Sunday, 28 February 2016

Super 'Metals'...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
I arrived at the Marina, to a cool crisp morning, with clear skies, the sun was shining after an overnight frost.  My first thought was - where have all the birds gone.  Only 14 Mute Swans, along with 3 cygnets and 9 Mallard were present.  A small group of Black-headed Gulls were resting on the breakwater in the distance, along with 4 Oystercatchers.

Around 09.30, the first of the BHGs started to arrive and the remainder of my visit proved to be very interesting.  Firstly, a 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull was spotted around 09.40, which in turn had me racing to obtain photos of it's ring.  No. 4 on my wish-list,   EG55380  had returned.

This is the bird that was mistakenly ringed as a Common Gull chick on the 22nd June 2005, on the Copeland Islands in County Down.  I first sighted this BHG on the 23rd February 2014, but only managed a partial number on an upside-down ring -   **55380 .  

Reporting it to the British Trust for Ornithology, they could not accept the record, as at least two BHGs were ringed with those five numbers and needed the missing two letters.

My next sighting came a year later, when I spotted   55380  on an upside-down ring, on the 1st March 2015.  This time, I was able to obtain the missing letters -    EG55380 .  After reporting the gull to the BTO, the ringing mistake was then discovered.

I had mentioned this gull to my sister, two weeks ago and told her it was due to make a return to the Marina.  It was just a pity, she was not present to see it for herself.  This gull may well be breeding on Lough Neagh, hence it's arrival.  As I will be continuing my visits over the summer to confirm the resident gulls, I can continue to watch out for this one.

The second 'metal-ring' to be spotted, really had me panicking to obtain the ring number.  This was the Common Gull which I had suspected came from Finland - the story is below in Other Birds.

The number of 'Darvics' recorded today, was well down, with only 18 out of the 29 gulls to be recorded this winter, present.  Many of the gulls are already on the move to their breeding sites and no doubt some of my gulls have gone too.

  2ADD , who is also due to return to the Marina, has still not made it here as yet.  Once I completed today's stint, I drove across Antrim Town to the car park at the KFC.  Around 60 BHGs were present and   2ADD  was among them.  However, the Norwegian rung   JK35   was not to be seen.  I wonder if it is now on it's travels too.

None of the 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gulls were sighted today, these being the two juvenile/1st winter birds or the two foreign-ringed BHGs from Iceland and Sweden.

Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina Today
 2ACV   2AAS   2AAP   T35J   2ABN   2ABS   2AAC   2AAF   2ACX 

Today's Absentees
 2AAH   2AAD   2AAN   2ABL   2AAV   2ADV 

Black-headed Gull  -    EG55380   (Upside-down ring)  -  Antrim Marina  (28 Feb 2016)

      Other Birds At Antrim Marina       
The maximum number of Common Gulls present at any one time, was 4 adult and two juvenile/1st winter birds, all these being un-ringed.  However, two 'metal-ringed' birds were also spotted today.  The first was the small female, ringed in Scotland,    EY64036 , which arrived at 09.40.

The second 'metal-ring' was the Common Gull, which I had suspected was Finnish.  I first saw this gull two weeks ago (14th) and was only able to obtain a partial number -   S*****28 .  I assumed that the Finnish rings used on their Common Gulls, would be the same that are used on Black-headed Gulls.  This meant I was looking for   ST  followed by six numbers.

I followed up that Sunday's visit, by returning on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, hoping to re-sight the gull, to no avail.  After last Sunday's visit, I gave up on the hope of the gull returning in order to obtain the whole ring number.

At 11.35 today, I spotted a 'metal-ringed' Common Gull on the rails of the long wooden jetty, through my binoculars.  I moved closer and then used the telescope and yes, it was a foreign ring.  As I was resting my camera on top of the telescope to take some pictures, a woman with her two young girls, walked out onto the jetty scaring off all the gulls.  I felt like strangling her - could she not see I was about to take photos.

I was lucky this time, as at 11.55, the gull returned and landed on the rails of the concrete jetty, situated very close to me.  I now rushed to take photos and successfully completed the whole number.  My Common Gull was indeed from Finland, ringed -   ST177.028 .  I have sent an email to the Finnish Museum in Helsinki, who take to do with the ringing and now cannot wait for confirmation.  I think this will be the first Finland-ringed Common Gull to be recorded in Northern Ireland. 

Common Gull  -  Finland    ST177.028   -  Antrim Marina  (28 Feb 2016)

Just before 11am, the pair of Herring Gulls arrived and remained throughout the rest of my visit.

14 Mute Swans, along with three cygnets, were present when I arrived this morning.  Shortly afterwards, two of the cygnets, along with their parents swam out onto the Lough.  During the morning, a further 7 swans arrived in, taking the total to 19, plus one cygnet.  Just two 'metal-rings' were spotted,   W34156  and   W34157 .

Only 9 Mallards were counted on my arrival and slowly numbers built up to 56 birds by 11.00.  One 'metal-ring' was spotted on a drake, but I was not able to obtain the number, before it slipped back onto the river.

2 Hooded Crows, 9 Jackdaws, a pair of Pied Wagtails and a pair of Chaffinches, were the only other species recorded today.


      Ringing Details Received       

Black-headed Gull  -     2ABC  
On Saturday week ago (20th February), I spotted one of Adam McClure's Black-headed Gulls at Dargan on the outskirts of Belfast, just as it was getting dark.  As it was too far away to scope the code on the ring, I took a few photos with the camera and just managed to get   2ABC  on the ring.

  2ABC  was caught and ringed on the 13th January 2013, at Sprucefield in County Antrim, as an un-sexed Juvenile/1st winter bird (hatched in the summer of 2012).  My sighting was the ninth since this gull was ringed.  Seven of the previous eight re-sightings, were all made in the Sprucefield area.

On the 18th March 2015,   2ABC  was spotted at Castle Espie in County Down, which is situated 24km /15 miles to the east of Sprucefield.  There is a known breeding colony of Black-headed Gulls at Castle Espie.  As this gull will be of breeding age this summer, I wonder if it will nest there?

Common Gull  -     2ABF  
During the week, The British Trust for Ornithology, sent me the ringing details for this Common Gull.  My first sighting of the gull was on the 23rd January 2016, at Millisle in County down and I spotted it again at the same site, three weeks later (13th February).

I knew that it was one of Shane Wolsey's Study birds from the Copeland Islands, situated just 8kms to the North of Millisle.    2ABF   was caught and ringed as an un-sexed adult on the 14th May 2010, during the second year of Shane's project.  My re-sighting on the 13th February, came 5 years, 8 months and 30 days, since   2ABF   was ringed.

I have no history for this gull, as the BTO, nor Shane, issue PDF files which detail all previous sightings.

Great Black-backed Gull  -     T7VZ  
I spotted this GBBG, also on the 13th February 2016, at Portavogie Harbour in County Down.  I am still waiting on it's ringing details, this being my first 'Darvic-rung' Great Black-backed Gull.  Checking the number on the cr-birding site, this gull was ringed by the Manx Ringing Group on the Isle of Man.

I sent emails reporting the gull to the Ringing Group and the BTO, but as yet, there has been no reply from either - the wait continues.

Great Black-backed Gull  -  White 1A8:C
Earlier this evening, I received an email from Iain Livingstone, Secretary of the Clyde Ringing Group in Scotland.  In it was the ringing details of the Great Black-backed Gull - White 1A8:C - which I spotted yesterday at Portavogie Harbour (report below).

1A8:C, was ringed as a chick on the 1st July 2012, at Horse Island Nature Reserve situated just off the coast from the town of Ardrossan in Ayrshire, Scotland.  My sighting yesterday is the first one for this gull.  Horse Island lies 137kms/85 miles to the north-east of Portavogie.

This is the second gull from this island that I have now spotted.  In March last year, I recorded a 'metal-ringed' Lesser Black-backed Gull in my home town of Ballymena.  This was ringed as a chick on the 1st July 2006 ( report here).

My thanks go to Iain once again for supplying the ringing details and his quick responce.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AKT  
Also this evening, I received the ringing details for the juvenile/1st winter Black-headed Gull   2AKT , which was also spotted yesterday, at Kircubbin in County Down (report below).

  2AKT  was ringed as a chick on the 23rd June 2015 at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre.  Castle Espie lies just 11kms/7 miles to the north-west of Kircubbin.  No great distance involved here, but at least this youngster has survived the winter.

My thanks to Adam McClure for supplying the ringing details.

Brent Goose  -  White 'S' White 'T'
Last night Graham McElwaine of the Irish Brent Goose Research Group, replied to my email.  He agreed with me on the details on the colour-rings of a Brent Goose, which I also spotted yesterday in County Down (report below).

He attached a file for this goose.  I have yet to study the file or those of the other three geese I spotted on Thursday.  All four files contain multiply sightings.  I shall look at these over the next couple of days and post an update sometime later this week.

My thanks also go to Graham.  You never know, I might run into some more Brents, before they set off on their journey to the Arctic Circle.


      Tuesday 23rd February 2016       
Today, I drove down to the coastal villages of Glenarm, Carnlough and Waterfoot.  My main aim was to check up on Eoin McGreal's Black-headed Gull -    260D , to see if it was still present.  Having been ringed as a chick at Lough Mask, County Mayo in the Republic of Ireland in 2008,   260D  winters each year in Glenarm.

During my last sighting of this gull on the 7th January 2016, I noticed it had suffered a leg injury.  Today, I located   260D  resting on the shore along with 83 other BHGs and it appears to be in good health.

The first of the two photos below, shows the gulls on the small 'spit' in the centre of the picture.  The second photo, shows the ring.  I took both of these, sitting in my car, while parked at Glenarm Harbour.  It clearly shows just how powerful the zoom is on my camera.

At Carnlough and Waterfoot, a number of gulls and a few Oystercatchers were scoped, but none were ringed. 

Black-headed Gulls Resting  -  Glenarm  -  (23 Feb 2016)

Zoomed into the Ring of   260D   -  (23 Feb 2016)

On Thursday evening, I received an email from Ian Graham, one of the editors for the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Association website.  Attached was a photo of   260D , which had been reported earlier that day, having been sighted at Whitehead, situated 28kms/18 miles to the south of Glenarm.  This clearly shows that   260D  is now on the move, heading to it's breeding site, wherever that may be.  My thanks go to Ian for this info.

As the new breeding season is about to start, I switch my interest from 'Ring Watching' to nesting birds, especially Ravens and Birds of Prey.  On my way home, after leaving Waterfoot, I stopped on the main road, to scope a Raven nest-site.  These birds are one of the earliest egg-layers and the first eggs will be laid around this time of the year.

Within a few seconds of scoping the cliff, I had located the nest, which was on the very same ledge, they had nested on last year.  In the photo below, I have placed a 'red box' to show the location of the nest.  While still parked on the road, I zoomed into the nest for the second photo, which clearly shows how fresh looking it is.  As the female is not sitting on the nest, the incubation of any eggs has not started yet.

As my camera has the reach to photograph the nests, without disturbing the birds themselves, I will be featuring some of the sites over the summer on this Blog for interest.  As I will be continuing my visits to Antrim Marina, I shall be adding posts on a regular basis.

Raven Nest Site  -  Glasmullen, Glenariff, County Antrim  -  (23 Feb 2016)

Raven Nest  -  Glasmullen, Glenariff, County Antrim  -  (23 Feb 2016)


      Thursday 25th February 2016       
Today, I had to go to Ballykelly, situated by the shore of Lough Foyle near Londonderry, for a hospital appointment.  After this, I drove the short distance to the mudflats and as luck would have it the tide was starting to go out.  Brent Geese, numerous species of waders and some gulls were scoped.

I concentrated on the Brent's, which were in two groups, situated well apart from each other.  The larger group numbered around 80 birds, the smaller group had just nine in it.  Scoping the larger group first, I spotted four individuals that were colour-ringed.

I took a photo of two of these ringed birds, which were standing next to each other, but I was too far away, for any details on the rings to be read.  As I edged closer, some of the geese were moving about and the two ringed geese I was looking at disappeared into the crowd.  I quickly located one of the other rings and soon had a number of photos.

This time the code was readable.  On the Right-leg was a White-ring with the letter 'C', while the Left-leg had a Red-ring with the number '  3 ' on it.  As I was searching for a another colour-ring, all these geese took flight and flew northwards.

My presence had nothing to do with them leaving, as I was far enough away, so not to disturb them.  I was raging, as three rings at least had got away. 

Brent Goose  -  White 'C'  Red '  3 '  -  Lough Foyle, Ballykelly  (25 Feb 2016)

Turning my attention to the second group of nine Brent Geese, I soon noticed that two of these were also colour-ringed.  They were all busy feeding on the waters edge.  I followed them with the camera, taking photos whenever the rings became visible.

Retreating back to the car, to get out of the cold wind, I looked through the photos before leaving.  I was successful in obtaining the codes for both birds.  The first goose was ringed - Right-leg Blue '  H ', left-leg Yellow '  2 ', the second bird - Right-leg Red '  X ', left-leg Yellow '  L '.

On returning home on Thursday evening, I emailed Graham McElwaine of the Irish Brent Goose Research Group and informed him about my three sightings.  As always, I soon had a reply from Graham.  He also sent files for two of the geese and stated that the sighting of '   H   2 ' was the first since being ringed in Iceland in the spring of 2015.

Once I obtain the third file and have time to look through them, I will report on all of the re-sightings.  My thanks as ever go to Graham, for his quick responce.

Brent Goose  -  Blue ' H '  Yellow ' 2 '  -  Lough Foyle, Ballykelly  (25 Feb 2016)

Brent Goose  -  Red ' X '  Yellow '  L '  -  Lough Foyle, Ballykelly  (25 Feb 2016)

As no other waders or gulls scoped had rings, I moved on to visit Coleraine and Portrush.  Both places only had a few gulls present.  Even the East Strand car park in Portrush, which is normally quite good for gull numbers, only had 3 BHGs on site..

At Landsdowne Cresent in Portrush, I re-sighted the 'metal-ringed' Oystercatcher, which I first spotted on the 21st November 2015.  I tried to approach this bird to take photos of the ring, to try and obtain the number.  It kept on flying off, on each of my attempts to get near it. 

The rocks that the Oystercatchers feed on, are right beside a public footpath and I was hopeful that they would now be quite used to people.  My bird though was having none of it.  

'Metal-ringed' Ostercatcher  -  Landsdowne Cresent, Portrush  -  (25 Feb 2016)


      Saturday 27th February 2016       
This morning, I pondered for quite a while on where to go today.  In the end, I settled for another trip to County Down.  I am finding this area irresistible, as I always seem to record rings every time I go there.

While driving down, I decided just to visit Portaferry and Portavogie, but ended up making stops at Kircubbin, Ardkeen and Ballywalter as well.

As I was driving through this small village, I noticed a number of Black-headed Gulls on the shoreline of Strangford Lough.  I turned the car around and drove to a small car park, near to where the gulls were settled.

It did not take long to scope a juvenile/1st winter BHG, which bore a 'Darvic-ring'.  I took a few photos and then checked them to see if the code on the ring was readable.  This gull turned out to be another one of Adam's Study birds - ringed   2AKT .

I spent quite a while here, watching the gulls coming and going, but no more rings were spotted.  I have emailed Adam and now await his reply.

Juvenile/1st winter Black-headed Gull  -    2AKT   -  Kircubbin  (27 Feb 2016)

Ardkeen is actually a small townland between the villages of Kircubbin and Portaferry.  A section of the road runs right past Strangford Lough, the water being only metres away.  As I was driving along this stretch, I noticed groups of Brent Geese swimming nearby.

I stopped the car and waited to see what these geese would do.  A short time later, all three groups took to the wing and flew onto a field a short distance away.  Around 80 geese in total were scoped and I noticed one of these was colour-ringed.  I started taking photos, zooming in to try and obtain the code on it's colour-rings.

Checking the photos before I moved on, both of the gooses colour-rings were White, with what appears to be, the letter 'S' on the right-leg and the letter 'T' on the left-leg.  I have emailed Graham McElwaine of the Irish Brent Goose Research Group and hope he will except the sighting. 

Brent Goose  -  White 'S'  White 'T'  -  Ardkeen, Strangford Lough  (27 Feb 2016)

Brent Goose  -  White 'S'  White 'T'  -  Close-up from another Photo  -  (27 Feb 2016)

On the 13th February, I made my first ever visit to this village, though it was starting to get dark when I arrived.  Scopeing quickly through the gulls that were present, I noticed a Black-headed Gull with a 'metal-ring'.  I made no attempt to obtain the number.

Two 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gulls were quickly spotted when I arrived today.  One of them had a slightly taller ring, which means this gull is foreign.  Despite trying to lure these two gulls towards me with bread, neither appeared, though some of the others enjoyed their free meal.

I could not even get access to the jetties, due to a locked gate, which would have got me closer.  Even my camera would not have got the ring numbers, due to the distance involved.  I went on to scope a number of Herring Gulls and 6 Sandwich Terns, but no more rings were to be seen.

Portavogie Harbour
I sighted my first ever 'Darvic-rung' Great Black-backed Gull -   T7VZ , here, on my previous visit, on the 13th February 2016.  As mentioned above, I am still waiting on the ringing details for this gull, which I just happened to re-sight again today.

Also on my last visit, I spotted a juvenile/1st winter Herring Gull which was 'metal-ringed', but I could not get close enough to obtain the number.

With so many large gulls at Portavogie Harbour, I stayed for a long time, hoping to spot rings.  It did not take long before I scoped another 'Darvic-rung' Great Black-backed Gull on the outer harbour wall.  This one had a 'White-Darvic', but the gull sat down before I was able to take photos.

Darvic-rung Great Black-backed Gull Lying Down  -  Portavogie Harbour  -  (27 Feb 2016)

I waited for ages, waiting for it to stand up again.  Once up, I started taking photos and obtained the code '1A8:C' (in red characters).  After returning back home, I checked the cr-birding website and discovered that this gull was ringed by the Clyde Ringing Group in Scotland.  I've now sent an email to Iain Livingstone - (wonder if he is getting fed up with me pestering him with sightings of their gulls, ha ha).

Great Black-backed Gull  -  White 1A8:C  -  Portavogie Harbour  (27 Feb 2016)

While I was sitting waiting on my new found Great Black-backed Gull to stand up, the other 'Darvic-rung' Great Black-backed Gull -   T7VZ , which I spotted on my last visit, just happened to alight on the same section of the harbour wall.  Now, how handy was that!!

Great Black-backed Gull  -    T7VZ   -  Portavogie Harbour  (27 Feb 2016)

After a while, I spotted a 'metal-ringed' juvenile/1st winter Herring Gull, presumably, the same gull which I sighted here on my previous visit.  This time, it was in range to obtain photos of the ring with the camera.  The inevitable then happened - people.

I was luring the gulls in with bread, when a couple of guys with sports cars, parked right behind me and started taking photos of their vehicles.  Of course, my gulls were frightened away.

Looking at the pictures I had taken, I was one digit short of obtaining the whole ring number for this gull -   GJ2588* .  Trying to locate the gull again took ages and when I did locate it, it was on the other side of the harbour.  By the time I drove round, there was no sign of the gull.

Perhaps on my next visit, I might be able to complete the number.

Juvenile/1st winter Herring Gull  -    GJ2588*   -  Portavogie Harbour  (27 Feb 2016)

A quick stop at Ballywalter Harbour and the few gulls scoped had no rings.  By now it was starting to get dark, so I made tracks for home.  Just outside Ballywalter, I noticed a large number of gulls on the beach.  I pulled into the car park there and started scoping.

Upwards of 100 Common Gulls and probably as many Black-headed's were looked at.  Two small groups of Brent Geese were also scoped, but no rings on any of them.


Sunday, 21 February 2016

No Common Gull...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
When I arrived at the Marina this morning, it was quite murky and visibility out over the Lough was poor.  With a slight breeze present, it soon cleared, but there was a number of drizzly showers over the course of my four hour visit.

Of the 29 'Darvic-ringed' Black-headed Gulls to be re-sighted this winter, 25 of them were recorded today.  I am still expecting   2ADD  to arrive, but he has failed to turn up here as yet.  After I completed my stint at the Marina, I drove across town to the KFC outlet and once again spotted him in the car park.  Also present there, was the Norwegian Black-headed Gull -   JK35 .

I was beginning to think   2AAF  was not going to visit me today.  He turned up on Thursday, having not been seen here by me, since the 6th December 2015.  He was today's 24th re-sighting at 12.12 and the last was   2ACX  at 12.33.

Around 80 BHGs were present at first, with numbers reaching the 200 mark by about 11.00.  Three of the absent gulls -   2ADV ,   2AFD  and   2BRD , have not been seen over the last couple of weeks.  It is hard to know if they have departed for the summer and if they have, then they are away slightly earlier than last year.  We know that   2AFD  goes to Latvia, as he was spotted there on the 4th April 2015, on a rubbish dump on the outskirts of the capital Riga.

There was a no show from any of the 'metal-ringed' BHGs today. These are the 1st winter birds from Insh Island in Donegal and Coquet Island in Northumbria or the Icelandic and Swedish birds.

Normally, I finish the winter visits on the last Sunday in March, which is five weeks away, as most of the gulls would have departed to their breeding sites.

This year, I am going to continue the visits and will try and get up once or twice a week.  I am keen to identify all of the resident gulls.  Over the past two summers, I was hoping to obtain sightings from other birdwatchers which visit the Marina, as the days are both longer and warmer.  Due to the lack of reports, I'm best doing it myself.

Black-headed Gulls Re-sighted Today
 2AAH   2ABN   2AAA   2AAP   2BRA   2AAC   2AAB   2AAT   2ABL 

Today's Absentees
 2ABA   2ADV   2AFD   2BRD 

Black-headed Gull  -    2BRC   -  Antrim Marina  (21 Feb 2016)

      Other Birds At Antrim Marina       
The Common Gull which I suspected comes from Finland, did not show up today.  Having got a partial 'metal-ring' number last Sunday, I made three visits during the week, hoping it would turn up.  As this gull was probably just passing through, it is a shame I was not able to get the full number.  Checking the BTO's Online Ringing Reports, no Common Gulls from Finland have ever been recorded in Northern Ireland.

The Scottish-ringed female Common Gull -   EY64036  arrived at 11.30 this morning.  The maximum counts were 6 adults and 3 juvenile/1st winter birds.

The pair of Herring Gulls arrived at 09.26 and remained throughout by visit.

Mallard numbers were low again, with 22 birds at first and a maximum count of 43 at 12.00.  Neither of the two 'metal-ringed drakes were seen today, but I spotted the female   5MN 1207  just as I was leaving at 1pm.

7 Mute Swans were counted when I arrived, but numbers went up to 13, plus the 3 cygnets shortly afterwards.  Only two rings were noted -   W34158  at 11.03 and   Z91982  at 11.16.

2 Hooded Crows, 1 Magpie and 13 Jackdaws made up the other larger species to be recorded, with 2 pairs of Chaffinches and 1 pair of Pied Wagtails being the only smaller species.


      Saturday 20th February 2016       
The agenda today was to visits sites at Glynn, Carrickfergus, Whiteabbey Shoreline, Whitehouse Lagoon and the Belfast Harbour Estate.  I ended up not making the last site, as I called by the Dargan area on the outskirts of Belfast and remained there until dark.

It was not until the early afternoon before I departed from home.  With persistent rain during the morning, the forecast was for the rain to ease off in the after mid-day.

The tide was well out when I arrived.  At this site, you need to spot colour-rings, as the birds are so distant, 'metals' cannot be read.  Despite scoping loads of gulls and waders, three 'metals' were spotted - 1 Herring Gull, 1 Common Gull and an Oystercatcher.

A brief stop at the car park beside Carrickfergus Castle and one 'Darvic' was spotted.  This is my fourth sighting of   2ADB , having initially spotted it on the 3rd October 2015 and again on the 12th December.  Around 30 BHGs and 3 Common Gulls were present, but no other rings.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADB   -  Carrickfergus Harbour  (20 Feb 2016)

Whiteabbey Shoreline
I was surprised at the lack of gulls and waders on the shoreline on this visit.  Normally, there would be a good number of birds about.  It did not take too long to scope everything present, but not one ring.

Whitehouse Lagoon
As with Whiteabbey, here again was low numbers of gulls and waders.  Checking out the Oystercatchers, it did not take long to spot the colour-ringed Icelandic Oystercatcher, which I first spotted here on the 6th September 2015.  This is now my fifth sighting of this bird.

Scoping through the rest of the birds, the only ring spotted was on a juvenile/1st winter Black-headed Gull.  It was far to far away, to try and get the number on it's 'metal-ring'.  Once again, if all today's birds had been colour-ringed, I would have 'nailed' all the codes.  

Colour-ringed Icelandic Oystercatcher  -  Whitehouse Lagoon  -  (20 Feb 2016)

'Metal-ringed' 1st Winter Black-headed Gull  -  Whitehouse Lagoon  -  (20 Feb 2016)

I visited this area once in the past, but due to parking restrictions, I did not stay too long.  This section of the Belfast Harbour Estate is heavily Commercialised with businessess' and also leads to the ferry terminals for the ports of Cairnryan, Liverpool and Heysham.  Beside all this, are the extensive tidal mudflats of Belfast Lough.

At low tide, the flats are teeming with gulls (mostly BHGs), waders and ducks.  As today was Sunday, most places were closed and I found a small lay-by on a short section of private road to park the car.

I was now able to comfortably scope all the birds near me for colour-rings.  The tide was on it's way in, which in turn was pushing the birds inland.  Many Dunlins, Redshank, BHGs, Shelduck, Wigeon, also a few Oystercatchers, Common and Herring Gulls were looked at.  To me, I knew there had to be 'rings' out there, with so many birds present.

Of special interest was the Black-tailed Godwits, probably numbering around two hundred birds, which were still well out, but getting ever closer.  While waiting on these, I watched some Herring Gulls, which were dropping shells, usually Mussels, onto the road beside me.  Hoping to get an easy meal, on several occasions their dinner was stolen by Hooded Crows or Black-headed Gulls.

After all this, the Godwits flew past me, moving further upshore, closer to the main road.  It was starting to get dark by this time and the rain was starting again.  Scoping the BHGs for one last time, I finally spotted a 'Darvic-ring'.  It was so far out, I could not read the code.  I took out the camera and took a couple of photos at full 83x zoom.

Checking on these when I returned home, the code on an Orange 'Darvic Ring' was just visible and read   2ABC .  This is another of Adam McClure's Study birds and a new sighting for me.  I have reported it to Adam and I'm now waiting for it's details.    

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABC   -  Edgewater Road, Dargan,  Belfast  (20 Feb 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABC   -  Edgewater Road, Dargan, Belfast  (20 Feb 2016)


      Sunday 21st February 2016       
After completing today's four hour visit to Antrim Marina, I decided to check on the gulls at the car park of KFC in Antrim, then proceed to Glynn for another visit, with Sandy Bay in Larne, my final destination for the day.

The gulls at KFC are mentioned above.  At Glynn, the tide was well out, which meant the birds were also well out.  Scoping the gulls and waders, I spotted a Great Black-backed Gull with a 'metal-ring'.  These are of no use to me, due to the distances involved.

A group of 15 Brent Geese were spotted feeding and on scoping these, two were colour-ringed.  Checking on the photos when I returned home, these were two of the three geese that I spotted here on the 4th February past.

The first goose had a 'Blue ring' on the right leg with the letter '  K ' and a 'Yellow ring' on it's left leg with the letter ' X '.  The second goose just had the one colour-ring on its left leg, which was Blue with the code ' 2C '.  Both birds were caught and ringed in Iceland on the 18th May 2015.

Brent Geese  -    K   X   and    2C   -  Glynn  (21 Feb 2016)

Brent Geese  -    K   X   and    2C   -  Glynn  (21 Feb 2016)

Leaving Glynn, I went to Sandy Bay in Larne.  My main aim here, was to check to see if my 'metal-ringed' Oystercatcher from the Orkney Islands in Scotland, was still present.  There was no sign of it among the few birds present.  However, I did re-sight another one of Adam's Study Gulls -   2ABH .

My only previous sighting of this Black-headed Gull was on the 5th December 2015, here at Sandy Bay.  Adam caught and ringed this adult male on the 21st January 2013 in the same area.  

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABH   -  Sandy Bay, Larne  (21 Feb 2016)


Saturday, 20 February 2016


      The Chase For a Common Gull       
On Sunday past, while undertaking my four-hour weekly visit to Antrim Marina, to record ringed birds, a Common Gull bearing a foreign ring, made two brief appearances.  On the first occasion, it flew off within seconds of landing on the rails of the concrete jetty and just as I was switching my camera on.  When it arrived back for a second time, it was obscured by all of the Black-headed Gulls present.

Peering through all of the legs, I took a couple of photos of the Common Gull's ring, before it took off again and did not re-appear by the time I departed at 1pm.  On checking the photos at home, I had a partial number   S*****28 .  I had a feeling, that the ring was similar to those of Black-headed Gulls ringed in Finland, which start with the letters 'ST' followed by 6 numbers.

I knew that this would be a great sighting if I could complete the whole ring number.  As this Common Gull, may have been just passing through, I was hoping it would hang around the area for a few days, before moving on.  I was not able to return the next day, but made three, three-hour long visits on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Thursday, actually turned out to be the best day this winter for the maximum Common Gull numbers, counted at any one time.  A total of 8 adult and three juvenile/1st winter birds were counted.  The Scottish ringed female,   EY64036 , was spotted on Wednesday and Thursday.  Unfortuanetly, there was no sign of the foreign gull.  I now think I've missed out and I will not be back until Sunday morning.    
The Ring of the Common Gull  -     S*****28  

Although, I was after the Common Gull at the Marina, it did not stop me from my usual task of spotting rings.  During this winter, I have recorded 29 'Darvic-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.  The 'Orange-Darvics' belong to Adam McClure and his Northern Ireland BHG Study.  The 'White-Darvic', belongs to the Polish Ringing Group, but fitted to a Black-headed Gull which originated in Lithuania, ringed as a chick in 2006.

Over the three days, Tuesday to Thursday, I re-sighted 26 out of the 29 BHGs, Thursday being the best day, when 25 were counted, 21 on Tuesday, 22 on Wednesday.

Black-headed Gulls Sighted over the Three Days.
 2AAA   2AAB   2AAC   2AAD   2AAF   2AAH   2AAK   2AAN   2AAP 

Black-headed Gulls not Sighted at All
 2ADV   2AFD   2BRD 

The fifth of the 25 Black-headed Gulls recorded on Thursday, gave me a bit of a shock.  Having not been recorded since the 6th December 2015, I thought we had 'lost'   2AAF  and I had 'wrote' it off.  This gull is one of those that are ever present and rarely misses a week without being re-sighted.  I watched it closely throughout my visit and it appears to be in good health.  Whatever the reason for it's absence, I'm glad to see it back again.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAF   -  Antrim Marina  (18 Feb 2016)

Of the two foreign 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, the Swedish   6438391  was spotted on Tuesday and Wednesday and the Icelandic   571487  was seen on Thursday.    EY13763   was the only one of the two 'metal-ringed' youngsters to be recorded, on both Wednesday and Thursday.

Black-headed Gulls  -  Sweden   6438391   &  Iceland   571487   -  Antrim Marina

Wednesday also saw the largest number of Mute Swans to be present at the Marina this winter.  A total of 31 were counted and included the 3 cygnets.  Four of these Mute Swans were spotted with 'metal-rings' -   W34156 ,   W34157 ,   W34158  and   Z91982  .

On Sunday past, I reported on a new drake Mallard that had eluded me, which was 'metal-ringed'.  I had finally succeeded in obtaining the ring number   5MN 1156 .  On Tuesday, I spotted two drake's with 'metals'.  After taking photos of the rings, I had recorded   5MN 1156  again and also had another new number -   5MN 1160 .  These are the 3rd and 4th drakes that I have recorded this winter, which were released in June 2016, by Gun Clubs in County Monaghan, in the Republic of Ireland.

I will have to get in contact with the secretary, Dan Curly to give him updates on these ducks.  The female   5MN 1207  was also recorded on all three days that I visited the Marina.

Rings of Drake Mallards  -    5MN 1156   &    5MN 1160   -  Antrim Marina  (16 Feb 2016)

Female Mallard  -    5MN 1207   -  Antrim Marina  (18 Feb 2016)

On each day, after completing my visit to Antrim Marina, I drove across town to the car park at Kentucky Fried Chicken, to check on Black-headed Gulls -   JK35  from Norway and   2ADD  from Adam's NI BHG Study.sdss

Both gulls were present on all three visits (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday).  However, on Tuesday, a 3rd Black-headed Gull with a 'metal-ring', was also spotted.  I grabbed the camera and proceeded to take numerous photos of the gull and it's ring.  After a few minutes, this gull took off on it's own flying northwards.

Returning home and looking through the photos, I ended up with another partial number.  This gull was from Iceland and I was missing the second and third digits, ending up with -   5**556 .  I was hoping this gull would be present on Wednesday's and Thursday's visits to complete the number, but it was not about.

This is the fourth 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull from Iceland that I have recorded this winter.  With one at Antrim Marina, the other two are at Ballycastle Harbour and Victoria Park in Belfast.

Despite not re-sighting the Common Gull from Finland and just missing out on a Black-headed Gull from Iceland, I still recorded over 100 ring sightings over the three days - which was not bad.

Black-headed Gulls  -  Norway   JK35   &    2ADD   -  KFC, Antrim  (16 Feb 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland   5**556   -  KFC, Antrim  (16 Feb 2016)


      Ringing Details Received       

Common Gull  -     2ACA  
On the 23rd January 2016, I visited Millisle on the east coast of County Down in my search for rings and I spotted two 'Darvic-ringed' Common Gulls -   2ACA  and   2ABF .  Although I knew they were from Shane Wolsey's colour-ringing project on the nearby Copeland Islands, I reported both gulls to the British Trust for Ornithology.

The ringing details for   2ACA   have arrived, but I am still waiting for the one of   2ABF .  For some reason, ringing info on Shane's gulls seems to take a while to obtain.  I gave up contacting Shane direct, as reply's took ages to be sent and in the case of another sighting, I received no reply at all.

   2ACA   was at least two years of age, when it was caught and ringed on the 23rd May 2010 on Big Copeland Island, which lies just 8km to the north from Millisle.  My sighting of this gull was made 5 years, 8 months and 9 days, since being ringed.

Common Gull  -    2ACA  

Common Gull  -     EX97861  
I spotted this gull just last Saturday (13th February), at Millisle in County Down.  Being one of five 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls to be observed at the same time, I was able to single this one out for photos of the ring, as it was the only one of the five to be ringed on it's left leg.  Having successfully pieced together the number, I reported it to the BTO.

The ringing details arrived back a lot quicker for this gull.  It was also ringed on the nearby Copeland Islands on the 22nd June 2014.  Having been ringed as a chick, my sighting came 1 year, 7 months and 22 days, since being ringed.

Common Gull  -     EX97861 

Black-headed Gull  -     2E64  
Also, while at Millisle last Saturday, I spotted my first ringed Black-headed Gulls there.  The first of these was 'metal-ringed' and it flew off before I could obtain it's full ring number -   EG41*** .  The second gull presented no problems.  Being 'Darvic-ringed', within moments, I had taken a number of photos and recorded the code -    2E64 .

I knew this gull was from Scotland, as I had previously recorded another similar ring on Boxing Day in Coleraine -   2E18 .  As I had suspected, both of these gulls were ringed on the same day at the same colony at Elvanfoot in South Lanarkshire.  Iain Livingstone, secretary of the Clyde Ringing Group, replied to my email, saying that it was ringed as a chick on the 24th June 2014 and this was it's first re-sighting.

The distance from the Elvanfoot area to Millisle is roughly 150km / 93 miles in a south-west direction and came 1 year, 7 months and 20 days, after being ringed.  My thanks go once again go to Iain for the ringing details.    

Black-headed Gull  -    2E64   -  Millsle  (13 Feb 2016)