Sunday, 15 November 2015

Where Are They...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
Another dismal Sunday.  Right through our four hour visit, there was a constant and fairly heavy drizzle.  The wind was quite strong, blowing in from the Lough and the water out there was really choppy.

It was a very disapointing day concerning the number of birds to be seen.  Where have all the Black-headed Gulls gone too?  Only 14 present when we arrived and just 63, the maximum count for the day, as we departed at 1.10pm.  At this time of the year, I would expect BHG numbers to be peaking between 150 and 200 easily.

I have been pondering with the idea, that the car barrier which was installed during the summer, may possibly be the explanation, as to why there are fewer gulls, ducks and swans present.  The barrier prevents people coming in and parking 'willy-nilly' around the area of the slipway, which is vital for the Lough Neagh Rescue Service to launch their boat.

Now that the autumn/winter weather has arrived, I believe many people are now put off with the idea of having to park and walk the short distance to feed the 'ducks'.  I have also noticed that none of what I would call the 'regular feeders', over the past two winters, have yet to show themselves this winter, which further enforces my idea.

With fewer hand-outs, I am wondering if the gulls etc., are being forced to find food elsewhere or more naturally.  Personally, I am glad the Council allow me to get my car in.  With the change in the weather, being colder and wetter, I am afforded shelter, whilst still being in a position to observe the birds over a four hour period.

Of the 28 Darvics so far recorded this winter at the Marina, only 17 were sighted today.  Gulls were departing as quick as they were arriving and several made return visits later in the morning.  Interestingly, most of what I call the Continental gulls, did not show up today.  These are:- White T35J,   2AAR ,   2AFD  and the suspected Continental gulls, such as   2ACX ,   2BRC , etc.

There is still no sign of   2ABP , which is about a month overdue.  It should not be too long now, before the last of the 'travellers',   2AAJ  returns for the winter.  It's arrival date last winter was on the 7th December.

I was glad to see   2ABN  back at the Marina today.  I last saw this one here on the 11th October and was starting to wonder about it.  At least it is ok, as it appears to be uninjured.  Last Sunday,   2AAB  was limping very heavily and I noticed it failed to show today.

Adam informed me yesterday that he stopped by the Marina on Thursday and managed to catch and ring another Black-headed Gull.  He did not give me it's code, so I was left looking for the new 'kid on the block', but departed today without finding it.

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2ABN  (15 Nov 2015)

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2ADJ   2ABK   2ACV   2AAT   2AAH   2AAF   2AAA   2AAK   2AAD 

The Absentees
 T35J   2AAP   2AAC   2ABS   2AAB   2ABF   2AAR   2ACX   2AFD   2BRC   2BRD 

      Other Birds at Antrim Marina       
The lack of birds as mentioned above, not only effected the number of gulls present, but also the number of ducks and swans as well.

Only 35 Mallard present on our arrival and a quick count before departing, gave a total of 75.  I would normally expect 100 plus to be present by lunchtime.  The female Mallard   5MN 1207   was spotted early on, but still no sign of the ringed male.

Two Mute Swans were present when we arrived.  A Cygnet arrived in from the Lough a short time later, but soon flew back out onto the Lough.  I do not think this is the same Cygnet that appeared a few weeks ago, as this one was very timid, compared to the Cygnet that was here.  A third Mute Swan arrived from up-river later in the morning.  None of these swans had rings.

An adult Herring Gull was present all morning.  The 3cy Herring Gull was not seen today.  I hope that the dead Pike it was gorging itself on last week was not poisoned.  Only two Common Gulls were seen today.  The now regular small female appearing early on, was joined by a male later in the morning.

Hooded Crows, Jackdaws, Magpies and a single Rook, were the only larger birds to be seen.

The only small birds to be seen, were Pied Wagtails and a single Mistle Thrush perched for about 5 minutes at the top of the Crack Willow tree at the end of the Marina.


      Saturday 14th November       
As the weather forecast for today was not very good,  I decided to stay inland and make first ever visits to two sites in County Down and on the way back, call by Victoria Park in Belfast.  It has been on my mind for a while now, to go to Kiltonga Nature Reserve at Newtownards and Ward Park in Bangor, having spotted two of Adam McClure's Study gulls in photos posted on a Blog of a woman, who did not realise the gulls were ringed.  Unfortuantely, the code on the rings could not be read in either photo from each of the two sites.

My sister, Heather and I, went to Kiltonga first.  The rain was falling quite steadily when we arrived at the car park on the edge of the main road.  The lake could be seen quite clearly in front of us, and there were at least 100 Black-headed Gulls here.  Out came the bread to entice the gulls towards us, with about 30 or so landing at our feet.

A brief spell of feeding revealed no rings, so we decided to walk the footpath to get to the other end of the lake.  On our way round, we saw Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Grey-lag Geese and even Gadwalls in good numbers.  A male Shoveler and a female Brent Goose were also spotted, also three Grey Herons.  Four Cygnets were in the company of their parents.  After feeding the gulls at the other end of the lake - still no rings and we walked back to the car.

Three juvenile Herring gulls were now present here, along with a juvenile and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.  We decided to try the bread again and this time we were lucky - two Darvics.  Both were from Adam's Study -   2AKH  and   2BJH .  On Saturday evening, Adam emailed the files for these two Black-headed Gulls.

  2AKH  was ringed as a chick on the 23rd June 2015 at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre which is situated about 7km / 5 miles to the south-east of Kiltonga.  My sighting today, is the first for this young gull.

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2AKH  -  Kiltonga Nature Reserve  (14 Nov 2015)

  2BJH  was ringed as a chick on the 19th June 2014, also at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre.  My sighting today, is the fifth for this gull, having been recorded on the 8th Oct 2014, 27th Oct 2014, 27th Nov 2014 and 19th May 2015, all here at Kiltonga.

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2BJH  -  Kiltonga Nature Reserve  (14 Nov 2015)

After leaving Kiltonga, Ward Park in the neighbouring town of Bangor was our next stop.  It turned out to be a very quick stop at this park.  There were very few Black-headed Gulls here and the few that were lured off the adjoining lakes were not ringed.  We decided to nip on down to the Harbour/Marina and try our luck there.

Surprisingly, there was a complete lack of gulls about.  The few Herring and Black-headed Gulls that were present, had no rings.  We slowly inched our way towards four Cormorants which were standing on the harbour wall drying off their wings, but as expected, no rings here either.  A Black Guillemot in winter plumage was a nice sight to see.

Victoria Park in Belfast was our next stop, this being our second time to visit this site.  On our previous visit, we spotted a Black-headed Gull from Holland with a White Darvic - EAK9.  No sign of this gull here today, but we did get an Orange Darvic and two 'metals'.

The Orange Darvic, was another one of Adam's Study birds -   2AJV .  Adam emailed the file for this one on Saturday evening as well.    2AJV  was ringed as a chick on the 19th June 2014, yet again, another one from the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, which lies 15km / 9 miles to the south-east of Victoria Park.  Today's sighting, is the second for this gull, the previous one being on the 30th October 2014 at the nearby Connswater Shopping Centre.

My thanks to Adam for supplying the files for these three Black-headed Gulls.    

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2AJV  -  Victoria Park  (14 Nov 2015)

The two 'metals' were on Black-headed Gulls.  Having spotted both gulls at the same time,  I managed to take lots of photos of the adult.  On getting back home and sorting through these photos, I was able to obtain the whole ring number - London   EL97734 .  I have reported this gull online to The British Trust for Ornithology and hopefully I will have its details back in time for next weeks Blog.

Black-headed Gull  -  London EL97734  -  Victoria Park  (14 Nov 2015)

The second 'metal' was on a juvenile Black-headed Gull.  Unfortunately, I only managed two photos of it's lower body and legs, when it flew off and landed on the lake.  It did not reappear after this, so this one got away - unread.  I hope plenty of ringers read my Blog - Colour Ring, if you want results!!

The rain by now, was really falling very heavily and the light was failing fast, even though it was still fairly early.  Having sighted five new 'ringed gulls' and obtaining details for four of them, was still a good return for this outing and the decision was to head home and to drip-dry in the car on the way. 

Metal-ringed Juvenile Black-headed Gull  -  The One That Got Away


No comments: