Sunday, 23 November 2014

A Full House...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
Last week I reported my first sighting of a Black-headed Gull, that was completely new to me.  As a matter of fact,   2AFD   was new twice.  Firstly in Ballymena on Thursday and then at Antrim Marina last Sunday.  It became my 31st Darvic-rung BHG overall to be recorded at Antrim Marina and the 27th so far this winter.  Someone also reported it to Adam the day before I got it at Antrim, though Adam did not mention where.  After 9 months without a single sighting since it was ringed, its then seen three times in four days.  It was present today at the Marina and was my 18th sighting.

On leaving home in Ballymena this morning, the temperature was 0°C and there was a thin layer of ice on my neighbours cars.  At Antrim Marina, it was 2°C, a near 100% blue sky and practically no breeze.  There was not much change in the water levels from last week, as the concrete and lower wooden jetties were still submerged.

Around 80 BHGs were present on my arrival and despite them completely disappearing on two occasions (canoeists again), by shortly after midday, about 200 had now gathered.  It was a full house for Darvic-rung BHGs, as I recorded all 27 today.  2AAB was the final one to be noted at 12.23.  With so many BHGs about, I was hoping for something new, but not even a metal ring was to be seen.

Although the temperature was still only sitting at 7°C, when I left just after 1pm, I was very surprised by the turnout of families coming to feed the ducks.  'One Leg' was present again today and repeatedly fed from my hand until it could eat no more.  Again no sign of the other one-legged BHG 'Peg'.

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2ACV   2AAH   2ABN   2AAT   2AAA   2AAC   2AAP   2AAS   2ABP 

Black-headed Gull - Orange 2AAB


      Other Birds       
There were six adult Mute Swans and our usual cygnet when I arrived at 09.05 and these built up in numbers to 14 adults by 09.50.  Three of these were ringed -   Z91982  ,   Z91983   and   W34158  , all of which have been recorded in recent weeks.  I would have thought, some of the other ringed swans from last winter, would have turned up by now.  There are still six that are out-standing.  I still have no idea what has happened to   Z91984  , since it was removed from the Marina in very poor health.

Mute Swan - W34158

About 30 Mallard were present at first, quickly rising to about 60 by 10.00.  I spotted a ringed male Mallard even before I had parked the car.  Later on I was able to confirm it was our Male Mallard from County Monaghan   4MN 0813  .  Still no sign of the female Mallard bearing the same ring number.

Male Mallard - 4MN 0813

There were no other species of gull at first this morning, other than the Black-headed Gulls.  As the morning wore on, adult Common Gulls started to arrive, seemingly in singles.  By the time I left, there were 5 adults and two 1st winter birds which had arrived together at 11.00.  These are probably the same two, I have seen over the last couple of weeks.  A 3rd, but new 1st winter Common Gull turned up at 11.50.  I knew straight away it was new, as it had a very distinctive black tip to its beak (see photo below).  Once again, there was no sign of the Scottish-rung Common Gull.  Two juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls arrived at 12.25 and caused havoc by trying to rob the other gulls of their food.

1st Winter Common Gull

Today's other birds were Cormorant, Hooded Crows, Jackdaws, a pair of Moorhens, 1 Pied Wagtail and finally 1 Kingfisher, which I could hear, but again failed to spot.


      On My Doorstep & A Hat-Trick       
No, not for the local football club Ballymena United, that would be asking for miracles!!  Yes, I recorded my third young Black-headed Gull in Ballymena, which had been ringed at the Castle Espie Wildfowl & Wetland Trust Reserve, in County Down.  As with the other two, it was also ringed on the 19th June 2014.

Amazingly, on Wednesday 19th November, I observed   2BLL   across the car park from my house, on the roof of the Co-Op store, in Dunvale, Ballymena.  Every morning, quite a number of school children call into the Co-Op to buy pastries etc., to eat on their way to the local Dunclug College.  The gulls have learnt to watch the kids, as unwanted foodstuffs are thrown to the ground, while some children deliberately toss food for them.

Once again, watching out for groups of gulls has paid off.  I also feed the gulls some bread every afternoon on the green at the front of my house.  I had seen one with an orange Darvic, but had assumed, that it was one of the two previously recorded.  It would be great if the next one I spot, comes from Larne Lough or the Copeland Islands.

1st Winter Black-headed Gull - Orange 2BLL (Dunvale, Ballymena.  19 Nov 2014)

The following day, Thursday 20th November, I paid another visit to the Peoples Park.  My aim here was to check to see if   2BKP   was still about and to obtain better photos if possible.  Armed with some diced bread, I was lucky this timeNot only was   2BKP  present, I also took two good pictures this time.

I sat on one of the summer seats and threw bread down at my feet.  It is looking as if the young gulls are now getting so hungry, they are losing their fear of people and perhaps experience is helping here too.  Nearly 40 BHGs, practically all first winter birds, jostled for the bread.  With good views of all the legs, unfortunately, none of the others were ringed. 

1st Winter Black-headed Gull - Orange 2BKP (Peoples Park, Ballymena.  05 Nov 2014)

Orange 2BKP (Peoples Park, Ballymena.  20 Nov 2014)

The trio, is made up by   2BJL   which I spotted on the 5th September 2014.  Although, I have been watching out for this one, I have not seen it again as yet.  I did see an orange Darvic-rung 1st winter bird in the Doury Road Estate, but the grass again was too high to read the ring.  I keep hoping, as I would like to get a better photo of it.

1st Winter Black-headed Gull - Orange 2BJL (Doury Road Estate, Ballymena.  05 Sep 2014)


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