Rare Bird Records 2020

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

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
Spotted SandpiperBartons Bay, Lough Neagh4th JulyKevin Kirkham-Brown
Ruddy ShelduckDundrum Bay, Co Down11th JulyDan Baillie
Spotted SandpiperCastle Espie, Co Down7th AugustMark Wigglesworth
Semi-palmated SandpiperMyroe, Co Londonderry23rd AugustGarry Armstrong \ Ed O'Hara
Red-backed ShrikeMillisle, Co Down3rd SeptemberMarty McClenaghan \ Ronnie Snoddy
Buff-breasted SandpiperMyroe, Co Londonderry6th SeptemberMervyn Guthrie
Black-browed AlbatrossCopeland, Co Down9th SeptemberOllie Padget
GoshawkLisburn15th SeptemberAnon
Lesser YellowlegsBann Estuary13th-15th SeptemberRichard Donaghey
Long-billed DowitcherLough Beg21st - 28th SeptemberDavid Steele
Buff-breasted SandpiperBallykelly27th - 29th SeptemberGarry Armstrong  
American Golden PloverBallykelly \ Myroe, Co Londonderry27th - 30th SeptemberGarry Armstrong  
American Golden PloverMullagh, Lough Beg1st OctoberDavid Steele
HawfinchScarva2nd OctoberStephen Drake
Buff-breasted SandpiperMyroe2nd OctoberGarry Armstrong
American Golden PloversMyroe \ Ballykellyto 2nd NovemberVarious
Temmincks StintBlackstaff River, Dundrum7th-8th OctoberDan Bailie
African Sacred IbisCullyhanna-December 2020Joe Devlin
Lesser WhitethroatRunkerry Wood8th-11th OctoberDennis Weir \ Stuart McKee
White-rumped SandpiperBallykelly18th OctoberStuart McKee \ Garry Armstrong
Siberian ChiffchaffOxford Island23rd OctoberEd O'Hara
Great White EgretCastle Espie, Co Down17th October to 1st NovemberMaurice Turley et al
Long-billed DowitcherLough Beg26th OctoberDavid Steele
American Golden PloverPortstewart27th October to 1st NovemberJohn Clarke
Cattle EgretCastle Espie, Co Down27th October to 31st OctoberCastle Espie
American WigeonCastle Espie, Co Down30th OctoberBirdguides
Cattle EgretBann Estuary \ Myroe28th October - 7th NovemberAnnette Elkin
Great White EgretLough Beg8th NovemberDavid Steele
Red-necked GrebeGas Works, Strangford Lough13th NovemberDave Weir
Siberian ChiffchaffJordanstown22nd NovemberPaul McCullough
Great White EgretLough Neagh \ Portmore5th NovemberClive Mellon et al
Great White EgretDerryleckagh Bog near Newry \ Dromantine \ Pontyzpass5th NovemberAndrew Crory
Great White EgretBoa Island \ Lower Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh25th NovemberFionnbar Cross
Great White EgretBallycarry3rd NovemberDavid Galbraith
Black BrantMyroe  29th NovemberTheo Campbell
Surf ScoterMurlough, Newcastle3rd DecemberChris Murphy
BuffleheadQuoile, Co Down5th DecemberTony Donaldson
Glossy IbisWhtehead, Co Antrim8th DecemberWarren  McConnaughie
Great White EgretLower Lough Erne10th DecemberBrad Robson
American WigeonGlynn, Co Antrim15th DecemberCameron Moore
American WigeonDrumgay Lough, Co Fermanagh31st DecemberBrad Robson

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!

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 NIRBcomm@gmail.com

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: NIRBcomm@gmail.com

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