Friday 25 October 2019

Spring in to Summer in the Bann Estuary

Early summer is normally a quiet period for us at our regular ringing sites with the majority of the birds still on eggs or feeding their chicks, resulting in small catches.
The main feature of June each year is usually the first visit to the Sand Martin colonies in mid-June and our visits to the Sandwich Tern colony in Donegal. July marks the return to the nocturnal ringing of Storm Petrels and the first trip to Lough Neagh for acro warblers.

After some promising weather at the start of June we got stuck in a rut of rain and showers with the Jet Stream stuck to the west and south of the UK and it stayed there for almost two weeks. This meant that dry days were few and far between, particularly at the weekend. Through spring and summer it was just myself over the six morning visits between Kilcranny and Portstewart Strand.

John has been putting in a greater ringing effort at the River Site at Ulster University Coleraine just up river but I don't have his ringing records to hand.


The combined totals, not including the waders, Swallows and Sand Martin were:

                                          New     Retrap

Blackbird                             8            2                      
Blackcap                              7            1
Blue Tit                                7            1                 
Bullfinch                              4            7
Chaffinch                             3            3
Chiffchaff                            5            1
Dunnock                              5            5           
Goldcrest                             2              
Grasshopper Warbler          3            1                              
Linnet                                 30           2
Long-tailed Tit                    1
Meadow Pipit                      9            3
Reed Bunting                      1            1
Robin                                                 1
Sedge Warbler                   18           7
Song Thrush                        1
Starling                               10
Stonechat                            1
Tree Sparrow                       1
Wheatear                             1
Whitethroat                          1           1
Willow Warbler                    27          1
Wren                                   11          6

Total                                159          41             

Grasshopper Warbler

Long-tailed Tit is a common bird in most areas but not one we get around the outer Bann Estuary sites. For my year patch birding, I'm usually reliant on finding some in Kilcranny Wood and one was added to the ringing list for the estuary. A couple more Grasshopper Warblers were great as we usually only catch a couple each year. Starlings are very common locally, as everywhere, but we don't normally catch (or attempt to) many. In fact in the last four years we have only caught one Starling per year at Portstewart Strand, in the same net set, in June and all juveniles - we've now bucked this trend with catches of three and seven. We seem to catch one single Wheatear each spring and 2019 was no different.


I managed two weekend stays at Copeland Bird Observatory at the end of April and mid-May. The weather was pretty unkind for both, with Storm Hannah hitting on the first and prolonged northerly winds for the second, so migration was almost non-existent. We did get a few Greenland Wheatears, Swallows etc. but nothing out of the ordinary. On the second visit, with a team of 9 visiting ringers, we put more of a focus on breeding birds ringing female Eider ducks, Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and also a Mallard. A Stock Dove was a nice catch and CBO is probably the only place in NI any have been ringed this century.

Stock Dove

Herring Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull


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