Setting Off From Sandwell valley

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Another Incredible Biking Birder Day - Portmore Lough RSPB Reserve 2nd June 2010

Having arrived at Portmore Lough the previous evening and having camped amongst the picnic benches, awoke early and had a walk down to the hide whilst the tent dried out from the early morning dew. Tree sparrows had woken me. Well, that or a large aircraft flying either away from or to Belfast Airport. Sedge and reed warblers singing, blackcaps and willow warblers too and a gorgeous sunrise over the large 'lough'. Apparently the lake had been created 1500 years ago by a huge meteor burst. Now this is the theory and I must look into this further. Common terns were busy on the raft and a few duck and great crested grebes, together with a large number of non-breeding mute swans were on the water.

Back to the tent for a healthy breakfast of 5 jam donuts, just in time to meet Steve the assistant warden. John the actual warden and then Laura, a volunteer arrived and I was invited [with a half nelson to persuade me] to join in with the day's work.

Actually the morning spent working with these three fabulous people was immensely enjoyable. Together we drove down in the caterpillar tracked vehicle, took a boat out to put 2 large poles into the silt at the bottom of the lake, adjacent to the tern raft, and placed tree branches near the shore for tern roost sites. The poles are to anchor a platform whose fubction is for tern chicks that fall off the tern raft  to clamber onto instead of drown. As we put up one pole a tern chick was trying to climb back to its nest having fallen off, demonstrating the need perfectly. Over 50 nests were counted on the rafts by John and Steve and the poles and branches were soon being used by the terns and swallows.

Being a gentleman I won't say which one of we four went in the mud up to their knees.

I hope health and safety won't mind but John allowed me to drive the vehicle back to the centre. Over fields and through ditches. Great fun!

The afternoon was spent at a nearby peat bog searching for and finding lots of Irish damselflies; a new one for me and one totally unexpected. Cracking little things that allowed very close photos to be taken as many were in egg laying tandems. There were also dozens of four-spot chasers, a good number of hairy dragonflies and just one large red damselfly. Lots of sundews were here as well.

Back to the reserve in time for a visit from the environment minister for Northern Ireland, Edwin Poots and his daughter, Lydia. She was there to name one of the Polish pony foals [Cookie] and it was a real thrill to walk around the reserve with John and Steve, together with such a distinguished personage. He showed a lot of enthusiasm for the work being done on the reserve and had no qulams over getting amongst the reed bed, with Lydia, to get closer to the group of ponies. Excellent man and lovely daughter.

Once they'd gone, it was time for me to move on also and, after buying a carton of orange at Kelly's shop in Aghagallon [Thanks Marie for the donation!], cycled to Portadown where I met Sid once again and had a great evening [and a bath] with Sid, janet, William and Sandy.

Bit nervous about tomorrow. 70 miles to cycle to get to the next reserve and then an interview with BBC Ulster on Friday. Ah well, tomorrow night will arrive with me somewhere or other.

All the very best everyone and a million thanks to everyone I've met today. You're all brilliant and a credit to Northern Ireland.


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