Into September now and more wintering birds are beginning to arrive in the Lough; Greenshank, Redshank, Curlew and Lapwing can all be seen on a daily basis! However this is also a good time of year to spot "Passage Migrants". This is a colloquial term for birds that can be seen as they move from their summer breeding grounds to their wintering grounds, and vice versa. Or rather, "birds that are just passing through". At this time of year Castle Espie is a great place to spot these migrants, as many species will move along coasts as they fly South. A couple of such species were seen today:
Wheatear, pictured above, is a small thrush that can be seen in uplands habitats in the UK, Ireland and the rest of Northern Europe. In the summer time males have very striking contrast of grey backs, black facial markings and cream buff breasts. However in the winter, their greys and black colours dull and the buff colour takes over, almost giving the bird an orange appearance. They retain their distinctive white rump, which is very obvious in flight. Wheatear don't breed at Castle Espie, as we are situated on the coast, however we will see birds on passage in the spring an autumn. The birds we see are either breeding birds from the Antrim hills, or possibly from as far north as Greenland or Iceland! They'll all be migrating to Southern Europe or Africa to wait out the winter before returning next Spring.
As passage migrants are only moving through, only stopping to rest and feed, one has to get lucky to spot them! Other birds that might be seen include: Willow Warblers, Whitethroats (one of which was seen this morning), Wagtails, Black Restarts (if you're really lucky) To have the best chance to see birds like these, watch the top of the hedgerows from the Limekiln Observatory and the edges of the Peninsula Marsh from the look out there.
Count was taken at Low tide this morning.
Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory
Curlew 2, Black-headed gull 2, Little Egret 2, Greenshank 1, Lapwing 6, Mallard 5
Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor centre
Mallard 128, Tufted duck 3, Gadwall 6, Wigeon 1, Teal 5, Moorhen 1, Coot 2
Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor centre
Mallard 39, Coot 2
Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide
Moorhen 3, Black-headed gull 2, Coot 2, Greylag goose 1, Swallows 2
Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannog
Black-tailed Godwit 7, Greenshank 1, Mallard 26, Moorhen 4, Teal 26, Shoveler 1
Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory
Little Grebe 2
Goldfinch c.30, jackdaw 2
Tufted Duck 1, Mallard 1
Peninsula field and Saltmarsh
Starling 7, Meadow pipit 1, Whitethroat 1, Wheatear 1
Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock, Magpie, Jackdaw, Robin, Blue tit, Great tit, Coal tit, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Wood pigeon, Sparrowhawk
Painted Lady, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Red admiral, Common Blue, Speckled Wood, Green-veined White, Small White