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QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY - 14/16 November 2014

It was a modest total. We saw only 60 species during the mid November weekend on Holy Island, compared to the usual tally of 70+. But it's not about quantity. Those 60 species included some wonderful sightings of birds: a Peregrine Falcon carving its way through a flock of Brent Geese; the Merlin perched on a stone wall; 2 Long-tailed Duck bobbing up and down in the choppy waters of Coves Haven; the pair of Short Eared Owls flushed in the sand dunes; looking hard to find Purple Sandpiper on Castlehead Rocks.

Of course it would have been good to see more. The sea was strangely quiet, largely devoid of birds flying by except for single numbers of various gull, Shag and Red Throated Diver. Where were those Gannets I always see, or the Kittiwake or the auks? What happened to the Sanderling, often seen scampering on a sandy beach? Where were the Goldcrests, normally hugging the bushes still with leaf cover. And why was the Little Grebe strangely absent on Holy Island Lough? Yet we all enjoyed a wonderful weekend retreat enjoying birds and sharing faith. Judge for yourselves by reading the account from Brian and Jen Friend which you can find in the Trip Reports section on this website. Let me quote one short passage: "We will never forget the sight of a murmuration of starlings. Countless thousands of them were seen swirling, as the sun set over the inland freshwater lake and noisily settling down for the night on the adjacent reed bed. " I agree fully. It was an unforgettable spectacle and one of my highlights of 2014.

Mark Winter


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