Friday, 25 September 2020

What Distancing...

Not much birdwatching this weekend, as I had lots of other tasks to do around home, which again included much needed attention to the garden.  Finding enough time to spend on everything, especially on the birding front is always limited at the moment.  I cannot wait to see the plant life cease growing, as I'd rather be out in the wilds looking for those elusive rings.
In this week's post, I've added the ring sightings which have been reported to me by Graham McElwaine and Jan Rod.  Graham has also undertaken the role of ringing co-ordinator, for colour-ringed waders, belonging to a relatively new Northern Ireland Project.  I now have the ringing details for two Oystercatchers and two Curlews, which I recorded from this project.  Having obtained the metal numbers for the four birds, I've updated my sightings on the BTO's DemOn Ringing Database, and should receive the recovery details in the next few days.  This will also provide me with the offical distance's covered, especially for the two Oystercatchers.
With also now knowing the metal numbers used, I checked through DemOn, on the other numbers used in the same series.  Although the birds I recorded are now on the system, others that were ringed have yet to be submitted.  So far, all that I can see at the moment, is there may well be a fair number of Oystercatchers about, so a few more will likely be added to my sightings over this winter.  As a ring reader, every sighting is brilliant to get, and is just reward for the hours spent in the field.  No matter what the weather is doing, it all adds to the knowledge of our ringed birds here in Northern Ireland.
      Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina - Sunday 20th September 2020       
I undertook this week's visit to Antrim Marina on Sunday morning, as I did not plan on ring reading anywhere.  I arrived at the Marina at 8:50, and the weather was sunny, calm and slightly on the chilly side.  However, it did not take long for the temperature to rise, which gave way to a really nice day.
Not a single gull was present, and the first birds arrived at 9:10, when   2AAA , was the first colour-ringed Black-headed Gull to be recorded.  A further six colour-rings were spotted, with   2CSR  being the 7th bird, at 9:56.  For no particular reason, gulls were largely absent until around 11am, when numbers really began to increase.  At this time, maximum numbers were estimated to be around 80 Black-headed Gulls, and a further three colour-rings were spotted, with   2ABS , being the 10th, and final, colour-ring noted at 11:29.
After this, the gulls once again departed, with just the odd few coming and going until my departure around 1pm.  This was again, another very poor visit, but the excellent weather was likely to be the reason for this.  Anyways, by 11am, the good weather had encouraged lots of people to visit the Marina, and it left me wondering about 'Social Distancing', which in many cases here, it was non-existent.  As I was driving along the avenue which links the Marina to the town of Antrim, a Police van was heading towards the Marina.  I wondered if they were going to take a look.  I'd be pretty sure, that they would take a dim view, especially as lockdown measures are once again, beginning to take a hold.
I'm still slightly concerned, by the lack of visiting Black-headed Gulls so far during this autumn/winter season, and a small number of colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, have yet to be recorded, though they should be present by now.  I really need the weather to change for the worse.  It would encourage hungry gulls to come looking for food, and discourage so many visitors.
An email was received from Kate McAllister on Tuesday 22nd September.  At 8am that morning, she spotted   2BRA  and   2CSJ .  Although Kate knew, that she had recorded these two in the past, I'm always grateful for any latest updates.  I added these two sightings to my Antrim Marina Spreadsheet, a copy of which I attached, on my reply to Kate.  Again Kate, all sightings are much appreciated - Thank You.

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina Today - 20th September 2020
 2AAA   2CSX   2ABL   2BRA   2AAN   2ABK   2CSR   2CSJ   2FDK   2ABS 

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded During This Autum/Winter, but not Recorded Today
 2AAK   2ABA   2AAV   2AAB   2ABN   2ACV   2CJT   2CSA   2CSB   2CTC 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
As stated, no gulls at all were present on my arrival.  Other than the Black-headed Gulls mentioned above, it took until 11:00, before any other species of gull arrived.  This was the adult Herring Gull, presumably the regular bird here, and then at 11:13, a single adult Lesser Black-backed Gull appeared.  Both were gone again by 11:20, and a few minutes later, an adult Common Gull, also made a brief appearance.

Just two Mallards were present when I arrived, but their numbers quickly increased to around 80 birds, which remained on site right up to my departure.  Again with these, most legs were checked, but still no rings.

The Mute Swan family, consisting of the adult pair and their six cygnets were present throughout my visit.  A second pair of Mute Swans landed on the small beach area around 11:15.  This is the same pair which has appeared here of late, and I know this by looking at the beak of the female, which looks a bit lumpy.  My son Adrian, should be coming on next Sunday's visit, and between us, we shall begin the process of metal-ringing the cygnets, and then their parents.  Just to keep the ring numbers in order, once these are ringed, then future visiting swans will also be ringed.  I have 20 metals available at present, these being the taller type, which are normally used for ringing eagles.  With the larger characters on the rings, it will make things slightly easier for other ring readers, to record the numbers.  Being able to keep a track of the swans here, will be a great addition, to reading the colour-rings on the Black-headed Gulls.

Normally, I shy away from recording other species at the Marina, unless they land.  However, I could not resist making a note of three Jay's, which flew low overhead, heading for the woodland area across to the other side of the river.  This is the first time that I've ever seen or heard of Jay's here.  1 juvenile Grey Wagtail, 4 Hooded Crows, 8 Jackdaws, 1 Rook and 1 Magpie, were the only other species recorded today.
      From Jan Rod       
I have received three emails from Jan Rod, who hails from County Dublin.  The first of these, concerned the sighting of a Black-headed Gull from Adam McClure's former NI Project.    2ASB , was spotted at the northern end of Strangford Lough, just on the outskirts of Newtownards in County Down.  I have no idea, by what name the local people call this section of shore, but I named it 'Teal Rock', the name given to a nearby housing estate.
  2ASB , was ringed as a chick, on the 15th June 2015, at the WWT  Castle Espie Wetland Centre in County Down, situated just 6 kms/  3 miles, to the south from where the gull was spotted by Jan, on the 16th September 2020.  The only previous sighting for this bird, had been made, just 13 days after ringing, as the then juvenile, was still at the Wetland Centre.  It is now 5 years, 3 months and 1 day, since   2ASB  was ringed.
Black-headed Gull  -    2ASB   -  North Shore of Strangford Lough, Newtownards, Co. Down  (16 Sep 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 15th June 2015, at the WWT Castle Espie Reserve, Co. Down)
(Mobile Phone Photo - Courtesy of Jan Rod)
On the following day, the 17th September, Jan was back on home ground, when he re-sighted Common Gull -   2BB6 , for the fifth time.    2BB6 , had been ringed as a chick, on the 4th July 2009, on Big Copeland Island in County Down, by Shane Wolsey, who ran a Common Gull study on the island from 2009 until 2014.  I now respond to all sightings from Shane's former project, but   2BB6  went un-recorded until the 17th July 2018, when Jan captured the first re-sighting of the bird on the Rogerstown Estuary, at Portrane in County Dublin.  Although not 100% sure of the code at that time, re-sightings on the 5th August 2019, 1st June 2020, and on the 29th July 2020, along with photos, confirmed it's presence in the Portrane area.
Jan's latest sighting, increases the longevity record for   2BB6 , to 11 years, 2 months and 13 days, and the distance from Big Copeland, to the Rogerstown Estuary, is 135 kms / 83 miles (SSW).  There was no photo, to go along with the latest sighting, so I've added one taken by Jan, on the 29th July 2020.
Common Gull  -    2BB6   -  Rogerstown Estuary, Portrane, Co. Dublin, Republic of Ireland
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 4th July 2009, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)
(Photo Courtesy of Jan Rod - taken on the 29th July 2020)
A Sandwich Tern -   UTL , was also spotted by Jan on the 17th September 2020, at Portrane.  Having contacted Chris Redfern about the sighting, when Jan received the reply, he realised that the last person to record this bird, was me.  My only sighting of   UTL , was made on the 22nd September 2019, on Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough.    UTL  was ringed as a chick, on the 14th June 2015, on Coquet Island, just off the Northumberland coast in England.  The birds first re-sighting, was made in May 2019, at Port Seton in Scotland, before being recorded back on Coquet Island, on four occasions, also in May 2019.  Prior to my sighting at Kinnegar,   UTL  had once again been spotted at Port Seton, in August 2019.
With Jan's permission, I submitted his sighting to the BTO, and the offical distance from Coquet to Portrane, is 359 kms / 178 miles (WSW).  The duration since ringing, is 5 years, 3 months and 3 days.  Again, there is no photo to go along with Jan's sighting, so I've added the one I took at Kinnegar last year.  My thanks to Jan for the three sightings, all of which adds to each birds re-sighting and longevity records.
Sandwich Tern  -    UTL   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 14th June 2015, on Coquet Island, Northumberland, England)
(Photo taken by me, on the 22nd September 2019)
      From Graham McElwaine       
An email from Graham McElwaine, produced the latest re-sighting of a Scottish-rung Black-headed Gull - (White) 2APK.  This bird was ringed as a chick, on the 14th June 2015, in the Moorfoot Hills, situated in the Borders Region of Scotland.  As with Graham's latest sighting, the previous five re-sightings, have all been made here in Northern Ireland.  The first sighting was made by James O'Neill, when he spotted (White) 2APK, by the lake at Castlewellan Forest Park in County Down, where Graham recorded the latest sighting, on the 17th September 2020.
The other four re-sightings were made by Suzanne Belshaw at Lurgan Park Lake, County Armagh (June 2017), Graham McElwaine at Castlewellan Forest Park (September 2018, and July 2019), and by David Nixon at Dundrum Inner Bay, County Down (July 2020).  As of Graham's sighting on the 17th September, the duration is now 5 years, 3 months and 3 days, and the distance from the Broad Law colony, to Castlewellan, is 249 kms / 154 miles (SW).
Tom Dougall, who is the contact for this Scottish project, thinks that (White) 2APK, may be nesting here in Northern Ireland, because of the June and July records here.  This is a possibility, but the bird could also be making an early return from Scotland, having made successful or failed breeding attempts.  Again, there was no photo to go with the latest sighting, so I've added one taken by Suzanne Belshaw in 2017.  My thanks to Graham for the latest sighting.  I wouldn't mind seeing this bird myself, so I might try for it during the course of this winter.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  2APK  -  Lurgan Park Lake, Lurgan, Co. Armagh
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 14th June 2015, at Broad Law, Moorfoot Hills, Borders, Scotland)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw, taken on the 26th June 2017)


      From Brian Chambers       
Mark Fitzpatrick, who is the co-ordinator, for the gulls ringed on the Isle of Man, has been in touch with me concerning a Great Black-backed Gull -   T5ZX .  Mark and I, have come to an arrangement, whereby I submit all Northern Ireland sightings, of Isle of Man gulls.  This saves Mark time, having to create the finding sites on his DemOn ringing account, whereby, I have those same sites already set up on my account.

  T5ZX , was spotted on a fishing boat, three miles east, out at sea from Annalong in County Down, and a Brian Chambers, took a photo of the gull with his mobile phone.  Brian, had no idea how to report his sighting (made on the 24th August 2020), but via Facebook, the sighting was directed to Mark, through a Peter Rock from Wales.

  T5ZX , had been ringed as a chick, on the 3rd July 2014, at the Point of Ayre, situated on the north coast of the Isle of Man.  Brian's sighting, was a first for this bird, having been made 6 years, 1 month and 21 days after being ringed.  The offical BTO distance, was given as 101 kms / 62 miles (WSW), from the Point of Ayre.

Brian's sighting, has also triggered a discussion, whereby, many fishermen would also see colour-ringed gulls, but, would have no idea on how to report their sightings.  Obviously, it would benefit everyone, if a solution could be made to address this problem.  If a solution can be created, it would enhance those fishing trips, as more gulls would be reported, and the fishermen involved would learn of the history for each bird.  I've suggested an information notice board, placed at all major fishing harbours, which not only highlights the colour-ringing of gulls, but also how to report sightings.  Even members of the public, could become involved on reading these notice boards.
My thanks to Brian, on behalf of Mark and myself, on his persistence to find an owner for his sighting.  Having got there in the end, the sighting may well be the 'spark' needed to gather further reports.  It is well known, how gulls tend to follow fishing boats.  The reason being, that many fish are gutted on board the vessels, and the unwanted offal thrown overboard.  This process in turn, makes the birds themselves very confident with their close approach to the fishermen themselves, thereby leading to the colour-rings being fairly easy read. 

Great Black-backed Gull  -    T5ZX   -  At Sea, Three Miles East of Annalong, Co. Down  (24 Aug 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd July 2014, at The Point of Ayre, Isle of Man)
(Mobile Phone Photo - Courtesy of Brian Chambers)


      Saturday 19th September 2020       
Today I worked the east coast of County Antrim, starting at Sandy Bay in Larne, and finished at Whiteabbey Beach.  At Whiteabbey Beach, a colour-ringed Common Gull was spotted, which may well have been   2AIP , which is a regular here.  However, the tide was so far out, as was the bird, not even my camera could not capture the code, so this one fell by the wayside.

Despite visiting several locations, only two rings were confirmed, these being colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, both of which were recorded on the shore beside Kilroot Power Station.  On this same shore, I was on the lookout for Black-headed Gull -   2BJL , which had been recorded by Jeff Higgott on the 21st December 2019, whilst he was here on holiday  The only previous sighting of   2BJL , was made by me, on the 5th September 2014, in my home town of Ballymena.  At that time, the gull was a juvenile, having been ringed in June 2014, at Castle Espie.

When I spotted an Orange Darvic at Kilroot, my hopes went soaring thinking I had got   2BJL , but when I captured the code with my camera, the gull turned out to be   2ADB , a regular at the nearby Carrickfergus Harbour.  Adding my sighting to Adam McClure's BHG Database, this is the bird's 57th sighting record overall, having been recorded on all occasions bar one, at Carrickfergus Harbour.  The other sighting was made at Carrickfergus Leisure Centre.  Ringed as an adult male, on the 25th November 2013, at Carrickfergus Harbour, the duration is now 6 years, 9 months and 25 days, since being ringed.
Black-headed Gull  -    2ADB   -  Kilroot Power Station (Shore), Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (19 Sep 2020)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 25th November 2013, at Carrickfergus Harbour, Co. Antrim)
The second colour-ringed Black-headed Gull at Kilroot, had a Green Darvic, so I instantly guessed that this was a Norwegian bird.  At the start, I had some trouble in capturing the code with my camera, as Oysercatchers kept getting in the way.  I was fearful, that the gull would fly off, but thankfully it stayed and I was able to capture the code -   JZ01 .

The code however, rang no bells with me, but on returning home and checking it via my spreadsheet, I had recorded the gull earlier this year.  On the 5th January 2020, I had spotted it at the Mill Ponds at Carrickfergus Leisure Centre, with the bird having been recorded in Northern Ireland for the first time.    JZ01 , was ringed as an adult male, on the 29th March 2016, at Hovindammen, a lake on the outskirts of Oslo.  Until I recorded it at the Leisure Centre, there had been one previous re-sighting, which was made on the 17th July 2018, when the gull was spotted at Scaling Reservoir in Cleveland, England.

After my sighting in January of this year,   JZ01  was not recorded back in Norway, but was re-sighted on the 30th March 2020, at Mariestad in Sweden, 217 kms (SE), from the ringing site in Norway.  This way the last sighting until today.  The distance from Hovindammen to Kilroot, is 1,147 kms / 713 miles (WSW), and the duration since being ringed, is 4 years, 5 months and 21 days.  I was well pleased having recorded another returning bird, and I hope this one will become a regular winter visitor here.

Black-headed Gull  -    JZ01   -  Kilroot Power Station (Shore), Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (19 Sep 2020)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 29th March 2016, at Hovindammen, Oslo, Norway)

A third, metal-rung Black-headed Gull was also spotted at Kilroot.  The bird was far too far away, to attempt to capture the number, but the tall ring indicates that this was another foreign bird, possibly from Finland or Denmark.  This is only my second visit to the shore at Kilroot, but it seems likely, that more rings will be recorded here in the future.  There is a nice 'spit' of land close to the power station, which attracts lots of roosting gulls and waders.