Unfortunately the planned ringing on the north shore of Lough Neagh was cancelled today, so rather than waste a public holiday with decent weather, I tested out a new(ish) site. I had been looking forward to the trip to Lough Neagh to catch good numbers of Sedge Warblers (of which we generally catch few), plus to get to grips with Reed Warblers, which is a bird I've yet to see in the hand. Reed Warblers are still relatively scarce in Northern Ireland and Lough Neagh is probably at the northern end of their range in Ireland.
Well, with Acro's in mind I thought I would test out a few new spots in the Bann Estuary that I have been eyeing up for quite a while, particularly for Sedge Warblers. The habitat in the marsh at Grangemore (where we also have a Sand Martin colony) is fantastic and is a network of wet meadow, flooded channels, small reed beds, a tidal stream, patches of brambles, surrounded by some of the oldest dated sand dunes in Ireland. I arrived around 06.30 and was greeted with the sound of two reeling Grasshopper Warblers, a flock of 60+ Linnet, half a dozen Sedge Warblers, 10+ Stonechats and a single Whitethroat.
For the keen eyed you will notice two nets in the two strips of reeds below and blog regulars will recognise the main areas of scrub at our Portstewart Strand ringing site across the river.
I put up one 18 and one 12 metre net in the small patches of reeds above and a further 40 metres in a larger patch of reeds by the edge of the stream.
Sedge Warblers were the dominant feature of the morning with the first 10 birds being of this species. The 40m net produced the best round with 2 Sedge Warbler, 1 Stonechat, 1 Reed Bunting and a Kingfisher, which flew in as I was extracting a bird below. The total of 12 new Sedge Warblers was really pleasing and probably close to the number I have caught in the past 3/4 years. It got even better as I caught a control Sedge Warbler with a BTO ring meaning it will have been ringed elsewhere in Britain or Ireland. The Kingfisher was also a nice surprise as the reeds were on dry ground, plus it is the first I have seen/heard in the patch this year!
Reed Bunting 2
Sedge Warbler 12 1
Total 17 1
Sedge Warbler (British control - Adult female)
The site certainly has great potential and I would suggest I caught only a fraction of the Sedge Warblers on site, not to mention the countless others that may pass through from other areas of the estuary. We will hopefully squeeze in another visit or two before the warblers head back south.
Sedge Warbler (Adult male)
Sedge Warbler (Juvenile)