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.


PMella said...

I'm very jealous! I'm envious of anyone who lives anywhere near the coast this time of year, and it looks like you've got a great spot there.

Island Rambles Blog said...

Sounds lovely, we have had rain for three weeks...we do have similar shorebirds here though..wish I got the photos you do... cheers :-)

Andrew said...

Lovely images - great light. Better than working in Singapore for 2 weeks :-(

Anonymous said...

every month i recommend a blog that has nothing to do with mine (its called segel zutar = junior faculty). this month i recommended yours.
i know i should have translated the post, but i have deadlines for teaching now and can't. perhaps in the future. i do promise i only said good things. i really enjoy your blog and esp. all the birding links. hope you get many hits from israel.
-segel zutar