|Today's Black-headed Gulls|
It was very much like a spring morning when I arrived at the Marina at 9am. The temperature reading 8°C, a 50/50 blue and grey sky and with a slight breeze coming in from the Lough, conditions were great for this period of February. By the time I departed at 2pm, the wind was very much stronger and colder, though the temperature had risen to 10°C.
With the 4 Black-headed Gulls that were ringed a fortnight ago and the sighting last Sunday of the BHG from the Moorfoot Hills in Scotland, my total of Darvic's this winter has risen to 33. There are still 3 others from last winter, that have not appeared as yet. One of these, 2ADD appeared on this corresponding Sunday last year and I was dearly hoping to see it today. I do know it has been seen at Carrickfergus, which is not far from here, perhaps next Sunday. 2ADV turned up again today after being absent for three weeks, it hasn't left yet after all.
One of the aims of my weekly visits, is to build up a picture of the arrival and departure dates of these gulls each year. They do not work with timetables, unlike us, but some of these birds are fairly precise in their comings and goings. It's just a pity, I did not get involved sooner last winter in order to record arrival dates, but I do have a good record of departure dates.
I only come to the Marina for four, sometimes 5 hours each Sunday, but I can define each birds movements on a weekly basis. It is also possible to gauge how reliant the BHGs are, to being fed at the Marina. An example is the Polish breeding 2AAR , which arrived back on the weekend of 19th October and can boast a 100% Sunday attendance rate. Whereas 2AAV , which is a year-round resident in the Antrim area, has a habit of disappearing for a week or weeks, probably in the know of another good source to obtain food.
2AAN which arrived back on the weekend of the 17th August, was not present today and is another bird that could boast 100% attendance. However, the last date that it was seen last winter, was on the 16th February. Could it be possible, this one has departed? The Lithuanian 'T35J', was also present today, this being the corresponding Sunday when it was last observed in 2014. I noticed that she got stuck into the mix many times today when people arrived to feed the birds, maybe a sign that she going to leave as well.
There was no sign of last week's Scottish BHG (2APT). The young Swedish bird 6438391 was present, as was 'One Leg', which started taking chips from my hand about 1pm. Still no sign of the Icelandic bird 571487 , although I did spot a metal-ringed gull at 13.20. I noticed that it was not a BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) ring, as it was taller, so it had to be foreign. Despite seeing this bird on two occasions, I could not get the number, as there were too many people and kids running about. This may have been the Icelandic BHG.
In the region of 250 BHGs were present between 12.30 to 13.15 and by 13.50, there were no gulls to be seen, all having flown out to the Lough. Many of the gulls heads are now turning 'black' and more signs of courtship were displayed at times today.
Black-headed Gull - Orange 2ADV
(Absent Over the Last Three Weeks)
Black-headed Gull - Orange 2AAB
(Sporting a Near Black Head)
Black-headed Gulls Present Today
A total of 18 Mute Swans were present when I arrived this morning, but the total only decreased as the morning wore on. Half of these stayed on the river, but 4 rings were recorded at the slipway. These being W34158 , Z91981 , Z91982 and Z91983 . Z91983's appearance, is the first in weeks. Chris Smith had reported to me, of a swan seen near the cafe, that was dead. A woman had informed him about it, but never mentioned if the swan was brown or white. I had pondered on the thought, it could have been our missing cygnet or Z91983 , both regular's at the Marina. At least I now know, that it's not Z91983 . A fifth swan on the river, was also ringed, but never left the river. I was unable to read it's ring number, when it's leg was raised up. The number faced away from me and all I could read was 'British Museum'.
The number of Common Gulls was well down this week. The best I got was 7 adults and 2 1st winter birds. It took till 1.41, before the Scottish-rung EY64036 showed up, making it the 8th adult. Just as well I stayed for an extra hour today. Perhaps these gulls are starting to vacate the Marina as well, bearing in mind, four 1st winter birds that were not shy when looking for food, were not here either. A juvenile 1st winter Lesser Black-backed Gull also appeared for a short time.
35 Mallard were counted and as the morning stretched, the numbers rose to about 80. The male County Monaghan Mallard 4MN 0813 was only seen once at 11.51. Across the river, I noticed a good bit of courtship behaviour and in once case, four drakes were chasing after a single female Mallard on foot through the trees in the wood opposite the Marina.
Hooded Crows, Jackdaws and the pair of Moorhens, made up the bigger birds. The usual pair of Pied Wagtails were present all morning. Chaffinch's made a good showing throughout. Coming and going, the numbers ranged from one to six. I saw a ringed Chaffinch here last winter, but none of today's birds were ringed.