I spent the 19th and 20th of May on Rathlin doing a mix of patch birding and survey squares for the RSPB Northern Ireland Twite survey which has been taking place over the last two breeding seasons. Naturally, my survey squares were all within the patch boundary! The two days produced 3 new birds for the year list, including two patch ticks but will be remembered just as much for making the rookie mistake of leaving the island while other birders were still present!
I decided to split the patch into two sections, north and south of the harbour and cover one area each day. From the ferry across on Sunday 19 May, it was unusual to see many Puffins sitting on the water and several more were seen later on the water below the Coastguards Station and East Light. The harbour wall was swarming with hirundines feasting on flies and 2 Common Sandpiper were at the base of the West Pier. As I checked the trees and scrub at the bottom of Church Valley, a small finch appeared into few feeding on seed heads by the Church. This turned out to be the first of a number of rather interesting Redpolls seen during the day (and the only one that I got the chance to photograph). Answers on a postcard...
White Wagtail passage appears to be coming to an end, with only 1 bird noted today, but a small number of waders are still on the move, including 8 Dunlin at the south east side of the harbour. Also of note today were high counts of 27 Sedge Warblers and 15 Whitethroats. The laneway running alongside Ballycarry Pool has produced a few good birds so far this spring and today held 2 Spotted Flycatchers (105) and at least 2 Common Redpolls (106) as well as multiple Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats. Two pairs of Coot each had 4 small chicks in the pool itself. The Common Redpolls were in a flighty flock with 10 Lesser Redpolls and really stood out from the crowd – real chunky birds. A small arrival of finches had obviously taken place with small numbers of Goldfinches and Linnets also present. I see Common Redpolls most autumns on the patch, but good to get them on list early on nonetheless.