Sunday, 9 August 2015

You're Back Early...

      Black-headed Gulls       
Apologies for yesterday, but with my new job, there will be times when I will be required to work on Saturday or Sunday evenings.  My normal shifts are Monday to Friday, working from 6pm until 2.30am.  Sometimes when a large order comes in or a position needs to be covered due to sickness or holidays, I may be called in to work.  When these situations occur, my blog will in most instances be published on a Monday instead of Sunday evening.

The upside of my new job, is that my daylight hours during the winter will be free.  This will allow me to cover other sites, especially on the coast to go 'Ring Watching', therefore adding to my ever growing collection of sightings.

Arriving at Antrim Marina at 9am, I was accompanied by my sister Heather, who has expressed her desire to get involved.  Her Ornithological knowledge is practically zero, but is keen to learn and will be a useful extra pair of eyes.

The sky was heavily overcast and over the period of my visit, there were a few light drizzly showers.  Although the temperature was reading 13°C, it felt quite cold at times because of the brisk westerly wind.

Over the course of the last two winters, I have recorded a total of 36 Darvic-rung Black-head Gulls at the Marina.  34 of these belong to Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Black-head Gull Study and the main reason for me helping him with the project.  The remaining two 'Darvic's' are of BHGs that were ringed as chicks in Lithuania and Scotland.

Last Sunday, which was my first weekly visit to Antrim Marina for the start of a third winter of 'Ring Watching', I re-sighted an impressive total of 16 gulls.  5 of these birds had not been seen since February and March and I am presuming that they did not breed or summer in the local area.  I am still waiting to get a reply from Adam with updated files for these gulls in order to verify their re-sighting status.

Today, I recorded 19 Darvics with the appearance of 5 BHGs that were not recorded last Sunday and 2 of last Sunday's gulls were not present today.  With just two visits made, I have a total of 21 out of 36 Darvic-ringed BHGs re-sighted already.

Of the 5 new gulls this week, three of them were recorded at the Marina during the breeding season and therefore can be considered as resident to the area.  These are   2AAC ,   2AAV  and   2BRA .  The remaining two, gave me quite a bit of a surprise.  They are   2ABN  and 'White T35J'.  Both of these gulls were not expected back until September.    2ABN  last winter, did not appear until my 9th weekly visit on the 22nd September, while 'White T35J' appeared on the 7th September, my 6th visit.  Initially, it was 'T35J' that was to start me on my 'Ring Watching' quest.

Already, with just two visits to the Marina, it is looking very likely, that for some reason, the gulls are reappearing at their winter quarters earlier than normal.  Even Graham Prole noted in his Blog Tallaght Gulls + Rings that Continental Black-headed Gulls from Germany and Holland, had arrived into the Dublin area by the end of July and the beginning of August.

'White T35J's' record at Antrim Marina is becoming quite impressive.  This is now the 4th winter in a row in which she has appeared here.  It may well be possible, that she has came here every winter since she was ringed as a chick in 2006.  As can be seen from the table below, there was not a single sighting record of her until she was caught, re-ringed and fitted with a Darvic in 2011.  Again, this illustrates my point that all approachable species of birds should be mandatory colour-ringed.  That little extra cost, does produce results.

I have sent an email to the Polish Ringing Group and now await an updated file for 'T35J'.  At present, I am presuming that she has not been spotted in Poland or Lithuania over the summer.

I have calculated, that it is now 3,354 days since she was ringed as a chick, which now makes her 9 years, 2 months and 6 days old and the distance from Lake Kretuonas to Antrim Marina is 2043Kms, 1269 miles.           

Date Details Location
03 Jun 2006 Ringed as a Chick Lake Kretuonas, Lithuania.
22 Mar 2011 Re-Ringed by Szymon Bzoma Pomorskie, Poland. (Darvic Ring also Fitted)
05 Apr 2012 Ring Read by D. Norkunas Utena-Daunisko, Lithuania.
12 Oct 2012 Ring Read by Adam D. McClure Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
02 Jan 2013 Ring Read by Neville D. McKee Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
21 Sep 2013 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
16 Feb 2014 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
07 Sep 2014 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
15 Mar 2015 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
09 Aug 2015 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
Early Record for 'White T35J' also the  1st and last Winter Sightings at Antrim Marina

Black-headed Gull 'White T35J  -  Antrim Marina  (09 Aug 2015)

With 21 out of 36 Darvics already re-sighted, I can nearly discount 4 of the 15 remaining birds to be re-sighted at the Marina.    2BAS  which was ringed as a chick (June 2013) at Castle Espie here in Northern Ireland, was last seen at Antrim Marina on the 21st September 2013, while   2ADA  ringed at the Marina on 27th Oct 2013 has not been sighted since 10th November 2013.  I am presuming that both of these '1st winter' birds failed to survive the winter.

  2ADD  has probably returned to Carrickfergus already for the winter, which is just a few miles to the east of the Marina, where we know he comes to breed.  At some point over this winter, I will try and locate him at Carrickfergus.  The fourth gull to be discounted is   2AAL .  This poor 'chap' had recently lost an eye when I started my weekly visits to Antrim Marina last winter and was to be seen limping very heavily in early January.  I last re-sighted him on the 11th January 2015 and I reckon he has succumbed to his injuries and has since perished.

Of the 11 remaining birds, the previous whereabouts of four of them are known.    2AAJ  was last seen in Northumberland, England.   2AFD  was reported from Riga in Latvia and we know   2AAR  breeds in Poland.  Recently,   2BRB  was spotted at Kinnego Marina, not too far away.  Hopefully, all eleven will turn up during the course of this winter.  

Black-headed Gulls Recorded Today
 2AAT   2AAA   2AAF   2AAK   2ABS   2AAS   T35J   2ABF   2ABK   2AAD 

Today's Absentees
 2AAN   2AAP 

Around 60 Black-head gulls were present when we arrived today and numbers quickly reached the 100 to 110 mark.  The trainee canoeists arrived at 11.30, as the normally do at this time of year.  They as usual, scared the gulls away and about 70 to 80 of them went to rest on the grass behind the cafe.  As the grass was too long to read rings, there was no point in hanging around, so we departed from the area at 12.00.

Again, young Black-headed Gulls were lacking in numbers, with only three juveniles being spotted at any one time.  I definitely think that the BHGs have had a disastrous breeding season on the Lough.

The Lough Neagh Rescue Service were on the go today.  With the car parking area closed off to the general public, they had no problems with launching their craft.  They appeared to be taking part in a training exercise, but would have been on hand if needed, especially as there was an exceptionally large number of canoeists about.

Lough Neagh Rescue Service Launching Their Lifeboat


      Other Birds       
It was exceptionally quite for other birds at the Marina today.  Barring the resident pair of Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls, no juveniles or adults of any gull species appeared.  Lots of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and their juveniles flew past overhead, but bypassed the Marina altogether.

Once again, there were no swans present.  Mallards numbers were 100+ throughout my visit, but again, no sign of rings.

It is not very often that the adult pair of Hooded Crows do not show up, though two juveniles have learnt to harass the gulls and ducks to drop their bread when being fed by visitors.  There were a number of Jackdaws about and a single juvenile Magpie.  A single adult Grey Heron stood for a long time on the opposite side of the river.

Of the smaller birds, a single Pied Wagtail was constantly present, while Swallows, House and Sand Martins patrolled the river looking for flies.


      Tesco Warehouse, Kilbegs       
Having departed from Antrim Marina an hour early, I decided to call by the Tesco Distribution Warehouse at Kilbegs, on the outskirts of Antrim Town.  I had meant to do this in May to observe the number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls which nest on the roof, but completely forgot to check it out.

The warehouse is quite extensive in area, with 12 peaks in the roof, which creates 11 'troughs' in which the gulls use to nest on.  Each 'trough' resembles a gently sloping beach, with its greenery of grass and other plants.

Many young Lesser Black-backs have already fledged and could be seen on the rooftops of the nearby Junction One Shopping Centre.  Despite this, many youngsters remained on the warehouse, having not fledged as yet.  Large numbers of adults were also present.  I would guess that the number of breeding pairs must surely top the hundred mark.  Even if 10 pairs nested in each trough, that would total 110 pairs alone.

Surely, with 200 to 250 adults about, there are bound to be some individuals that are ringed.  If all goes to plan and I carry on with my visits to Antrim Marina next summer, I could also make repeated visits here to check on numbers and try for rings.

The photos below were taken from the main Antrim to Ballymena Road.  Although I had to zoom in quite a bit, especially in the 2nd photo, they clearly show juveniles that have not fledged as yet and the potential to spot ringed adults and any 'Darvics' present should not present too many problems with reading the codes.


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