Thursday, 15 November 2018

Camera Power...

Again, a later than planned publication.  This was due to postponing my visit to Antrim Marina, and my wait on receiving ringing details.  As the title of this post implies, the performance of my new camera, is my main topic of conversation.  I've written an article, at the end of the post, which not only shows what the camera can do, but also answers, a question received in a recent email.
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      Antrim Marina - Monday 12th November 2018       
Once again, I put off my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, going on Monday, instead of Sunday.  Arriving at 09.20, I planned to depart at Midday, to visit the other three sites around the town of Antrim.  With a large number of Black-headed Gulls appearing, I extended my visit at the Marina, and forsook the other sites.

The morning was dry and sunny, with a light breeze.  Although the temperature reached 10°C, a chill factor must have been in play, as at times, my finger tips were white with cold.

Unlike last weeks visit, Black-headed Gull numbers, always exceeded 100 birds, though many fed on the grass areas surrounding the Marina.  Even, as I drove down the avenue leading to the Marina, gulls could be seen feeding on the nearby playing fields.

So far this winter, 28 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, have been recorded, but, my predicted return of   2AFD , from Latvia, has fallen by the wayside.  The return dates on my spreadsheet, are, 16th Nov 2014, 1st Nov 2015, 13th Nov 2016 and the 5th November 2017.  Going by the dates, the return of   2AFD , is still imminent.

All was not lost today, as two returnees, were recorded.  Both were Black-headed Gulls, that I caught and ringed last winter.  As they are newly rung birds, I am still building up profiles for both.  My final, and 23rd, 'colour-ring' sighting of the day, was   2CSH .  This gull, was ringed on the 10th December 2017, here at the Marina, and was last seen, on the 19th March 2018.  It's absence, until now, makes it a suspect, as a breeder from the Continent, so we really need a summer re-sighting.

Another gull, last seen here on the 2nd April 2018, was   2CSF , which became my 5th re-sighting of the day, having been spotted at 09.27.  Any wonder, it was so easily caught and ringed on the 26th November 2017, as today, it kept alighting onto the bonnet of my car.  I was well pleased, to see the return of this bird, as it was spotted in northern Iceland (Akureyri), on the 12th July 2018.

Three of the gulls, that I caught and ringed last winter, are still outstanding.  One of these, is   2CSC , which would land on my hand to be fed.  I still strongly believe, this was the same bird, that carried out this habit, as a juvenile in 2016.  In November 2017, a 2nd winter bird, landed on my hand to be fed, hence my belief.    2CSC , is obviously of foreign origin, and if it has survived the summer, should arrive back here sometime soon.

The remaining two gulls, are   2CSD   &   2CST   2CSD , damaged it's tail, a couple of weeks after ringing, which made it's flight awkward looking.  I reckon this disability, would have made it an easy target for a predator, such as a Sparrowhawk, and the gull may well be dead.  It would be nice to be proved wrong, but time will tell.

  2CST , was never seen again at Antrim Marina, after being caught and ringed on the 7th January 2018.  However, I fell in with   2CST , at my local park in Ballymena, on the 13th February 2018.  I've undertaken a handful of visits to my local park, this winter, but as yet,   2CST , has not been seen.

With the two latest additions to this winter's list, the overall total, has increased to 30 individuals.  Another gull, which may re-appear at any time, is   2BRC .  This BHG, was caught and ringed, on the 1st February 2015.  It's re-sighting history at the Marina, is very patchy, but I do expect to see it at some point this winter.

By 11am, this morning, the overall total of BHGs, reached the 120 to 130 mark, hence my staying on, at the  Marina.  The gulls, were all over me, trying to feed from my hand.  It's now getting to a point, where new additions, will be easily caught and ringed.  I'm contemplating, taking on extra visits to the Marina, for the sole purpose of ringing.


Black-headed Gull  -    2CSF   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (12 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed 2nd Winter Bird, on the 26th November 2017, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSH   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (12 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 10th December 2017, at Antrim Marina)


Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded at Antrim Marina on Monday 12th November 2018
 2AAK   2ABS   2ADJ   2CJT   2AAA   2CSF   2CSR   2AAT 
 2CSJ   2AAR   2ABF   2CSA   2ABL   2BRA   2CSK   2ABN 
 2ACV   2AAP   T35J   2AAN   2ABK   2CSL   2CSH    


Today's Absentees
 2AAB   2AAV   2ADV   2BRD   2ANS   2CSB   2CSS 


Other Birds at Antrim Marina
2 adult Common Gulls, present on my arrival, remained throughout my latest visit.  A third adult, arrived at 11.47, but the small Scottish-rung female, did not appear.  This is the second week running, when she has failed to turn up.  I've still not confirmed her 'metal' number yet.

The usual sub-adult Herring Gull, was also present throughout my visit.  A 3rd winter Herring Gull, arrived at 10.54, but was not too keen on the activity around the Marina, just staying for around 10 minutes.

Mallard numbers, are still on the low side.  23 birds were counted on my arrival, and a head count at 12.20, revealed 47 ducks.  Still no rings, though most birds were checked.

Mute Swan,   W34158 , but present throughout, and two juvenile Mute Swans, arrived at 10.17.  Leaving the river, both youngsters, waddled towards me to be fed bread.  I know by this habit, these were two of the five cygnets, which had been present with their parents, at the start of my 'Ring Reading' season, in August.  Clearly, the family has now broken up.

Other birds noted, were 2 Hooded Crows, 4 Jackdaws and a single Pied Wagtail.

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      Ringing Details Received       
On Monday morning, 12th November, before I set off for Antrim Marina, I checked my emails, to find one from Andreas Zours, in Germany.  He must have been up very early in the morning, as the email was sent at 05.14.

The email concerned, the juvenile Mediterranean Gull -   AY.KA , which had been ringed as a chick, in June 2018, at Leipzig, Germany.  It's first re-sighting outside of Germany, came 1 month and 9 days, after being ringed.  Cameron Moore, spotted the young gull, at Whitehead, on the shores of Belfast Lough.

On the 1st September 2018,   AY.KA , was next recorded at the seaside town of Bray, when spotted by Brian Burke, in County Wicklow, Republic of Ireland.

Andreas, was informing me about the latest re-sighting of   AY.KA , on the 10th November 2018, and this bird is certainly clocking up the stamps in it's Passport.  Antonio Fontoira, reported it at the coastal town of O Grove, on the Spanish North-West coast.  Antonio's sighting, came 5 months and 2 days, since the gull was ringed.

The distance from Leipzig, to O Grove, is 1,876 kms / 1,165 miles, in a south-westerly direction.  This young gull, is certainly clocking up the mileage, taking into consideration, it's visit's to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as well.

My thanks to Andreas, for keeping me in the 'loop', concerning his Med Gulls.

Mediterranean Gull  (Juvenile)  -    AY.KA   -  Whitehead, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (17 Jul 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 8th June 2018, at the Rehbach Gravel Pits, Leipzig, Germany)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)

Adam McClure, has been in touch with me concerning the two gulls, from his Northern Ireland Study, these I spotted last weekend, at Millquarter Bay.  My hunch was correct, as   2ALC   &   2AXT , were indeed, first re-sightings for these two Black-headed Gulls, since they were ringed in 2015 and 2016.  My thanks to Adam, for the info.

Another Black-headed Gull, spotted at Millquarter Bay, last weekend, was   2BT3 .  Calum Campbell, of the Grampian Ringed Group, is currently in Saudi Arabia, and will send me the gulls full details, on his return to Scotland.

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      Saturday 10th November 2018       
Today, I decided to have another go at reading rings, at Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, County Down.  Before that, as it was high tide, I stopped by the Belfast Waste Transfer Station,at Dargan, and visited the RSPB's WoW Nature Reserve.  Surprisingly few gulls, were Dargan, and the only ringed bird to be recorded was at the RSPB Reserve.

Black-tailed Godwit - GG-ORf, has a long history of re-sightings, around the Belfast area.  Ringed as a chick, in 2007, in Iceland, today's was my fourth sighting of this bird.  I first recorded it on the Dargan Mudflats, on the 31st July 2016, and re-sighted it there on September 25th 2016.  I failed to come across the bird again in 2017, although I knew it was seen in Belfast.

My third sighting, was on the 19th August 2018, when I spotted GG-ORf, at Whitehouse Lagoon.  Outside of the Belfast area, the only two records of GG-ORf, spotted wintering elsewhere, was back in 2007, when it was recorded on Strangford Lough.

Before leaving the Reserve, I scoped numerous other Godwits, Curlews, Lapwings and a small number of Oystercatchers, but no more rings were spotted.

Black-tailed Godwit  -  GG-ORf  -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast Harbour Estate  (10 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th July 2007, at Sydsti-mor, Northern Iceland)

Leaving the RSPB's Nature Reserve, I parked above the beach at Kinnegar, and waited on the tide to go out.  By the time of my departure, I had successfully captured the codes on several 'colour-ringed' birds.  Below the rings are dealt with in alphabetical and code order.

Kinnegar Beach, is very extensive, when the tide is fully out, but after scoping a distant Common Gull, with an 'Orange Darvic', my camera, once again proved it's worth, as the code was easily captured.  Without, going too far into digital mode (which can produce quite 'grainey' pictures, the gull was no stranger to me.

This was my second sighting of   2VDT , having spotted the gull earlier this year, here at Kinnegar, on the 18th February 2018.  At the time, my sighting of   2VDT , was a first ever re-sighting, the gull having been ringed the previous autumn, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

At present Calum Campbell, who is the ringing secretary, of the Grampian Ringing Group, is in Saudi Arabia, and will supply updates on his return.  

Common Gull  -    2VDT   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 26th August 2017, on the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)

A Common Gull, from Shane Wolsey's, former Northern Ireland Project, was especially pleasing to find.  Having taken over the project from Shane, last year, this was my first sighting of   2AAN .  These 'Yellow Darvic's', were quickly discontinued in their use, as many cracked easily when being applied, and more often then not, did not show up well, on the legs of the Common Gulls.

Ringed as an un-sexed breeding adult, in May 2009, it's only previous re-sighting, was made on the 27th July 2016, when spotted at nearby Whitehouse Lagoon, by Suzanne Belshaw.

The duration since being ringed, until my sighting today, is now 9 years, 5 months and 23 days, have travelled 21kms / 13 miles, from the ringing site, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down.  As can be seen, from the condition of the 'colour-ring', they are wearing well, unlike the 'Blue Darvic's', which replaced the 'Yellow Darvic's'.

Common Gull  -    2AAN   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 18th May 2009, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Juvenile Common Gull -   2J08 , is from a new ringing site, being used by the Clyde Ringing Group.  Iain Livingstone, the Group's Ringing Secretary, replied to say that this was the first re-sighting, of two juvenile Common Gulls, ringed at Blackness Castle, Falkirk, in Scotland.

Ringed as a juvenile, on the 16th September 2018,   2J08 , has flown 213 kms / 132 miles (SW), to reach Kinnegar Beach.  My thanks to Iain, for his super fast reply to my email (9 minutes).

Common Gull  -    2J08   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2018)
Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 16th September 2018, at Blackness Castle, Falkirk, Sterlingshire, Scotland)

Hot on the heals of a Herring Gull, with an Isle of Man, 'Black Darvic' - (  T7VN ), spotted by David Nixon, on the 2nd November 2018 (see last week's post), I recorded another one today on Kinnegar Beach -   T8ZY .  I have emailed Mark Fitzpatrick, the ringing secretary for the Manx Ringing Group, but as yet, no reply has been received.

Having reported the gull to Mark, I also reported it through my 'DemOn' account on the BTO's Ringing Database.  The ringing details, arrived with me later on Monday afternoon (12th November).  These details, also included the number of the 'metal-ring', used on this gull.  Entering the number onto the DemOn Ringing Database, I could see that there has been three previous re-sightings of   T8ZY .

Ringed as a juvenile, on the 30th July 2013, it has been spotted on the 3rd February 2014, 21st December 2014, and on the 17th October 2018.  With DemOn, the locations of the re-sightings are not given, so I'm hoping to be filled in with these, when Mark, eventually replies.

Herring Gull  -    T8ZY   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Juvenile, on the 30th July 2013, at Poyllvaaish, on the Isle of Man) 

Another Herring Gull -   OY:W , is from the fairly recently started project, on the Copeland Islands, in County Down.  Returning home, and checking my spreadsheet, this turned out to be my second re-sighting of   OY:W , here at Kinnegar.  I spotted it earlier this year, on the 31st March 2018.

I have reported my latest sighting to Adam McClure, who is the ringing coordinator, for the Copeland Project.  As far as I know, my two sightings, are the only records of   OY:W , since it was first re-sighted on the 24th August 2015.  On that occasion,   OY:W , was spotted by a Gerry O'Neill, at Rathcor Beach, Co. Louth, in the Republic of Ireland.  Rathcor Beach, is on the southern side of Carlingford Lough, which separates Northern Ireland, from the Republic.

I'll report on any further sighting's, once Adam, replies to my email.

Herring Gull  -    0Y:W   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down)
Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 23rd May 2014, on The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Spotting an Oystercatcher, with two 'Red Rings' on the same leg, I instantly knew, this was a new sighting for me (White on the other leg).  At the time, the tide was just starting to go out, but my Oystercatcher, was scared off by a walker (you guessed it), with his dog.

It was quite a long time, before I re-located this bird, the tide now well out, and several hundred Oystercatcher's feeding.  This time, a few photos were easily taken and the full 'colour-combination', was captured.

Knowing the bird was Icelandic in origin, the position of the rings, was different from the norm.  Usually, the two plain 'colour-rings', are fitted onto the left-leg, and the 'coded White Ring', is placed onto the right-leg.  On this bird, they were on the opposite legs.

Contacting Böddi, of the Icelandic Wader Group, he replied with the birds PDF File, attached.  RR-W(NC), was ringed as a breeding adult, on the 22nd May 2017.  My sighting, was the first record of the bird, outside of Iceland, where it had been re-sighted on the 19th March, and 4th April 2018. 

Oystercatcher  -  RR-W(NC)  -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 22nd May 2017, at Sandgerði, South-West Iceland)

A second 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher that I spotted, was a bird I first recorded back on the 26th August.  I've had to wait until now, for it's ringing details, as Böddi, did not have this summer's ringing reports, but did state the bird was ringed during the breeding season.

YL-W(UA), was ringed whilst incubating eggs, on the 23rd May 2018.  My sighting, in August, here at Kinnegar (on the pond), was the first record of the bird, since being ringed, at Stokkseyri, Southern Iceland.

Oystercatcher  -  YL-W(UA)  -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 23rd May 2018, at Stokkseyri, Southern Iceland)

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      Sunday 11th November 2018       
After my marathon visit to Millquarter Bay, last Sunday, I postponed my proposed visit's to Castle Espie and Millisle.  To make full use of the day, I decided to put off my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, until tomorrow, and complete last week's plans.

On my way to Castle Espie, I stopped by Victoria Park, in Belfast, and Kiltonga Nature Reserve, at Newtownards.  The only ring spotted, was a 'metal', on a Black-headed Gull, at Victoria Park.  This bird remained on the branches of a tree, on the small island, so I had no chance of reading the ring.

I then proceeded to the Castle Espie Wetland Centre.  I timed my arrival there, to co-inside with high tide, hoping to record gulls and waders, on the tidal lagoon.

On reaching the wooden screen, close to the 'Brent Hide', I was hugely disappointed, as there were no waders, and only four Black-headed Gulls.  My disappointment, soon turned to glee.  Whilst scoping the gulls, the most distant bird, bore a 'Green Darvic'.  I knew straight away, this was most likely to a Norwegian bird, and once again, my new camera captured the code -   J08K .

Returning home, I entered my sighting, of what I initially thought, was a new sighting, onto the 'Live Norwegian Ringing Database'.  Having done that, I was presented with a page, showing some of the gull's history, with the option of selecting it's full history.

Of course, I selected the full history, and 'bang', I had spotted this bird last winter.  On Christmas Day, whilst everybody else, fills their bellies with Turkey, and other junk, I go to Belfast to 'Read Rings'.  Having the freedom (peace and quite), at the Connswater Shopping Centre car park, I look for one particular Norwegian Black-headed Gull - (White) J4TJ.

Not only did I record (White) J4TJ, for the third Xmas running, but this time, I also recorded another Norwegian BHG - (White) J2UP, and a Lithuanian BHG -   HA.33.604 .  Upon completion of my Connswater visit, I checked out other sites in Belfast, eventually falling in with today's bird -   J08K , at the Belfast Waste Transfer Station, at Dargan.

Since my sighting of   J08K , last Xmas day, the gull was reported back in Norway, on the 23rd and 26th April 2018.  Both sightings, were at Klepp, 16 kms north of the ringing site at Nærbø.  I have recently been looking for this bird, around Dargan, but it never even dawned on me, that today's sighting was of the same gull.  Normally, I would have expected to see the bird on the same wintering site.  Perhaps,   J08K , might venture northwards to Dargan, by Christmas Day.

Black-headed Gull  -    J08K   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (11 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 3rd April 2015, at Nærbø Park, Nærbø, Norway)

My next stop at Millisle, was just as disappointing, but not quite as bad as Castle Espie.  Only a handful of Common and Black-headed Gulls were found, but no rings.  Checking small groups of waders and gulls, northwards to Ballyholme, the only other two rings spotted today, were at Donaghadee.

Parking close to the Community Centre car park, I attracted the gulls towards my car with bread.  In no time, a BHG, with a 'metal', appeared.  I did not take long, to take enough photos, to complete the number on the ring -   EX97264 .

This was my seventh record of this bird at Donaghadee.  Ringed as a chick in 2013, my first encounter with   EX97264 , was made on the 5th March 2016, and I last recorded it here, on the 23rd December 2017.  That's another wintering bird 'chalked up'.

Black-headed Gull  -    EX97264   -  Donaghadee Community Centre, Donaghadee, Co. Down  (11 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2013, on Mew Island, The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Whilst concentrating on   EX97264 , another gull appeared with an 'Orange Darvic'.  Knowing it was one of Adam's Study birds, I immediately guessed that it was likely to be   2BAL .  Swinging the camera around, I soon confirmed the code, and it was   2BAL .

Last winter, I searched for this gull at Donaghadee, on several occasions, failing to record it.  However,   2BAL , turned up again on the 10th May 2018, when David Nixon, reported that it was breeding, at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, in Belfast.  I went along, on the 12th May, and also saw   2BAL , on one of the nesting platforms.

Having received an updated file from Adam McClure,   2BAL , was spotted in Donaghadee the previous winter (20th February 2018), by (SF), which meant it had wintered around the town.

As with   EX97264 ,   2BAL , was ringed on the Copeland Islands, which lie 5 kms / 3 miles (NE), from Donaghadee.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BAL   -  Donaghadee Community Centre, Donaghadee, Co. Down  (11 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 22nd June 2014, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

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      The Power of the Nikon P1000       
Recently, I purchased the new Nikon P1000 camera, which has now replaced my former Nikon P900.  I must say, that the P900, has served me well, since I purchased it two years ago.  Having taken over 11,000 photos, mostly of gulls and their rings, very few 'colour-rings' escaped the capture of it's 83x zoom, (166x in digital mode).

At some sites, where several hundred gulls and waders would gather, some 'rings', were so distant, that it was impossible to read codes.  Places such as Whitehouse Lagoon, Kinnegar Beach and Millquarter Bay, for example, were of little use when the tide was fully out.  Any attempt, to close the gap, would have resulted in nearer birds taking flight, whereby those in the distance, would follow likewise.

The P1000, is already paying for itself, as the recent results, have been, 'quite frankly', unbelievable.  At Millquarter Bay, last week, and at Kinnegar Beach, yesterday, not a single ring was missed, and I didn't even have to set foot on either shore.

Earlier in this post, I reported on the re-sighting of the Norwegian Black-headed Gull -   J08K .  It was the most distant, of a handful of gulls, on the tidal lagoon at Castle Espie.  Having initially scoped the gull, the camera was put to work, and the code was captured.

Below, are a series of photos, which shows how distant   J08K , was, and demonstrates the power of the P1000, with it's 125x zoom (250x in digital mode).  The first photo, shows   J08K , as a tiny speck, within the red box.

  J08K , is the Tiny Speck, Within the Red Box

Zooming in towards   J08K , the gull can now be seen in the distance, as the next photo shows.

  J08K , is the Furthest Gull in this Photo

With the next picture, we can now see   J08K , without zooming too far into digital mode.  Here, the code can be read, despite being on the feint side.

Photo Chosen for this Blog Post

After taking a few photos of the gull, the camera, was zoomed to it's 'max', to try and obtain a clearer image of the 'colour-ring'.  Again, after taking a few shots, the picture below, was chosen, where the ring, would be cropped and re-sized, and pasted onto the previous photo.

Photo Chosen to Crop and Re-size the Ring

The Darvic Showing   J08K 

I hope this demonstration of the Nikon P1000's ability, can be appreciated by all, especially to those, like myself, who are dedicated 'Ring Readers'.

As a footnote here, I received an email, from one of my correspondents, asking about the Nikon P1000, over it's predecessor,  the Nikon P900.  Before receiving that email, I had started this feature.  One thing I must mention - although both cameras feature a dedicated 'Birdwatching Mode', nearly all the photos that I took, with both cameras, were in 'Landscape Mode'.

In the UK, the listed price of the new Nikon P1000, is currently around the £1,000 mark.  I went onto Ebay, and purchased my Nikon P1000, for £843, which included packaging, postage and insurance.  My results over the last couple of weeks, proves the worth of the new camera, as seen in the photos.

Although photos at extreme long distances, are not always 100% sharp, but the main point, is to capture the ring codes or numbers.  Nothing like a photo, to confirm sightings.  I sincerely hope, this article, encourages serious 'Ring Readers', to purchase one or the other of these two cameras.

Take a look on You Tube, as several videos can be viewed, showing the power of the P1000.  Should Nikon, ever produce another upgrade, I would adivse against purchasing one, as distortion, due to distance, will be a limiting factor.

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