Following a text from Christine Cassidy, who notices everything birdy going on at Lough Foyle, telling me that there were plenty of birds present, I decided to visit there today, as the tide times (remember, dropping tides are required in early season!) were much better there than for Strangford Lough.
My first port of call was Ball's Point, to the east of the main sea defences on the Lough. At Strangford Lough we mainly allow two hours after high tide as the optimal ring-reading period, but I'm now thinking that at Lough Foyle it must be nearer to three!
Anyhow, 322 birds counted there (typical view in the photo), yielding 15 marked birds, most of which, strangely, were not previously associated with the site.
The birds were settled, so I was able to do an assessment of productivity. This yielded a percentage juveniles of just under 14%, and an average brood size of 3, which would be WAY above recent years. However, still early days, and a subsequent look at 75 birds at Ballykelly, also on Lough Foyle, only yielded 3 juveniles, illustrating that families with juveniles tend to be selective on which precise areas they feed, and that it needs a total count of a site to come up with meaningful figures...