|Today's Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina|
Today's visit to Antrim Marina marks the end of my third winter 'Ring Watching'. Every Sunday morning, from the first Sunday in August until today, I have been recording 'ringed-gulls' in order to understand their movements and aid Adam McClure with his Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study.
Surveying the gulls each Sunday from 9am until 1pm, I gain a rough idea of their arrival and departure dates. As the winter's pass, I am slowly building up profiles for each gull. They are creatures of habit and have their favourite wintering and breeding sites, returning faithfully to each.
Since I began 'Ring Watching at Antrim Marina', I have recorded 36 'Darvic-rung' (colour-ringed) BHGs by the completion of the winter of 2014/15 (the 2nd season). Of these 36, 34 gulls are from Adam's Study (Orange-Darvic's), 1 gull (White T35J) from Lithuania, winters each year and the final gull (White 2APT) was recorded passing through.
At the start of this, my third winter, 3 of the 36 gulls have been classed as dead, due to not being sighted. 2BAS and 2ADA , were both juveniles, disappearing during my first winter of visits and the unfortunate 2AAL was lost in January 2015 during my second winter. I now had a total of 33 Darvic's to watch out for, during this - my 3rd winter.
During this winter, there was one addition to the overall total, when Adam caught and ringed a juvenile in November 2015. I was now on the lookout for 34 gulls. With the arrival of 2ADD a couple of weeks ago, my total for the completion of the 3rd winter, finished on 30. 3 of the 4 which failed to return, were from Adam's Study.
These were 2AAJ , 2ABP and 2BRB . The 4th bird was White 2APT, which I had hoped to re-sight, having been a visitor on passage, rather than a regular visitor.
Away from the Marina, 2AAJ is the only gull to have been re-sighted anywhere else. It was spotted in the spring of 2014 and again in the spring of 2015, at Seahouses on the coast of Northumberland in England.
In addition to the 'Darvic-rung' BHG's, I was also on the lookout for four 'metal-ringed' gulls, 3 Black-headed's and 1 Common Gull, all having been re-sighted on several occasions during my previous two winters 'Ring Watching'.
571487 from Iceland, EG55380 from Northern Ireland and Common Gull EY64036 from Scotland, were all re-sighted for a third winter running, the latter being a juvenile when it first arrived. 6438391 from Sweden, first appeared last winter as a juvenile and successfully made a return, this winter.
I hope all four of these gulls make it back next winter, especially 571487 which is the oldest BHG that I have sighted so far, having been ringed as a chick in June 2003.
This winter, two 'metal-ringed' juvenile BHGs arrived and remained throughout. Although, they have not been re-sighted in the last couple of weeks, it will be interesting to see whether they return again next winter. Ringed as chicks last summer, one was from Insh Island in County Donegal, Ireland and the other came from Coquet Island, on the Northumbrian coast of England.
On today's visit, only 7 Darvic's were re-sighted, all of which I consider as being resident BHGs. They have been recorded during the breeding season in the last two summers. Over the next couple of months, I will make random weekly visits, as I want to be absolutely sure who the resident birds are.
When I arrived, only 28 BHGs were counted, rising to around 80 at maximum numbers. Birds were departing almost as quickly as they arrived, grabbing a quick bite while folk were feeding the ducks. Looking at the nearby Torpedo Platform, it was buzzing with activity, with many gulls claiming nest sites.
To my surprise, the Swedish-rung 6438391 is still present. Having spotted a foreign 'metal-ring', I took photos of the ring first, but the gull flew off before I could get a picture of the bird itself. As the head is now fully darkened, it would have been nice to compare the photo with that taken last year, while still in it's juvenile plumage.
Talking of juvenile plumage, last summer's youngsters are now starting to develop their dark heads. One bird in particular arrived with a fully darkened hood, well in adavance as compared to the other juveniles.
Black-headed Gulls Present Today
1st Winter Black-headed Gull with Dark Head - Antrim Marina (27 Mar 2016)
Black-headed Gull - 2AAB - Antrim Marina (27 Mar 2016)
Black-headed Gull - Sweden 6438391 - Antrim Marina (27 Mar 2016)
|Other Birds At Antrim Marina|
Only two adult and two juvenile/1st winter Common Gulls were seen today and no sign of the 'metal-ringed' birds from Scotland or Finland. The resident pair of Herring Gulls arrived at 11am this morning, later than usual. Two other Herring Gulls also arrived, but were quickly chased away by the resident pair. One was in near full adult plumage, the other being a youngster hatched last summer.
Mallard numbers were well up today, with around 40 birds present when I arrived, a number which remained static throughout my visit. A 'metal-ringed' drake was spotted, but all I could get of the number was 5MN **** - missing the four digits.
Mute Swan numbers rose from 8 adults and 1 cygnet, to 17 adults and 3 cygnets during the morning. Two 'metal-rings' were spotted, being W34156 and W34158 .
Mute Swan - W34158 - Antrim Marina (27 Mar 2016)
10 Jackdaws, 2 Magpies, 1 Hooded Crow and 1 Rook were the only larger species to be spotted. 2 Pairs of Chaffinches, 1 pair of Pied Wagtails and a male Grey Wagtail were the only smaller species present.
|Tuesday 22nd March 2016|
I decided to make a short visit to Glynn early this afternoon, as the tide was on it's way out at Larne Lough. Knowing gulls are now making their way back to their breeding sites, there is always a chance to spot ringed birds. Until today, I had yet to successfully record a 'Ring' at Glynn. In the past, I have spotted 'metal-ringed' gulls and colour-ringed Sandwich Terns, but they were too far out to read the numbers.
Scoping from the railway platform at Glynn, I went on to spot yellow 'Darvic's on a Common Gull and on a Black-headed Gull. Going into digital mode, my camera was able to capture the codes on both rings. Looking at these codes, I knew straight away, that the BHG 236S would have been from Eoin McGreal's Study at Lough Mask, County Mayo in the Republic of Ireland and the Common Gull 2A58 would have been ringed by the Clyde Ringing Group in Scotland.
I reported the gulls to Eoin and Iain Livingstone and they both replied giving the ringing details.
Black-headed Gull 236S was ringed as a chick at Lough Mask on the 21st June 2007. Today's sighting was the first since the gull was ringed. Eoin, went on to state, that it is unusual to get first re-sightings, so late on in the Study. As of my sighting, it is now 8 years, 9 months and 1 day, since being ringed and it is surprising that no one has spotted it before. Lough Mask is 265 km / 164 miles to the south-west of Glynn.
Once again, my thanks to Eoin for supplying the ringing details.
Black-headed Gull - 236S - Glynn, Larne Lough (22 Mar 2016)
Common Gull, 2A58 was ringed as a chick on the 7th July 2013, at Hunterston, Ayrshire, Scotland. Unlike the Black-headed Gull above, this gull has already been building up a bit of history. Last winter and again this winter, this Common Gull had been repeatedly re-sighted at Whitegate, Cork Harbour, in the Republic of Ireland.
As this gull is now of breeding age, it is probably on it's way back to Scotland to nest, stopping at Glynn to feed, before making the final leg of it's journey across the Irish Sea. Assuming, it is on it's way back to Hunterston, it only has to travel another 116 km / 72 miles. The distance from Hunterston to Whitegate, is 487 km / 302 miles.
Once again, my thanks go to Iain for the gulls details. I'm sure his Ringing Group are delighted with the number of their gulls that I have spotted during this winter.
Common Gull - 2A58 - Glynn, Larne Lough (22 Mar 2016)
|Friday 25th March 2016|
Thinking back on my visit to the Roe Estuary last Saturday, I decided to make a return visit for a couple of hours, before going to work. Previously, I successfully recorded the 'ring-codes' for 13 Brent Geese and had partials for another two. With a flock of 300+, I knew there had to be more ringed geese.
On arrival, I soon located the flock on the Myroe Levels. Unfortunately, for most of my visit, the geese were too far away to obtain ring-codes. At one stage, a group came within camera range, so I started taking photos. Looking through these, I managed to get the codes for 7 geese. 5 were re-sightings of birds spotted last Saturday and the other two were new sightings for me.
As the Brent Geese are colour-ringed on both legs, the codes are read on the right leg first, followed by the left leg. The two new sightings were :- 'White C' N and 'White H' S . The five re-sightings were :- 'White C' 3 , U U , S V , 'White T' U and 'White B' 6 .
I emailed Graham McElwaine of the Irish Brent Goose Research Group and after finishing work, I discovered he had replied enclosing the files for the two geese. As stated before, I do not have time to analyse the files. Some of the geese, have lengthy files, having been re-sighted many times over the years. Again, I have just added the ringing date and site, as the caption to the photos.
My thanks again to Graham for the files for these geese.
'White C' N - Ringed on the 19th May 2009 at Bakki, Grunnafjörður, W. Iceland
'White H' S - Ringed on the 23rd May 2009 at Knarrarnesviti, Vatnsleysustr., SW Iceland
|Saturday 26th March 2016|
As the weather forcast for today was not great, I decided not to go after gulls on the coast, but instead, make one further visit to the Roe Estuary - at least for a few weeks. As it would be high tide in the early afternoon, I knew the Brent Geese would be on the fields at the Myroe Levels.
On arrival, I discovered an estimated 350 to 400 Brent Geese, were actually further away than they were yesterday. Scoping them, most were actually lying down on the grass. If I was to try and walk towards them, I would only spook them, so the waiting game began.
Nearly an hour later, it was a passing train that made the geese rise, but they flew past my car and out towards the estuary. Eventually, the came back in, only to land again out of camera range. This to-ing and fro-ing went on all afternoon long. Now and again, a few birds got close enough for photos of their rings, but several rings were not read, being too far away.
By 5pm, the wind strength had risen and there was frequent heavy showers. Due to the heavy cloud, the light had faded and was not ideal for taking any more photos - I headed for home.
Checking my pictures, I discovered two new rings, along with eight re-sightings. The two new geese, appear to be a pair. The male had been pursuing a female all afternoon and it took a while to get photos of their rings. The male was unusual, as he only had a colour-ring on his left leg ( B ) and just a 'metal-ring' on his right leg.
Nearly all geese ringed by the Irish Brent Goose Research Group, are colour-ringed on both legs. I looked at the cr-birding website, to check if any projects are using single colour-coded rings, that were yellow with just the one letter, but could not find anything. I think, this goose was colour-ringed on both legs and one of these has fallen off. The female was ringed :- 'White Z' C .
The eight re-sightings, included three from yestersday's visit, being 'White C' 3 , U U and S V . The other five were sighted last Saturday :- 'White 4' 'White I', 'White 2' T , 'White C' 7 , X L and 'White P' 'White H'.
I've emailed Graham about my two new sightings and am now waiting for his reply.
I've emailed Graham about my two new sightings and am now waiting for his reply.
The Pair of Brent Geese - Female 'White Z' C , Male (metal only) B
|Sunday 27th March 2016|
After completing today's visit to Antrim Marina, I drove to the local KFC outlet, to look for the Norwegian BHG JK35 . Having last seen it on the 13th March, it was not present today and I reckon this gull is now on it's way back to Norway. I will be able to check the online Norwegian Ringing Website over the summer for any further sightings of this gull.
After stopping at KFC, I then drove to Kinnego Marina at the southern end of Lough Neagh. Having previously spotted five of Adam's Study birds here, the only one sighted today was 2BPS . Very few Black-headed Gulls were to be seen and no Common Gulls were present. 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were watching out for any easy meal.
Black-headed Gull - 2BPS - Kinnego Marina (27 Mar 2016)
My final stop of the afternoon was to the RSPB's Reserve on the Belfast Harbour Estate. I was specifically looking for 2ASF on one of the nesting platforms. Having first spotted this gull here on the 13th March, I was keen to know whether it is actually nesting here. Despite scoping the platform for a long period of time from the private viewing room in 'Hide One', there was no sign of 2ASF .
I did however, spot a Black-headed Gull, which was already sitting on a nest. Could it have laid eggs already? If it has, this would be very early indeed.
Black-headed Gull on a Nest - Belfast Harbour Reserve (27 Mar 2016)
I also spotted three Mediterranean Gulls on the same platform. Two of these have paired up and looking likely to breed here. If they do, then I think this will be a first for the reserve. This species is still quite rare in Northern Ireland. The only two islands, that I know of where these gulls nest on at present, are at Strangford Lough in County Down and Larne Lough, here in County Antrim.
During the summer, I will be returning here on the lookout for ringed Terns, so will keep an eye out on what's happening.
Mediterranean Gull - Belfast Harbour Reserve (27 Mar 2016)
Having decided it was time to head home, I then discovered that the door to the private viewing room in the hide was jammed and I could not get out. I was stuck there for about 30 minutes, when an elderly couple arrived. Having shouted out the 'key code' to them, they could not get the door open.
They walked the short distance to the RSPB's main building and informed a member of staff and soon afterwards, I gained my freedom.