Trip Leader: Garry Wilkinson

Participants: Shirley Dunlop, Gerard McGeehan, Carol Gillespie, Allen Gillespie, Nigel Moore, Sam Martin, Martin Lamb

Wind, rain and a forecast for more of the same, greeted the intrepid few who gathered at University Square, Belfast for the 8.30 am kick-off.  It was therefore with relatively limited expectations that we set off for our first stop – Magilligan Point, Lough Foyle. To the surprise and delight of all, the weather gradually picked up on route and by the time we arrived there were glints of sun, with only the slightest hint of rain in the air.

Watching us watching you, Magilligan, by Martin Lamb

As we headed across the dunes at Magilligan Point, our first sight of a windy Lough Foyle immediately revealed two dark phase Arctic Skuas flying rapidly upstream.  An excellent start.  The beach contained hundreds of Sanderling, perhaps more than 500, many crouched behind clumps of seaweed and others scuttling across the sand like windblown foam.  Mixed in were smaller numbers of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, a few Bar-Tailed Godwit and a single Grey Plover.

Sanderling, Magilligan, by Martin Lamb

Skuas continued to put on a great show for the duration of our stay at the Point, harrying the good number of Sandwich and Arctic Tern feeding at the mouth of the Lough.  There were at least two dark phase and two light phase birds, possibly more.  We also had excellent views of a summer plumage Red Throated Diver feeding close to the near shore along with a couple of Great Crested Grebe and Eider Duck. Eventually with more persistent rain arriving we retreated to the cars for a well earned coffee. 

Redshank, Bann Estuary, by Martin Lamb

Then it was on to the turf fields at Myroe  in search of a Buff Breasted Sandpiper reported the night before.  Unfortunately Myroe couldn’t match the excitement of Magilligan.  The turf fields were extremely quiet with no sign of the Buff Breast.  The estuary of the River Roe was more productive with decent numbers of the normal species seen, along with a single Curlew Sandpiper, well spotted by Gerard.

Curlew, Bann Estuary, by Martin Lamb

Given the now steady rain, we decided that the hide at the Bann Estuary would be the most comfortable venue to finish the day.  Like Myroe this was relatively quiet, although we did have Red Breasted Merganser, Dunlin, Sanderling, Curlew, Redshank, Bar Tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher and 3 distant Knot, amongst others.   However, the scene was suddenly enlivened when the waders lifted in response to the silhouette of a falcon over the far dunes.  This proved to be a Peregrine.  The bird stooped at high speed along the opposite bank of the river, to the misfortune of a Sanderling and continued to give good views as it sought a resting spot and consumed its prey.  A great finish to the day.

Allen Gillespie

Bar Tailed Godwit, Bann Estuary, by Martin Lamb