Unlike in the winter, at this time of year Strangford Lough is mostly devoid of large flocks of waders. Birds are seen stopping off in the Lough to rest and feed whilst on passage to their summer breeding grounds, but most are only here for a day or two. However, here at Castle Espie this is the best time of year to see Oystercatchers flocking together!
These birds that spend the summer in Strangford Lough are birds that have decided not to breed, either because they are too young or aren't in excellent condition for breeding. At high tide these birds flock together for safety. So now at high tide, we are regularly hosting a 500 strong flock of Oystercatchers on our Shingle Bank and Wader marsh. They roost here and catch some sleep whilst they wait for the tide to recede, so they may commence feeding again with vigour.
Amongst the flock, one of our reserve wardens spotted a bird with leg rings. Bird ringing has been an excellent tool for scientists in order to study the movement of birds internationally. It marks individuals with a mixture of colour and letter/number coded rings. The Oystercatcher that was spotted on the reserve this week was ringed, almost two years to the day ago, as a chick in it's nest in Iceland! Last time this bird was seen, it was still in Iceland in July 2017. So since then it has made the journey of almost 1500 km to be here at Castle Espie! Not old enough to breed yet, but for the time being it has joined this flock of birds, many of whom may also be from Iceland, to feed on the shores of Strangford lough until it's ready.
Count was taken at high tide this morning.
Estuary – visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory
Black-headed Gull 29, Shelduck 2, Lesser Black-back Gull 1, Common Gull 1, Oystercatcher 7, Shelduck 2, Little Egret 1
Main lake – visible from Sensory garden and Visitor centre
Mallard 19, Tufted Duck 8, Coot 2, Black-headed Gull c.50, Goldeneye 1, Moorhen 1, Little Grebe 1
Shingle bank – visible from Sensory garden, Wadermarsh and Visitor Centre
Black-head Gull 42, Mallard 32, Gadwall 2, Moorhen 1+ 1 chick, Cormorant 1, Oystercatcher c.450
Wadermarsh – visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide
Black-headed Gull 23, Mallard 6, Greylag goose 2 + 6 Goslings, Oystercatcher 51, Jackdaw 3
Freshwater Lagoon – visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg
Mallard 2, Tufted Duck 4+ 6 ducklings, Shelduck 1+9 young, Black-headed Gull c.400, Moorhen 3, Sand Martin 1, Swallow 1
Saline Lagoon – visible from Limekiln observatory
Black-headed Gull c.40, Common Tern 2, Gadwall 2, Cormorant 1
Little Grebe 1
Peninsula Field and Saltmarsh
Meadow pipit 1
Jackdaw 3, Black-headed Gull 1
Blue tit, Great tit, Coal tit, Chaffinch, Blackcap, Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, Wood Pigeon, Jackdaw
Seen in the past week (not on this morning's count)
Curlew, Linnet, Herring Gull, Teal, Mistle Thrush, Goldfinch, Goldcrest, Starling, Bullfinch, Redshank
Green-veined White, Small White, Speckled wood, Common Blue