Thursday, 28 July 2011

Wildlife Sightings 15th-28th July

Quite a bit of movement offshore lately with skuas dominating the seabirding highlights.  A pale phase Pomarine Skua that flew north 19th was an excellent late-summer record for the area. Amazingly, another pale phase 'Pom' was seen heading north on 21st, followed by two separate sightings of a pale phase bird resting on the beach at Newcastle that evening, so I suspect the same bird may have been involved here. Arctic Skuas have been present for the past four days with up to 3 dark phase birds present offshore at times, chasing Black-headed Gulls & Kittiwakes and even flying right through the tern colony every now & then for good measure just to keep them on their toes! 

Other seabird migrants recently have included a Red-breasted Merganser, several Red-throated  Divers, a couple of Storm Petrels & 19 Common Scoter (heading south this morning). Terns & gulls are continuing to travel north past the colony, with plenty of Arctic Terns in particular, 1 adult & 5 juvenile Mediterranean Gulls & some more adult + juvenile Roseate Tern pairs making their way for Sandymount Strand no doubt. 

Juvenile Black Guillemot © Niall Keogh
The duck flock has been growing since the last wildlife sightings post, with up to 250 Mallard now present along with 15 eclipse plumage Wigeon, 6 Teal, the 'local' Shovelers, 5 Pochard & 6 Tufted Duck. Counts of 19 Little Grebes & 9 Coot in the channels in the past few days have been the highest for those two species so far this season. Again, still plenty of waders on the move with c.75 Curlew & 14 Lapwing feeding in a recently cut section of the coastal grazing marsh & up to 44 Dunlin (including the first of the returning juveniles), 24 Turnstones, 20 Ringed Plovers, 24 Black-tailed Godwits, 10 Redshank, 13 Sanderling a few Greenshank and singles of Knot & Whimbrel noted feeding on the mudflats in The Breaches or roosting on the beach during high tide.

Sanderling © Niall Keogh
Ringed Plover © Niall Keogh
With regards passerines, the first of this seasons juvenile Wheatears are already on the move through & can be seen hopping about on the rocks by The Breaches bridge whilst a juvenile Rock Pipit on the beach, feeding amongst the seaweed with masses of juvenile Pied Wagtails this morning wasn't a bad bird for the area. A Spotted Flycatcher at Kilcoole train station car park on 24th was certainly noteworthy as it was a new species for the local Bird Atlas square!

Non-bird wise, the past few calm days have been excellent for cetacean watching, with the mother & calf Harbour Porpoise still about, showing very well feeding close offshore from The Breaches. They were even seen breaching 3 times in quick succession during a bout of active feeding which isn't often observed. The glorious sunshine yesterday afternoon produced large numbers of butterflies such as Red Admiral, Meadow Brown, Large & Small White, Green-veined White & some second brood Common Blues. The sun & heat also motivated several Viviparous Lizards into action, making themselves a bit more visible than they have been so far this summer, which is nice!

Harbour Porpoise © Niall Keogh
Viviparous Lizard © Niall Keogh
Poplar Hawk-moth © Niall Keogh

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