Friday, 1 November 2013

October bird of month: Sabine's Gull vs Feral Pigeon!

Was out at sea on board the R.V. Celtic Explorer again for much of the first half of the month so just one early October visit in before setting sail. Managed some good effort afterwards and all in all a total of four new patch year ticks were added bringing me past the 100% comparative score mark and reaching my target of 150 species for the year. Happy days.

2nd October (F3-4 SE, overcast with rain): Miserable seawatch from Six Mile Point, hardly any movement with just 1 Manx Shearwater south (500 Manxies in half an hour & some RBMergs seen there the previous day by Oran O'Sullivan, the mergs would be a patch year tick). A 1st-winter Little Gull & 15 Sandwich Terns were taking refuge on the the beach at Newcastle whilst 2 Bar-tailed Gowdits & 1 Pintail were the best on the marsh at Kilcoole. Finished up the patch circuit at Kilcoole train station for about about 17:30pm and decided on one last look out to sea despite being soaked to the skin. A flock of Kittiwakes which were rafting offshore, looking like they were settling to roost had one daintier bird dancing about above adult winter type SABINE'S GULL!!! It was happy out, feeding away whilst the Kittiwakes were all bedding down for the night. At one stage a juv Kit got up beside it, just to confirm how tiny they really are. My second patch record (first I saw here was a juvenile day roosting on the beach back in Nov 1997!). Great stuff.

There was also this interesting, large dark mantled gull with the flock in Webb's field. My best guess is it's a 3rd calendar-year 'argentatus' Herring Gull. Any takers?

18th October (F4-5 SE, big fat wet heavy rain): Horrendous weather. Not sure why on Earth I bothered coming out on a day like that! Visibility was poor at sea so hard to know if anything was moving. 5 Little Gulls close offshore and 2 Whooper Swans, 5 Gadwall, a Greenshank, a Med Gull, & 2 soggy Wheatears on the marsh for my efforts. Could have been worse!

19th October (F2 S, mild & dry): Had a look around the Kilcoole train station car park area for migrants in the morning. Lots of Blackbirds in which was a good sign as were viz mig finches overhead including 80 Siskin & 60 Redpoll whilst 1 Blackcap & 1 Grey Wagtail were the best of the rest on the deck. A Wheatear, 1 Little Gull & 2 Bar-tailed Godwits along the coast at Kilcoole whilst an evening watch at Newcastle produced 1 Merlin, 1 calling Green Sandpiper & 4 more Wheatears on the beach.

22nd October (F3 S, mild, clear & dry):  A fine morning down around ECNR & Newcastle but producing little of note other than a Manx Shearwater at sea & a Gadwall in the channels. Reached the South end of Webb's field to find lots of duck in thanks to the lagoon starting to flood after heavy rain over previous days. Among these were a couple of nice looking Scaup! About my 5th patch record of this species which is definitely the rarest of the diving duck here. Delighted with these I headed around the other side of the Sea Buckthorn for a look offshore to be greeted by a flock of geese heading South low over the sea. Expecting them to be Brent I was amazed to discover they were Greenland White-fronted Geese, and a whole 26 of them to boot! Never guaranteed to get them among the wintering Greylag flock at any stage of the winter so great to connect with this group heading for the North Slob. A single Light-bellied Brent Goose, a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper, Med Gull & 7 Otters (two family groups of 3 + 4) were also seen in Webb's field whilst 7 Swallows moved South overhead & a Wheatear was on the coastal path.

There are a number of fields left as stubble on the Western boundary of the Kilcoole patch this year and I had been noticing a lot of finch & pigeon activity in them over the past few days so decided to take a closer look that afternoon. 200+ Goldfinches, a Grey Wagtail & a Buzzard were instantly apparent upon arrival and careful scanning of some nervous looking pigeon flocks revealed 10 Stock Doves, 30 Collared Doves and best of all, 3 'real wild' Feral Pigeons! The resident pairs of Feral Pigeons once present around farmyard sheds on the patch have seemingly disappeared over the past two years so was actually chuffed to get these guys having resisted the temptation of ticking any of the many 100's of racing pigeons which can be seen flying North along the coast here on any given day in Spring/Summer! Rock bottom patch birding...

24th October (F1-3 S-SE, dry & mild): Feeling greedy after the previous triple tick bonanza, I headed straight for the birch woodland in ECNR first thing in the morning in the hopes of connecting with Jay, GSWoodpecker or Woodcock, all of which I still need for the year. Needless to say I got none of them but plenty of activity from the woodland boardwalks & pathways. Lots of Goldcrests in particular as well as overhead Siskin (50+), Redpoll (50+), Bullfinch (10+) & Skylark (25+). Pleased to get two flock of Crossbills (4 + 8) moving South overhead (heard them calling too...nothing out of the ordinary!). Otherwise, a Treecreeper, a Grey Wagtail straight in off the sea high overhead, a Pintail on the marsh & a Blackcap at the entrance were the best of the rest at ECNR. More arrivals along Newcastle & Kilcoole consisted of 10 Whooper Swans, 23 Greylag Geese, 10 Greenland White-fronted Geese (1 + 9, flying South), 1 Tufted Duck, 2 Greenshank, 1 Whimbrel (flying South), 152 Black-tailed Godwits (flying North), 1 Little Gull offshore, 1 Merlin & 3 Swallows

150 species, 198 points & 101.27%

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