Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Pushed for time...

      Antrim Marina       
I visited Antrim Marina on the 12th May on my quest to 'nail' all the resident 'ringed' Black-headed Gulls, which are nesting in the area.  Accompanied by my sister Heather, we only re-sighted three Black-headed Gulls during this visit.  The overall total of ten birds, should increase slightly once the adults can leave their chicks unattended.

Any sightings by fellow birdwatchers, will be gratefully accepted.  Although, I am endeavouring to make at least one, possibly two, weekly visits, my available time is being stretched between 'raptor surveying' and finding nests of small species to ring chicks.

Black-headed Gulls sighted on the 12th May
 2BRA   2ADJ   2ABL 

 2AAV   2AAP   2AAA   2ADD   2AAH   2ABK   2ABL   2BRA   2AAB   2ADJ 
(1/4) (1/4) (2/4) (2/4) (2/4) (1/4) (2/4) (2/4) (1/4) (2/4)
(Total Sightings / Total Visits)

While at the Marina, we also keep an eye on the Mallards and Swans for 'metal-rings'.  The drake Mallard -   5MN 1160  - was the only one recorded today.  Two Mute Swans were spotted with 'metal-rings'.  Although I took photos of these rings, I did not look to see what the numbers were until the next day.

I had just presumed, that both would be the usual sightings, but I discovered I had recorded a new 'metal-ring' -   W32105 .  All of the previous Mute Swans at the Marina, have been ringed by Ken Perry on site.  Could my latest sighting be from somewhere else?, I hope so.  I have reported the swan to the BTO and now await it's details.

The second Mute Swan was   W34158 .

Mute Swan  -    W32105   -  Antrim Marina  (12 May 2016)

On our way to Antrim Marina, we stopped by the Tesco Warehouse on the edge of Antrim Town, to check on the possible pairing of a Mediterranean Gull to a Common Gull.  This time, there was no workmen about to disturb the gulls and they were all nicely settled.

I quickly spotted the 'Med Gull' on the same section of the roof, as on my previous visit.  The very fact that it is still here, lends to the possibility that it is paired with a Common Gull.  A few Common Gulls are sitting on their nests, lower down between the ridges of the roof.

I shall try and keep a careful watch on this odd couple, which will be quite awkward, due to the situation of where they are nesting.  Somehow it would be brilliant to prove that they are definitely a pair.

Mediterranean Gull  -  Tesco Warehouse, Antrim  (12 May 2016)


      Out and About       
On the 8th May, I had another look at the Raven nest at Moorfields Quarry.  During my last visit to this site on the 10th April, I noticed the movement of very small chicks in the nest.  Three large well feathered youngsters were counted on my latest visit.  They were very restless, constantly moving about on the nest.

Raven Nest  -  Maxwells Quarry, Moorfields  -  (08 May 2016)

I have also checked another fairly local quarry for nesting Ravens.  Robinsons quarry at Glenwhirry is roughly situated halfway between Ballymena and Larne.  Ravens have not nested in the quarry for years, but this time, on my approach to the cliff top, I was greeted by the alarm calls of a Raven.

I knew straight away, there would be a nest with chicks, which was quickly located.  Scoping the nest, three fairly large, well feathered youngsters were counted.  It's brilliant to see these birds back nesting here.  I am always baffled, as to why the quarry is not used on a regular basis, being very large and in an area of upland.

There only appears to be a single adult present with these chicks.  I presume it's the female and while it was perched on a tree close by, I tried to scope it for a ring.  Adam McClure, has ringed a number of Raven chicks in Northern Ireland over the last couple of years.  Although, I'll never get close enough to read these, it would still of interest to locate 'marked' individuals.

I was only able to view the left leg, though birds would normally be ringed on the right leg.  One thing I did notice, was that this Raven is suffering from an eye infection, possible Conjunctivitis.  The eye was weeping, which effected the feathering around it.

Raven Nest  -  Robinsons Quarry, Glenwhirry  -  (15 May 2016)

I have also been back to the small disused quarry at Ballynulto, where I found a pair of Lapwings nesting on the 10th April (read here).  On parking at the gate, the alarm calls of a Lapwing soon rang out, followed by the alarm calls of a pair of Ringed Plovers.

Although, the pair of Plovers were present on my previous visit and alarm calling, a quick look around I failed to find a nest, which would also have been on the quarry floor.  To prevent eggs from either pair chilling, I left as soon as possible.

Scoping the quarry floor from the gate, I soon spotted a young Ringed Plover close to a damp area of mud and water.  Taking a 'fix' of where it was, I left the car and went in search of the chick.  As these are very tiny, much care is needed, so as to not step on it or any possible siblings.

I was delighted after a short look around, to locate the youngster.  I then walked over to where the Lapwing had nested.  Here, there were little fragments of egg-shell in the nest, indicating these eggs had hatched successfully.  I then started looking for these chicks and just by luck, I could hear one calling from behind a mound.

Searching around this moss covered area with small pools of water, I spotted one chick lying down beside a stone and caught sight of a second chick trying to scurry up the cliff face.

Although the Ringed Plovers and the Lapwings, could both have up to four chicks running about, I decided to leave and let these birds settle down again. 

Lapwing Chicks  -  Ballynulto Quarry  -  (08 May 2016)

Ringed Plover Chick  -  Ballynulto Quarry  -  (08 May 2016)


      Ringing Details Received       
I have now received the ring details of the Mute Swan -   W32105  - which I spotted during my last visit to Antrim Marina (see above).  It was ringed on the 17th November 2011, aged at least one year plus (unsexed), at Hogganfield Loch, situated to the north-east of the city of Glasgow in Scotland.

The distance to Antrim Marina is 184 kms / 114 miles in a south-west direction and comes 4 years, 5 months and 25 days, since being ringed by the Clyde Ringing Group.


      On the Ringing Front       
Ken Perry has pencilled in the 30th May, to make a visit to Inch Island in County Donegal to ring Sandwich Tern chicks.  As part of my ring training, I will be ringing Black-headed Gull chicks, as well as Tern chicks here.  I am also hoping to ring BHG chicks with Adam McClure in early June, at sites in Counties Antrim and Down.

Also on the ringing front, later in May, through to July, I am going to arrange with Adam and Marc Ruddock, to ring some of the chicks at Raptor nests that I have located.  I recently applied for, and have received a 'Raptor Disturbance Licence', which legally allows me to disturb these birds at their nests.

I have so far, recorded a number of Buzzard nests, Merlins at four sites (including one likely nest) and a few Peregrine nests.  Over the next few weeks, I am hoping to locate Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Hen Harrier nests as well.

It has also occurred to me, that it is becoming harder to keep track of all ring sightings of the birds I have recorded.  I have created a database in spreadsheet form, to help me towards a quick look-up on each bird's history.  This will already be a mammoth task to complete, as I have to sift through sightings covering a three year period.

It will take a lot of time to get up to date, but will save much effort looking through each birds files on my computer.  Hopefully, I'll have this completed before this winter, when the gulls arrive back from their breeding sites.

I am finding available time hard to come by, with everything that I am trying to do, but will try and post updates whenever possible.  Due to this, posts would be far too lengthy, so I'll have to keep them fairly short.

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