19 Jan 2012

A Rarity of a Ross's Gull at Ardglass Harbour

Ross's Gull  Ardglass Harbour Co.Down found by Tom Ennis

Yesterday I had been dropping of some photos off in Bangor and was on my way to Belfast when I heard that a Ross's Gull had been found at Ardglass Harbour by Tom Ennis. (Brilliant find Tom) A big rarity for Northern Ireland with the last one being seen in 1998.  I had never seen a Ross's Gull before and it is one of the five gulls that I would really like to see. The others being Ivory Gull, Pallas's Gull, White-eyed Gull and Heermann's Gull. It was a quarter to four . The pain of knowing that I had to go to Belfast to pick up my keys for work and that by the time I had done that and got to Ardglass it would be dark and then the fact that I am at work before it is light meant the bird had to stay around until the afternoon. When I got home I found out it was an adult bird which was even better still
Ross's Gull

At work today it was fairly quiet and fortunately I got away at three and drove down to Ardglass Harbour cursing every driver who was driving slowly and cursing Downpatrick as it is a nightmare to drive through when the four schools are being let out.

I arrived in Ardglass and drove onto the pier and parked and could see four birders, Chris Murphy, his wife, son Tim and Derek Charles looking out from the top of the harbour wall. I was already beginning to feel relieved and Chris Murphy shouted down that it was still there. I climbed the steps and there it was flying in the middle of the entrance to the harbour. What fab birds Ross's Gulls are. It was small, slightly larger than a Little Gull smaller than a Kittiwake but with similar feeding actions, of aerial dipping, to the Little Gull.

Ross's Gull Aerial dip feeding

One of the first things that strike you is it's wedge shaped tail and it's pale grey underwing and which has a broad white trailing edge to the wing. It also had a very small splash of pinky orange on its belly and fairly big eyes for its body.

Ross's Gull
I watched it for over an hour flying up and down the entrance to the harbour. The light was not good for photography and I had to use a high iso to get any speed. Oh for an upgrade of camera with better low light ability. There was a strong breeze and it was bloody freezing. Nevertheless I went home happy because of yet another unexpected lifer.

The first specimen of a Ross's gull was collected by Sir James Clark Ross in 1823 in the Northwest Passage. The Ross's Gull is mainly an Arctic and subarctic species distributed around the Northern polar region and mainly breeding in northeastern Siberia and on some sites in Svalbard, Greenland and Canada.

Ross's Gull

Ross's Gull

Ross's Gull- Wedge-shaped Tail 

Adult Ross's Gull

Ross's Gull


2 Jan 2012

It Is a Very Happy New Year I've Found a Lifer a Richard's Pipit

Richard's Pipit Killard NR 2.1.2012

Normally on the 1st of January I spend the day birding but yesterday I had to work and only got to do a wee bit in the afternoon. I was in Belfast and so headed over to Belfast Harbour where there were large numbers of Lapwings which were nice to see. Loads of Teal as well. Afterwards I headed home and went for a walk on the shoreline in front of the house. It was a fab evening and there were flocks of Brent, Golden Plover, Curlew and 6 Greenshank, 3 Grey Plover and loads of Dunlin. There were also quite a few  Shelduck, Oystercatcher and a lone turnstone. My 2012 Bird List
Brent Geese


Golden Plover

 This morning I headed out to walk my hound at my local patch Killard Nature Reserve and it was very bright. I wasn't expecting much as there were loads of people out there being a bank holiday. I was hoping to add a few birds to the year list with Purple Sandpiper and Stonechat being the main targets. Purple Sandpiper yes and Stonechat no. The wind was fairly ferocious and as I came off the beach I saw what at first I thought might be a Skylark because of the size but it flew off into a rocky area which I thought surprising. So I walked over to where I thought it had gone and it flushed quite a few yards from where I thought it had gone. It landed and then I told myself it wasn't a Skylark and it seemed to have quite a supercillium and not the streaking of a Meadow Pipit. So what was it. It then flew a few hundred yards ahead with out calling. I eventually got to it and lay down on the ground and even though I had Pickle with me it came closer and closer and so I was able to get reasonable shots which I hoped I would be able to identify it when I got home.
Richard's Pipit

Richard's Pipit

Richard's Pipit

Richard's Pipit

When I got home and looked at both  Lars Jonsson's "Birds of Europe" and Collins Bird Guide and I wasn't sure whether I had found a Richard's or a  Blyth's Pipit. In "Birds of Europe" I thought Richards and in Collins I thought Blyth's so I sent the photos to a couple of birders and both thought it was a 1st year Richard's Pipit. The difference in sketches between Birds of Europe and Collins really shows why Lars Jonsson is in my opinion the best bird illustrator in Europe. Thank you Owen and Ronan confirming it was a Richard's.
Happy Days
Here is a wee bit about Richard's Pipit from Wikipedia