|Today's Black-headed Gulls|
Over the past few days, Northern Ireland has been hit with sub-zero temperatures and a fair bit of snow, especially on the hills. Luckily enough, the lower ground within the Mid-Antrim area, has escaped the worst of the snow.
I arrived at the Marina today at my usual time of 09.05 to a nice sunny and calm morning. With nearly 100% blue sky, a light breeze and a temperature reading 3°C, conditions were a lot better than I was anticipating.
Around 100 BHGs were present and with 28 Darvic-rung birds to watch for, I re-sighted 20 by 09.58, a very good start. A further 5 were noted from 10.19 to 12.24. I normally leave about 1 o'clock, but ended up staying to 2pm, as a good number of birds arrived in all of a sudden. I recorded my last Darvic of the day at 13.30 and that was 2ABF , which seems to have a habit of showing up late on in the day.
The 2 birds absent today were 2AAL and 2AAV . I've stated before, that 2AAV , has a habit of being absent now and again - nothing new here. The absence of the 'one eyed' 2AAL is unusual. It has been an ever present over the last 16 weeks and is always keen to get stuck in when people arrive to feed the birds. Interesting to see if it's back next week.
The Icelandic BHG 571487 was not present today, nor was 'One Leg'. A left one-legged bird was to be seen on several occasions, but I'm nearly positive that it was not 'One Leg'. The mystery foreign-ringed 1st winter BHG was also present today - read about it below.
The maximum number of BHGs was between 200-250 by mid morning, decreasing by the time I left for home. The heads of some of the Black-headed Gulls are starting to turn 'Black' - (Chocolate Brown), a sign that the oncoming breeding season is coming about. Amongst the Darvic-rung birds, this is noticeable with 2AAC . A couple of pairs were also going into courtship display, though light-heartedly and not too serious.
Black-headed Gull - 2ACV
Black-headed Gulls Present Today
The Country of origin, of the mystery foreign ringed - 1st winter Black-headed Gull, that I first sighted on Dec 28th 2014 and then again last Sunday, has been solved. Later last Sunday evening after publishing my latest sightings, I received an email from Graham Prole Tallaght Gulls + Rings. Graham was able to confirm that my BHG was actually Swedish-rung and he attached a photo of a bird he recorded from Sweden. This photo clearly shows that the position of the numbers and lettering, for both his gull and mine were exactly the same.
Today, while at the Marina, this Swedish-rung bird appeared again. Another bird watcher Chris Smith and myself, both took photos and we both identified the start of the ring number as 643. My photo from last week had the end three numbers 391. Graham stated that the number will contain 7 digits and no letters.
As it stands at the minute, there are three possible combinations for the whole ring number :-
Option 1 = 643*391 ( * = missing number/s)
Option 2 = 64391**
Option 3 = 643391*
I reckon Option one is the most likely. In the photo which shows 391, the 9 is clearly placed above the two letters 'M', followed by the number 1, which is the last number before the ring butt.
In Graham Prole's 'stitched' photo, 1 is clearly placed above the two letters 'M', followed by the number 4, which is the last number before the ring butt.
If Option one is correct, then we need to get the number placed between the two 3's, in order to ascertain all seven digits. This young gull is starting to be less nervy and weary and is obviously settling down to all the hustle and bustle at the Marina. It also appears that it is going to stay here and we should be able to get the whole number soon.
Swedish-rung - 1st Winter Black-headed Gull
The First 3 and Last 3 Digits of the Ring Number.
'Stitched' Photo of Graham Prole's Swedish Black-headed Gull
My thanks to Graham Prole for his help and the photo, confirming the origins of this BHG.
Common Gulls were again present in good numbers today. It was very hard trying to count the number of adults, but I reckon there was between 10 and 14 individuals. There was so much movement in these today, it was very hard to get an accurate number. Only one adult and one 1st winter bird were present when I arrived. The Scottish-rung EY64036 appeared at 11.20. With staying on the extra hour today, I also spotted a metal-ringed Common Gull at 13.20, which is probably the same bird that eluded me on the 4th January. That was the fault of a male Sparrowhawk and this time, it was the number of people about, that caused me to lose sight of it.
A single adult Lesser Blacked-backed Gull arrived towards lunchtime, but for once, no juveniles were to be seen.
Twelve Mute Swans present on my arrival, were joined by another two a short time later. Of those that exited the river, three were ringed and they were the usual W34158 and Z91982 , along with the recent arrival Z91981 . A fourth swan seen on the river, was also ringed. It had its leg raised up, revealing the ring. However, it remained on the river, so I was unable to get the number. Still no sign of the young cygnet, so it has probably died somewhere.
Mallard numbers, were again very poor today. Around 20 birds when I arrived, did not exceed the 60 mark by the time I headed home. The County Monaghan ringed Mallards were also absent today.
A Cormorant, put in a brief appearance and having just exited the river to dry its wings, was soon disturbed by people and swam out towards the Lough.
Once again the usual pairs of Moorhens and Pied Wagtails graced the Marina throughout my visit.
The only other birds to be seen today were Hooded Crows and Jackdaws.