Monday, 23 November 2015

More 'Metals' Pass by...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
My sister, Heather and I, arrived slightly later this morning.  It was a clear, calm and sunny morning, unlike the previous two days, which brought in the first snow and frequent showers of rain.  Despite the sun, there was quite a chill from the light breeze, that was coming from the south-east, instead of the usual westerly coming in from the Lough.

About 60 Black-headed Gulls were present when we arrived and around a dozen by the time we departed at 1pm.  The maximum number reached the 120 mark between 11 and 12 o'clock.  These numbers are still very low, when compared to the last two winters.

Over the previous two winters, I have recorded 36 Darvic-rung BHGs and 28 of them have been re-sighted at least once so far this winter.  Amoung the 16 Darvic's recorded today, was a 1st winter Black-headed Gull -    2ANS .  I spotted it at 10.01 this morning and it becomes the newest addition taking the overall total to 37 and the 29th for this winter.  This is likely to be the new gull that Adam caught and ringed on Thursday 12th November, the 'new kid on the block', which I failed to locate last Sunday.  I am now waiting for it's file from Adam, so this can be confirmed.

There could be a slight chance that it came from Castle Espie, as Adam ringed chicks there during the summer, but for now I reckon this one was caught here at Antrim Marina.

I still blame the lack of feeding, which may well be the cause for several of the 'ringed' gulls, failing to appear each week.  There is still no sign of   2ABP , who is now a month overdue.  I am now starting to think that something has happened to him.  It may also be possible, that he is back already, but failing to turn up on my Sunday visits.  The wait continues!

Although it is still early,  I am keenly looking out for   2AAJ .  Except for   2ABP , most of the other BHGs arrived back to the Marina slightly earlier than normal this year.

1st Winter Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2ANS  -  Antrim Marina  (22 Nov 2015)

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2AAD   2BRA   2AAK   2ABL   2AAH   2AAN   2ABA   2ABF 

The Absentees
 T35J   2AAC   2ABN   2ABS   2AAB   2AAF   2AAV 

      Other Birds At Antrim Marina       
The colder weather seems to have encouraged the Common Gulls to visit the Marina, as 6 adults and one juvenile were present when we arrived this morning.  To my delight, the small 'metal-ringed' female London   EY64036 , was present for the first time this winter.  She was ringed as a chick at Hunterstown, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 20th June 2013 and stayed at Antrim Marina throughout the 2013/2014 winter.

On the 21st September 2014, she returned to the Marina and remained for a second winter.  I knew by her reactions today, that she has just arrived back, as she was very wary and I could not get close enough to take photos which would show the ring number.  She should quickly settle down and I'm glad to see her back for a third winter.

There is still no sign of the 3rd calendar year Herring Gull which was here for several weeks.  An adult Herring Gull, probably the same one that was here last week, was present throughout our visit.

Only one Mute Swan was recorded when we arrived, with 6 others arriving in over the course of the morning.  Two of these were ringed,    Z91982  which has appeared over most weeks so far this winter and   Z91981  making it's first appearance.  Last winter   Z91981  did not appear until the 28th December.  It was ringed on the 6th September 2012 as a juvenile here at Antrim Marina, which now makes it three years old and approaching breeding age.

The Ring of Mute Swan Z91981  - Antrim Marina  (22 Nov 2015)

Mallard numbers were well up this morning, with approximately 70 on our arrival and around 90 by the time we departed at 1pm.  The ringed female   5MN 1207  from County Monaghan, was spotted just after we arrived, but there is still no sign of the ringed male.

Jackdaws were present in their usual numbers, but only singles for Hooded Crow, Rook and Magpie.  No smaller birds were seen at all today.


      Ringing Results Received       
On Saturday 14th November, I spotted an adult Black-headed Gull at Victoria Park in Belfast, bearing a 'metal' ring.  After taking numerous photos, I was able to piece it's ring number together after returning home.  It was a British ring - London   EL97734  and I duly reported this gull online to The British Trust for Ornithology.

On Wednesday, I received the ringing details from the BTO.    EL97734  was ringed as a chick on the 12th June 2007 in the Downholme area of North Yorkshire, England.  As usual with the BTO recovery details, no information is given on previous sightings.  I then emailed the BTO, to enquire about this, as this gull is now eight years old and may have been sighted in the past.  The reply confirmed this was it's first sighting since it was initially ringed.

The distance from Downholme to Victoria Park is around 265km / 164 miles in a Westerly direction.  The age was given as 3077 days, which is 8 years 5 months and 2 days.  It may be possible, that this gull has wintered here for years, undetected.  There could also be a good chance, that it has been spotted previously and the ring was not read.

While communicating with the BTO, I enquired about the possibility of them using a system similar to that of the Polish and Norwegian organisations.  With them, once you report one of their ringed birds, it is possible to check on that bird at any time, to follow past and future sightings of it.  After initial registration, it is possible to check up whenever you want.

Dorian Moss from the BTO, stated that they are developing such a system.  As a 'Ring Watcher', I and others for sure, would find such a system of great interest and use. To follow-up on your sightings, would no doubt encourage more to look for rings.

My thanks go to Dorian and the BTO for their correspondence and ringing details.  

Downholme, North Yorkshire to Victoria Park, Belfast


      Saturday 21st November 2015       
Today, I decided to make my first ever 'Ring Watching' visit to Ballycastle and a second visit to Portrush, both on the north coast of County Antrim.  The weather this afternoon was not great, as I had to contend with frequent showers of rain.  Yesterday, we had our first snow of the winter at low level and while driving up to the north coast, the higher hills and mountains were covered with the 'white stuff'.

On arriving at the harbour car park in Ballycastle, it did not take long to locate a 'metal ringed' Black-headed Gull - in fact the only ringed gull here today.  I knew straight away by looking at the ring, that this was not British and that it had to be foreign, as the 'metal ring' was slightly taller.  On taking a peek through the telescope, I could see the indented inscription 'Iceland'.

My task was now to take as many photos as possible, in order to piece the number together and with this gull, it was not an easy job.  It was very wary and kept flying away.  I retreated to my car and started to throw bits of bread out of the window in order to attract the gulls.  Up to 30 Black-headed and 9 Herring Gulls did not shy away from the free grub.  It took about an hour and a half to obtain about 60 photos of my target gull.  I was having problems with the auto-focus, due to poor light or when the sun broke through the clouds, reflected light then became a problem.

I spent three hours in Ballycastle, much longer than I had intended, but could not find any other ringed gulls about.  As well as Herring and Black-headed Gulls, there were a few Common and Lesser Black-backed Gulls around as well.  After getting back home and sorting through my photos, many of the ringed Black-headed Gull were useless.  I knew from previous experience of Icelandic-rung gulls, I was looking for 6 numbers on the ring, which to my relief, I successfully obtained.  I have sent emails to the British Trust for Ornithology and directly to the Icelandic Bird Ringing Scheme concerning   585774 .  Hopefully, the ringing details will be with me in time for next weeks Blog.

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland 585774  -  Ballycastle Harbour  (21 Nov 2015)

On my previous visit the Portrush on the 23rd October, I recorded a 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull - London   EW83177  - which originated from the Scottish Borders.  No sign of this one today, but of note was the Ringed-billed Gull, which is still present.  About 60 BHGs, a dozen Common Gulls and a couple of juvenile Herring Gulls were on the tarmac, but no rings.

I drove on round to Landsdowne Cresent and was surprised to see 13 Oystercatchers and around 30 Turnstones feeding on the green in front of the houses.  Scoping these and 4 Black-headed Gulls, no rings were to be seen.

After parking, I walked along the foothpath just above the shoreline.  I located two small groups of Oystercatchers roosting on the rocks.  In the second group, I spotted one with a 'metal-ring', but it was too far away to obtain any numbers.  Once again, if it had been colour-ringed, I would have 'nailed' it.        

'Metal-ringed' Oystercatcher  -  Landsdowne Cresent, Portrush  (21 Nov 2015)

A short distance from the second group of Oystercatchers, was a small group of 8 Sanderlings.  Having never been a winter birdwatcher until I started to look for ringed birds, I sent a copy of the photo of the Sanderlings to Adam McClure to verify my sighting, which he did.  Thanks Adam.   

Sanderlings at Landsowne Cresent, Portrush  (21 Nov 2015)


      Sunday 22nd November       
After completing the weekly four hour visit to Antrim Marina, my sister and I drove on down to Kinnego Marina, followed by a visit to the Park in Lurgan.

On the M1 motorway, between junction 9 and 10, I spotted a Red Kite hunting over the fields at the side of the road.  This is the first one that I have seen since their re-introduction as a breeding species in Northern Ireland.  Although I knew the sites where these splendid birds were nesting, I have never been a rarity hunter or have the desire to do so.

I have always been more interested in more practical birdwatching, such as nest finding and now looking for ringed birds, subjects that a lot of birdwatchers do not get involved in, but should.  Collectively, the results are more important than looking for rarities in my opinion.

At Kinnego, the 80 or so Black-headed Gulls were not very interested in the bread that we had brought with us.  Most seemed to be quite happy floating about on the Lough or perched on a roof at the nearby boatyard.

I assumed that they had already been well fed by people coming to feed the ducks.  Our stay was very short, but we did re-sight two Black-headed Gulls from Adam McClure's Study -   2BPN  and   2BPT .

At Lurgan Park Lake, around 90 Black-headed Gulls were present.  Quite a number of them were on the water, along with a few Common Gulls.  Searching through the Black-headed's that were out of the water, we quickly located two adults with 'metal-rings' and a few minutes later spotted a juvenile, also 'metal-ringed'. 

The two adults were ringed on their opposite legs, the first one on the right and the second one on it's left.  The juvenile was also ringed on it's left leg.

I started to take photos of the gull closest to me and within seconds it flew off along with the rest of the gulls, including the other two ringed birds.  Every one of them settled onto the water and after waiting for a while, we realised they were not going to come out again.  By now it was really starting to get very chilly, so we decided to call it a day and start back for home.

Looking at the photos, all I got of the Black-headed Gull's ring was '  EW5 '.  This was a British ring, so would have London, two letters and 5 numbers on it.  I never even got to look at the other two rings, to see where these gulls came from.  Once again, if these three had been colour-ringed as well, I would have easily got the codes.  This makes it four 'metals' in two days, that has passed by me.

Black-headed Gull  -  EW5****  -  Lurgan Park  (22 Nov 2015)


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