26 May 2009

Finally took a photo of a Great Spotted Woodpecker in Northern Ireland

Ireland is one of the only countries in Europe that does not have any Woodpeckers. However over the last two it has been suspected that the Great Spotted Woodpecker are now breeding in a number of locations from Co.Wicklow, Co.Dublin Co. Louth and Co.Down. The pair in Co. Down are only about three miles from my house as the crow flies and were believed to have bred for the first time last year with two young. They are breeding this year and fortunately for me they go and feed at some peanut feeders of friends of mine. Last Sunday Jill asked me if I would like to come and photograph them. So I headed over and spent an hour waiting to no avail. Of course I had only left when Jill rang to say it was back and later on in the evening there were two of them.

I have been waiting for some nice weather and I spent nearly four hours yesterday sitting in a hide near the feeder and I first of all heard the chip, chip sound they make and the male flew onto the feeder that I didn't have my camera trained on. Typical !! as I tried to manouevre the lens around it caught sight of movement and was off!! Then shortly after the female did exactly the reverse it landed on the feeder I had just been focused on and same again it was off. It was also getting very cloudy and dark so I called it a day.

This morning I finished work and it was a beautiful morning so I headed back and as I pulled up in the car I could see it on the feeder so I crept out of the car and got quite close and started to fire away. This was the best shot.

This is a British race adult male. Bill and fawn wash indicate that it is not a Scandinavian. There has been some speculation that they may have originally come from Scandinavia.

16 May 2009

American Wigeon (Lifer) and some Black Guillemots and a small RSPB update.

Earlier in the week I decided that as the American Wigeon that had been found at the Ballycarry Bridge near Larne about a week earlier was still around I should go and see it. I finished work and headed to the bridge. When I got there the tide was right out and I scanned both sides but to no avail. Lots of Shelduck,a few Curlew and when I looked over the side of the causeway I flushed four Whimbrel and annoyingly my camera was in the car so didn't get any shots. I was feeling slightly miffed that I hadnt seen the bird I was looking for so decided on one last scan when I noticed a Mallard asleep fairly close to the road and just beyond it almost completely hidden was the American Wigeon. No 437 to the life list. I use the Facebook Birdwatching app to create my Lifelist.

On Thursday I went along to Bangor Marina to see if I could get some shots of Black Guillemot. When I arrived I walked along the pier and noticed these Gull footprints in the concrete.

There was one Black Guillemot on the pier and about 20 in the water.
They are both easy and difficult to photograph. Easy in that they are not shy birds but difficult because of exposure. They have a very bright white patch on their wings and are extremely dark on the rest of the bird. An exposure nightmare.

They were mostly in pairs and displaying to each other. I watched one dive and it seemed to spend ages under water before reappearing. I decided to time their trips underwater and they ranged from 45 secs to 85secs and on one occasion this bird popped up with a very small Plaice.

This bird was calling to another that had just gone into the water.

I moved away from the main harbour down Ballyholme Road and saw this Rock Pipit collecting food for its young.

As I particularly like to photograph Birds in Flight I wasted many shots attempting to get a decent one. This is my best effort and I have cloned out a ring on his leg. These birds have been monitored and ringed for years by Julian Greenwood , who is on the main RSPB Council.

Talking of the RSPB I was very happy to hear that Anthony Mcgeehan's brother Gerard had received a letter from them saying that they were happy for him to work for the contractors on the Belfast Harbour Reserve after all. Also that Anthony's wife had been to a meeting with them and is going to continue to do the books for Reserve. Not what they were expecting I suspect. All power to her.

Last night I went to a party that the Belfast Harbour Reserve Volunteers had organised for Anthony and Mairead. There were twenty of us and it was a great night if tinged by a little sadness. There used to be a real sort of family atmosphere at the Hide amongst the volunteers and Anthony. David Lindsay gave a nice speech, he had known Anthony for nearly 40 years. Anthony responded and told everybody what he was upto. He was doing a Dawn Chorus for WWT at castle Espie today. Next week he is doing a Birdwatching Course on Inishbofin. Co Galway There are a few places available and you can book on the Dolphin Hotel website HERE and he is in the process of getting ready for the launch of his new book that is being published by the "Sound Approach" in a few months time. Hopefully he will let me review it here. I will be biased of course!!!

11 May 2009

Out at Killard Nature Reserve over the last two days with lots of friendly Dunlin.

On Saturday there was the BTO Garden Birdwatch Conference at Oxford Island and I unfortunately for the guests did the second talk showing my photographs and talking about my three patches of Belfast Harbour Reserve, Quoile pondage and Killard Nature Reserve. I had never spoken in public and I never will again. So feeling pretty shitty about the whole thing I took Pickle and headed out to Killard.

The weather over the last two days has been absolutely brilliant (for a change) and the first bird I saw on getting out of the car was a Whitethroat. As you walk out to Killard there is a Sand Martin Colony on the left , which over the last couple of years has only had a few birds nesting. This year I counted 70 on Sunday and similar today. They are everywhere! I tried to photograph them but its not easy.

Out at Ben Derg beach there were Sanderling feeding
in the surfline. They flew off and I caught up with them feeding with a Dunlin on the seaweed. It was nice to see the Sanderling and Dunlin in their summer plumage.

I always keep an eye out to sea and I saw an Arctic Skua mobbing a Sandwich Tern which dropped its food and the Skua dived down and sat on the water feeding on the degorged prey. Infact over the last two days I have seen large numbers of Brent Geese heading northwards, a few Red throated Divers heading southwards. Lots of Gannets and today my first Manx Shearwater of the year. When I am sea watching I wish I had 10x42 rather than 8x42, too expensive to change now!!!

There were also a number of Wheatear around as well. As I got further round the peninsula I came across some Dunlin.

They were fairly tame and even with a dog with me I could get close enough to the odd individual to get reasonable shots.

The other thing that surprised me was that there were three Purple Sandpiper and I had it in my mind that they had left on migration by now. Here is one of them.

As I was leaving Killard I got talking to an elderly gentleman and we were discussing birds for a while and then he showed me his interest which was Archaeology. He took me to an area where there was evidence of stoneage knapping of flints. We both found some flint shards. He also pointed out various things on the shoreline of archaeological interest. He was Jack Smith ex Professor of Computing at Queens. It was a pleasure to meet him.