Sunday, 27 September 2015

What A Mess...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
My sister Heather and I arrived to a glorious sunny Antrim Marina.  There was around 25% cloud cover and a slight breeze coming in from the Lough.  Getting out of the car, we estimated 50 to 60 Black-headed Gulls present, most of which were perched on the long wooden jetty which protrudes towards Lough Neagh.

On starting to look for ringed gulls, we could not help notice the strong smell of fuel in the air.  Shortly afterwards, we noticed a boat had sunk at its mooring, at the lower wooden jetty which is situated at the Antrim end of the Marina.  We realised then, that fuel had leaked onto the water from this boat and looking around the river, it was covered in a thin layer of the fuel.

I had a chat with a local about the boat and it turns out that the owner had to be rescued twice during the past week while out on the Lough.  Yesterday, his boat began to sink and apparently he failed to turn up after being informed of what was happening.  Even the Fire Brigade was summoned, but they were unable to do anything about it.

Unfortunately, many of the gulls, ducks and swans, not only swam on this mess, but also were drinking it after being fed bread by visitors.  Whether this has any serious effect on the birds, will be seen in time, though one Black-headed Gull was clearly not well.  It made very little attempt to move away from people when approached and despite taking an interest in the bread, was unable to consume it.

By the time that we departed around 1pm, around 150 Black-headed Gulls were present and most of the fuel on the river had dispersed.  Over the course of the morning we recorded 17 Darvic-rung BHGs out of a total of 23 that have so far been recorded this winter.    2AAH  was the last one re-sighted at 12.22.  Next Sunday takes us into October, which is the month when gulls such as   2AAR ,   2ABP  and   2ADV  have arrived back in the past.  I shall be eagerly waiting to see them if they have survived their journeys.

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2AAN   2AAT   2AAD   T35J   2AAP   2AAF   2AAS   2ADJ   2ABA 

Today's Absentees
 2AAA   2ABN   2AAB   2ACV   2BRA   2BRD 

The Sunken Boat  (27 Sep 2015)

The Fuel Clearly Visible on the River  (27 Sep 2015)

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2ABA  (27 Sep 2015)

      Other Birds       
No Mute Swans were present when we arrived, but the first one appeared at 9.22, with another 3 arriving at 9.40.  A couple of the swans did come out of the water, but the first ring was recorded at 10.09.  This was   Z91982 , whose only previous sighting this winter was on the 31st August.  By 12.00, another 4 swans arrived and included   W34158  which has become quite a regular visitor.  A further three swans were seen at the entrance to the Lough, but decided not to come in.

Mallards numbered around the 70 mark and this rose quite quickly to 100 plus.  The two ducks from County Monaghan   5MN 1207  and   5MN 1173  were seen on the wee sandy beach area at 9.44, just a couple of metres apart.  I have added a photo of a male Mallard swimming on the leaked fuel from the sunken boat.

Male Mallard Swimming on Leaked Fuel  (27 Sep 2015)

Again it was very quiet concerning other gull species.  An adult, probably male Common Gull only stayed for minutes before flying back out to the Lough and it was likewise with a juvenile, disappearing as quickly as it arrived.  No sign today of the small female that has been seen over the last two Sunday's.  The third year Herring Gull which was seen for the first time last Sunday, was seen again today.  While not always present at the Marina, it was sighted on a couple of occasions on lamposts behind the cafe.

The only other large birds were the crows.  The usual Hooded Crows, Jackdaws and Magpies and even 6 Rooks.  I have never seen more than one Rook on any of my visits to the Marina.

The only small birds to be seen today were Long-tailed Tits.  A family party of 8 birds were seen feeding in the trees beside the Long Jetty, before flying across the river into the wood at Antrim Boat Club.

Another first to be seen here today, was a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly.  I've never seen any butterflies of any kind here before.


      Kinnego Marina       
After finishing the four hour visit to Antrim Marina, my sister and I drove to Kinnego Marina for a first ever visit there.  This is a site where I know Adam has caught and ringed Black-headed Gulls in the past, but is a site which I intend to include for random visits during the winter.  This is the largest marina on Lough Neagh and is situated on it's southern shore.

I was not to be disappointed here either, as I sighted three of Adam's gulls that were completely new to me and also a metal-ringed Black-headed Gull.  Unfortunately, I failed to obtain the whole number on the metal-ring before the gull flew off and I could not locate it again and not for the lack of trying.  I ended up with   E**2966 , all I needed was the 2nd letter after the 'E' and the 1st of the 5 numbers.  All I can do is hope that this gull is still present by the time of my next visit to complete the number.

  2BPN  was ringed on the 29th October 2014 at Kinnego by S. O'Hara using one of Adam's Darvics.  Before today's sighting, it has been recorded as follows :- December 2014 (twice), February 2015 (twice), May 2015 (once) and July 2015 (once), all being at Kinnego.

  2BPS  was ringed on the 31st October 2014 at Kinnego by Adam.  Before today's sighting, it has been recorded as follows :- November 2014 (once), March 2015 (once), August 2015 (once) and September (once), all being at Kinnego.

  2BPT  was ringed on the 31st October 2014 at Kinnego by Adam.  Before today's sighting, it has been recorded as follows :- December 2014 (once), February 2015 (once), August 2015 (twice) and September 2015 (once), all being at Kinnego.

My thanks go to Adam again for supplying the files for these birds in order to get them published in today's Blog.

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2BPN  -  Kinnego Marina  (27 Sep 2015)

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange  2BPS  -  Kinnego Marina  (27 Sep 2015)

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2BPT  -  Kinnego Marina (27 Sep 2015)

Black-headed Gull  -  London E**2966  -  Kinnego Marina  (27 Sep 2015)


      Glenarm and Carnlough       
In last Sunday's Blog, I told of my visit to Glenarm and Carnlough on the Thursday 17th September and the inexplicable arrival of two men which scared off all the gulls on the beach at Carnlough and then departed again in their car.

On that occasion, I had scoped many of the gulls, but on thinking back, I remembered about a fairly large number of Common Gulls that were partially unsighted from me at the car park.  These ended up resting on the sea as well.

On Wednesday this week (23rd), I decided to go back down and have another go.  At Carnlough beach, I was rewarded with two ringed Common Gulls - one Darvic and one metal-ringed.  With caution and a slow approach, I was able to photograph and note the number on the Darvic-ring, but was not able to get near enough to the metal-ringed gull to try and get its number, as I ended up spooking them.

The Blue Darvic-rung Common Gull was another from Shane Wolsey's colour-ringing project on Big Copeland Island in County Down.  This gull   2HTX   was ringed as a chick on the 2nd June 2011 and today's sighting was a first.  Shane also confirmed that my sighting of   2ASF   on the 23rd August at the Loughshore Park in Jordanstown was also a first for that gull too.

Many Thanks to Shane for the details for both of these Common Gulls, though I have a feeling, I'll be in contact again in the future with more sightings.

Before leaving Carnlough, I had a good look through the rest of the gulls present and also the large numbers of Ringed Plovers and Turnstones, but no more rings.

In Glenarm, I quickly located Eoin McGreal's Black-headed Gull   260D  on the shore just above the tide line.  About 60 BHGs were present, along with a few Herring and Great-Black-backed Gulls.  I spotted a Herring Gull, which bore a metal-ring, on the roof of the Primary School located just across the road from the Harbour car park.  Once again, my luck was not in, as the gull flew off into the village and I was unable to locate it again.

Common Gull  -  Blue HTX  (23 Sep 2015)


Sunday, 20 September 2015

Worth A Soaking...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
It was dry and cloudy when I arrived at the Marina today.  There is no temperature gauge in my new run-around, but one thing was for sure, there was a very nippy wind blowing in off the Lough.  On a couple of occasions throughout the morning, my fingers were white with cold.

Even the small number of 52 Black-headed Gulls decided to perch on the ground, instead of the railings due to the wind.  As the morning wore on, more and more BHGs arrived and there was easily 150+ by the time I departed at 1pm.

So far, since I started my weekly visits for a third winter, a total of 23 Darvics have so been recorded.  18 of these were re-sighted today and included   2AAV , which I have stated in previous Blogs would go absent from the Marina for weeks at a time.  I know this one is a year round resident to the Antrim area and must have a favourite spot somewhere else in the town.  It was last spotted by Neville McKee on the 11th August here at the Marina.

We are now edging closer towards the end of the month and soon the natural food for these gulls will start to diminish.  As the gulls become more reliant on people for food, the weekly re-sightings will increase and it will not be long now when more of the Continental birds start to arrive and therefore adding to the totals.

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2AAA   2AAS   2BRA   2ADJ   2AAK   2ABS   2AAF   2AAD   2ABL 

The Absentees
 2AAT   2AAP   2ABA   2ABF   2BRD 

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAV   -  Antrim Marina   (20th Sep 2015)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAS   -  Antrim Marina   (20th Sep 2015)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABN   -  Antrim Marina   (20th Sep 2015)

Black-headed Gull Details 
Last Sunday, I spotted a metal-ringed Black-headed Gull with a British Ring Number -   EW66235 .  After getting home, I went online and reported it to The British Trust for Ornithology, in the hope the ringing details would arrive in time for today's Blog.

On Friday morning, I was delighted to receive an email from the BTO.  This gull was ringed as a chick on the 14th June 2011 at Lady's Island Lake in County Wexford, Republic of Ireland.  As the BTO does not as yet issue PDF Files for ringing recoveries, I have no idea whether this is a first re-sighting or not for this gull which is now four years old.  The ringer's name is given as the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which is not of much help.  Antrim Marina is 280kms north of the ringing site in Wexford.

There was no sign of this gull today during my four hour visit.  It may well have been using the Marina as a stopover, but I shall keep an eye out for it over the next couple of weeks.    

Lady's Island Lake, Co. Wexford to Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim

      Other Birds       
Last Sunday, I reported on two metal-ringed Mallards -   5MN 1173  and   5MN 1207 .  About 60 Mallards were present when I arrived and numbers slowly rose to 100+ over the course of the morning.  The female   5MN 1207  was spotted at 10.40 and the male   5MN 1173  was not seen until 12.09.  I was unable to get photos of the female last week.  I managed to scope the ring number, but she went back onto the river before I could get any pictures.

I was able to get some shots of her today and I am wondering if she is blind in the right eye.  I have added the photo showing the eye.  As she stands, she is clearly awake, but I'll take another look at her next Sunday.  

Mallard  -    5MN 1207   -  Antrim Marina   (20th Sep 2015)

8 Mute Swans on my arrival, were probably the same 8 that were present last Sunday.  One group of four was located on the slipway, while the other 4 were on the small sandy beach area.  Of the six that were out of the water, only one was ringed, being the ever present   W34158 .

A single adult female Common Gull arrived at 11.45 and I think it is the same bird as last Sunday.  She is very small and dainty, much like   EY64036  which was present during the past two winters and is another gull which I am hoping will come back again.

Female Common Gull  -  Antrim Marina  (20th Sep 2015)

Another gull appeared today which I have not seen before.  It stayed all morning and I am guessing it is a third year Herring Gull.  I'm not an expert when it comes to the plumage cycles of these birds, so I can only guess.  A juvenile Herring Gull also appeared a couple of times, but on each occasion, it was chased off by this same gull.

3rd Year Herring Gull (?)   -   Antrim Marina  -  (20th Sep 2015)

The only other large birds present today, were the Hooded Crows, Jackdaws and a single juvenile Magpie.  The only small bird was a Meadow Pipit which fed briefly on the grass beside the main car park and then flew out towards the Lough.  This is the first time that I have seen a Meadow Pipit here.


      Whitehouse Lagoon       
After leaving Antrim Marina, I drove to Whitehouse Lagoon on the outskirts of Belfast.  Two weeks ago, I spotted a metal-ringed Black-headed Gull and an Oystercatcher with a combination of colour-rings on these mudflats.  I spent about three hours here and neither of these birds were present.

I did however spot another Oystercatcher at a distance that appeared to have a White Darvic-ring.  I took some long range photos in the hope that I could get the code on the ring.  I was also hoping the same bird would come in closer to me, as the incoming tide was quickly swallowing up the mudflats, but the Oystercatcher flew off towards Belfast and that was the last I saw of it.  At home, when I looked at the photos, I realised that what I saw was not a Darvic, but a piece of plastic or something similar stuck to the leg.  There was no metal-ring on either leg, proving that it was just a bit of rubbish.

After a while, I spotted a Black-headed Gull with an Orange-Darvic ring - no mistaking this one and it was probably one of Adam's study birds.  This gull was also a long way off, but again I took some photos in the hope of obtaining the code on the ring.  The incoming tide was forcing this gull closer towards me, but to my horror, it decided to go for a swim and I lost it.

By now the rain had started to fall quite heavily, but I decided to stay put in the hope that this gull would eventually appear on a dry spit of land not too far away from me.  My patience paid off and the gull duly appeared and I was able to get the code and a couple of photos.  I could tell by the code -   2ALP , that it was one of Adam's birds and I sent him a text, to see if he could send me its details by email.   

This gull was ringed by Adam on the 18th June 2013 as a chick on Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, which is an RSPB Nature Reserve about 20kms away to the north.  Despite not being too far away from where it had been ringed, my sighting of it today was a first for this gull - well worth the good soaking.

My thanks goes to Adam for quickly sending me the details in order to add them in today's Blog.

Black-headed Gull   -     2ALP    -  Whitehouse Lagoon   (20th Sep 2015)


      Glenarm & Carnlough       
It is now a month since I re-sighted Black-headed Gull   260D   who has arrived back at Glenarm Harbour for another winter.  On Thursday the 17th September, I popped down to Glenarm to check on this gull.  As soon as I pulled into the car park, I spotted it on the rooftop of the Potteries building along with other BHGs.  A short time later, I took a photo of it on the footbridge, which spans the Glenarm River.

It is my intention, to check up on this gull at least once a month throughout the winter.  Glenarm was pretty quiet for gulls with about 50 Black-headed Gulls and two young Herring Gulls present.  Two Turnstones were on the beach below the seafront car park.  The Iceland Gull that was here from mid-May to early August was not to be seen.  I wonder if it has now gone for good.  It seemed to like Glenarm, spending the whole summer here and may perhaps return sometime in the future.

At Carnlough beach, there was the usual congregation of gulls where the Glencloy River flows into the sea.  A good mix of Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Herring, Common and Black-headed Gulls were present, including young and immature individuals of each species.  I was able to scope many of the gulls before two men arrived on the scene.

They parked at the roadside and for some obscure reason, they left their car, walked towards the gulls, scaring them all off and went back to their vehicle and drove off.  I couldn't see the sense in what they did, but the gulls all settled onto the sea a short distance out and therefore were of no use to me, ending my visit. 

Black-headed Gull  -     260D    -  on Glenarm Footbridge   (17 Sep 2015)


Sunday, 13 September 2015

3 New Metals...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
My sister Heather and I arrived to a nice sunny morning at Antrim Marina.  The temperature reading 11°C, with 50% cloud cover and a slight breeze was coming off the Lough, which was quite chilly at times.

As it was such a nice calm morning, there were plenty of flies about and the gulls must have been getting their fill of these, as for prolonged periods, many were not interested in people arriving with bread.

There were fewer BHGs about than usual and maximum numbers may just have been around the 100 mark.  Of the 23 Darvic-rung birds so far recorded this autumn/winter, only 14 were spotted today and 9 were not present.  For large periods of the morning, most of the gulls settled themselves onto the green behind the cafe.

Black-headed Gulls Present
 2AAT   2AAP   2ACV   2ADJ   2AAB   2AAF   2ABL 

Today's Absentees
 2AAK   2AAA   2ABN   2AAD   2ABK   2ABA   2AAV   2AAS   2BRD 

No new Darvics were re-sighted, but a 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull was spotted around 9.21 on the long jetty.  At around the same time, two 'metal-ringed' Mallards were seen and the race began to get all three numbers before any of them disappeared, with success.

The BHG bore a BTO ring, the number being   EW66235 .  I have reported this bird online and hopefully will have it's details back in time for next weeks Blog.

Black-headed Gull  -  London  EW66235  (13 Sep 2015)


      Other Birds       
There was only a single Mute Swan present when we arrived this morning.  Over the course of the morning, a further 7 swans arrived in from the Lough.  Of those that exited the water, only one had a ring, that one being that of the regular visitor   W34158 .

Mallard numbers were good with around 60 to 70 birds at first, increasing during the morning to around the 110 mark.  Two of the Mallards were bearing metal-rings and were spotted around the same time as a Black-headed Gull with a metal-ring.  My work was cut out for me to try and obtain all three ring numbers before any of these would move on, which I successfully managed to do.

Looking at the ringed Mallards, I knew straight away, they were both from County Monaghan.  I experienced this last year, when I realised there was no address on the rings, just two rows of numbers.  It turned out that the top row was a telephone number and the bottom row was the ducks ring number.

All I had to do this time was obtain the bottom row of numbers for each duck.  The male Mallard (drake) was ringed   5MN 1173  and the female Mallard (duck) was ringed   5MN 1207 .  When I got back home, I emailed Dan Curley, secretary of the Monaghan Gun Club with the numbers for these ducks.  I quickly received a reply from Dan as follows :-

Dan Curley


Those  2  Ducks  were  let  out  by  my  own  Club,  Annagh-Ma-Kerrig  Gun  Club,  ( By  Myself  )  on  Doohat  Lake,  which  is  between  Newbliss  Co  Monaghan,  and  Cootehill  Co  Cavan.
They  were  let  out  in  the  Middle  of  June  2015   @  7 - 8  Weeks  Old

These  would  have  travelled  20  Miles  or  so  further  than  the  Glaslough  Ducks  last  Year.  (  They  had  no  Blackwater  etc  to  Follow,  so  they  must  have  travelled  with   migrating  Ducks  )

Some  of  our  Ducks  Did  turn  up  on  Lough  Neagh  Before.

In  relation  to  the  Number   5 =  2015,  MN  =  Monaghan, 
End  no.  is  the   Number  that  ID's  which  Club  let  them  out.
In  Co  Monaghan  this  Year  we  let  out  1,360,  so  the  numbers  would  have  gone  from   1  to  1,360

Thanks  again   Garret


My Thanks go to Dan once again for the information supplied.  There is still no sign of either of the two Mallards from County Monaghan, that I recorded last winter.

Drake Mallard  5MN 1173  -  Antrim Marina  (13 Sep 2015)

Today, I recorded a Red-breasted Merganser at the Marina.  This is my first sighting of one here, although I do know that they breed out on the Lough.  It was a nice surprise to see it.  I think it is a male, which has now lost its breeding season plumage.

Red-breasted Merganser  -  Antrim Marina  (13 Sep 2015)

There was very little showing by other gull species.  An adult female Common Gull was present for about thirty minutes.  On three or four occasions, a juvenile Herring Gull put in an appearance.  Whether it was the same bird each time, there is no way of knowing.  An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull arrived and harried the Black-headed Gulls for about 5 minutes before moving on.

Two young Hooded Crows came and went all morning, as did a young Magpie.  Jackdaws were also present, though fewer in numbers than normal.

The only smaller species to be seen here today, was a juvenile Pied Wagtail.


      Oystercatcher Confirmation       
On Thursday, I finally received an eagerly awaited email from Iceland concerning the Oystercatcher that I spotted at the Whitehouse Lagoon, on the outskirts of Belfast last Sunday.  The photos that I took of this bird, with it's combination of colour rings, were good enough to allow confirmation.

It was caught on the nest as a breeding adult, on the 5th June 2015, roughly 10kms south-east of the small town of Hella, in the Ranga area of southern Iceland.  The distance from the ringing site to Whitehouse Lagoon is about 1, 293 kilometers / 803 miles.  It's arrival into Northern Ireland by early September, shows that Oystercatchers leave fairly quickly once their breeding season is completed.

Tomas G. Gunnarsson commenced his colour-ringing study of Oystercatchers in Iceland during 2013 and carries out similar cr-studies for Black-tailed Godwit and Ringed Plover as well.  Many Thanks to Tomas and Boovar for the details.  This is my first confirmed ringed Oystercatcher.

Iceland to Whitehouse Lagoon  -  1,293kms / 803 miles


Sunday, 6 September 2015

Darvics Well Up...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
Arriving at Antrim Marina today, the temperature was sitting at a pleasant 13°C with the ground drying out after light overnight rain.  There was 80% cloud cover and the sun broke through for periods at a time.  It remained dry all day, though there was a slight chill to the breeze, which for the last few days has been from the north.  I was on my own today, as my sister was unable to come.

Parking beside the slipway, there was a very good number of Black-headed Gulls present and a count revealed 97 of these gulls.  It turned out to be a very good day, with 20 out of the 21 Darvic-rung BHGs so far recorded at the Marina since the beginning of August, putting in an appearance.  Two other gulls,   2AAB   and   2BRD , which I mentioned in my Blog last week, also appeared at the Marina today, therefore taking the overall total to 23.

The only absentee was   2AAV , which is a resident in the Antrim area, often being sighted throughout the summer and winter.  I firmly believe, that this gull also favours another site within the area of Antrim Town and sometimes would go absent for a number of weeks at a time.

With the exception of   2BRA   and   2BRD , which were both ringed on the 1st February of this year, the main core of my weekly winter sightings have now been re-sighted at the Marina.  One BHG that remains absent from this core of gulls is   2AAL .  I strongly believe that this one has perished.  This is the gull that had lost an eye in August of last year, was later seen limping very badly and ceased to be sighted from early January of this year.  I would be very surprised if it was to appear again.

I am now waiting for the continental gulls,   2AAR   (Poland),   2AFD   (Latvia) and also for   2AAJ   (England) to arrive.  3 others,    2ABP ,   2ACX   and   2ADV   usually arrive back in October and November.  As far as I know, where these gulls go to during the summer months is so far a mystery.  My guess is that these 3 could possibly be continental gulls as well, judging by their arrival dates back at Antrim Marina.    

Black-headed Gulls Recorded Today
 2AAA   2AAH   2ACV   2AAF   2AAD   2ABK   T35J   2ABL   2AAN   2AAB   2AAT 

The Only Absentee

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAK   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (06 Sep 2015)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAN   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (06 Sep 2015)

Black Headed Gull  -    2ABS   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (06 Sep 2015)

Black Headed Gull  -    2BRA   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (06 Sep 2015)

The trainee canoeists did not arrive today and this meant the gulls remained in the area of the Marina throughout the morning, except for a short time between 10.20 and 10.40, when the 'Maid of Antrim' pleasure boat arrived.  Throughout the summer months, this boat regularly undertakes trips around Lough Neagh lasting around one hour and also passes the 'Torpedo Platform', with all its nesting Gulls, Terns and Cormorants.

'The Maid of Antrim', must have been chartered today, as this is the first time I have seen this boat here during the autumn and winter.  While the boat was moored and the small group of people were waiting to board, the majority of the gulls settled on the grass area behind the cafe, but soon returned after the boat had departed.  By the time I departed at 1pm, the number of BHGs present had risen to an estimated 150, with   2ADJ   being my 22nd re-sighting of the day at 12.53.      

'The Maid of Antrim'  -  Leaving Antrim Marina  (06 Sep 2015)

      Other Birds       
It is still fairly quiet around the Marina concerning other birds.  No other species of gull appeared today, except for a juvenile Herring Gull that arrived briefly at 11.04.  It always surprises me why Lesser Black-backed Gulls do not put in regular appearances here, despite the large numbers of them in the Antrim Town and Lough Neagh area.

Once again, there were no Mute Swans on my arrival.  The first two to arrive was at 10.19 with a further 7 appearing before 1pm.  Most of them stayed on the water, but only the one ring was recorded, that being   W34158 .  Mallard numbers rose from around 60 to 100 as the morning wore on, but again no ringed ones amongst these.

The usual crow species consisting of 'Hoodies'. Jackdaws and Magpies were present all morning and a single Rook put in a 20 minute appearance.

The only small birds to be noted was a single Grey Wagtail and a couple of  Sand Martins over the river.


      Whitehouse Lagoon/Whiteabbey/Jordanstown       
After leaving Antrim Marina, I drove down to Whitehouse Lagoon on the outskirts of Belfast.  Most of the mudflats here were exposed, as the tide was slowly starting to rise.  Normally, I would have expected to see more gulls and waders present, but overall numbers were surprisingly low.  Black-headed Gulls were the only species to be seen in fairly good numbers.

Nearly all of the birds were well away from the parking area and a telescope had to be used to view legs.  The very first bird that I looked at through the scope was a Black-headed Gull, which was actually the closest bird to me.  To my surprise, it had a metal-ring.  I took a photo, zoomed in with my new camera, but made no effort in trying to get the ring number, as it was too far away and I thought the camera would not pick up any of the details.  How wrong, I was.  After downloading the photos at home and zooming into the ring on my computer, I could make out the letters 'EX' at the start of the ring number.  A lesson learnt, I will have to be more persistent in the future, just in case.

The photo below, shows the Black-headed Gull and a 'blow-up' of the ring is added on the top right hand corner.

Metal-Ringed Black-headed Gull  -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (06 Sep 2015)

After taking photos of the Black-headed Gull, I started scoping through the other birds and an Oystercatcher then caught my eye.  This bird had a combination of coloured 'Leg Rings' and a 'Flag'.  A 'Flag' is a coloured 'Leg Ring', but rectangular in shape, hence the name given to it.

The Oystercatcher was so far away, it was very hard to make out the colours involved on the 'Leg Rings'.  Once again, I took photos with my new camera at full digital zoom and after downloading these onto the computer, I was able to make out the colours.

On the lower left leg (Tarsus), was two coloured rings - white under green.  On the right Tarsus, was a black-coloured ring underneath a green coloured 'Flag' and the metal ringed was fitted on the upper part of the right leg (Tibia).

On checking the cr-birding site for the origin of this ring, it is very much likely to be Icelandic in origin.  I have emailed Tomas G. Gunnarsson in Iceland to get confirmation and the ringing details.  I await for his reply.

After quite a while scanning through the other birds on the Lagoon, no other ringed birds were found.  I have added two photos of this Oystercatcher with close-ups of the rings inserted.

Oystercatcher  -  GW-GfN  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (06 Sep 2015)

Leaving Whitehouse Lagoon, I drove up to the shoreline at Whiteabbey.  As the incoming tide was still quite well out, there were very good numbers of gulls and waders about.  It was not long before I spotted two Oystercatchers, just a few feet apart, both carrying 'metal-rings' on their legs.  I could not have arrived at a worse time, as a man along with two Doberman dogs slowly edged their way along the shoreline and minutes later disturbed everything.

Most of the gulls settled onto the sea, whilst all the waders flew southwards towards Belfast.  I waited for quite a while, to see if any of the birds would re-settle onto the shoreline, but it ended up a waste of time.  Before today, I have not seen a ringed Oystercatcher and end up spotting three in an afternoon.

My final destination was the Loughshore Park at Jordanstown where I recorded a Darvic-ringed Common Gull two weeks ago.  Only a handful of Common and Black-headed Gulls were to be seen here today and after a quick look through the Telescope, I decided to call it a day and head back home.