Sunday, 6 December 2015

Icelandic BHG Returns...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina       
There was a marked difference in the weather today, compared to the storm that lashed the British Isles yesterday.  It was very calm, with plenty of blue sky and sunshine, though still rather chilly, due to the strong breeze coming in from the Lough.  I was on my own today, no sister to do all the note-work.

Last Sunday's highlight was the return of the Swedish-ringed Black-headed Gull   6438391 .  This gull was No.3 on my wish-list for 'metal-ringed' BHGs that I hoped to see again this winter.  Around 11.30 this morning, a BHG landed on the metal-railing of the concrete jetty, close to where I park my car.  I initially thought it was the Swedish gull again, as it had a taller ring, so I knew it was foreign.

While zooming in to obtain photos of the gull and it's 'metal-ring', I noticed that the address was above the number, unlike Swedish rings, where the address is below the number.  I then knew, I had a different gull in front of me.

Looking at the photos I had just taken, I could see that the ring was Icelandic and I had a partial number '  5714 '.  I sent a text message to my sister and asked her to check out my Blog for these details.  The reply came back - it was the gull that is No.2 on my wishlist -   571487 .

What really struck me about this gull, was how settled it was having just arrived back from Iceland.  It came and went on a few occasions, but I was still able to get lots of photos of the ring, in order to confirm the whole number.    571487  was ringed as a chick on the 19th June 2003, just outside the Icelandic capital Reykjavik.

This is now the 3rd winter running that I have recorded this gull.  It has probably been coming to Antrim Marina for years, but went un-noticed until I started 'Ring Watching' here.  The 11th January 2015 was the final date that I saw this gull last winter.  

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland 571487  -  Antrim Marina  (06 Dec 2015)

The Swedish-ringed BHG,   6438391 , did eventually arrive at the Marina at 12.52 this morning, just before my departure time of 1pm.  It was much more settled this week, as it was not as wary of people passing close to it.

Black-headed Gull  -  Sweden 6438391  -  Antrim Marina  (06 Dec 2015)

The juvenile/1st Winter Black-headed Gull which I spotted last Sunday, was also seen again today.  Last week, I only managed to get a couple of photos when it flew off.  I only managed to obtain a partial number of the ring -  '  63 ', which is British.  This gull was very nervous and wary, not allowing close approach, today being no exception.

After a couple of photos, it was off and I never saw it again by the time I departed.  There is a good chance, that I may be able to spot it again next Sunday.  I did not fare much better with today's photos, as I managed to get the last 4 numbers.  All British rings used on BHGs start with the letter 'E', so I still need the second letter and the first number to complete the sequence -   E**3763 .

Juvenile/1st Winter Black-headed Gull  -  London E**3763  -  Antrim Marina  (06 Dec 2015)

The overall number of Black-headed Gulls present at the Marina today, was very poor.  On my arrival, only 27 were present.  Out of the 29 'Darvic-ringed' gulls that I have recorded so far this winter, only 17 of these gulls appeared today.

There is still no sign of   2ABP , who is now approaching a month and a half overdue.  Today, I was also hoping to see the return of   2AAJ , but no sign of this one either.  Due to the lack of gulls at present visiting the Marina, it may be possible thses gulls are alreay back.

I noticed this morning, that a 'feeding frenzy' was in progress, lasting for nearly two hours, between 10 and 12 O'clock.  It was taking place on the Lough, a short distance from the breakwater at the end of the river, which the Marina sits on.  Somewhere in the region of 200 to 250 gulls, mostly Black-headed's, were involved with this.

With all the heavy rain that we experienced yesterday, the river was in full and fast flow towards the Lough, while the strong wind was bringing waves into the river.  It may well be possible, that some kind of underflow, may well be churning up food sources for these gulls.  Many of the gulls that did visit the Marina, were not interested in the bread being brought by visitors.

Maximum numbers were around 80 and that was just before I departed about 1.10pm.  Many of these, did not even land and a couple of dozen were to be seen feeding on the grass behind the cafe.  Perhaps, numbers will increase next week.  A few frosty days would have them begging for food.

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2ABK   2BRA   2AAD   2AAH   2AAS   2ADJ   2ACV   2AAA   2ANS 

The Absentees
 2AAK   2AAC   2ABN   2ABS   2AAN   2ABL 

      Other Birds At Antrim Marina       
When I arrived this morning, I noticed 8 Mute Swans had parked themselves on the grass right in front of the cafe.  In the past, I have noticed staff members will come out and feed the swans.  The young cygnet arrived from up-river about 10 minutes later.

At 12.05, a 9th swan appeared, also coming from up the river.  Only two ringed swans were noted today, being   Z91982  and   W34158 .  The latter of these two, had not been seen on my visits over the last few weeks.

I counted roughly 40 Mallard at first and numbers quickly grew to 72 by 10.30. By the time of my departure, numbers had dropped to between 50 and 60.  The County Monaghan-ringed female   5MN 1207  was spotted at 10.09.  Still no sign of the ringed male.

This week, 4 adult Common Gulls were present for nearly the whole period of my visit.  These included the Scottish-ringed female   EY64036 , which has clearly settled, since her first appearance of the winter, two weeks ago.  I had no problems taking photos of her today, as she perched on the railing close to the car.

Common Gull  -  EY64036  -  Antrim Marina  (06 Dec 2015)

A juvenile/1st winter Common Gull, arrived at 09.49 and also stayed throughout the rest of my visit.  I believe this one has been a regular visitor to the Marina, as it is showing no fear of people coming and going.

Juvenile/1st Winter Common Gull  -  Antrim Marina  -  (06 Dec 2015)

This week, two adult Herring Gulls were to be seen most of the time during my 4 hours here.  They did not get close to each other and stayed well apart at all times.  A juvenile/1st winter bird arrived at 10.36, staying for about an hour, before flying off towards the Lough.

Juvenile/1st Winter Herring Gull  -  Antrim Marina  (06 Dec 2015)

The only other large birds to be seen today, were Crows.  A maximum of 11 Jackdaws, 2 Hooded Crows and a single Rook were seen.  The Rook is likely to be the same bird which appears from time to time.  It has no problem getting close to folk when they come to feed the ducks.

Adult Rook  -  Antrim Marina  (06 Dec 2015)

A party of 13 Pied Wagtails arrived and stayed for about an hour feeding on the concrete.  These were the only smaller birds to be seen today.


      Ringing Details Received       
On Thursday 26th November, I revisited Lurgan Park to try and obtain the full 'metal-ring' numbers of three Black-headed Gulls, which I had spotted there on Sunday the 22nd.  Two of these gulls were adults, one was ringed on the right leg and the other was ringed on the left leg.  The third BHG was a 1st winter/juvenile, also ringed on the left leg.

There was no sign of the juvenile, but I did manage to locate both of the adults.  I set to work with the camera, taking as many photos of both gulls as possible, to try and piece together their ring numbers.  Eventually, both of these gulls flew off.

When I returned home, I downloaded the photos onto the computer to see what I had managed to capture.  Unfortunately, I only managed to obtain a partial number for the BHG ringed on it's left leg.  This was a British ring - London   EN290** , I was missing the last two digits.  Hopefully, this gull will remain at Lurgan Park and I'll have another go sometime soon.

I was however, more successful with the gull ringed on it's right leg.  This was another British ring - London   EW57424 , which I duly reported to the British Trust for Ornithology.

On Monday 30th November, the BTO sent me the ringing details.    EW57424  was ringed as a chick on the 21st May 2008, at Kingsbury Water Park in Warwickshire, England, which is situated just to the north-east of the City of Birmingham.  The distance from Kingsbury to Lurgan Park is 372km / 231 miles in a north-west direction.

  EW57424  is now aged at 7 years, 6 months and 5 days.  I wonder if it has wintered every year at Lurgan Park since it was ringed?  This will be another one to watch for in the future.

Black-headed Gull  -  London EW57424  -  Lurgan Park  (26 Nov 2015)

Kingsbury Water Park, Warwickshire to Lurgan Park, County Armagh.


      Herring Gull Spotted by Cameron Moore       
Recently, fellow birdwatcher, Cameron Moore, phoned me concerning a 'metal-ringed' Herring Gull, which he spotted at his home village of Whitehead in County Antrim.  He had managed to obtain the full ring number and also took some photos.  I reported this British-ringed gull - London   GR11428  - to the BTO, on his behalf.

It also struck me after the phone call, that the ring number seemed familiar and I checked my own records.  Sure enough, I had a Herring Gull which was ringed   GR11443 , which I recorded at the coastal village of Glenarm on the 4th April 2015.  My gull had been ringed as a chick on the 28th June 2011 on the Copeland Islands, County Down, Northern Ireland.  I reckoned, that Cameron's Herring Gull was probably ringed on the same day and at the same location, as the two numbers were only 15 apart.

On Friday 4th December, the ringing details arrived from the BTO.  My suspicions were correct, Cameron's gull was ringed on the same date at Copeland.  Actually, it was ringed 45 minutes earlier than my gull.

Whitehead is only 14km from the Copelands, in a WNW direction, whilst Glenarm is situated further to the north at 42km from these Islands.

My thanks to Cameron for the ring number and photos of this Herring Gull, also for allowing me to use these on the Blog.  

Herring Gull  -  London GR11428  -  Whitehead  (Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)

Ring of Herring Gull  -  London GR11428  (Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)


      Thursday 3rd December       
Today, I decided to visit Kinnego Marina and Lurgan Park.  My aim was to try and obtain the full ring numbers of a couple of Black-headed Gulls, having only obtained partial numbers in the past.  At Lurgan Park, I was hoping to complete   EN290**  and at Kinnego Marina,   EW3*806 .

As I was driving to these locations, it started to rain very heavily.  It is not possible to drive into Lurgan Park, so I decided just to visit Kinnego instead, as I could get the car in close enough to scope the gulls and keep myself and my equipment dry.

There was no sign of   EW3*806 , but I did re-sight   EN52966 , a gull that I recorded a few weeks back, as well as two of Adam's Study gulls   2BPN  and   2BPT .  I have still not re-sighted the 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull which only has one leg and I have no details at all on the ring of this one.

A new ring was spotted here today.  I took loads of photos of this juvenile/1st winter Black-headed Gull and was able to piece together it's whole ring number - London   EW45293 .  I have reported it to the BTO and now await it's ringing details.

Juvenile/1st Winter Black-headed Gull  -  London EW45293  -  Kinnego Marina  (03 Dec 2015)

Ring Number of Black-headed Gull  -  London EW45293


      Saturday 5th December       
Hooray at last, my first 'Darvic-ringed' Herring Gull.  When I got up this morning, I pondered for a long while, whether to go out birding or just to stay indoors.  It was stormy outside, with persistent rain and gale force winds.  In the end, I decided to go out, with Sandy Bay at Larne, being my chosen destination.

This site was chosen, as it is possible to park quite close to the shoreline and the car would protect me from the awful weather.  In the past couple of months, I have spotted a 'metal-ringed' Turnstone and more recently a 'metal-ringed' Oystercatcher here.  The Turnstone's ring, I knew, would not be possible, but I would have a slight chance to scope the Oystercatcher's ring if it were present.

I spent over an hour at one section of the Bay.  Here there were Black-headed Gulls, a couple of Herring Gulls, as well as numerous Dunlins, Turnstones, Ringed Plovers and a smaller number of Redshank and Oystercatchers, but no rings.

Moving on round to the second section at Sandy Bay, I could see a number of Black-headed and a handful of Herring Gulls standing on the grass beside the road.  After parking, I started to scope these and immediately spotted a Herring Gull with a yellow 'Darvic-ring'.  The trouble here, I could not read the code, due to the height of the grass.

I sat for a while, but the gulls were not moving.  I decided to take a gamble and drive to a local shop for a loaf.  Arriving back, to my horror, the gull was gone.  Parking on the opposite side of the road from the green, I started to throw bits of bread out of the window.  This got the gulls moving and I had a clear view of the road, if a ringed gull should land.

Almost at the same time, I spotted two 'Darvics', the Herring Gull with the Yellow Darvic landed on the grass, whilst a Black-headed Gull with an Orange Darvic, landed on the road.  The camera was now turned on and I quickly got photos of the BHG.  Meanwhile, the Herring Gull was slowy edging it's way towards the road, which enabled me to take a few shots while it was walking.  Success, I obtained the codes on both rings -   2ABH  and   3T:W .

I was really delighted to find my first 'Darvic-ringed' Herring Gull.  Over the last few months, I have come across several 'metal-ringed' Herring Gulls and had no hope of reading the numbers on their rings and today's gull was no exception.  Only, due to the fact that it was colour-ringed, this one would have got by me as well.

  2ABH  is from Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study and is a new sighting to me.  After returning home, I checked the cr-birding site, to look for the ringer of   3T:W .  The colour-ring was registered to Lee Barber at the BTO and amoung the ringing sites listed, was the nearby Copeland Islands.

I already knew that Adam was the ringing co-ordinator for the Copeland's, so I emailed Lee and Adam about both gulls, thinking Adam might have the info for my Herring Gull.  I was right, as later on Saturday evening, Adam replied with the files for the gulls.

   3T:W , was ringed on the 4th May 2015, aged as a full adult on Big Copeland Island.  The distance from the ringing site is only 26km / 16 miles in a NW direction.  Nothing really special here, but, the fact that it was colour-ringed, enabled the sighting.  

Herring Gull  -  Yellow 3T:W  -  Sandy Bay, Larne  (05 Dec 2015)

Herring Gull  -  Yellow 3T:W  -  The Code Clearly Visible  (05 Dec 2015)

The Black-headed Gull   2ABH  from Adam's Study, was caught and ringed at Sandy Bay on the 21st January 2013, aged as an adult male.  It had been re-sighted numerous times at Sandy Bay during 2013 and 2014, except for the breeding months between April to July.  My sighting of it today is the first in over a year, as it was last spotted here by Adam on the 19th October 2014.  At least Adam now knows that it is still  'alive and kicking'.

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2ABH  -  Sandy Bay, Larne  (05 Dec 2015)


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