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)


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