Monday, 31 August 2015

Back to Normal...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
My sister Heather and I arrived at Antrim Marina yesterday to find things were back to normal, with the Black-headed Gulls and swans - yes swans - present.  After sitting for three hours last Sunday at the Marina, only two BHGs arrived which landed, both were un-ringed.  To my astonishment, on leaving the Marina, I discovered the gulls were feeding on the playing fields, half a kilometer away, beside Antrim Forum.

It was very pleasant weather-wise this morning, the temperature reading 15°C, with plenty of sunshine through the 50/50 cloud cover.  The breeze coming in off the Lough was not too cold.

There were about 60 to 70 BHGs present and numbers peaked around the 110 to 120 mark soon afterwards.  Since recommencing my visits here for a third winter season, I have re-sighted 21 out of a total of 36 Darvic-rung Black-headed Gulls that I have recorded at the Marina.  11 of these were sighted again today and 10 were absent.

A further three of these 36 gulls have also been recently re-sighted.  In a recent email from Neville McKee, he spotted   2AAB  at the Marina on the 11th August along with 13 of the gulls that I have so far re-sighted myself.  Last week, I spotted   2BRD  on the playing fields of a local College two kilometers from the Marina and today I got   2ADD  at Carrickfergus (details below), after I completed my visit to the Marina.

Today, also saw the first outing of my new camera - a Nikon P900 Coolpix with 83x Optical Zoom.  Although I obtained the camera on Wednesday, I have not had time to get fully used to it and 'boy', did I boobed.  When I got home today and downloaded the photos onto the computer, I realised I had set the date wrong on the initial set-up and the photos themselves had the date and time stamped across them in large letters, which spoiled them and therefore I would not use them on the Blog.

My main reason for getting the P900 was to give me that little bit of extra reach while trying to photograph 'metal-rings'.  I have no interest in cameras with long lenses, all I want is a handy sized camera to carry about that can take half decent pictures.  Hopefully, I'll do better next week - so no photos this week.

While at the Marina today,  I had the pleasure of meeting Sandy McWilliams.  Sandy was one of my two trainers when I learnt to ring in the early 80's.  I have been toying with the idea of retraining, eventually leading to me catching and Darvic-ringing gulls while on my visits to the Marina.  Sandy has given up on ringing now, but will have a chat with Neville, who was my other trainer.  It was good to see Sandy after all these years.  

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2AAC   2ACV   2AAA   2ABL   2AAT   T35J   2ABK   2ADJ   2ABF   2ABA   2AAF 

The Absentees
 2AAP   2AAK   2AAH   2ABN   2AAD   2ABS   2AAN   2AAV   2AAS   2BRA 


      Other Birds       
As mentioned above, the Mute Swans have finally put in an appearance at the Marina.  Initially, 8 were present on the slipway, with another 3 appearing shortly afterwards.  Two of these swans had metal-rings,   W34158  and   Z91982 .  Both had been ringed at the Marina by Ken Perry -   W34158  on the 17th March 2014 and   Z91982  on the 6th September 2012, while teaching trainee ringers.  Both of these swans were re-sighted quite often throughout last winter.

Mallards were present in good numbers, totaling 100+, but still no sign of the ringed birds that I recorded last winter.

A juvenile Herring Gull appeared late on in the morning and was the only other gull species sighted here today.

The usual Crow species consisted of Hooded Crows, Jackdaws and Magpies and a single Rook was present for a short time.  The only smaller birds to be seen was a Grey Wagtail.


I have made a couple of visits to Carrickfergus of late.  One reason is to look for ringed gulls and the other is to see if I could find   2ADD .  He was Darvic-ringed at Carrickfergus on the 29th November 2013, by Adam McClure, as an adult male of unknown age.  His first appearance at the Marina was on the 16th February 2014 where he remained through the summer, before being spotted back in Carrickfergus in October.

He was late re-appearing at the Marina for this summer's breeding season, not arriving until the 22nd March.  Again, he was seen here throughout the summer and the last known re-sighting was reported on the 16th July.  Since recommencing my visits to the Marina, I have not seen him, but today I found him on the south side of Carrickfergus Castle, back for another winter.

This surely has to be one of the shortest migrations from summer breeding quarters to wintering sites on record.  While other Black-headed Gulls travel hundreds if not the 1,000 plus mile mark,   2ADD  only has to do 28 kilometers / 17 miles.  I was so pleased to have spotted him here today.  Despite what I said about pictures above, I have added the photo I took of   2ADD .  Take no notice of the date and time stamp.

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2ADD  at Carrickfergus (30 Aug 2015)


After leaving Carrickfergus, we headed up the coast to Glynn.  Observing the birds from the railway station platform, there were plenty of Gulls, Waders and a few Terns.  I spent a long time scoping these.  Of special interest here, was the sighting of 5 Little Egrets, a species that has recently started to breed here in Northern Ireland.

5 species of gull of all ages were present, Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, also Herring, Common and Black-headed Gulls.  One of the Common Gulls bore a metal-ring, but it was too far away to read the code.

A couple of Common Tern and a few Sandwich Terns were noted, with the later having fledged chicks with them.  Two of the adult Sandwich Terns were metal-ringed, but again were too far away to attempt to read the code.

Waders included Godwits, Oystercatchers, Redshank, Curlew and Sanderlings.  There were also a large number of Hooded Crows and the pair of Mute Swans that I had noted in July, were also present with their three youngsters now very large.

Plenty of Mallard and a few Red-breasted Mergansers were seen as well.


      Common Gull Update       
I received an email from Shane Wolsey concerning the Darvic-rung Common Gull   2ASF   that I spotted at the Loughshore Park in Jordanstown last Sunday.  I was correct in presuming that this bird was ringed on the nearby Copeland Islands, having being rung as a chick on the 27th June 2014 on Big Copeland Island.  The distance between the two sites is only 22kms, about 14 miles - East to West.

Unfortunately, the email was so brief, no other details were given.  I have been left with no idea whether this was a first ever sighting or whether this gull has been sighted at any other time or location.  I have discovered for a recognised Bird Observatory, any communications with them about their ringed birds, results either in a poor reply or no reply at all, which in all reality is not good.  


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