Black Stork, a species new to Northern Ireland

Ric Else has kindly provided this write up on finding this first for NI:

My partner Hazel Watson and I moved to Rathlin in March 2017, and with intentions to bird the island as much as possible we were optimistic about our chances of finding something good here during the spring migration period. As mid-May approached, we’d seen a decent variety of migrants but nothing particularly rare, and migration was already petering out.

On 11th May, we walked out of the house and immediately saw a couple of Spotted Flycatchers and a few Blackcaps – quite a promising start to the day! However, three hours of birding later we’d hardly seen any more migrants and, finding ourselves at the harbour, we came perilously close to calling it a day and retiring into the cafe. Somehow, we resisted the temptation and pushed on towards the eastern part of the island. We checked all the gardens along the way, and were just deciding whether to continue all the way to the East Lighthouse when a Yellow Wagtail (as at May 2020, still the only one we’ve seen on Rathlin) called several times overhead, flying in the direction of the lighthouse. Decision made, we set off after it.

Moments later, I raised my binoculars to check a distant speck in the sky above Ballyconagan, fully expecting it to be just a gull. But to my absolute astonishment it was a Black Stork! Even at that range there could be no doubt about the big gangly shape, black upperparts, white belly, and long red bill and legs. I said something along the lines of ‘oh my god it’s a stork!’ and Hazel was onto it immediately. Luckily it was drifting our way, circling high above the north cliffs, and although it was always distant it came just close enough for both of us to get photos. It circled several times, drifting ever further east and, unfortunately for all the other birders in Northern Ireland, was soon disappearing way into the distance in the direction of Scotland.

We put the news out straight away and were quickly informed that it was a first for Northern Ireland. What an outrageous bird for our first Rathlin rarity! And as newcomers to the region, thank heavens we got photos as proof!

Bird Records for 2020

The following records for 2020 are under assessment. If you notice any omissions or corrections, please let us know. Those in red have not yet been accepted and we welcome any further information \ photographs:

Water PipitBallyquinton Point, Co Down1st JanuaryRichard Weyl
Water PipitBallyfrench, PortavogieFrom 2019Richard Weyl
Water PipitCushendunFrom 2019Ivan Quail
American Black ScoterBelfast Lough4th JanuaryColin Mayes
Yellow-legged GullCarrickfergus4th JanuaryGarry Armstrong \ Ed O'Hara
Lesser ScaupPortmore Lough9th JanuaryJoe Devlin \ Clifford Sharp
American Herring GullMacedon Point9th JanuaryStuart McKee
tristis ChiffchaffArmoy23rd JanuaryClive Mellon
Great White EgretLough BegFrom 2019David Steele et al
Lesser YellowlegsLough Beg28th JanuaryDavid Steele
HawfichDunadry13th Februaryper Mark Smyth
Arctic RedpollPortmore Lough26th FebruaryAnna Leschinki
Mealy RedpollRathlin Island29th MarchRic Else \ Hazel Watson
Pied CrowBallycastle10th AprilGeoff Campbell
Fan-tailed WarblerWashing Bay, Lough Neagh25th AprilDeclan Coney
Grey-bellied BrentKillough26th AprilChris Murphy
HawfinchKillyleagh29th AprilPaul Megaghey
HobbyLower Lough Erne19th MayBrad Robson
Lesser WhitethroatKillogh21st MayChris Murphy
Long-billed DowitcherRSPB WoW23rd MayDaniel Newton
Common RosefinchRathlin Island26th MayRic Else \ Hazel Watson
HawfinchArds Peninsula30th MayToby Edwards
Glossy IbisKinnegar, Co Down31st MayKevin Kirkham-Brown

Updated Northern Ireland List

An updated list of the birds of Northern Ireland is viewable via the menu bar or at this link: NI List April 2020

Rarity Description Species - Update for 2020

The Committee have made the following changes to the Rarity Description species:

The following species no longer require a description:

  • White-tailed Eagle
  • Golden Eagle
  • Tree Pipit

The following species now require a description:

  • Bewicks Swan 

Common Nighthawk - New to Northern Ireland

This is perhaps the most bizzare and fascinating rarity ever to occur in Northern Ireland.

On the 5th October 2019, Fergus Auld reported to Dot Blakely that whilst out fishing, he had observed a Nightjar along the River Maine at Galgorm on the 3rd October. On Sunday 6th, a number of birders took advantage of his offer to view the bird and it duely showed briefly at dusk. Some poor quality pictures were taken in the diminishing light but when circuated the following morning, Josh Jones felt that the bird was actually a Common Nighthawk ad news was shared widely about it. Later that same afternoon, the bird was actually seen by Stuart Piner who had travelled over from England for it. By dusk, circa 50 birders were on site and were rewarded with excellent views of the bird as it hawked insects over the river, often coming within a few feet of those in attendance.

The following day seen more birders visit the site and amazingly the bird was found day roosting. It then showed, often roosting in the day but also feeding along the river at dusk until Thursday 17th October. During this period, it is estimated that at least 500 birders viewed it and it stayed loyal to the same area of the river.

The bird was not seen in NI after the 17th October but amazingly it was photographed by Lewis Newman over Regents Park, London on Saturday 19th October. Unusually for an autumn migrant it was an adult male. This was the first record of ths north American species for Northern Ireland.

Nighthawk - Jonny Andrews

Nighthawk - Mervyn Campbell

Red Eyed Vireo - New for Northern Ireland

During the Rathlin Birding Week, organised by Ric Else and Hazel Watson, a Red-eyed Vireo was found on the morning of Sunday 29th September 2019 by Wilton Farrelly. The bird was in sycamores near the east light, Rathlin Island. At times it would show well (although distantly) and was last seen on Wednesday 2nd October. During this time a Melodious Warbler and a Yellow-browed Warbler were also on the island.
Red-eyed Vireo is the most common American passerine seen in Britain and Ireland but had not previously been recorded in Northern Ireland.

Red-eyed Vireo, Ric Else:

American Black Tern - New for NI

On Monday 10th September 2018, Ian Dickey found an American Black Tern at the Bann Estuary. The bird was seen on and off until Tuesday 18th September. At times it gave great views but would often dissapear out to sea.

This record is the first of the sub-species for Northern Ireland and an excellent find.

American Black Tern, Ian Dickey:

American Black Tern, Stephen Dunbar:

Can you help?

Do you have an interest in bird recording and could you help support the NIRBC? Please get in touch if you feel that you could assist in eg helping collate data, assessing records, website management or administrative support. If so, please email us at

Bird Records for 2019

The following records for 2019, with the exception of those in red, have been assessed and accepted. If you notice any omissions or corrections, please let us know. We are particualrly interested in receiving further information about those species in red which are still under assessment. You can email in descriptions or pictures of any of the species below to:

HawfinchGosford Forest Park January 2019Clifford Sharpe
Lesser ScaupDargan Bay, Belfast, Antrim30th January 2019Tom Ennis
American WigeonLough Beg, Antrim29th Jan 2019 / 21st Feb 2019David Steele / Jeff Larkin
Golden EagleRathlin2nd February 2019Ric Else \ Hazel Watson
Glossy IbisTully Cut, Portmore, Antrim18th February 2019Nigel Ireland
FirecrestRaithlin Island, Antrim3rd March 2019Ric Else/Hazel Watson
Chaffinch, African sspGilford, Down31st March 2019Graham Patterson
White-tailed Eagle (2)Boho Island, Fermanagh6th March 2019Hugh Delaney
Rock Pipit - LittoralisWhitehead, Antrim13th March 2019Cameron Moore
Lesser Whitethroat (blythi)Gortin, Omagh, TyroneFrom 2018Various
Golden EagleRathlin11th April 2019Ric Else \ Hazel Watson
Blue-headed WagtailPortrush21st April 2019Colin Guy
Tree PipitRathlin30th April / 13th MayRic Else \ Hazel Watson
Bee-eaters (2)Ballyquintin, Portaferry, Down15th May 2019David Thompson
Alpine SwiftTemplepatrick, Antrim18th May 2019Majella Callaghan
Lesser YellowlegsCastle Espie, Down30th May 2019Fiona Waton \ Ross McIlrath
American Golden PloverRathin, Antrim3rd June 2019Ric Else \ Hazel Watson
White-tailed EagleKnockninny, Co Fermanagh7th June 2019Robert Scott
HobbyAntrim Hills11th June 2019Ronald Surgenor
Long-billed DowitcherRSPB WoW Belfast16th June 2019Daniel Newton
Golden EagleFair Head, Co Antrim21st June 2019Dennis O'Sullivan
Woodchat ShrikeDonaghadee23rd June 2019Billy Miskelly
HobbyPortmore Lough RSPB25th June 2019Joe Furphy
Glossy IbisPortmore Lough RSPB June 2019Various
Ruddy ShelduckBann Estuary4th JulyVarious
Blue-headed Yellow WagtailOxford Island20th July 2019Kevin Kirkham
Long-billed DowitcherLough Beg31st JulyDavid Steele
Tree PipitRathlin Island10th August 2019Ric Else \ Hazel Watson
Stilt SandpiperRathlin Island11th August 2019Ric Else \ Hazel Watson
Cattle EgretRSPB WoW Belfast22nd August 2019Derek Polley
White-tailed EagleRathlin Island28th August 2019Ric Else \ Hazel Watson
American Golden Plover Ballykelly14th SeptemberNeal Warnock
Lesser WhitethroatPortaferry10th SeptemberDermot Hughes
American Golden PloverBallykelly14th SeptemberNeal Warnock
HobbyLough Beg, Antrim8th SeptemberGodfrey McRoberts
Cattle EgretLough Beg, Antrim5th SeptemberDavid Steele
Red-eyed VireoRathlin, Antrim29th SeptemberWilton Farrelly
Melodious WarblerRathlin, Antrim29th SeptemberDennis Weir \ Stuart McKee
Common NighthawkGalgorm, Antrim3rd OctoberFergus Auld \ Dot Blakely
King EiderCarrickfergus, Antrim6th OctoberCameron Moore
American Golden Plover Ballykelly11th OctoberTheo Campbell
American Golden Plover Galgorm, Antrim13th OctoberDenis O'Sullivan
Great White Egret Rathlin Island24th OctoberTom McDonnell
Pallas's WarblerKearney, Co Down27th OctoberRichard Weyl
White-rumped SandpiperRSPB WoW Belfast30th OctoberGerard McGeehan \ Shirley Dunlop
Great White Egret Lower Lough Erne4th OctoberAndrew Gallagher
White-rumped Sandpipers (7+)Myroe November 2019Various
Great White Egret Lough Beg, AntrimLast 6th NovemberDavid Steele
White-rumped Sandpipers (3)Lough Beg, Antrim4th NovemberDavid Steele
American Golden Plover (juv)MyroeOctober / NovemberMichael Latham et al
Red-necked GrebeBelfast Lough, Co Antrim16th NovemberStuart McKee et al

Bird Records for 2018

The following species have been assessed. If the record is in red, it has not yet been accepted and needs to be assessed further or further information is required. If you can assist by providing further information, please feel free to contact us at

American Black TernBann estuary10th SeptIan Dickey
Bairds SandpiperMyroe27th SeptStuart McKee
GyrfalconRamore Head, Co Antrim9th MarchJohn Clarke
HobbyBanagher Glen20th AugustChristine Cassidy /Lindsay Hodges
Lesser YellowlegsMyroe23rd NovDerek Brennan
White StorkLarne16th MayColin Guy
American Golden PloverMyroe22nd SeptGarry Armstrong
American Golden PloverRathlin Island7th SeptRic Else \ Hazel Watson
American Golden PloverBann Estuary30th OctoberBirdguides
American WigeonLough Beg18th JuneDavid Steele
Buff Breasted SandpiperMyroe18th SeptemberBrad Robson \ Matthew Tickner
Buff Breasted SandpiperMyroe22nd SeptemberGarry Armstrong \ Wilton Farrelly
DotterelMyroe1st MayMervy Guthrie
DotterelAntrim Plateau18th OctoberDavid Steele
Ferruginous DuckOxford Island, Co Armagh1st AprilJeff Larkin
Glossy IbisStrabane2nd JanBrian Hegarty
Glossy IbisPortmore Lough19th JanRSPB
Great White EgretLough Beg9th AprilDavid Steele
Great White EgretLower Lough Erne15th OctPeter Taylor
HawfinchGlenwherry15th MayGregory Moorehead
Honey BuzzardBanagher Glen, Co L'Derry27th JulyDavid Steele
Lesser Whitethroat blythiGortin, Co TyroneDec-18Various
Lesser YellowlegsMyroe25th NovemberDerek Brennan
Pacific Golden PloverMyroe28th OctoberBirdguides
Tree Pipit (4)Rathlin IslandApril, May, AugustRic Else \ Hazel Watson
White-rumped SandpiperBarmouth22nd SeptemberTheo Campbell
White-rumped Sandpiper (2)Myroe \ Roe Estuary, Co L'Derry22nd September - 29th OctoberNeal Warnock et al
White-rumped Sandpiper (min 3)Roe Estuary, Co L'Derry25th NovemberStuart McKee
White-tailed EagleGlenariff \ Blackers Rock29th AprilMervyn Campbell et al
White-tailed EagleRathlin Island1st MayRic Else \ Hazel Watson

Bird Records for 2017

Records shown in RED have not yet been accepted by NIBRC. If you have any information on these sightings, we would be pleased to receive further information:

Lesser Scaup Belfast Lough/Down 18th January Stuart McKee.
Gyrfalcon Gawleys Gate/Armagh 20th January Rob Martin
American Wigeon Dundrum Inn. Bay 4th March David Nixon
Yellow-browed Warbler Copeland Bird Obs. 11th March Chris Acheson
Water Pipit Millisle 9th April Richard Weyl
Long-billed Dowitcher Quoile pondage 24th April Tony Donaldson
Dotterel Myroe/L'derry 30th April Neal Warnock
Little Ringed Plover Lough Beg. 2nd May Davy Hunter
Black Stork Rathlin Island 11th May Richard Else
White-winged Black Tern Lough Beg. 11th May David Steele
Montagu's Harrer Lough Beg. 16th May Chris Murphy
Temmincks Stint Lough Beg. 26th May Billy Miskelly
Bonapartes Gull Bar Mouth/L'derry 16th June Birds Ireland
Little Ringed Plover Lough Beg. 23rd June David Steele
Golden Oriole (heard only) Ballyroney/Down 9th July Dave Allen
Bonapartes Gull Whitehead/Antrim 20th July Cameron Moore
American Golden Plover Myroe/L'derry 30th August Hill Dick
Buff-breasted Sandpiper Myroe/L'derry 31st August Jeff Larkin
Red-necked Grebe Mullagh 8th September David Steele
Buff-breasted Sandpiper(2) Myroe/L'derry 10th September Michael Latham
Pectoral Sandpiper Quoile pondage 17th September Billy Miskelly
American Golden Plover Myroe/L'derry 3rd October David Nixon/Trevor Wilkinson
Wryneck Copeland Bird Obs. 8th October CBO
Firecrest Kearney/Down 17th October Ian Graham
Grey-bellied Brant Strangford Lough 17th October Tom Ennis/Tony Dodds
American Golden Plover Bann Estuary.Derry 22nd October Stuart McKee.
Red-necked Grebe Bann Estuary.Derry 23rd October Colin Guy
White-rumped Sandpiper Lough Beg/Derry 29th October David Steele
White-rumped Sandpiper Lough Beg. 31st October David Steele

Red-flanked Bluetail - A species new to Northern Ireland

Red-flanked Bluetail was a new and unexpected bird for Northern Ireland in an autumn of rare birds. It was originally found on the evening of Saturday 8th October by Tim Murphy, just reward for the many hours that he has put in birding at St Johns Point and Kellys Wood. The bird was then present first thing the following morning. However it was then prone to disappearing for long periods but over the following days it was seen by most birders who visited Kellys Wood. The last report of the bird was the 13th October.

This bird represented the first record for NI and the sixth for the island of Ireland. The species has enjoyed a westward population expansion in Scandinavia in recent years but it was still an unexpected record.

Gerard Murray:

James O'Neill: