Sunday, 1 March 2015

They Don't All Escape...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
Arriving at Antrim Marina today, the temperature reading 6°C, 90% cloudy sky and quite a strong wind blowing in from the Lough.  As the morning wore on, the wind got stronger and there were a few showers of rain as well.

An estimated 70 to 80 BHGs were standing about on the ground, avoiding the railings due to the wind strength.  Numbers rose to 150 to 200 birds between 11 & 12.00 and then dwindled to about 60 by the time I left for home at 1pm.

33 Darvic-rung birds have been recorded so far this winter and 26 of these birds were re-sighted today.  They included 8 birds that were absent last week and to my surprise 'T35J', whose absence led me to believe she may have started her journey back to Lithuania.

The young Swedish gull   6438391   is still present and now behaves like a bird that been here all its life and not like the timid gull it once was.  'One Leg' was also present and now starting to sport a 'blackening head'.  I forgot to bring food with me this morning, so she had to miss out on her feed.  Still no sign of the Icelandic-rung gull   571487  .

The highlight of the day, was the re-sighting of a BHG, whose full ring number I failed to obtain last winter.

BHGs Present Today
 2ABA   2AAT   2ACV   2BRC   2AAF   2ABK   2ABP   2AAP   2AAN 

The Absentees
 2AAD   2AAB   2AAL   2AAJ   2ADV   2BRD   2APT 

They Don't All Escape
On the 23rd February last year, I recorded a Black-headed Gull bearing an upside-down, BTO metal-ring, on it's right leg.  Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain the two letters that preceded the numbers 55380.  However, I reported the bird to the British Trust for Ornithology in the hope no two BHG's would have the same number.

Mark Grantham replied and stated that at least two had the same number.  ET55380 from County Durham and EW55380 from Bedfordshire, England.  Due to this, the BTO were unable to except the sighting of my bird.

Today at the Marina, I spotted a BHG with an upside-down BTO metal-ring at approximately 10.30.  As always, with metal rings, the chase was on for the number and photos.  On getting home and after downloading the photos, I had successfully obtained the whole number.

I knew straight away, the number was familiar and looked up last year's sighting.  I was right, it was the same number '55380' on the upside-down ring.  The big surprise was the letters - 'EG'.  I strongly believe, I have the same bird from last year and going by the letters, it could be quite old.  I have now reported the gull to the BTO and now eagerly await a reply and also to see if they will now except last winter's sighting.

I have had a number of metal-ringed gulls which gets by me, due to the problem of getting close enough to read them or obtain photos.  I've stated before, that these are the 'icing on the cake' when got, but would never have dreamed of getting one a year later.  Isn't it great, to be a 'Ring Watcher'.

Black-headed Gull - London  EG55380   (It is Old Looking)

The Ring  -  London EG55380

Belgium BHG in Ballymena
Last Sunday, I reported my sighting of a Belgium BHG, bearing a metal-ring in my home town of Ballymena.  I was only able to ascertain 5 of the numbers on the ring, before it joined a group of gulls to presumably fly off to it's roost for the night.  I tried again on the next day - Saturday - to obtain the full Ring No.  After three visits during the course of the day, including being twice interrupted by heavy showers of snow, I had no luck.

Sunday was my normal day at Antrim Marina and then preparing my Blog to try and get it published online for 9pm.  It was Monday when I had another go with this Belgium bird.  Success at last, I had finally obtained the missing two numbers - the completed ring reading as 8T 30294.  Unfortunately, due to the sun on the wet tarmac, the photos I took were very poor.

After taking 72 photos on two visits on Tuesday, not one contained the part of the ring number that I wanted - '8T'.  It also dawned on me that I did not have any of the bird itself.  So, it was back again on Wednesday morning.  Another 54 photos were taken and hooray, three of them had the inscription '8T' and I also had a few decent ones of the gull itself.

At this time of the year, when quite a few of these gulls have already started on their migrations, it is vital to obtain results as quickly as possible, before the birds move on.  I have now reported the gull online and await the ringing details from Belgium.  According to Graham Prole, the Belgium's are a bit on the slow side with their processing, so I might have to wait a while to obtain the ringing information.

As I have stated before, The Peoples Park in Ballymena, is not an easy place to work on gulls, with many of the birds unapproachable.  In a way, I was quite lucky with this one, as it seemed to be fairly comfortable by my close attention to it, which definitely helped me.  

Black-headed Gull - Belgium (Brussels 8T 30294)

Ring Number - Brussels 8T 30294

Update on   2AAJ  
Last Sunday, I also reported on the re-sighting of one of The Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study birds -   2AAJ  .  It was spotted by Gary Woodburn on the 11th February at Seahouses, Northumberland, England, having last been seen at Antrim Marina on the 18th January.  Gary also recorded this bird at Seahouses on the 20th February last year, confirming my prediction that they will undertake the same migration routes.

However, another re-sighting has been reported to Adam, via the British Trust for Ornithology.    2AAJ   had been sighted four days earlier at Seahouses by a Neil Cooper on the 7th February.  Aah, if only someone can now spot it at a breeding colony during the Summer!

I received an email yesterday (Saturday 28th) from Gary Woodburn, to let me know that   2AAJ   was still present at Seahouses, which means it has stayed 'put' there for a full three weeks now.  Thanks Gary for the update.


      Other Birds       
Common Gull numbers were slightly up this week.  Every so often, I do a head count of birds present at any one time.  The best I got today was 2 adults and 3 1st winter birds.  Again, there was a no show by the Scottish-rung   EY64036  .  A pair of Herring Gulls appeared on and off throughout the morning.  A Single adult Lesser Black-backed Gull arrived at 09.41 and a juvenile 1st winter bird appeared at 12.25.

A Cormorant had only hopped out of the river to dry its wings and had to hop back in moments later when approached by walkers.

10 Mute Swans were later joined by another pair and of the 8 that left the water,   W34158   was the only ringed bird.  Around 50 Mallard were present first thing, with numbers peaking at about 80.  The male County Monaghan Mallard   4MN 0813   was sighted at 09.50.  The usual pair of Moorhen just potted about as normal.

5 Hooded Crows and 11 Jackdaws were maximum counts.  The only small birds to be seen were a pair of Pied Wagtails and 4 Chaffinches.

Pied Wagtail


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