Sunday, 28 December 2014

A Strange Day...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
I arrived at Antrim Marina at 09.00 this morning.  The temperature was -3°C, a clear blue, sunny sky and with not even a slight breeze, you couldn't even find a ripple on Lough Neagh.  Most of the Marina was covered with white ice and all the metal railings were ice-bound with water droplets frozen on the under-side of them.  What struck me straight away, was the lack of birds.  A quick count gave me 31 Black-headed Gulls, 1 adult Common Gull, 7 Mute Swans, 19 Mallard, a pair of Pied Wagtails and a few Jackdaws.

Never in all my weekly visits, have I see this area so sparsely populated with birds.  By 09.20, all the Gulls had departed towards the Lough.  An undetermined number of BHGs were resting on the ground, on the other side of the river at the Lough entrance.  Small numbers of gulls started to arrive at 10.05 and by 11.30, all had gone again, except for a few Common Gulls.

Just before 12pm, large flocks started to stream in from the Lough and approximately 150 BHGs were enjoying feeds from people visiting.  It was a struggle, trying to record the Darvic-rung birds, as I kept seeing the same birds over and over again.  This was the case the whole time I was there and when I departed at 13.15, only 70'ish BHGs remained and I had only recorded 13 Darvics.  Many of the ever-present BHGs were absent today and surprisingly, a number of recently arrived gulls were in attendance.

I wonder if the flat-calm Lough, provided an opportunity for the gulls to feed?  What they would find out there at this time of the year, is beyond me.

Black-headed Gulls Present
 2AAA   2AAD   2AAL   2ABK   2AAT   2ACX   2AAJ 

Black-headed Gulls Absent
 2AAK   2AAH   2AAC   2ABN   2ADJ   2ABA   2AAB   2AAF 

'One Leg' was also absent, as was the Icelandic-rung BHG.  I did however, have a new sighting of a Black-headed Gull at 10.48.  This was a 1st winter bird, with just a metal ring on its right leg.  I managed a photo of this bird and was starting to zoom in on the ring, when it flew off.  Despite all my efforts, I could not locate this one again.  On looking at the ring, when I got home, the gull is definitely a foreign bird and not British or from Iceland.  I may wait till next week now, to try and have another go. 

Foreign Ringed - 1st Winter Black-headed Gull

Over the last couple of weeks, I have made mention of three BHGs that are still absent this winter, having been recorded last winter.  I had predicted that   2ADD   was the only one of these, which would probably show up at some stage.  Having been ringed on the 29th November 2013, at Carrickfergus on the East coast of County Antrim, it first appeared at Antrim Marina on the 16th February 2014.  I last saw it on a random visit on the 18th April, still at the Marina and was assuming it was now back at Carrickfergus.  I enquired to Adam on any recent re-sightings.  In his reply, Adam stated, that this gull was seen at 'Carrick' on the 21st October and suggested, it may breed on Lough Neagh, hence its arrival in early spring.  If this is the case, it must be one of the shortest migrations ever!  Roll on February, to see if it arrives.

I have now asked whether   2ADA   or   2BAS  , have had any re-sightings.  These are the two 1st winter youngsters from last year, that have not appeared as yet.  I do not think they have survived.


      Other Birds       
7 adult Mute Swans were present on my arrival and six of these swam out onto the Lough just after 09.20, but came back in a short time later.  With later arrivals, the total reached 13 and three of these were ringed.  The now ever present   W34158   and   Z91982   were complemented with the first sighting this winter of   Z91981  .  It was one of 10 ringed swans that I recorded last winter and is the 5th of these to be noted this winter.    Z91981   was originally ringed at Antrim Marina on 6th September 2012, by Ken Perry and given the age code '3'.  This code means that it hatched in the summer of 2012, which now makes it two years old.  'Our cygnet' is still missing and I now really fear the worst has happened and its met it's end.  There has been no news from Antrim Borough Council and I therefore presume they have had no reports.

Ring of Mute Swan - Z91981

19 Mallards, swelled in numbers as the morning wore on, to a maximum of 60 to 70.  The ringed male County Monaghan Mallard   4MN 0813   was still present.  He now appears to have a partner and spent quite a bit of time chasing after her.  Still no sign of the female Mallard bearing the same ring number.  The now familiar pair of Moorhens arrived from up-river at 09.50 and were present throughout the remainder of my stay.

A single Cormorant fished quite happily along the length of the Marina, exiting the water to dry off it's wings at 09.17.  People disturbed it minutes later and it re-entered the river and swam out onto the Lough.

A single adult Common Gull at first, was later joined by 9 others, which also included the Scottish-rung   EY64036  .  All four 1st winter Common Gulls from last week appeared and all of these gulls were extremely fierce in pirating food from the other birds today.

A male Blackbird and a pair of Blue Tits, were firsts today, as I've never seen these species here before.  A party of 12 Long-tailed tits, also made a brief appearance.  All these birds were to be seen on the Crack Willow tree at the end of the car park.  A pair of Pied Wagtails and a single Grey Wagtail made up the smaller birds.  Plenty of Jackdaw, 5 Hooded Crows and a single Magpie, made up today's list of species.


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