Wednesday, 4 December 2013

November Patch Tick!

Only managed 3 days birding on patch during the month of November but each proved extremely rewarding with some great winter birds logged & a patch tick in the bag! 

Friday 22nd November: A Merlin, a Buzzard, 2 Yellowhammers, 2 Redwing & a Grey Wagtail along Newcastle Sea Road made for a nice start to the day. Up to 280 (Icelandic) Greylag Geese were seen coming up out of the coastal fields ECNR around 8am, flying North or dispersing into the surrounding farmland to feed. A Kingfisher whizzed by the main hide at ECNR also. An unseasonal Whimbrel was in Valentine's field, just North of Newcastle Airfield. Some nearby maize stubble was busy with pigeons & corvids including c.10 Stock Doves & a Feral Pigeon. At least 60 Red-throated Divers were offshore between Six Mile Point & Kilcoole and totals of 70 Shoveler & 52 Whooper Swan were noted along the entire stretch of coast between these two sites. c300 Lapwing & a Raven were in Webb's field and a confiding female Snow Bunting (151) was on the beach opposite there. 

Snow Bunting

Saturday 23rd November: Was out with the BirdWatch Ireland Wicklow & Carlow Branches on an outing to Broad Lough that morning. Just as we were finishing up we got word of a CRANE (152) at Newcastle which had been found by Cian & Tommy Cardiff. A unanimous & wise decision was made to extend the outing & head straight for the Crane! So a bunch of us barreled straight up from Six Mile Point to find the bird still knocking about, in the maize stubble field near the Whooper flock, just North of the airfield. Views were somewhat distant but the bird showed well enough, chilled out, feeding happily away among the flocks of corvids & pigeons. A great patch tick, one that I have dipped on several times through the years (including back in February). Nice one Cian & Tommy! Brings my all time patch list to 202.

Friday 29th November: Nipped down for a quick blast of the ECNR-Kilcoole stretch in the morning before heading off the BirdWatch Ireland HQ to help pack copies of the Bird Atlas 2007-2011 for distribution (if you haven't got this fantastic book already then be sure to put it on your Santa list). Nice views of c250 Greylag & 45 Whoopers in the fields at Newcastle. Big numbers of Common Gulls on the move (for the patch anyway), with 130+ in The Breaches alone. Associating with these was a stonking juvenile Glaucous Gull on the beach at the Little Tern colony site. My third record of one here this year alone but I strongly suspect this is the same bird I saw here on 30th Sept given that very few white-wingers have been seen on the West coast so far this winter. Otherwise, the adult male Hen Harrier, an adult Peregrine, a Greenshank & 92 Light-bellied Brent Geese (including just one 1st-winter) were the best of the rest in Webb's field.

Glaucous Gull

Adult Whooper Swan with an atypical bill pattern (so-called 'Dark neb'), almost Bewick's-like in appearance when viewed from above, but then normal when viewed side on. Part of a flock of 45 (including 14 1st-winters) in the fields at Newcastle. NOTE: "The bill patterns of Bewick's & Whooper swans are split into three categories: (1) 'Yellow neb' - all yellow at the top of the bill, (2) 'Dark neb' - totally black strip from top to bottom & (3) 'Penny face' - a black strip with a small yellow circular patch in the middle of the bill. 'Penny faces' & 'Yellow nebs' are common in Whooper Swan but 'Dark nebs' are very rare, <1% (!) of birds in flocks are 'Dark neb'." Many thanks to Kane Brides (Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust) for this information.

Scores at the end of November: 
152 species, 203 points & 103.83%

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