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



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.

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.

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.

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)


      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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