|Today's Black-headed Gulls|
Believe it or not, but today's visit marks the halfway point in this winter's Sunday visits, 18 down and 17 to go. After the deluge of rain in Northern Ireland over the past couple of weeks, the weather has been more settled this week. This was evident on my arrival at the Marina, as the first thing I noticed, was that the water levels have dropped and the concrete and the lower wooden jetties are now just above the water line.
It was a very nice morning for this time of the year with the temperature reading 7°C, 50/50 blue/grey sky and practically no breeze. Around 80 Black-headed Gulls were present and by the time I headed for home around 1.30pm, I estimated 220 to 230 were enjoying plenty of bread from visiting families.
I arrived at 09.10 today and by 09.36, had noted 13 Darvic-rung BHGs. So far this winter, I have recorded 27 individuals and by 12.28, the day's total had risen to 23 of these, with no sign of the other four. There are still 4 BHGs outstanding from last winter and the only one that I would be hopeful for is 2AAJ . Now that we are entering December, I reckon it shouldn't be too long now before it appears. The one and only time I saw it last winter, was on the 15th December. As I was zooming in to take its photo, it flew off and I ended up with a white streak. I would love to get a decent photo of this one for my files.
Despite the large numbers of gulls present after midday, I'm not even seeing metal ringed birds. Two BHGs in particular, had nearly all black heads, so I knew these were new visitors. Although this is not rare, it's hard to know whether they are still losing the black - post breeding season - or going black - pre breeding season.
'One Leg' also appeared around midday, but despite flying several circuits around my car, was reluctant to take bread from my hand. She mustn't be hungry enough, which would be understandable with the milder weather. Still no sign of 'Peg'.
Black-headed Gulls Present Today
Black-headed Gull - Orange 2ABK
Of the four birds absent today, I noticed 2AAV is following it's trend of being away, very much the same routine as last winter. It is probably the most inconsistent of the gulls, during my weekly four-hour visits. I sometimes wonder, if this one knows a good feeding spot elsewhere.
Black-headed Gulls Absent Today
Black-headed Gull - Orange 2AAH
6 Mute Swans were quickly joined by another 12 and our usual cygnet by 10.40. Of the ones that exited the water, only three had rings and these were the usual Z91982, Z91983 and W34158. Three large cygnets arrived about 11.30 independent of their parents. They only stayed for a short time, then swam back out to the Lough. A few weeks ago, I recorded a pair with two cygnets and a mother with one cygnet, could these be the same three youngsters?
30 Mallard increased in numbers to around 50 to 60 birds. I spotted the male Monaghan Mallard 4MN 0813 late in the morning. I reckon the numbers of Mallard are still well down compared to the same time last winter. Normally, I would expect the totals to be pushing the hundred mark.
The Scottish-rung Common Gull EY64036 has at last turned up again. It was along with 5 other adult Common Gulls and the three 1st winter birds including the new one from last week. Two of these youngsters show no fear in approaching people, though these gulls are normally wary. Only one juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull was here today, but did not bully the other gulls, as did the ones last week.
Two Cormorants fished for quite a while along the Marina, before one of them flew onto a post to dry out it's wings. This one was quite tolerant of close approach by people wanting to take photos, including me.
2 Moorhens potted about all morning up and down the length of the Marina. Hooded Crows and Jackdaws, but strangely no Magpies. 3 Pied Wagtails, 1 Grey Wagtail and 1 Chaffinch were the only small birds to show up. I think this is the first time I've seen a Chaffinch here this winter. Last winter, a small flock quite often visited and included one that was ringed. Maybe this will be the start of them coming now.
Cormorant - Drying its Wings
|The Peoples Park, Ballymena|
Yesterday, (Saturday), I called into my local park, to check on the Black-headed Gulls, especially to see if 2BKP was still present. Sitting on a summer seat on the east side of the Pavilion, I counted 94 BHGs that were in view and estimated 120 in total. Well over half of these were made up of 1st winter birds, which would be far greater than the percentage at Antrim Marina.
I probably viewed the legs of about 50 to 60 birds, then en-counted my target, 2BKP . With a couple of quick photos, I then left - another re-sighting for Adam McClure's study. Just for those reading this blog and are not birdwatchers, a 1st winter bird is a youngster that hatched during the summer and still showing some of its juvenile feathers - hence the brown on their wings.
Black-headed Gull - Orange 2BKP