Monday, 22 April 2013

A Day to Remember on Rathlin - Visit 9

I had a great day on the patch on Saturday 20 April which produced two island ticks amongst a decent fall of common migrants.  I wasn’t expecting very much as a stiff SW breeze was blowing, which isn’t the best wind direction for seeing birds on Rathlin.  So I focussed on the sheltered gardens and valleys.

One of the features of spring passage on Rathlin is the high proportion of Willow Warblers compared to Chiffchaffs.  I tallied 50 Willows (including 2-3 northern acredula types) and just 2 Chiffchaffs today.  Church Valley once again held a good number of these, yet it wasn’t until I had reached the East Light area when things really started to kick off.  A sheltered hidden pool which has a nice patch of scrub at one end was hopping with Willow Warblers and the hedges around the cattle fields held even more and a few Blackcaps.  It was here that I spotted a bird flying low over the fields, once it gained some height it began calling – Yellow Wagtail (90)!  I got onto it through the bins and watched it as it headed out to sea towards Kintyre.

I mentioned in the last update that I thought the Ballycarry Pool area looked ideal for attracting something good – along the lines of a Garganey perhaps.  Yet what I found there was completely unexpected! I had already scanned the pool noting that the 22 Teal were still present and had picked up a singing Twite nearby.  I often check the hedge along the lane here as migrants seem to funnel along it from the surrounding banks of thick gorse.  I noticed a bird fly up from the road into the hedge from about 100m away.  I raised my bins, scanned down the lane and there was a cracking male Common Redstart (91) perched in the hedge! I took a few record shots before moving a little closer to enjoy.  I watched it fly down from its perch to feed on the lane a couple of times, only to then disappear, never to be seen again.  This hedge also held 6 Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff – think I’ll keep checking it...
Redstart - Prints available.......!

I have no doubt both today’s patch tick species are fairly regular in spring on Rathlin, but according to my records the Yellow Wagtail is the first since 22 October 1999 and the Redstart is the first island record since 6 May 1982, so both are triple point birds in my eyes!

I made my way to Doon Bay in a bit of a daze, hoping that the cove would be nicely sheltered from the wind.  I spent a fair bit of time here and checked a few rather precarious vegetated gullies in the cliff face which held numerous Willow Warblers, a few Goldcrests and further single Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps.  While perched at one of my favourite spots on the island overlooking the bay I noticed a few Sand Martins prospecting at a potential nest site where a recent land slide has exposed some nice mud banks at the top of the cliff.  Several Swallows were also swooping around and were joined by a couple of House Martins (92).  I scanned offshore and was eventually rewarded by a couple of Manx Shearwaters (93) gliding past Ushet Point.

Also noteworthy was the arrival of around 35 Linnets, making use of the early cover Corncrake plots near Church Bay and a flock of 7 Twite near Mill Bay.  Thrush numbers have completely dropped off, with only 15 Blackbirds and 4 Song Thrushes recorded.  Also present on the patch today were: 14 White Wagtails (including one from the ferry!), 9 Goldcrests, 13 Wheatears and 2 Common Sandpipers.

Target bird for next visit – Moorhen!

Scores – 93 species, 115 points or 90.55%

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