Monday, 8 September 2014

Rathlin Update

It’s been a while since my last update from Rathlin, owing to a lack of visits during the past few months due to work commitments.  Despite not visiting at all in June or July, I have managed to add 5 species to the year list in the 5 visits I have managed since my last update.
The first of these was on 11th May which started off with the second Grey Wagtail of the spring singing from trees above the small stream In Church Valley. Bird of the day however, was a singing Lesser Whitethroat (95) above Church Bay – only the 4th island record and the first since 18th October 2009.  Interestingly, this bird was skulking in the same dense thicket as I saw the last one!  This area has also hosted Garden Warbler in the recent past and regularly gets good numbers of Blackcaps and Whitethroats.  Looks a good bet for a Barred Warbler one day I reckon.
Here is a sound recording of the bird taken on my iPhone:

Also new for the year were 3 Mealy Redpolls (96) buzzing around the same area.  There seems to be a pattern emerging for these on patch, with birds seen annually in late spring, no doubt en route to breeding grounds much further north.  Elsewhere around the patch were: 1 Chiffchaff, 2 Chough, 12 Sedge Warbler, 6 Wheatear, 2 White Wagtail, 1 Wigeon, 10 Whitethroat and 23 Willow Warblers.

For a few weeks in late May this year the answer was yes for all 6 species
Saturday the 24th May produced a good day total of 66 species, which included my first ever Rathlin Corncrake (97).  I sat on a nearby wall listening to its call as I ate lunch.  You could even hear it from the bar! (Or so I’m told).  A Mealy Redpoll was still doing the rounds in Church Valley and a good variety of other migrants and breeding species were noted, but included no further year ticks: 2 Chough, 1 Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcap, 1 Dunlin, 1 Goldcrest, 12 Lesser Redpoll, 15 Sedge Warbler, 5 Wheatear, 9 Whitethroat and 25 Willow Warblers were the best of the rest.  I was also pleased to see that the patch Lapwing nested in a single colony this year.  Most of the 7 pairs present were guarding young during this visit.

The Corncrake was still present and singing away on 31st May, but as many of you will know, it wasn’t seen or heard of after this date thanks to a private helicopter landing in its preferred field.  You can read more about this story here.  Good numbers of common migrants were still on the move with day totals of 10 Sedge Warbler, 2 Blackcap, 12 Whitethroat and 21 Willow Warblers.

A couple of images from the Maritime Festival in late May
My next visit wasn’t until 1st August, when the only new bird for the year was a Kestrel (98).  Other early autumn migrants included over 100 House Martins above Church Bay and a flock of over 250 birds behind Mill Bay which included 100+ Linnets, 20 Lesser Redpolls, many Meadow Pipits and at least 2 Twite.

My latest visit took place on 6th September when I recorded my 144th patch species in the form of a Bar-tailed Godwit (99) in Mill Bay.  A high count of 17 Dunlin here had me on high alert for a Curlew Sand or Little Stint, but sadly not this time.  A couple of White Wagtails were scant consolation.

As there was a decent northerly breeze blowing, I spent some time around the Coastguard’s Hut hoping for a Lapland Bunting or Golden Plover on land, or some Brent Geese or a skua at sea.  However, the best on offer was a flock of 12 Snipe flying overhead, a few Skylarks on land and a handful of Manx Shearwaters offshore.  Elsewhere, good numbers of Swallows and House Martins were resting up on wires or feeding around the West Pier.  The gardens here had a few Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff.  Several Blackcaps were in the “Lesser Whitethroat” thicket. 

In other news, the pair of Chough successfully fledged 3 young and the Great Skua pair were also successful this year.  Though somehow the latter have evaded my year list thus far!  A pair of Whinchats were also confirmed breeding in the middle section of the island.  I also received news of a Red Kite which I missed earlier in the year.

Scores – 99 species, 123 points or 81.5%

By this stage last year I was on 112 species, so I’d better hope for an improved late autumn period this year to make up for it.