Sunday, 9 November 2014

A Calmer Day...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
A nice calm Marina greeted me on arrival this morning, unlike the last two Sundays in which very strong Westerly winds were blowing in from the Lough.  The temperature was a reasonable 8°C and 100% cloud cover with sunny intervals later and the rain stayed away.  Over the last couple of days, there has been a deluge of rain falling in Northern Ireland.  The affects of this could be seen at the Marina, as the water levels had risen significantly, with only inches to spare from touching the concrete jetty, which I always park beside.

With the first showing of   2ACX   last Sunday, my overall total of Darvic-rung BHGs so far this winter is now 26.  Only 4 of last winter's total of 30, have yet to be recorded and I'm only holding out hope on one of these and that one is   2AAJ  .  The three others are   2BAS   which was ringed as a chick at Castle Espie in June 2013.  I saw this one on the 21st September 2013 here at the Marina and haven't seen it since.  The second   2ADA   was ringed at the Marina as an unsexed 1st winter bird on the 21st October 2013.  I saw it on the following 4 Sundays before it too disappeared.  It could yet surprise me, just like   2ACV   did back on August 31st.  The third is   2ADD  , which Adam ringed as an adult male at Carrickfergus on the East coast of County Antrim, on the 29th November 2013.  I recorded it 4 times at the Marina last winter.  This one is probably back at Carrickfergus.

There were approximately 80 BHGs when I arrived today, with the total rising once again to the 160 mark by the time I left, just after 1pm.  24 BHGs were recorded today and included last weeks new arrival.  'One Leg' was present, but there was no sign of the other one-legged gull - 'Peg'.  At last, I have finally managed to get photos of   2AAL  , which shows his empty eye-socket.  It was also limping quite badly a couple of weeks ago, but now seems fine.

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2ABN   2ABK   2ABL   2AAK   2AAH   2AAS   2AAN   2AAR 

Black-headed Gulls Absent Today
 T35J   2ABP 

Black-headed Gull - Orange 2AAL (Sporting Missing Right Eye)


      Other Birds       
Our regular juvenile Mute Swan was accompanied by 4 adults when I arrived with a 5th adult arriving later - none of these were ringed.

The male Monaghan duck   4MN 0813   was amongst 40 Mallard with numbers gradually building up to around 70 by the time I departed.  Several times today, the Mallards panicked and all vacated the river.  I have noticed this behaviour on numerous ocassions over the weeks, but it happened quite often today.  When they are out of the river, they can be quite boisterous until the threat has cleared.  Despite scanning the river with binoculars, I never see what the threat is.  I can only guess, the cause is a Pike or Eel and how the ducks manage to see it, is beyond me.  There has been no sign of the female Monaghan Mallard for weeks now.

One adult and one juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls were mixed in with the Black-headed Gulls at first.  The adult only stayed for a short time, but a second juvenile arrived just after 12pm.  Surprisingly, both juveniles were not afraid to approach people feeding the ducks.  The first Common Gull to be seen was at 09.50 and later joined by another 4 adults and two 1st winter birds.  The Scottish rung Common Gull   EY64036   was present today.

Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull

Two Moorhens were to be seen picking around the Marina throughout my stay.  Hooded Crows and Jackdaws, as ever, were looking for scraps.  I heard a Kingfisher as it whistled past the Marina, but I failed to spot it this time.  A pair of Pied Wagtails and one Grey Wagtail, were the only small birds to be seen.  Another first for me here at the Marina today, was a Collard Dove.  Presumably it was the same bird that twice arrived to take a quick drink of water and then flying off again.  Could it possibly have chicks somewhere?


      A 2nd Castle Espie Youngster       
Every so often, I would call into my local Park in Ballymena, known as the Peoples Park.  There is a very large lake within the Park, that has resident Mallard, Tufted Duck, Coot, Moorhen and Greylag Geese.  Occasionally, Little Grebe and Mute Swans can be seen as well.  The Mute Swans infrequently breed here and in winter Pochard are sometimes to be seen.

In summer, non-breeding Lesser Black-backed Gulls are often seen perched on the roof of the Park's Pavilion, on the watch for ducklings etc., for an easy meal.  Great Black-backed Gulls, are rare visitors here.  Black-headed Gulls start to arrive after their breeding season has finished, to winter here.  At times Juvenile BHGs can outnumber adults.  Overall numbers can fluctuate from 80 to 200 of these gulls.

My problem trying to watch the BHGs for rings at this park, when compared to the Marina at Antrim, is the lack of areas for the gulls to rest, away from the public.  Many of them spend their time on the lake and only a few at a time can be seen on the roof of the Park's Pavilion, due to the high density of Feral Pigeons.  Large numbers of BHGs can often be seen on the nearby roof of the former 'Cottage Hospital', which now houses the Northern Health and Social Care Offices.  As this is a government building, unfortunately I cannot be seen using the telescope or camera here or I would end up getting a visit from the police.

On the Wednesday 5th November, I paid two visits to the Peoples Park.  On the first visit, I stayed for about an hour, in which time, only two BHGs were to be seen on the Pavilion roof.  I counted 79 BHGs on the lake and about 30 on the nearby roof of the 'Cottage'.  On my second visit, I struck 'Gold' - 9 BHGs were perched on the Pavilion roof and included a 1st winter bird bearing an Orange-Darvic ring.

On reading the ring -    2BKP  , I knew straight away, it was one of Adam McClure's study birds.  On receiving it's file from Adam, it was another youngster ringed at the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust Centre at Castle Espie in County Down, on the 19th June this summer.  On September 5th, I recorded   2BJL   at the nearby Doury Road housing Estate, which was also ringed on the 19th June at Castle Espie.

I was delighted to get this one, as it is so hard to view the gulls properly here, but finally the visits has paid off.  I know there has got to be ringed birds passing through or stopping here.  Sometimes I think its a pity that there is no platform on the lake, in which the gulls and ducks can stand on, to get them out of the water and a bit of peace and quite away from the public.  It would make telescope work much easier.

1st Winter Black-headed Gull - Orange 2BKP


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