|Today's Black-headed Gulls|
I arrived up at the Marina at 09.05 this morning, accompanied by a rare visitor, that was only putting in a 2nd appearance - my other half!! Lorraine's only other appearance was back on the 15th December of last year. Though not the bird she used to be, as we both are getting up in the years now, I still don't think she would qualify for Adam's Study.
Lorraine could have picked a better day to come up here with me. Though the temperature was reading 13°C, once again a very strong westerly wind was blowing in from the Lough, making it very chilly. With a heavy grey, cloudy sky, the rain managed to stay away, though now and again there was a slight drizzle.
In the region of 100 Black-headed Gulls were present and nearly all of them were standing on the ground, due to the strength of the wind. By 09.41, I had recorded 16 Darvic-rung BHGs and ended the day with a 24th at 12.35. The two new arrivals last Sunday, had taken my overall total to 25 and the only BHG missing today was 2ABA . I was still hoping for a first sighting of 2ACX , but no joy today.
Over the last couple of weeks, I've expressed my concern about 2AAK , which I had not seen since the 17th August and I was fearing the worst. Being a regular weekly visitor last winter, its out of character for this bird. However, at 10.04, it became my 18th re-sighting of the day and I'm glad to see it back again.
Both of the 'one-legged' BHGs were present. 'One Leg', whom I've wrote about previously only stayed for a short time. The other gull was only discovered last week and I'm naming this one 'Peg'. The battle weary 2AAL was not limping as badly as last week. I'm still trying to get a decent photo of this one showing the missing eye.
We departed from the Marina about 13.15, our fingers and toes freezing. I estimated that around 160 BHGs were present by this time.
Black-headed Gulls Present Today
The Only Absentee Today
Black-headed Gulls - Orange 2AAK & 2ABL
Arriving at the Marina today, 4 Wood Pigeons were feeding on the grass behind the cafe, an area much favoured by the BHGs. I was unable to get anywhere close to them, but perhaps these are the ones that nested in the trees across the river and now have their youngsters with them.
5 Common Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed gull were mixed in with the BHGs and by 10.45, a further two Common Gulls had arrived. At 11.40, another two Common Gulls appeared which included the Scottish-rung EY64036 . All the gulls stayed at the marina throughout my visit.
It was late on before any Mute Swans were seen and then two came in independently of each other and included Z91983 . What I found very strange was our usual Cygnet arrived on its own and no sign of it's parents. It waddled its way over to me at the car and just lay down for at least 20 minutes before moving back towards the water.
Around 60 Mallard were present, with many of them sitting on the grass away from the water at first. Numbers actually decreased as the morning wore on and it was Lorraine who spotted the male Monaghan Mallard 4MN 0813 at 13.00.
Hooded Crows, Jackdaws and a single Moorhen completed the sightings. Again, no Magpies or smaller birds, the later probably due to the windy conditions.
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Common Gull - EY64036
Due to the amount of content in my last couple of Blogs, I have not been able until now, to mention the proposed mass capture of Black-headed gulls, in order to ring them. With so many gulls present over the winter, a fair number of these may have come from Continental Europe. Of course, we would have no way to distinguish the difference from Northern Irish gulls to their foreign counterparts, unless they are ringed.
Initially, I spoke to Ruth Wilson from Antrim Borough Council about the project. At the time, Antrim Council, had no idea about the Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study or the importance of the Marina to the visiting birds. After looking into Adam's and my blogs, the Council now realise, that so much happens in one small area.
Ruth has stated, that the Council would be in favour of this project and are willing to help out, subject to the usual permissions, licences etc. Adam and Ruth have been in touch with each other and hopefully dates can be set up for netting later in the winter, when the birds are at their hungriest.
My idea was for two sessions, the first just before Christmas and the second towards the end of January. This would involve trained Canon-Netters, along with several ringers, each with two or three helpers. In this way, the birds can be quickly gathered up, processed and released, in order to keep stress levels to a minimum.
Over time, much information about these gulls would be gathered and we'll learn more about them and their habits. It would make my weekly visits busier and more stories to tell. Fingers crossed, hoping this comes to fruition.