Monday 29 April 2013

Birding Watching at Vi & Micheal's home farm

Although it was not our official bird watching day, I had been invited by my friend Vi to visit her other farm and home to see what birds were around there and also visit her brother in laws Fish Farm nearby.  This is one of the lakes below.
Lake at Fish Farm
We were greeted warmly by Viv who gave us coffee and goodies and from the comfort of her conservatory we were able to see all the Tits, Chaffinch and Tree Sparrows coming down to numerous feeders she had hanging  from a tree.
Tree Sparrow
Viv and Michael run Barnwell Cottages not far away where you can hire a number of cottages in wonderful surrounding countryside with bird hide, lovely walks and a badger set.  She explained that their home farm had 96 acres.  Well I did not think we would be walking over all that today!

Firstly we went over some rough ground and it was lovely to at last see the Gorse in full bloom before arriving at the Fish Farm. 
Yellow Gorse
We saw Willow Warblers and heard a Chiffchaff, along with Goldfinch, Robin as well as all the Tits again.  There were no birds on the 2 lakes today, only a young man fly fishing and this is a photo of Ronnie and Jimmy watching him.

Ronnie and Jimmy watching a young man fly fishing
We walked up a muddy land and saw a Buzzard, Blackbird, Rook and Wood Pigeon before we arrived back at the car just in time to miss a very heavy shower.  These 2 photos below were taken from a great distance and so are not great quality.
Buzzard in flight

Tits On My Nut Feeder

Just a few photos today of Tits on my nut feeder
Blue Tit

Great Tit
I am watching you!

Sunday 28 April 2013

Birds seen from Clough to Dundrum

Our West Church walking group went out for the day and walked from Clough to Dundrum, County Down.
The Mourne Mountains in the distance
We were very fortunate in that the weather was sunny and fairly warm.  This is our group below.

As we walked along the old railway line with the sea on one side and small lakes to the other side, we saw some small birds like Chaffinch, the Tits, Robin and Willow Warblers.

We passed by a small stream and over on the other side we saw this dead female fox.  I wondered what had happened to it.
Dead female Fox
The tide was nearly in and so we did not see many waders but those we saw were Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew and I was pleased to see my first Whimbel this year (see below).  Nearing Dundrum there was a small island and it had about 14 Whimbrel, Sandwich Terns, Lesser Black backed and Black headed Gulls on it.

As we walked closer to Dundrum, the Mountains of Mournes with their purples, green and grey hues looked magnificent against the blue sky and wonderful cloud formation.  I am sure a lot of people know the song, 'When the mountains of Mournes sweep down to the sea' by Percy French  and these are the mountains he wrote about to Mary his wife when he went to London to make his fortune.  The mountains meet the sea in Newcastle which is a few miles further on.

Saturday 27 April 2013

RSPB visited early morning

As I had to go to Belfast today, I left early to see if the Yellow Wagtail was at the RSPB Belfast Harbour Reserve.  It was not there before I left although people had seen it yesterday.  Although I didn't see the Yellow Wagtail, there were plenty of other birds to see.  There were many Black headed Gulls that had started nesting on the Tern Islands and one wonders if the Terns don't come soon in great numbers, there will not be enough space left for them to nest!

These 2 Black headed Gulls decided to make a nest away from all the others
I only saw one Common Tern today and that was not on one of these Islands.  There were numerous Oystercatchers,  a few Redshanks and Lapwings, 2 ringed Plover, 2 Heron, Wood Pigeon, Reed Bunting, a couple of Pied Wagtail, a good number of Coots that had built nests, Moorhen along with the usual ducks such as Shelduck, Teal, Shoevler, Wigeon and Mallard.  I saw 2 dead Gulls that I am sure the Warden will remove and there were also Lesser Black backed and Common Gulls.  I was surprised that I only saw 1 Swallow.

One of the volunteers scattered bird seed in front of the hide to try ad encourage birds to come closer and it eventually worked as Black tailed Godwits landed near us.  the video below is a bit misty as it started to rain on the window!

Black tailed Godwit
There are 2 Konik ponies on the Reserve.  These ponies are the nearest ponies to wild tarpan horses that became extinct in 1890.  Fortunately a local Polish farmer had a few and he bred them with domesticated horses and some have retained their wild streak.   In 1936 Professor Vetulani of Poland selected 20 of these horses  to breed back a close tarpan - like primitive horse.  The result was the Konik Pony and these ponies on the Belfast reserve as well as the Portmore Reserve are direct descendants from the original 20.  These ponies are important as they remove the emerging vegetation that would otherwise form a dense belt along the water's edge.  This opens up wide areas and allows many smaller plants to grow, which is good for nesting birds and insects.
Konik ponies
As I walked along the path out of the Reserve, there were lots of birds singing such as Goldfinch, Willow Warbler, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Greenfinch, all dashing around the trees and difficult to photograph.  This Greenfinch below was the best I could do as I was in a hurry.

Thursday 25 April 2013

Birding in Creightons Wood & RSPB Reserve in Belfast

I had never been to Creightons Wood, at Craigantlet Hills and although it is not large, it had many of the small birds such as the Tits, Finches, Blackcap and Willow Warbler singing today.
Chaffinch - male
Willow Warbler

There was Blackbird, Hooded Crow and Jay also in the wood.

Hooded Crow

I made my way to the furthest away outside hide of the RSPB  Reserve in Belfast and I met one of the
volunteers who told me that a Yellow Wagtail had been seen  a few hours ago.  I saw Shelduck, Godwit,
 Common, Black headed and Lesser Black backed Gulls, Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, and Mallard ducks, Coot, Moorhen, Lapwing and Redshank.  Unfortunately I had to cut my stay short as I had a call that my brother had fallen so I never had anymore time to look for the Yellow Wagtail.


Sunday 21 April 2013

RSPB Bangor Group Outing

It had been decided that we would meet in Portadown so I took the train from Bangor and on the way saw Blackbird, Collared Dove, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Starling, Magpie, Wood Pigeon, Jackdaw, Rook, Hooded Crow, Herring, Black headed and Lesser Black backed Gull, Redshank, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Teal, Mallard, Tufted duck, and Buzzard.

I was met at the station and all 8 of us set out to visit Oxford Island at Lough Neagh, County Antrim, to see if we could see the Black necked Grebe at the Waterside hide.  Of course, I had seen it last Monday along with a couple of others but the rest were not in luck today, as it never showed.  Perhaps it has moved on.  However we had good views of Pochard, Gadwell, Goldeneye, Great crested Grebes displaying and a Little Grebe.  A Heron and Cormorant flew over head and 2 Sandwich tern were sitting on a floating blue barrel.  We were very pleased that so many Swallows and House Martins had now arrived to breed.  As we walked back to the cars, we were delighted to hear all the birds singing.  Certainly a lot more than last Monday, in particular the Willow Warblers and Chiffchaff.  At coffee time, one the members had a birthday and her husband as a surprise had brought a lovely chocolate cake for her however we could not get the candles lite as it was a bit windy, but the cake was delicious.
Willow Warbler
Of course there were other small birds like Blue, Coal, Great, Long tailed Tit, Wren, Robin, Pied Wagtail, and Jay.
I was the only one who was fortunate to see a beautiful male Wheatear.  This photo is not very good however it was the best I could get at the distance the bird was from me.

Wheatear - male
We looked in at the Balancing Lakes where we saw an Arctic Tern.  We stopped for lunch at Clare Glen where the Cusher River flows though.  During lunch a Buzzard sat on a post for about 10 minutes although just to far away for any of us to get a decent photo so here is one of the group.
Members of the RSPB Bangor Group
We quickly walked along the tow path  at Lough Stark where we saw Tree Sparrows, Kestrel and once again hear and saw many of the migrants that have returned to breed here.

Then it was time for the train journey home and I saw Shelduck, Blackcap, Greylag Goose and our much loved House Sparrow.  Today I saw 50 bird species and overall it was a great day enjoyed by every one of us.

Saturday 20 April 2013

Black Guillemots having a 'domestic' and 'copulating'

Early this morning I went down to Bangor Pier to see the Black Guillemots.  There were quite a numbers around, some in the water, others on the the Pier while others were at their nest holes.   This one was having a big yawn!
Black Guillemot having a yawn
Then I heard a terrible commotion from one of the nest holes and the video below shows 2 of them having a 'domestic'.  Since one of them never stopped harping at the other, I had to assume that was the female giving off in no uncertain terms to the male!  What ever had he done to deserve this telling off.  It went on for over 5 minutes and although he turned his back on her several times, thinking this might stop her, it didn't work as she obviously was very upset about something and wanted him to feel her whole wrath.

It was even doing my head in so I focused on this pair below who were sitting on the Pier and as I watched as he sidled up to her, jumped on her back and copulated.  When you watch the video below, if you blink you may miss this!

Other than a Rock Pipit walking up and down the slipway and a feral Pigeon, there was nothing else at the Harbour.  In the Long hole there were a few Turnstone, Redshank, more Black Guillemots and the usual Gulls.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Nature - how quickly it changes!

After playing badminton this morning, I took the longer route home via Sealcliffe Road to see the Black Guillemots.  There was only one Guillemot at the Harbour who was having a bath, yet beyond the Harbour walls there was a gale of about 7-8 blowing.

I drove further round the coast road and saw the Bangor inshore RNLI rib, and the Donaghadee Lifeboat along with a small fishing boat.  

The fishing boat was being towed by the rib and the Lifeboat was escorting it. 
RNLI Rescue Vessel
Donaghadee Lifeboat escorting the fishing vessel
I decided to go back to the Harbour as I had never seen a rescue coming in before.  It turned out that the fishing boat had broken down at South Briggs Rock, both Bangor and Donaghadee RNLI were informed and it took the rib 35 minutes to reach the vessel.  This must have been terrible for the crew of the fishing boat because of the very bad sea condition.  A line was attached and when the Lifeboat arrived, the vessel was towed by the rib to the safety of Bangor Harbour.  
Back safely inside Bangor Harbour
Below is a videos(sorry very shaky) of the fishing vessel being finally docked safely at the Pier.

This video shows how the inshore rescue craft is taken out of the water.

One of the Bangor RNLI men was telling me that last week he had installed more nesting boxes for the Black Guillemots on the Marino Pier.

I was just thinking how quickly nature has a way of changing.  Yesterday we were basking in the sun; today there was a gale, albeit still quite sunny.  Sorry that the video is very shaky but the wind nearly blow me off my feet!  It's a wonder I didn't need rescued!

Tuesday 16 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.  
Add caption
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.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Birding at Belvoir Forest Park & RSPB Rererve

It had been reported that there was a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Belvoir Forest Park and as I had not visited Belvoir for some time I thought I would go birding there today.   I parked the car just outside the Headquarters of the RSPB.
In their grounds there was a grey Squirrel feeding on the ground, however there are Red Squirrels in the Park but I did not see any today, .
Grey Squirrel
I have to tell you from the start, I never heard nor saw the Great Spotted Woodpecker however as I walked through the forest there was a lot of bird song and good views of Coal, Blue and Great Tit as well as a couple of pairs of Long tailed Tit.  Just as I was watching them, 2 pairs of Goldcrest were in a tree next to where I was standing.
Who's looking at you baby! - Goldcrest
There were the usual Blackbird, Chaffinch, Starling, Wood Pigeon, 4 Tree Creeper, Jay with Rook and Jackdaws flying over the trees.  
Tree Creeper -I know the photos has too must light!
As I walked though the forest, there was a carpet of Wood Anemone which lite up the whole area.
Anemone Nemorosa - Close up of Wood Anemone
As I reached the river there were Mallard and Moorhen.

I crossed the river on a bridge arriving at the old Lockkeeper's House and a fairly new restaurant.  I could not get over all the people that were in the park today even though it was  lovely sunny day but then I realised there was a charity cycle ride, people running to get fit for the up coming marathon, others walking their dogs and children out looking for a 'monster'!  Not wonderful conditions for bird watching, just too much traffic, nevertheless I was enjoyed the day.
Lockkeeper's house -original
Lock Keeper's Restaurant - new
I walked along the toe path and saw this friendly Robin taking in the rays of sunshine.  There ere 2 Mistle Thrush who were getting very annoyed with a Hooded Crow as obviously they had a nest nearby but the Crow retreated eventually and the Thrush quieted down.
Old wooden bridge across the River Lagan
I had to cross this bridge before returning to the car for my picnic.

Then off to the RSPB Reserve in Belfast Harbour Road.  There is always a friendly atmosphere at the reserve and a friend who is a volunteer there made me a very welcome coffee.  To the right of the reserve there are bird feeders and so we can see lots of Greenfinch and Goldfinch along with all the Tits at close quarters.  There were numerous Black-tailed Godwit just outside the viewing window and most were in their breeding plumage.  This is one that had been tagged and probably was from Iceland.  There were 2 others with tags.

The 3 tagged photographed Godwit will be sent to the BTO for identification and they will let me know the information.  Suddenly a Common Tern was spotted and then another, both diving right outside the window of the reserve.  One of them decided to sit on this post which was fortunate for me so I could take a 'reasonable' photo.  Some people has 500mm lenses and must have got a wonderful shot.  However I must remember to be content with the camera I have.

Just as we all had got excited about the Terns, all the birds in the reserve lifted and sure enough, there was a Peregrine in the air.

After all the birds settle down again, we had another surprise.  My first Swallow seen this year(along with everyone else at the reserve). It didn't stay long, but we had good views of it.  Mostly on the far side of the water there were numerous Oystercatcher, Gulls, Wigeon, Teal, 4 Shoveler, 2 Heron, Coot, Redshank, Dunlin, 2 Ringed Plover and of course the reserves 2 ponies.

Just in front of the viewing window several Reed Bunting landed and this is photo of one of them.

This photo below shows one of the man-made island where both the Common and Arctic Gulls come to breed every year.

The last 2 photos are closer shots of Black-tailed Godwits.