Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

A tale of two birds as twitchers flock to catch glimpse of rare species

The elusive golden oriole feeds in Co Down, the first seen in Northern Ireland in 56 years
The elusive golden oriole feeds in Co Down, the first seen in Northern Ireland in 56 years
The exotic spoonbill in the mudflats in Castle Espie
The exotic spoonbill in the mudflats in Castle Espie

A fox appears to have been the culprit who ended birdwatchers' hopes of seeing a rare spoonbill in Northern Ireland.

It was the second disappointment of the day for avian enthusiasts who had earlier flocked to Comber in hopes of spotting another bird that hasn't been recorded in Northern Ireland since 1957.

But the golden oriole, spotted near the Island Hill reserve on Strangford Lough, has proved stubbornly elusive since it was photographed by Stefan Greif last week.

Golden orioles have only been recorded in the north of Ireland on 12 occasions, most of them in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Instead, birdwatchers who gave up the search and travelled down the coast to Castle Espie were rewarded with a glimpse of a young spoonbill on the nearby estuary.

However, events took a tragic turn yesterday.

Grounds manager Kerry Mackie said: "We found it deceased on the mudflats. There were fox paw prints leading up to the body and its head has gone. It's a very sad end to something that has given a lot of pleasure to a lot of people in the last 10 days."

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