Sunday, 13 January 2013

Ballyquintin, chipping away ... 13 Jan 2013

Having thus far made only quick runs at Ballyquintin, I decided to do it properly today. The morning was grey and nasty, with a cold, spitting rain. I headed first to Templecowey (aka Cowey Wells), and found the place virtually devoid of birds. A lone little egret stood out on the marsh. Only one thing for it: I headed for Portaferry to sit out the rain with some coffee and a bacon sandwich at Barholm (picking up a robin for the patch along the exit road).

Templecowey, looking down over the reedbeds and tidal marsh. Small area of woodland on the slope to the left. 13 Jan 2013.

An hour or so later, it seemed to be looking better, so I returned to  the NT car park, and took the track N along the shore. Four wigeon were on the sea, with the teal, and house sparrows and chaffinches around the farm. Hundreds of gulls searching among the seaweed, all of the commoner species (to my eye). Near the end of the track, a purple sandpiper flew up from a group of turnstones (I later saw what I presume was the same bird out on the point). It was still spitting the same nasty rain as I moved back to the car park, and then out to the coastguard lookout. For once, there was shelter there, the rain cleared off, and I had a great views both E over the sea, and W over the fields towards Strangford Narrows. The fields held lapwings, curlews, golden plovers, and a few dunlin but, while scanning these, I picked up a female merlin preening on a fence post. Out at sea, there was more action than a few days ago. A few scoter flew past in small groups, two red-throated divers on the sea, a couple of black guillemot and several guillemot. A couple of kittiwake flew around with the other gulls, and then a gannet wheeled past. Into the sea birds at last!

From Ballyquintin coastguard lookout, over the last field on the Point, with Strangford Narrows in the background. This field held hundreds of plovers today, and is where dotterel were found a couple of autumns ago. 13 Jan 2013.

I walked down to the point and round the shore to Barr Hall Bay. Ringed plover rested on the shingle.  Once round to the bay, a pair of stonechat popped up onto the fence, there was a meadow pipit with the rock pipits on the shore, and song thrushes shot in and out of bushes. The tide was in, but there was still a large flock of teal, and the drake green-winged teal among them, in the innermost part of the bay. Continuing up onto the headland, 50 tree sparrows came up into the hedge, and I found two blue tits in the same section. On the top of the headland, every field seemed to be full of gulls, starlings and corvids, with at least one flock of linnet. A final scan over the sea from the car park produced a solitary female eider. I drove back up to Templecowey for another go, but it was still more or less birdless, and the afternoon was darkening.

Barr Hall Bay from the SE. The near shore, but at low tide, is where the green-winged teal was found on 10 Jan. Today it was in the innermost part (top right in the photo), along the far shore. 13 Jan 2013.

So, I think I'm still missing a few species, but the day's 19 new patch birds means that the total is now starting to look more like how it should ... 62 species, 80 points.

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