|Today's Black-headed Gulls|
I arrived at Antrim Marina to a lovely spring morning, with the temperature sitting at 8°C, 90% blue sky and a light breeze. During the morning, the wind-speed rose slightly and with gathering cloud, made it chillier.
An estimated 70 Black-headed Gulls were present and the first to be spotted was the Lithuanian 'T35J'. Being well overdue to depart for the summer, I kept a close eye on it, in case it was sick or injured. Although it was present for most of the morning, it is totally healthy looking.
Several birds which were absent last week, showed up today. I only planned for another two Sunday visits, but the way things are sitting at the minute, its going to be hard to determine departure dates. I might have to continue for another couple of weeks.
Only two BHGs are long term absentees, 2AAJ which we know has been seen at Seahouses in England and 2AAL . 2AAL was last seen on the 11th January this year and last sighting of it last winter, was on the 23rd February. When I commenced this winter's Ring-Watching back in August, I recorded 2AAL on my first visit and this gull was suffering the recent loss of an eye. Whether it has migrated or succumbed to its disability remains to be determined.
'One Leg' was present today and received her usual feed of chips from the car window. One of last summers youngsters has cottoned on to this routine. Last Sunday and now today, it stands on the bonnet of my car and waits for me to reach out to it with chips.
The Swedish-rung youngster 6438391 was spotted at 10.27 and EG55380 was sighted four minutes later. I have received a reply from the British Trust for Ornithology concerning this one. There is a small problem with this gull, as it was recorded as being a Common Gull. It took a year to complete this BHGs ring number and I will now have to wait a little longer to obtain it's ringing details. Once again, I'm so glad to have full photos of the gull and its ring, as it fully confirms the sighting.
All morning I kept re-sighting EG55380 , as I am also looking out for the Icelandic-rung 571487 , which again failed to show up. Time is running out in my hope of re-sighting the other Icelandic Black-headed Gull 585017 which I recorded last winter and the remaining gull in my wishlist on the sidebar.
The number of BHGs reached an estimated 200 birds between 11.00 and 12.00. When I departed for home at 1pm, only 50 or so were still present. Of the 33 Darvic-rung BHGs recorded this winter, 20 were re-sighted today and 13 were absent.
Black-headed Gulls Present
Black-headed Gull - EG55380
1st Winter Black-headed Gull - Sweden 6438391
Peoples Park, Ballymena
On Tuesday 10th March, I called into my local Park in Ballymena to check on the gulls for rings. To my surprise, I spotted the Belgium-ringed Black-headed Gull 8T 30294 on the roof of the Pavilion, having failed to locate it on my previous three visits. At least it's still about. I have not received a reply from Belgium with the ringing details for this bird - the wait continues.
Another surprise was the re-sighting of one of Adam McClure's study birds BHG 2BKP . I am glad to see that it is still about having last sighted it on the 20th February 2015. I actually spotted it on the water, noticing the Orange Darvic ring. Although I did not see the number on the ring, I quickly started taking photos of the bird. When I got home and downloaded the photos onto the computer, only one showed 2BKP clearly.
I have stated in the past just how awkward it is to watch the gulls in this park, as many of them just bob about on the lake and the few that rest on nearby rooftops are hard to watch clearly. Keeping an eye on the gulls that swim fairly close to me has paid off. Very few rings will ever be read underwater.
1st Winter Black-headed Gull - 2BKP - The Peoples Park, Ballymena (10 Mar 2015)
I called into The Peoples Park again yesterday (Saturday 14th March). There was no sign of the above mentioned BHGs, but I spotted my first two Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the lake. During the winter months, Lesser Black Backs are rarely seen in Ballymena. I believe that most of the Northern Ireland birds migrate to Southern Europe during the winter. I started to notice LBBGs in the town a couple of weeks ago and more are appearing all the time.
As far as I know, these birds have not bred in Ballymena as yet, but I reckon that it is only a matter of time before they start nesting on rooftops. Every summer seems to herald more and more of these gulls.
A second pair of LBBGs landed on the lake close to the first pair shortly after I arrived. They remained on the water for about 20 minutes before they all took to the air. One pair flew off south towards the town and the second pair landed on the roof of the Pavilion. A quick look at the legs, revealed one of the birds had a metal-ring. I only managed a few photos when they flew off - also leaving towards the town.
The photos were of little use to me, as I could not get any useful details on the ring. I shall be keeping a close watch now to see if these two will return again and the chase will be on for the ring number.
Ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull - The Peoples Park, Ballymena.
Common Gulls were still low in numbers and the first one to be spotted was at 10.03 this being the Scottish-rung EY64036 . This one has been absent over the last three weeks and at one stage I noticed it was limping slightly. If it has been injured, that might explain it's recent absence. A maximum of 4 adults and 3x1st winter youngsters were noted. The Herring Gull pair are now regulars and appeared on and off all morning. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and a single 1st winter/juvenile appeared just briefly very late in the morning.
Common Gull - EY64036
Mute Swan numbers were good today with 15 on my arrival and pairs arriving from upriver and from the Lough, took the total to 19. Only 3 rings were noted on birds that exited the water and these were the usual Z91981 , Z91982 and W34158 .
Less than 30 Mallard, grew in numbers, but I doubt if numbers exceeded 50 at maximum. The male County Monaghan Mallard 4MN 0813 was sighted at 11.14. He was absent last week and his mate was not with him this today. Despite this initial sighting, he never appeared again - is his mate on eggs?
The pair of Moorhens were also absent today, perhaps they are in breeding mode as well. There are no likely nesting places at the Marina, although there is riverbank vegetation just a short distance upriver.
A female Buzzard flew over the Marina at 11.22 heading towards the golf course. It was high enough in the sky and did not alarm any of the birds around the Marina.
3 Hooded Crows and 9 Jackdaws were maximum counts. A pair of Hooded Crows across the river in the woodland, were seen carrying sticks on a few occasions - so definitely nest-building.
A single male Pied Wagtail and 2 male Chaffinches were the only small birds to be seen.