Breeding Woodcock Survey - Can you help?

The Woodcock is one of our my most mysterious breeding birds. Unlike other waders, it specialises in breeding in woodland and shuns the open ground favoured by lapwing, snipe and redshank. Unfortunately, like those species, it has suffered steep declines and is now no longer found in most places where they once were. But, because they are highly camouflaged and difficult to find, we don't know very much about where they are now found, or how many there are.
This survey aims to establish the range and abundance of breeding woodcock all across Ireland based on counts of 'roding' woodcock. Roding flights are the noisy display flights over the woodland canopy undertaken by males at dusk and dawn to display to females. This is when they are at their most conspicuous and a count of displaying males in May and June gives a reliable indication of the breeding population of the area. The surveys are easy - most anybody can do them. It is magical to experience a number of displaying male woodcock with their strange grunting and whistling calls in the gathering dusk. In addition, there's always plenty of other wildlife to encounter in the twilight woodland. It's a pleasant and easygoing way to spend a few summer evenings while contributing strongly to our knowledge of breeding woodcock in Northern Ireland. For more information and instructions on how to do the survey and submit records, and to select your woodland sites to survey, please follow the link

In addition, all records of woodcock seen in spring and summer, including roding males, females on nests, or broods of chicks, are of great interest as they will help build up an idea of the range of breeding woodcock in Northern Ireland.

Please email any sightings you may have to, or log them with CEDaR (NI) or the National Biodiversity Data Centre (ROI).

The Dawn Chorus - Sunday 5 May, BBC Radio Ulster

Presenter David Maxwell and Claire Barnett from RSPB NI will be live on BBC Radio Ulster this Sunday (May 5) from just after midnight for this year’s Dawn Chorus

The Dawn Chorus Live
Sunday 5 May.
Live on BBC Radio Ulster from midnight. 
Also available live and after broadcast on BBC Sounds.     

Join presenter David Maxwell and Claire Barnett from RSPB NI, live on BBC Radio Ulster on International Dawn Chorus Day (Sunday 5 May), as they link up with radio colleagues in RTÉ in the Republic of Ireland, across Europe and down under to Australia to celebrate this ornithological opera.
David and Claire, RSPB NI Conservation Team Leader, will broadcast from the RSPB’s Window on Wildlife reserve on the shores of Belfast Lough and will be listening out for both city songbirds and sea birds on the edge of the city, such as Swifts and Sedge Warblers just back from Africa, and for the beautiful fluting song of the Blackcaps - sometimes called the ‘Northern Nightingale’.

Following on from the success of last year’s link-up, BBC Radio Ulster will be joining RTÉ’s Derek Mooney and other broadcasters from across Europe live on air throughout the night.

This year’s Dawn Chorus programme runs from midnight until 7am offering listeners the chance to hear some fascinating conversation about the nature of birdsong, and the wonder of the chorus itself as our avian friends wake up across the continent.

David Maxwell said: “After the silence of winter, spring birdsong fills our hearts with joy. It builds as the hours of daylight increase into a great crescendo at the height of the season of new beginnings. Whether on a woodland walk or even just stepping out your backdoor, the treetop chorus puts a smile on your face.

“I’m delighted to be up with the lark – actually well before the lark - for this ambitious birdsong broadcast, in the company of expert Claire Barnett. I wonder who else will join us at the Window on Wildlife on the morning. I predict surprise guests and impromptu solos from world class choristers.” 

Claire Barnett adds: “We’re so happy that our Belfast Window on Wildlife (WOW) reserve will be the Northern Ireland location for the Dawn Chorus programme. The reserve is nestled between the shipping port and Belfast City Airport but in a way it’s a real international airport for birds, with plenty of interesting arrivals! We should get to hear thrushes, Wrens, Sedge Warblers and Blackcaps – to name just a few - and then species that people can see from the WOW observatory window, including Coots, Moorhens and Common Terns. We can’t wait to compare the birdsong we hear to all the other dawn chorus locations in the rest of the UK and across Europe. The dawn chorus is one of nature’s great spectacles, so I’d really encourage everyone to tune into this fantastic programme if they can.”

So what is the Dawn Chorus?

This natural phenomenon which hails the start of a new day is at its peak at this time of year. In this programme, our experts will be on hand to help identify which birds can be heard amid the clamour and cacophony coming live from each location across Europe.

The dawn chorus is the collective sound of all the birds that sing at dawn. It usually refers to the sound made by woodland birds that sing during the breeding season between late March and the beginning of July, but it can also be heard in coastal and urban locations and travels east to west with the rising sun, a literal wave of sound across the face of the earth.

At its most simple it is a way for rival male birds (for it is the male of the species who sings in the majority of cases) to fight and resolve conflicts without directly coming to blows. It is also a way to impress and attract female birds – he who sings loudest and longest can claim more territory and in turn has a higher chance of finding a mate.

Bird News Tuesday 30th April

A Tree Pipit and a Carrion Crow were on Rathlin, this brings the total number of species recorded on the island in April to 115. (Ric Else & Hazel Watson).

Four Whimbrel were on Kinnegar shore this evening. (Daniel Newton).

A Cuckoo was at Murley Mountain, Clabby , Co Fermanagh this evening. (Colin Bell)

Thanks to Ric for the pictures of the Tree Pipit and the Carrion Crow and to Daniel for the picture of the Whimbrel:

Bird News Monday 29th April

A Little Gull was this afternoon at Castle Espie. (Graham McKittrick)

The Spoonbill was seen again this morning at Dundrum inner bay north (Frank Carroll)

An adult winter Curlew Sandpiper was at the Bann Estuary (Neal Warnock)

A female Crossbill was seen at Ballysallagh, Craigantlet. (Murray Watt)

Reedy Flat, late afternoon, had 50 Whimbrel, 130 Black-tailed Godwits, 6 White Wagtails and 2 Swifts. (Clive Mellon)

A singing Reed Warbler this evening along the boardwalk at Lough Erne Golf Resort, probably the first county record (Brad Robson)

Rathlin had a Dark-bellied Brent Goose and the Marsh Harrier was seen again (Ric Else / Hazel Watson)

The ringing details of yesterday's 2cy Med Gull, at Kinnegar, has been sent by Camille Duponcheel. White 2PRT, was ringed as a chick, on the 22nd June 2018, at De Kreupel Island, Lake IJsselmeer, Holland. The Kinnegar sighting, was the first report, since the bird was ringed. (Gareth Platt)

Crossbill - Michael Norton.

Bird News Sunday 28th April

A possible Common Crane has been seen on Revallagh Road, some 3 miles west of Bushmills as you head for Coleraine along Priestland Road. (Graham Nelson)

A female Marsh Harrier was at Portmore Lough RSPB Reserve (Karen Elliott)

This morning a Spoonbill was in Dundrum Inner Bay north, off Ardilea (Danny Bailie)

A Great Spotted Woodpecker was in Derrymore Forest, Bessbrook this morning. (Frank Carroll)

Reedy Flats, Lough Neagh had the Black-necked Grebe, 12 Whimbrel, 26 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Wigeon + good numbers of Lapwing and Redshank displaying (Ian Enlander)

A Pink-footed Goose was at Inch, Co Donegal (David Stirling)

A second year, Dutch ringed Med Gull was at Kinnegar shore (Gareth Platt)

Cuckoos were heard today at Capanagh (Linda Thompson, Raymond Houston, erard McGeehan, Shirley Dunlop) A Whinchat was also present (Gerard McGeehan \ Shirley Dunlop)

Pink-footed Goose, David Stirling:

Great Crested Grebes, Mervyn Campbell:

Bird News Saturday 27th April

A Little Gull was at Sandy Bay Larne this morning. (Brian Halligan).

A Carrion Crow was at Strangford, it landed on the bridge of the ferry. (Kevin Kirkham-Brown).

A Little Gull was at Belfast RSPB WOW Reserve. (Colin Mayes).

Thanks to Christine Cunningham for the pictures of the male band female Shovelers:

Bird News Friday 26th April.

A Corncrake was calling nr Ballybeg, Lough Neagh.(Brian Sutton)

Rathlin Island had a Red Kite, 1 Carrion Crow, 4  Whimbrel, Hen Harrier and it’s first Whitethroat of the year. (Ric Else/Hazel Watson) 

7 Whimbrel flew north of Annalong and a high count of 14 Black Gulliemot were at the harbour this morning. (Richard Gray)

Red Kite - Ric Else/Hazel Watson.

Little Egret - Wilfred Swain.

Bird News Thursday 25th April

A Glossy Ibis was just to the east of Reedy Flat’s, Lough Neagh, this morning (James O’Neill).

There was no sign of the Glossy Ibis at Reedy Flats this afternoon but a drake Garganey, 25 White Wagtails and 150 Black-tailed Godwits were present. (Clive Mellon & Nigel Moore).

Rathlin today had its fourth Ring Ouzel of the spring and a singing Wood Warbler, the third year in a row that this species has turned up. There was also a Hen Harrier, 4 Whimbrel and a Twite gathering nesting material. See pictures below. (Ric Else & Hazel Watson).

A Common Sandpiper was at Hillsborough Lake today. (Garry Wilkinson).

On the hills at Cornavarrow (near Drumquin), there were 4 Jack Snipe, 4 Cuckoo, 5 Common Snipe, 1 Buzzard, 3 Wheatear, and 1 Red Grouse in a seven hour long bird survey across a major 12 turbine active windfarm (Ken Perry).

Thanks to Ric and Hazel for the pictures of the Wood Warbler and the Ring Ouzel, to Wilf Swain for the picture of the Great Crested Grebe, to Alastair McLean for the picture of the White Wagtail and to Kenny Moore for the picture of the Wheatear:

Bird News Wednesday 24th April

2 Avocets were at Ardmore Point on the south shore of Lough Neagh at 11.15 this morning before flying off east towards Oxford Island. 8 Swift were also present (James O'Neill) The Avocets were still at Ardmore, just east of Emersons sandpit at 6pm. Please note you should only view the shore from the road, the fields along the shore are strictly private. (Garry Armstrong)

3 Cuckoo were calling on Fardross Mountain near Clogher this morning. (Claire Barnett).

Yesterday a Cuckoo was at Lough Fea (Shane McGarvey)

Yesterday Paddy’s Dubh and the south west corner of Lough Beg had 4 Ruff, 2 Whimbrel and a White Wagtail (Godfrey McRoberts)

On Rathlin today were three Whinchats, a Hen Harrier and a Bonxie at the East Lighthouse (Neal Warnock)

A Cuckoo and a Crossbill were at Foglish Road, Fivemiletown, Co Fermanagh (Colin Bell)

Great Skua, Stephen Dunbar:


Bird News Tuesday 23rd April

A single Crossbill was in Woodburn forest this morning, along with good numbers of Grasshopper Warblers (George Stewart) 

2 Whimbrel, 2 Purple Sandpiper and a singing Whitethroat were at Annalong this morning.(Richard Gray)

Sightings this morning between Poyntzpass and Scarva included 17 Chiffchaff, 43 Willow Warbler, 19 Blackcap, 7 Sedge Warbler and 2 Dipper.(Fulton Somerville)  

2 Grasshopper Warblers were singing on Mount Druid, Ballintoy and a Whitethroat at Whitepark Bay.(Patrick Barton) 

A pair of Long-tailed Duck were close inshore at Ballyhalbert, 60 Whimbrel at Ballyquintin Point on the 20th. (Richard Weyl)

Rathlin had a Whinchat, Crossbill, Hen Harrier and Merlin (Neal Warnock)

 Breeding Woodcock survey.... Just a reminder that anyone who could help with the above survey, for more details check back to post of March (25-26th) ….all the help they can get would be gratefully appreciated.  

Our thanks to David Nixon for this photo of a Dark-bellied Brent(right hand bird) one of 5 seen at Killough to-day.


Bird News Monday 22nd April

A female Marsh Harrier was at the small wetland by the main road between Castle Ward and the Quoile. (Garry Armstrong).

A Grasshopper Warbler was singing at Peatlands Park, see pictures below. (Ed O'Hara).

The drake Garganey was still present at the east end of Reedy flats. (Mark Killops/Michael Latham)

A Whitethroat was in song at Whitehead (Ian Enlander).

Yesterday a Wood Warbler was found feeding in close association with Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs at Copeland Bird Observatory. (Chris Acheson).

A pair of un-ringed Mediterranean Gulls were at Castle Espie today. (Gareth Platt)

Thanks to Ed O'Hara for the pictures of the Grasshopper Warbler, to Mark Elliott for the picture of the Blackcap to Michael Latham for the picture of the Garganey, to Stephen Maxwell for the first picture of the Mediterranean Gull and to Garth Platt for the picture of the pair of Mediterranean Gulls at Castle Espie :

Bird News Sunday 21st April

A drake Garganey was at the east end of Reedy Flats, 15 Whimbrel, 6 White Wagrtail and 12 Black-tailed Godwit were also present. 12 White Wagtail were in a ploughed field at the eastern end of Ardmore. 2 Grasshopper Warblers were singing at Oxford Island (Garry Armstrong, Ed O'Hara).

On Rathlin the Ring Ouzel was still at Kebble this morning, plus 2 Tree Pipits and 5 Great Skuas. (Ric Else & Hazel Watson).

A Reed Warbler was seen at Oxford Island again, see picture below. (Ed O'Hara, C McQuillan).

A Grasshopper Warbler was at Bessbrook, see picture below. (Neil Cartmill).

A Red Kite flew south along the Lower Bann at 16.45 at The Loughan, Coleraine. (Richard Donaghey).

Myroe had 25 White Wagtails and a Merlin with several summer plumaged Slavonian Grebes and Long-tailed Ducks offshore. (Neal Warnock).

Tory Island had 40 White Wagtails, 3 Chiffchaffs, 1 Willow Warbler, 2 Blackcaps, 3 Redwing, 2 Corncrake and a Merlin. (brad Robson).

Thanks to Neil Cartmill for the picture of the Grasshopper Warbler, to Ed O'Hara for the pictures of the Reed Warbler and the White Wagtail, to Michael Latham for the picture of the Wheatear, to Jason Bain for the picture of the Meadow Pipit and to Wilf Swain for the picture of the Buzzard:

Bird News Saturday 20th April

A White Wagtail was with Pied Wagtails in Belfast Harbour Estate, 3 Wheatear, a male and two female, were also present. (Daniel Newton).

A Common Sandpiper and 7 Common Tern were at Oxford Island. (Ed O'Hara).

14 Whimbrel were at Orlock Point this afternoon. (Philip McErlean).

The female Ring Ouzel was still present today on Rathlin, and a new Stock Dove was also seen. (Ric Else & Hazel Watson).

2 White Wagtails and 3 Purple Sandpipers were south of Annalong harbour. (Richard Gray).

Copeland Bird Observatory today had a Ring Ouzel, 40 Willow Warblers, 12 Chiffchaffs, 3 Blackcaps, 6 Wheatears, 8 Sand Martins and a House Martin. (Chris Acheson).

Tory Island had 22 White Wagtails, 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcaps, 1 Redwing, 3 Willow Warblers, 4 Whimbrel, 1 Merlin, 1 Water Rail and a Corncrake which showed well as vegetation is still sparse, a Goldcrest and lots of cetaceans including 2 Basking Sharks. (Brad Robson).

Yesterday at least 10 Whimbrel were at Ballymacormick Point. (George Henderson).

Thanks to Neal Warnock for the pictures of the Pomarine Skua and Hen Harrier from Rathlin yesterday, to Ed O'Hara for the picture of the Common Tern, to Philip McErlean for the picture of the Whimbrel and to David Clarke for the picture of the leucistic Starling from Ballykinler:

Bird News Friday 19th April

The first Swifts of the year have appeared with two birds at Craigavon Balancing Lakes, a Sedge Warbler and five Common Terns were also present. A Reed Warbler was back at Oxford Island. (Ed O'Hara).

The Marsh Harrier was still present on Rathlin this morning, a singing Sedge Warbler was also present. (Ric Else & Hazel Watson)

An immature male Marsh Harrier at Slieveanorra about 1030 this morning, moving south. (David Steele)

A Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen at Monea, Co Fermanagh (Brad Robson).

A Cuckoo and Grasshopper Warbler were calling today near Tappaghan wind farm Co Tyrone. (Clive Mellon)

Another Cuckoo was at Murlough.(Philip McErlean)

The Bann Estuary had a Greenland Wheatear and a Sedge Warbler, both ringed, this morning (Richard Donaghey)

A dark-bellied Brent was with 170 pale-bellied Brent at Killough Harbour.(David Nixon)

A number of Whimbrel have been seen along various coastlines over the last few days, thanks to everyone who kindly reported them.

Rathlin Island had....Adult Pomarine Skua (Neal), Marsh Harrier still, Mediterranean Gull still, 1 Hen Harrier, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 1 Whinchat, 3 Sedge Warblers, 8 Blackcaps, 70+ Willow Warblers, 32 White Wagtails, 60+ Wheatears, 2 Bramblings, 6 Fieldfares, 2 Redwings, 2 Whimbrels, 3 Common Sandpipers, 1 Collared Dove, 1 Carrion Crow, 1 Rook, 4 Jackdaws, 2 Canada Geese and the long-staying Scaup. (Ric Else/Hazel Watson/Neal Warnock)

Yesterday a Jack Snipe was at Paddy’s Dub, Lough Beg along with small numbers of Lapwing, Redshank, Dunlin, Snipe and Teal. (Godfrey McRoberts).

Thanks to Ed O'Hara for the pictures of the Swift and Reed Warbler and to Thomas Campbell for the pictures of the Wheatear, Rock Pipit and Buzzard:

Bird News Thursday 18th April.

Rathlin today had a Jack Snipe, Marsh Harrier (found by Raymond Fulton), Ring Ouzel, Med Gull, 6 Bramblings, 5 Whimbrel, 4 Common Sandpipers, at least 34 White Wagtails plus many common migrants. (Ric Else / Hazel Watson)

A Marsh Harrier was also seen at the Bann Estuary this evening (Richard Donaghey)

32 White Wagtails, 5 Whimbrel and a Black-tailed Godwit were at Lower Lough Erne Islands RSPB Reserve, Co Fermanagh (Brad Robson)

Dundalk Harbour and east of the Old Bridge, had 9 Ruff and 2 Knot (Fulton Somerville)

A Cuckoo was heard calling at Slieve Gullion Park, Co. Armagh this morning (Frank Carroll)

A female Brambling was in a garden today at Loughries, Newtownards (Graham Day)

A Great Spotted Woodpecker was at Edenderry Bridge along the Lagan Towpath (Paula Campbell)

Ring Ouzel and Marsh Harrier (Ric Else / Hazel Watson):

Brambling, Graham Day:

Ruff, Fulton Somerville:

Bird News Wednesday 17th April

An adult Iceland Gull was seen at Runkerry Head, Co Antrim (Colin Guy)

Rathlin Island had 5 Common sandpipers and a Mediterranean Gull (Ric Else \ Hazel Watson)

A White-billed Diver was at Malin Head, Donegal (Ronan McLaughlin)

Buzzard, Wilf Swain:

Angus Kennedy, Great Spotted Woodpecker: