Sunday, 31 March 2013

Birds at Crawfordsburn Country Park

After church this morning I decided to see what birds were around Crawfordsburn.  In the little park on the left as you go into Crawfordsburn Village from Bangor, I passed the small waterfall and
saw a Goldcrest, and Grey Wagtail.

Grey Wagtail
 I walked down the side of the Inn to see if I could see the Dipper at the waterfall but didn't, however I did see a Tree Creeper.  It was climbing up the tree very fast so the photo is not so good.
Tree Creeper
I walked right up to the  waterfall and there was a tremendous amount of water tumbling over the weir.  Below are a couple of photos I took of the waterfall.

 Close up of part of the waterfall
I followed the river down to the beach and on my way back, the Dipper flew by at the 'speed of knots' in the opposite direction.

Above, I thought this fungi on a fallen tree had wonderful patterns and colours.

When I arrived at Crawfordsburn Inn again, a wonderful Rolls Royce wedding car was pulling up with the bride and her father.  On talking to the owner of the wedding car hire business, he informed me that the car was built in England from a kit in 2005.  His other car was an original Daimler so if ever you want to hire one from his fleet of vintage vehicles, he can be found on,

Bride arriving at Crawfordsburn inn

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Birding on Lagan Tow Path to Hilden

Nineteen members of the West Church walking group enjoyed the day out starting our walk at Drum Bridge and stopping for lunch at Hilden Brewery before we came back to our cars.
Hilden Brewery
There were 3 bird watchers among our group and we were all keeping our eyes peeled for the Kingfisher.  Unfortunately today, it refused to make an appearance.  However we did see 18 Redwing in a tree and there were probably a lot more in the stubble field where the tree was overlooking.  This is not a very good  photo as the birds were quite a distance away.
  The only ducks we saw were Mallard but there were quite a few Moorhen with 2 Coot.
At Drum Bridge we saw 2 Grey Wagtail although this photo was taken from a distance.
Grey Wagtail
Although buds on trees were trying to emerge, we didn't see any primroses.  The next photo is of a bridge we saw as we passed by.

I was the only one of the group that was fortunate to see a Tree Creeper.  We  saw all of the 4 Tits, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Wren, Robin, Sparrow, Cormorant, Black-headed Gulls, and as we were arriving into Hilden we observed a Buzzard being mobbed by a Hooded Crow.  There were also the usual, Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Rook and Jackdaw.

Several of our group saw a Grey Seal which is very unusual in the river as it would have had to cross a Weir to arrive where they saw it.  Billy Burrows had his camera at the ready and has given me permission to include his photo of the Seal in my blog.
Grey Seal

When I arrived back to Bangor, I drove round by Seacliffe Road and saw a Grey Heron, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Common, B.headed and Herring Gulls, Eider, and Black Guillemot before reaching home to be greater by my resident Collared Doves.  All in all, a great day in good company.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Birding In Near Freezing Conditions!

The day dawned with bright sunshine even through the weather girl was telling me that it was going to be very cold.  However I decided to go bird watching locally.  So I dawned 7 layers on my top half, 5 on my bottom half and 2 hats and a muffler for my lower face. Now I was ready for anything!
I started at Bangor Pier where I watched the antics of the Black Guillemots and photographed a Meadow Pipit and 2 Adult breeding Shags  There were the usual Gulls and Turnstones sitting at the Long Hole.
Black Guillemot
Sitting outside nest site.

The Long Hole, Bangor Co Down 

Breeding Shags
Meadow Pipit
Just as I was leaving the Pier, I saw a 1st year Shag that had climbed on the steps at the water.
1st year Shag
Shaking the water off his wings
Head of Shag
As I went round Seacliffe Road, I saw a pair of breeding Eider
Male Eider

Male and Female Eider
Around at Ballyholme, there were numerous herring, Black-headed and Common Gulls, some bathing in a puddle of water.  there were also a flock of Light-bellied Brent Geese that landed and started feeding on the grass.  Some came down to the puddle to have a drink and it was deep enough for some to swim in.
Light-bellied Brent Geese
Watch Video of Light-bellied Brent at bottom of post.

As the tide was quite high, I went round to South Briggs Rock where I saw a Gannet and 2 sandwich Terns who were both fishing.  On the grass was a very noisy Carrion Crow.
Sandwich Tern with snow capped hills of Antrim

Sandwich Tern fishing
Sandwich Tern
Carrion Crow

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Birds of Queensland

The Ladies Probus at Ballyhome Yacht Club invited me to speak to them today with a talk entitled “Cyclone Calamity”.  Before I began, we had wonderful Easter cup cakes and coffee.

Florence, Betty and the Chef
The talk was about the devastation caused both to the birds, in particular the Cassowary, and their habitats after Cyclone Yasi hit Queensland in February 20011 and finishing with how it has recovered after the past 2 years.  The area that I am covering is from Etty Bay to Mission Bay.  Buster (male) and Etty (female) both from time to time come down to Etty Bay beach from the rain forest.

Cassowary on Etty Bay beach
The Cassowary is an endangered unique flightless bird, as tall as a human, with striking glossy black plumage, having a casque on top of their head, vivid blue/purple neck, long red wattle and beautiful amber eyes.  They have a well-muscled leg with 3 toes, one of which is a 5” dagger-shaped claw, capable to disemboweling anyone who threatens them  Females are larger than males, weighing 129lbs, can run at 31 MPH, jump 4’9” and swim in rivers and sea.  Both sexes have their own territory however at breeding time the females are more tolerant of the males and when the male has prepared a litter nest, he leads the female to the site, dances around her, throat trembling and making low “boo” noises, she squats down, he mounts her and she leaves!  He incubates the eggs and looks after the young for 9 months!

Feeding stations had been set up with fruit for the Cassowaries and 2 years on, the habitats have

nearly recovered and Buster and Etty had their first chick born since 2008. 

Buster with chick

Chick between 2-3 weeks ago
Etty - I'm lookin' at you baby!
Apart from speaking about the Cassowaries, I also talked about the wonderful waders found on the  Cairns Esplanade, the time I spent doing the yearly Brolga and Sarus Crane count, showing all the bird photos found around Innisfail where I was staying with my family and finally talking about the the 'Transvestites of the Bird World' - Eclectus Parrots,

Monday, 25 March 2013

Birding by train via Chichester to Gatwick Airport

While going through the countryside at great speed, it is not easy seeing all the birds however I am always up for the challenge.  I saw many of the usual birds, such as Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Magpie, Blackbird, Great Tit, Marsh Harrier, Pheasant, Mute and Whooper Swan, Coot, Moorhen,  Grey Heron, Canada Geese, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull and a flock of Starlings.  I also spotted 4 lovely Deer in the middle of a field.
So, from when I left Northern Ireland 9 days ago, other than seeing the 1000 Brent Geese, the most numerous bird species I saw was Wood Pigeon and the most common species that I never saw either on the Isle of Wight or on the Mainland was the Collared Dove.  So the total bird species I saw over over that period was 56.    That is not too bad for a non birding trip, it was just a question of keeping my eyes open to see what birds were around.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Spring? Where did it go?

Yes, yesterday was officially spring.  Today we are back to dull, rainy skies.  Nevertheless, Charlie needed his walk and so I was suitable dressed with waterproof gear and wellies. We walked down a very muddy path with woodland on either side.  Birds were trying their best to sing and I heard the 'wheeze' of the Greenfinch and the song of the Blackbird, Robin and Dunnock.  This path lead to another part of Binstead beach but not a particular nice part as it was very stony.  I saw 15 Turnstone, 3 Curlew, 5 Oystercatcher, Black-head, Common, Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 4 Grey Plover.  By this time, Charlie's fur was muddy and wet and so we retraced out steps back home.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Birding at Newton Nature Reserve on the I.O.W.

Well, it's official.  Spring is here.  My daughter and I had a day out together and she took me to Newton Nature Reserve.  The tide was out and so there were a good number of birds on the mud.  I estimate there were 1000 Dark-bellied  Brent both feeding in the water and in a nearby field.
Adult Dark -bellied Brent

Dark-bellied Brent
Brent with a few Curlews
On the way down to the bird hide, we saw Wren, 2 Jackdaw, both with very long sticks for their nesting material, Robin and most of the Tits.

At the hide we meet a volunteer who was most helpful.  As I was unable to bring my own telescope over from N.Ireland, she set hers up for me to look through.  We saw flocks of Golden Plover, Knot and Dunlin along with Redshank, Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Teal, Mallard and Poachard.

On our way to Dimola Lodge for lunch, we saw a Kestrel and 2 Buzzard.   Dimbola Lodge was the home of the celebrated Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. It is now a Museum and Gallery dedicated to her life and work, which also showcases contemporary exhibitions from photographers around the globe.  Both the broccoli soup with large slices of Stilton cheese in it and the Museum were wonderful.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Green Woodpecker

What a difference a day makes!  Today it was sunny so Charlie and I went on a different walk.  I walked on a path through Ryde Golf course and saw numerous Wood Pigeon, Crows, and Black –headed Gulls feeding off the fairways and greens.  The small birds were again singing well today after such a rainy day yesterday.  I saw all the Tits including the Long –tailed Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Song Thrush, Dunnock, Sparrow, Robin, Blackbird and was very fortunate to see a Green Woodpecker in a bunker. 

 I ended up on Binstead beach where there were 3 Dark-bellied Geese, 51 Sanderling and 27 Turnstone.
Dark -bellied Brent Geese
 Now birding with a dog is not very easy and I had to put Charlie on the lead while I tried to photo the birds. However when I let him off again, he made straight for the Turnstone and of course they lifted.   However this was a blessing in disguise because they made for 2 rocks a bit further out in the water and when I looked through my binoculars, along with the Turnstones there were 3 Grey Plovers.
Grey Plover and Turnstone
There were also Great Black-backed Gulls that seemed to have paired up.  I continued my walk onto Ryde Sea front where there were 11 more Sanderling, 12 Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail and Common Gull.
Just thought as Charlie and I have been walking pals for the past week, I had better show you what he looks like.
Charlie and myself

Monday, 18 March 2013

Quarr Abbey revisited

Charlie and I went for a one and a half hour walk today in the pouring rain to Quarr Abbey again.  Yesterday the lanes were  muddy and very wet, today, due to it having rained all night and was continuing to rain, the paths were like rivers!!!  Nevertheless, we just waded through them.  I took a few different paths today and saw 5 Little Egrets in one field, 2 Pheasants in another and a horse with 6 Pied Wagtails feeding around its hooves in a third field.  On the way home, we disturbed a Jay on a tree as we  passed by.
One of the five Little Egrets

In the afternoon, I went with the family to the Shanklin Theatre to see my granddaughter perform in the I.O.W. Musical Dance Festival.  She had already performed a Modern dance on the Saturday which I missed when she came second.  This afternoon her dancing school were performing a group ballet.  The vivid red costumes complimented the very professional execution of this piece and they gained first place.  Later on she danced a solo ballet in which she gained second place.  This photo is of her taken in her Tutu by her Dad.   He is a professional photography at

Quarr Abbey

One of my jobs on the I.O.W. is to walk my daughters dog, Charlie.  Yesterday, we walked to Quarr Abbey, Ryde where the St Benedictine Monks live and work.
Quarr Abbey is in the country so as I walked I heard and saw a lot of the small birds overhead in the trees and dashing from one place to another.
Quarr Abbey

The Monks have an orchard and grow a lot of vegetables and farm sheep and pigs.  This sow had 11 piglets.
This was the first time this year I have been able to photograph primroses in the wild.  What a wonderful sight on a very damp and dull day.
Wild PrimroseT
The path took me down to overlooking the sea where I saw 20 Dark-bellied Brent Geese.  I saw numerous Carrion Crows feeding in fields and 2 Buzzards flew overhead.
Carrion Crow
We stopped for a short break at the coffee shop.  Next time I will go and see the Art Gallery and explore some more of the wonderful paths.