Saturday, 18 July 2015

Well Well Well...


      Gobsmacked!! - White 21L6 is Back       
I just could not believe it.  Yesterday (Friday 17th July), I paid a flying visit to my local park, known as The Peoples Park in my home town of Ballymena.  I did not even have time to obtain a count of the gulls present, as I had to get dinner etc., before leaving to go to work.  As soon as I approached the edge of the lake, I spotted a Black-headed Gull with a 'White Darvic' ring.

I peered at it with my 8x21 binoculars, which I keep handy in the coat pocket, but could not make out the code on the ring.  I immediately took out the camera and zoomed in for a few photos.  I then took a quick look to see the results.  To my disbelief and sheer utter delight, this Black-headed Gull was none other than '21L6'.

Last Saturday, I decided to carry out a follow up on this gull, as it is nearly a year ago (August 13th 2014), when I first spotted it feeding on the grass lawns of the Lettercreeve Housing Estate in the town.  I emailed Tim Ball to enquire about further re-sightings of '21L6' since I spotted it last year.  Tim's rapid reply also contained an updated file which contained 15 re-sightings between the 4th May and 1st July 2015, all at Hosehill Lake Local Nature Reserve, just to the south of Reading in England.  This is the same site where '21L6' was ringed as a chick in June 2013 and these re-sightings were the first since I saw this gull in Ballymena last August.

I thanked Tim for his reply and stated that I would keep a lookout as this gull may return to Ballymena over the next couple of months.  I have learnt during my short time as a 'Ring Watcher', that gulls are remarkably faithful to their breeding and wintering sites and often follow the exact routes undertaken during their travels.

After receiving Tim's reply, I added the new information to my Blog, never thinking I would see this gull 6 days later.  As I stated last week, the gulls are on the move now, as this summer's breeding season is all but over.  I definitely did not expect to get this sighting of '21L6' so soon.

On Thursday, I spent an hour or so at The Peoples Park.  There were 19 BHGs ranging in age from 1st summer up to adults, as well as 8 juveniles.  I was able to see the legs of nearly all of these gulls and none had rings.  I am quite confident '21L6' was not present.  An un-ringed pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls commanded the roof of the pavilion and a single 1st summer Common Gull bobbed about on the lake throughout my visit.

This re-sighting is a great start to this winter's season of 'Ring Watching' and with the resumption of my weekly visits to Antrim Marina only two weeks away, goodness know what 'treats' will come next.






Date Details Location
13 Jun 2013 Ringed as a Chick Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
26 Jun 2013 Ring Read by an Observer Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
04 Jul 2013 Ring Read by an Observer Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
02 Feb 2014 Ring Read by an Observer Navan, Co. Meath, Republic of Ireland.
28 May 2014 Ring Read by an Observer Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
30 May 2014 Ring Read by an Observer Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
03 Jun 2014 Ring Read by an Observer Burnthouse Lane Gravel Pits, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
09 Jun 2014 Ring Read by an Observer Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
13 Aug 2014 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Lettercreeve Est., Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
04 May 2015 Ring Read by an Observer Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
01 Jul 2015 Ring Read by an Observer Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
17 Jul 2015 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt The Peoples Park, Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
Detail for Black-headed Gull  -  White 21L6
(1st and last 2015 Re-sightings in England (Grey))


Black-headed Gull 'White 21L6' at Lettercreeve Housing Estate, Ballymena (13th August 2014)

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Saturday, 11 July 2015

White 21L6 - An Update

      Black-headed Gull - White 21L6       

Black-headed Gull - White 21L6 at Lettercreeve Housing Estate, Ballymena.

Now that the breeding season is practically finished for most Black-headed Gulls, many are now on the move and have begun their journeys to their wintering grounds.  From time to time, I shall endeavour to follow up on ringed gulls and other species that I have previously recorded.

The first of these is White 21L6, which I spotted at the Lettercreeve Housing Estate in my home town of Ballymena, on the 13th August 2014.  Today, I emailed Tim Ball of The Reading and Basingstoke Ringing Group to enquire about any further re-sightings of this BHG.

Within minutes, I received a reply from Tim with an updated file for 21L6.  Since I recorded it in Ballymena, this BHG has been recorded 15 times, all at Hosehill Lake Local Nature Reserve in Reading England, where it was ringed as a chick on the 13th June 2013.  I have added the first and last of these re-sightings to the table below,

Over the next couple of months, I shall be keeping a lookout in the event 21L6 should re-appear again in Ballymena.

Many thanks to Tim Ball for the latest update and for such a speedy reply.


Date Details Location
13 Jun 2013 Ringed as a Chick Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
26 Jun 2013 Ring Read by an Observer Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
04 Jul 2013 Ring Read by an Observer Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
02 Feb 2014 Ring Read by an Observer Navan, Co. Meath, Republic of Ireland.
28 May 2014 Ring Read by an Observer Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
30 May 2014 Ring Read by an Observer Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
03 Jun 2014 Ring Read by an Observer Burnthouse Lane Gravel Pits, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
09 Jun 2014 Ring Read by an Observer Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
13 Aug 2014 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Lettercreeve Est., Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
04 May 2015 Ring Read by an Observer Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
01 Jul 2015 Ring Read by an Observer Hosehill Lake LNR, Reading, West Berkshire, England.
Detail for Black-headed Gull  -  White 21L6
(1st and last 2015 Re-sightings in Grey)

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Saturday, 4 July 2015

Out Scouting!!!


      Antrim Marina       
On Monday 29th June, I travelled back to Antrim Marina to follow up on the previous Monday's visit.  Once again, in the region of 100 Black-headed Gulls were present.  Mostly comprised by adult gulls, I reckon a quarter to a third of the total were 1st summer birds.  Three juveniles were recorded this week, with just the one seen last Monday.

I noted 10 of Adam McClure's Darvic-ringed gulls.  Amongst these gulls were   2AAP   and   2AAB  .  Neither of the two were recorded during my random visits last summer and today's sightings are the first for this summer.  I have concluded, that due to the lack of re-sightings of Adam's birds throughout these last two summers, I would be unconvinced, barring a couple of individuals, which gulls are definitely all year round residents.

I reckon that the only way to solve this problem, would be to 'Ring Watch' every week at Antrim Marina, with perhaps two visits per week in the breeding season.  I started a new job a couple of months ago, working Monday to Friday from 6pm to 2.30am.  This means I will be free daily to spend more time in the pursuit of ringed birds and also concentrate more time at Antrim Marina.

With my days free, I decided to do some scouting at other coastal sites to consider visits during the winter months (see below).  This would give me greater scope to locate ringed continental birds that winter in Northern Ireland. 

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
2AAA 2ABS 2AAC 2AAV 2AAP 2AAF 2ABF 2AAB 2BRA 2ADD

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      Scouting       

Tuesday 30th June
As mentioned above, my new job gives me the convenience of having my days to myself.  This would be invaluable during the short winter days to pursue ringed continental birds.  I popped over to the coast to check out three possible sites.

Carrickfergus 
Walking around the harbour and the marina areas, I was very disappointed by the lack of gulls present.  In fact, only two Black-headed gulls represented the total of gulls seen within the two sites.  5 BHGs were perched on the lampposts of the nearby Sainsbury's car park.  Larger Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were constantly seen flying over the town in fairly good numbers, but only a few were perched on seafront buildings.

A group of 14 Black-headed Gulls were bobbing about on the sea just on the North side of Carrickfergus Castle.  No fledged youngsters were to be seen.  Although there is a good well extended beach here, there was a near high tide, which met the seafront wall.  A low tide will perhaps afford good viewing.

Whitehead
This was my first ever visit to this small coastal town and I was pleasantly surprised by the numbers and ages of gulls present on the seafront and just a little further north towards Black Head Lighthouse.

A good mix of Black-headed, Common, Herring and Lesser Black-backed gulls were observed, ranging from immatures to Adults.  About 20 recently fledged Black-headed Gulls were also present.  I was well pleased by what I saw here and looks very promising for winter visits.

Glynn
Wow, what a spot this turned out to be.  Nearing the small village of Glynn, I stopped the car to view large numbers of birds on the shoreline in the distance.  My problem, was trying to find this spot on entering the village.  I parked at the railway station at Glynn and went to the platform to check on my bearings only to discover these birds right in front of me.

I was completely gobsmacked by what I could see.  The platform of this railway station was perfect for scoping, complete with a small shelter, it is perfect for winter viewing with a fairly high tide.

6 species of gulls were to be seen of all ages from immatures to adults.  These comprised of Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Herring, Common and Black-headed Gulls.  Around 50 to 70 recently fledged youngsters of the latter were well spread about.  These are from the nearby Blue Circle Island owned by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

The 6th gull species was of a single bird - a Mediterranean Gull, the first one I've ever seen.  Med Gulls are quite rare in Northern Ireland, but have bred on Blue Circle Island.  Although this gull was quite distant to me, I had to zoom in to get a photo.

Mediterranean Gull with Juvenile BHG Resting Behind

Common and Sandwich Terns were present in good numbers well out at the water-line.  One of the Sandwich Terns bore a White-Darvic ring, but was too far away to read the inscription on it with the telescope.  Other species included Curlews, Oystercatchers and Red-breasted Mergansers.  A pair of Mute Swans with three fairly small cygnets were close to the station.  All in all, a very good spot.

Sainsbury's Retail Park, Ballymena
On Friday 3rd July, I called by Sainsbury's Retail Park, to investigate the possibility of viewing the gulls which regularly perch on the rooftops here.  Although numbers are never large, there is always a chance of getting a Darvic or two.  The only vantage point possible is at the side of the B&Q store and the River Braid separates the rooftops opposite from B&Q, thus lengthening the distance.  Darvic rings should be quite easy to read from this range with the use of a telescope, but any metal-ringed gulls would probably pose a problem.

Rooftop Gulls at Sainsbury's Retail Park

Zooming in on The Gulls (note two young BHGs)

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      The Peoples Park, Ballymena       
Also on Friday 3rd July, I called into The Peoples Park.  There were a mix of 14 Adult and 1st Summer Black-headed Gulls and still the single fledged youngster.  A 4th Summer and 2nd or 3rd Summer Lesser Black-backed gull's were also present, but with most legs viewable, none of the gulls were ringed.

The Mallard with 5 youngsters and the Grey-lag Goose with 3 young were quickly spotted and all the youngsters are now feathering quite well.  At last, a new brood has appeared, this being a Mallard with two small ducklings about a week old.

Grey-lag Geese with Their Three Quite Well Feathered Young

Mallard with Her Two Young Ducklings

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