Monday, 4 February 2013

Rathlin Island - Visit 3

The first sunny day in what seemed like ages had me back on Rathlin on 2 February.  It was quickly apparent that a lot of the birds seen on previous visits had moved on and there seemed to be low numbers of birds around generally.  However, this visit did offer some hints of spring, as several species were heard singing including Song Thrush and Great Tit.  Several small flocks of Black Guillemot had also arrived back, including a summer plumaged bird in Church Bay.

Common Seal, Church Bay

Church Valley was again devoid of birds, but a male Sparrowhawk (59) soon made a quick dash through the area and onto my patch year list.  Water levels at Ballcarry Pool had dropped since last visit and held 36 Teal and 2 Tufted Ducks.  I check out one of the wild bird cover plots nearby but again very little activity was noted.

More joy was had back at Church Bay when a couple of Ringed Plover (60) were spotted running about the shore and there was now a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers in the harbour.  Single male and female Common Scoters remained in Mill Bay, as well as 50+ Common Gulls and a single Black-headed Gull.  The area around the outflow here is always a good place to check and today up to a dozen Rock Pipits and Pied Wagtails were present as well as a few Stonechats.
                                                                                Church Bay - looking mega!
Tufted Ducks were chasing each other around Craigmacagan Lough and were making a weird call – I don’t recall ever hearing a Tufted Duck making any sound before.  The Greylag flock were at the far side of Ally Lough today, over 100 present but nothing strange mixed in with them.  The female Pochard appears to have moved on.  I made my way out onto the cliffs overlooking Doon Bay and scanned the bay and sea below.  The recent storms have left a good pile of seaweed here – and several Rock Pipits were seen scurrying about.  Out to sea I picked up a Gannet (61), several small rafts of Eider and a good number of Black Guillemots.  

Doon Bay with Mull of Kintyre in Background

In and around Ushet Lough was eerily quiet, the only birds present were Little Grebe, Coot and 8 Wigeon.  I checked the marsh at the south end and then went cross country through some rushes and pools towards Rue Point, but still no sign of a Snipe!  The rock pools at the South Light held lots of tiny fish but few birds.  Looking north along the cliffs were yet more rafts of Eider and umpteen Kittiwakes and Guillemots. 
 Ushet Point

So a fairly non-eventful outing, but  another 3 species added to the year list and signs that spring is on its way.  It can’t come soon enough.
Score now stands at 61 species, 73 points or 57.5%
You can watch a short video with Chris Packham HERE about the legendary Rathlin Golden Hares.


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