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.


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