10 Jan 2008

A Beautiful Afternoon spent with Purple Sandpipers, Turnstones, a Grey Plover and some Great Northern Divers

62. Peregrine (Belfast Harbour Reserve)
63. Great Crested Grebe 30+ Belfast Harbour
64. Linnet
65. Barrows Goldeneye
66. Long Tailed Tit
67. Whooper Swan
68. Siskin
69. Little Gull
70. Skylark
71. Wren
72. Water rail
73. Jay
74. Redwing
75. Buzzard
76. Barnacle Goose (Donegal)
77. Little Grebe
78. Red Breasted Merganser
79. Raven
80. Great Northern Diver (Killard)

Peregrine's Bird Facts: The Great Northern Diver or Common Loon, as it is known in the USA, needs a long distance to gain momentum for take-off, and is ungainly on landing. Its clumsiness on land is due to the legs being positioned at the rear of the body: this is ideal for diving but not well-suited for walking.

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Yesterday I came home from work and it was the first day this year that we have had clear blue skies and bright sunlight and I was in a really good mood . I wonder if I am affected by SAD or Winter Depression as it is sometimes known, as my mood can really be brightened up if its a beautiful day.

I decided to take Pickle my dog out to my favourite local spot Killard. I took my camera (Canon Eos 1d2n plus a 400mm f5.6 lens) with me. It was very windy, bitterly cold yet extremely bright. My outdoor thermometer had it at 2C and take that with the windchill I dread to think what it was. The first bird I noticed was a Great Northern Diver out on the water at this point too far away to get a shot and it wasn't until I came back about three hours later that I saw that there were three of them quite close to the shore.

The conditions were absolutely ideal as the tide was high which meant the small waders, Turnstones, Purple Sandpipers and Redshanks were all feeding on the seaweed at the high tide line. I found a spot where I had the sun behind me and gradually got closer and closer to the birds. There of course is one problem Pickle gets jealous of me and tended to run in towards them making close up photography quite challenging to say the least. However once she had been chastised she decided that hunting for rabbits was a better option. After I had been lying in this particular spot for at least a couple of hours she just came and lay down beside me and the waders were totally unconcerned.

The Turnstones were generally the first to come the closest and then the Purple Sandpipers.They were feeding on the seaweed and just in the surf line. The waders were calling to each other and having arguments and then flying up as a wave was about to wash them away. It was a wonderful sight.

There were a couple of redshank nearby but they tend to be more shy and one in particular was coming closer and closer and then it would fly away screaming its alarm call. On one occasion it flew right over my head.

It never came as close as the Purple Sandpipers. There were about twelve in all and ten Turnstones. The Purple Sandpiper is a migrant and winters along the rocky Atlantic coasts.Their breeding habitat is the northern tundra on Arctic islands in Canada and coastal areas in Greenland and northwestern Europe. They nest on the ground either elevated on rocks or in lower damp location. The males makes several scrapes; the female choose one and lays 3 or 4 eggs. The male takes the major responsibility for incubation and tends the chicks. The young feed themselves.

When my hands were virtually not functioning I decided to call it a day. I was following the coast back to my car when the Grey Plover, that has been wintering out at Killard for the last three years,flew up and landed quite close by. I have been trying to get good close up photographs for ages and this particular bird is pretty shy. I have never been able to get close to it. I hoped that this would be my opportunity. I crawled through rock pools and over seaweed encrusted rocks gradually getting closer and closer all the time fearing Pickle would scare it off. I was also getting pretty wet. These are the results.

When I was nearly back to the car there were four Red Breasted Merganser feeding close to the shore these were the two males.

As I was driving home I realised that I am at my happiest being outdoors in the company of birds and photographing them. Especially if I come home with a few decent shots.

I would also like to thank my brother in law Tom Hill and his wife Lizzie for giving me a 4gb memory card for Christmas without which I would have run out of memory long before half these photos were taken.

1 Jan 2008

Happy New Year and a Mention in the " Birdwatcher's Yearbook "2008

1. Jackdaw
2. Rook
3. Goldfinch
4. Bluetit
5. Coal Tit
6. Brent Goose
7. Blackbird
8. Magpie
9. Curlew
10. Oystercatcher
11. Starling
12. Shelduck
13. Wood Pigeon
14. Chaffinch
15. Greenfinch
16. Great Tit
17. Redshank
18. Robin
19. Common Gull
20. Turnstone
21. Black Tailed Godwit
22. Dunlin
23. Golden Plover
24. Mallard
25. Lapwing
26. Wigeon
27. Hooded Crow

all the above seen from my living room window.

28. Pheasant
29. Grey Heron
30. Black Headed Gull
31. Pied Wagtail
32. Fieldfare
33. Bar Tailed Godwit
34. Herring Gull
35. Meadow Pipit
36. Snipe
37. Stonechat
38. Cormorant
39. Rock Pipit
40. Teal
41. Purple Sandpiper
42. Shag
43. Carrion Crow
44. Sandwich tern
45. Grey Plover
46. Reed Bunting
47. Yellowhammer
48. Goldcrest
49. Song Thrush
50. Collared Dove
51. Great Black Backed Gull
52. Mistle Thrush

28-52 All seen out at Killard, Co. Down

53. Ringed Plover
54. Greenshank
55. Knot
56. Greylag
57. Coot
58. Moorhen
59. Shoveler
60. Goldeneye
61. Mute Swan

53-61 Seen around Castle Island Hide Quoile Co. Down

Peregrine's Bird Facts There are 113 species of Starling in Europe , Africa and Asia.

A Brent Goose flying a few hundred yards from my house.

I got up this morning with soreish head and decided that to start with I would start my new list from the house. I sat in the living room nursing a cup of tea and a bowl of porridge and was able to see 27 species. It was an absolutely miserable grey day and foggy to boot. So camera was left in bag.

I have been looking forward to restarting my list in the hope now of exceeding last years total of 201. ( Which incidentally I reckon I will do by the end of March) This will be due to the fact that my father is very kindly giving Penny and I a trip to Kenya at the end of February. I just hope their present troubles are sorted by then so that we can actually go!! I have been studying "Birds of Kenya & Northern Tanzania" by Zimmerman, Turner & Pearson so that I have some idea before I go of the birds I am likely to see.

Well I headed out to one of my favourite spots Killard Co. Down with Pickle my working cocker spaniel. No real surprises birds wise apart from the wintering Sandwich Tern and the Yellowhammers which I have not seen out there before. Two years ago it took me until September to see a Yellowhammer so pleased to catch up with it so early in the year.

One of the presents I received for Christmas was "The Birdwatchers's Yearbook 2008" It is in my mind an invaluable book if you like to Bird watch in the British Isles. Its a Diary, it has the British Ornithologists Union (BOU) List as well as Lists of Dragonflies and Butterflies in the UK.It has a good trade directory whether it be Bird Garden supplies, Optics dealers, Clothing or Birding Holiday Companies. It lists all the Bird Reserves and Observatories in the UK. Then it has a county directory listing Bird Recorders, BTO regional representatives, RSPB Local groups. Finally it has a National and International Directory of Bird related Organisations. It also has an Annual Website Survey of which this is one!!!!! For which I have to thank Gordon Hamlett for my inclusion. (If you go HERE and scroll down to June 4th you can see my day out in Norfolk with Gordon.)

Below is a photo I haven't posted before. I took it in November and I think is one of my best images of 2007.

Happy New Year and I hope all your Birding wishes come true.