I made it over to Rathlin a couple of times during the Easter period in search of some early spring migrants and managed to add another 9 species to the patch year list, including 2 island ticks! But not all were what you might regard as “classic” spring migrants. The highlights on 30 March were the large numbers of pipits present on the island, mostly Meadow Pipits and an equally impressive number of thrushes. Meadow Pipits and Skylarks (69) were even seen/heard arriving at the East Light.
I set off into Church Valley with renewed optimism, hoping for a few phylloscs which never materialised and the bulk of the pipits appeared to have moved on. There had however been an increase in Pied Wagtails. I watched 3 Greylag Geese migrating north over the East Light and the large thrush contingent was still in place, including at least 2 Redwings. I did the Church Quarter loop back towards the harbour checking all the gardens, but to no great avail. Curlew was noticeable by their near absence, with just 1 seen all day. I checked for the Grey Wagtail again but could not relocate it.
I wanted to try and get some photos of the strange Rock Pipit I had seen on 30th, so headed once more for Doon Bay. This time the count of birds present was much different:
10 Meadow Pipits, 6 Rock Pipits, 1 Scandinavian Rock Pipit, 1 Snipe, 2 male Reed Buntings and 15 Pied Wagtails.
The Scandinavian Rock Pipit present was presumably the same typical bird seen the other day, but there was no sign of the brighter bird. I heard a few short bursts of scratchy song from the scrub on the cliff face above, but could not locate the owner. I scanned offshore for half an hour and picked up a close in Red-throated Diver (75) as many Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and large Auks passed by.
I checked around Ushet Lough and amongst some sheep were 2 Jackdaws (76) which seemed to quickly vanish into thin air. I made my way back towards the ferry and had just enough time left for one last look for the Grey Wagtail, but there was no further sign. I then heard another familiar call – Long-tailed Tits (77). I looked up into the large sycamore in the main West Pier garden and saw at least 3 birds frantically moving through the trees - another island tick! Again my camera skills were not up to it – there are actually no birds in the shots I took! The noise of the ferry engine starting up soon signalled it was time to leave.
Score now stands at – 77 Species, 93 Points or 73.29%
Do you think he has seen us?