Friday, 31 May 2013

Bird News Friday 31st May

In Co.Londonderry: A summer plumage Curlew Sandpiper was at the Bann Estuary (Derry Crew!)

NIBirding Friday 31st May

I know you would be enjoying the owl fiasco Willy!

In Co.Antrim: An untagged Golden Eagle was at Capanagh (Dermot Hughes)

In Co.Down: A Great Spotted Woodpecker was at Castlewellan Forest Park

In Co.Armagh: 2 Barnacle Geese of decidedly dodgy origin were at Ardmore Point. Maybe they are wild, maybe they were blown in on the easterly winds? I better ask expert opinion!
The escaped male Red Crested Pochard was still at Reedy Flat along with 50 zillion, million, billion flys most of which Majella let into the car!
Thanks to Shane Wolesly for the photo of the Subalpine Warbler, im not jealous at all!
Final photo of the Laesser Scaup at Lough Shark
Some more photos of the handsome devil Curlew Sandpiper!

Lovely Grey Wagtail by Christine Cassidy
Black Winged Kites should we expect one of these soon when the wind goes southerly?

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Bird Recording In Northern Ireland and the Tawny Owl

An open letter to the NIBA / NIBRC

The NIBA / NIBARC is the relationship between the two inappropriate in this day and age: 
Bird recording in Northern Ireland has been dysfunctional for as long as most of us can remember. The two main bird information services, Flightline, NIBirds Blog plus the NIBARC (Records Committee) operate under one umbrella, the NIBA. In this modern era surely this is unacceptable. The NIBARC should be independent of the bird information services and the NIBA. This is the only way that both can function correctly. An independent Records Committee is an absolute Imperative not only to encourage an increase in record submissions by local birders but to establish a parity of esteem with other National Records Committees.  
The two Bird Information Services run by the NIBA should be allowed to report sightings whatever way they see fit. The NIBARC will adjudicate on all rare bird records and will not be influenced by sightings previously reported by the NIBA. This is the case in both the UK and Ireland.
If someone who is a member of the NIBARC took part in the running of Flightline or the NIBirds Blog this could be construed as a conflict of interest and would seriously undermine the integrity of both organisations.

The NIBA and the NIBARC should be modernized and made fit for purpose. Flightline surely must be the most outdated bird information in the UK. Bird information requires fast co-operative behavior not slow secretive behavior as appears the case with the NIBA and the NIBARC.
Then birders from all round Ireland would know exactly where they stand and I am sure both organizations would receive more support from birders in Northern Ireland. The NIBA has to clearly set it its goals, principles and constitution for all to see. Bird recording at Northern Ireland is at a crossroads. The NIBA can carry on muddling through with their amateur approach and continue to be a laughing stock both locally and nationally or take this opportunity to reform.

The NIBA handle cases of rare birds badly 
The NIBA should have a clear written policy on how to disseminate news of rare birds on an all Ireland level. It would be good practice if this was made available for all to see. Making things up on the hoof is unprofessional in the extreme and shows Northern Ireland Birding in an extremely poor light. Failure to have a policy shows that the Committee is not fit for purpose in this modern era. There should have been a coordinated and professional response but this was sadly lacking.

When news of a rare bird breaks the NIBA must use the "Precautionary Principle" that is commonly used by all organizations. If the Precautionary Principle is not used things can spiral out of control

The NIBARC should also have a clear written policy on how they are going to deal with difficult species with a high risk of being an escape. What happens when the next unringed, wary Greater Flamingo turns up for example? This will have to be treated by the NIBA / NIBARC in exactly the same way as the Tawny Owl or else it will leave itself open to claims of observer discrimination. 

The statement on the Tawny Owl on the NIBirds Blog is a classic example of the way the NIBA operates. It was amateurish, ambiguous and most importantly not signed. Who was this statement from?  The NIBA? The NIBARC?, NIBirds Blog? An individual? Not signing this statement creates confusion and leads to the impression the NIBA still hasn’t got a grip on the situation and are reacting to pressure from birders across Ireland. The NIBA should be proactive on these occasions and not reactive. An amateurish approach is no longer an option.

The recent farce on the Copeland Islands Warbler is another classic example of mismanagement by the NIBA which made them a laughing stock on a Local and National Level.
Past suppression of rare birds by the NIBA must also be addressed in any review of the Organization. If an organization charges members and non members for Bird Information then it must deliver this information unless good reasons exist. Just who makes decisions on suppression and the reasons for suppression must be clearly laid down.

Twitter and the implications with the NIBARC 
It states clearly on the NIBirds Blog and I quote “Our Twitter Feed is @NIBIRDS.” On 16th May Majella Callaghan attempted to join NIBIrds Twitter but has been denied access. We would like the NIBA to state publicly how many other people have been denied access and the reasons why. How can this help anyone not least the NIBA? You DO NOT have to be a member of the NIBA to access this Twitter feed so if the NIBA are running a policy of discrimination by association then they should make this policy clear.
This simple act of discrimination against Majella has implications for the NIBARC because of its link with the NIBA. We would like the NIBA and the NIBARC to explain how anyone could possibly submit a record to the NIBARC, now or in the future after being treated like this? Surely the NIBA and especially the NIBARC should not be trying to alienate any birder. Any interaction of any kind between birders and the NIBA / NIBARC should be positive, again this should be standard policy


The Tawny Owl 
The Tawny Owl has created huge interest from around Ireland as the NIBA knew it would. Birders from around Ireland have looked to the NIBA for advice and they have been given a nod and a wink that this record will be accepted. This was totally unprofessional as how could any investigation into possible escapes take place in this time frame? When the N.I.BA./Flightline mentioned this bird, it should have used the Caveat,” Of unknown/unproven origin", every time. The presumptions of the N.I.Birds Blog and Flightline have already prejudged this Owl's official status and therefore made the task of independently assessing this record factually and honestly, impossible.  

With birds like this Irish Birders North and South make an emotional decision on its origin. They will weigh up the pros and cons and make a rational reasoned decision. Birders in Southern Ireland took this approach with the Baikal Teal when they decided to all tick it after the NIBA couldn’t make a decision. The NIBA has so few major raritys to deal with but the perception is that they do not have the professionalism or know how to deal with them.

For a species to make it on to any National List its credentials should be as close to 100% proof is possible and for high risk escape species like Tawny Owl and Greater Flamingo’s, etc then the bar should be raised even higher again. Surely the only way that birds like this will ever get on to a National List is if it is a ringed bird of known wild origin, anything else would not be acceptable. A Records Committee cannot make an emotional based decision on a record like this although this is the approach they are taking via the NIBirds Blog and Flightline.
With the Owl already the consensus is “why isn’t it a wild bird?” And there is nothing wrong with this train of thought but with a National First this is the complete opposite to the way the bird should be treated. The thinking should be why isn’t it an escape? That is the logical way to approach a bird like this. Research i have undertaken has shown nothing to suggest this could be a wild individual with a slight decline in the UK Breeding population. Without trying too hard i have uncovered an illegal trade in Tawny Owls in Northern Ireland. Whispers of known escaped Tawny Owls in Southern Ireland will also not go away. The tameness of this individual must raise alarm bells even for its strongest supporter.

If the NIBA / NIBARC had a clear written policy on birds like this explaining that only a change in its status in the UK, a ringing recovery or proof that Tawny Owls regularly cross water bodies, are recorded on ships / oil platforms regularly like other Owls would make the Records Committee assess any Tawny Owl record. Birders from around Ireland would know immediately that this bird has no chance of being accepted. They could then make the decision to come and see it based on other factors. Ie the record might be reviewed and accepted at a later date. This is common sense. Backing yourself into a corner should be the last thing you would want.
The NIBARC should reject this bird immediately. There is no reason to pend it, this will only add fuel to the fire and lead to birders from around Ireland accepting it themselves because come on who wants to travel the length and breadth of the country and admit that it was an escaped bird. Human nature will drive this record forward and Tawny Owl will de facto be added to the everyone's Irish List once again by passing the official route. Unless the NIBA act now. If a ringed wild Tawny Owl is then found then the record can be reviewed at a later date and accepted if found acceptable.
If this record is acceptable then Mr Haslams bird before it will have to get accepted as well as the Boucher Road individual and the bird/s at Greenisland, all will have to be treated the same. We will then have at least 4 accepted Tawny Owl records and this has conservation implications. Are these genuine birds or non native invasive species from captive stock?
All these things will not go away and will become more magnified in the future; let’s hope the NIBA and the NIBARC act now.

Derek Charles

NIBirding Thursday 30th May

 A couple of classic Martins by Ian Dickey

 Ken Clegg continues to taunt us with photos from his back garden!

Iberian Chiffchaff by Stephen Maxwell, it might be one!
 Christine Cassidy is trying to get on Moth Features good side by sending these, it wont work as Andrew doesnt know what they are!

 Fanad Head Lighthouse and Portsalon Beach Donegal courtesy of Christine Cassidy!

NIBirding Wednesday 29th May

We asked Christine for proof of the Bann Estuary Grasshopper Warbler and Christine has delivered. We think she probably nicked it off the internet! We are watching her!

In Co.Fermanagh: A Common Crane was reported at Crom Estate yesterday afternoon, maybe another sighting of the bird seen earlier in Co.Antrim this month.

Two more from Ian Dickey includeing a Wagtail that appears to have a family of insects growing out of its bill!

This Kumliens Gull is currently at Meghoarty Donegal, a very unusual date for one in Europe!

Four Great White Eeejit photos from Iberia!

Grizzly Bear suppression is rife in Northern Ireland but we can reveal the best place to tick one off is in Eglantine Avenue in Belfast where Stephen Maxwell came face to face with this killer. Stephen was lucky as he had a pot of honey in his pocket and managed to distract the bear and flee to his Morris Minor!
Great year for Early Purple Orchids, two more from Co.Armagh!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

NIBirding Tuesday 28th May

 When i first opened this photo from Christine Cassidy i thought it was a photo of Hairy Harry McGarry. But Christine who knows her Caterpillars from her McGarrys says it is the Caterpillar of a Marsh Frittilery Butterly, a species ive yet to see. Christine does admit that to the unsuspecting Joe Public it does look like Harry McGarry

Bird News Co.Armagh: A male Garganey and Turnstone were at Reedy Flat. The escaped Red Crested Pochard was also present (Majella Callaghan et al)

In Co.Londonderry: A Grasshopper Warbler was at the Bann Estuary (Christine Cassidy) We would need photographic proof of this!!
 A few shots of a brick red Curlew Sandpiper!

 Four from Ian Dickey today proving that summer seems to be following him about!

 Two amazing Orchids from Portugal, running out of them soon!

Cuckoos and Woodcocks

Dear all

Two surveys - see below - that we would like your help with are ongoing this spring.  If you think you can help with the Woodcock survey please get in touch with Mike Stinson ( ).  If you have seen any Cuckoos this spring then please let CEDaR know through their online recording system.

Hope you are all well.



Cuckoos Submit 2013 Northern Ireland Cuckoo Records Online.  Help record, what is for many, the distinctive sound of Spring – the call of the cuckoo.  Using the newly launched CEDaR Online Recording facility, the Centre for Environmental Data and Recording (CEDaR) is asking people to report when they see or hear a Cuckoo.

The Cuckoo is a rapidly declining species. It is Red Listed as a bird of conservation concern in the UK and a Northern Ireland Priority Species. They arrive from Africa in April and May and sing throughout the Spring - they are much more likely to be heard than seen. Their calls are distinctive but can be mistaken for Collared Dove and Woodpigeon. By recording when you see or hear a cuckoo you will be helping increase our knowledge of this distinctive bird.

If you see or hear a Cuckoo then please visit and submit your record.

Woodcocks Woodcock are fascinating, but elusive species; both a widespread winter migrant and a species which breeds in local woodland. Whilst recent research by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and others has revealed a host of insights into the migration movements of woodcock and the composition of the wintering woodcock population in the UK and Ireland, many questions remain unanswered regarding their ecology, including an up to date assessment of the numbers of woodcock breeding in the UK and particularly in Northern Ireland.

Woodcock are not readily counted by traditional bird survey methods due to their superb camouflage and secretive, largely nocturnal habits. Thus, a special methodology has been developed involving counting displaying male birds, “roding”, at dusk during the breeding season. This spring/ early summer, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) will be conducting the Breeding Woodcock Survey 2013. The previous assessment in 2003 estimated an approximate population of 78,000 males, but did not include Northern Ireland.

The survey can be undertaken by anyone with an interest in the species or who those would like to discover if there are breeding woodcock in their local area. Local birdwatchers, members of the shooting community or  others using the countryside are ideally placed to contribute extremely valuable data. Numerous randomly selected areas of woodland are available across NI for the survey, so there should be suitable site within easy reach.

The fieldwork simply involves three evening visits to suitable breeding woodcock habit (woodland; both coniferous and deciduous) for 75 minutes around dusk during May and June. (With a possible earlier visit required to arrange access and choose a vantage point to watch reasonable area of woodland, if the site is unfamiliar). Volunteers simply record the number of woodcock seen and heard. (Displaying male woodcock make both grunting and squeaking calls).

In addition to surveying randomly selected areas, if you know of  sites which may hold breeding woodcock, such as coniferous forestry plantations or deciduous woodland including loughshore fringe. It is vital that these areas are included in the survey, to help achieve an accurate assessment of the distribution of breeding woodcock locally.

Those wishing to take part in the survey in N.I. or find out more information, should register with the online survey site or contact Michael Stinson (BTO Regional Representative Fermanagh and Tyrone) 07890358239.

Monday, 27 May 2013

NIBirding Monday 27th May

 Thanks to Ian Dickey for this Common Tern photo!

In Co.Down: The on off on again warbler on Copeland Islands was a Subalpine, Northern Irelands fourth record
The Cattle Egret was again at Hillsborough Park Lake (Keith Bennett)
The Little Gull and Med Gull hybrid were still at the RSPBReserve

In Co.Fermanagh: 4 Garden Warbler were at Crom Estrate (Keith Bennett) and 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker were Colebrooke Estate (Dave Allen et al)

Thanks to Stephen Maxwell for this flight shot of the hybrid gull!

 This Iceland / Kumliens Gull was at Magheroarty Donegal yesterday
 This smart looking Curlew Sandpiper was on Tory Island
 Gull Porn courtesy of Stephen Maxwell!
 A couple of passerines by Ian Dickey
 And this Rabbitt is getting bored waiting for a Tawny Owl! Thanks to Christine Cassidy