Sunday, 7 February 2016

Spring Approaches...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
Heather and I, arrived to a quite blustery Antrim Marina this morning.  Practically all viewing was carried out from the car, as the wind was far too strong for scoping.  Being the only car, parked in the front car park, the gulls stood all around us, which enabled easy viewing.  Around 100 BHGs were present when we arrived, with maximum numbers reaching around 180 shortly before we departed.

24 out of the 29 'Darvic-rung' gulls were recorded today.  The continued absense of   2AAF , still leads me to think that we have 'lost' this one.  It is now 9 weeks since it was last recorded here and was one of those gulls, that you'd practically would fall over each week, due to it's confiding nature.

At times, we hand feed the gulls with bread from the car window.  Some of the ringed and un-ringed BHGs, would nearly come through the window to get the bread - they are so used to being fed this way.  One of these is   2AAB , whose head has now turned quite dark.

Many of the gulls are showing darkened heads, showing that spring is upon us and the forthcoming breeding season.  A Black-headed Gull, that I have failed to mention about this winter is 'One-Leg'.  Having arrived back at the Marina back in September, I have regularly hand fed this gull every week.

This is the third winter that I have done this, as 'she' has an awful time trying to get food when folk feed the ducks.  It would be great if she was fitted with a colour-ring and we might then know where she goes to in the summer.

Both of the foreign 'metal-ringed' BHGs were spotted today, the Swedish   6438391  at 11.05 and the Icelandic   571487  at midday.  Only one of the two 'metal-ringed' youngsters was spotted -   EY13763  at 09.44  

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2BRA   2AAP   2AAA   2AAD   2AAH   2ACV   2AAR   2ABL 

Today's Absentees
 T35J   2AAF   2AAN   2ADV   2BRD 

Black-headed Gull  -  Sweden    6438391   -  Antrim Marina  (07 Feb 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAB   -  Antrim Marina  (07 Feb 2016)

      Other Birds At Antrim Marina       
3 first winter/juvenile Common Gulls, along with 3 adults, were the maximum to be spotted at any one time.  The number of these gulls to visit the Marina this winter, has been quite poor as compared to last winter.  With spring approaching, the overall numbers are unlikely to get higher.  There still is no sign of the Scottish-ringed female.  Our usual pair of Herring Gulls were present all morning.

Mallard numbers were well up this week, with around 50 birds present at all times.  Two 'metal-ringed' birds were seen this morning.  The female   5MN 1207  was recorded at 09.50, having not been seen here since the 3rd January.  Being spotted on a number of occasions, I failed to obtain the ring number of a drake, that would only exit the water for a few moments at a time.  It's behaviour matches that of a suspected 'new-ring', which I saw a couple of weeks ago.

Only a total of 13 Mute Swans and our normal cygnet were seen today.  Only two 'metal-rings' were noted -   Z91982  and   W34158 .

A young Cormorant arrived at 09.47, perched on one of the mooring posts and started to preen itself.  It was soon off again, as people arrived.

2 Hooded Crows and a dozen Jackdaws were the only larger species to be seen, while a few Pied Wagtails and Chaffinches represented the only smaller species.


      Thursday 4th February 2016       
Today, with the weather being calmer and milder, I decided to visit Glynn and Whitehead first, then back-track to visit Sandy Bay in Larne and then onto the villages of Glenarm and Carnlough, all on the east coast of County Antrim.

Scoping over Larne Lough from the platform of the railway station at Glynn, there were small groups of gulls, various species of waders and a group of Brent Geese.

I concentrated on the geese first and made a count of 48 birds in all.  Three of these were colour-ringed.  Although, they were fairly distant from me, I started taking lots of photos to see if I could capture the codes on the rings.

I was successful with these and later reported all three, plus another Brent Goose at Carnlough to Graham McElwaine of the Irish Brent Goose Research Group.  When I arrived home from work on Thursday night, Graham had replied with the files for all four geese.

After scoping the gulls and waders, a 'metal-ringed' Common Gull was spotted, but it was too far away to even attempt to get the number.

A Partial Zoom into some of the 48 Brent Geese at Glynn  (04 Feb 2016)

Brent Goose - Blue '2C'
Ringed as an adult on the 18th May 2015 in the Alftanes area of south-west Iceland.  Before today's re-sighting, it was spotted on three occasions at Strangford Lough (October 2015 (1) and November 2015 (2).

Apparently, Blue '2C' was fitted with a special coded ring from the other geese, as it had once suffered from a broken right leg and it was decided not to place any rings on that leg at all.

Brent Goose  -    2C   -  Glynn  (04 Feb 2016)

Brent Goose - White '9', Blue '4'
Ringed as an adult male on the 16th May 2001, also in the Alftanes area of south-west Iceland.  This goose has a long history of re-sightings.  Often being recorded in Strangford Lough and occasionally Larne Lough during the winter, it has been recorded back in Iceland just as often, in early spring/summer.  At one stage, there was a large gap in re-sightings from the 29th April 2009, until 16th May 2014.

Brent Goose  -  White '9',  Blue '4'  -  Glynn  (04 Feb 2016)

Brent Goose - Blue 'K', Yellow 'X'
Captured and ringed on the same date as Blue '2C'  - 18th May 2015, presumably at the same time in Alftanes, Iceland, Blue 'K', Yellow 'X', seems to be a close associate of '2C' , as they have been recorded together on several occasions.

Before my sighting today, Blue 'K', White 'X', was recorded on Strangford Lough during September 2015 (3 times), October 2015 (once) and November 2015 (twice).

Brent Goose  -  Blue 'K',  Yellow 'X'  -  Glynn  (04 Feb 2016)

All Three Ringed Brent's caught in the same Photo  -  Glynn  -  (04 Feb 2016)

After leaving Glynn, I drove the short distance to Whitehead.  Parking at the seafront Car Park, I had to extend the tripod to it's full height to scope the gulls on the rocks a short distance away from me.

Practically straight away, I noticed a Black-headed Gull with a Green 'Darvic-ring' -   J896  .  I went back to the car to get my camera, but when I returned, the gull had flown off and I was not able to re-locate it.

Entering it's details on the Norwegian Online Ringing Site, I was able to obtain it's full history.  Ringed on the 18th April 2014 as an adult male on Lake Mosvatnet, on the outskirts of the City of Stavanger, the only three previous sightings were all from the same area.

A distance of 836kms/519 miles to Whitehead, it is the second Black-headed Gull from the Stavanger area that I have spotted recently,   JK35   at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Antrim Town, being the other.

I noticed on the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Association website on Friday morning, that fellow birdwatcher Cameron Moore, had also spotted the same gull at Whitehead on Thursday.  I returned on Saturday to see if the gull was about, when I met up with Cameron. Talking to him about the gull, he stated he had got photos and would send me one.  The gull never appeared while we were there.

Sandy Bay, Larne
My main reason for calling by Sandy Bay, was to see if the 'metal-ringed' Oystercatcher   FH84092  was still present and it was.  On the 27th December, having took photos of the ring, I had the five numbers (though the '8' looked a bit dubious) and scoped the letters 'FH'.

After consulting with Graham Prole and Adam McClure, they both suggested that I should go ahead and report the Oystercatcher to the British Trust for Ornithology.  The BTO accepted the sighting and sent me the ringing details - ringed as a chick on the 14th June 2014 at North Ronaldsay, in the Orkney Islands, Scotland.

I was able to obtain better photos of the ring on today's visit and this time 'H84' is clearly visible, which just goes to re-confirm the number.  The first letter 'F' is not so clear, but the BTO rings for Oystercatcher's are size 'F' and therefore start with that same letter.

Oystercatcher  -  London    FH84092   -  Sandy Bay, Larne  (04 Feb 2016)

Glenarm and Carnlough
Moving on from Sandy Bay, I stopped by Drains Bay on my way to Glenarm and Carnlough.  A few Oystercatchers and Black-headed Gulls were present, but no rings were spotted.  At Glenarm, there was surprisingly few Black-headed Gulls and a couple of 1st winter Herring Gulls, but again, no rings.

Normally at Carnlough Bay, there is usually a good numbers of gulls to be seen - Common, Herring, Black-headed and Great Black-backed Gulls.  On today's visit, there were not too many about and again, no rings.

Moving closer towards the village of Carnlough, I spotted a group of 26 Brent Geese.  While scoping these, I spotted one with colour-rings.  White 'K', Red 'N', was the very same goose that I recorded here on the 1st April 2015 (see here).  Since then, the goose has been re-sighted on 5 occasions before today, September 2015 (2) and October 2015 (3), all at Strangford Lough (Floodgates).

This is the very same spot, where it was caught and ringed as an adult female on the 21st October 2009).  White 'K', Red 'N', was also the very first colour-ringed Brent Goose which I recorded. 

Brent Goose  -  White 'K', Red 'N'  -  Carnlough Bay  (04 Feb 2016)


      Sunday 7th February 2016       
While on my visit to Antrim Marina today, I departed for a short time, just after 10am.  My wife is currently a patient in the nearby hospital and I nipped up to see her for a few minutes.  Leaving the hospital, I decided to call by the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet to check for gulls, on route back to the Marina.

I was delighted to see that the Norwegian BHG -   JK35 , was here.  Having first recorded it two weeks ago, this gull was not present last Sunday.

Black-headed Gull  -    JK35   -  KFC, Antrim Town  (07 Feb 2016)

After completing my weekly four-hour visit to Antrim Marina, my sister and I drove on down towards Belfast, to the sites at Whitehouse Lagoon and Whiteabbey Shoreline.

Whitehouse Lagoon
Most of the lagoon was still under water when we arrived, as the tide was slowly going out at the time.  The couple of area's that were exposed, had gulls of several species and a group of around 50 Oystercatchers on them

Scoping the Ostercatchers first, I soon spotted the one from Iceland that had a combination of colour-rings.  I initially sighted this one on the 6th September 2015, today's sighting is my 5th for this wader during this winter.  It was caught on the nest, as a breeding adult in June 2015.

Colour-ringed Oystercatcher from Iceland  -  Whitehouse Lagoon  -  (07 Feb 2016)

Scoping the gulls for rings, I spotted a Common Gull with a 'metal-ring' and soon afterwards a Herring Gull with a Yellow 'Darvic'.  The 'metal' was too far away from me to even try and get the number, while the code on the 'Darvic' was easily obtained.

Ringed as   0P:W  , this is my fourth Herring Gull with this ring series, the 3rd only having been recorded at Ballywalter, last Sunday.  I sent a text message to Adam McClure, who is the ringing co-ordinator for the Copeland Islands in County down.  Adam, duly emailed the gulls details.

  0P:W  , was ringed as an adult on Big Copeland Island on the 23rd May 2014.  It was one of the original 17 Herring Gulls to be ringed that year in a new project.  As yet, I do not know what the objectives of the project are.  The only previous sighting of this bird was on the 25th October 2015, at Knockinelder Bay, towards the southern point of the Ards peninsular.

Herring Gull  -    0P:W   -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (07 Feb 2016)

Whiteabbey Shoreline
I was here yesterday (Saturday).  After I had met Cameron at Whitehead, I checked for rings at Carrickfergus and Loughshore Park before getting to Whiteabbey, just as it was getting dark.  Up to 250 Black-headed Gulls, were starting to take off in small groups, presumably heading off to their night-time roost.

Scoping these gulls, I spotted one in the distance, with a yellow Darvic.  Being too far away to get the code, the BHG flew off before I could get closer.  If I had not spent so long at Whitehead, I would have got the code.

I tried again this afternoon, but with only 50 BHGs present, there was no sign of the the Darvic.  By now, the rain was falling quite heavily and the light had faded, so we decided to call it a day.

Walking back towards the car, I did get a bonus, with the sighting of an Iceland Gull - pity it wasn't ringed!

Iceland Gull  -  Whiteabbey Shoreline  -  (07 Feb 2016)


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