Sunday, 3 January 2016

A Lack of Gulls...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
The weather, much like the rest of this week was quite wet, with plenty of rain, some showers being quite persistent.  The wind was blowing in from the south-east and it's not very often that you'd see the gulls standing facing the cafe.

I meant to say, the few gulls that did appear.  Today, ranks as one of the poorest mid-winter Sunday visits, that I have ever experienced at the Marina.  Only two 1st winter Black-headed Gulls were present on my arrival.  The maximum number of these gulls to be recorded was - 43 at 10.00 and 59 at 12.20.

Overall numbers in the last two weeks, peeked at 160 and 200 gulls.  Adam suggested that the gulls could be feeding on flooded fields inland.  He may well be correct in his thinking, as I noticed BHGs on flooded farmland beside the motorway, while on my way to Belfast after departing from the Marina.

The lack of gulls present, also reflected on the number of Darvic's to be sighted today.  Only 13 of the 29 Darvic-ringed BHGs recorded this winter, showed up today.  There is still no sign of either   2ABP  or   2AAJ , both well overdue to return for the winter.  I sincerely hope that we have not lost them.

One of Adam's Study birds -   2ADT  - was recently found dead, washed up on the beach at Carrickfergus.  It may well have been a casualty from the recent storms that we have experienced.  

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2ACX   2AAT   2ADJ   2AAS   2ACV   2AAR   2AAH 

The Absentees
 T35J   2AAP   2AAK   2AAA   2AAC   2ABA   2AAB   2AAF 

      Other Birds At Antrim Marina       
Not a single Common Gull appeared here today.  I was even surprised that the juvenile/1st winter bird did not show up at all.  Only one Herring Gull was seen today and it arrived at 11.36.  All in all, a very bad day for sighting gulls.

Even the Mallards seemed to stay away today.  I counted 36 on my arrival and numbers peaked at around 60 just before I departed at 1pm.  The ringed female   5MN 1207  was spotted at 11.51, but there was no sign of the new Mallard   5MN 1192  , which appeared recently.

In contrast to everything else, Mute Swan numbers were pretty good, the best so far this winter.  Seven were present on my arrival and our cygnet arrived from up-river at 09.28.  It was quickly followed by another 10 swans at 09.40, which arrived from both up-river and the Lough.

Three rings were noted today,   W34158 ,   Z91982  and making it's first appearance of this winter was   W34157  - with the up-side down ring.  The last time that I recorded this one, was on the 1st February 2015, when it made it's only appearance of last winter.  Good to see that it is in fine health, wonder how long it will stick around this winter.

The Ring of W34157  (03 Jan 2016)

The overall total of Mute Swans reached 19 + 3 cygnets at 11.30, when the pair with the two youngsters arrived in from the Lough.

The Mute Swan Siblings  (03 Jan 2016)

It was a strange sight to see 3 young Cormorants together, flying in from the Lough and passing the Marina to head up-river.  I thought that they might re-appear at some stage on the river, but I didn't see them again.

12 Jackdaws, a single Hooded Crow and a single Magpie, were the only large birds to be seen, while 5 Pied Wagtails an a single male Chaffich were the only smaller species recorded.


      Ringing Details Received       

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2BPX
I forgot to add this one in my last post concerning Ringing Details Received.    2BPX  is one of Adam's study birds and I came across this one in the Belfast Harbour Estate on Christmas day. It was ringed as a chick on the 1st July 2013 at Blue Circle Island on Larne Lough, which is situated around 24km / 15 miles to the north-east.

There has only been one previous sighting of this gull, which was at the ponds at Carrickfergus Leisure Centre on the 26th May 2014.  Carrickfergus lies about half-way from the Harbour Estate and Larne Lough.

My thanks to Adam for this gull's details.


      Saturday 2nd January 2016       
Today, once the rain had stopped, I decided to revisited the Strand Road Jetty in Coleraine and then go on to Portrush.  My aim was to try and locate the Black-headed Gull -   2E18 , which I spotted in Coleraine last Saturday.  I was trying to get a full photo of this gull, as I only got it's legs last week.  My target never appeared, but I did re-sight the Norwegian BHG - White J9J2.  I noticed a marked decrease in the number of gulls in the area, compared to last Saturday.

While I was at the Jetty, I just happened to bump into a fellow birdwatcher, John Clarke.  Recently, I contacted John to see if he would take me on to retrain as a ringer, to which he obliged.  My aim is to eventually obtain an endorsement allowing me to colour-ring gulls and help Adam with his study - really committing myself now!!

After a short chat with John, I drove on up to Portrush, but once again, not a lot of gulls about there either.

PS.  This afternoon (Sunday), John sent me an email with photos attached.  He happened to call by the jetty today and the gull I was after was present.  Not only that, a 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull was also present.  Although John could not obtain the full number on the ring, it turns out that this gull is from Finland.  Why could they not appear on my visit -  sods law!!

My thanks to John for the info and allowing me to use the photo of   2E18

Black-headed Gull  -    2E18    -  (Photo Courtesey of John Clarke) 


      Sunday 3rd January 2016       
After completing my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, I drove up to Belfast to visit the Connswater Shopping Centre and the nearby Victoria Park and then on to the east Down coast, calling in at Millisle and Ballywalter.

At both Belfast sites, there very few gulls to be seen and they were quickly checked, but no rings.

At Millisle, I quickly located the Herring Gull with the up-side down 'metal-ring' -   GA00153 .  Just like everywhere else, there were not a lot of gulls about.  Scoping the gulls standing on rocky islets, I spotted a Herring Gull with a Yellow Darvic.  The camera was able to reach this gull and I managed to get the code - Yellow 4M:W.

I reported it to Adam, as he is the ringing co-ordinator for the nearby Copeland Islands.  This one was ringed on the 6th May 2015 as an adult on Big Copeland Island.  This is now my second Herring Gull with a Darvic.  I would not have got this one if it had not been colour-ringed, as the rocky island was too far out at sea.

Herring Gull  -    4M:W    -  Millisle  (03 Jan 2016)

Soon after getting the Herring Gull, I came across a 'metal-ringed' Oystercatcher.  Scoping the ring, I knew I might have a slight chance of getting the ring number.  Unfortunately, a man with a 'Red Setter' dog came along the beach and scared off my bird.

This sort of thing really annoys me, especially when people can see that I'm using a telescope and camera.  People can be so thoughtless and inconsiderate at times.

Metal-ringed Oystercatcher  -  Millisle  (03 Jan 2016)

At Ballywalter, I experienced the ongoing problem of a lack of gulls.  I did manage to locate a 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull.  The only problem, was again people.  Every time I got into a position to take photos of the ring, people would walk straight towards the gulls, scaring them off.  Can they not see, I'm trying to take photos.

Metal-ringed Black-headed Gull  -  Ballywalter  (03 Jan 2016)


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