Report on Holy Island Day Tour - 6 September 2014

What a lovely day for birdwatching. The sun shone, the winds were light and it was pleasantly warm. Would the weather hold? Could it really be this nice all day? Thankfully the answer proved to be a resounding yes - a remarkable sunny and windless day, in stark contrast to some wild autumn days I have known!

We started on the causeway to watch the waders and picked up a Greenshank and 2 Little Egrets, in addition to the usual mix of Redshank, Curlew, Dunlin and solitary Grey Plover. Then onto the island before the tide came in. We parked up and walked back to the causeway's edge to watch Bar-tailed Godwits and the first Pale-bellied Brent Geese of the autumn. Turnabout and a short walk along Chare Ends to see departing summer migrants feeding on insects in the midday sun - Wheatear, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Whinchat. The chat was a new bird for most of our party and well appreciated with people commenting on its attractive apricot colouring. We walked back and I checked the causeway posts, now protruding above the water separating us from the mainland. EUREKA! An Osprey was sitting on top of a post well out to sea, taking advantage of this ideal hunting 'perch' (if you pardon the pun). Was that to be our star bird?

Of course there was more. An adult Mediterranean Gull among the many score of Redshank, Teal and Lapwing on the Rocket Field. The Gannets, Fulmar and Sandwich terns flying past offshore. The male Pintail on the Lough, still in eclipse plumage. So much to enjoy and a grand total of 63 species seen that didn't include the young Merlin I spotted as we drove away from the island. But what about our bird of the day? Was it the Golden Plover we saw in flocks of upto 300 flying past and overhead? Was it our rarest find - that Osprey? Or was it a Starling - one of our commonest birds? By the harbour a young bird with a mix of juvenile and adult feathering ventured right up to us and we marveled at the iridescence of its plumage. Aren't birds great!

Mark Winter

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