Monday, 13 March 2017

Rathlin Island - 11th March 2017

The first signs of spring were stirring, the weather set fair and feeling energetic, I found myself on the first ferry to Rathlin on Saturday.  The crossing on flat calm seas was worth the effort alone with razorbills, kittiwakes, shags and guillemots galore.  No sign of any white-wingers in the harbour, which have been regular there this winter, but large numbers of displaying eiders raised the spirits.

The soon to be retired Canna

Guillemot from the ferry

Male eider in the harbour

Diving duck

All eyes on us

It wasn't long before the first of many skylarks could be heard overhead, both singing and flying over.  Other species present in notable numbers were goldcrests, pied wagtails and meadow pipits.  At Mill Bay, the long-staying drake gadwall was keeping a low profile but yet again there were no divers offshore.  Craigmacagan Lough boosted the year list with reed bunting, water rail and a patch record 3 (yes three) adult moorhens! The apparent imposter was not welcome, the regular male in murderous mood.  A male pochard was with tufted ducks at Ally Lough, which were in fine voice - giving the eider a run for their money in the call of the day competition.
A slog around the small marsh at the south end of Ushet Lough produced 3 snipe but no miniature versions.  Just a handful of breeding lapwing have returned, their numbers on the island dwindling fast.  Common gulls and lesser black-backed gulls have returned in more pleasing numbers and a few auks and fulmars were already on cliff ledges near Rue Point.  As I watched a group of hooded crows busying themselves in some seaweed, my second ever patch carrion crow flew over before being sheepish nearby.
Tufted duck pair, Ushet Lough

Common gull, Ushet Lough

Lapwing, Ushet Lough

Sheepish carrion crow
Additions to year list: kittiwake, skylark, sparrowhawk, water rail, reed bunting, pochard, carrion crow, goldcrest, moorhen, lapwing, turnstone, black-headed gull, cormorant and lesser black-backed gull.
Scores: 61 species / 70 points / 51.9%

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