Sunday, 8 March 2015

Spring Is In The Air...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
On my arrival today, the temperature was reading 7°C, with almost 100% cloudy sky and a fairly strong north-westerly wind blowing in from the Lough, although it did not feel cold.  A few heavy showers of rain followed, before the sky broke and the sun appeared.

No gulls of any species were perched, but some were arriving in as I parked the car.  Only 30 to 40 BHGs were present by 09.30 and the total never exceeded 100.  All the birds at the Marina were 'breaded out' by 11.00 and an unbelievable amount of uneaten bread was lying on the ground or floating on the river.  Yet, a steady stream of visitors kept arriving to feed the ducks and throwing bread aimlessly at them, though they had already had their fill.

From 11.00 onwards, not one gull was to be seen perched and from time to time, small batches would fly in and take the bread from the river and fly off again.

It turned out to be a poor day for recording ringed birds.  Of 33 Darvics recorded this winter, only 14 were re-sighted today.  To my surprise 'T35J' is still present and well over-due to leave for Lithuania.  It's hard to explain why so many BHGs were absent today.  A possible reason could be the milder weather, which is helping the birds find natural food.

Many of the resident birds were also absent today.  I drove round to the main car park beside the Lough and scoped the disused Torpedo Platform where many BHGs nest during the summer.  There were easily 150 gulls spread across the top of it.  Perhaps, some of my missing birds are there, claiming some real-estate for their nests.

Also missing today, was the young Swedish BHG   6438391  , which has been ever present over the last 8 weeks.  Still no sign of the the Icelandic   571487   or the BHG I recorded last week   EG55380  .  'One Leg' was present and this week I did not forget the chips, to her delight.

Another BHG which I thought would have turned up by now is   2ADD  .  We suspect it nests on Lough Neagh and winter's at Carrickfergus, which is not too far away.  It appeared here on the 16th February last year, so is well overdue. 

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2AAT

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2BRA

Black-headed Gulls Sighted Today
 2BRA   2AAT   T35J   2ABN   2AAP   2ACV   2ABP 

Today's Absentees
 2AAK   2AAA   2AAC   2AAD   2ADJ   2ABA   2AAL   2AAF   2AAN   2ABF 

No News on Ringing Details
As yet, I have not received any ring details for the Belgium BHG or the BHG I recorded at Antrim Marina last week.  During the week, I did some research on the British Trust for Ornithology's - Online Ringing Reports.  Barring any updates to be added, it seems that my gull is the first to be recorded in Northern Ireland from Belgium or vice-versa.

This makes me pleased with the effort I put in, to obtain photos of this bird and its metal-ring.  I have been back to The Peoples Park in Ballymena three times, since completing my set of photos and have not seen this bird since.

Last Sunday's Black-headed Gull gave me a lot of pleasure.  This one got by me last winter.  I only saw it for a short time when it flew off and I had failed to get the two letters on the ring.  Mark Grantham from the BTO stated there was at least two 55380's on the computer (ET & EW) and there could be more on paper.

To actually see this bird again last Sunday and obtain the full ring number and a complete set of photos was to me, superb.  It took me from around 10.30 to 12.45 to scope the full number, with the number '3' being the last digit needed.  I couldn't rely on the photos for the full number, but did have it all, when these were checked.

EG55380 makes this bird quite old.  I was actually ringing Sparrowhawks, Kestrels and Merlins with 'EK' rings in 1985.  Some ringers take a while to get through a string of rings after purchase, maybe a few years.  However, the oldest known Black-headed Gull known through the BTO Ringing Scheme, is 29 years and 3 months and the oldest ever recorded in Northern Ireland is 17 years.  It would be fantastic to beat one or both of these records. 

Update On Yellow   260D  
Yesterday (Saturday 7th), I drove down to the coastal village of Glenarm, to check on the Black-headed Gull from Lough Mask in County Mayo.  To my delight, it was still present, though I had to wait a while before it showed up.  Despite having bread, to lure the gulls towards me, many of them were just not interested including   260D  .

I first sighted this gull on the 6th January 2015 at Glenarm and decided to check for this bird monthly.  It was still at Glenarm on the 7th February and yesterday.  I observed it within a small group of about 30 BHG's & 2 Common Gulls.  They were quite a distance from me, so I had to zoom in from a long way to get the photo.  I'll check for it at the start of April, to see if it is still about.

Black-headed Gull  -  Yellow 260D

While in Glenarm, I noticed a number of Turnstones feeding on the shoreline underneath the seafront car park.  I took a photo of one probing for insects amongst the pebbles.



      Other Birds       
As with last week, Common Gulls were scarce.  A single 1st winter bird appeared at 09.21, followed by 2 adults at 11.20.  One of these adults was small and dainty, much like the Scottish-rung   EY64036  .  As it never landed onto anything, I could not confirm it.  Again this week, a pair of Herring Gulls appeared from time to time, throughout my visit.  A single adult and two juvenile/1st winter Lesser Black-backed Gulls also appeared briefly.

12 Mute Swans were joined by a another pair coming in from the Lough.  Of the eight that came out to be fed, three were ringed -   W34158  ,   Z91981   and   Z91982  .  Overall, swan numbers have been disappointing this winter and to date only five of the 10 ringed birds that were here last year, have been recorded.  The one addition was   W35157  , which has only put in the one appearance.  It has also dawned on me, that I have not seen or heard any Whooper Swans either this winter.

Around 40 Mallard grew in numbers to around 60 before decreasing to about 30 by the time I left for home.  No sign today of the County Monaghan rung male   4MN 0813  .  A few Mallards could be seen across the river on the wooded edge of Antrim Boat Club.  It may well be likely that some females could already be sitting on eggs in the undergrowth over there.

At 10.15, a Buzzard circled above the Marina for a short time and could be heard mewing, before flying over the woodland opposite and out of sight.

The pair of Moorhens potted about all day as usual.  Only the two Hooded Crows for a while today and across the river a pair were moving about the trees - probably nest-building.  Jackdaw numbers were also down, with a max of six being counted.  A single Magpie went away stuffed with bread bulging from its beak.

4 Chaffinches and a pair of Pied Wagtails were the only small birds to be seen on my side of the river.  The woodland opposite was full of song from various small species - spring is now in the air.


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