Friday 23 October 2020

Late December at Castlerock 2019

I've just noticed I didn't post this one - here it 10 months later

With a dodgy forecast mid-morning on the 7th and nobody else keen to head out, I opted to go for a shorter early morning session to try and catch some more Snipe and the Jack Snipe that keep have eluded me thus far. I set up a six net 'V' in the corner of the marsh before first light and waited for the Snipe to return from their nocturnal foraging in the fields. While I was there I stuck up a wader net along the shore hoping that some of the Sanderling might bundle in under darkness.  


The wader net was a waste of time with a big falling tide, the net was soon well away from the waters edge and didn't come close to catching anything. I did come close to catching a few Snipe on the shore with my torch but without a landing net, it was tough - one bird I had managed to get down on one knee beside it but it flew off when my hand was within 30cm.


The catch of Snipe was poor with just a single bird and a Reed Bunting. When walking through the marsh it was clear that there certainly weren't any great numbers around with just 6/7. I've counted up to 69 Common Snipe and 5 Jack Snipe in this marsh so hopefully numbers will climb as the winter goes on.


The weather held up and was actually quite nice all morning so I left the nets a little longer to see if anything else was around. On approach to the net I noticed a dart of blue and a bird of prey in pursuit on the inside of the 'V'. The Kingfisher veered left and was caught while the female Sparrowhawk continued to where she bounced out of one net and into the other at the tip of the 'V'. I was able to run and catch her before she slipped out of this one too. Not your regular duo to be caught in a net!

The Snipe marsh

The feeding station amongst the scrub at Castlerock has really been bringing in the birds with counts of over 100 birds present on different occasions with flocks of up to 55+ Greenfinch, dozens of Goldfinches, dozens of Linnets and a few other visitors. Chaffinch numbers still remain very low with just two or three individuals and the Fieldfare are still absent with just two present on the last visit.

The feeding station

On the 15th with yet another dodgy forecast, I waited until the rain finished around 8am before I headed over to the site. The weather was then very sunny and bright but still chilly. The catch was very slow with only a handful of birds in the 3 nets over the first couple of hours. The bright sun then moved around the horizon and the nets were finally shaded and birds began to enter the nets around the feeders. I was short on time so had to pack up but the birds were very active and a big catch was on the cards if I had kept the nets open. In the end I caught 29 new birds and 2 retraps, including 22 Greenfinch.

Castlerock Golf Club -  7th December - 15th December 2019

                         New      Retrap
Blackbird           1
Blue Tit             
Bullfinch            2        
Chaffinch          1
Goldfinch          3             1
Greenfinch       22
Kingfisher         1
Reed Bunting    1
Snipe                 1     
Song Thrush      
Sparrowhawk    1
Wren                                1


The Greenfinch numbers are very pleasing and the catch of 22 on the 15th marks our largest ever single day catch. By the looks of it on social media, the Greenfinch has had a bumper year across the UK after decades of decline - fingers crossed.


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