Sunday, 7 April 2013

Castle Espie Visited

Did I say last night was going to be ‘cold’!!!  Now that turned out to be the biggest understatement of the year!  I awoke with the dawn chorus at 5.30am, firstly to the song of the Robin, secondly the Wren and then a pair of Song Thrush landed just outside my window.  What a wonderful wake up call.  I put on even more clothes and discovered the ground was completely white, nevertheless there was a wonderful sunrise and I just had go out to photograph it.
Sunrise at Whiterock

View from my bed a few minutes later

I am adding this photo below to see if anyone can tell me what it is of?
Any ideas?
After breakfast I packed up and headed round the coast, stopping at another farm that I always buy potatoes from and although it is private land, I have been given permission to walk over it right down to the shoreline.  The water was so tranquil and the surrounding scenery beautiful with the sun shining on it although the birds were a bit skittish and difficult to photograph.
There were Widgeon, Teal, Shelduck, Mallard, Redshank, Dunlin and Gulls.
Gulls, Waders and Teal
I decided to call into Castle Espie to photograph some of the ducks.  Of course as a bird watcher, I support WWT however I do not add any of the ducks into my bird counts.
There was some exciting news when one of the staff took me up to the duck hatchery and showed me their first gosling this year.  It had been born on 21 March and was just being allowed out now for the public to see as the weather was a little warmer.
Ne Ne Family

Ne Ne Chick -just over 2 weeks old
A member of staff was telling me that the Whistling ducks were the most social of all the ducks and outside the breeding season, they all hang about together.  If they were hungry, they would come up to the food store, walk right in and start eating.
Whistling Duck
Below are some of the ducks I photographed.  It is a lovely time to visit Castle Espie as you can see the wildfowl in their best breeding plumage  and nearly all of them are displaying to one another, hoping to pair up.
Mandarin (M)
Mandarin (F)
These 2 female ducks (above and below) are quite similar at first glance.

Carolina (F)

Carolina (M)

Some of the nest boxes for the ducks

Baikal Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Ringed Teal (M & F)
Laysan Teal

Smew Party

Bahama Pintail
Pintail (M)
 Hooded Merganser - juvenile male
Chiloe Wigeon
White-headed Duck (M)
White-headed Duck (F)
These White-headed ducks above are in danger as are quite a few of the other ducks in the collection.  This duck's feet are placed far back and as such they don't find it easy to walk on land, however they make up for it in the water as they can swim very fast and also can remain underwater for longer than most small ducks.
Eider (M)
Greenland White-fronted Goose
Red breasted Goose
Emperor Geese
Ross's Snow Geese
View (through a window) from the restaurant.
Lynsey Wightman and Danielle Pollock who are Education Assistants at Castle Espie and are trying to encourage young people to take a greater interest in birds and at the same time they hope to deeper their own knowledge in this field, both for pleasure and work.

There is a lot more to Castle Espie than I have shown you, like several hides, a wonderful art gallery, a restaurant with spectacular views and outside exhibits, however that story and photos will have to wait for another day.

The photo below was taken by me a few years ago at Castle Espie and does show just how social the Whistling ducks are that they even formed a choir!
The Whistling Duck Choral Society
I looked for the Kingfisher in the little lake on the road beside Castle Espie but it was not there.  Down at the sea, there were Brent, Bar-tailed Godwit in near breeding plumage and a Greenshank.
Approaching Newtownards, I went up Ballyhenry Road and saw 1 Yellow Hammer several Dunnock displaying and a few Reed Bunting.

Yellow Hammer (The best photo I could get - will do better next time!)
All in all, a very successful outing of chores combined with good birding and the opportunity for photography. 

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