This was going to be the year I'd finally find that mega on Rathlin. In the end I only managed 10 visits to the Island, which is considerably less than my first year taking part in 2013, when I recorded 121 species over 30 visits. Looking back, I'm not sure how I managed it back then. Nevertheless, among the species recorded in 2016, were some absolute crackers. A close encounter with a White-tailed Eagle on a fine spring day will be forever etched in my memory. Setting off in hope of a glimpse, ending up floored in the heather looking straight to the heavens, listening to its wingbeats as it fended off ravens, hooded crows, buzzards and a peregrine, making each appear like a speck on the horizon.
|Unringed and untamed|
|Cruising the thermals above the north cliffs, with a Raven giving chase|
|WTE dwarfing Buzzard|
Other visits produced some decent birds like Whinchat, Cuckoo, Gadwall (rare on the Island), White-fronted Goose, Snow Bunting, Barnacle Goose, Hen Harrier and Twite. Plus some patchgold in the form of my first Mistle Thrush in eight years!
|Common Scoter flying by Rue Point|
|Male Whinchat at Craigmacagan Lough|
The year ended on 96 species for 120 points and a pathetic comparative score of 82.8%. My comparative target for 2017 is 135 points which gives me some hope of reaching 100%. Someday that mega will fall.
As for Larne, it was gulls, gulls and more gulls. Here's a selection seen on patch this year.
|Several Little Gulls appeared throughout the year around Larne Harbour|
|First fledged Black-headed Gull seen at Sandy Bay on 2nd July - over 5000 pairs bred this year|
|This Kumlien's Gull was first found off patch but eventually made its way to Glynn|
|Amazing views of Med Gull guaranteed|
|Standing out from the crowd|
Several Iceland Gulls were seen but strangely I couldn't find a Glaucous Gull this year. Another six point larid was a Ring-billed Gull at Glynn Station on 28 February. There wasn't much else to shout about, but other decent birds seen included Goosander, Jack Snipe and a patchtick White-fronted Goose. A nice run of birds in November added my first ever patch Velvet Scoters, a flyover Skylark, a patch scarce Stonechat, a couple of Long-tailed Ducks and a Slavonian Grebe. The year ended on 121 species for 158 points and a comparative score of 96.3%. A decent enough effort.
I have signed up both patches for 2017 and look forward to seeing what I can find. Here's a few other bits and pieces from around Larne.
|Patchtick Greenland White-fronted Goose, Glynn, 12 March|
|White Wagtail, Sandy Bay|
|House Martin, Glynn|
|Common Tern, Glynn|
|Knot, Sandy Bay|