Sunday, 20 March 2016

Most Gulls Away...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
Another excellent day for my visit, with calm conditions and plenty of sunshine.  51 Black-headed Gulls were counted, but maximum numbers were around the 100 mark.  The gulls, would come and go, all morning long and at times, none were present.

The only 'metal' to be seen today, was that of the Swedish BHG   6438391

With the arrival of   2ADD  last Sunday, the overall number of 'Darvics' recorded at Antrim Marina this winter, rose to 30.  Only 8 of these were sighted on today's visit.  Most gulls will now be on their way to their breeding grounds.

As White T35J, was absent, I reckon, that she is now on her way back to Lithuania.  My last sighting of her last spring, was on the 15th March and in 2014, it was the 16th February.

  2ADD  was not re-sighted today, but he's probably out on the 'Torpedo Platform' courting and selecting a nest-site.  Next Sunday, sees the conclusion of my third winter of weekly Sunday morning visits.  Over the summer months, I will make random vists to the Marina, as I want to identify all of the resident BHGs.

My fourth winter of  'Ring Watching' will commence on the first Sunday of August.  I will then be in place, to record the arrival dates of the gulls, as they return for another winter.

After finishing at the Marina, I drove to the local KFC outlet, just in case   2ADD  was there, but he wasn't.  Also absent was the Norwegian   JK35 .  I would presume, this one is on it's way back to Norway. 

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2ABK   2AAT   2ACV   2ADJ   2ABS   2AAB   2AAF   2BRA 

Today's Absentees
 T35J   2AAP   2AAK   2AAA   2AAH   2AAC   2ABN   2AAD   2ABA   2AAN   2ABL 

      Other Birds At Antrim Marina       
As with the Black-headed Gulls, Common gull numbers were also low today, with only two adults and two 1st winter birds seen.  Late on in the morning, a smaller adult arrived for a few minutes, but never landed anywhere.  This might have been the female 'metal-ringed' bird from Scotland.

It was around 10.30, when the Herring Gull arrived from the direction of Antrim Town, but even these two, were just making short visits.  A Juvenile Herring Gull, made a brief appearance at 11.40.

Mute Swan numbers on the other hand were good.  With 7 adults and 2 cygnets present when I arrived this morning, numbers slowly built up to 21 adults and two cygnets by 12.20.  A further two cygnets appeared mid-morning, but only stayed for a short time, before swimming back out onto the Lough.  No rings were noted, as only 6 un-ringed birds exited the river.

Only 7 Mallard were counted when I arrived, with numbers quickly building up to around the 40 mark.  As it was such a nice day, folk arrived in good numbers from early on to feed the birds.  It was not long before the birds were 'fed out', with quite a lot of bread, just lying about.  Many of the ducks departed again, with only around 20 when I left the Marina at 1pm.  None of the 'metal-ringed' Mallards were spotted today.

8 Jackdaws, 2 Hooded Crows, 1 Rook and 1 Magpie, were the only larger species noted.  The Magpie's feet and beak areas, were covered in mud.  It's obviously been collecting this to line the cup of the nest somewhere and had taken time out to grab a quick bite.

2 pairs of Chaffinches, 1 pair of Pied Wagtails and a single Grey Wagtail, made up the smaller species.


      Ringing Details Received       

Common Gull  -    EX38230  
I recorded this gull on the 5th March 2016, at Millisle in County Down.  At the time of my visit, there were 5 Common Gulls which had 'metal-rings'.  I singled out this one, being easily identified, as it had an injured or broken ankle.  With the gulls taking flight and landing again, I needed to be sure, I was taking photos of the correct bird's ring.

  EX38230  was ringed as a chick on the 2nd June 2010, on the Copeland Islands, 8kms / 5 miles to the north.  Since being ringed, 5 years, 9 months and 3 days have elapsed until my sighting.  As with all BTO recoveries, I have no idea whether this gull has ever been sighted in the past.


Black-headed Gull  -    EX97264  
I spotted this BHG on the seafront at Donaghadee on the 5th March 2016.  Although I did not realise at the time, I thought I had lured two 'metal-ringed' BHGs with bread.  Taking photos of their rings, I would take head shots first, as one had a darker head than the other.  But I did not realise until looking through the photos at home, two gulls had darker heads.

I ended up with partial numbers for both birds, but luckily, one was fitted with an upside-down ring, so I could tell which was which.    EX97264  however, was the gull with the lighter head and I was able to piece the whole ring number together.

It was ringed as a chick on the 19th June 2013, on Mew Island, a small island lying just off the coast of Big Copeland Island.  Mew is situated just 6km / 4 miles to the NNE of Donaghadee.


      Wednesday 16th March 2016       
I drove down to the coastal villages of Glenarm, Carnlough and Waterfoot.  There were very few gulls around Glenarm.  Only around a dozen of Black-headed Gulls were present, though there were a few more Herring Gulls about, mostly adults.  I had a quick look in and aound the harbour for Black Guillemots, but none have arrived back.

At Carnlough Bay, very few BHGs were about.  A group of around 30 Common Gulls were resting on the beach.  Scoping these, two had rings.  One with a 'metal-ring', was too far away to read, but may well be the same gull that I have seen here on numerous occasions.  The second gull had a Blue 'Darvic-ring'.

Scoping for the code, it was   2HTX .  This is now my second sighting of this gull.  My initial sighting was on the 23rd September 2015 on the same beach.  Although, I have checked the beach several times, it was always absent until today.

  2HTX  was ringed as a chick on the 2nd June 2011, on the Copeland Islands in County Down.  It was ringed by Shane Wolsey, who is carrying out a colour-ringing project of Common Gulls on the island.  My sighting last September was the first record of the gull, since being ringed.  The Copelands are situated 45kms / 28 miles to the south-east of Carnlough.

Six Juvenile/1st Winter Great Black-backed Gulls, along with one adult, were at the mouth of the Glencloy River, also 22 Brent Geese.  Scoping these, no rings were spotted, as was the case of a few Herring Gulls and Oystercatchers scattered along the beach.

At Waterfoot, there was just a single pair of Herring Gulls and one Black-headed Gull.

Common Gull  -    2HTX   -  Carnlough Beach  (16 Mar 2016)


      Saturday 19th March 2016       
When I got up this morning, I was undecided where to go and what to do.  The tides on the coast were not really in my favour and would have been too low for searching for rings, especially 'metals'.  In the end, I decided to drive up to Lough Foyle and see if I could find any Brent Geese.

Going to Ballykelly first, there were none to be seen, so I drove round to the Roe Estuary to have a go.  The tide was still well out, and gulls and waders were plentiful, but too far out as well.  I did not dare walk out, as I knew the tide would be on the turn and it may have been slightly dangerous, to attempt the walk.  I just decided to wait and see what happens.

After a while, I spotted a large group of Brents in the air and saw them dropping towards the ground again.  They had been feeding in the fields behind the tide bank, hence me not seeing them.

Reaching the top of the bank, I could see in the region of 300 of these birds eating away on the grass.  Moving closer and scoping them, I quickly spotted several 'colour-ringed' birds.

Moving closer again, I settled down and started taking photos, whenever I could clearly see rings.  Back at home, I trawled through 261 photos, eventually obtaining the codes of 13 geese and partial codes for another two.  3 of these geese, were re-sightings of birds I spotted at Ballykelly on the 25th February 2016, while in the area for a hospital appointment.

I emailed Graham McElwaine of the Irish Brent Goose Research Group, informing him of my findings and attaching photos.  One of the geese, was ringed differently from the others and for a couple of birds the codes were a bit 'iffy', but Graham verified all the sightings and subsequently sent files for them.

The problem with Brent Geese, is that they are large and carry large 'leg-rings', therefore attracting more people looking for these, rather than trying to get gulls.  This presents a problem for me, as some geese have files several pages long, due to the number of re-sightings.  I just don't have the time at present to analyse them, so have opted to add the photos along with the ringing date and site as the caption.

The est.300 Brent Geese in a Field Beside the Roe Estuary

  H   2    -   Ringed on the 19th May 2015 at Jörfavegur, Álftanes, SW Iceland
My sightings on the 25th February and today are the first records for this goose

  N   V    -  Ringed on the 12th May 2015 at Jörfavegur S, Álftanes, SW Iceland 

  S   V    -  Ringed on the 12th May 2015 at Jörfavegur S, Álftanes, SW Iceland

   over     X   -  Ringed on the 13th January 2012 at Nairn, Moray Firth, Scotland

  U   U   -  Ringed on the 15th May 2006 at K.kot, Álftanes, SW Iceland

  R   L   -  Ringed on the 15th May 2006 at K.kot, Álftanes, SW Iceland

White 2    T   -  Ringed on the 18th May 2014 at Golfvöllur, Seltjarnarnes, Iceland

White 4 White I  -  Ringed on the 14th February 2008 at Enniscrone, Co. Sligo, Ireland

White B    6   -  Ringed on the 18th May 2014 at Golfvöllur, Seltjarnarnes, Iceland

White C    3   -  Ringed on the 18th May 2014 at Golfvöllur, Seltjarnarnes, Iceland

White C    7   -  Ringed on the 18th May 2014 at Golfvöllur, Seltjarnarnes, Iceland

White P White H  -  Ringed on the 16th October 2007 at Ballyreagh, Co. Down, N. Ireland

White T    U   -  Ringed on the 26th March 2009 at Castlemaine, Co. Kerry, Ireland


      Raven Nests       
Over the next couple of months, I will be searching for and monitoring Raven and Raptor nests, mostly in County Antrim.  I shall be trying to obtain counts of the number of young fledged from as many sites as possible.  Raven sites will be named, but many raptor sites will be kept confidential.  I will follow a few selected nests of Birds of Prey for this Blog, but they shall be identified as site 1, site 2, etc. for each species.
Carnlough Quarry
Although, not a working quarry now, it is very popular with the locals out for a stroll.  On Wednesday 16th March, I checked the quarry and located this year's nest on a section of the cliff face, which they have never nested on in the past.  During the winter, there was a sizeable rock-fall close to their normal nest-site, which has probably put them off from using that section of the cliff.

The nest looks as if it has been completed, but the Ravens do not seem to be incubating eggs at the moment.  Incubation, usually begins when the full clutch is laid, with 5 to 7 eggs being the normal clutch-size.

The Location of the Raven Nest

Zooming In  (16 Mar 2016)

Colliery Bay, Ballycastle
Lying just to the east of the town of Ballycastle, the natural cliff at Colliery Bay overlooks the sea.  Over the years, the Ravens have used numerous ledges to nest on, but this year's nest is on a ledge I've never had them on before.

I took the photos from a well used footpath and while I was initially scoping the nest, the sitting bird actually stood up and peered out before settling down again.  Incubation is obviously well underway here.
The Nest Site at Colliery Bay, Ballycastle

The Nest  -  Colliery Bay, Ballycastle

Tardree Quarry, Antrim
Situated a short distance away from Antrim Town, this disused quarry has been used by Ravens for several years.  This year, they have nested on their favourite ledge.  During the previous two years, they nested on a lower section of the quarry face, with the nest being built on a dodgy looking ledge and always looking as if it were about to collapse.

Despite this, they managed to fledge their youngsters without mishap.  The nest-ledge they are on now, has formerly been used by Peregrine Falcons and Kestrels.  The photos are not perfectly clear, as the cliff face was shadowed by the sun behind.

Location of the Raven Nest  -  Tardree Quarry

Raven Nest  -  Tardree Quarry  (20 Mar 2016)

Clinty Quarry, Ballymena
This Raven site is just a few minutes drive from my house.  Clinty is a very busy working quarry.  Over the years, the cliff faces have been quarried and now covers a large area.  Credit to the owners, as they have left the rock face that the Ravens nest on, intact.  It now stands like an island in the centre of the quarry.

This year, the Ravens are using their favoured nest-ledge, which has an overhang of rock above.  However, the nest is prone to collapse, as it sits on a precarious bit of rock.  When I arrived, an adult flew off the nest, alarm calling, indicating incubation of eggs.  Fingers crossed, the nest stays in place until the young fledge.

Raven Nest  - Clinty Quarry, Ballymena  -  (20 Mar 2016)


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