It was a cold day in the midst of the big winter freeze when Garry left Belfast in the minibus with Gerard, Shirley, Paul, and Tony. In Comber we were joined by Carol, Norma and Ray then set off for Island Hill. The road was completely white and the carpark was icy. Redwing, fieldfare, curlew, lapwing and a large flock of larks and linnets stayed close to the carpark seeking out any ground that wasn't completely frozen.
The minibus needed a little manual assistance to manoeuvre out of the slippery carpark!
The head of Strangford Lough presented frozen foreshore but pintail, grey plover, bar tailed godwit, brent geese, dunlin and knot were easily seen.
Moving South towards Portaferry we spotted greylags near Greyabbey and golden plover at Kircubbin. There are some advantages to this cold weather as the birds seemed to be closer.
We took the ferry to Strangford and mosied towards Kilclief where the reported goosander wasn't on view although mergansers and teal were spotted along with stonechat, dunlin sandwich tern and carrion crow.
Ardglass produced kittiwake and an Iceland gull plus a herring gull lying perished on the quayside. By this time Garry was being overwhelmed by the start of a fierce cold with sneezing and streaming eyes. It wasn't fair to keep him from his bed but he drove on to Killough. Garry's eyes cleared long enough to spot a black redstart lurking and skulking between the stones on the harbour wall well out of the ferocious East wind. We were delighted to see this unusual bird!
From Killough we drove to the Quoile Visitors Centre and found lots of the small common birds (finches and tits) - the highlight being a blackcap and a redpoll.
The last stop was the hide alongside Castle Espie. The foreshore was completely white and a greenshank sheltered below a small mudbank nearby. Snipe, shoveller and sparrowhawk took our final numbers to 75 so it was well worth a day in the icy blast! Many thanks to Garry for perservering despite his battle with the lurgy!