Saturday, 27 December 2014

Birding along the County Down coast.

I am currently in Northern Ireland for Christmas with the future in-laws and wanted to get away from all the mad last minute shoppers in Newry centre so headed to quieter pastures on the Co. Down coast.
Just over an hours drive north to our starting point at Strangford Lough.The sky was blue and the sun was shining but that just lured you into a false sense of security as stepping out of the car you were hit with an icy blast of wind that took your breath away.
View over Strangford Lough.
This Grey Heron was the first bird to see as it took flight and flew across the morning sun.                  

Knots were huddled along the waters edge and Brent Geese were feeding among the weed.
A walk around Killyleagh harbour produced more sightings with Red Breasted Mergansers, Redshanks, Black-Headed Gulls.
Killyleagh Harbour, Co.Down.
Along the shore were a group of Turnstones playing out their own version of "Fight Club"
On the shingle Rock Pipits foraged among rocks ;)

also joined by a Pied Wagtail.
Following the coast further south the next stop was Dundrum estuary just north of Murlough National Reserve.
The estuary was alive with Gulls, Lapwings, Wigeon, Oystercatchers and a pair of Black Tailed Godwits.
The estuary.

One of 100+ Oystercatchers at Dundrum.
The distant pair of Black Tailed Godwits.
Continuing down into Newcastle where the temperature was not much warmer and the tide was high so we checked out the local boating lake.A Grey Heron & Cormorant were resting on the island and a solitary Grey Wagtail flew by.
The Black Headed Gulls were in full voice and one accidentally swam into a leaf which then started a game of chase and catch.
Jackdaws called and looked at us inquisitively wondering if we were going to produce any food.
Jackdaw siamese twins?
Sticking to the coastal road through Kilkeel , Warrenpoint and back to Newry we saw more Gulls, Cormorants and 100s of Oystercatchers resting in Warrenpoint playing field.
Arriving back into Newry just to have a quick bit of Urban Birding with plenty of Mallards, Gulls and Mute Swans outside the shopping centre,
and a Cormorant fishing on the canal.
A great relaxing day out birding and back to the house to warm up with a dram or three of Whiskey:)
Thanks for reading.
Happy New Year to you all.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Rutland Bird Fair 2014

Yes it was that time of year again when 20,000+ birders and wildlife enthusiasts, along with well known TV naturalists descend on England's smallest county and get together in the name of wildlife and conservation.From 1989 when the Bird Fair raised £3000 til 2014 when £270,000 was raised for Bird Conservation, a total of £3.4 million over the last 25 years.

We arrived in time for a quick browse around some of the many stands before heading for the first lecture we wanted to watch.
Mark Avery & Tristan Reid(The Inked Naturalist), two great conservationists talking about Martha the last Passenger Pigeon and the extinction of the species from billions to nothing in just 60 odd years.

I then had the opportunity to watch Simon King talk about Wild Meadows and then to speak to him about our first trip to Shetland earlier this year.

There were plenty of competitions and prize draws from the numerous exhibitors, none of which we have won yet lol but did get plenty of information on all the places that would be amazing to go watch wildlife in but will never afford:(
We stayed for the evening lecture as it would be the first time we have seen Chris Packham's talk.A brilliant 2 hours about the persecution of our Birds Of Prey and then a bit about photography.
 Afterwards I managed to get him to sign his new book.We also got to his talk the next day(just, as it was the most packed I have ever seen any lecture there), about the Malta Massacre.A very emotional talk about the constant fight with hunters about the illegal shooting of birds, some of which were destined for our shores to breed.This prompted me to go join BirdLife Malta straight away.
To join check their website at
Bill Oddie came on to chair the Bird Brain Of Britain quiz along with Tim Appleton.
Praying that someone gets one question right;)

Another walk around the marquees presented me with the chance meeting with another tv naturalist, Iolo Williams.
Chatted to the Hawk & Owl Trust, about Hen Harrier Day and our stunning birds of prey and finally joined them too, long overdue though.
One of the books I have been after for a while to help me improve my identification of moths was of course the Macro Moth Guide and so I thought the best person to buy it off would be the illustrator himself, the multi-talented Richard Lewington.His new project being illustrating 250 species of Bee, wow.
Another birding quiz, this time the Wild Bird Brain Of Britain pitted Stephen Moss, Mike Dilger, Dominic Couzens and David Lindo against each other.
Mike Dilger & Stephen Moss(eventual winner)
 David Lindo, The Urban Birder wishing he hadn't picked Gulls(not girls David);) of the World as his specialist subject.
A look in the Art Marquee showed some astonishing artwork but unfortunately you cannot take photos in there so really shouldn't have mentioned them;)
At the Swarovski stand I bumped into one of my favourite people, Jonathan Scott of Big Cat Diary fame.he is such a great guy to chat to as we found last year and he even remembered us:) talked about the conflicts in Africa and Ireland(as he went to Belfast Uni) as well as his Grandson and showing us his photos of him and other things.Then he got another guy to get a photo of us all.
The last lecture we got too was actually by the same person as the first one we went too, Tristan Reid , The Inked Naturalist about Turkey's bird habitat destruction.
With Tristan,

So that was unfortunately the end of Bird Fair for another year, already missing being able to talk with like minded people about wildlife and conservation.
Roll on the Spurn Migration Festival in a few weeks time.:)

Thanks for reading and hope to meet some of you at the next Bird Fair:)

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Northern Gannets of East Yorkshire

The Northern Gannet (Morus Bassanus) is the UK's largest and most stunning seabird and we are lucky to have the only mainland breeding colony in England just along the East Yorkshire coast at RSPB Bempton Cliffs.
A trip to Bempton is essential for any birdwatcher to get within feet of these magnificent birds gliding past on the wind.
They make regular visits to the cliffs tops to collect clumps of grass for their nests.
Getting too close to another Gannet's nesting area will provoke a quick territorial response.
Non-breeding adolescents patrol the cliffs and hang around at the tops.
Gannets returning from fishing trips resort to "Bill Fencing" with their mate to reaffirm their bond.
Looking down from Staple Newk viewpoint at RSPB Bempton Cliffs.
Numerous Gannets gliding near the cliff tops searching for someone to land.
 Preferably not landing on a place already taken by another Gannet:)
Beautiful Gannet profile.

I thought I would just add my 5 minute film I made over 6 years ago featuring the Northern Gannets and their Chicks.Apologies for the quality but it was years ago with a cheap camcorder:)

Thanks for reading and looking through my pics.If you haven't already , then you need to get out and see these stunning birds:)