Belfast Harbour Lagoon

Belfast Harbour Lagoon

I took the notion to do a bit of birdwatching at the Harbour Reserve today, and I’m glad I did!

Following a fishing vessel into the harbour when I arrived at the end of the road by the lagoon, was a Lesser Black-backed Gull, my first of the year, along with all the usual gull rabble. The cormorants at the end of the pier were sporting white thigh patches, and I was finally able to confidently say “they are not shags” for the first time in quite a while.

A seal came swimming along the shore but didn’t stay for a photo. At one point I looked up to see a sky full of shelducks, which had been temporarily spooked off the lagoon. Didn’t have the sense to check for a peregrine. And both types of guillemot were present in the channel, as well as a female red-breasted merganser.

The photo above shows the scene that greeted me as I opened the viewing flaps at the north hide. After picking out a pair of Shovelers…

Shoveler duck and drake

May McFettridge's makeup artists!

…and loads of Black-tailed Godwits…

Black-tailed Godwits

Godwits. That must be prophetic.

… I was joined by Stephen Maxwell, a photographer whose name I had seen online but had never actually met. First words out of his mouth: “Have you seen the Iceland Gull?”

“Where?”

Spot the Iceland Gull!

Spot the Iceland Gull!

He directed my attention to the blue ship. Below the letters AN…

Iceland Gull at Belfast Harbour Reserve, 14 Feb 2012

Icelånd Gull!!!

Ta-da!

There has been quite a lot of rare gull activity in Northern Ireland lately: the Iceland Gull is the most common of these ‘rarities’ – it’s about the size of a herring gull, but paler and with white wingtips. I’ve been down at the Lagan Weir on several occasions after school to try and see one, but with no luck. Now, here was one, and in full adult plumage at that. I gazed at his Icelandicness. Just lovely.

I will now describe the rest of this photo extremely quickly: theresalesserblackbackedgullbehindhisicelandicnessandloadsofcommonandblackheadedgullsperhapsaherringgullandhalfashelduckintheupperrighthandcorner.

Having gorged on Icelandicness I headed round to the Observation Room where King of the Weir Ronald and several other birdwatchers, including Stephen who had retreated earlier, were munching cookies and sipping tea. It would be remiss of me not to mention the smaller birds: two greenfinches (that’s a good number for them!) flitted over my head as I came in, and there was a reed bunting at the feeder.

Munching a cookie, and looking over the hide checklist for the day, I noticed ‘Golden Plover: 90’. That would be a new tick for me. “Are they still about?” I asked Ronald. Sure enough, in the spotting scope I could see them, absolutely unmistakeable, just like the photos. No job for binocs though, which is why I hadn’t picked them up before. Shortly, they were all up in the air, a cloud of golden confetti.

And with that, I said my goodbyes and left.

Teal drake

I KNOW THIS IS NOT A GOLDEN PLOVER BUT I DIDN'T HAVE THE SENSE TO TAKE A PHOTO THROUGH THE SCOPE!!!

2012 BRITISH BIRDS: 69
life list BRITISH BIRDS: 113

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