Saturday, 16 January 2021

Worn Oystercatcher Result...

It has been a quiet week for me, other than going to work and back, I've had to remain at home due to the new Covid lockdown, though I did visit our local park where there are now lots of Black-headed Gulls.  This was the latest in numerous visits this winter, but so far, not a single ringed gull has turned up.

The number of cases caused by the mutated strain of the virus, appears to have peaked here in Northern Ireland, so at present, an easing to restrictions may be made in February.  I'm itching to get out again, especially to resume my weekly visits to Antrim Marina.  The lockdown came at a really bad time, as numbers for some species at the Marina were reaching peak levels, plus I'm still wanting to catch and colour-ring a few more Black-headed Gulls.

I thought that there would be very little to report on this week, but thankfully a few sightings have been reported to me, albeit, a couple of those came indirectly.  Ringing recoveries have also arrived with me, the stand-out one being my Christmas Day sighting of an Oystercatcher.
Suzanne Belshaw, has also been in touch, with three colour-ring re-sightings, but I'll hold these over to my next post.  Perhaps by then, one or two further reports may come my way.
      From Ronan Owens and Stephen Foster       
A Herring Gull sighting has recently come to light, having been made back in November 2020.  On the 2nd November 2020, Ronan Owens and Stephen Foster, were conducting counts for the BTO's Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS), when Ronan spotted a colour-ringed Herring Gull.  Although fairly distant, Stephen managed to obtain a photo, showing -   4E:W .  Eventually, they learnt that Katherine Booth Jones (BTO NI), was the new ringing co-ordinator for these Copeland Island rings.  Katherine and I have worked closely together regarding these gulls, and I was copied into her reply to Ronan.

Actually, this turned out to be a good sighting, as -   4E:W , had only been recorded on one previous occasion.  The gull had been ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 6th May 2015, on Big Copeland Island in County Down.  9 months and 6 days after being ringed - (10th February 2016), David Nixon spotted the gull at Millisle in County Down, a mere 8 kms / 5 miles (S), of Big Copeland.

Ronan and Stephen's sighting was made at Foreland Point, just north of the coastal town of Donaghadee.  From Foreland Point, Big Copeland Island lies less than 2 kms away, and the duration since being ringed, is now 5 years, 5 months and 27 days.  There is nothing really spectacular to the sighting, but it is still good to know the bird is alive and well.
My thanks to Katherine for copying me into her reply, and to Ronan and Stephen for their permission to report on their sighting - they all count, no matter how late, that they come to light.
Herring Gull  -    4E:W   -  Donaghadee, Co. Down  (02 Nov 2020)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 6th May 2015, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)
(Photo Courtesy of Stephen Foster)
      From David Nixon       
I was copied into the exchanges of emails between David Nixon, and Ewan Weston, concerning David's sighting of a colour-ringed Sandwich Tern -   EHC .  Ewan, who is the ringing co-ordinator for these Aberdeenshire rung Sandwich Terns, was amazed by David's sighting.  By this time of the year, most of the terns would be 'sunning' themselves in South Africa, but David's bird, was one of a seemingly growing population of Sandwich Terns, that now remain within the British Isles over the winter months.  Here in Northern Ireland, over the past few years, there have been numerous reports of wintering Sandwich Terns reported on the NIBA Website (NIBA).  Surely, our ever succession of mild winters, is perhaps playing a major contribution to this situation.
David's Tern -   EHC , was ringed as a chick, on the 11th June 2009, at the Forvie National Nature Reserve, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  The bird went unrecorded until the 21st July 2011, when it was caught on the Ythan Estuary (adjacent to Forvie NNR), where it had the colour-ring fitted.  Over the years, there has been numerous re-sightings in Scotland, with two exceptions.  The first of these, was made on the 27th August 2016, when spotted at Ainsdale Beach, in Southport, England, and on the 10th August 2018, when spotted by Jan Rod, at the Burrow Beach, in Portrane in County Dublin.
Ewan stated, that David's sighting on the 5th January 2021, was the closest ever wintering Sandwich Tern, which had been colour-ringed in Aberdeenshire.  The distance from Forvie NNR, to Killyleagh, is 397 kms / 246 miles (SW), and the duration since being ringed, is now 11 years, 6 months and 25 days.
My thanks goes to David yet again for another interesting ring sighting, and to Ewan Weston, for supplying the birds history.
Sandwich Tern  -    EHC   -  Killyleagh, Co. Down  (05 Jan 2021)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 11th June 2009, at the Forvie National Nature Reserve, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)
(Photo Courtesy of David Nixon)
      From Craig Johnston       
In my previous post, I reported on a second juvenile Black-headed Gull, which had been recorded in Northern Ireland this winter, these having been ringed as chicks, on the 24th June 2020, at the Elvanfoot colony, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland (see previous post).  On Sunday 10th January, the ringing co-ordinator for these gulls - Iain Livingstone, copied me into a reply to a Craig Johnston, as a third juvenile from the colony has now been reported.
I contacted Craig, who was able to supply a photo of the youngster, taken at the Rushmere Shopping Centre, in Craigavon, County Armagh.  The juvenile concerned, rung -   2HJ2 , was also ringed at Elvanfoot, on the 24th June 2020.  I submitted the sighting to the BTO on Craig's behalf, but it might be a while before we get the recovery details, as the ringing information on these youngsters, has yet to be submitted to the BTO.  Using Google Maps, I estimate the distance, as being 206 kms / 128 miles (SW), and the duration since being ringed, is 6 months and 14 days.
As with the sighting of -   2HK0  from my previous post, which was recorded by Richard Donaghey, both of these juveniles were spotted at McDonald fast food outlets.  It's amazing just how readily these youngsters find such sites, as any scraps will enhance their survival rates.  My thanks goes to Craig for allowing me to report on his sighting, along with the photo, and to Iain for keeping me informed.
Black-headed Gull  -    2HJ2   -  Rushmere Shopping Centre, Craigavon, Co. Armagh  (07 Jan 2021)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2020, at Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire, Scotland)
(Photo Courtesy of Craig Johnston)
      Ringing Recoveries       
On Monday 4th January 2021, whilst conducting my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, I recorded a metal-rung Black-headed Gull from Iceland -   527908 .  When I went to submit my sighting on the BTO's DemOn Ringing Database, I discovered that the gull was already on the system.  Although DemOn does not show any ringing or re-sighting locations, it showed that -   527908 , was ringed as a chick, on the 21st June 2013, and it had been sighted on the 7th January 2017, though the species of bird was given as unknown on that particular date.

Having submitted my sighting on DemOn, I sent a separate email to the BTO Recoveries Department, asking for a copy of the sighting made in 2017.  On Monday 11th January, I received the ringing details for my gull, having been ringed at Stokkseyri, on the south-west coast area of Iceland, and so far, I have received no information from the BTO regarding the 2017 sighting.

However, whilst I was at work on Wednesday evening (13th January), I received an email from an observer in Scotland, whom I've corresponded with in the past.  By previous arrangement, not wanting to be named, the observer concerned follows my blog, and it was he who made the 2017 sighting.  He had spotted -   527908 , on the 7th January 2017, at Victoria Park, in the centre of Glasgow, which is 1,280 kms / 795 miles (SE), from Stokkseyri, and the distance to my sighting at Antrim Marina, is 1,314 kms / 816 miles (SE).  The observer was also a trifle mystified, as he had reported the bird as a Black-headed Gull to the BTO, and it is actually listed on the BTO's Online Ringing Reports for 2017 (Clyde 2017).

The difference between the two wintering sites is interesting, giving the distance between Glasgow and Antrim.  Usually, Black-headed Gulls are faithful to particular wintering sites, and normally the birds would have settled into these long before now.  Perhaps -   527908 , is an exception to the rule.  My thanks goes to my Scottish friend for supplying the missing info, this was very much appreciated.
Black-headed Gull  -    527908   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (04 Jan 2021)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 21st June 2013, at Stokkseyri, SW Iceland)
On Christmas Day 2020, I recorded a metal-rung Oystercatcher at Kinnegar Beach, situated on the County Down shore of Belfast Lough.  Having taken numerous photos, I completed the five numbers on the BTO issued ring -   **80656 , but the first two letters had worn away.  On returning home, I went onto the BTO's DemOn Ringing Database, and entered numerous combinations of the first two letters, most beginning with the letter '  F ', but I also knew that '  SS ' had also been used in the past.  I could only find one match, and that was -   FH80656 , that of a bird ringed as a chick, on the 12th June 2014, though DemOn does not show locations.

I sent an email to the BTO Recoveries Department, with the photograph below attached.  In my email, I stated that I had searched DemOn for a match, and found one, being -   FH80656 , and requested a data search in the event of other possibilities.  On Thursday 14th January, Kev Leighton replied to my email, to say that -   FH80656 , was the only possibility, and to submit my sighting through DemOn, giving that full ring number.
Friday saw the recovery details from the BTO.  The bird was ringed on the islet of Baleshare on North Uist, in the Western Isles area of Scotland.  The distance to Kinnegar Beach, was given as 335 kms / 208 miles (SSE), and the duration as of the 25th December 2020, was 6 years, 6 months and 13 days.
This was a very satisfactory conclusion for a very hard won ring number.  Whilst photographing the ring, the legs of this bird kept disappearing behind small boulders and rocks, as the bird was constantly on the move.  As can be seen in my photo, there is considerable wear to the ring over a short period of 6 years.  Each winter, I notice a couple of metal-rung Oystercatchers on Kinnegar Beach, but it is rare to get close enough to them to record the number, never mind having one with a badly worn ring.  Persistence certainly paid off, on this bird, with a nice recovery to show for my efforts.
Oystercatcher  -    FH80656   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (25 Dec 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 12th June 2014, on North Uist, Western Isles, Scotland)
      From Tom Cooney       
An email arrived with me on the 12th January 2021, from Tom Cooney, who has now made his third sighting of a Copeland rung Common Gull  -    2AHV .  The bird was ringed as a chick, on the 27th June 2014, on Big Copeland Island in County Down.  5 years, 2 months and 14 days had elapsed before the first ever sighting of -   2AHV  being reported by Tom, on the 10th September 2019, with the gull also spotted the following day.  All three sightings, including this one on the 12th January, were made on the shore at Rockmarshall, Dundalk Bay, Co. Louth.  The distance from Big Copeland Island, is 89 kms / 57 miles (SW), and the duration, is now 6 years, 6 months and 16 days.
I do not as yet, have any photos for this gull showing it's colour-ring, so I'm assuming that the ring is in fairly good condition.  These Blue Darvics are known to deteriorate quite rapidly.  I'm hoping, barring any lockdown conditions, to get onto Big Copeland in early May coming, as with agreement by the Copeland Bird Observatory, and the landowner, Alan McCulla, I can ring Common Gulls chicks on the island.  At the same time, I would have the opportunity to read the rings on the adult Common Gulls there.  On the lifting of restrictions last summer, I made my first ever visit to the island, with some useful results (read here), though the easing of the lockdown, came a little too late into the breeding season.  It would be fantastic to record -   2AHV , back on the island.

My thanks goes to Tom once again, for informing me about his latest sighting of this gull.