Tuesday 10 October 2017

Portstewart Strand 06th & 8th October 2017

On Friday (06th) John, Ken and I were joined by a couple from France who had last ringed with us back in 2015 when they were studying at the University of Ulster. They have both since gone on to complete their undergrad degrees and now a masters in Ecology & Water Chemistry and are enjoying a bit of time touring around Ireland. The conditions were perfect with hardly a breath of wind and good cloud cover.

We set most of the nets pre dawn and had one 'WinterWoozle' tape playing in the hopes of some winter thrushes. On checking the first net, we had caught couple of thrushes and normally I extract the biggest birds out of the net first but an interesting Sylvia warbler caught my eye in the top corner. As I lowered the net I could see that the bird was certainly not a Blackcap and was in fact the first ever Garden Warbler I have seen in Northern Ireland, so unsurprisingly a new species for the site. The only other one that we have caught in NI was a bird at the River Site at the Uni by Rick some four/five years previous.

Garden Warbler

Bird numbers were more numerous this morning but a little less diverse including 300+ Meadow Pipit, 100+ Skylarks, c20 Reed Bunting, another half dozen new Stonechats, 10+ Song Thrush and 20+ Chaffinch. Other birds around included the ever present hunting Peregrine, the first Little Grebe of the autumn, a second Great Crested Grebe and 24 Whooper Swans.

Reed Bunting

The nets amongst the gorse did well, chipping in with two more new Stonechats, five Reed Buntings and five Meadow Pipits. We did attempt to catch some Skylarks as the small flocks passed mid-morning but we need a proper net set on the open ground and a bit of luck.

Portstewart Strand 06/10/2017                            
                              New         Retrap
Blackbird               3
Blue Tit                  1                  2
Bullfinch                1                  2
Chaffinch               7          
Dunnock                1                  1

Garden Warbler    1
Goldcrest               2                  1             
Meadow Pipit         5
Reed Bunting         5
Robin                      1            
Song Thrush          3                 1 

Stonechat               2
Wren                       3                  1  

Totals                    34                 8     

The forecast for this morning (8th) was looking like a no go and I hummed and haad with the idea when my alarm went off but I decided to go for it after a short snooze on the alarm. As I set off from home there was light drizzle and I was regretting getting out of bed but by the time I got to the coast there was no rain in sight and it remained that way all morning. The sky was very dark and heavy and suppressed the bird activity until mid morning when things got moving. With the risk of rain I went for just the two nets in the deepest cover in the scrub and then after an hour put up one of the nets amongst the gorse and a two shelf over the saltmarsh.

The ringing was really slow to start with just a retrap Blackbird and two new Robins until around 9am. Things visibly picked up as it brightened with many more birds flitting about and a few more in the nets. A couple of the other net rides might have caught well had I erected them! There was apparently nothing uncommon around and no sign of any warblers but I was pleased enough with the catch after the poor start.


Portstewart Strand 08/10/2017                            
                              New         Retrap
Blackbird                                  1
Bullfinch                3                  1
Chaffinch               6                  1            
Linnet                     7
Meadow Pipit         6
Robin                      2                 

Stonechat               2

Totals                    26                 3    

That afternoon, John went for a stroll through the dunes and picked up the first Redwings of the autumn and heard a Phylloscopus warbler calling in the scrub but it remained unidentified. We rarely ring past 11 and don't think we have ever gone beyond midday but we could be missing plenty in the afternoons!

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