Sunday, 24 January 2016

Spanish visitors...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
It was a very mild morning for my four hour visit to the Marina and the last spits of overnight rain could be felt as I arrived.  Although it remained dull and cloudy, the light breeze coming in from the Lough, was not as cold as it usually is.  During the week, far less rain fell and this was noticeable as the water level was a good bit lower, allowing me to park the car in my favourite spot.

An estimated 40 Black-headed Gulls were present, but they seemed to be unsettled and kept landing and then taking off again.  I spotted the first Darvic at 09.11,   2ACV , and by 09.15 all the gulls were gone.  All through the early morning, groups of BHGs would come and go.  Around mid-day, the numbers increased to around 150 to 180 birds.

21 out of the 29 'Darvic-rung' gulls spotted this winter, were re-sighted during my visit.    2BRC  appeared for a second week running, it's only other sighting this winter was on the 25th October 2015.  When Adam and I met for the first time on the 1st February 2015, four BHGs were caught by hand and ringed that day.    2BRC  was caught by me and is the reason why I'm so keen to spot it.

I've given up hope of seeing   2AAJ  and   2ABP , having failed to return this winter.    2BRB  is another gull which has not been sighted so far.  Having been ringed on the same day as   2BRC , I re-sighted it on the 8th February and 1st March 2015 and it has not appeared here since.  I have toyed with the idea, that   2BRB  may have used Antrim Marina as a 'stop-over' enroute to it's breeding grounds.

As many BHGs appear to frequent preferred routes while on their migrations, perhaps   2BRB  will arrive here in the next week or two.  A 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull -   EG55380  is another bird which I believe uses the Marina as a 'stop-over' while on migration.  Having been first recorded on the 23rd of February of the 2013/2014 winter, I re-sighted it again on the 1st March of the 2014/2015 winter.

If this holds true, then   EG55380  should arrive back in the next few weeks.  Mistakenly ringed as a Common Gull chick in 2005, this gull is 4th on my wishlist and is special to me, as it took two winters to obtain it's whole ring number and subsequently learning of the ringing error.

Two other BHGs caught my eye today.  The heads of these two were both very dark, which means that they are already enroute to their breeding grounds.  It may well be possible, due to the very mild winter, many gulls will migrate earlier this spring.

The Swedish-ringed   6438391  was spotted at 11.26 and the juvenile/1st winter   EL72723  was sighted at 12.12.  The second 'metal-ringed' juvenile from Coquet Island in Northumbria has not been since the 27th December and the Icelandic BHG,   571487 , was also absent.  

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2ACV   2ABN   2AAD   2AAH   2ABK   2BRA   2AAT 

Today's Absentees
 T35J   2AAP   2AAA   2AAF   2ABF   2AAR   2AFD   2BRD 

Black-headed Gull  -    2ANS   -  Antrim Marina  (24 Jan 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -    2BRC   -  Antrim Marina  (24 Jan 2016)

Late on in the morning, I saw a man and women walking directly towards me from the direction of the cafe.  I was asked if I was the birdwatcher with the Blog.  This couple were from Spain.  Daniel, had secured a job in Northern Ireland and having an interest in wildlife, searched the internet and came upon my Blog, before arriving to start his new employment.

Daniel was taking his wife to Dublin airport, as she was flying home after a short visit to Northern Ireland.  On route, they decided to call by the Marina to meet me.  He went on to say that he enjoyed reading my Blog.  I was obviously delighted that they took time out to meet me.

      Other Birds At Antrim Marina       
What a day for Mute Swans.  14 and our usual cygnet were present when I arrived.  At 10am another 5 arrived from up-river taking the total to 19.  The two cygnets, which have been coming over the last few weeks, along with their parents, actually flew in from the Lough on their own at 10.23.  About 5 minutes later, a pair of swans swam in from the Lough, presumably the parents.

I was too busy looking for ringed gulls and never noticed the arrival of another 4 swans which took the total to 25, plus the three cygnets.  It has been a long time since this number of swans have been present all at once.  When I first started coming here in September 2013, these sorts of numbers were the norm.

After parking my car, I saw a ringed swan and went straight over to get the number.  To my surprise, it was   W34156 .  I knew that I had not seen this ring in a long time, thinking it was sometime last winter.  On returning home and checking my records, it seems that I have not seen this swan since 23 March 2014.  It had been ringed at the Marina, six days earlier by Ken Perry.

  W34157  and   W34158  were also spotted during my visit, the former having arrived for the first time this winter on the 3rd January.  

Ring of Mute Swan  -    W34156   -  Antrim Marina  (24 Jan 2016)

Mallard numbers were very low again this week.  28 were counted when I arrived and by the time of my departure, the overall numbers were around 40.  I also noticed several ducks in the woodland across the river.  Could it be possible, that these are already looking for sites to nest?  Perhaps the mild weather, has set them into breeding mode.  No rings were spotted on any of the ducks at the Marina.

Common Gull numbers were again very low.  Only two adults arrived today and this week for the first time, 3 juvenile/1st winter birds were seen.  This equals the number of juveniles present last winter.  There was no sign of the Scottish-ringed female either.  Just after 11am, the two Herring Gulls arrived and remained throughout the rest of my visit.

11 Jackdaws, 4 Magpies and 2 Hooded Crows were the only large birds to be seen, while 6 Pied Wagtails and 3 Chaffinches represented the only smaller species.


      Saturday 23rd January 2016       
Today, I intended to visit the former Belfast Waterworks, Millisle, Ballywalter and make a first ever visit to Portavogie.  I ended up spending so much time at the Waterworks and Millisle, by the time I got to Ballywalter it was getting dark and failed to get to Portavogie.

Belfast Waterworks
Well over 300 Black-headed gulls were present on the two large lakes/ponds, along with much smaller numbers of Common Gulls and Herring Gulls.  On the upper lake, I spotted a 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull and while scoping the ringed, I could make out the word Iceland.

I was trying to edge closer for photos, when a dog scared all the gulls away.  I waited for ages for the gulls to settle back down again and eventually spied my ringed gull for a second time.  It was further away from me and while trying to edge closer, all the gulls flew off for a second time.  A woman, along with her daughter, had started feeding the ducks and gulls further down the footpath.  I waited for a long time, but my ringed gull did not appear again.

Going down to the lower pond, I spotted another 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull, this time it was a British BTO ring.  It was practically impossible trying to obtain the number on the ring.  This section of the waterworks is very popular for folk feeding the birds.  Every time, I located my ringed gull, it was off again a few seconds later.

I spent ages on this gull, having managed to get   ET9***2 , I wanted to complete the number and in the end gave up.  On each of three occasions, while resting the camera on top of the telescope for support, my gull flew off before I could get photos of it and it's ring.

Arriving here, the tide was well on ithe way out and a good number of gulls were looking for food on the beach.  I noticed a good number of Common Gulls about, along with Black-headed and Herring Gulls.  No rings were to be seen, except on the Common Gulls.

Four of the Common Gulls had 'Darvic-rings' and a fifth had a 'metal-ring', which was a British BTO ring.  Two of the colour-ringed gulls -   2ADX   and   2A60  were re-sightings of birds that I first spotted here on the 24th December 2015.    2ACA   and   2ABF   are both new sightings to me.  Both of these are from Shane Wolsey's study on the nearby Copeland Islands.  I have reported both rings to the BTO and now await for their details.

I notice that the ring of   2ACA   is in very poor condition.  It seems to be disintegrating at it's base.  If this continues, then the ring may eventually fall off.  I hope it is not a problem with the materials used to manufacture these rings.  If so, the effort used in Shane's study, will go to waste.

The 'metal-ringed' Common Gull is interesting.  Having previously obtained partial numbers for two of these gulls here, I initially thought I had one of them today.  Again, I spent a lot of time trying to obtain photos of the number, but this Common Gull was very wary.  Despite the bread I was throwing out from the car window, this one always kept it's distance.

On returning home and checking the photos, I discovered that this was a new sighting of a 'metal-ringed' Common Gull, my third for this site.  This 'upside-down' ring, made me think of the Copelands straight away.    EG55*** , also reminded me of the Black-headed Gull -   EG55380  - at Antrim Marina.

Comparing the '55s' on both rings, I noticed that the first 5 on both, matched each other, as they were slightly off line with the rest of the number.  If I'm right, then today's Common Gull would have been ringed on the Copelands possibly in 2005, using the same batch of rings.    

The Rings of the Common Gull (Left) and the Black-headed Gull (Right)

Common Gull  -  London   EG55***   -  Millisle  (23 Jan 2016)

Common Gull  -    2ACA   -  Millisle  (23 Jan 2016)

Common Gull  -    2ABF   -  Millisle  (23 Jan 2016)

Common Gull  -    2ADX   -  Millisle  (23 Jan 2016)

Common Gull  -    2A60   -  Millisle  (23 Jan 2016)

By the time I got to Ballywalter, it was starting to get dark and the rain was falling quite steadily.  I did scope a few Great Black-backed Gulls and some Oystercatchers, but no rings.


      Sunday 24th January 2014       
After completing my four hour visit to Antrim Marina, I drove to the sites at Kinnego Marina and Lurgan Park.  The Marina at Kinnego remains pretty flooded and the Black-headed Gulls were a long way off on the only section of the jetties free of water.  Despite my best efforts to tempt them with bread, they remained stationary.

At Lurgan Park, the gulls were constantly being fed on the water.  I needed the gulls out, so I could view their legs, with very few obliging.  After a while, when people moved away, the gulls were so 'breaded' out, I could not persuade them to exit the water with my offering.

Whenever, I go home from these sites, I always call by the car park of the Kentucky Fried Chicken at Antrim Town.  There are always a few gulls to be seen here.  Today, I struck lucky, as I spotted a Black-headed Gull with a Green Darvic.  Within minutes, I had obtained the code and took several photos.

  JK35  was very nervous, which tells me, this gull is a recent visitor here.  This one is my fourth Norwegian Black-headed Gull to be spotted this winter.  After entering it's details on the Norwegian Ringing Website, I gained instant access to the history of this bird.

I will post an article tomorrow for this Black-headed Gull which was ringed as a chick on the 18th June 2014.  There has been numerous re-sightings and I have yet to go through them properly.   

Black-headed Gull  -    JK35   -  KFC, Antrim Town  (24 Jan 2016)


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