It's been a sunny but very cold Christmas Eve here at Strathbeg (despite the forecast of mild temperatures, there's been a bitterly cold wind blowing over the marsh). Not a lot to do today but go for the final pre-Christmas check on the ponies (all eight of them still fine, and looking well), and make sure that the electrice fences at both sides of the their compartment are still working properly. I had some superb views of a Hen Harrier hunting over the reeds as I walked out as well, which was a fantastic way to start the day.
The cold wind does seem to have bought a few nice birds closer in to the centre with three curlew, and seven dunlin on the pools. There's also a good selection of ducks- shelduck, goldeneye and two very smart red-breasted merganser were all outside the centre this morning and there was a flock of around 100 Barnacle Geese on the fields, joining around 150 Greylag that were on the pools this morning. Hopefully most of the geese will manage to avoid our now regular fox, who's been seen for the last three days. Yesterday it spent a very entertaining twenty minutes hunting mice and voles in the grass by the Tower Pool Path, but I'm sure it would be quite happy to have a nice goose for Christmas dinner!
Just a reminder that the visitor centre will be closed tomorrow and Boxing Day and then open as usual right through New Year.
Happy Christmas from everyone at Strathbeg.
The reserve will remain open throughout Christmas and New Year. The visitor centre will be closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day but will be open from 9am (usually slightly before) until dusk every other day, including New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. The hides can be accessed as normal when the visitor centre is closed.
Finally the weather has warmed up a bit (I went out in only four layers yesterday, and without a coat!) and the treacherous layer of ice has gone from the entrance track and the car park, making the reserve a much more pleasant place to walk around again. With most of the staff away for Christmas it's been a fairly quiet time and a chance to plan a few events for the new year and start making a dent in the annual bird report. It's been fascinating to catch up on how many of which species have been seen on the reserve over the year and how numbers of our common birds fluctuate. It's also interesting how few common birds that we see every day actually get recorded- we've only got one 'official' record of a pheasant on the list- so it just shows that it's important to leave us a note of all your sightings and not just the exciting rarities.
Bird-wise we've still got plenty of geese around, Greylang have reached a couple of hundred, there's been White-fronted Geese outside the visitor centre on most mornings and 14 Bean Geese were reported in with the flock of Pinkies today. The Hen Harrier is still showing nicely as well, usually in the afternoons. Possibly the best sighting of the past few days has been a big fox that regularly hunts along the bank under the Tower Pool Path. It's been giving us some fantastic views from the visitor centre as it hunts in the long grass.