Sunday, 13 March 2016

At Last - 2ADD...

Before I start this week's post, I must give a big 'Thank You' for the response about the Common Gull from Finland.  I have received several emails to congratulate me on my efforts in securing the ring number of this gull.  I knew, I had something special and it has turned out to be far more than that - well worth my persistence.

How the news got around Finland so quick, I've no idea.  My Blog was 'hammered' with visitors from Finland all through Friday and there was also a good number of viewers on Saturday.  Even UK visitor numbers were higher than normal.

On reflection, could it have been possible, that the 'metal-ringed' Common Gull, which I spotted last winter was the very same bird.  I failed on two attempts to try and obtain the number (4th & 11th January 2015).  Fingers crossed, I hope to see   ST177.028  again next winter.

At around 20 years and 5 months of age, it is still short of the record under the BTO ringing scheme of 27 years, 10 months and 19 days.  Another 'metal-ringed' Common Gull which I spotted on Saturday 5th March 2016, had me wondering, could it break the record - read Groomsport (below). 

      Today's Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
What a glorious morning for my weekly four-hour visit to Antrim Marina.  It was pushing towards a summer's, rather than a spring morning.  Plenty of sunshine, temperatures well up and hardly a breeze, what more could you ask for, except ring sightings.

My overall total for 'Darvics' recorded this winter at the Marina was 29, but the total increased to 30 this morning.  At 10.33,   2ADD  finally completed his migration from his 'distant' wintering quarters at Carrickfergus, 23km / 17 miles to the east of the Marina.

Over the last seven Sunday's, I have sighted him in the car park of the KFC outlet on the opposite side of Antrim Town.  In spring last year, he arrived back on the 22nd March, so he's a week early this year.  At least, I now know where to find him, after he disappears from Carrick.

Although the maximum number of Black-headed Gulls reached a peak of around 150 by 11am, the number of 'Darvic's' to be sighted today was just 13.  Although the Lithuanian White 'T35J' was recorded today, I have a feeling that   2AAR  and   2AFD , have now departed for Poland and Latvia.

It was around four weeks ago, that I had my last sightings of the two foreign 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gulls - Sweden   6438391  and Iceland   571487 .  It had crossed my mind, that both gulls had already departed, but both appeared today.  Perhaps, this will be the last I see of them until next winter.  Being second and third on my wish-list for this winter, both will be on next winter's list.

There was no sign of either of the 'metal-ringed' juvenile/1st winter birds or that of the recent arrival - London   EG55380 .  After completing my four-hour visit, I drove to the other end of the car park to view the former torpedo platform.  It was a hive of activity, with gulls probably staking out their nesting sites.  I counted over 250 gulls present around the area, from photos which I took.

For readers who might be interested, I found an article about the torpedo platform - Click (on here)

Black-headed Gulls Sighted Today
 2AAT   2ACV   2ABS   2ABF   T35J   2AAP   2AAC 

The Absentees
 2AAK   2AAA   2ABN   2AAD   2ABK   2ABA   2AAB   2AAN   2ABL 

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADD   -  Antrim Marina  (13 Mar 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -  Sweden    6438391   -  Antrim Marina  (13 Mar 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    571487   -  Antrim Marina  (13 Mar 2016)

BHGs on the Torpedo Platform  -  (13 Mar 2016)

After completing my visit to the Marina, I went to Belfast to visit the RSPB Reserve at the Belfast Harbour Estate.  On route, I called into the KFC outlet in Antrim to see if the Norwegian BHG -   JK35  was still present.  With only 13 BHGs and two Herring Gulls standing in the car park, I spotted   JK35   within a few seconds of my arrival.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    JK35   -  KFC Car Park, Antrim  (13 Mar 2016)

      Other Birds At Antrim Marina       
Neither of the two 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls from Scotland and Finland were sighted today.  Numbers were lower than of late, with only 4 adults and 1 juvenile/1st winter birds counted at any one time.  These gulls will also be departing for their breeding grounds any time now and overall numbers were disappointingly lower, when compared to last winter.

The pair of Herring Gulls arrived from the direction of the town at 09.58 and remained throughout the remainder of my visit.

14 Mute Swans and our normal cygnet were present when I arrived this morning.  My final head-count was made at 12.20, with 26 adult and two cygnets well scattered around the area of the Marina.  Several fights started among some of the males, a sign of dominance with the oncoming breeding season.  Only the one 'metal-ring' was spotted -   W34158 .

Around 20 Mallards, increased in numbers to around 70, with only one ring spotted -   5MN 1156 .  As it was such a nice day, far too many people arrived to feed the ducks, resulting in a lot of uneaten bread floating about on the river.

6 Jackdaws, 2 Hooded Crows and 2 pairs of Chaffinches, were the only other species noted here today.


      Ringing Details Received       
I am still waiting on files and ringing recoveries for several gulls.  These should arrive this week in which case, I will post updates.  I still have not got round to looking at the files for the Brent Geese.  If I can find time, I'll post these as well.


      Saturday 12th March 2016       

Last Saturday, while visiting Groomsport to check out Cockle Island, to see if it would be possible to photograph gulls and terns for rings, I spotted a 'metal-ringed' Common Gull close to the car park.  I took a 'mountain' of photos of this gull, aiming specifically at the ring.  It always stayed at a short distance away and remained on the grass.

Once back home, I looked through the photos only to discover that I had a partial number and was missing the second and third digits.  I had   EJ7**87 , but I thought this could be quite an old ring.  Most Common Gulls which I have been recording this winter, start with the letters   EX ,   EY  or in one instance   EZ .

I decided to check the BTO's Online Ringing Reports and found a few recoveries of the   EJ  series rings.  The actual dates when these were used, were in the early to mid 80's.  I mentioned above about the oldest Common Gull recorded and I wondered, could I have a possible record breaker here.

Today, I went back to Groomsport on a mission.  Sadly, I never got my gull.  I did scope a 'metal-ringed' Common Gull actually on Cockle Island, but it never came my way.  Perhaps some time in the future, I will come across this gull again.

Another thing I noticed last Saturday, was a pair of crows, which were building a nest in the trees close to the car park.  I thought that one of these birds was a Carrion Crow.  On today's visit, I paid closer attention to this pair and it was indeed a Carrion Crow which has paired up with a Hooded Crow.

Moving on from Groomsport, I discovered that the tide was still very whigh up at Donaghadee, so I gave it a miss and carried on to Millisle.  Approaching the north end of the village, I turned down a small avenue, which led me to a area of shoreline that I've never scoped at before.

As the tide was actually on it's way out, a section of the beach had cleared below the tide-line and birds were busy feeding.  There were numerous Black-headed, Common and a few Herring Gulls.  Waders included Oystercatchers, Redshank and Turnstone and there was also two Grey Herons.  Two small groups of Brent Geese swam in off the sea.  Scoping all these, no rings were spotted.

I decided to just stay where I was for a while, as a number of gulls were resting on the rocky islets, a short distance off-shore.  This proved to be a good decision, as the gulls eventually started to arrive onto the beach.  A Yellow 'Darvic' was spotted on one of a pair of Herring Gulls.  Moments later, I had the code   1E:W  and got it just in time as the pair flew off and out of sight.

Remaining for at the beach for near another hour, no more rings were spotted and I drove on into the village.  Here, I spotted a 'Darvic-ringed' Herring Gull on a telegraph pole.  I pulled in and took some photos and soon discovered that it was   1E:W  again.  I sent an email to Adam, as this was a new bird for me and now await the birds details.

The gull would be one from a new ringing project on the nearby Copeland Islands and is the fifth individual that I have now recorded.

Parking on the south side of the village, this is the area where I have been spotting so many 'metal' and 'Darvic-ringed' Common Gulls.  Today, despite a good number of these gulls about, only one ring was present and this was a re-sighting of   2ABF .  I last saw this gull a month ago on the 13th February.  It was ringed on the nearby Copeland Islands on the 14th May 2010.

Herring Gull  -    1E:W   -  Millisle  (12 Mar 2016)

Common Gull  -    2ABF   -  Millisle  (12 Mar 2016)

When I arrived at Ballywalter, the tide was now well out and plenty of gulls were busy feeding.  This is a particularly good area for Great Black-backed Gulls and well worth watching in the event a ring or two would show up.  Some of the adults and immatures are quite confiding, allowing close approach by car, which would be good for reading 'metals'.

I was rewarded with the sighting of a GBB Gull bearing a 'Darvic' -   3CV .  On returning home, I checked the code on the cr-birding site to discover the gull was from the Republic of Ireland.  I emailed the ringer Chris Honan and fellow 'Ring Watcher' Graham Prole, concerning my new find.

Later on Saturday evening, Graham replied, giving me the ringing details.  Graham must have got in touch with Chris.    3CV   was ringed as a chick on the 6th July 2013 on Ireland's Eye, which is a large Island, just to the north of Howth Harbour in County Dublin.  Graham believes this ia a first sighting of this gull, which has travelled 132km / 82 miles NNE to get to Ballywalter.

Having never recorded a 'Darvic-ringed' Great Black-backed Gull until recently, this is now my third in a month.

While at Ballywalter, I also made my second sighting of the Herring Gull   4C:W .  I first spotted this one on the 31st January 2016 on the wall of the harbour nearby, being another from the new Copeland Island Project as mentioned above.    4C:W  was ringed as an un-sexed adult on the 6th May 2015.

Herring Gull  -    4C:W   -  Ballywalter  (12 Mar 2016)

Great Black-backed Gull  -    3CV   -  Ballywalter  (12 Mar 2016)


      Sunday 13th March 2016       
On completing on weekly visit to Antrim Marina, I decided to visit the RSPB Reserve at the Harbour Estate in Belfast.  I was checking it out as another possibility to photograph ringed Terns.  There are two nesting platforms on the Lagoon, one situated at the front of the main building, the second at the front of Hide One.

During my visit, there were plenty of Black-headed Gulls on both platforms, busy 'courting' and collecting nest materials.  While in Hide One, I spotted one of Adam's Study birds on the platform in front of me.  I tried taking photos of the 'Orange Darvic' through the perspex window.

Although the photos were still quite good in quality, the code on the ring was not as sharp as I needed it to be, but it looks to be   2ASF .  I walked back to the main building and asked for the key-code for the private viewing room in the hide.  In these rooms, it is possible to open small windows, thus allowing for clearer scoping and photographs.

After getting back to the hide, my gull had disappeared.  I waited for ages, but it did not show up again.  As it had been courting another gull, there would be a good chance of spotting it again on a later visit.  I emailed Adam, attaching copies of the photos to see what he thinks about the possibility of excepting the sighting.

My conclusion, is that both platforms are within easy reach for my camera and several visits will be made here during the summer.  It would be great to add a few Terns to my ever growing ring list.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ASF   -  RSPB Belfast Harbour Reserve  (13 Mar 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ASF   -  RSPB Belfast Harbour Reserve  (13 Mar 2016)


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