On Saturday morning I was out by myself with the others off on a day trip to Copeland Bird Observatory in the hopes of seeing the recent Yellow-browed Warblers, Wryneck and anything else that might appear.
I again restricted the number of nets but it was quiet with not a huge amount about. I caught a total of 31 new birds which was boosted by the capture of 14 Linnets, plus 4 early Blackbirds and 2 Song Thrush by the winter woozle tape.
One of Long-eared Owls was again out and about until 07.22 and the regular juvenile Peregrine was busy terrorising the waders with a total of 51 species sighted.
On Wednesday morning John and I were out again for a couple of hours before work in what appeared to be ideal conditions. The birds started to move and call early on including the first 3 Redwings of the autumn but around 8am thick mist rolled in and killed off any activity, particularly in the open. We did catch one of the Redwings and a new trickle of Goldcrests and a couple more Song Thrushes but little else. A Merlin and a single Twite were present around the 'gorse nets' but not caught. A number of Whooper Swans were grounded on the estuary in the mist with over 50 throughout the morning.
As we were departing at 10.30 the mist started to clear and things would have livened up again but unfortunately be had to be in work. The total was a rather tame 12 new birds but there was a little bit of quality in the species at least.
Portstewart Strand 14+18/10/2017
Blackbird 4 1
Goldcrest 7 1
Dunnock 3 1
Reed Bunting 2
Song Thrush 5
Totals 43 3
Fly-by Whoopers and the incoming mist
The patch birding in the estuary this October has been great and I added a further four ticks over the weekend and another two on Wednesday morning. On Saturday morning I picked up a flock of 13 Pink-footed Geese which dropped in to Grangemore. These were a full patch tick for me and still a vary scarce bird in NI.
On Sunday I spent a bit of time around the bird hide and there was plenty more activity on the water with a Red-throated Diver (large red throat patch), 4 Eider, 13 Red Breasted Merganser in front of the hide and a large influx of Black-headed Gulls (500+) which included a patch tick Mediterranean Gull, a species I failed to get in 2016. I then picked up a black duck species whirling about the estuary at full speed which didn't look like an Goldeneye. Thankfully anther birder present had a large camera and was able to snap a record shot to show a fine Tufted Duck, my first in the estuary since 2012. I then headed over to Grangemore to see if the Pink-feet were about to get a closer look and managed a couple of record shots. On route I also ticked a single Twite, sighted only my second Kestrel of the year and had 4 Brent geese overhead.
On Wednesday the ticks were the Redwings and the nice male Merlin, with a single Twite present amongst the Linnets. I am now three species ahead of my record year in 2016 and I am hopefully of adding a few more new species before the year is out! Of the 158 species I have seen in NI this year, I've seen 126 of those in the estuary!
Yet another storm is due this weekend, this time Storm Brian, so chances are slim of getting out, perhaps a short window on Saturday morning!