Friday, 4 January 2013

Rathlin Island Review 2012

The year got off to a good start on 15th January when my first trip of the year produced 2 island ticks – a smart 2nd winter Iceland Gull and a Black-throated Diver; a species I had never seen before anywhere along the Antrim coast.

Iceland Gull, Mill Bay, 15th January 2012

A Scandinavian Rock Pipit was present on 31st March but the undoubted highlight of the Spring was a near adult GOLDEN EAGLE seen soaring high over the island on 15th April in the company of two Buzzards, before drifting east towards Scotland. A good number of Willow Warblers and White Wagtails were also noted that day as well as a pair of Coot with hatched young. A decent number and range of common migrants were noted on 26th May including over 20 Whitethroats.  However, it was also noted during that visit that a small number of Black-headed Gulls looked set to breed on one of the shallow pools.
Golden Eagle over Rathlin, 15th April 2012

A visit with work in mid July confirmed that the Black-headed Gulls had managed to breed successfully and I also saw my first Irish Hummingbird Hawk Moth in Church Bay. The first trip of the autumn was also fairly productive on 15th September with 3 species of Skua seen either from the ferry or from Rue Point at the south tip of the Island.  I also managed to find a first for the island that day at Ushet Lough – a Little Egret.

Little Egret, September 2012. The first island record.

One of the best falls I’ve seen on the island occurred on 22nd September, following light NE winds but sadly did not produce anything rare. Most notable were several hundred finches including a few Siskins, which are scarce visitors to the island. Further evidence of Rathlin’s potential was provided on 15th October when an islander found a Hoopoe feeding along the road outside his house! This is the third island record of this species. Unfortunately I couldn't make it over due to work commitments. During late October 3,000+ Kittiwakes were frantically dip feeding in Rathlin Sound. The flock contained many juveniles, suggesting a good breeding season for this species at nearby colonies. The rest of the autumn failed to produce anything rare but did provide me with another two island ticks in the form of a Woodpigeon and a Bullfinch! There's always next year...

Neal Warnock

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