|Today's Black-headed Gulls|
Arriving at my usual time of 09.05, the temperature was a warmer 4°C, compared to -3°C last Sunday. A very heavy grey sky, made initial use of binocular's and telescope awkward, due to lack of light. While driving from Ballymena up to Antrim Marina, there was a drizzly shower, but it remained dry throughout my visit, though there was still a nippy breeze coming off the Lough.
A good number of Black-headed Gulls were present when I arrived, probably around the 100 mark. Peak numbers were reached around 12pm, with an estimated 220 BHGs, dwindling to around 150 birds before I departed for home at 13.45.
Normally, I leave around 1pm, but not for the first time, a bird shows up, forcing me to stay longer. Last week, it was a foreign ringed 1st winter BHG, which after flying off - I failed to find again. No sign of it this week either, another failure to get a metal ring read. This week, it was a White Darvic-rung BHG, which I was assuming was the Lithuanian rung bird 'T35J'. I had prepared to leave, packing up all my gear, when I spotted the bird in front of me through the windscreen of the car. I grabbed my binoculars, for a quick peek and realised, this was not 'T35J'. I could not read the number due to the thickness of the windscreen glass. I quickly unpacked the camera and stepped out of the car. To my dismay, a woman along with her daughter came from behind me, walking directly towards the group of gulls where my target was perched. I quickly dashed around the back of the car to try and get the number, but alas, they frightened off the birds. I then stayed to 13.45, trying to locate it, but gave up.
Nothing went right today, I missed out on a ringed Common Gull and a photo of a stunning looking Lesser Black-backed Gull.
I classed last Sunday, as a strange day. With 28 known Darvic-rung BHGs to look for, over half of them failed to show up and I finished with a total of 13. Its not unusual for a few birds to be absent from week to week, but to have 15 absentees on a visit at this time of the winter, is to me, unprecedented. I had pondered during the week, what was in store today. With staying on for an extra three-quarters of an hour, 2AFD (13.05) and 2ABN (13.33), became the 25th and 26th Darvics of the day. The two missing birds were 2ABA and 2AAV and they'll probably show up next week. I've stated in the past 2AAV , has a habit of going AWOL, so no surprise here.
'One Leg' appeared at 11am and did not venture towards my car looking for food. Females can be odd at times!! Please, no emails in agreement. There was no sign of the Icelandic-rung 571487 .
Black-headed Gulls Present
Adam McClure replied to my request about two BHGs that I recorded last winter, which have failed to turn up this winter. 2BAS was ringed as a chick at Castle Espie in County Down, Northern Ireland on 16th Jul 2013. My sighting of it on the 21st September 2013 at Antrim Marina, still remains the only record of this bird to date. 2ADA was ringed at Antrim Marina on the 21st October 2013 by Adam. I first recorded it on the 27th October, and last saw it on the 10th November 2013. Neal Warnock, was the last person to re-sight 2ADA , on the 13th November 2013. My assumption, that both of these birds have perished, may well be true. It would be nice if they can prove me wrong some day.
Black-headed Gull - Orange 2ADA
Photo taken 27th October 2013
Wherever you looked today, Common Gulls were about in numbers. A single adult and a 1st winter bird, were the only two present at first. As the morning wore on, a maximum of 13 adults included the Scottish-rung EY64036 and hooray - another ringed adult. I was doing a head count of the Common's and finishing off at the end of the Long Jetty, when I spied the ring. I couldn't wait to get the number. I set the telescope into the tripod and grabbed the camera and walked off round to a better vantage point. On taking a quick look through the telescope, I could see that most of the number was facing towards me. I thought I would get photos, as quick as possible, while the birds were settled and nobody nearby to disturb them. Would you believe it, I lost this bird, because what happened next was quite extraordinary.
I held the camera on top of the telescope to avoid shake and had just turned it on when, a small bird, presuming it was a Grey Wagtail crashed dived between the boulders in front of me, followed by a male Sparrowhawk, which alighted onto the boulder just two feet beside me. We both looked at each other for a few seconds, then he flew off in the direction of the Long Jetty, scaring off all the gulls, including my newly found Common Gull.
It was initially 11.40 when I first spotted this bird and I watched and watched. When I left for home at 13.45, I still hadn't located it again. What a bizarre way to lose a ringed gull!!
Over the last few weeks a total of four 1st winter Common Gulls have been present. Today the numbers went up by two, I had 6 of them today. The whole of last winter, the only 1st winter Common Gull I ever saw, was EY64036 . The numbers of Common Gulls overall, have far exceeded those of last winter.
Common Gull - EY64036
Absolutely Stunning, is how I would describe an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, that was present first thing this morning. It was so sleek looking, you'd have to compare it with a jet fighter. I must say again a really smashing looking gull for a Lesser Black-backed. Problems? Yes, the Chinese were about. A coach load arrived and parked by the toilets at 09.15. Thankfully, they kept away from the Long Jetty, where my gull was slowly edging towards me, toying with a juvenile Lesser Black-backed.
Finally, it reached the mooring posts in front of me, where I park to get close ups of the birds. All I needed, was it to hop up, as railings were obscuring my view or move just a little more to the right. You've guessed it, a group of Chinese youngsters came from behind my car and my gull was gone. I shook my head when I saw them arriving and the inevitable happened, it was gone and that was the last I saw of it. Little did I realise, this was only the start of today's woes.
The juvenile, along with a single adult Herring Gull and the Common Gulls gave the other gulls hell today. Some of the aerial chases today were very spectacular and prolonged, trying to make the Black-headed Gulls drop their food.
Mallards were present in good numbers, with around 50 first thing this morning and numbers rose to 70 or 80 birds. No sign of the ringed County Monaghan Mallards 4MN 0813 .
10 adult Mute Swans on arrival increased to a maximum of 14 and included W34158 , Z91982 and last weeks new arrival Z91981 . Still no sign of 'our cygnet'.
The rest of today's birds included:- a pair Moorhens, a pair of Pied Wagtails, a pair of Grey Wagtails, Hooded Crows and Jackdaws.
If everything had gone right, today would have been very rewarding, but unfortunately it was not to be. Its just compounded a bad week for me, as I spent Tuesday to Friday in bed very ill. I'm one of these people, who believes the body should heal themselves. Most Doctors these days, just look at you, see your still breathing and write out a prescription, just to get you off their back.