Monday, 15 April 2013

Birding at Oxford Island

My U3A bird group were looking forward to a day out at Oxford Island in Country Antrim however, one of them had a hospital appointment, one fell down the stairs the evening before, 3 others on their way got held up in Belfast and never made it, however the three that did, had the most wonderful sunny day of birding.

Oxford Island is located on the shores of Lough Neagh.  It is owned and managed by Craigavon Borough Council and much of the area is designated as a National Nature Reserve due to its wide variety of habitats such as reed beds, open water, wildlife ponds and wildflower meadows.
We walked through a wooded area to the covered hide and on our way heard a Chiffchaff and saw a Greenfinch.   Just to the left of the hide was a Coot sitting on her 2 eggs and being attended by the male with extra nesting repairing material.  
2 Eggs of Coot
There were about 10 pairs of Great crested Grebes all displaying wonderfully to each other. 

Great Crested Grebes displaying & Pochard sleeping
  There were Tufted, Pochard and Shoveler ducks along with a few Moorhen and a Heron.  A flock of 10 Swallows were catching flies over the water.
Tufted Duck - both male and female
Then we walked down to the Waterside open hide we stopped to look at a Robin who sat on my hand.
Robin eating from my hand
We were very fortunate to see the (rare to Northern Ireland) Black necked Grebe.  It has been hanging around for the past week and we had great views of it though the telescope.  Also present was the Little Grebe and more Great Crested Grebe along with the same species of ducks already mentioned above.  
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Great Crested Grebe having just caught a fish
A Peregrine flew overheard.  There was another Coot nesting on a floating nest.  On leaving the hide we saw Willow Warbler and Blackcap.

We drove up to the Discovery Centre and enjoyed a sumptuous lunch.
Discovery Centre
Over lunch we were entertained  by 2 Pied Wagtail who were very industrious in collecting nesting material for their nest which was under the Discovery Centre.
Pied Wagtail (male) with nesting material
We then walked through a different wooded area and visited another hide where we saw Mute Swan and a breeding Cormorant flew over the water.
Mute Swan

To the left of the hide, builders were finishing off a new building 
that they are hoping the Sand Martins will come to nest in this year.

As we were leaving this hide I delighted to see swaths of Lesser Celandine.  The name Celandine comes from the Latin chelidonia meaning Swallow and it was said that the flowers bloomed when the Swallows returned and faded when they left.  It was lovely to see my first Swallow of the year and these pretty flowers today.  Also there was a wonderful patch of Wood Anemone variety Purpurea.
Lesser Celandine- Ranunculus ficaria
Wood Anemone - Anemone nemorosa var. purpurea
I had brought wild bird seed with me and I put some onto one of the members’ hands and within seconds we were surrounded by Robin, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Coal Tit with a Dunnock on the ground catching the dropped seed.  One by one they came and sat on her hand, took a seed and quickly retreated to a bush again.  It was wonderful to see these small birds so close at hand and I think if we had not moved on, we still could be there.  Now and again, when we stopped we all took turns in feeding the small birds from our hands.
Great Tit feeding from my hand
On the return journey, we saw, Hooded Crow, Magpie, Jackdaw and Rook and Buzzard.  We enjoyed the day’s birding tremendously and were only sorry the rest had not been able to join us.


  1. Looks like you all had a great day out.
    Having birds feed from your hand like that, is an amazing experience.

  2. Yes you are so right. Were all amazed at how tame these liyttle birds were and were thrilled to be able to see them so close.I have a short video clip and if I can remember howto add it,I may put it in to my blog or at least on youtube.