Sunday, 20 December 2015

Marina Back to Norm...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
When I arrived at the Marina this morning, it was so dull and dark, I had trouble reading Darvics with the binoculars and had to resort to using the telescope.  The westerly wind was quite strong and even my car was 'rocked' by some of the gusts.  It remained fairly dry throughout my four hour visit, with just a few occasional spits of rain.  The temperature must have been in double figures, as it did not feel anywhere near to being cold.  During the week, the News reported that so far this December, it has been the warmest here in 100 years.

I counted 63 Black-headed Gulls on arrival and this figure steadily rose throughout the morning.  Unlike most weeks, where the gulls would come and go, many just stayed on after arriving.  By 11.30, the total numbers had easily risen to 200+, the most there has been so far this winter.  At last, after all of the Sunday visits, today seemed to be a normal winters Sunday, as far as numbers were concerned.

I have recorded 29 'Darvic-ringed' BHGs this winter and 26 of these were re-sighted today.    2AFD  was spotted at 11.26.  I haven't seen this one since the 1st November, when it arrived back from Latvia, though Neville McKee reported seeing it on the 26th November.

My hopes of the return of   2AAJ , went 'west' again, as there was still no sign of it.  It surprises me in the first instance, as to why this gull arrives so late into the winter, as all the other Continental birds arrive back weeks earlier.    2ABP , has also failed to show up and should have been back by mid-October.  I am starting to think that it has 'bit the dust'.  

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2AAR   2AAN   2ABL   2ADJ   2AAS   2AAT   2ACV   2AAB   2AAD 

Today's Absentees
 2AAC   2AAF   2BRC 

The Swedish Black-head Gull   6438391 , was spotted at 10.44 and the Icelandic BHG   571487  was re-sighted at 12.13.  Great to see them both on the same visit.

Today, I also finally completed the ring number of a juvenile/1st winter BHG.  I first spotted this youngster on the 29th November and only managed to obtain the last two numbers on it's 'metal' ring - '  63 '.  On my visit the following Sunday (6th December), I re-sighted this gull again and gained another two numbers, making - '  3763 '.

As this gull is British-ringed, I knew the first letter would be 'E', so I was still needing the second letter and the first number -   E**3763 .  I was beginning to doubt if I would see this one again, but it turned up today at 11.45.  It was not shy and timid as before, being so hungry, it quickly joined in the scrums for food.  This enabled me to take plenty of photographs of the ring, therefore completeing the full sequence -   EY13763 .

I've reported it to The British Trust for Ornithology and should get details back during the week.

Black-headed Gull  -  London    EY13763   (20 Dec 2015)

      Today's Other Birds At Antrim Marina       
12 Mute Swans and our now familiar cygnet, were present when I arrived.  Three of these quickly departed for the Lough after people had started to arrive on foot.  I reckon they are not used to folk being about.  The remaining 9 are most likely to be the same birds that were present last week.  All of the swans were out of the water for quite long periods at a time and two rings were noted -   W34158  and   Z91982 .

There has been no sign of   Z91981  on my last couple of visits and I'm now wondering if it is here, but minus it's ring.  The last time I saw this swan, I noticed that the gap in it's ring had increased in width and may have since fallen off this swan's leg.  Below is an older photo of the ring, when the gap was not so wide.

The ring of London   Z91981   on the 22nd November 2015
The gap had opened up considerably by the 29th of November 2015

About 60 Mallards were present when I arrived and most of these had 'parked' themselves on the green in front of the cafe.  Numbers increased to the 80, 90 mark, by the time I departed around 13.20.  There was no sign of the ringed male or female from County Monaghan, but a new drake was spotted just before I headed for home.  It was walking towards the river and I only got a couple of photos, but it was a new number also from Monaghan.

I only managed to get a partial number -   5MN **92 , the previous drake was   5MN 1173 .  Hopefully, this duck will still be present by the time of my next visit and I can complete the number.

Mallard from County Monaghan  -    5MN **92   (20 Dec 2015)

The first Common Gull to appear, was and adult at 10.20, followed by a juvenile/1st winter at 10.33.  A further 5 adults in total, arrived in singles, but there was no sign of the Scottish-ringed female.  If she had been present, the total would have been 7 and indicates the number of these gulls is steadily increasing.  If my memory serves me right, I think the maximum number of adults present last winter, reached 13, which included a large 'metal-ringed' male.  No sign of him as yet, but I do hope he will eventually turn up, as I am hoping the camera I'm using now, should have the 'reach' to obtain his ring number.

Two adult Herring Gulls were present today, but unlike the previous couple of Sundays, this time, they could be seen standing beside each other.  Are they possibly the same two gulls?  A third-year Herring Gull, arrived late on this morning.  Would this be the same gull that was here a few weeks back and was last seen eating a dead Pike?

9 Jackdaws and a single Hooded Crow, were the only large birds to be seen today and a pair of Pied Wagtails, the only smaller species.

      Ringing Details Received       
On Friday (18th), I received two emails concerning the ringed gulls that I spotted at Carrickfergus Harbour on Saturday 12th December.

The first came from Bernd Ziese of Germany, which just confirmed the ringing details of the Black-headed Gull -   IA114059 , which I obtained from the BTO's Online Ringing Report.

The second came from Paul Roper of the Thames Gull Group, in London.  The 'Darvic-ringed' Common Gull    2A06 , which I also spotted at Carrickfergus, was not one of their's.  Paul suggested, that this could belong to one of the Scottish Projects.  I have sent an email to Calum Campbell in Aberdeen, asking if it belongs to him.  I did report this gull to the BTO, but have had no reply from them as yet.

Using the online cr-birding site to find the correct ringing project, I was and still am, unsure if I had the right project.  I know from a recent experience, this site is not updated on a regular basis and projects can go unlisted.  Hopefully, I will have this gull's details by the time I publish next Sunday's Post.


      Saturday 19th December       
My plan today, was to visit the site of the former Waterworks in Belfast, then on to the County Down villages of Millisle and Donaghadee, which are situated on the east coast.  Due to a prolonged stay at Millisle and because of fading light, I postponed the visit to Donaghadee.  I have never been to any of these places before.

Belfast Waterworks
Recently, a photo taken by David Knight appeared on the website of the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Association.  The photo was of a 'Darvic-ringed' Mediterranean Gull -   PNUO , with Black-headed Gulls in the background.  As BHGs are my main target species in order to supply information towards Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Study, I decided to visit this site in my search for rings.

I previously knew nothing about this site, which formally supplied water to Belfast and is now parkland that contains two bodies of water.  It is also fairly close to Whitehouse Lagoon, which I already survey for gulls.

Visiting the upper lake first, I could see BHGs gathered on the far side and I walked round and started scoping.  Some gulls were resting by the lake, but a large number were feeding on the slope of a nearby hill, below a housing estate.  None of the BHGs here were ringed, but I did spot the 'Darvic-ringed' Mediterranean Gull.

I was already aware of this gull, as it appeared on Adam McClure's Blog in October 2013.  Keith Stevens spotted this gull at Antrim Marina (my main study site), at the end of July that year.  It had been ringed as a chick on the 27th May 2012 at Wojcice in Poland by Jakub Szymczak.  The distance was given as 1648km.

I estimated that there were 300+ Black-headed Gulls, spread out between the two lakes and I was able to scope the legs of well over 100 of these, but no rings.  I also scoped a few adult and 1st winter Common Gulls, a handful of 1st winter Herring Gulls and 7 Mute Swans and still no joy.  I was actually very disappointed not to get any rings with so many birds present.  Perhaps I'll be a bit more luckier on my next visit here, which is quite a good site.

Mediterranean Gull  -    PNUO    -  Belfast Waterworks  (19 Dec 2015)

In contrast to the waterworks, there were far fewer birds about in Millisle, but in no time at all, I discovered 5 birds that were ringed.  Firstly, I spotted a party of 29 Brent Geese on the foreshore near the car park.  Scoping these, I spotted one with Darvic's on each leg - Right-leg White 'K', Left-leg Red 'P'.  I was about to take photos, when they all took off and flew south and out of sight.

I was actually quite annoyed not to get any photos, but this didn't last long, as I spotted the geese again after driving on round to the car park.  They were now feeding on the grass close to a public footpath.  As the grass was quite long, I slowly walked towards them and found them to be very confiding about my close approach.  While they were walking along, I took plenty of photos, capturing the coloured-rings.

I emailed my sighting to Graham McElwaine from the Irish Brent Goose Research Group, after returning home on Saturday evening.  A couple of hours later came the reply with this gooses details.  It was caught and ringed on the 21st October 2009 as a full grown male, at the Strangford Floodgates at the nearby town of Newtownards.

My re-sighting today, is the 52nd record of this goose, having being spotted every year since it was ringed.  All but two of these, were more or less quite local, while it wintered from early September to early April, either on the inside or the outside of the Ards Peninsular.  

The two exceptions were on the 17th May 2011, when it was recorded in the  Snæfellsnes area of Iceland, enroute to it's presumed breeding grounds inside the Arctic circle and on the 16th January 2015, when it was spotted at Dublin Bay in the Republic of Ireland.

Today's goose is now my third from this project and must have been caught on the same catch as my first bird, as they were both ringed on the same date and location.  Ringed as Right-leg White 'K', Left-leg Red 'N', I spotted this one on the 1st April 2015 at Carnlough Beach - notice how close the code's are to each other.

Many thanks to Graham for supplying the file for this Brent Goose.

Brent Goose  -  Right Leg [  K  ]  Left Leg [  P  ]  -  Millisle  (19 Dec 2015)os

My attention now turned to the gulls, which were well spread out within this large car park.  I parked well away from other cars and started throwing bits of bread out of the window.  This quickly drew between 60 to 70 birds of varying ages.  Black-headed's were the most numerous with around 40, Herring Gulls 20 and Common Gulls 10.

Looking through these with the binoculars, I immediately spotted rings.  Surprisingly, none of the BHGs were ringed, but two Herring Gulls with 'metals' and two Common Gulls - one with a 'metal' and the other was 'Darvic-ringed'.

The 'Darvic-ringed' Common Gull was quickly sorted, scoping the code   2BBC  and photos taken.  The three 'metal-ringed' gulls presented a bit of a problem - I had a lots of trouble trying to get near them.  Every time I edged the car towards them, they flew off.  I had to resort to taking photos from a distance of their rings, each time they landed again.

I thought the two Herring Gulls would give me a problem, as I wouldn't know which photos were of each gull, but luckily, one of these had an upside-down ring.  I stuck to the task of taking pictures every time I re-located each of the three gulls.  In the end, I had to give up as the light was failing and it was starting to get dark.

Returning home, it took me a long time to search through my photos, eventually to discover many were of no use and I had incomplete numbers for all three gulls.  I quite liked Millisle and might well return soon for another go.

Herring Gull  -    GA0****   (Upside-down Ring)  -  Millisle  (19 Dec 2015)

Herring Gull  -    GA0*154    -  Millisle  (19 Dec 2015)

Common Gull  -    2BBC    -  Millisle  (19 Dec 2015)

Common Gull  -    EX3****    -  Millisle  (19 Dec 2015)

The 'Darvic-ringed' Common Gull   2BBC , is another one from Shane Wolsey's study on the nearby Copeland Islands.  This would be one of his original birds, as he now uses Blue Darvics.  The gull is now my sixth one from this project.  I have emailed Shane and await his reply.

Overall, it was not a bad run out today.  With three 'colour-rings' successfully captured, just proves why approachable species with 'E-sized' rings or larger, should be compulsary ringed with 'Darvics' as well.



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