After weeks of seemingly endless howling gales, the weather on Sunday 16th February finally allowed for a day trip to Rathlin. I had hoped the recent weather might have blown something into the harbour – a Little Auk or white-winged gull perhaps, but there were no real surprises to be found. Despite this, a further 7 species were added to the year list.
The first birds of note came in the form of 2 Great Northern Divers, loafing about 300m outside the harbour walls. Inside the harbour, the Eider flock had doubled in size and still held a single Long-tailed Duck, which remained distant throughout the day. Several Black Guillemots were also now gathered in the harbour. Surprisingly, very few gulls were seen anywhere on patch, though a flock of c25 Common Gulls feeding in a flooded field provided brief hopes of something better.
Whilst standing near the West Pier inspecting the birds using a garden feeder, a couple of Rooks (51) flew west overhead - a species that could easily be missed during the year. A single Ringed Plover (52) was amongst a small group of Turnstones in Mill Bay. The best bird of the day came at Craigmacagan Lough, where bobbing around in the middle of the lake was a Moorhen (53) – which judging by last years escapades is perhaps one half of the only pair on the entire patch! The feral Greylags appear to have returned to their breeding grounds already, which suggested the 16 birds seen later at Ushet Lough were of Icelandic origin.
The lack of Aythya ducks at their usual sites suggests they may well have evacuated the island during the stormy weather. There are often 75+ between Craigmacagan, Ally and Ushet Loughs at this time of year, but only a handful were seen today. A couple more year ticks were seen in the Ushet area – Magpie (54) and Skylark (55) and several Gannets (56) passed Rue Point. Once back in Church Bay, a male Red-breasted Merganser (57) appeared in the harbour; the 49th and final species of the day.
It was pleasing to hear the island had got off relatively unscathed following the storms, with the track near Rue Point the only noticeable casualty. Hopefully by my next visit some early returning breeders will have made their way back to the island such as Lapwing, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull and Chough.
Score 57 species, 68 points or 45.03%