Bird Watching in Northern Ireland. Guillemots

Jesus said to look at the birds. They don’t sow nor reap yet their Heavenly Father looks after them. I love bird watching. I had plenty of opportunity to study different birds when I lived along the shores of Strangford Lough.

Near where we lived in Portaferry was a favoured nesting place for three couples of Guillemots. These are small sea birds that spend their time at sea until spring. They build their nests in crevices above the water line on the stone wall. The south facing wall received the full warmth of the sun, a comfortable place to get the maximum heat for their vulnerable young. The chicks were hidden from the blast of chilly winds and out of reach from predators.

This particular group of Guillemots became quite tame. They would sit on the wall above their nests unafraid of walkers passing by. They are a feature every spring. One is sure to see these little black birds flying or swimming near their nests. I was able to photograph one couple last year close up from my car. They didn’t fly away even though I was very near them.

Their black feathers flow smoothly back from their pointed black beak. They have bright red legs and a patch of white on each wing. Their feathers look as of they are smoothed with oil. This gives the bird effective movement down underwater to feed on food at the bottom of the Lough.

During the strong winds and storms of February 2020 the shore wall a further few miles along from Portaferry was broken. The road remained closed for several months. The reason for the delay in the repair was because it is a nesting site for a colony of Guillemots. Many pairs make their nests and rear their young safely. There was even less disruption to their nesting and feeding because the road above was closed. Well done to the council who waited till the birds had reared their young before repairing the road.

Last week on a drive north along the Antrim coast we stopped at Glenarm. This village has a small, picturesque harbour with white limestone walls rising from the deep blue water. We walked close and to our delight little black birds flew out from the walls and skimmed along the water away from us. Guillemots were nesting here. It is an ideal nesting site, with crevices between the stones on the south facing walls and small fish swimming below in the water for them to feed on. We watched the birds. It was lovely to see the black and white birds below us before they ventured back to their nests. This harbour is an ideal place for the Guillemots to rear their young.

Seeing the Guillemots reminded me of God’s faithfulness to me when he tells me not to worry.
Matthew 6 v 25 to 27
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Black Guillemots Nest Nearby

The Loughshore Rd in Portaferry, Co Down is very popular with local walkers, and more so during the Covid restrictions. There is less vehicle traffic. A family of Black Guillemots have become quit celebrities to local visitors.  They have brought joy to many people during this difficult time when people have had to self isolate.  Getting out in nature among God’s creation brings healing to the soul and mind.  

The Black Guillemot is a small black sea bird with a white patch on each wing. Each has a pointed beak, smooth feathers and red feet. They feed on sea creatures and can dive very deep underwater to feed. It’s a privilege to get to see such wild life nearby.

Black Guillemots have a nest amid the rocks in the wall along the shoreline of Strangford Lough.  They  have become quite tame. Passersby stop to watch them as their family play in the water below. My daughter was driving past last evening. Two birds were sitting on the wall. I asked her to reverse the car to see if we could see them up close.

Amazingly the two birds were not disturbed as we stopped. They didn’t fly off. We were able to take photos of them close up. What a delight.

The waves from storms in February breached the shoreline wall in various places. Some were repaired before the lockdown. The road had to be closed to traffic about a mile along the shore from where we live. The wall was broken and part of the road fell into the sea. The Covid lockdown prevented workers getting to fix it.

Then in July when work was due to start to repair the road, it was discovered that another group of Black guillemots had built nests nearby. They were still feeding their young in the nests. The department of the Environment stepped in and advised work to stop. The repair didn’t go ahead. The workers are waiting till the Black Guillemots are finished reading their young.