Belfast Local Group trip to Whitehead Harbour and Glynn Village, 17 February 2024

(by Moyra McMaster)

Signage by Glynn Village (Photo: Moyra McMaster)

Our RSPB Belfast Local Group (LG) travelled to Whitehead for our February outing. [Editor: See our past trips to Whitehead in February 2023 and 2022 or learn all of our other past group trips!] Twelve members met at the Whitehead Harbour car park for 10am on Saturday 17 February 2024. The outing was organised for us by Mel O’Hagan who welcomed everyone and suggested the possibility of continuing the fieldtrip to Glynn village. Mel informed us that he had been at Whitehead in January and had seen a Black Redstart so we were setting our hopes high for the morning. Mervyn Boyd was again our acting bird guide leader for the morning, as David Nixon was unable to make the outing.

On arrival it was a dry, mild morning, temperature 9˚C. There was a slight breeze coming off Belfast Lough. However, there was a particularly heavy fog over the lough thus making us believe there would be very few sightings from the lough. As we made our way over to the eastern point of the car park overlooking Whitehead Bay, five Pied Wagtails were busy scurrying around the carpark ground. A Grey Heron stayed motionless long enough for us to see it on the rocks to our left; this was followed by three or four Cormorants in flight close to the shore. It was appreciated that these Cormorants landed on a rock alongside a Shag allowing us to see their differences clearly. Although the fog persisted, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull and male and female Eider were all recorded. We made our way round to the harbour, the pier making a good vantage point from which to survey the shoreline. The tide was out but we saw around twenty Dunlin to-ing and fro-ing in and around the harbour. We got good sightings of the regulars, including Oystercatcher, Redshank, Ringed Plover and Turnstone.   

Rock Pipit (Photo: Aaron Long)

We made our way westwards along the promenade determined to see the Black Redstart, and by now the fog over the lough was beginning to lift somewhat. There was no Black Redstart to be seen but our spirits were lifted by a Rock Pipit spotted on the promenade wall. Jemma Davies, BTO NI’s Engagement Co-ordinator, had now joined us and reported that her husband had spotted a Red-throated Diver in the bay. We hastily made our way back to the harbour and Mervyn checked that everyone got a good sighting of the lone Red-throated Diver. Mervyn was able to see for us the beginnings of the reddish colouring on the upper chest indicating the start of its summer plumage, it was also noted with surprise to see it so close to the shoreline.

We re-grouped in the carpark and eight of us decided to continue to Glynn. Glynn village is six miles northwest of Whitehead and on our arrival it was raining quite heavily, as had been forecasted. We made a bee-line to the Glynn Halt by a short walk to the train station platform on the Belfast to Larne railway line, where we were very grateful for the cover in the shelter which worked perfectly and doubled-up as a birding hide.

Red-throated Diver–note the beginnings of red on the throat (Photo: Aaron Long)

Although the tide was well out and the fog had now lifted, there were still plenty of sightings, which included Black-tailed Godwit, Little Egret and Mute Swan. Mallard, including a snow-white domestic Mallard, Teal and Wigeon were all enjoying the flow of the river Glynn into Larne Lough. Mervyn spotted six Red-breasted Merganser; flocks of Turnstone and Dunlin were just visible in flight at the shoreline. Mervyn, just before leaving the railway platform, got a female Goldeneye duck confirmed, and a Great Crested Grebe.

Although the rain had eased, some decided it was home time. Luckily for us, three of our number – Andy, Margaret and Mervyn – couldn’t leave without taking in a quick scan around the picturesque Glynn River, and they were not disappointed. They did the river walk for about thirty minutes and got the Dipper plus Blackbird, Starling, Magpie, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Goldfinch and House Sparrow. We had noted before leaving Whitehead the absence of seeing these garden birds, so it was not only good to have our overall sightings for the trip numbers boosted, but also particularly reassuring.

What started out as a foggy, misty morning finished as a really successful morning with forty-eight bird sightings across all three stops. Thanks to Mel for organising a really enjoyable fieldtrip and also to Mervyn, once again, for stepping in as our bird guide leader for the day and sharing his knowledge and expertise with us all.

[See the lists for Whitehead and Glynn on eBird.]

Sightings:

  1. Black Guillemot
  2. Blackbird
  3. Black-headed Gull
  4. Black-tailed Godwit – three
  5. Chaffinch
  6. Collared Dove
  7. Common Gull
  8. Cormorant
  9. Curlew
  10. Dipper
  11. Dunlin – twenty at Whitehead Harbour
  12. Dunnock
  13. Eider
  14. Feral Pigeon
  15. Goldeneye – female
  16. Goldfinch
  17. Great Black-backed Gull
  18. Great Crested Grebe
  19. Greenshank
  20. Grey Heron
  21. Herring Gull
  22. Hooded Crow
  23. House Sparrow
  24. Jackdaw
  25. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  26. Linnet
  27. Little Egret
  28. Magpie
  29. Mallard plus a [white] domestic mallard
  30. Meadow Pipit
  31. Mute Swan
  32. Oystercatcher
  33. Pied wagtail
  34. Redshank
  35. Red-throated Diver
  36. Red-breasted Merganser – six
  37. Ringed Plover
  38. Robin
  39. Rock Pipit
  40. Rook
  41. Shag
  42. Song Thrush
  43. Starling
  44. Teal
  45. Turnstone
  46. Wigeon
  47. Woodpigeon
  48. Wren