Sunday, 27 December 2015

Rings Galore...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
It was calm, though foggy, when I arrived here this morning.  Around 11.30, the sun finally broke through, giving us a nice day.  103 Black-headed Gulls were counted, with 15 'Darvic's' recorded by 9.45.  A total of 24 'Darvic-ringed' BHGs out of this winter's 29, were recorded altogether, arriving in 'dribs and dabs', after the initial sightings.  My hopes for the return of   2ABP  and   2AAJ , again went 'out the window', as there is still no sign of them.

Only one of the two juvenile/1st winter BHGs was seen today, that being   EY13763 , which stayed throughout my visit.  I am still waiting on the ringing details for this gull from the BTO.  The Swedish-ringed   6438391  arrived at 11.44, but there was no sign of the Icelandic-ringed   571487 .

The maximum number of Black-headed's reached around the 160 mark by 11.00, though the overall numbers dwindled a bit by the time of my departure.

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2AAS   2AAN   2AAR   2ACV   2BRA   2AAD   2AAA   2ABK 

Today's Absentees
 2AAC   2AAF   2ABF   2AFD   2BRC 

      Other Birds At Antrim Marina       
The brief appearance of a Kittiwake at 9.51 this morning, made it today's star bird.  These birds normally spend their winters on the ocean and it is quite rare to see them inland.  It is not the first one that I've seen here, as I recorded one on the 9th February 2014.  Despite looking exhausted, it was soon off again, as dogs off leads seem to enjoy chasing after ducks and swans, which also effects the gulls.

Kittiwake  -  Antrim Marina  -  (27 Dec 2015)

Around 30 Mallards to start with, increased in numbers to around 60 by the time I departed.  Just before leaving last Sunday, I thought I had re-sighted the drake from County Monaghan   5MN 1173 , which I had not seen in weeks.  Getting back home and looking at the photos, I realised I had a partial number for a new drake Mallard -   5MN **92 .

I was especially keeping an eye out for this one today and finally spotted it at 12.27.  I took a few photos of the ring and completed the number -   5MN 1192 .  I will email Dan Curley who is secretary of one of the County Monaghan Gun Club's, to inform him about this drake.  The gun club purchase a number of ducklings each year from a Duck Farm and release them into the wild, thus replacing birds that they shoot.

The female duck   5MN 1207  was re-sighted at 10.50 this morning.  There was no sign of her last week.

Ring Number of the New Drake Mallard

2 Mute Swans present when I arrived, were soon joined by another 3 and our ever friendly cygnet at 9.20.  A further 6 swam in from the Lough at 9.41.  Of the swans that exited the water, only one was ringed -   W34158 .  The cygnet is now so tolerant, it does not fear children that 'pet' it.

An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, landed on the long jetty at 9.39 and was off again about ten minutes later.  I have not seen any of these here for quite a while.  The two adult Herring Gulls were later appearing this morning, arriving at 9.57.  They stayed throughout the rest of my visit.

A single adult Common Gull was joined over the course of the morning by 3 others, the juvenile/1st winter arrived in at 9.49.  No sign of the Scottish-ringed female again on today's visit.

The only other larger birds here today were Jackdaws.  The smaller species were made up of a pair of Pied Wagtails and a party of Long-tailed Tits.  These were in the large Crack Willow tree at the end of the Marina.  When they flew back across the river to the woodland on the other other side, I counted 15 altogether.


      Ringing Details Received       
Black-headed Gull  -  EY13763
On Tuesday, I received the ringing details from the BTO of the young Black-headed Gull at Antrim Marina, whose ring number was finally obtained on my visit there on Sunday past.    EY13763  was ringed as a chick on the 3rd June 2015 at Coquet Island in Northumbia, England.

Coquet Island is a Nature Reserve which is managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and lies just off the coast from the town of Amble.  The Island is famed for it's importance to nesting seabirds such as Puffins and Terns, as well as Eider Ducks and three species of Gulls.  The distance from Coquet to Antrim Marina is 308km /191 miles in a WSW direction.

I am well pleased with this one, as it is my second British long-distance youngster to be recorded this winter.  The first one was   EW45293  which I recorded at Kinnego Marina on the 3rd December and it had been ringed as a chick at Loch Borralie in northern Scotland - 463km/288 miles away.  My sighting on Sunday came 200 days since this young BHG was ringed. 

Coquet Island, Northumbria to Antrim Marina  308km / 191 miles

 Common Gull  -    2A06 
Also on Tuesday, I received an email from Calum Campbell of the Grampian Ringing Group in Scotland.  The Common Gull   2A06 , which I spotted at Carrickfergus Harbour on the 12th December, did indeed belong to this group and not the Thames Gull Group, which I had initially contacted.

It was ringed on the 2nd July 2015, as a breeding adult, at Westhill Industrial Easte.  Westhill is a small town a short distance to the west of Aberdeen.  The distance from here to Carrickfergus is 349km / 217 miles in a south-west direction.

My thanks to Calum for suppling me with this gull's details.

Westhill, Aberdeenshire, Scotland to Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland


      Thursday 24th December 2015       
Thinking about my successful visit to Millisle last Saturday,  I decided to go back again today and see if I could complete the numbers for the three 'metal-ringed' gulls that I sighted there.  I postponed my visit to Donaghadee on Saturday, as I stayed at Millisle for so long, the light was fading and it started to get dark.

So, today's agenda, was to visit Donaghdee first, then go to Millisle and finish with a visit to Ballywalter.

This was my first ever visit to the seaside town of Donaghadee and I made my way straight to the harbour.  There, lots of gulls were perched on the north pier - which in reality, is a concrete island surrounded by the sea.  I walked along the wall of the south pier to get as close to these gulls as possible and then scope across.

Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls of varying ages, were either standing or lying down.  In fact, most were lying down and not that many legs were visible.  I decided to throw a few full slices of bread onto the sea and this got them moving.  Once the gulls started to settle back down again, I was able to scope loads of legs, but no rings.

Walking southwards from the harbour, I came across a green with 8 Brent Geese and 13 Oystercatchers feeding on the grass, also around 20 Black-headed Gulls just standing.  I scoped the geese and most of the Oystercatchers, but no rings.  I couldn't even see the legs of the BHGs, so I decided to go back and get the car.

After parking in the car park opposite the green, I started to throw bits of bread out of the window to lure the gulls towards me.  An unexpected crow landed in front of me.  It was a Carrion Crow, which is a scarce breeding bird in Northern Ireland.  I managed a single photo of it and then it was gone.

Carrion Crow  -  Donaghadee  -  (24 Dec 2015)

The Black-headed gulls started to fly over and in no time at all, I spotted a 'metal-ring'.  They were not very obliging, only landing for a few short seconds before taking off again.  I managed 6 photos of the ringed gull and then it was off, not to be seen again.  When I got back home on Saturday evening and looked at the photos, I was delighted, as I had the whole ring number - London   EG55718 .

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

Black-headed Gull  -  London   EG55718   -  Donaghadee  (24 Dec 2015)

There was not much else knocking about Donaghadee, so I moved on to Millisle.  Once here, I drove straight to the car park, where I spotted all of the ringed gulls on Saturday.  Throwing bits of bread out of the window, I soon had an audience around me.  There were far fewer gulls about compared to last Saturday's visit, especially Black-headed Gulls.

Two ringed Common Gulls were spotted first.  One was ringed with a 'metal-ring' and may well have been the one I got on Saturday -  London   EX3**** .  It landed just for a few seconds, flew off again and that was the last that I saw of it.  The second Common Gull was the 'Darvic-ringed'   2BBC , which I also spotted on Saturday.

There was no sign of the two ringed Herring Gulls that I had here on Saturday.  On scoping a small rocky island, I could see that one of the group of Herring Gulls there, was 'metal-ringed'.  I drove further up the car park towards the rocky island and started throwing more bread out of the window.

This did the trick and a number of these gulls flew towards me, including the gull that was ringed.  It was in fact the one with the upside-down ring.  Once again, I took loads of photos and had the problem of sunlight reflecting off the ring.  On checking the pictures when I got home, I had successfully completed the number - London   GA00153 .

I should get details back from the BTO later in the week, to find out when and where it was ringed.  There was no sign of the second Herring Gull, which had a right-way up ring.

Herring Gull  -  London   GA00153   (Upside-down Ring)  -  Millisle  (24 Dec 2015)

I then drove round to the second seafront car park, just a short distance away.  This car park is situated just above a large mainly sandy beach.  Upwards of 100 gulls were feeding on the shore, as the tide was well on it's way out.  Consisting mainly of Black-headed Gulls, some Common Gulls and a handful of Herring Gulls, these birds would have been too far out to scope.

I decided to park along the back edge of the car park, in the hope some of these gulls would come towards me, once I started to throw bread out.  This worked a 'treat', as I ended up with three Common Gulls that were ringed - 2 Darvics and a 'metal', all new sightings.

It was easy getting the numbers on the Darvics, plus photos.  The first one was   2A60  and the other was   2ADX .  Checking the cr-birding website when I returned home, I quickly found the owners for these.    2A60  belongs to the Clyde Ringing Group in Scotland and I have emailed Iain Livingstone, to let him know.    2ADX   is another one of Shane Wolsey's Common Gulls' and would have been ringed on the nearby Copeland Islands.

The 'metal-ringed' Common Gull is not the same one that I had last Saturday, as this one was ringed upside-down.  I had major problems taking photos of the ring, as the sun was reflecting off it - something shocking.  Many of the photos were useless and I ended up with another partial number - London   E*12513  - I was missing the second lettter, as the first one would be an 'E'..

Perhaps the next time I come here, I will be able to complete the number.  

Common Gull  -     A260    -  Millisle  (24 Dec 2015)

Common Gull  -    2ADX   -  Millisle  (24 Dec 2015)

Common Gull  -  London   E*12513  (Upside-down Ring)  -  Millisle  (24 Dec 2015)

This was a first ever visit here and by now the tide was well out.  The harbour itself and the surrounding beaches were clear of water.  Loads of gulls were well spread out, mainly Herring Gulls and perhaps up to 40 Great Black-backed Gulls - the most I've ever had at a single site.  Not many Black-headed Gulls here, but there were some Oystercatchers, Turnstones, Redshank and Curlew.

I parked along the wall of the harbour and spent ages scoping.  I did spot a Herring Gull with a 'metal-ring', but it was way too far away to read.  I was actually disappointed not finding anything else with rings, with so many birds about.  Surely, I'll have better luck next time, as this is a really good site to scope from and with plenty to look at.


      Friday 25th December 2015       
As today is Christmas Day (merry xmas everyone), I decided to take a run up to Belfast, as I knew the roads and parks would be quite with few people about.  My aim was to visit Victoria Park, the harbour estate and Whitehouse Lagoon.  It was not until I was driving up the Newtownards Road, that I decided to call into the car park at the Connswater Shopping Centre.  It is very close to Victoria Park and I thought some of the gulls from there might venture to the shopping centre.

Connswater Shopping Centre
There was not a sinner in sight and I had the whole car park to myself.  Gulls could be seen on the rooftops, so I started throwing bread from the car.  This brought an instant response, with plenty of Black-headed Gulls and a few Herring Gulls.  Within minutes, a 'White Darvic' was spotted.  It was the Black-headed Gull from Holland - EAK9, which I first spotted at the nearby Victoria Park on the 17th October 2015.  For my report on this (Click here).

Black-headed Gull  -  Holland  'White EAK9'  -  Connswater Shopping Centre  (25 Dec 2015)

With photos secured and no more rings to be seen, I drove to another area of the vast car park, to where I could see gulls in the distance.  These were mainly Herring Gulls, young and old, standing about on the ground.  Again, bread got the gulls attention, also attracting Black-headed's.  After a couple of minutes, I once again spotted a 'White Darvic' and thought this was EAK9 again.

It was just as well that I checked it with the binoculars, as it was a different Black-headed Gull - White J4TJ.  After returning home, I checked Adam's Blog, as I remembered he had found 'Darvic-ringed' gulls at Connswater in the past.  I was right, he recorded the first ever re-sighting of White J4TJ on 13th January 2014.

It was ringed by Carsten Lome on the outskirts of the Capital Oslo on the 19th April 2013, as an adult male.  I went onto the Norwegian colour-ringing website to enter my sighting and was able to access this gull's full re-sighting history.

After Adam's initial sighting, it has been recorded on three occasions, all back at Oslo - 25th March 2014, 15th March 2015 and 26th April 2015.  Today's sighting, is the latest for this gull.  The distance from Oslo to Connswater is 1,154km / 717 miles in a south-west direction and is also another example of a gull returning to it's favourite wintering site.     

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway 'White J4TJ'  -  Connswater Shopping Centre  (25 Dec 2015)

Victoria Park
On my last visit here on the 14th November, I recorded three new Black-headed Gulls - 2 'metal-ringed' and 1 'Darvic-ringed.  There was no sign today of the 'Darvic-ringed'   2AJV  from Adam McClure's Project.

The first 'metal' to be spotted was of the adult BHG   EL97734  which was the first of the two 'metals', I recorded on my last visit.  This was ringed as a chick in 2007 at Downholme in North Yorkshire - for my report on this (Click here).

Black-headed Gull  -  London    EL97734   -  Victoria Park  (25 Dec 2015)

The second 'metal' that I spotted here on my last visit was on a juvenile/1st winter BHG and the two photos that I took of the ring only showed the ring butt and no numbers.  Today I did spot a ringed youngster, so I'm presuming it's the same gull.  I just could not get near it, in order to take photos of it's ring, it kept slipping onto the lake.  The few I did get were useless except for one, which gave me the 5 numbers on a British ring.  All I needed to complete the code was the second letter and ended up getting   E*98138 .  Perhaps, I'll be able to complete the code on my next visit.

Black-headed Gull  -  London E*98138  -  Victoria Park  (25 Dec 2015)

While I was trying to take photos of the youngsters ring, I suddenly realised I had two 'metal-ringed' adults in close proximity.  I knew one would be   EL97734 , but who was the other?  Taking a closer view of the rings, one was taller than a British ring, so had to be foreign.  This Black-headed Gull was far from being shy and I managed loads of photos of it's ring.

After pieceing the ring number together when I returned home, I had another BHG from Iceland, my third this winter.  I have reported   537949  by email to Iceland and now eagerly await for a reply.  This one's number is lower than the Icelandic BHG, that is currently present at Antrim Marina (  571487 ), which was ringed as a chick in 2003.  Could this one be older?

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland  537949  -  Victoria Park  (25 Dec 2015)

Belfast Harbour Estate
I took a drive around the harbour estate looking for any gulls that if perched could be viewed by telescope.  I only found the one group of Black-headed Gulls and spotted an 'Orange Darvic' that turned out to be from Adam's Study -   2BPX .  This is a new sighting for me and I have emailed Adam and now await for it's file.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BPX   -  Belfast Harbour Estate  (25 Dec 2015)

Whitehouse Lagoon
It was getting late into the afternoon when I arrived here and it was raining quite heavily now.  A large number of gulls which included Common, Herring and Black-headed were present, along with Oystercatchers and Redshanks.  I spent about 45 minutes scoping these, but no rings were spotted and I decided to call it a day.  Once again, not a bad run out.


      Saturday 26th December 2015       
Today, my travels took me to the north coastal towns of Portrush and Portstewart and then inland to the large town of Coleraine on my return home.

Arriving here, I went straight to the East Strand Car Park which always has plenty of gulls around it.  The Ring-billed Gull was still present since my last visit and the 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull - London   EW83177  from the Scottish Borders was also spotted (Click here to Read).  

Despite of the number of gulls present, Herring, Common and Black-headed, no other rings were spotted.  As I was leaving, a pair of Oystercatchers landed, nothing on these either.

Driving on round to Landsdowne Cresent, about 30 Herring Gulls of all ages and 2 BHGs, were standing about the car park, but still nothing in the way of rings.  I walked along the footpath overlooking the rocky shoreline.  On my last visit here, there were groups of Oystercatchers, Turnstones, Ringed Plovers and Sanderlings, but only a small group of Ringed Plovers this time and still no rings.

There were plenty of Herring Gulls flying about here, but no groups could be found resting anywhere.  For a small coastal town with a harbour, I was actually surprised there was nothing about.  I quickly left for Coleraine.

I went to secondary school when I lived in this large town and it never occurred to me to try here for gulls before.  Between the old and new bridges of the River Bann, there is a small jetty.  When I arrived here there was loads of gulls to be seen and also good numbers perched on the rooftops of the neighbouring Churches.

Leaving the car to walk to the jetty, I stopped in my tracks, as I spotted an Iceland Gull.  I took out the camera and slowly walked towards it, successfully getting a couple of photos.

Iceland Gull  -  Coleraine  -  (26 Dec 2015)

The Black-headed Gulls obviously could see me carrying a loaf, as their calls alerted others towards me.  Around 50 started to land all round the jetty and as many more kept their distance.  One with a 'White Darvic' flew right past my face and landed onto the river.  I just concentrated on those around the jetty, throwing out bits of bread to keep them interested.

Soon afterwards, I spotted a BHG with a 'Red Darvic' towards the end of the jetty and just managed to take photos of it's leg, when it took off.  Lucky me, I never saw it after that.  Checking the photos while on site, I did get the code   2E18 .  I never managed to obtain a full photo of the gull - pity.  After returning home and checking the cr-birding website, I discovered that this gull belongs to the Clyde Ringing Group in Scotland.

I have emailed Iain Livingstone about this one and I am still waiting on the details for their Common Gull   2A60 , which I spotted at Millisle on the 24th December.  I hope Iain is not getting fed up with all these gulls of his that I'm spotting.

Black-headed Gull  -  London   2E18   -  Strand Road Jetty, Coleraine  (26 dec 2015)

I continued feeding the gulls and soon afterwards, the 'White Darvic' landed onto the jetty.  A number of photos later, I had my bird and the ring number and it was from Norway.  After returning home, I regisistered my sighting on the Norwegian colour-ringing website and instantly had access to this gulls file.

It was ringed on the 9th April 2012, as an unsexed adult, by John Martin Mjelde at Lake Østensjøvannet, just to the south-east of the Norwegian capital Oslo.  It's first two re-sightings came in September and November 2012, both in Coleraine.  The following 6 sightings all came in April 2013, back in Oslo.  It was almost a year before it was spotted again, this time on March 14th 2014, again in Coleraine.

Over a year passed, before the next sighting, on the 29th March 2015, in Oslo and again there on the 15th April 2015.  On the 13th September, it was back in Coleraine for another winter and my sighting today is the latest in this gull's ever growing file.  The distance is 1,168km / 725 miles.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway  White J9J2  -  Strand Road Jetty, Coleraine  (26 Dec 2015)

Lake Østensjøvannet, Norway to Coleraine, Northern Ireland


      Sunday 27th December 2015       
After finishing my four hour weekly visit to Antrim Marina, I decided to go to Sandy Bay in Larne.  My aim was to try and locate a 'metal-ringed' Oystercatcher that I spotted here a couple of weeks ago (unpublished visit).  I thought if I could locate this bird and obtain the number on it's ring, it would be a nice way to finish the holiday weekend, after all my recent sightings.

There were plenty of birds on the shore when I arrived here.  Although the tide was on it's way out, the birds were still high enough up the beach for telescoping.  As well as Oystercatchers, other birds included Black-headed and Common Gulls, Turnstones, a few Purple Sandpipers and a single Sanderling.

A number of Oystercatchers were standing on one leg, in fact a couple of these only had one leg.  I scoped all of the birds constantly and eventually spied my 'ringed' Oystercatcher.  As I edged closer, I could see that the 'ring-butt' was facing me and I could see nothing of the code.  Edging closer still, I disturbed this bird and it moved along slighlty and stopped again.  I was now able to see numbers and took a few photos.

Edging closer still, the Oystercatcher had, had enough of me and headed off into the surf and started feeding.  I followed it, as best I could, scoping all the time and spotted the first two letters 'FH'.  Eventually, I gave up trying to follow my target, as it was spending all it's time in the sea.

After returning home, I checked my photos to find that two of these photos appear to give all the numerals, thus -   FH84092 .  The only number that could be classed as debateable is the first number.  To me it looks like an '8'.  I have emailed Adam McClure and Graham Prole for their opinions and if favourable will try the BTO to see if they will except the sighting.   

Oystercatcher  -  London   FH84092   -  Sandy Bay  (27 Dec 2015)

The Two Photos Showing the Numbers

PS.  A reply from Graham arrived.

Hi Gareth
Oystercatcher ring.  2 Letters and 5 Numbers.
FH74739 is a Oystercatcher ringed in 2013 in Dublin, so the code looks good and complete for a BTO ring.  I don’t suppose you got a photo of the whole bird to try and age it as a juvenile or adult.  Best guess FH84092 was only ringed in the last couple of years, 2014 or 2015 and I would report it.  I find it hard enough to get close to read the Darvics on the Dublin Oystercatchers, so fair play for reading the metal!
Yours sincerely
Graham Prole

My thanks to Graham for this and I shall indeed report it to the BTO - fingers crossed!!!


As I have recorded so many ringed birds of late, I am going to break away from my usual routine of updating on Sunday's only.  During the coming week, as ringing details start to arrive, I will post updates of these and this will lighten my input next Sunday.

Happy new year to all my readers.


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