Sunday, 11 January 2015

Another First...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
Arriving at the Marina at 09.05, the weather conditions were far better than I was expecting.  After strong winds and showers of sleet and snow yesterday, today was a good deal calmer with the temperature at 5°C, 100% cloud cover and a fairly strong wind coming in off the Lough.  Though dry at first, a light shower came in at 10.15, with a couple of drizzly showers as the morning passed.  By the time I departed at 13.00, the wind-speed had gained in strength and it felt quite stormy and cold.

With 28 Darvics recorded this winter, I had accounted for 25 of these by 10.37.  The total for the day ended on 27 with   2AAC   at 11.40 and   2ABF   at 12.04 being the final two BHGs to be noted.  The two birds that were absent last week, were both recorded this week, with   2AAV   being the 3rd of the day at 09.16 and   2ABA   the 24th at 10.35.  Today's only absentee was   2ADV  , whose presence over the past few weeks, has been very patchy.

I was very pleased to see the Icelandic-rung BHG   571487  , putting in another appearance.  It is looking very much, as if this one is staying put in the Antrim area, re-appearing every couple of weeks.

Black-headed Gull  - Iceland 571487

The Foreign-ringed 1st winter BHG that I observed on the 28th December, also appeared again today.  I am having a lot of trouble, trying to get photos of this bird and especially it's ring, as it seems very wary and does not tolerate close approach.  I was only able to get a single photo today and a partial number can be seen.  I've zoomed into the ring, perhaps someone can identify the Country of origin.  Will try again next week.

Foreign 1st Winter Black-headed Gull

No sign of the white-Darvic rung bird the eluded me last week, it may show up again hopefully.  'One Leg' was again present today and unlike last week she came looking for food.  As I had chips today, she was very keen to come and get her share.

Black-headed Gulls Present
 2AAT   T35J   2AAV   2ACV   2AAD   2ABP   2AAR   2AAJ   2AAK 

Black-headed Gull - Orange 2ABA (Absent Last Week)

Today's Only Absentee

      An Afternoon Visit To Carnlough and Glenarm       
On the afternoon of Tuesday 6th January, I decided to make another visit to the coastal villages of Carnlough and Glenarm, to have a look for ringed gulls.  I had planned to do this on 1st January, but ended up in bed not well.  The last time I came down here on the evening of 11th September 2014, I recorded a pair of Black Swans (quite a rarity in Northern Ireland) and saw one of Adam McClure's Darvic-rung Black-headed Gulls.

I went to Carnlough first and parked in the car park beside a playground.  This gave good views of the beach.  There were not many gulls about.  Only 20 to 30 BHGs at max., as they kept coming and going.  There were 5 immature Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 1 adult Great Black-backed Gull.  Thirteen Common Gulls were scattered about, nearly all adults of which one, was ringed with a metal-ring.  Unfortunately, this bird was far too far away to even try and read the ring through the scope.  I stayed here for just over an hour, but no other gulls arrived.  Six Oystercatchers and 14 Redshanks, were not rung either and I was surprised not to see any Turnstones.

I then drove round the coast and parked at the sea-front car park in Glenarm.  A small number of BHGs were present and I hoped to locate Adam's Darvic-rung bird.  A quick look round through the binoculars revealed no rings.  I then set the Telescope onto the roof of the nearby Church, where another dozen BHGs were lined along the roof.  Bingo!, one was carrying a light-coloured Darvic.  I moved the car to the edge of the car park and was able to identify a Yellow Darvic ring with the inscription 260D.

I drove to the alleyway at the back of the Church and entered the graveyard with the camera, but quickly realised the light was no use, but then most of the birds flew off and landed on a roof at the nearby harbour, including my bird.  I then drove around to the harbour car park and quickly found my target, but again the light was all wrong for the camera.

At this point, I decided 'bread' was my only possible chance to get a photo.  I walked into the village looking for a shop and arrived back - now 'armed' with a loaf.  I moved the car over to an area of clean concrete beside the footbridge that spans the Glenarm River.  As soon as I started tossing bits of bread out of the car window, about 80 'very hungry' Black-headed Gulls came 'bombing' in beside me and I eventually got my photo - and well satisfied I was.  Due to this one bird, they all shared the whole loaf between them.  Wonder if they thanked him?  There were also a few Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls here as well, but no more rings.

Black-headed Gull - Yellow 260D

Driving back home to Ballymena, I started thinking - I've seen this number before!  On reaching home, I firstly checked Graham Prole's Blog - Tallaght Gulls + Rings and then Adam McClure's Blog.  It was Adam who previously re-sighted this gull - knew I recognized the number.

I went onto the cr-birding website to trace the origins of the ring and duly sent an email to Eoin McGreal who is conducting a Colour-ringing Study of Common Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Black-headed Gulls on Lough Mask, County Mayo, Republic of Ireland.  Eoin emailed a reply also containing the file for Yellow 260D.  As it turns out, this bird has been re-sighted many times at Glenarm, which appears to be its favourite wintering spot.  The distance from Lough Mask to Glenarm Harbour is roughly 264Km (164 miles) North East.  Many Thanks to Eoin for his reply and this bird's details.

Date Details Location
15 Jun 2008 Ringed as a Chick Lough Mask, County Mayo, Republic of Ireland.
24 Feb 2009 Ring Read by Neal Warnock Larne Lough, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
02 Jan 2012 Ring Read by Pauline Majury Glenarm Harbour, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
19 Aug 2012 Ring Read by Pauline Majury Glenarm Harbour, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
01 Jan 2013 Ring Read by Adam D. McClure Glenarm Harbour, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
24 Aug 2013 Ring Read by Adam D. McClure Glenarm Harbour, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
23 Nov 2014 Ring Read by Joe C. Glenarm Harbour, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
20 Dec 2014 Ring Read by Neal Warnock Glenarm Harbour, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
28 Dec 2014 Ring Read by Pauline Majury Glenarm Harbour, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
06 Jan 2015 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Glenarm Harbour, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
File Details for Black-headed Gull - Yellow 260D


      Today's Other Birds       
There were 9 adult Mute Swans when I arrived this morning and the arrival of another three took the overall total to 12.  No new rings today, though the usual   W34158   and   Z91982   was accompanied with the recently arrived   Z91981  .  Again no sign of the cygnet, I think it has 'bit the dust'.

Again, plenty of Common Gulls today, with all six 1st winter birds present, which included last week's two new arrivals.  Twelve adults were noted which included the Scottish-rung   EY64036  .  There was no sign of the new adult Common Gull that carried a metal ring which eluded me last week, due to the appearance of a male Sparrowhawk.  I think this one may show up again, especially as there are good numbers of Common Gulls at the Marina this winter.

A single adult and a single 1st winter Lesser Black-backed Gull, stayed throughout the morning.  It seems that every week that I see an adult LBBG, it appears to be a different bird each time.  Adam McClure, stated, that he had read somewhere, that many of the LBBG's that frequent Lough Neagh in the winter, are of Icelandic origin.

Approximately 30 Mallards were present when I arrived, but numbers never got any higher than the 50 mark.  The County Monaghan male Mallard    4MN 0813  , appeared at 10.44.  Still no sign of the female Mallard bearing the same number.

The now familiar pair of Moorhens, potted up and down the Marina as usual.  Hooded Crows, Jackdaws, a pair of Pied Wagtails were always present.  A small party of 10 to 12 Long-tailed Tits made a brief stop at the Crack Willow tree, before flying back over the river to the wooded area at Antrim Boat Club.  A single Cormorant, fished along the front of the Marina for about an hour.  It came out of the water briefly to dry it's wings, but was soon disturbed by people and re-entered the river.


      Another First       
Another first for me today at Antrim Marina was an otter.  My attention was brought by a Common Gull, which was making a weird call that I had never heard before.  Looking in the direction of this bird, I noticed that it was flying with a number of Black-headed Gulls, out over the river.  I then spied the Otter breaking the surface of the water and clearly eating a fish.  It swam around and made several dives into the river.  It was present for about 30 minutes from 09.32 to just after 10.00am.  Just after 11.30, it appeared again, but only stayed for about 5 minutes, as there were too many people about.

Fellow bird-watcher Chris Smith, had told me about the Otters and they were to be seen up-river towards Antrim Town.  This is the first time in two winters, that I have seen any here at the Marina.

Otter At Antrim Marina


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