Sunday, 22 February 2015

2AAJ - On The Move

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
Arriving at Antrim Marina at 9am, the temperature was reading 2°C with a dark sky, raining fairly heavily and a light wind was blowing in from the Lough.  The rain finally ceased about 11pm and came on again quite heavily around 12.20.  By mid-morning the temperature had rose to 7°C and so had the wind, which by then was blowing strongly.

About 30 Black-headed Gulls were present when I arrived and numbers built up to a maximum of around 120, before decreasing to about 80 when I left for home at 1pm.  Out of a total of 33 Darvic-rung BHGs that I have recorded this winter, only 19 were re-sighted today.  Of note was the absence of the Lithuanian gull 'White T35J'.  Last Sunday was the corresponding Sunday of last year, when I last saw 'T35J'.  If she has left for the summer, I'll not see her again until next September, if all goes well and nothing should happen to her.

Another BHG that I made special mention of two weeks ago, having last been seen on the 18th January, has been sighted in England.  A report on   2AAJ   can be found below.

I noticed today that   2AAN   was doing exactly the same as 'T35J' did last week.  It got into the thick of it every time people arrived with food.  Maybe this one is stocking up and it's departure could be imminent too.

'One Leg' was present and quite happily took her fill of chips from my hand at the car window.  The young Swedish gull   6438391   was also present.  There's still no sign of the Icelandic BHG   571487  , but it's quite possible I could see him again during March before he heads off back to Iceland.

Every week now when I come up to the Marina, it's quite noticeable with the ringed birds, that their heads are quickly turning black.  Next Sunday is the 1st March, the new breeding season drawing ever closer and my final month of 'Ring Watching' for this winter.  The exodus of BHGs from here has already started and if I'm lucky enough, hope to see one or two new gulls with rings, as they stop by on their way to their breeding grounds.

Black-headed Gulls - Orange 2AAN & 2ABL


Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2AAD   2ACV   2AAS   2AAR   2AAA   2ADJ   2BRA   2ABA   2ABK   2BRC 
2ABN 2ABP 2AAN 2ABL 2AAF 2AAV 2AAH 2ACX 2AAT


Today's Absentees
 T35J   2AAP   2AAK   2AAC   2ABS   2AAB   2AAL 
2ABF 2AAJ 2ADV 2AFD 2BRB 2BRD 2APT


  2AAJ  has been re-sighted at the harbour of the small coastal village of Seahouses in Northumberland, England.  I received an email from Adam McClure on Tuesday morning with a photo of   2AAJ   attached.  As I had predicted to Adam,    2AAJ   was on the move, being absent from the Marina since the 18th January.

I had suggested, that Adam should email Gary Woodburn, to tip him off about   2AAJ's   possible arrival at Seahouses.  Gary had sighted   2AAJ   there on the 20th February last year and I assumed that this bird may well undertake the exact same migration route.

However, Gary beat Adam to it.  Adam received an email from Gary that   2AAJ   was at Seahouses harbour on the 11th February and attached another photo which proves the gulls have favourite stopover points while migrating.

On Wednesday, I was browsing other birdwatching Blogs, when I stumbled upon one with the exact same photo of   2AAJ  , which had been sent to Adam.  Checking the Blog out, I discovered an article about   2AAJ   in February 2014.  I knew then that this was Gary Woodburn's Blog and made contact with him to get permission to add his photos onto my Blog.

  2AAJ   was only at the Marina on 7 of my weekly visits this winter and only seen once the previous winter.  It would make you wonder if Antrim is it's actual wintering quarters or whether it winters elsewhere and uses Antrim as a stopover.  It would be fantastic, if this bird could be located at it's breeding ground, wherever that may be.

My thanks to Gary Woodburn for allowing me to use his photos.  

Black-headed Gull - Orange 2AAJ   (Photo Courtesy of Gary Woodburn)
(Seahouses, Northumberland, England - 11 Feb 2015)

Black-headed Gull - Orange 2AAJ   (Photo Courtesy of Gary Woodburn)
(Seahouses, Northumberland, England - 20 Feb 2014)

Date Details Location
12 Dec 2012 Ringed as an Adult by Adam D. McClure Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
16 Dec 2012 Ring Read by Nigel Ireland Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
23 Jan 2013 Ring Read by Adam D. McClure Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
15 Dec 2013 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
20 Feb 2014 Ring Read by Gary Woodburn Seahouses, Northumberland, England.
07 Dec 2014 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
18 Jan 2015 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
11 Feb 2015 Ring Read by Gary Woodburn Seahouses, Northumberland, England.
Black-headed Gull - Orange 2AAJ
(Key Dates Including First & Last Winter Sightings At Antrim Marina)

Antrim Marina to Seahouses   -   307 km North-East (191 Miles)

On Friday afternoon (20th February), I called into The Peoples Park in my home town of Ballymena.  An estimated 120 Black-headed Gulls were present on the lake and nearby rooftops.  Every now and again I check for any ringed gulls present, especially Adam's BHG   2BKP  , which I last saw here on the 29th November 2014.

There was no sign of this young gull, but I spotted an adult BHG with a metal ring on the roof of the parks Pavilion.  Just my luck, I only had binocular's and the camera with me.  I went home to get the telescope and 10 minutes later, was all set up to see if this gull would turn up again.  I did not have to wait long, when it landed back onto the same roof.

On scoping this bird's ring, I immediately spotted Brussels and therefore knew I had a BHG from Belgium.  With quite a bit of patience, I managed to obtain the first 5 numbers of the ring.  As it was late in the afternoon, this gull joined a large group and flew south away from the Park.  I knew straight away, they were off to their roost.

Guessing the ring would contain 6 or 7 numbers, I went back to The Peoples Park the next morning, but only saw this gull once over the course of three visits and was not able to get the full number.  Adam McClure confirmed with me, that the ring would contain seven digits and this is the first Belgium bird to be sighted within the Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study.  As ever, I'll keep trying and hopefully obtain the last two digits in order to report the sighting.

Black-headed Gull - Belgium (Brussels 30294**)

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      Other Birds       
There was a distinct lack of Common Gulls today.  A single adult appeared at 11.15 and stayed through the remainder of my visit.  Numbers had decreased last week, maybe these birds are leaving the area as well.  A pair of Herring Gulls were present all morning and a single juvenile and adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls also arrived just after 11am.

12 Mute Swans on my arrival were joined by pairs at 10.55 and 12.20.  Most of them stayed on the river.  Of the nine that exited the river, only two were ringed -   Z91981   and   Z91982  .

Mallard numbers were also down. About 20 birds at first, rising to a max of about 60.  The male County Monaghan rung Mallard   4MN 0813   was first spotted at 10.28.

A single Cormorant appeared briefly, but did not get peace to dry it's wings and was soon off to the Lough again.

1 pair of Moorhens, 5 Hooded Crows and 12 Jackdaws made up the larger birds.  Single pairs of Chaffinch, Pied Wagtail and a Grey Wagtail were the only smaller birds to be seen.

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