Tag Archive: Lagan


As I was saying, guillemots weren’t the only thing I saw at the Lagan. I also saw several thousand starlings. And this time I had my camera with me!

07Dec11 Starlings

07Dec11 Starlings

07Dec11 Starlings

07Dec11 Starlings

07Dec11 Starlings


07Dec11 Diamagnetism DemoOn Wednesday, some of our physics class went to a lecture about superconductivity, where I accidentally put my finger in liquid nitrogen. The demonstration was a magnet levitating above a dish of yttrium barium copper oxide superconductors (which required cooling to -150C in order to actually work, hence the need for liquid nitrogen). Superconductors are materials with zero electrical resistance, so once a current is flowing in one, it can keep going for billions of years. A magnet placed near a superconductor will induce a current in the superconductor with an associated magnetic field that directly opposes it, and hence the magnet levitates. But as the superconductor had warmed up, the magnet fell down and became attached to it. So when I tried to lift the magnet, the superconductors and dish of liquid nitrogen came with it, and the rest is history.

But putting my finger in liquid nitrogen was actually not as bad as standing beside the Abercorn Basin later that day in a December gale, looking for a female Long-tailed Duck!

07Dec11 Lagan Ferry Docks

When I arrived at the Lagan, walking under the M3, I though I’d found it – a black-and-white bird swimming and diving in the river beside the Odyssey Arena. On closer inspection it was actually a kind of auk which I’d never seen before.

07Dec11 Guillemot

There were two of them, both with a distinctive black eye line through their white faces. I headed on round the path, past a young cormorant fishing in the Abercorn Basin, past the Titanic Museum, down the road to the Titanic dock before I realised I had overestimated the amount of time I had, and had to turn back.

07Dec11 Titanic Museum Belfast

Returning to the Odyssey, I found three of the auks now present – plus a mottled-white Tystie… and then I had my doubts. Were the unidentified auks simply Tysties in winter plumage?

Looking at my RSPB Birds of Britain and Europe, it turns out all Tysties / Black Guillemots have mottled-white plumage in winter, and the black-and-white auk I saw was actually a Guillemot – my 110th British bird!

But wait! That’s not all I saw at the Lagan…

07Dec11 Starling Murmuration

To be continued…

Birding on the Lagan

29Nov11 Black-headed Gull (adult winter) at the Lagan Weir

For the past few weeks a female Long-tailed Duck has been frequenting the Lagan Weir in central Belfast, along with a Kingfisher kingfishing off the pontoons. See NI Birding and NI Birds.

I went down there last Tuesday afternoon to try and find them. (The duck would be a new species for me, and the kingfisher a new tick for the year.) I had a nice time watching black-headed gulls under a clear blue sky (the one in the picture seemed fascinated with little eddies at the side of the weir, and was oblivious to the huge ceramic fish creeping up on him) but I didn’t see any duck or coraciiform of any kind.

But I got a cracker shot of Nula With The Hula (otherwise known as the Lady of Thanksgiving, my favourite sculpture in the entire country).

Lady of Thanksgiving

I mentioned in my post two Sundays ago that our family missed the evening Murmuration of starlings at their roost under the Albert Bridge (just upriver from the weir). Well, a few days later I trotted down the street after school, and rounding the Waterfront Hall saw a



                  stormcloud of starlings…

… but I will leave that story for another day, when I have the sense to bring a camera.

I’ll say this much: it was amazing…

Albert Bridge, Belfast. Not a starling to be seen, but you could certainly hear them.