Friday, 31 January 2014

Nearly birds – Larne Lough, January

The New Year got off to a rather sodden start, but a steady 57 species were tallied on the first day of January.  The best of which included 5 Purple Sandpipers at Sandy Bay and 5 Red-throated Divers from Chaine Park seawatch hut, but best of all was a Treecreeper in the Town Park; a species I had failed to locate during atlas fieldwork here.  However, the month will best be remembered for a couple of “nearly birds” – one a hybrid goose, the other, a Glossy Ibis which remains tantalisingly outside the patch boundary to this day.
The old seawatch hut - Fulmar, Kittiwake and Gannet so far
As usual for the patch it was not difficult to find a Mediterranean Gull, with a 2nd winter bird at Sandy Bay on 6th the first to make it onto the year list. Throughout the month at least 4 Med Gulls were regularly encountered around the patch (1st year, 2nd year and 2 adults). Thankfully I didn’t have to wait too long to add Goosander to the list either, with a female off Glynn Station on 2nd.  Owing to the rough weather during the month, Great Northern Divers were unusually common around the patch with a regular bird at the Inver River for much of the second half of the month.  A 1st winter Lesser Black-backed Gull was seen here on 10th.
Med Gull, Sandy Bay

On the 21st around 600 small gulls were seen going to roost at sea off Sandy Bay.  Since then, this number has doubled but so far hasn’t produced anything decent.
Among the joys of doing a home town patch are the ability to make regular checks at key sites and take the chance to twitch other people’s birds (though I’d much prefer not to).  Take the 24th as an example, just before I switched off the work laptop to head out for lunch, a cursory check of irishbirding said a couple of Twite had been seen the day before at the north end of the patch at Waterloo Bay.  Within 10 minutes I was watching them feeding along the shore.
Patch Twite (honest)
Of course these things can also work against you. For example on 25th I spent most of the day around the patch, including two visits to Sandy Bay seeing very little.  When I got home that evening someone had reported an Iceland Gull there.
The main shenanigans of the month took place on 19th, when several text messages arrived mid-morning – a Glossy Ibis had been found a short distance south of Glynn, though sadly well outside the patch boundary.  Nevertheless, this bird was duly twitched, but somehow I also managed to add 4 patch year ticks that afternoon.  On my way to the Ibis, a Sparrowhawk flew across the road near Glynn Lagoon and a flock of Greylag Geese were seen drifting around above. After enjoying good views of the Ibis, I returned for a look off Glynn Station to see if the Greylags had landed there – they hadn’t, but a Carrion Crow was making a show of itself just below the platform.  I managed to locate the Greylag flock at the private lagoon at Glynn and amongst them sat the hybrid Snow/Ross’s x Barnacle Goose which had been knocking about the lough for a few days, in between appearances on the local news! Of course zero points can be claimed for the goose, but a couple of Tufted Ducks here were more than welcome.
Views of Glynn Lagoon (birders welcome at this one)
The final addition to the year list was seen late this afternoon (31st) as yet another unsuccessful check of the gulls at Sandy Bay outfall was enlivened by a fly by Peregrine.  So nothing major was encountered during the month but as we enter February a few (thousand) gulls are due to arrive and will be getting my full attention.
Score: 79 species or 93 points


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