Friday, 15 April 2016

First Raptor Nests...

      Out and About       
The weather has continued to be mainly wet and sometimes quite windy.  At times the wind has been coming from a north-easterly direction, making it feel a bit chilly.  I have continued to survey the Brent Geese at the Myroe Levels looking for ringed individuals, with a fair bit of success.  This gives me something to do, as I do not want to disturb nesting birds in this weather.

My efforts at Myroe has been welcomed by Graham McElwaine of the Irish Brent Goose Research Group.  Looking for ringed Brents had never crossed my mind, but here, I have found a niche that is proving to be of great value to the group with some of my finds.  In the last couple of weeks my total of ringed Brents has jumped from 6 to 56 birds.

Graham has said that some of my recordings are like 'Gold Nuggets' to the research, as it appears Myroe is being used as a staging post for some of these geese coming up Ireland, before their final 'push' to Iceland.  Here they will rest and feed-up, eventually flying to the Arctic Circle and their breeding grounds in Northern Canada and Greenland.

On one particular visit, the flock of Brents numbered somewhere between 300 and 350 birds.  As my camera can 'outreach' my telescope, I do not attempt to record ring numbers on site.  I find it more efficient to zoom into the flock, moving the camera through the birds and then taking shots when rings are spotted.  On returning home, I trawl through the photos, making a list of individual numbers.

On this occasion, I recorded 28 'colour-ringed' Brents, 15 were re-sightings of birds spotted previously and 13 were new sightings.  Graham has sent me the files of all these birds, but it would take up too much time to go through these and present them on my Blog.  I shall however, make a few more visits to Myroe, before the stragglers leave for Iceland.

With the few breaks in the weather, I have been able to get out and about a bit and have a look for a nests.  I have found a few Buzzard and Peregrine nests and a couple of these will feature on this Blog. I can watch them without causing any disturbance and where my camera has the reach to take photos.

I cannot name these sites, as they have to be kept confidential, but will name them as Peregrine (site 1), Buzzard (site 1), etc.  I shall follow these throughout the next couple of months.

Many Ravens will now have young in their nests, as these birds lay their eggs in late February and early March.  Over the next few weeks, I shall try and obtain 'head counts' of the number of young in each nest that I find.

The Ravens nesting in the quarry close to where I live, are quite advanced, with fairly large young in the nest.  I counted at least four, but looking at the photo of the chicks, there appears to be five.  As the young become larger, they will stand around the nest and a final 'head-count' can then be made.

Raven nest at Clinty Quarry with youngsters clearly visible

Clinty Quarry  -  Camera zoomed into the young

I located another Raven nest at Moorfields Quarry.  This nest has smaller young in it, as heads could be seen moving while I was using the telescope.  It will be another couple of weeks, before I can obtain a final 'head-count' here.

Raven nest at Moorfields Quarry

At present, I have found two Peregrines sites, where I can watch from a distance without disturbing the birds.  At 'Site 1', the female is sitting incubating eggs and at 'Site 2', incubation has not yet started, as an adult was observed standing over an egg/eggs.

Peregrine (Site 1)  -  Female incubating eggs on ledge of cliff face

Peregrine (Site 1)  -  Close up of female sitting on the eggs

Peregrine (Site 2)  -  Adult standing over egg/eggs

I have also located three Buzzard nests which can be viewed whilst parked on the road, though only one can be clearly watched.  This becomes Buzzard (Site 1), which will be interesting, as the plantation they have nested in is quite close to human activity.

A pair of Ravens appear to be nesting here as well and there has been a lot of friction between the two species, as the plantation is very small in area.  I had to quickly give up on looking for the Raven's nest, once I realised the Buzzards were nesting on the same site. 

Buzzard (Site 1)  -  Female sitting incubating eggs

I also found the nest of a Lapwing while in the hills.  These birds were quite common back in the 80's and since then their numbers have dwindled with modern farming practices being cited as one of the causes.  Efforts to encourage farmers to become more wildlife friendly appear to be having an effect.  I have noticed in the last couple of years, these wonderful little birds seem to be making a come-back.

I hope this trend continues, but I would still personably put part of the  blame on the increased population of foxes.  Back in the 80's, I knew a man who would shoot up to 700 foxes each year, as he was getting paid for the fur.  When this stopped, he stopped the shooting and this co-insided with the population crash of breeding waders in the hills.

My finding of this nest, probably couldn't have happened at a better time.  A pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were standing just 30 feet away from the nest and they were just waiting on the chance of an easy meal.  This pair of Lapwings may have got off lucky this time, but being ground nesters, the eggs are always at risk.

Lapwing nest on the ground  (10 Apr 2016)

The Lapwing eggs close up  (10 Apr 2016)

An indication of the size of the eggs  (10 Apr 2016)

Female Lapwing quickly returned to incubate the eggs  (10 Apr 2016)


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