Sunday, 16 November 2014

A New BHG - Twice!!!

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
Today, I recorded a new Darvic-rung Black-headed Gull at Antrim Marina.  This bird now takes my overall total to 31, 30 last winter and this is the first new one here for this winter.   2AFD   is new twice!!!  On Thursday, I happened to see this BHG at the Wakehurst Playing Fields in Ballymena and it was new to me.  Having received the file for this bird, I prepared the article below last night - Saturday, never thinking I would see it again so soon. I had no problems taking photos of it today - no wire fencing in the way this time.

Black-headed Gull - Orange 2AFD

I arrived at the Marina today at 9am, a glorious morning with the temperature reading 9°C, practically no breeze and sunny intervals in a 50/50 - blue/grey sky.  For most of this week, Northern Ireland has suffered a deluge of rain, resulting in much flooding.  The evidence of this could be seen at the Marina, which sits on a river known as the Six-Mile Water.  

This river flows into Lough Neagh, which is the largest inland lake in the whole of the British Isles.  The Lough takes water from 5 of the Provinces 6 counties.  The concrete jetty and the lower wooden jetty, were completely submerged in water, the levels being 3 to 4 feet higher than normal. You can imagine, just how much water the Lough has taken overall, for this to happen.

Water levels reached this level back in February, but had stayed much lower throughout last winter.  There could be problems this winter, if these conditions persist.

Views of the High Water Levels At The Marina

I reckon 70 to 80 BHGs were present when I arrived and 19 Darvic-rung birds were recorded between 9 and 10 o'clock.  3 more were recorded just after 10.20, with the 23rd being   2AAL   at 12.18..  'White T35J' is absent for a second week in a rowThis one disappeared for four weeks in a row during November last winter.  It is going to do the same now?

When birds are absent, they would usually be out on the Lough or in nearby Antrim town, foraging for food.

'One Leg' was again present today and took several chips from my hand and I never saw her again after that.  The other one-legged BHG 'Peg', was absent again today.  Around 160 to 170 BHGs were present till shortly after 12pm and they had all vanished by 12.30.

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2ABK   2ADJ   2AAP   2AAS   2ABP   2ACX   2AAH   2ABS   2ACV   2AAD   2AAR   2AAN 

Black-headed Gulls Absent Today
 T35J   2ABA   2AAV   2ADV 

Black-headed Gull - Orange 2ADJ


      Another Ballymena Gull       
On Thursday 13th November, I noticed around 200 Black-headed Gulls were spread over a large area of the Wakehurst Playing Fields on the south side of my home town of Ballymena.  I had previously recorded an English-rung BHG at the adjoining Lettercreeve Housing Estate on 13th August 2014 (see 17th August Blog).  The problem here, is that the gulls are not usually approachable, giving me the impression that many of them are wary of people.  I tried ring watching here without any success last winter.

With time on my hands, I decided to try my luck by using the car park of a building known as 'Ballymena South'.  There were so many gulls about and I thought, by parking here, it might give me a slight chance of getting something.  After positioning the car (using it as a 'hide') beside the fence separating me from the playing fields, there was not one gull to be seen anywhere near me.  I decided to stay put and wait, the rain lashing against my side of the car.  My patience was rewarded, some of the gulls started coming towards me.

Every now and again, I would wind down my window and have a quick scan of legs with the binoculars, before quickly closing the window again.  Eventually, this routine paid off and I spotted a BHG with an orange Darvic ring.  The race was now on, to try and get the number.  Out came the telescope with lens protector extended, to keep the rain off the glass.  With this gull constantly moving about looking for worms, it took me about 10 minutes to get the number -   2AFD  .  Another of Adam McClure's study birds.

Now the challenge was to get photo's.  By this time, my trouser legs and the car's dashboard was absolutely drenched with rainwater.  I also had a problem with the camera as it was trying to focus on the fence and not the gull behind it.  I was having to zoom through the gaps in the fence and hoped to get the gull central to take the pictures.  I only managed 9 photos when all the gulls took off.  That was that, I decided to leave, I was not going to get any wetter.

On getting home and downloading the photos onto the computer, I was pleased to get two with half decent results. I emailed Adam with the photos attached and received a reply on Saturday morning.  This adult male (EY37364) was ringed by Adam on the 12th February this year (I think this was the first one he ringed in 2014), guess where? - Antrim Marina.  My sighting on Thursday, is the first since it was ringed.  The amazing thing here, is despite all of mine and many others visiting the Marina, it has not been seen there since.

Black-headed Gull - Orange 2AFD & The Problem Fence


      Other Birds       
The Mute Swans finally appeared in numbers today.  On arrival there were 6 adults and our usual cygnet.  By 10.55, the numbers had swelled to 18 adults and three cygnets.  The two new cygnets arrived in off the Lough at 10.40, along with their parents.  Despite the larger numbers, only two were ringed -   Z91982   and     W34158  , both having been recorded over the past weeks.

Two adult Common Gulls were soon joined by two 1st winter birds, probably the same two as last week.  No other Common Gulls appeared later and no sign of the Scottish bird.  One adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and one of the two juveniles quickly left the Marina, when people started arriving.  The remaining juvenile spent the whole morning harassing and pirating the BHGs for their hard won meals.

Mallard numbers remained low all day, fluctuating from 30 to 50 and no sign of either of the two from County Monaghan,  A single Cormorant drying its wings, left soon after my arrival.

Other birds today were Hooded Crows, Jackdaws, 1 Moorhen and 1 Grey Wagtail. 


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