Sunday, 6 July 2014

Spring roundup – Larne Lough

It was inevitable that the great run of rarities during the early part of the year would dry up, nevertheless 14 species have been added around the patch since my last update. This has included three more species of duck, but little in the way of surprises or high scorers.  The first Swallows had made it back by 12 April, House Martins returned by 22 April and the first Swifts of the year were seen on 3 May.  Once again Sand Martins failed to make an appearance on the patch, not that this was surprising considering I’ve never seen one in Larne!
The best find of the past couple of months was the second Kumlien’s Gull in as many weeks to put in a brief appearance at the Inver River.  A rather nice 1st winter bird was found loafing around there at low tide on 13 April.  This put me in the unusual position of trying to turn what was a fairly classic Kumlien’s into an Iceland Gull, having dipped on the latter species earlier in the year.
1st winter Kumlien's Gull, Inver River
I’m not sure if it’s always the case, or it’s thanks to my increased efforts this year, but I have been amazed at the number of ducks that have put in an appearance at Glynn Station thus far.  A pair of Gadwall were found on 16 April and were joined for a few weeks by two moulting males.  In between times the male Pintail appeared again, then went missing for a month only to reappear last week!  This made me wonder whether they might actually be breeding in the private lagoon at Glynn.  Next up on the duck front were a pair of Scaup found bobbing around distantly off the station on 26 April. A check of my records showed these were only my second ever on patch, following a female at the same location in February 2010.  My most recent addition to the year list, was also a second patch record in the form of 5 Pochard at Glynn Station on the unusual date of 23 June! That’s 11 species of duck seen this year from Glynn Station!


Gadwall, Scaup and Pochard all put in an appearance at Glynn Station

Elsewhere, I mopped up a few other spring migrants – a Common Sandpiper was at Sandy Bay on 17 April, Common Terns were arriving back to breed by 21 April and Sedge Warblers (maybe only 2 pairs on patch) were at Glynn from 30 April.  A distant feeding flock of Manx Shearwaters were seen from Sandy Bay on 23 April and the odd bird can be seen gliding by at sea most days at the moment.  No doubt en route to or from the Copeland Islands.  A nice summer plumaged Sanderling was new for the year at Sandy Bay on 5 May, but no sign of something more extravagant like a Curlew Sandpiper.
Following several failed attempts to see one of the Spotted Flycatchers that usually appear on patch around mid-May, a pair were finally seen on 22nd when they were observed collecting nest material along Glynn River.  I was beginning to think my prediction that Reed Buntings were likely to be encountered at Glynn Lagoon was going to fall flat on its face until a nice male was heard singing in the small reed bed there on 26 April.
Summer Sanderling and Dunlin, Sandy Bay

Spotted Flycatcher, Glynn River

The undoubted highlight of the late spring period was watching a pair of Roseate Terns courting off Glynn Station on 14 June.  It was great to welcome back what are normally Northern Ireland’s only breeding pair of this graceful seabird.  Let’s hope they manage to fledge young this year.

This patch birding malarkey fairly gets under your skin – I have even made a late evening venture in search of calling Long-eared Owl chicks but all I managed to find was a courting pair of different kind!  Most recently I managed to dip a Spotted Redshank, which becomes the second species I’ve missed on patch this year along with Iceland Gull.
So all in all, not a bad few months.  Thoughts turn now to seawatching and keeping my eye on wader passage.  The optimist in me thinks of large shearwaters and yank waders, but more realistic targets are Common Scoter, Bonxie and Knot…
Current score – 116 species or 148 points


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