Monday, 4 November 2013

Late autumn on Rathlin - Visits 23 & 24

In case you were wondering if I have given up on Rathlin for the year. No not a bit of it.  Unfortunately the weather has been against me and I have not made it over as much as I would have liked.  Nevertheless, I have made a couple of trips since my last update.
19 October
A common feature of late autumn birding on Rathlin are the hoards of Kittiwakes which can be seen dip feeding in the sound, particularly following westerly gales.  This morning saw over 1000 birds bobbing above the waves.  Another is the frustrating ferry times at weekends, which result in only being able to bird for about 4 hours during a ‘day’ trip.  Covering the north half of the patch today produced very little – a Whimbrel at the West Pier, 1 or 2 Common Redpolls with 30 Lesser Redpolls in Church Valley and good numbers of other finches which have now attracted at least 3 Sparrowhawks (including a very large female mentioned in a previous post) to the patch.  Also of note were 15 Goldcrests and an obvious arrival of Chaffinches, with over 50 birds scattered around the patch.
3 November
Perhaps the most unusual sighting of the whole autumn was of three other birders joining me on the ferry today!  Wilton Farrelly, Ian Graham and Philip West picked a good day to come over, as this was the roughest ferry crossing I have experienced to the island!  It turns out the next sailing was cancelled, so we were lucky enough to even get to the island.
Once safely on dry land the lads covered the East Light and gardens area and I went off to check the southern half of the patch.  I was glad to find Ballycarry Pool holding water and attracting a few birds again, including 28 Teal and 17 Curlew. The hedge here had numerous Blackbirds, a Redwing and a Goldcrest. Several Meadow Pipits were feeding along the edge of the pool.
I worked my way down to the South Light seeing very little of note, so I began making my way back towards Church Bay to check some gardens.  I then received news of a Brambling feeding along the shore in Church Bay; this would be an island tick – so needless to say I got there fairly quickly!  Initially there was no further sign of the bird, but it was eventually picked up again at its original location, when it was discovered there were actually 2 of them.  Species number 120 for the year and my 138th for the patch! Cheers lads.  
Patch tick Brambling
Whilst on the ferry back to Ballycastle, Wilton filled me in on the rest of their sightings from up East – 2 Snow Buntings, Blackcap, Merlin, c16 Goldcrests and numerous Goldfinches.  It then transpired that they had also seen a couple of proper patch rarities, a Woodpigeon and 8 Long-tailed Tits!  I’ll need written descriptions for those two...
From talking to a few islanders today it appears there has been somewhat of an influx of Snow Buntings to the island this past couple of weeks, with single birds being seen in gardens, ones and twos in the Ushet Lough area and a small flock currently at Kebble at the west end of the island.
This late in the year my chances of seeing additional species are becoming slim, but I won’t be giving up just yet.
Score now 120 species, 150 points or 118.11%


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