A very bad pun (only works if you say it quickly) that does not do such a beautiful bird any justice at all. The undoubted highlight of the day and in my opinion of the year so far was a brief fly past of a turtle dove. It was actually in one of our neighbours gardens and so I was able to get good views of it as it sat on the top of some trees but it was only in reserve air space fleetingly. the last record of this migratory dove was in 2002 - lets hope we don't ahve to wait another nine years for the next record ...who knows mit may still be in the area tomorrow.
Elsewhere there were three drake garganey on the pools in front of the centre along with two little gulls.
An early start for us today...but we were well rewarded with a fine display from a much sought after breeding wader on our marsh land. I stood and watched (and listened) to it for about ten minutes..any guesses? It is a fairly common bird, but for some inexplicable reason we don't have them breeding very often on the reserve (or maybe we just don't see them?)
Anyway..the main reason for our early start was to try and find out what is happening with corn buntings on the reserve. A couple of years ago, we planted some species rich grassland, mainly to benefit bees and butterflies. Because is ungrazed in spring and summer it also makes excellent nesting habitat for ground nesting farmland birds. We are particularly interested in corn buntings as this species has suffered huge declines. So far, in this particuylar field, we have 2 pairs, but we have yet to locate any nests. A good start..but more early mornings needed to pinpoint nest sites!
Bird highlights for the week so far...yesterday we had 3 little gulls on Starnafin pools, 9 black tailed godwits on the wet area in fron of Tower Pool hide along with a mixed flock of about 80 ringed plover and dunlin. Today..so far, we have one little gull on the pools, but I will update you at the end of the day with any more highlights.
One of the perils of starting on a new reserve can be remembering that some birds which you're used to seeing almost every day are actually very rare somewhere else (and vice-versa!).
So, as I scanned through the waders outside the centre at first, they all sounded like birds I'd expect to see on a wetland in late May- "Godwit, dunlin, dunlin, avocet, dunlin... Hang on!" At my last RSPB job at Titchwell Marsh breeding avocet were a daily sight, but this far north..? A quick check of the rarities book in the centre showed that Avocet hadn't been seen at Strathbeg since 2008! A few phone calls got the word out and the fact that we've had the busiest Saturday morning since I've started here shows how excited everybody else was to see them up here too. Luckily they've stayed on view in the pools just outside the visitor centre.
Avocet tend not to hang around on the reserve for more than a day or two, so if you fancy seeing them the I'd head up as soon as possible! The blog isn't letting me add a picture at the moment, but there's a photo of them here taken this morning- http://twitpic.com/50j2tn
We've also got another lovely wader for the yearlist today, a lovely red summer plumage Curlew Sandpiper which is a bit more distant (all the tiny waders seem to be a long way away this spring!) but not too hard to pick out from the dunlin flock.
Nice to have the blog back after a few days. I hope you all like the redesign and it doesn't take you too long to find your way around!
Typically it's been quite an interesting few days bird-wise. The Temminck's Stint and Pectoral Sandpiper have both been hanging around over the past few days, no sign of them today but they're both quite good at hiding round the back of islands. Life has been busy on the tern island- the common terns have started to lay their first eggs (Emma was lucky enough to see one actually being laid this morning- not a comfortable-looking process for the tern!) and it looks like a few pairs are settling down into incubation.Incubation lasts between 3 and 4 weeks for a tern so we're looking out for chick in early June. The black-headed gull chicks are growing quickly now. Unfortunately they've been discovered by a rogue herring gull which sees them as quite an easy meal. We've lost a few chicks this week that haven't been fast enough to hide in the boxes we put down.
We're also starting to see lots of ducklings, mostly mallard but we have one brood of Shelduck with half a dozen chicks.We shall try and get some photos of these if we can- even I have to admit they're very cute!
There's still no sign of a lapwing nest anywhere on the reserve, but we have found one ringed plover nest on the beach, so at least one of our waders has decided to play ball this year!
The first sign of a raptor on the reserve is often the behaviour of the common tern flock, flushing off the island and into the air. Usually this is a peregrine, sparrowhawk or occasionally Merlin. This time the raptor picked out in the tern flock was a slim, dark bird, with swept-back wings and looking like a huge swift- it was a Hobby.
Hobbys are a rare visitor in this area, with only 17 records this far north, so even though this was a very brief fly past it was a great bird to see. A chat with our regulars revealed that one of them had a suspected Hobby seen in the past week as well!
The day carried on being a good one for raptors, with our regular Marsh Harrier and Osprey being joined by a ‘ringtail’ (a female or young bird with a white base to its tail) Hen Harrier. Hen Harriers are regular visitor in the winter but can be harder to find in spring and summer.
The pectoral sandpiper is still about as well, giving (very!) distant views from the Tower Pool Hide.
Most of you will have noticed that the Community pages will be down for maintenance from 16th-18th May so the blog and the forum won’t be available. If we get any big bird news it will be on Birdguides, Birdline Scotland and ABZ as usual, or you can check our Twitter page http://www.twitter.com/RSPB_NEScot