Sunday, 4 October 2015

Rings Everywhere...


      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
For the second week in a row, my sister Heather and I arrived at Antrim Marina to a glorious sunny day.  Cloud cover was only 25 to 30% and for a change the breeze coming in from the Lough was not chilly.

Surprisingly for such a good morning, the Black-headed Gulls were already present in good numbers and a head count totalled 116.  Searching through these, we recorded 10 Darvic's in the first four minutes.  The overall total so far this winter stands at 23 and by 9.53 we had recorded 14.  We had to wait nearly an hour and then another 4 Darvics were recorded between 10.48 and 10.50.    2ABS  at 11.12,   2AAK  at 11.33 and   2AAH  at 12.11 took the total to 21.

At 12.17, I jumped for joy when I spotted   2ADV , which is one of the gulls I mentioned last week whose arrival back at the Marina was imminent.  On the 5th October last winter there was no sign of him, but on the 12th October, he was back being the 13th of 18 birds re-sighted that day.  I am convinced in my own mind, he goes to the continent to breed and was last seen at the Marina on the 15th February of this year.

2ADV now takes the total so far this winter to 24 Darvics.  The next two,   2AAR  and   2ABP  should arrive by the third week of October going by their previous re-sighting dates.  The only two not to be seen today was   2ABA  and   2BRD .  Maximum numbers occurred between 11.00 and 12.00 when an estimated 150 to 170 BHGs were present.  Over the next few weeks these numbers will steadily increase to between 200 and 300 birds.

The river that flows past the Marina was back to normal this week.  The fuel leak from the sunken boat last Sunday does not seem to have done any harm, as all of the ringed birds recorded today, that were present last week, seemed healthy enough.


Black-headed Gulls Recorded Today
 T35J   2AAD   2AAT   2AAF   2ABK   2AAN   2ABL   2AAA   2AAC   2AAS   2ACV 
2ABF 2ABN 2AAP 2ADJ 2AAV 2AAB 2BRA 2ABS 2AAK 2AAH 2ADV


The Absentees
 2ABA   2BRD 


Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2ADV  (Making a Point of Being Back)

Also today, the first ringed juvenile turned up.  Spotted at 10.42, this young gull just had a 'metal ring'.  As always with 'metals', the race was on to get the whole ring number, before the gull should happen to disappear, which it did later on.  Happily, I managed to scope the whole number and took enough photos to confirm it.  This was a British ring - being London   EL72723 .  I have reported it to the British Trust for Ornithology and now await its ringing details.

Juvenile Black-headed Gull  -  London  EL72723  (04 Oct 2015)



      Other Birds       
It was fairly quiet as far as other gull species was concerned.  There were no Common Gulls this week.  The 3rd year Herring Gull which has been seen during my last two Sunday visits, made a brief appearance very early on this morning, as did a juvenile.

There was a noticeable decline in Mallard numbers today, with around 30 on our arrival, but despite arrivals all morning, the overall total probably did not exceed 70.  Both of the ringed Mallards from County Monaghan were seen very early on.  I managed to scope the female's number   5MN 1207  at 9.22.  The male gave me a lot of effort in order to confirm his number.  All I could get would be   5MN  and then he would either go back onto the river or just lay down.  It took to 12.53 to finally obtain the whole number   5MN 1173 .  Every week, I have to be sure of these two, just in case another duck from Monaghan should appear.

Female Mallard  -  5MN 1207

Only one Mute Swan was present when we arrived and another four arrived in from the Lough at 10.12.  One of these was ringed being   Z91982 .  By 11.00 the total had risen to 9 and   W34158  was among them.

Around 10.00 a juvenile Great Crested Grebe arrived.  I had been watching it diving on the Lough just past the breakwater at the entrance to the Marina.  As it swam past us heading up river, I tried several times to take a photo of it, showing off it's stripey head and neck, but it kept diving and eluded me.

Hooded Crows, Jackdaws and a single Magpie were the only other larger birds seen and Pied and Grey Wagtails were the only small species to be recorded.

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      Carnlough & Glenarm       
I made two visits to Carnlough and Glenarm, one on Wednesday 30th September and the other on Friday 2nd October.  Having spotted metal-ringed Herring Gulls at both Carnlough Beach and Glenarm Harbour on the Wednesday, I tried for a second time on Friday to get their numbers, but failed.  The metal-ringed Common Gull that I saw on the 23rd September at Carnlough Beach was also still present and once again I failed to get it's number.  To top it all, on the Friday, I spotted a metal-ringed Great Black-backed Gull, which was the first GBB Gull I've ever seen with a ring and failed to get its number.

I have added photos of the two Herring Gulls, the first one at Carnlough Beach being well into the digital zoom zone

Except for the Black-headed Gulls, other gulls at Carnlough Beach appear to be very wary of people and either fly off or wade onto the sea.  As ever, I'll keep trying.  On both days, I easily located Eoin McGreal's Black-headed Gull   260D  at Glenarm, thanks to the Darvic ring.  The Common Gull   2HTX  which I spotted on the 23rd September at Carnlough Beach, was not seen on either day.

Metal-Ringed Herring Gull at Carnlough Beach

Metal-Ringed Herring Gull at Glenarm Harbour


      Larne / Carrickfergus / Jordanstown       
Yesterday afternoon (Saturday 3rd October), I travelled down to the east coast to visit Sandy Bay at Larne, Carrickfergus Harbour and the Loughshore Park at Jordanstown.

Sandy Bay
As it was high tide, there was not too many birds to be seen.  A fair number of gulls, Herring, Common and Black-headed were on the sea.  On the shoreline, good numbers of waders such as Dunlin and Turnstone were present, along with a few Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers.  On scoping these, I did spot a metal-ringed Turnstone.  The trouble I had even trying to get a photo of it was very awkward, as these little critters just do not pause for a minute.  I succeeded in the end and it is a pity there were no colour rings on this bird, as I had no hope of trying to get the number on the ring.

Metal-Ringed Turnstone

Carrickfergus Harbour
My aim here was to try to see if   2ADD  was about.  This is the Black-headed Gull that breeds on Lough Neagh and winter's here at Carrickfergus.  On the 30th August, I saw him for the first time actually on his wintering site and not at Antrim Marina where I am used to seeing him.

Unfortunately, I did not find him.  I did however spot another two Black-headed Gulls from Adam McClure's Study, which were first sightings for me.    2ADB  and   2ADF  were in a small group of BHGs at the car park beside Carrickfergus Castle.  I am waiting for the ringing details of these two from Adam and will include them in next Sunday's Blog.

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2ADB

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2ADF

Loughshore Park, Jordanstown
I spent a good couple of hours here, as the tide was on its way out and the gulls were slowly making their way in.  On the 23rd August, I recorded my first ever Darvic-rung Common Gull   2ASF   here and I was hoping to re-sight it again.

I was not to be disappointed as I spotted it a short time after finding another Darvic-rung Common Gull.  This gull   2ASL   is also a new one for me.  I have sent an email to Shane Wolsey, as I know it will be another from his colour-ringing project on Big Copeland Island.  There has been no reply as yet, so I'll add the details to next Sunday's Blog.

The evening light was starting to fade by the time I departed.  I had scoped lots of gulls and waders as the tide receded, but no more rings were to be found.  

Common Gull  -  Blue 2ASF

Common Gull  -  Blue 2ASL

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