Again we have been pretty busy at the weekends and not had a great deal of time to get out ringing but I have managed two visits to Portstewart Strand and ticked off a few other bits and pieces.
The majority of the local breeding birds are back on territory in the Bann Estuary with the Grasshopper Warblers and Sedge Warblers joining the mix and now only Whitethroat are missing (although they are few and far between anyway). There has been pretty decent late passage of Wheatears following the lack of birds in early spring and this peaked on Monday when there were 13+ Greenland Wheatears present. I didn't have any traps but luckily this fine looking male found its way into the exact same spot in the furthest net as the single Wheatear did last year!
Many of the year round residents i.e. Bullfinch, Robin and Wren are well into their breeding cycle, perhaps incubating and have been pretty inconspicuous and not been appearing in the nets. Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Reed Bunting have been the main species caught with a combined total of 12 ringed plus another returning Willow Warbler originally ringed in 2015.
Reed Bunting pair
Each year we normally visit a few of the local Dipper nests and ring the chicks, generally in the c20 boxes Ken has put up. I took the opportunity to visit a few of the natural nests and was late on a couple with the chicks having fledged already but I did find two with ringable broods - 4 and 3.
A few weeks back I headed out to Copeland Bird Observatory for a work party day to fix up some of the traps and to set up the tern decoys and boxes. There were a few birds moving through and the ringers on the island (for the week) had a decent catch of Willow Warblers and a few Wheatears and kindly let me ring a Stock Dove. Stock Doves are very scarce in Northern Ireland and The Copeland Islands are probably only one of a handful of places you can find them.
While the weather has been nice but windy I grabbed the opportunity to visit Grangemore and sort out some new net rides amongst the reeds and make some 'bridges' to cross the main drain that bisects the site. I'm hoping the effort will greatly increase the number of Sedge Warblers we ring this year. with the added bonus of a few extra Grasshopper Warbler and Reed Bunting.
Last Sunday I led a Dawn Chorus walk through a woodland in the Glens of Antrim for work and we had a decent turn out and were treated to a sighting of a female Great Spotted Woodpecker, which are still very rare in NI. The woodland would be perfect for a breeding pair or two so watch this space over the next few years. We have 75 next boxes throughout the woodland so I took a chance to check 15 boxes and found occupied nests with eggs of Blue Tit, Coal Tit and Great Tit, ringing the sitting females. We will do the proper look around in 2/3 weeks time and ring the chicks.
We are hosting a public bird walk and ringing demonstration at Portstewart Strand from 9am on Saturday morning (tomorrow), so if anyone is interested you are welcome to come along.