that you get to see places that you would never have found or have reason to go and see. In the past two weeks I have driven the coast road around the top of Northern Ireland, visited Church Island and driven round the Islandmagee peninsular all in the search of my favourite things BIRDS.

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