Sunday, 29 March 2015

My Last Sunday ???

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
Last night the clocks went forward one hour to begin British Summer Time.  However, the weather is far from summer like.  Arriving an hour later than normal, due to the wife's working hours, the temperature at the Marina was reading just 4°C with 100% cloud and a fairly strong wind blowing in from the Lough.  I stayed to 13.45 today and witnessed quite a number of light rain showers, though one just after 12pm was very squally.

There were no gulls perched at the Marina, although there were plenty of them flying about.  Some birds started to settle around 10.15 and I recorded my first Darvic at 10.20.  Over the course of my stay, never more than 40'ish perched at any one time, though there was a good turnover of gulls coming and going.  On a few occasions, all the gulls were gone.

Only 12 Darvics were recorded today, with   2AAV   being the last one spotted at 13.29.  The behaviour of the gulls appears different compared to the same time last winter.  On my visit on 23rd March last year, the gulls were coming in to feed and then collecting nesting material from across the river and then flying back out to the Lough, this is not happening at present.  

Also more of the gulls this week were more vocal and performing their courtship displays, again a little later than last year.  Even some of the migratory gulls were later on their departures.  It appears the gulls are running two to three weeks late with their activities than last year for some reason, but I've no idea why.

'One Leg' was present for a short time and there was no sign of any of the metal-ringed BHGs.  Today was supposed to be my last Sunday until the start of August, but I have not heard anything about survey work re-starting concerning Raptors.  I do know, that some organizations are waiting to find out what their budgets will be and I know there has been some serious Government cutbacks that will effect some.

Until I hear anything concrete, I shall continue my Sunday visits to the Marina.  If anything changes, then I'll finish with a short summary of this winter and a few suggestions for ringers and their organizations.

Black-headed Gulls Present
 2ACV   2BRA   2ABS   2AAT   2AAB   2AAP 

The Absentees
 T35J   2AAK   2AAC   2ABN   2AAD   2ADJ   2ABA   2AAL   2AAN   2ABL   2ABF 

With many of the gulls now away to their breeding grounds, I would be grateful to hear of any sightings at the Marina, from April to the end of July.  This will give me a clearer picture of gulls which are resident in the area. Contact me at


      Other Birds       
Gulls are definitely short in numbers.  The now regular pair of Herring Gulls were to be seen on and off all morning and are always quick to reappear when food is about.  At 11.45 a Juvenile Herring Gull arrived, the first one I've seen here all winter.  I'm guessing that this one is a 2nd winter or possibly a third winter gull in age, though I'm no expert on these.  It was showing some of the adult grey feathers on it's back.  It was still present when I left for home and was often to be seen forcing BHGs to drop their food.

Herring Gull  -  2nd/3rd Winter (?)

Only the one Common Gull this week, that being a 1st winter bird.  Looks as if these birds have headed off to their breeding grounds as well.  An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull appeared briefly on two occasions, but there was no way to tell if it was the same bird.

I noticed on my way into Antrim today, large numbers of LBBGs are now on the rooftops of the Tesco Distribution Warehouse at Kilbegs Business Park.  They nest on these rooftops, but I'm not sure how many pairs are involved.  I'm am curious about numbers and thinking about a couple of visits in mid to late May.  There are no easy vantage points to view the roof, so I'll have to figure something out - even if I have to climb trees.

Mute Swan numbers were quite good again today, with 15 birds at first, rising in numbers to a maximum of 22.  Quite a number of these did exit the river, but the only ring to be noted was   Z91982  .

I counted 18 Mallard on my arrival, but numbers never exceeded 40 and once again, no sign of the ringed drake from County Monaghan.  There was a greater number of males to females.

A pair of Oystercatchers arrived at the Marina at 12.16.  They flew around a couple of times, but decided not to land and flew on upriver.  I'm not 100% sure, but I think this may also be a first for me here, as I cannot recollect seeing Oystercatchers here before.

Only two Hooded Crows today, but not sure if they are the pair from across the river.  I was paying too much attention on the gulls to see where they went.  A maximum of 9 Jackdaws were counted.

Two male and one female Chaffinch and a male Pied Wagtail were the only small birds to be seen.

A male Sparrowhawk flew out of the woodland, past the cafe and headed towards Antrim Forum at 11.54.  As there were no gulls about at the time, he did not spook anything. 


      The Peoples Park, Ballymena       
After successfully scoping the ring number of the Lesser Black-backed Gull which recently arrived at the Peoples Park, I had no joy until Wednesday afternoon (25th), trying to obtain photos showing the number '7' on the metal-ring.  Attempts on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning all failed, as the sun was shining off the ring or the number was not in the right position.  Once again persistence paid off and I was finally able to stitch the number together.

Initially, I was worried in case this pair of Lesser Black-backs would move on, but the opposite happened and they have took up residency of the Park's lake chasing off intruding LBBGs and the odd Herring Gull which would appear.

Lesser Black-backed Gull  -   GC27112  

Having already reported the gull to the British Trust for Ornithology, the Ringing Details arrived back to me on Friday (27th).  This female Lesser Black-backed Gull   GC27112   was ringed as an unsexed chick on the 1st July 2006, at Horse Island Nature Reserve, Ardrossan in Ayrshire, Scotland, by the Clyde Ringing Group.  The distance from Ardrossan to Ballymena is 125km (78 miles) south-west.

This is also my second gull which had been ringed by the Clyde Ringing Group.  The female Common Gull   EY64036  , which I have been keeping a track of at Antrim Marina over the last two winters, was also ringed by the Group.

As I have already mentioned, to my knowledge, LBBGs have never nested in Ballymena, so I shall try and keep track of this pair just in case they do nest.  The Peoples Park is less than 5 minutes drive from my house, so its very handy.   

Ardrossan To Ballymena (125km South-West)

At the same time on Wednesday afternoon, while obtaining photos of the LBBG, I just happened to be in the right place when a few Black-headed Gulls landed on the railing of the decking I was standing on.  One of these was   2BKP  , whose last two sightings and photos were on the water.  As I was preparing to take it's photo the Belgium rung   8T 30294   landed beside it.

With the photo taken, I was attempting to obtain a full picture of the two together, when to my dismay, all the gulls flew off.  That would have been a nice one to get - ah well, too bad.  No ringing details have been received from Belgium as yet, the wait continues.

Black-headed Gulls  -    2BKP   and Belgium   8T 30294 


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