NIOC Yellowhammer Field Trip Ards Peninsula -15/03/14
Nine members ventured forth on a beautiful but windy Saturday under the expert guidance of RSPB Officer Claire Barnett. Claire made the mistake of guaranteeing sight of Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer to the assembled company at Londonderry Park, Newtownards at 9am. Our first port of call was a farm off the Cunningburn Road, belonging to a congenial Herbert Deering, that looked potentially brilliant but with the strong wind proved difficult to locate any birds at close range. A Sparrowhawk was spotted briefly along with distant views of four or five Yellowhammers and a small flock of Linnets. Buzzards seemed to be everywhere but close ups of the prize birds seemed elusive. A dejected and worried Claire moved us on down the coast where we had a brief coffee stop south of Greyabbey and breezy views of Brent Geese and Redshanks. Crossing the ferry we headed to Ballyalton and the farm of Jack & Jean Kelly. Another fantastic farm and the enthusiasm of our hosts for wildlife was plain to everyone. In the garden we had the usual tits on the feeders along with Lesser Redpoll and Goldfinch. Close by, as we parked our cars, it became apparent that the farm was coming down with birds. We soon located a large flock of about 50+ Yellowhammers and over 100 Tree Sparrows. Jack's hedges were managed beneficially for wildlife and the large base to the hedge and height of seven to eight feet provided perches and sanctuary for birds as they dropped into the stubble fields and wild bird crops provided. Another Sparrowhawk was located on a fence post simultaneously with a flock of ten Stock Doves, a rare sight these days. Further on we saw a number of Reed Buntings, more Tree Sparrows and Yellowhammers as well as a field with two pairs of displaying Lapwing. We crossed more fields and spotted a Peregrine Falcon stooping on a flock of Starlings, a Skylark was heard and more Yellowhammers and Tree Sparrows. As we came back to the farm house a Meadow Pipit was spotted and Martin found a female Blackcap in the hedgerow. Uplifted we moved on to our final destination of the day, the Quoile bird hide. Gadwall, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Mallard and Tufted duck were added to the day list along with a small flock of Bar tailed godwits emerging from Winter to breeding plumage. A fantastic day was had by all and our thanks to Herbert, Jack and Claire for making our trip so special.
Garry Wilkinson, Chairman NIOC.