Wintering wildfowl numbers continue to build out on the Estuary. The Brent geese have peaked, but we are starting to see large flocks of Shelduck and Wigeon beginning to gather in front of the Brent hide.
Wigeon are scarce as a breeding bird in the UK and Ireland, however they migrate here in great numbers for the winter. Most of these birds spend their summers in Eastern Europe and further east into Russia. These birds travel West to warmer coastal areas, Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Ireland. Almost half a million birds spend their winter in the UK.
Wigeon are wonderful medium sized ducks, bigger than a Teal, but smaller than a Mallard. The males are very distinctive with their mustard foreheads, reddish brown heads and a delightfully rosey chest. These birds flock together in Strangford Lough searching for food in the mud. Sometimes they gather in fields to graze on grass, but most of their time is spent in the safety of the estuary.
Watch these birds from the Brent hide and the Limekiln Observatory as the tide is coming in to get close up views. Or alternatively, keep your eyes peeled for a single semi-wild male in the collection area. We suspect he's escaped from a private collection and enjoys the perks of stopping by our close encounters area every now and then.
Count was taken low tide.
Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory
Brent Geese 619, Mallard 2, Wigeon 208, Shelduck 74, Redshank 4, Oystercatcher 25, Curlew 11, Little Egret 1, Black-headed Gull 21, Common Gull 1, Greater Black-backed gull 3
Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor centre
Mallard 133, Tufted duck 18, Teal 1, Gadwall 1, Coot 1, Moorhen 1
Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor centre
Mallard 19, Teal 31, Gadwall 2
Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide
Heron 1, Teal 29, Greenshank 1, Redshank 2, Moorhen 7,
Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannog
Mallard 8, Teal 5, Moorhen 2
Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory
Little Grebe 5, Little Egret 1, Kingfisher 1
Peninsula field and Saltmarsh
Black-headed Gull 1, Sparrowhawks seen during the week
Blackbird, Song Thrush, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blue tit, Great tit, Coal tit, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Jackdaw, Hooded Crow, Woodpigeon