Sunday, 7 December 2014

2AAJ & A Big Surprise...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
Last winter I recorded 30 Darvic-rung Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina.  Up to last Sunday, 26 of these have reappeared for another winter.  Of the 4 outstanding, I was only hopeful for one of these to show up.  I  'stuck' my neck out in predicting that the return of   2AAJ   was imminent, now that we have entered the month of December.  I was not let down, as sure enough, my 15th re-sighting today, was indeed   2AAJ  .

  2AAJ   along with   2AAR  , are the only two BHGs from Adam McClure's Study, which have been recorded outside of Northern Ireland.  I visited Antrim Marina, 28 Sundays in a row last winter and the only time that I saw   2AAJ   was on the 15th December.  The next re-sighting of it came on the third week of February this year, when it was spotted on a roof at Seahouses in Northumberland, England, by a Mr. Gary Woodburn.  Adam was understandably, very pleased to hear of it's return.

Black-headed Gull - Orange 2AAJ

It was nearing 1pm, which normally concludes my four hour Sunday visit, when I spotted a Black-headed Gull bearing just a metal ring.  With approximately 300 BHGs present, I had problems trying to keep tabs on this one.  Bad enough, when families arrive with a few bits of bread to feed the ducks, but one man arrived in his car, got out and emptied a whole carrier-bag of bread, cornflakes and what looked like grain, into a single pile.  This caused absolute mayhem with the swans, ducks, gulls and Jackdaws, converging on this one spot.

I was scoping the metal ring, when he parked right in front of me.  Was he completely blind, as to what I was doing??  The gull itself was very wary and nervy.  But, having lost and found it on several occasions, I managed to confirm an Iceland ring and the six numbers.  I made a couple of attempts to get photos, but couldn't get enough to show the whole number.

Now that I had the number, I started to ponder on the idea, was this one of the two Icelandic gulls I saw in March.  The three gulls, that I placed in the side-bar of this blog, is my wish list for this winter.  Having recorded the Scottish-rung Common Gull on 21st September, I stated that it would be a tall order to expect the two Icelandic birds.  Believe it or not, when I reached home and checked the number - I had re-sighted   Iceland 571487  .

It was ringed as a chick on the 19th June 2003, just to the North of the Iceland Capital Reykjavik and that now makes it 11 years old.  The distance to Antrim Marina is 1,366km or 849 miles.

What makes these birds more special, is the extra effort that it takes to obtain the ring numbers.  Darvics are fairly easy, but much work is often needed at times, to get the details on metal rings.  To be able, to re-sight these again, really is the icing on the cake.

Black-headed Gull - Iceland 571487 (23 Mar 2014 - In Breeding Plumage)

Black-headed Gull - Iceland 571487 (Today)

When I arrived today, the temperature was 3°C, very little blue sky and a biting westerly wind, which increased in strength as the morning wore on.  I thought it was going to be a quiet day, with only 60 to 70 BHGs present.  How wrong I was.  With an estimated 300 gulls by home-time, it turned out anything but quite.   2AAJ  , became my 28th Darvic of this winter.  The 4 that were absent last week, were all present today.  Twenty-six were re-sighted today and two were absent, even after my pro-longed stay.

'One Leg' was also here again today and thoroughly enjoyed the chips I handed to her from the car window.  Unlike last week, she just couldn't get enough. 

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2ACX   2ABN   2AAF   2AAT   2AAL   2AAS   2AAA   2ABL   2ADJ 

Black-headed Gull - Orange 2AAV

Black-headed Gulls Absent Today
 T35J   2ADV 


      Other Birds       
3 adult Mute Swans on arrival, quickly increased to a maximum of 10 for the day and the usual three ringed birds   W34158  ,   Z91982   and   Z91983   were amongst these.  Two cygnets arrived together, which included our usual youngster.  I was quick to realise, that our usual bird was injured and limping very heavily.  It was very hungry, so I stood beside it, while it ate from the lunchbox of chips and bread I brought for the gulls and fending off the other swans in the process.  After a good feed, I lifted it and carried it back onto the river.

Around 30 Mallard, increased in numbers to around the 60/70 mark and included the male Monaghan duck   4MN 0813  .  Still no sign of the female Mallard bearing the same ring number.

11 adult Common Gulls, is the most I have seen here at any one time and the Scottish-rung Common Gull   EY64036   was present as well.  Three, 1st winter Common Gulls present are presumably, the same three as in past weeks, the one with the very black tip to its beak, is definitely one of the three.  One adult and one juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull, stayed right through my visit, though the adult stayed well clear of people.

Two Cormorants, when I arrived, soon headed out into the Lough.  A pair of Moorhens, potted about the whole time.  Hooded Crows and Jackdaws had a field-day with the amount of food on offer and a single Pied Wagtail was the only small bird of note.

A number of Mistle Thrushes were often to be seen in the woodland across the river from the Marina and at one point a Raven was heard calling there as well.


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