10 May 2010

Killard Nature Reserve in May

I love Killard Nature Reserve. Below is an aerial photograph taken by Photographer Mike Hartwell of Northern-Eye. It shows Killard half way between high and low tide it also shows the Strangford Narrows going up past Portaferry and Strangford into Strangford Lough itself.

Killard is the peninsula leading out into the sea. I visit it all year round sun, rain, wind or snow. Well snow is pretty rare. But it is this time of year I look forward to the most. All the flowers start to appear again It is usually the primroses followed by the heath dog violets, then the spring squill and then the orchids.


Spring Squill

Heath Dog Violet


As well as the flowers there are also the returning migrants either passing through such as the Whimbrel, Wheatear and Dunlin, or staying to breed like the Whitethroats. The air is filled with the song of Skylark,The Whimbrel are calling, The Whitethroat sing in the hedgerows. All in all a great time of year.


There seem to be less Stonechats around, which seems to be the general conclusion throughout Ireland probably due to the severe winter. There is one pair of which the male can be photographed fairly easily.

Male Stonechat

Some days you can see lots of Wheatear others only one or two. I find them fairly hard to get close to.


Over the last few months one of the things I had been noticing was the large amount of Brown-Lipped and White-Lipped Snail shells broken at the base of rocks. It wasn't until I bumped into Brian Black (UTV Environment Correspondent) that he asked me if I had ever seen any thrushes out there as he had wanted to film them. I had to say I hadn,t. I occasionally see the odd Blackbird out there but it is only the Song Thrush that uses these rocks for breaking the shells. They are called Thrush Anvils.

Thrush Anvil

At the back of the left hand end of the beach there is a cliff face which when my children were young used to have breeding Fulmars but these sadly have long disappeared. There is a small Sand Martin colony and for many years a pair of Ravens have bred here. For the last two years I have found raven corpses on the ground but this year they seem to have had better success with five young who are ow virtually fledged, see below. I had no idea that they had such a large clutch and it now makes me think in previous years that some of the young may have been pushed out of the nest by the others rather than more nefarious means that I had suspected.

Almost Fledged Raven Chicks

On the other side of the peninsula to the beach you usually find a couple of pairs of Shelduck who breed in the deserted rabbit burrows, occasionally you can find a Shelduck egg that hasn't quite made it into the nest. They have an extraordinary texture quite different from a chickens egg I can only describe it as more silky.

Shelduck Pair

It has come to the time of year that all the dogs will have to go on leads to protect the ground nesting birds and I hope the NIEA at the Quoile will be putting up signs shortly to enforce this. Below is a labrador that was enjoying playing in the sea.

Labrador out at Killard

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency are holding an event out at Killard on the 27th June I would highly recommend going if you have not been out there before, as it's a fab place.


Timothy Belmont said...

I've noticed quite a few stonechats in the fields around Portballintrae. Beautiful little birds.

Snail said...

Looks like spring is definitely in the air.

Are anvils shared by thrushes? If that's the work of one thrush, it'd probably be too fat to fly!