Thursday, 6 April 2017

Larne Lough and Rathlin Island - March 2017

It has been typically dull around Larne Lough lately, the gulls are now settled on the islands for the summer, the terns are trickling back as a smattering of other spring migrants begin to put in an appearance. The first year tick of the month were some Lesser Redpolls on the Alders along the railway line at Curran Road on 4th, saving me the indignation of having to check garden feeders. My usual jaunt around Larne usually includes a seawatch from the leisure centre in the hope of a Fulmar - I can't understand how they are so difficult to see when they breed in numbers nearby. Eventually much squinting towards the Maidens paid off when 2 Common Scoter flew by on 4th.  I will be on Manxie (and Fulmar) watch from now on.
The first Black-tailed Godwits arrived on 5th March, with numbers building to 15 on 18th before a flock of 40 appeared at the mouth of the Inver River on 23rd March - which isn't a regular site for this species.  Numerous Snipe and the odd Jack Snipe were on the move during the month. The feral Greylags made their first appearance at Glynn on 12th, but unfortunately did not manage to persuade the long-staying Greenland White-front to join them - though there is time yet!  Sandwich Terns were seen feeding off Sandy Bay and roosting at Glynn from 17th. A fairly standard return date.  Chiffchaffs were in song along Bank Road on 26th, but my usual site for Wheatear has not produced the goods so far.

Sanderling with Dunlin, Sandy Bay

Jack Snipe with Ballylumford Power Station in the background

As time moved towards the end of the month my attention turned to Rathlin and I managed another visit on 25th March, which turned out to be rather productive.  Things looked promising as I made by way up the hill at Church Valley, as numerous Goldcrests were flitting about above my head, easily totalling over 40 by the end of the day. The first Peregrines of the year were back at a regular breeding site, as were a couple of pairs of Twite. Near the East Light, as I checked around the cattle feeders for Chough, a large white blob entered my view.  A rather tatty, but glorious Iceland Gull. Only my third patch record! Into Church Quarter and two Woodpigeons bombed overhead, charging about gormlessly as only they can, before nearly impaling themselves in a blackthorn.  A classic early spring migrant on Rathlin and a most welcome year tick. Five Chiffchaffs were also noted.

A scan of the small sandy beach beside the harbour failed to produce any new waders for the year, so I decided to check a few Rock Pipits on the seawall for pink-wash. In return, a red-tail sprang onto the rocks beside me - the adrenaline rush began, was this finally it? Well, no... but a nice Black Redstart, just the second documented Island record and the first since 5th May 2013.  I was delighted, but only managed distant record shots as getting any closer would have disturbed the seals and they put up with enough of this already.  The south end of the patch produced the first Chough of the year and 2 Whimbrel at Doon Bay. A promising start to Spring!
Gannet action from the ferry

Over 40 of these on Rathlin on 25th March

First butterfly of 2017

Dappled light

Iceland Gull

Pair of Teal

Black Redstart

Black Redstart (taken from the ferry on my way home!)

Meadow Pipit

Close up Mipit

Chough, Doon Bay

Say my name

Irish Hare

Larne Lough additions in March: Lesser Redpoll, Common Scoter, Black-tailed Godwit, Greylag Goose, Sandwich Tern, Chiffchaff
Rathlin Island additions in March (since last update): Woodpigeon, Chough, Black Redstart, Chiffchaff, Iceland Gull, Blue Tit, Lesser Redpoll, Whimbrel, Peregrine, Twite, Coal Tit, Pheasant