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)


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