Latest sightings

Recent Sightings 27th June 2022

Recent Sightings 27th June 2022

We’ve had a few new visitors to Castle Espie this week, along with our usual ducklings, chicks and goslings which are getting bigger by the day! A Gannet was spotted just off the pier which is easily seen from the Limekiln Observatory and from the Brent Hide (with a pair of binoculars). These large white birds feed on fish, and are impressive to watch when feeding – flying high into the air before plunging down straight into the water. They breed around the UK at only a few known locations, so it’s always exciting to see one visiting our shores. A Skylark (pictured) was also a welcome sight on the Peninsular Field, visible from the Saltmarsh Lookout at the far end of the reserve. Skylarks have been in decline since the late 1970s due to changes in agricultural practices but conservation schemes have seen more wildlife friendly farming taking place to try and help our farmland passerines. They are easily spotted by their tendency to fly straight up from fields, where they nest on the ground and have multiple broods during breeding season. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Oystercatcher 156, Lesser black-backed gull 5, Black-headed gull 13, Rook 9, Curlew 23, Brent goose 1, Cormorant 14, Herring gull 11, Eider 1 (4 ducklings), Gannet 1, Common seal 14 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 32, Gadwall 2, Mute swan 2, Cormorant 1, Moorhen 1 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 2, Black-tailed godwit 1, Shelduck 2 (7 ducklings), Moorhen 1, Jackdaw 6, Greylag 6, Black-headed gull 300, Oystercatcher 12 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Black-headed gull 145, Hooded crow 2, Moorhen 1 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Sedge warbler, Mallard 8 (6 ducklings), Moorhen 1 (1 chick), Black-headed gull 3, Gadwall 2 (6 ducklings), Mute swan 2, Lesser black-backed gull 2 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Black-headed gull 30, Shelduck 2 (3 ducklings) Brickworks Swallow 2, Black-headed gull 1, Jackdaw 1, Common tern 1 (flying over) Limestone Lake Greylag 13, Black-headed gull 9 Peninsula Saltmarsh Redshank 1, Lesser black-backed gull 1, Meadow pipit 6, Reed bunting 1, Starling 2, Blackbird Peninsula Field Swallow 4, House martin 2, Skylark 1 Woodland Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Robin, Great tit, Blue tit, Wren, Coal tit, Rook

Recent Sightings 20th June 2022

Recent Sightings 20th June 2022

At low tide today, Castle Espie was alive with action in the sky and on the water. The Kingfisher was busy fishing on the Main Lake and on the Saline Lagoon, flashing bright in the hot summer sunshine we experienced today. There were also aerial displays from Swallows, House martins and Sand martins. Sand martins (pictured) are a summer visitor to the UK, and can often be seen feeding on the wing over water bodies and perching on overhead wires and branches. The newest arrivals to the reserve are a family of Tufted duck ducklings! The ducklings will stay with the female and learn how to feed. You can spot her around the Saline Lagoon and Limestone Lake - although she does not have the distinctive white flank and bold tuft that the male has, she does have a small tuft on the back of the head, brown flanks and bright yellow eyes. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Lesser black-backed gull 8, Shelduck 6, Little egret 1, Black-headed gull 35, Herring gull 11, Hooded crow 3, Jackdaw 4, Grey heron 1, Curlew 4, Black-tailed godwit 4, Oystercatcher 11, Rook 44, Sand martin 2 (flying over) Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 47, Gadwall 7, Moorhen 2, Mute swan 2, Kingfisher 1, Black-headed gull 2 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Jackdaw 11, Shelduck 2, Black-headed gull 9, Hooded crow 1 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Black-headed gull 2, Moorhen 1, Jackdaw 2, Greylag goose 2 (4 goslings) Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Shelduck 2 (2 ducklings), Black-tailed godwit 1, Moorhen 4 (3 chicks), Gadwall 1 (2 ducklings), Black-headed gull 1, Mallard 12 (9 ducklings), Mute swan 2, Swallow, Goldfinch Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Tufted duck 1 (4 ducklings), Redshank 1, Shelduck 2 (4 ducklings), Kingfisher 1, Black-headed gull C.20 Brickworks Graylag 1 (2 goslings) Limestone Lake Mallard 2, Greylag goose 3, Black-headed gull 5 Peninsula Saltmarsh Pied wagtail 4, Meadow pipit 2, Swallow 2, Shelduck 1, House martin 3 Peninsula Field Woodland Blackbird, Robin, Coal tit, Goldfinch, Chiffchaff, Wood pigeon, Chaffinch, Blue tit, Wren

Recent Sightings 13th June 2022

Recent Sightings 13th June 2022

For the past few days, Freshwater Lagoon has had a male Shoveler duck (pictured) on its waters. They have a vibrant green/iridescent head (during breeding season) and their very distinctive ‘shovel-shaped’ bill. This strange shape assists them in sifting through the water for plant matter and small insects to eat. There are resident numbers here in Northern Ireland but these are increased by winter migrants in the colder months and they become a more common sight. Lots of fledglings are starting to make themselves known in the woodland. Young Wrens, Robins and Blue tits are a common sight in the Upper Wood and Swamp areas. Once Robins fledge they are looked after by the male for a few weeks. This is because robins have multiple broods a year, and the female is busy getting ready for the next breeding effort. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Lesser black-black gull 3, Black-headed gull 5, Herring gull 30, Eider duck 17 (1 duckling), Little egret 1, Redshank 1, Common tern 1 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mute swan 2, Moorhen 1, Mallard 37, Cormorant 1 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Black-headed gull 87, Oystercatcher 49, Lesser black-backed gull 1, Greylag goose 2 (6 goslings) Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Black-headed gull 44, Shelduck 2 (5 ducklings) Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Grey heron 1, Mute swan 2, Mallard 5, Moorhen 4, Black-headed gull 11, Tufted duck 1, Gadwall 8, Coot 3, Lesser black-backed gull 2, Sedge warbler, Shoveler 1 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Black-headed gull 58, Shelduck 2 (5 ducklings), Wood pigeon 1 Brickworks Moorhen 1 Limestone Lake Mallard 2 (1 duckling), Black-headed gull 6, Wood pigeon 1, Greylag goose 2 (10 goslings), Mute swan 2 Peninsula Saltmarsh Swallow 2, Shelduck 1, Black-tailed godwit 2, Meadow pipit 4, Blue tit 3 Peninsula Field Woodland Jackdaw, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Wren, Robin, Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Wood pigeon, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Magpie, Coal tit, Blue tit

Recent Sightings 6th June 2022

Recent Sightings 6th June 2022

Some new ducklings to spot on the reserve this week – Gadwall! Gadwall (pictured) are a little smaller than Mallards, and sport a distinctive white patch on the wing. They nest in wetland habitats with abundant vegetation, so our Freshwater lagoon is the perfect habitat for them. See if you can spot them swimming between the islands from the Brent Hide and the Bridge over to the Crannóg. Four Meadow pipit were seen at once on the Peninsular Saltmarsh which is a welcome sight. These little passerines have been declining since the 1970s so it’s good to see Castle Espie providing a home and some suitable breeding habitats for them. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Lesser black-backed gull 2, Shelduck 2, Oystercatcher 12, Little egret 3, Herring gull 11, Cormorant 5, Hooded crow 1, Jackdaw 1, Curlew 2, Common gull 1, Redshank 3, Black-headed gull 60, Common seal 11 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mute swan 2, Black-headed gull 6, Shelduck 2 (7 ducklings), Moorhen 2, Mallard 2, Gadwall 1 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Black-headed gull 6, Greylag goose 4 (7 goslings) Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Black-headed gull 4, Mallard 2, Jackdaw 2, Wood pigeon 1, Grey heron 1 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Sedge warbler, Coot 3, Moorhen 2, Gadwall 7 (4 ducklings), Shelduck 1, Mallard 13, Black-headed gull 17, Swallow, Blue tit, Wren, Chaffinch Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Shelduck 2 (11 ducklings), Greylag goose 1, Black-headed gull 48, Redshank 10, Greater black-backed gull 1 (flying) Brickworks Song thrush, Moorhen 1, Black-headed gull 1, Jackdaw 2, Wood pigeon 1, Blackbird 1, Linnet 4 Limestone Lake Wood pigeon 2, Jackdaw 1, Black-headed gull 10 Peninsula Saltmarsh Black-tailed godwit 1, Greylag goose 1, Black-headed gull 1, Meadow pipit 4 Peninsula Field Woodland Goldcrest, Great tit, Blue tit, Wood pigeon, Blackbird, Robin, Robin (fledgling), Magpie, Blackcap, Chiffchaff

Recent Sightings 30th May 2022

Recent Sightings 30th May 2022

A pair of Shelduck (pictured) are an easy spot on the Main Lake and a pleasant welcome as you enter Castle Espie from the Visitors Centre. They’ve now recently been joined by their newest arrivals – Shelducklings! The youngsters look strikingly like the adults with their bold black and white pattern. They are one of our largest ducks in the UK, and nest in tree hollows and old rabbit burrows. Two Little grebe have also been seen together on the Main Lake recently, diving down for food and emerging some time later making them tricky to spot. For such a small bird, they can make a loud noise and their ‘whinnying trill’ is often heard before they are seen. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Redshank 8, Shelduck 3, Jackdaw 9, Little egret 3, Black-headed gull 24, Lesser black-backed gull 3, Common gull 1, Herring gull 46, Cormorant 3, Greater black-backed gull 1, Great crested grebe 1, Oystercatcher 31, Curlew 3, Eider 12 (10 ducklings), Common tern 1 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Black swan 1, Mute swan 2, Shelduck 2(8 ducklings), Mallard 14, Moorhen 2, Little grebe 2, Black-headed gull 10, Oystercatcher 6 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Black-headed gull 23, Greylag goose 2 (8 goslings), Oystercatcher 119, Moorhen 1 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Black-tailed godwit 1, Black-headed gull 6 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Moorhen 2(with chicks), Coot 3, Mallard 5, Mute swan 2, Gadwall 6, Black-headed gull 111, Lesser black-backed gull 2, Grey heron 1, Swallow, Sedge warbler Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Redshank 31, Black-headed gull 95, Greylag goose 5 (11 goslings), Mallard 2 Brickworks Limestone Lake Black-headed gull 15, Moorhen 1, Mallard 1 Peninsula Saltmarsh Lesser black-backed gull 1, Black-headed gull 2, Shelduck 1, Redshank 1 Peninsula Field Goldfinch, Reed bunting, Meadow pipit Woodland Blackbird, Wood pigeon, Blue tit, Great tit, Goldcrest, Robin, Blackcap, Mallard (and duckling)

Recent Sightings 23rd May 2022

Recent Sightings 23rd May 2022

Between the rain and shine today there was a lot to be seen at the reserve on a receding tide this morning. From an unusual appearance by a non-native Black swan on the Main Lake, to the huge variety of chicks, ducklings and goslings wandering around the paths – there is certainly a lot of life here at the moment! Linnet have been spotted around the Peninsular Saltmarsh and Brickworks area. These are small finches that feed on insects and seeds. They are widespread and can be found on farmland and open fields, however numbers have unfortunately dropped in recent decades due to loss of hedgerow and scrub habitats and other reasons. So always nice to see them at Castle Espie! The Terns have also started coming into the reserve more frequently and are often seen over the Saline Lagoon and out fishing on the Estuary. Sandwich terns have been flying over and Common terns (pictured) are showing lots of interest in the tern raft at Saline – hopefully looking to nest. A couple of Common seals were also spotted sunning themselves out on the lough – I know they’re not birds, but still a nice addition to the morning count! Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Mute swan 3, Cormorant 3, Curlew 3, Greater black-backed gull 2, Lesser black-backed gull 4, Little egret 1, Black-headed gull 20, Light-bellied brent goose 36, Oystercatcher 161, Mallard 3, Eider 3, Goldeneye 1, Herring gull 17, Gadwall 2, Great crested grebe 3, Common seal 4 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Black swan 1, Kingfisher 1, Mute swan 1, Mallard 6, Black-headed gull 14, Tufted duck 1, Moorhen 1 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Oystercatcher 594, Mallard 15, Black-headed gull 18, Greylag goose 2 (8 goslings) Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Coot 2, Mallard 3, Shelduck 2, Black-headed gull 11 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Tufted duck 1, Gadwall 5, Mallard 9 (with ducklings), Black-tailed godwit 1, Coot 2, Black-headed gull 112, Moorhen 4 (with chicks), Mediterranean gull 2 (flying), Sedge warbler Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Gadwall 1, Black-tailed godwit 2, Black-headed gull 51, Redshank 50, Wood pigeon 1, Common tern 1 (flying) Brickworks Jackdaw 3, Linnet 2, Blue tit Limestone Lake Black-headed gull 16, Mallard 1 Peninsula Saltmarsh Shelduck 1, Lesser black-backed gull 1, Hooded crow 1 Peninsula Field Woodland Magpie, Robin, Blue tit, Great tit, Coal tit, Blackbird, Wood pigeon, Chaffinch, Blackcap, Goldcrest

Recent Sightings 16th May 2022

Recent Sightings 16th May 2022

The rising tide this morning bought Oystercatcher into the reserve to roost on the Shingle Bank. When the tide comes in, wading birds lose the mudflats on which they feed, so they move off the Estuary and seek refuge in areas like Castle Espie. Small flocks of Redshank have also started coming into the Saline lagoon at this time, and the accumulation of bright red legs along the water’s edge is hard to miss! Willow warblers (pictured) have started making their voices heard along the edge of Limestone lake and in the Wet woodland area. They are a summer visitor and are similar in appearance to Chiffchaffs. These two are most easily distinguished between by their songs – with the Willow warbler gracefully descending in pitch and the Chiffchaff characteristically rising and falling with a “chiff-chaff”! Keep an eye out for chicks and goslings too – Greylag goslings and Moorhen chicks are wandering around the reserve and Black-headed gull chicks are just around the corner! Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Hooded crow 2, Jackdaw 1, Brent goose 24, Shelduck 1, Common gull 1, Mallard 3, Curlew 1, Black-headed gull 40, Whimbrel 1, Oystercatcher 18 (flying over) Pier – visible from Limelkiln Observatory and Peninsular Lookout Eider 6 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mute swan 2, Oystercatcher 20, Mallard 5, Moorhen 1, Gadwall 1, Black-headed gull 26 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Brent goose 1, Shelduck 1, Oystercatcher 121, Mallard 5, Black-headed 34 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Greylag goose 2 (8 goslings), Black-headed gull 8, Gadwall 1, Moorhen 2, Redshank 3, Jackdaw 2 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Sedge warbler, Mallard 7, Gadwall 4, Shelduck 1, Black-headed gull 204, Lesser black-backed gull 2, Tufted duck 2, Moorhen 2 (chicks), Redshank 1, Coot 4 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Black-tailed godwit 1, Knot 1, Black-headed gull 51, Little egret 1, Redshank 44, Greylag 2 (3 goslings, Greylag 2 (2 goslings), Gadwall 1, Dunlin 1 Brickworks Mallard 3, Jackdaw 2, Goldfinch 2, Linnet 2, Swallows Limestone Lake Tufted duck 2, Mallard 2, Black-headed gull 19 Peninsula Saltmarsh Shelduck 2, Little egret 1, Jackdaw 1, Hooded crow 1, Meadow pipit 1 Peninsula Field Woodland Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Wren, Blue tit, Willow warbler, Coal tit, Robin, Great tit, Blackbird, Wood pigeon, Blackcap, Goldcrest, Magpie, Mallard with duckling

Recent Sightings 9th May 2022

Recent Sightings 9th May 2022

The grey weather made for a quiet morning at Castle Espie, but there is always something to see. The wind and rain did not manage to deter some of the reserves newest, and dare I say cutest, arrivals – Greylag goslings (pictured). The family of 10, including mum and dad Greylag, can be seen swimming across the Main Lake, walking along the Shingle Bank and grazing on the islands in the Wader Marsh. If the weather is still unpleasant then you can easily see them from the Kingfisher café and the Brent Hide whilst still staying warm and dry, so don’t be discouraged! Terns are becoming a more common sight on the reserve as spring continues and summer looms. Two Sandwich terns were seen off the end of the Pier this morning diving for food. Many of the important colonies of Sandwich terns nest in nature reserves, using shingle banks, sandy beaches and islands – this is one of the reasons wetlands are so vital as they can easily provide these kinds of habitats. Common terns also visit Castle Espie in the summer, sporting a bright red beak rather than a black one. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Little egret 4, Oystercatcher 119, Dunlin 8, Sandwich tern 2, Eider 8, Black-headed gull 41, Greater black-backed gull 1, Herring gull 14, Lesser black-backed gull 1, Curlew 1, Whimbrel 2 Pier – visible from Limelkiln Observatory and Peninsular Lookout Herring gull 3, Oystercatcher 2 (flying over) Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mute swan 2, Gadwall 3, Mallard 14, Greylag goose 2 + goslings 8, Black-headed gull 29, Moorhen 3 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Black-headed gull 16, Moorhen 1 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Black-headed gull 6, Jackdaw 5, Shelduck 2, Black-tailed godwit 1 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Mallard 6, Coot 1, Moorhen 1, Black-tailed godwit 2, Black-headed gull 206, Gadwall 5, Greylag goose 1, Lesser black-backed gull 1, Sedge warbler, Reed bunting Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Redshank 33, Gadwall 1, Greylag goose 1, Black-headed gull 90, Lesser black-backed gull 1, Tufted duck 2 Brickworks Hooded crow 3, Jackdaw 3, Wood pigeon 1 Limestone Lake Black-headed gull 15 Peninsula Saltmarsh Shelduck 2 Peninsula Field Woodland Blackbird, Robin, Chaffinch, Blue tit, Wood pigeon, Jackdaw, Wren, Great tit, Goldcrest, Blackcap

Recent Sightings 2nd May 2022

Recent Sightings 2nd May 2022

A quiet morning on the reserve this bank holiday Monday, with lots of birds settling into pairs. The Mute swans, Greylag geese and Shelduck can often be seen on the Main Lake, Shingle Bank, Wadermarsh and reserve pathways coupled up and calling to one another. Eggs are visible in the Black-headed gull nests and the woodland trees have burst into life. Castle Espie has officially welcomed Springtime! Reed buntings and Sedge warblers can be heard and seen by the keen observer in the reeds surrounding the Roundhouse and on the Crannóg. They can be tricky to spot, but are beautiful little birds if you can catch a glimpse. Sedge warblers are summer visitors, and arrive around April time to breed in wetland habitats. Two Whimbrel were seen flying over the Peninsular field heading into the reserve, straight over the Saltmarsh which contained three busy little Dunlin (pictured). Dunlin are very small wading birds, and can be seen at the moment sporting their summer plumage – a jet black patch on the belly, starkly contrasting with their light chest and chestnut brown backs. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Black-headed gull 15, Lesser black-backed gull 7, Oystercatcher 77, Black-tailed godwit 15, Dunlin 8, Eider 16, Redshank 2, Herring gull 8, Curlew 1, Hooded crow 1, Brent goose 14 Pier – visible from Limelkiln Observatory and Peninsular Lookout Lesser black-backed gull 1, Oystercatcher 35, Herring gull 2, Great crested grebe 4, Red-breasted merganser 3, Eider 10 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mute Swan 2, Shelduck 2, Black-headed gull 130, Mallard 11, Moorhen 2, Hooded crow 1, Teal 2, Greater black-backed gull (flying over) 1 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Black-headed gull 55, Black-tailed godwit 206, Jackdaw 1, Mallard 2, Lesser black-backed gull 1 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Greylag goose 2, Black-headed gull 5 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Sedge warbler 1, Reed bunting 1, Gadwall 7, Black-headed gull 270, Moorhen 2, Coot 1, Lesser black-backed gull 1 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Gadwall 1, Black-headed gull 84 Brickworks Swallow 1, Mallard 1, Jackdaw 8 Limestone Lake Moorhen 1, Black-headed gull 26 Peninsula Saltmarsh Shelduck 2, Black-headed gull 5, Dunlin 3, Little egret 1, Whimbrel (flying over) 2 Peninsula Field Dunnock, Blackbird, Jackdaw, Meadow pipit Woodland Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Blackbird, Robin, Blue tit, Great tit, Coal tit, Wood pigeon, Wren, Goldcrest

Recent Sightings 25th April 2022

Recent Sightings 25th April 2022

The sightings this week were taken on a receding tide, so the Shingle bank was mainly left to the Black-headed gulls, most of which have paired off now and are busy building nests. They can often be seen flying around with reeds, sticks, seaweed and other nesting material in their beaks. A trio of Great crested grebes was seen on the lough at the end of the Pier. These are the largest of the grebes and are known for their impressive courtship rituals that start in early spring and their characteristic head plumage and orange ruff during breeding season. They were diving for food and two were seen ‘dancing’ for each other which is a sure sign that spring is here! The Peninsular field played host to a Whimbrel this morning, alongside some Curlew which are confusingly similar looking birds! They both have a distinctive down-curved beak, but a Whimbrel is smaller, with a slightly shorter bill and a more striking facial pattern. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Shelduck 2, Redshank 1, Mallard 1, Black-headed gull 85, Common gull 2, Moorhen 1, Dunlin 225, Black-tailed godwit 204, Knot 31, Lesser black-backed gull 5, Curlew 1, Oystercatcher 13, Eider 8 Pier – visible from Limelkiln Observatory and Peninsular Lookout Oystercatcher 116, Redshank 2, Herring gull 1, Cormorant 1, Hooded crow 3, Eider 4, Great crested grebe 3 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 17, Teal 2, Tufted duck 1, Greylag goose 1, Moorhen 2, Black-headed gull 41, Cormorant 1, Gadwall 2 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Oystercatcher 1, Lesser black-backed gull 1, Black-headed gull 86 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Black-headed gull 11 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Gadwall 2, Mallard 6, Moorhen 5, Black-headed gull 280, Redshank 1, Lesser black-backed gull 2 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Black-headed gull 96, Redshank 1, Black-tailed godwit 1, Moorhen 3 Brickworks Jackdaw 3, Goldfinch 4 Limestone Lake Mallard 1, Black-headed gull 14 Peninsula Saltmarsh Shelduck 2, Black-headed gull 5, Black-tailed godwit 28 Peninsula Field Black-tailed godwit 13, Jackdaw 4, Wimbrel 1, Curlew 6 Woodland Blackcap, Wood pigeon, Robin, Blue tit, Great tit, Wren, Dunnock, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Magpie, Chiffchaff

Recent Sightings 18th April 2022

Recent Sightings 18th April 2022

With Black-headed gull numbers still high, and nests beginning to appear all around the reserve – Castle Espie is full of life! These sightings were taken at low tide on a clear morning. Black-tailed godwit and Knot are still making use of the Shingle bank and Wadermarsh, and can easily been seen in a mixed flock roosting on the Shingle at high tide. For these waders, high tide marks the end of feeding time as they no longer have access to the mudflats that store the majority of their food. Some more spring and summer visitors can be seen, and heard, in the Woodland now as we move further into April. Blackcaps (pictured) and Chiffchaffs are making themselves known around the wet woodland area. The Chiffchaff is a beautiful, delicate little passerine with a pale yellow tint. See if you can hear the distinctive ‘chiff chaff chiff chaff’ call next time you visit the secret swamp! Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Lesser black-backed gull 5, Common gull 1, Little egret 2, Black-headed gull 195, Herring gull 4, Eider 24, Light-bellied brent goose 100, Grey heron 1, Shelduck 3, Oystercatcher 148, Black-tailed godwit 156 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mute swan 2, Greylag goose 2, Tufted duck 1, Gadwall 4, Mallard 15, Teal 6, Redshank 6, Moorhen 3, Black-headed gull 28 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Black-headed gull 156, Moorhen 1, Black-tailed godwit 142, Knot 30 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Black-headed gull 28, Redshank 9, Black-tailed godwit 1 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Black-headed gull 197, Lesser black-backed gull 2, Mallard 2, Black-tailed godwit 1, Moorhen 1, Gadwall 2 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Redshank 3, Black-headed gull 92 Brickworks Jackdaw 1, Mallard 5, Black-headed gull 1, Moorhen 1 Limestone Lake Black-headed gull 12 Peninsula Saltmarsh Little egret 1, Black-headed gull 3, Meadow pipit 1, Dunnock 1 Peninsula Field Woodland Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Great tit, Jackdaw, Blackcap, Robin, Wood pigeon, Chaffinch, Wren, Blue tit, Willow warbler

Recent Sightings 4th April 2022

Recent Sightings 4th April 2022

It’s been nice to have some different visitors to Castle Espie recently. There’s been a Goldeneye on the Main Lake for the last couple of days, easily spotted from the Collection area or even the Kingfisher café with a pair of binoculars. They are diving ducks, so you’ll see them popping up some distance from where they went underwater, and both male and female have the characteristic, striking yellow eyes. The Shingle Bank is a great area to watch from the Brent Hide, with large numbers of Black-tailed godwits roosting there among the Black-headed gulls. Small flocks of Knot can usually be seen with the godwit on the Shingle Bank. They are still donning their winter plumage, and are therefore grey with a plain white underbelly. Their short, black, sturdy beaks are specialized for probing in the sand for small crustaceans, molluscs and invertebrates. And finally, in the Woodland, a Jay (pictured) was spotted amongst the budding trees. This is a colourful member of the crow family, dusty-pink on the body with bright blue patches on the wings. Jays are known for collecting and storing acorns, but they are surprisingly shy, so if you’re up for a challenge – see if you can spot it! Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Light-bellied brent goose 16, Black-headed gull 62, Common gull 1, Hooded crow 1, Redshank 3, Curlew 3, Lesser black-backed gull 2, Herring gull 1, Greater black-backed gull 1 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Tufted duck 4, Goldeneye 1, Teal 16, Mallard 11, Black-headed gull 17, Moorhen 1, Black-tailed godwit 12 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Black-tailed godwit 390, Knot 40, Black-headed gull 128 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Black-headed gull 28, Black-tailed godwit 7, Redshank 5, Teal 8, Moorhen 1 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Gadwall 8, Moorhen 2, Black-tailed godwit 4, Redshank 1, Mallard 4, Teal 2, Coot 2, Black-headed gull 205 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Black-tailed godwit 1, Redshank 2, Little grebe 1, Mallard 1, Black-headed gull 49 Brickworks Jackdaw 4 Limestone Lake Mallard 4, Little grebe 2, Black-headed gull 5 Peninsula Saltmarsh Black-headed gull 4 Peninsula Field Hooded crow 1 Woodland Wood pigeon, Blackbird, Magpie, Great tit, Blue tit, Chaffinch, Robin, Wren, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Jay

Recent Sightings 28th March 2022

Recent Sightings 28th March 2022

The growing numbers of Black-headed gulls throughout most of Castle Espie reserve has not deterred other visitors from coming for us to spot! The sightings below were taken on a rising tide on Monday. A male Pintail was on the Main lake showing off its elegant plumage. Pintails are dabbling ducks, meaning they feed on the water’s surface, rather than diving for food, like a Little grebe – one of which was spotted on the Saline lagoon. A couple of Greylag geese have been seen over the last week around the Main lake, Wadermarsh and Freshwater lagoon. You can often find them strutting along the path as you enter the reserve from the Collection area. Greylag are the largest of the UK wild native geese, and their characteristic ‘honks’ are a welcome soundtrack to a cool spring morning. It’s good to see a steady rise in Black-headed gull numbers as they start pairing off and prepare for breeding season. Numbers of breeding gulls have declined in recent years, but Strangford Lough hosts good numbers of these birds during breeding season and Castle Espie is pleased to offer them some extra breeding sites! Way out on the Estuary, if you’re up for a challenge, two Red-breasted merganser have been spotted a few times over the last week. These are divers, with long, serrated bills for catching and holding onto slippery fish. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Light-bellied brent goose 35, Black-headed gull 149, Redshank 21, Oystercatcher 2, Eider 14, Red-breasted merganser 2, Lesser black-backed gull 1 Pier – visible from the Limekiln Observatory and Peninsular Lookout Oystercatcher 121, Black-headed gull 4, Little egret 1, Grey plover 1, Redshank 1, Black-tailed godwit 8 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mute swan 2, Pintail 1, Greylag goose 2, Gadwall 1, Mallard 3, Black-headed gull 8 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Black-headed gull 234, Oystercatcher 1, Moorhen 1, Herring gull 2, Mallard 3, Hooded crow 2 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Black-tailed godwit 8, Redshank 3, Black-headed gull 11, Oystercatcher 1, Teal 6, Common gull 1, Moorhen 1 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Black-tailed godwit 1, Gadwall 4, Moorhen 3, Teal 4, Mallard 8, Coot 2, Black-headed gull 234 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Mallard 2, Gadwall 2, Little egret 1, Greenshank 1, Little grebe 1, Redshank 2, Black-headed gull 92 Brickworks Jackdaw 2, Black-headed gull 6, Mallard 4 Limestone Lake Black-headed gull 7, Mallard 3 Peninsula Saltmarsh Black-headed gull 2, Black-tailed godwit 1, Little egret 1 Peninsula Field Woodland Blackbird, Wood pigeon, Robin, Jackdaw, Wren, Moorhen, Great tit, Blue tit, Goldcrest, Chaffinch

Recent Sightings 21st March 2022

Recent Sightings 21st March 2022

The sunny weather and low tide bought a good variety of avian visitors to Castle Espie for our bird count on Monday morning. For the last week, the Main Lake has hosted a pair of Mute swans which can be clearly seen, even from the Kingfisher café, gliding across the water or upending near the banks in search of submerged water plants and other food. In amongst the huge numbers of gulls on the Shingle Bank was a Mediterranean gull – hard to distinguish from a Black-headed gull at first glance, but they are slightly larger and have a jet black hood, rather than a chocolate brown one, coupled with a bright red beak. You can test your ID skills on this one from either the Collection area or the Brent Hide. The Estuary was full of life, providing feeding grounds for Black-tailed godwits coming into their attractive orange summer plumage, Shelduck with their distinctive markings recognizable from some distance away, and a couple of Grey herons standing out tall on the mudflats. The Brent geese (pictured) were also seen out near the shoreline. They are one of the UK’s smallest geese, and feed almost exclusively on Eelgrass, which Strangford Lough provides in vast quantities. In the Woodland, it’s nice to see that the Siskin are still around to spot, before they head off around the arrival of spring. The boardwalk next to the Swamp is a great place to stop for a minute and get some peaceful close encounters with Great tits, Blue tits, Coal tits and Robins. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Black-tailed godwit 62, Little egret 1, Lesser black-backed gull 1, Common gull 1, Herring gull 2, Black-headed gull 62, Hooded crow 3, Oystercatcher 2, Grey heron 2, Curlew 5, Shelduck 5, Redshank 2, Eider duck 17, Light-bellied brent goose 32 Pier – visible from the Limekiln Observatory and Peninsular Lookout Oystercatcher 134, Redshank 12 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Teal 32, Little grebe 1, Little egret 2, Grey wagtail 2, Black-headed gull 35, Gadwall 2, Mute swan 2, Moorhen 1, Mallard 18 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Black-headed gull 130, Redshank 6, Moorhen 1, Common gull 1, Cormorant 1, Mediterranean gull 1, Mallard 11, Gadwall 4, Black-tailed godwit 1 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Oystercatcher 1, Moorhen 1, Black-headed gull 12, Teal 1, Black-tailed godwit 5 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Black-headed gull 185, Moorhen 2, Coot 2 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Herring gull 3, Black-headed gull 29, Little grebe 1, Redshank 2, Moorhen 1 Brickworks Jackdaw 3, Blackbird 1 Limestone Lake Mallard 6, Black-headed gull 8 Peninsula Saltmarsh Black-headed gull 3 Peninsula Field Jackdaw 7 Woodland Wren, Siskin, Robin, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Goldcrest, Blue tit, Great tit, Wood pigeon, Coal tit, Dunnock

Recent Sightings 14th March 2022

Recent Sightings 14th March 2022

The milder weather has been a welcome change for birdwatching at Castle Espie in the last week, and these observations taken on a receding tide show that the numbers of Black-headed gulls are starting to increase as breeding season looms. They can be spotted on most water bodies around the reserve, from individuals to large flocks. Most of the birds now have their characteristic chocolate-brown head, but some are still sporting some white feathers around the face, giving them a mottled appearance. You can also keep an eye out for them on the Estuary from the Brent Hide, bobbing on the waves at high tide or feeding on the mud flats at low tide. The Common goldeneye was once again on the Main Lake, easily spotted from the collection area with its distinctive iridescent head and striking eyes. The Green-winged teal was seen on the Wadermarsh amongst Common teal and a few Black-headed gulls which had drifted over from the large flock on the Shingle Bank. Despite them taking up most of the Shingle, a few Oystercatcher, Gadwall and even a Cormorant were able to find space between the gulls to share. The woodland is starting to feel particularly ‘spring-like’, with sunlight streaming through the trees and a symphony of different birdsong to serenade you as you walk. The Siskin are still a familiar sight and the tiny Goldcrest can be spotted by the keen observer. This week, the aptly named Treecreeper (pictured) was seen – funnily enough – creeping up and down the trees! These intriguing little birds have a distinctly downward-curved beak, and are easy to spot by their characteristic way of slinking and spiraling up, down and round tree trunks looking for insects and spiders. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Oystercatcher 74, Redshank 128, Light-bellied brent goose 78, Black-headed gull 25, Curlew 1, Shelduck 23, Little egret 2, Black-tailed godwit 2, Dunlin 26 Pier – visible from the Limekiln Observatory and Peninsular Lookout Dunlin 82, Oystercatcher 109, Redshank 27, Curlew 1, Lesser black-backed gull 2, Turnstone 8 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 28, Tufted duck 4, Teal 18, Moorhen 4, Coot 1, Little egret 1, Black-headed gull 6, Little grebe 1, Common goldeneye 1, Grey wagtail 2 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 3, Teal 16, Gadwall 4, Oystercatcher 5, Herring gull 1, Jackdaw 8, Cormorant 1, Black-headed gull 116 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Black-headed gull 12, Redshank 5, Greenshank 1, Teal 16, Green-winged teal 1 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Moorhen 2, Coot 1, Black-headed gull 104 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Oystercatcher 1, Black-headed gull 20, Redshank 1, Greenshank 1, Jackdaw 2 Brickworks Jackdaw 7, Wood pigeon 1 Limestone Lake Moorhen 1, Little grebe 1, Black-headed gull 2, Mallard 7 Peninsula Saltmarsh Black-headed gull 3 Peninsula Field Woodland Blackbird, Wren, Chaffinch, Great tit, Siskin, Robin, Blue tit, Wood pigeon, Goldcrest, Coal tit, Magpie, Longtail tit, Treecreeper, Mallard 3 (in swamp)