The play area (climbing frame area, not the woods or swamp) will be temporarily closed for a short period as we are installing a new Play Tower- we apologise for any inconvenience.

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Latest sightings

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)

Recent Sightings 7th March 2022

Recent Sightings 7th March 2022

The windy and cold weather at low tide on Monday had some birds tucked away, but there were still a few interesting visitors to our ponds, lakes and estuary at Castle Espie. The Green-winged teal was once again spotted on the edge of the shingle bank amongst the usual collection of Gadwall, Mallard and Common teal. The Main Lake also played host to a male Common Goldeneye at the weekend which is an unusual but welcome sight. Common Goldeneye ducks are slightly different to our Barrow’s Goldeneye collection ducks, as they have a green iridescent head and a much smaller white patch behind the beak. They are a diving duck, usually seeking out aquatic invertebrates and insects beneath the surface. Out on the Estuary, a small group of Black-tail godwit were spotted busily searching for food on the mudflats with their specialized beaks. These birds are just starting to lose their winter plumage, and are slowly starting to exhibit an orangey brown colour to their necks and chest in time for the summer. The Limestone lake was occupied once again by a pair of Little grebes. This attractive little bird is a small diver, often disappearing and resurfacing some distance away, making it hard to find and observe - but rewarding when spotted! You can get a good view of Limestone lake from the Woodland lookout, the bench near the gunpowder store in the Liberties and from the path next to the Amphitheatre. And finally, on the Peninsular Saltmarsh, amongst the reeds, was a Reed bunting (pictured). Reed buntings are true to their name, and are often found in reed beds and wetlands, feeding on seeds and invertebrates. The lookout onto the saltmarsh at the end of the reserve is a good place to spot these little passerines. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Herring gull 6, Oystercatcher 132, Redshank 13, Hooded crow 1, Light-bellied brent goose 32, Black-headed gull 13, Curlew 15, Shelduck 32, Lesser black-backed gull 4, Little egret 2, Black-tail godwit 23, Common gull 2, Eider 24, Dunlin (flying) ~60 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 19, Tufted duck 3, Teal 21, Moorhen 3, Coot 1, Little grebe 1, Shelduck 2 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 14, Teal 37, Gadwall 10, Oystercatcher 2, Green-winged teal 1, Herring gull 1, Black-headed gull 1, Hooded crow 1, Moorhen 2 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Moorhen 3, Teal 7 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Moorhen 1, Mallard 8, Teal 2 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Redshank 1 Brickworks Jackdaw 4 Limestone Lake Mallard 2, Little grebe 2 Peninsula Saltmarsh Black-headed gull 1, Reed bunting 1 Peninsula Field Woodland Blackbird, Wren, Chaffinch, Great tit, Siskin, Robin, Blue tit, Wood pigeon, Goldcrest, Coal tit, Goldfinch, Magpie

Recent Sightings 28th Feb 2022

Recent Sightings 28th Feb 2022

There’s been some great sightings this week so far, with the numbers below from Monday’s bird count at high tide. The Kingfisher was spotted on its usual perch overlooking the main lake, easily seen from the collection area and the Brent hide. It’s always a joy to see this bright little bird between the backdrop of trees and the stillness of the main lake. There has also been a Black-tailed godwit making its way between the main lake, shingle bank and wadermarsh recently, often seen busily burying its long bill into the soft ground in search for food. At this time of year, these birds are a greyish brown colour, but as the summer creeps in, their plumage will turn to a bright orangey-brown on the neck and underbelly. Moving further into the reserve to the freshwater lagoon, Greylag geese have been seen multiple times in the morning either on the islands of the lagoon or on the shingle bank next to the main lake. These impressive birds are the UK’s largest species of goose! They are mainly grazers and are quite similar in appearance to the White-fronted geese found in the collection area, with the main difference being that Graylag do not have a distinctive white mark above their bill like our collection birds. From the Limekiln Observatory and the Peninsular field lookout, the small, stripey form of a Snipe was spotted by our placement student on Monday. These little birds are usually found on wet grassland and marshes, probing for invertebrates with its long, sensitive beak, so it was a surprise to see one on the edge of the pier! During the breeding season, the male can be heard “drumming” as its tail feathers vibrate in the wind. They are a similar looking bird to the Woodcock, but the easiest way to distinguish between the two is that Snipe are found in wetland areas unlike the, appropriately named, woodland-dwelling Woodcock. And finally, spotted on the Peninsular field from the lookout – a Meadow pipit. A beautiful little brown passerine which favours open grasslands and moorland, has a high-pitched call, and is a perfect little bird to welcome us into spring. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Herring gull 1, Oystercatcher 212, Redshank 1, Light-bellied brent goose 148, Black-headed gull 37, Shelduck 12, Moorhen 1. Eider duck 75, Common gull 1, Dunlin 22, Turnstone 11, Snipe 1 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 50, Tufted duck 4, Teal 18, Coot 1, Little grebe 2, Black-headed gull 2, Black-tailed godwit 1, Kingfisher 1, Grey wagtail 2 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Teal 30, Oystercatcher 65, Black-tailed godwit 2, Black-headed gull 12 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Moorhen 4, Teal 47, Gadwall 6, Redshank 6, Greenshank 2, Jackdaw 1 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Moorhen 5, Mallard 3, Teal 4, Greylag goose 3 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Teal 1, Greenshank 1, Black-headed gull 1 Brickworks Limestone Lake Mallard 7, Little grebe 1 Peninsula Saltmarsh Redshank 1, Little egret 1, Black-headed gull 1, Greenshank 1, Meadow pipit 1 Peninsula Field Woodland Blackbird, Wren, Chaffinch, Great tit, Siskin, Robin, Blue tit, Wood pigeon, Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Coal tit, Long-tailed tit, Goldfinch

Recent Sightings 21st Feb 2022

Recent Sightings 21st Feb 2022

The following sightings were taken on Monday from the reserve at Castle Espie on a low tide. A group of Eider ducks are often a reliable sight bobbing up and down with the waves out on the lough, easily visible from both the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory. This week, they did not disappoint! They are the UK’s heaviest duck and are also, surprisingly, our fastest flying duck. They are famed for their soft down feathers, which the female uses to line their nest. The Green-winged teal was spotted again on the Wader Marsh alongside the very similar Common teal. The Brent hide offers the best viewpoint for this habitat, and gives you a good chance to try and spot the Green-wing. About 200 Black-tailed godwits were spotted out on the Estuary, birds which often form large groups when out feeding on the mudflats. These elegant birds are monogamous and can form breeding pairs for up to 25 years! They are classified as Red under Birds of Conservation Concern, so it’s a pleasure to see them on Strangford Lough from our hides here. They are similar in size and shape to Curlew, but the easiest way to tell them apart is their slightly upturned beak, as opposed to the Curlews famously down curved beak. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Herring gull 3, Oystercatcher 251, Redshank 56, Light-bellied brent goose 55, Black-headed gull 45, Shelduck 1, Knot ~350, Eider 16, Common gull 1, Lesser black-backed gull 4, Curlew 6, Black-tailed godwit ~ 200, Hooded crow 2, Dunlin 40, Golden plover 50 (flying past) Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 34, Teal 21, Little egret 1, Goldeneye 1, Gadwall 2, Wood pigeon 1, Raven 2 (flying over) Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 16, Teal 7, Redshank 1, Cormorant 1 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Moorhen 4, Greenshank 3, Gadwall 8, Teal 91, Mallard 2, Green-winged teal 1, Hooded crow 1 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Moorhen 1 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Redshank 2, Greenshank 1 Brickworks Jackdaw 4 Limestone Lake Little grebe 1 Peninsula Saltmarsh Peninsula Field Woodland Blackbird, Wren, Chaffinch, Great tit, Siskin, Robin, Wood pigeon, Coal tit, Blue tit, Goldfinch, Goldcrest, Bullfinch

Recent Sightings 14th Feb 2022

Recent Sightings 14th Feb 2022

The following sightings were taken on Monday from the reserve at Castle Espie on a low tide. The Green-winged Teal is still being spotted on the Main Lake amongst the usual groups of Common Teal and Mallard. It is distinguishable from the Common Teal by its vertical white stripe on the flank and much less visible yellow markings on the head of the male. The Kingfisher was also spotted, perched motionless overlooking the Main Lake. Kingfishers are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and are of conservation Least Concern. They feed on small fish and aquatic insects, and can often be found near still or slow flowing water. It has been seen several times perching on branches to the right of The Turtle Hide, and can be easily spotted through binoculars by its striking bright colours. A group of 10 Turnstone were spotted on the Estuary, a small brown and white bird with a distinct black and white head pattern. Their name is derived from the way they tend to turn over stones to seek out food from underneath them. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Herring gull 2, Oystercatcher 219, Redshank 7, Light-bellied brent goose 2, Black-headed gull 4, Shelduck 1, Knot ~320, Greater black-backed gull 2, Eider 24, Turnstone 10, Jackdaw 2 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 52, Tufted duck 4, Teal 17, Little egret 1, Kingfisher 1, Grey Wagtail 2 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 35, Teal 67, Oystercatcher 4, Green-winged teal 1, Common gull 1, Black-headed gull 1 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Moorhen 2, Greenshank 2, Shelduck 2, Gadwall 7, Redshank 5, Teal 8 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Moorhen 1, Mallard 2, Teal 1, Redshank 1, Hooded crow 1 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Redshank 2, Wood pigeon 3 Brickworks Limestone Lake Moorhen 1, Little grebe 1 Peninsula Saltmarsh Redshank 1, Light-bellied brent goose 7, Curlew 1, Herring gull 1 Peninsula Field Woodland Blackbird, Wren, Chaffinch, Great tit, Siskin, Robin, Wood pigeon, Coal tit, Magpie

Recent Sightings 7th Feb 2022

Recent Sightings 7th Feb 2022

The following sightings were taken on Monday from the reserve at Castle Espie on a low tide. The Green-winged teal is continuing to remain amongst the flock of Teal on the reserve, and can be best viewed on the shingle bank while loafing on the edge. We have also had a male Pintail amongst the waterfowl on the main lake this past few weeks, and it has recently been joined by another male. Pintail are winter visitors to Strangford lough but are not often seen on the reserve at Castle Espie and the estuary bordering it. Pintail have an attractive plumage with elongated tail feathers, particularity prominent in the male, and this is where the species gets its name. The males also have a brown head and white breast with a white stripe extending from the breast into the head feathers. They are a very distinctive species and shouldn't be confused with any other duck. The females, like many other duck species, are brown and drab in comparison to the male, but also possess elongated tail feathers, which are a good identification feature to separate from other species. Strangford Lough is one of the top sites in the country for this species and it is red listed due to the decline in the breeding population across Europe in recent years. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Herring gull 5, Oystercatcher 41, Redshank 16, Hooded crow 1, Light-bellied brent goose 10, Black-headed gull 78, Curlew 6, Shelduck 64, Red-breasted merganser 3, Knot ~250, Wigeon 2, Grey heron 1, Lesser black-backed gull 1, Little egret 5 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 40, Tufted duck 9, Teal 54, Moorhen 5, Gadwall 2, Coot 2, Little egret 2 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 62, Teal 62, Gadwall 4, Wood pigeon 1, Oystercatcher 16, Green-wing teal 1, Herring gull 1, Pintail 2, Black-tailed godwit 2 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Moorhen 11 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Moorhen 2, Mallard 15, Teal 1 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Teal 2, Little grebe 2 Brickworks Jackdaw 1 Limestone Lake Moorhen 1 Peninsula Saltmarsh Redshank 1 Peninsula Field Jackdaw 1 Woodland Blackbird, Wren, Chaffinch, Great tit, Siskin, Robin, Blue tit, Wood pigeon, Jackdaw, Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Coal tit, Buzzard, Pied wagtail, Grey wagtail

Recent Sightings 31st Jan 2022

Recent Sightings 31st Jan 2022

The following sightings were taken yesterday from the reserve at Castle Espie on a high tide. Many will be very familiar with the common sight of Eurasian teal on the reserve. They have started to come into the reserve in numbers in recent years, and although they are quite skittish, they can be seen in those areas that are least disturbed like the far side of the main lake and the wadermarsh. Teal are an important wintering bird on Strangford Lough with a couple of thousand regularly visiting the Lough each year. The flock at Castle Espie has recently been joined by an American cousin, the Green-winged teal. Although, the two species evolved differently, they are quite similar in appearance, particularly the female and young. However, the male has subtle differences to distinguish it from the resident teal. The adult male has a white vertical stripe on its flank, a feature which is not present in the Eurasian teal. The adult male also does not have the obvious horizontal white stripe across the body, and in addition, the yellow band on the head is much reduced. The Green-wing is a fairly uncommon vagrant to Ireland and has been staying amongst the flock on the reserve. The bird has been most often spotted in the sheltered side of the shingle bank, particularly at high tide. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Turnstone 7, Oystercatcher 168, Redshank 5, Dunlin 10, Hooded crow 2, Light-bellied brent goose 14, Redshank 80, Golden plover 270, Black-headed gull 3, Curlew 4, Great-crested grebe 1, Eider 56, Greenshank 5, Shelduck 20 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 118, Tufted duck 10, Teal 7, Moorhen 3, Black-headed gull 1, Gadwall 4 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 53, Teal 35, Green-wing teal 1, Cormorant 1, Pintail 1 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Moorhen 10, Redshank 5, Teal 2 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Moorhen 1, Mallard 9, Little grebe 1 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Teal 9, Little grebe 1, Redshank 1, Black-headed gull 1, Hooded crow 1 Brickworks Jackdaw 1 Limestone Lake Moorhen 2 Peninsula Saltmarsh Redshank 2, Meadow pipit 1, Greenshank 1, Little egret 1 Peninsula Field Mistle thrush 1 Woodland Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Great tit, Siskin, Robin, Blue tit, Wood pigeon, Magpie, Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Coal tit

Recent Sightings 17th Jan 2022

Recent Sightings 17th Jan 2022

The following sightings were taken yesterday from the reserve at Castle Espie on a rising tide. This time of year provides an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Kingfisher on the reserve, which always adds a bit of colour to the damp, grey days. During the breeding season they are hard to spot and remain elusive, but approaching the winter they are more easily seen and heard, and are often spotted flying between the various waterbodies, or fishing from a perch. They are unmistakable due to their bright iridescent blue, and orange often seen flying low and fast over water. They will hunt small fish and invertebrates from their water-side perches. They like to use the edges of sluices and overhanging branches, where they will sit patiently until a fish comes into range. Then, after a bob of the head to judge depth, they dive with a swift motion into the water to catch their prey before they even become aware they are there. They close their eyes before entering the water, effectively catching their prey blind. The bird is amber listed and is vulnerable to pollution, as well as changes in watercourses and prey availability. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Greylag goose 20, Eider 92, Shelduck 103, Redshank 2, Light-bellied brent goose 54, Greater black-backed gull 1, Oystercatcher 232, Great crested grebe 7, Little egret 4, Curlew 1, Greenshank 3, Grey heron 1, Hooded crow 1, Dunlin 2, Goldeneye 8, Common gull 1 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 106, Tufted duck 1, Teal 9, Moorhen 3, Black-headed gull 3, Teal 5, Gadwall 3 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Gadwall 3, Mallard 64, Teal 102, Jackdaw 2, Black-headed gull 24, Shoveler 1, Moorhen 2 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Moorhen 6, Redshank 8, Kingfisher 1 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Moorhen 1, Redshank 1 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Little grebe 2, Hooded crow 3, Black-headed gull 1 Brickworks Jackdaw 1 Limestone Lake Little grebe 1, Mallard 2 Peninsula Saltmarsh Redshank 1, Meadow pipit 1 Peninsula Field Jackdaw 1 Woodland Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Great tit, Siskin, Robin, Blue tit, Wood pigeon, Magpie, Bullfinch

Recent Sightings 10th Jan 2022

Recent Sightings 10th Jan 2022

The following sightings were taken yesterday from the reserve at Castle Espie on a low tide. As we are in the middle of winter, and the day length is short, the movement of migrating birds has slowed down, with many birds settled in their wintering spots until there is the urge to move back to their breeding grounds. Some species continue to roam throughout the winter months in search of food, and congregate in flocks, therefore, keep a lookout for flocks of thrushes that can include Mistle thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare. There are also flocks of finches, searching for seeds left from the autumn harvest. You may see Siskin, which is a small finch, with a thin, pointed bill and forked tail (a good feature to identify in flight). Another small bird commonly seem in small flocks, is the Long-tailed tit. They reputably huddle together to preserve warmth, and recent evidence suggests they will flock together over winter to keep warm. The groups typically consist of close relatives and family groups. They can occasionally be seen in the woodland and in Swamp area in particular. Small birds are particularly vulnerable in cold weather as they lose heat quickly, and providing food at a bird table during the winter months can assist the survivability of these smaller species. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Eider 48, Shelduck 162, Redshank 24, Light-bellied brent goose 72, Wigeon 2, Black-headed gull 9, Oystercatcher 110, Herring gull 2, Grey heron 1, Little egret 1, Curlew 12, Black-headed gull 10, Common gull 2, Hooded crow 3 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard 82, Tufted duck 5, Teal 9 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Gadwall 10, Mallard 61, Teal 78, Jackdaw 1 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Moorhen 7 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Mallard 1 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Little grebe 2, Redshank 1, Black-headed gull 2, Moorhen 1 Brickworks Jackdaw 1 Limestone Lake Little grebe 1 Peninsula Saltmarsh Black-headed gull 1 Peninsula Field Jackdaw 1 Woodland Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Great tit, Coal tit, Robin, Blue tit, Wood pigeon, Long-tailed tit, Bullfinch

Recent Sightings 3rd Jan 2022

Recent Sightings 3rd Jan 2022

The following sightings were taken yesterday from the reserve at Castle Espie on a rising tide. Teal continue to be a familiar sight on the reserve, having established a few years ago. These small ducks can be seen mainly on the edge of the Shingle bank, and on the Wadermarsh. As with many ducks, there is a difference between the genders, with the male sporting a showier plumage. They have a brown head, with a distinctive green patch across the eye, tinged with yellow. The grey body is broken by a horizontal white strip, which can be a helpful identification feature at distance. The female, in contrast, is streaked brown, and mottled. A green speculum and small size are useful identifiers for the species. In flight, the bird’s form resembles that of waders in flight, and they are quick to the air if disturbed. Another way to identify the species is by their call. They have a distinctive whistling ‘peep’ sound and are a fairly vocal species. Locally, a significant number of Teal visit these shores in winter making them an important amber species. Estuary - visible from the Brent Hide and the Limekiln Observatory Eider 86, Shelduck 94, Redshank 112, Light-bellied brent goose 11, Wigeon 2, Black-headed gull 9, Oystercatcher 223, Heron 1, Little egret 13, Greenshank 1, Curlew 26, Grey plover 3, Greater-black backed gull 1, Lesser black-backed gull 1, Hooded crow 20 Main lake - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Mallard47, Tufted duck 7, Teal 27, Moorhen 3 Shingle Bank - visible from Sensory garden and Visitor Centre Oystercatcher 10, Mallard 43, Teal 36, Jackdaw 2 Wadermarsh - visible from Wadermarsh lookout and Brent Hide Oystercatcher 1, Redshank 5, Moorhen 4, Gadwall 8, Teal 3, Kingfisher 1 Freshwater Lagoon - visible from Brent Hide and Crannóg Mallard 3, Teal 14, Moorhen 2 Saline Lagoon - visible from Limekiln observatory Little grebe 1, Redshank 1, Oystercatcher 1, Black-headed gull 1, Brickworks Jackdaw 11 Limestone Lake Little grebe 1 Peninsula Saltmarsh Curlew 3 Peninsula Field Jackdaw 1 Woodland Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Great tit, Coal tit, Robin, Blue tit, Wood pigeon, Goldcrest, Song thrush, Magpie, Bullfinch