by Paul Cormacain
THE National Trust has asked me to point out that there are new interpretation facilities at one of the finest beaches in the country, Portstewart Strand.
The two miles of yellow sand is one of the finest, and one of the most popular Blue Flag beaches.
The new facilities will tell how the Trust manages this beach and the special area of conservation sand dunes.
These are managed for the wildlife and the human visitors who annually visit.
It is hoped that the new arrangements, together with the information panels will enhance the visitors' experience and appreciation.
Went on the hunt for red throated divers last week, for we do manage to see them every year.
They were lying low this year, and we have not managed to see even one of them.
Coming from the mountains and moorland we made our way towards the north coast.
Passing by a small inland lake, we noticed five gulls and wondered what they were doing so far inland.
They were all nesting on boggy ground close to the lake, and they did not like visitors.
I have been dive bombed by terns and gulls in the past when close to their nesting sites, but it was a hooded crow which came in for the most intensive attacking this time.
I watched the crow trying to make himself smaller, and you could see that he was most unhappy about being attacked.
After all, he was only on the lookout for lunch, a gull's egg or a chick would do nicely, thank you, and for his troubles he was being dive bombed by gulls.
They were common gulls, not so common as the name suggests, but not too rare either.
When I looked through my records it turned out that other common gulls were nesting at other inland lakes in the past, and these lakes were not a million miles away.
The behaviour of the common gull is not unlike that of the herring gull. Both eat nearly anything, and are good at scavenging.
Both birds have the habit of eating shellfish on the sea shore.
First you get a shellfish when the tide goes out. Then you take it up into the air, and drop it on a rock.
The shell of the fish is no match for a large rock, hit from a height.
The shellfish breaks open, and the bird has a delicious morsel of food.
The common gull has a very catholic taste in food. As mentioned, it will eat any edible refuse and shellfish. It will also take worms and insects, it like seeds and if it comes across a small mammal it will have it for lunch.
If a common gull comes across an unguarded nest with eggs or chicks, it will happily lunch until an angry parent comes along and chases it away.
Adult common gulls have a grey back, with white underparts.
The wing tips are much darker than the rest of the wing, being black in colour but with some white spots.
The legs are yellow greenish in colour, and the bill is yellow.
The young are dark brown above, have white underparts like the adult. The young also have a dark broad band on the end of the tail.
Although the common gull is not that common, there are many more of the birds in the winter than in the summer.
In England you would only see a few birds in summer at isolated spots around the country.
In the winter the place seems full of them. Only at Angelsey in Wales do they breed, but in the winter you can see them all over Wales.
In Scotland and Ireland they are much more consistent, breeding happily in both countries and also living in both during the winter.
This bird can also be found breeding in the Scandinavian countries, and in the Baltic states, parts of Russia and Europe.
In the winter its range is larger, and the bird lives happily in the Mediterranean and as far east as the Persian Gulf. Sub species live in eastern Russia and in north America.
The thought occurred that if I go looking for common gulls next time, I just might come across red throated divers.
Saturday June 4 - Multiple Sclerosis sponsored walk, and see the wildlife, at Colin Glen Forest Park, details from 9061 4115
Examine the moth trap, see what visited overnight, and marvel at the lepidoptera, 1000, Oxford Island Centre, call them on 028 3832 2205.
River Wildlife Walk to celebrate World Environment Day in Lisburn, at .3:30, contact Siobhan Lanigan O'Keefe e on 028 9250 9458.
Saturday June 11 - Celebrate World Oceans Day at Crawfordsburn Country Park, 11am, phone 9185 3621
Saturday June 11/Sunday June 12 - Pond dipping at Castle Espie, at 2pm, details 9187 4146
Saturday June 18 - Lisburn RSPB is off to lovely Rathlin, all welcome, contact David McCreedy on 40626125