|Today's Black-headed Gulls|
I'll start this week with what has been an ongoing saga with a foreign-rung Black-headed Gull, that I first spotted on December 28th 2014. Initially, this young gull was very wary and nervous, but seemed to be slowly adjusting to life at Antrim Marina over the last couple of weeks.
I found it very hard to get any decent photos of the ring of this bird, as it would not let anyone near it. Graham Prole emailed me a fortnight ago to suggest that this gull was from Sweden and attached a photo, to compare my gull's ring with a Swedish BHG that he had recorded.
I learned from Graham, that I would be looking for a seven digit number on the ring. Last Sunday, both Chris Smith and myself took photos of this bird and we both had '643', which was the start of the number. This added to the '391' that I got two weeks ago, meant that one number was missing or possibly two. Of three options that were available (643*391 or 64391** or 643391*), I suggested that the missing number probably came between the two 3's.
1st Winter Black-headed Gull - Sweden 6438391 (Today)
On Wednesday afternoon, I checked for emails and had one from Chris Smith. Attached was the photo below, which showed that the missing number was '8' followed by 391. Success at last! The number now completed, I reported the bird to the Swedish Ringing Centre at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. On Thursday, I received a reply, thanking me for reporting the gull and the accompanying photos. Alas, I will have to wait for the ringing details, as they have a backlog of recoveries to process.
Photo from Chris Smith - Showing the missing number '8'
On my visit to Antrim Marina today, I found that this gull was still present and was finally able to get decent photos of it and the ring. Below, the photo clearly shows the number '8', placed between the two 3's, thus confirming my suspicions about the number.
The Number '8' Between the Two 3's
Many thanks again to Graham Prole and Chris Smith with their help in getting this ring number identified.
Today would have reminded you on a Spring morning, instead of it being late January. The last few days the temperature hovered around the 0°C mark and this morning at 09.05 the gauge was reading 7°C, with a light breeze and 100% cloud cover. Near lunchtime, the wind grew stronger and colder, with a couple of drizzly showers and by 13.00 had calmed down again slightly.
With 28 Darvic-rung Black-headed Gulls recorded this winter, I had re-sighted 20 of these by 10.27. I remained at the Marina until 13.30 and my final total finished at 23, with 2ABF (10.47), 2ACX (11.31) and 2ACV (12.35), being the last three to be re-sighted.
Of the 5 absentees today, 2AAL and 2AAV , were also absent last week. The Icelandic Black-headed Gull 571487 was not present again today. 'One Leg' however was present and showed much enthusiasm towards the brown 'Veda' bread and repeatedly returned to my hand, till she had her fill.
Black-headed Gull - Orange 2AAS
Black-headed Gull - Orange 2ABA
Black-headed Gulls Present Today
Next Sunday will be the 1st of February. As the month progresses, some of these Black-headed Gulls will be departing from Antrim Marina, to start their journey's back to their Countries and ultimately their breeding sites. Last week, I mentioned that some of the gulls were starting to develop their 'Black Heads', a sure sign of the forthcoming breeding season. I made mention of 2AAC and this week noticed a marked change in the head of 2AAB . An un-ringed BHG present today, was well on its way to having the 'Black Head' (photo below).
The Black Head Developing
What a day for Common Gulls and the reason for me staying to 13.30. Also known by the name 'Mew Gull' in many countries, in Northern Ireland and most of the UK, they are not as common as their name suggests. Last winter, I saw very few Common Gulls at Antrim Marina, but, there are far more appearing this winter. At 12.55 today, I counted 14 adults and 4 - 1st winter birds. These did not include the two known ringed gulls.
The Scottish-rung EY64036 appeared at 12.37 today. The other ringed Common Gull, whose number still eludes me, was not present during my visit. Historically, I know nothing about their winter abundance at the Marina, but is this increase in numbers, the sign of a future trend?
A single Herring Gull stayed about for most of the morning. A juvenile/1st Winter Lesser Black-backed Gull also remained for quite a while and amused me for a while trying to gulp down a full Scone and eventually succeeded. A 2nd/3rd Winter Lesser Black-backed Gull stayed briefly - showing quite a bit of adult plumage. I'm no expert when it comes to ageing these birds.
Mallard numbers were also well up today. About 50 of these birds were present when I arrived and I re-sighted the male County Monaghan 4MN 0813 at 09.34. Numbers rose throughout the morning with around 100 by the time I left for home.
10 Mute Swans on my arrival, were quickly joined by a further 3 and two late arrivals took the total to 15. Many failed to exit the river and only three rings were noted:- W34158 , Z91982 and the recent arrival Z91981 .
As you can nearly guess by now, the other birds were made up by a pair of Moorhens, a pair of Pied Wagtails, Hooded Crows and Jackdaws.