On Saturday morning, John and I made the most of a short weather window and paid the first visit to Portstewart Strand in five weeks. The forecast gave it warm, dry and calm until around 11, when it would turn very wet. We arrived shortly after 6 and were greeted by very over grown net rides, so we spent a good hour whacking back the grasses/nettles/hogweed/brambles etc. before getting the majority of the nets up. We need to do a little more work to another 48metres of net rides and of course anticipate more growth over the summer months. The muggy 19°C morning produced 100's of biting House Flies which made things very uncomfortable.
There's a net ride in here somewhere!
The estuary is starting to liven up once again with returning waders (Curlew, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Sanderling & Black-tailed Godwit), gulls, terns and ducks. The Shelducks look to have had a decent breeding year with at least 25 youngsters making it to well developed juveniles - last year was a complete failure!
The ringing was going pretty well and we were catching quite a few birds before we packed up at 09.30 as the dark clouds started to build. It was a nice mixed catch of 24 birds with over half being juveniles. Packing up when we did was good call as the heavens opened as we were packing the car.
Portstewart Strand 09/07/2016
Meadow Pipit 1
Robin 2 1
Song Thrush 1
Willow Warbler 4
Wren 1 1
Total 19 5
At the moment it looks as though we are down on most species (partially down to effort), so it will be interesting to see how the remainder of the season goes. Lesser Redpolls are normally a feature of the site in the spring (plus a few pairs breed) but they were almost completely absent this year - there were 1000's roaming the mainland UK, so that might explain where they went!
Storm Petrel (JC)
On Tuesday night the weather looked perfect for the first Storm Petrel ringing session of the season, so we gave it a go. John, Steve and I met up at 11pm in very bright conditions but the winds were very light from the south and it was forecast to cloud over a little.
The view north after 11pm
It remained pretty bright through the session until we packed up around 1.30am, with the prospect of work in the morning. The first bird of the night was a retrap from last July (the same as the first bird of last year too), which hit the nets around 00.45, with a further three new birds after 01.00.
The same view after 12.30pm
Our attempts at catching Stormies are still very unpredictable and we still haven't worked out what the main contributing factor is. Is it the moon (brightness) & tides, the period of summer, cloud cover, wind speed, wind direction, the distribution of plankton/small fish on which they feed - we simply don't know. We do know that what we deem perfect conditions can result in poor catches, whereas windy nights with mist can catch well... but not always. One factor we are sure on (or we think so anyway) is the benefit of having a southerly wind which helps carry the lure out to sea and draw the birds in and of course sticking to July and August as attempts in late June and early September have always been unsuccessful! Hopefully it won't be to long before our next attempt to keep on track for our yearly target of 200 birds.
Last Sunday we completed visit two to both of the Sand Martin colonies. We had planned to head out in the morning but continual rain meant we waited until around 11. The large Macfin colony was the first port of call and it produced only 30 new birds; 11 of those juveniles and 7 retraps (1 from 2016, 4 2015 & 2 2014). The wind was a little blustery so it made the net a bit obvious at times. The second stop was to Grangemore which was unfortunately quite a bit breezier with the wind blowing down both channels toward the bend of the meander. Despite the wind we caught 18 new birds of which 2 were juveniles. The first visit to Grangemore was also a bit breezy so hopefully visit three will be a little better.
Steve has managed a bit of ringing down home in Tyrone over the past month or so with the best catch being a House Martin.
Coal Tit 7
Great Tit 6
House Martin 1
House Sparrow 1
Lesser Redpoll 1
Willow Warbler 4
The weather over the public holiday looks pretty lousy so I don't envisage much ringing on the north coast but a trip to the reed beds of Lough Neagh may be on the cards.
Pygmy Shrew (Barn Owl or Kestrel food if we had any in the Bann Estuary)