Sunday, 14 February 2016

2ADD Surprises...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
I arrived on my own this morning, as 'sis' was not feeling too well.  The weather, was much like a spring morning, being very calm and sunny, though a trifle chilly at times.

Not one Black-headed Gull was to be seen perched at the Marina.  Plenty were flying to and fro and it was not till 09.44, before the first birds decided to 'visit me'.  Around 50 to 60 gulls arrived at this time and shortly before 11.00, numbers had risen to around the 150 mark.  Around 11.30, all of the gulls departed to the Lough, though a small group of about 30 came back in at 12.50.

Out of the 29 'Darvic-ringed' BHGs recorded this winter, 20 were re-sighted on today's visit.  Of note was the Lithuanian 'T35J', which was absent during my last three visits.  It was slightly too early for this gull to be moving off to it's breeding grounds.  Over the previous two winters, the last sighting dates were on the 16th February 2014 and the 15th March 2015, so this gull could soon depart for the summer.

Talking of arrivals and departures, one of Adam's Study gulls   2ADD  is due back.  I was saying this to my sister last Sunday on our way up to the Marina.  This gull winters at the coastal town of Carrickfergus a few miles to the east and breeds here on Lough Neagh.  I looked for this gull in Carrick recently, but failed to locate it.  Although it has not been seen here as yet, I did spot it later this afternoon (see Sunday's Report Below).

One of the two 'metal-ringed' juvenile/1st winter BHGs was spotted early on this morning, but as I was walking to scope it, all the gulls flew off.  For the rest of my visit, neither juvenile was spotted.  Also missing today were the two foreign-ringed BHGs from Sweden and Iceland. 

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2AAT   2AAD   2AAR   2AAP   T35J   2ACV   2ABA   2ABN   2AAK   2ANS 

Today's Absentees
 2AAF   2AAN   2ABF   2AAV   2ADV   2AFD   2BRA   2BRC   2BRD 

Black-headed Gull  -  Lithuania 'T35J'  -  Antrim Marina  (14 Feb 2016)

      Other Birds At Antrim Marina       
I am starting with Common Gulls, as a new 'metal-ringed' bird appeared at 10.38 this morning.  The total number of juvenile/1st winter Common Gulls to be seen at any one time, was three.  During the last couple of weeks, there have been four juveniles counted at the same time.

As the gulls are constantly coming and going, there is no way to identify them as individuals and maximum counts are made from time to time over the course of my visit.

The maximum count of adults was four and all of them were un-ringed.  However, two 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls arrived mid-morning, therefore taking the total to six.  The second of these was the small Scottish ringed female   EY64036 , who was last seen a few weeks ago and appeared at 11.03.

At 10.38, a large, probably male 'metal-ringed' Common Gull arrived and settled on the rails of the concrete jetty.  The ring looked strange, as it appeared to be slightly taller than the British BTO rings.  On lifting the camera to take photos, it flew off.

At 11.13, it arrived back again, settling on the same rails, but this time it was obscured by Black-headed Gulls.  I could just see it's ring, by peering through all the legs of the BHGs.  This time, I managed a few photos of the ring and then all the gulls flew off.  From 11.30 until 12.50, not one gull was present at the Marina.

Those that did arrive, was a small group of around 30 Black-headed's, I departed at just after 1pm, without seeing this gull again.  It was not until I returned home and checked through today's photos, that I realised I had a foreign-ringed Common Gull - which would be a first for me.

All I had of the ring was ' S ' at the start and ' 28 ' at the end of the number.  The address on the ring was below the number and I have a suspicion that this is a Finnish ring.  Black-headed Gulls are fitted with the same size of ring and those from Finland start with the letters ' ST ' followed by six numbers.  If they use the same type rings on their Common Gulls, then today's gull would be from Finland.

I will now try to make return visits during this week to try and complete the number, as this would be a great sighting for me.

Common Gull  -  London    EY64036   -  Antrim Marina  (14 Feb 2016)

Common Gull  -  Finland   S*****28   -  Antrim Marina  (14 Feb 2014)

The adult pair of Herring Gulls arrived at 09.51 and remained until 11.30, the time all the gulls departed from the Marina.

Mallard numbers were low again today, with a head count of 26 when I arrived this morning.  While making the count, I spotted two 'metal-rings'.  The first one read was that of the female -   5MN 1207  - who has been here all winter, having been sighted on most weeks.

A few weeks back, I thought I had spotted a new 'metal-ringed' drake.  Having seen a ringed male during the last couple of weeks, it kept slipping back onto the river before I could get the number.  Today, I finally succeeded and it is a new number -   5MN 1156 .  This is my third drake Mallard to be recorded here this winter.

The previous two,   5MN 1173  and   5MN 1192 , have long since disappeared from the Marina.  I will have to get in touch with Dan Curly from the Monaghan Gun Club, it give him an update about these ducks.

The maximum number of Mallards counted was 48 at 11.45, after which time, numbers started to drop away.

Mallard  -    5MN 1156   -  Antrim Marina  (14 Feb 2016)

Mute Swan numbers were well up this week with 20 adults and 3 cygnets on my arrival.  A further three adults appeared over the morning.  Three 'metal-rings' were recorded today -   W34157 ,   W34158  and   Z91982 .  It's is nice to see that ' 57 ' is hanging about, as it only appeared once last winter that I know of.

Mute Swan  -    W34157   -  Antrim Marina  (14 Feb 2016)

Two Hooded Crows and 11 Jackdaws were the only other large birds to be spotted today, while a pair of Pied Wagtails and a pair of Chaffinches made up the smaller species.


      Saturday 13th February 2016       
Today, I decided to travel back to County Down and visit all the east coast towns and villages - Donaghadee, Millisle, Ballywalter, Portavogie and a first ever visit to Portaferry.  The large number of big gulls that I saw at the fishing village of Portavogie, has played on my mind, since my initial visit here on the 31st January.  I could not believe, that with so many birds about, no rings were spotted, hence another visit.

I was probably around two miles from Donaghadee, when I spotted a massive flock of Black-headed Gulls flying eastwards over farmland, towards the coast.  This was easily the largest number of these gulls that I have ever seen flying at one time and numbered 500 to 600 birds.

On reaching the harbour at Donaghadee, there were very few gulls to be seen.  Around a dozen Black-headed Gulls were perched on the wall of the childrens play park.  A 'metal-ring' was spotted, but the gulls flew off when a woman and 5 kids arrived.  Although, I did not get to read the ring, it may well have been the same bird that I spotted on Christmas Eve.

A few Herring Gulls were scoped, but none were ringed.  

This village is 'mega' for spotting rings.  Every time I come here, there are always plenty about and today's visit was no exception.  2 Black-headed Gulls, 8 Common Gulls and a Herring Gull were all spotted with rings.  With the exception of the Herring Gull, the others were busy feeding along the high water line on the beach.

Despite of all my visits to Millisle, today was the first time that I have spotted ringed Black-headed Gulls here.  The first to be spotted only had a 'metal-ring'.  I took a couple of photos and then it flew off and I could not locate again.

All I got of the ring was   EG41*** , missing out on the last three numbers.  I'm presuming that this would be another bird from the nearby Copeland Islands.  On Christmas Eve, I spotted a BHG at Donaghadee which was ringed   EG55718  and ringed as a chick on Copeland in 2006.  This would make today's gull even older, pity I could not obtain the whole number.

The second BHG had a 'Darvic-ring' and it only took a few moments to obtain the code and get a few photos.    2E64   would be another gull ringed by the Clyde Ringing Group in Scotland.  On Boxing Day, I recorded   2E18   in Coleraine, which was ringed as a chick in the Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire on the 24th June 2014.

Today's sighting may well have been from the same breeding colony and might have been ringed on the same date.  I have emailed Iain Livingston who is the secretary of the group and now await a reply.

Black-headed Gull  -    EG41***   -  Millisle  (13 Feb 2016)

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

The Common Gulls presented me with a bit of a dilemma.  Five out of the eight ringed birds present had 'metals', the other three had 'Darvic's.  The 'Darvics' were easily sorted - the codes obtained and photos taken.  After my last visit to this area, I had recorded my fourth partial number on Common Gulls at this site.

As the gulls were constantly on the move while feeding, often rising up and landing again to avoid the waves, I knew I would have a problem trying to obtain ring numbers.  While watching them through the binoculars, they kept getting 'mixed' up and it would be a challenge to get numbers at all with the camera.

Four of these birds were ringed on their right legs, the fifth was ringed on it's left leg.  At least I had a gull that I could now target and on sorting through the photos at home, I had successfully completed the number -   EX97861 .  I have reported this one to the British Trust for Ornithology and now await the ringing details.

As luck would have it, one of the right-ringed Common Gulls, moved away from the others, so I was able to single it out with the camera.  Checking the photos at home, I was very unfortunate not to obtain the whole ring number, missing out on the last digit -   EW3116*  - on another upside-down ring.

Today's two 'metals' were new, as none of the numbers matched the previous four partials that I have recorded here.  Millisle is turning out to be a 'hotbed' for ringed Common Gulls and I am really enjoying my visits here.

The three 'Darvic-ringed' Common Gulls were all re-sightings of birds I have recorded here on recent visits.    2ABF   and   2BBC  are from the Copeland Islands.  At the moment, I am still waiting on the ringing details of   2ABF   from the BTO, having reported the gull after my initial sighting on the 23rd January 2016.  2BBC was ringed as a chick in June 2009.

  2A60  is from Scotland, ringed as a chick in Hunterston, Ayrshire on the 7th July 2013.  While emailing Iain Livingstone about the Black-headed Gull   2E64 , I also informed him of my re-sighting of    2A60 .

Common Gull  -    EW3116*   -  Millisle  (13 Feb 2016)

Common Gull  -    EX97861   -  Millisle  (13 Feb 2016)

Common Gull  -    2ABF   -  Millisle  (13 Feb 2016)

Common Gull  -    2BBC   -  Millisle  (13 Feb 2016)

Common Gull  -    2A60   -  Millisle  (13 Feb 2016)

I made no attempt to read the full 'metal-ring' number of the Herring Gull, which was standing in his usual spot in the car park.  This large male, had an upside-down ring and I reckoned it was   GA00153  going by the part of the number I could scope '  53 '.

Between Millisle & Ballywalter
On my way from Millisle to Ballywalter, I spotted a large flock of Brent Geese in a field.  I stopped briefly, to look at these through the binoculars and take a couple of photos.  My problem here, was that I was parked on a dangerous section of the road, which was undulating and had a couple of sharp corners.

The flock easily numbered 100+ birds and there was bound to be 'rings' amongst them, but with the tall grass, I decided to move on, as it would have been very difficult to obtain codes.

Brent Geese between Millisle and Ballywalter  (13 Feb 2016)

Arriving here, I scoped a number of Herring, Black-headed and Great Black-backed Gulls, also a small number of Oystercatchers.  No rings could be seen, so I moved on to Portavogie.

On the 31st January 2016, I made my first ever visit to the small fishing village of Portavogie.  Despite the very large number of gulls present - mostly Herring Gulls, with a few Great Black-backeds and Black-headeds - no rings were spotted.  Whenever, I see large numbers such as these, I always think that there has to be a ring.

On today's visit, I was rewarded with two rings.  One was on a juvenile/1st winter Herring Gull.  This one was fitted with just a 'metal-ring' and I could not close enough to try and get photos.

The second ring was a 'Darvic' and was the prize of the day, as it was the first colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gull, that I have recorded.  Inititally perched on the roof of one of the warehouses, I took a couple of photos from a distance.  On checking these on site, I could not read the code on the 'Black' coloured-ring.

I decided to drive round to the other side of the harbour, to try and get closer.  I had only turned off the engine, when most of the gulls around the harbour took off into the air and a wild commotion of calling birds rang out.  My GBB Gull was off as well.  A couple of minutes later, a fishing boat arrived and slowly edged into the harbour.

So, this is what all the fuss was about.  As the boat past me, a small hatch opened and fish offal was thrown out.  This was the cause for so much excitement among the gulls, as they knew this was going to happen.  My problem now, was to try and re-locate my gull.  As my bird was not a full adult, it was easily spotted on the water beside the fishing boat.

I waited for ages for it to take off and when it did, it landed on the wall a short distance to the left, in front of my car.  Grabbing the camera and slowly getting out, I successfully took several photos.  Checking these, I had the code   T7VZ   (yellow characters).  I was absolutely delighted to get this.

After returning home, I checked the cr-birding site, to discover this Great Black-backed was ringed on the Isle of Man.  I have sent an email to the Manx Ringing Group and await the ringing details.    

Great Black-backed Gull  -    T7VZ   -  Portavogie  (13 Feb 2016)

Great Black-backed Gull  -    T7VZ   -  Portavogie  (13 Feb 2016)

The light was beginning to fade, as I rushed to get to Portaferry, for my first ever visit.  On arriving at the small harbour, I could see a group of about 60 Black-headed Gulls and three Sandwich Terns were standing amongst them.  Scoping these, I spotted a BHG standing on one leg which had a 'metal-ring'.

As it was now getting quite dark, I made now attempt at obtaining the number.  A quick check of the few Herring Gulls and 3 Lesser Black-backed's revealed no further rings, so I decided to call it a day.  I'll have another go sometime soon.

Driving home, I revelled in the entertaining and challenging afternoon I had gone through.  I really enjoy my visits to this bit of coast, as there seems to be plenty of rings about to look for.  It will not be long until my next visit is made to this splendid area.  


      Sunday 14th February 2016       
After completing today's visit at Antrim Marina, I decided to go to Kinnego Marina on the southern end of Lough Neagh and on my way home, call by the car park at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Antrim.

Kinnego Marina
This area was badly effected by the flooding caused by recent storms and on my last couple of visits here, none of the gulls were approachable.  Today, the water levels, though still quite high, were low enough for all the jetties to now be exposed - a favourite resting area for the gulls.

About 60 Black-headed, 6 Common and 1 Lesser Black-backed gull, were present when I arrived.  I re-sighted four of Adam's Study birds -   2BPS ,   2BPP ,   2BPN  and   2BPT   2BPP  is the Latvian 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull on which Adam fitted one of his coloured ring's to.  None of the other gulls or Mallards were ringed.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BPP   -  Kinnego Marina  (14 Feb 2016)

Kentucky Fried Chicken, Antrim Town
I called by the KFC in Antrim Town on my way home to check to see if the Norwegian Black-headed Gull   JK35   was still present and it was.  I also spotted an Orange 'Darvic' and knew this had to be one of Adam's Study birds.

To my great surprise, it was   2ADD .  This Black-headed Gull winters at Carrickfergus and breeds on Lough Neagh, here at Antrim.  I had been expecting it to arrive at the Marina any time now, as I have yet to sight it there.  I may well see him during the week, as I have a 'metal-ringed' Common Gull to sort out.  

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADD   -  KFC, Antrim Town  (14 Feb 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -    JK35   -  KFC, Antrim Town  (14 Feb 2016)


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