Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Training in Progress...

      Latest Visits To Antrim Marina       
An effort is being made this summer to identify all of the resident Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, which belong to Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Study and ringed with 'Orange Darvics'.

Over the last week, a further two visits have been made.  My sister Heather and I, called in on Friday 27th May and spent around two and a half hours watching the gulls.  Our very first sighting was a new addition to the summer list,   2ABS .  This gull now takes the overall total to 14 birds so far.  Ten 'Darvics' were recorded altogether, the remaining nine gulls having been previously sighted.

Of slight concern, was the sighting of   2ADD , who appears to have an injured left leg.  As can be seen in the photo, he has a very bad swelling to the ankle and was hardly able to put any weight on the leg.  Hopefully, there is no serious damage done.

I received and email from Suzanne Belshaw saying she visited the Marina yesterday (31st May) and recorded 5 'Darvic-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.  All were re-sightings of gulls previously recorded, but these all count, as they not only prove which gulls are present, but also the frequency of their presence at the site.

Yesterday, I was part of a ringing party at Inch Island in County Donegal (report below) and today (1st June) visited the RSPB's Reserve at Belfast Harbour.  At both sites, it can be seen how stretched out the breeding season is for the BHGs.  Whilst a number of pairs now have fairly large chicks, many other pairs are still sitting incubating eggs.

Overall, the gulls at Belfast appear slightly more advanced in their breeding season than those at Inch Island, having greater numbers of larger chicks.  In fact, one youngster at the Belfast Reserve was so large, it was actually wing-flapping, strengthening it's muscles for it's first flight.

It is therefore essential to obtain a list of the residents at Antrim Marina, before some of the other 'Study' birds start to arrive back from their breeding sites, having either failed in their breeding attempts or having seen their chicks fledge.

My thanks once again go to Suzanne for her latest sightings at the Marina.

Black- headed Gulls Recorded on the 27th May 2016 (Heather and Myself)
 2ABS   2ADJ   2ADD   2AAB   2ABL   2ABK   2AAH   2ABF   2AAC   2AAA 

Black-headed Gulls Sighted by Suzanne Belshaw on the 31st May 2016
 2AAB   2AAH   2AAV   2ABF   2ADJ 

 2AAV   2AAP   2AAA   2ADD   2AAH   2ABK   2ABL 
(2/8) (1/8) (3/8) (4/8) (4/8) (4/8) (4/8)
(2/8) (3/8) (5/8) (3/8) (1/8) (2/8) (1/8)
(Total Sightings / Total Visits)

Injured, Black-headed Gull  -    2ADD   -  Antrim Marina  (27 May 2016)

First Summer Appearance, Black-headed Gull  -    2ABS   -  Antrim Marina  (27 May 2016)

On top of a Lamppost, Black-headed Gull  -    2ABK   -  Antrim Marina  (27 May 2016)

Also spotted by my sister Heather and I during our visit was Mute Swan   W34158  and one of the drake Mallards from County Monaghan   5MN 1160 .


      On the Ringing Front       
My training as a ringer is now well underway.  I was well pleased recently, to add four young Stonechats to my totals.  The nest I discovered was on open grass and heather moorland.  I was actually looking for the nests of Meadow Pipits, when I came across the Stonechats.

In open areas, such as this, I would park the car and walk along the road listening out for the alarm calls of the pipits.  Once I come across these, I would collect the car and park close to where the alarm calls were being made and then watch for the birds going to their nests with food.

On this occasion, it was the Stonechats that alarm calling.  Watching with binoculars, it took quite a while to roughly get a 'fix' to where the nest was located.  Once I was fairly certain, I used conspicuous pieces of vegetation to guide me to where I thought the nest was.

My observations were 'dead on', as I found the nest at the base of a large tussock of grass, although the tussock was not so obvious looking from the car.  The four chicks were just about old enough and were duly ringed - a nice inclusion to my totals.

Male Stonechat  -  Kanes Hill  (28 May 2016)

Stonechat Nest-site, my car parked in the distance  -  Kanes Hill  (28 May 2016)

Stonechat Nest-site at base of Grass Tussock  -  Kanes Hill  (28 May 2016)

Young Stonechats in the nest  -  Kanes Hill  (28 May 2016)

Young Stonechat  -  Kanes Hill  (28 May 2016)

Not far from where the Stonechats were nesting was a derelict cottage.  Several pairs of Jackdaws were nesting here and a Wren was nesting on top of an old Swallows nest.  I was able to reach one of the Jackdaw nests and it contained two quite well feathered youngsters, which were also ringed. 

Jackdaw Chick  -  Kanes Hill  (28 May 2016)


      Peregrine - Site Two       
While out and about on my travels, I called by Peregrine site Two, which I was going to follow for my Blog.  I had actually visited this site once since my initial visit when the Peregrine was standing over eggs.  On this occasion, I had a feeling the nest had failed, but was not entirely convinced.  The female was present and did a bit of alarm calling, but I could not see anything at all on the nest-ledge.

During my latest visit, the nest-ledge still appeared empty.  If there had been chicks present, they would have now been clearly visible.  The female was here, but this time she made no alarm calling at all, thus confirming a failed attempt at breeding.  I now hope nothing goes wrong with the pair at Site One.  Another visit will be made in the next couple of days, as I would like to organise a date for the chicks to be ringed.  


      Inch Island, County Donegal       
On May 31st, I joined up with Ken Perry, Marina Mulligan and Inch Wildfowl Rangers Andrew Speer and Martin Burke, on a ringing trip to a small island off Inch Island in County Donegal.  Ken has been ringing Sandwich Tern chicks on the island for the past thirty-one years.  As part of my training towards my permit, Ken invited me to attend.

On our approach to the island, hundreds of gulls and terns took to the air, not at all happy with our presence.  The time available was limited, as many of these birds still had eggs in the nest and we could not be the cause of them chilling.

Although Sandwich Terns were the priority species, I ringed 43 Black-headed Gull chicks as well.  I did not keep count of the number of Sandwich Terns that I ringed, but Ken credited me with 35 out of the 180 chicks ringed in total.

Black-headed gulls were the dominate breeding species with many smaller chicks present that were not ringed.  Ken believes there are probably more gulls and terns nesting on the island than last year.  Andrew counted 57 Common Tern nests, all with eggs on another part of the island.  At least 6 pairs of Mute Swans also had eggs.

A second visit to the island is being planned for Wednesday 8th of June.  I'm hoping Adam will come along, as I think he is planning to colour-ring some of the Black-headed Gull chicks to add to his study.  This will also give me an opportunity to have a go myself and add to my ringing experience in order to obtain my own ringing permit.

My thanks go to Ken Perry for inviting me along for the training.  Although the visit was short, the experience was great.  Cannot wait now for the second visit in June.

Anxious Gulls and Terns  -  Inch Island  (31 May 2016)

Black-headed Gull Eggs & Chicks  -  Insh Island  (31 May 2016)

Sandwich Tern Eggs & Chicks  -  Inch Island  (31 May 2016)

Mute Swan Nest & Eggs  -  Inch Island  (31 May 2016)


      RSPB Belfast Harbour Reserve       
My sister and I, made a short visit to the RSPB's Belfast Harbour Reserve today (1st June).  I was interested to see how these Black-headed Gulls were progressing as compared to the ones at Inch yesterday.  As mentioned above, they appear to be slightly more advanced than those in County Donegal.

As the birds here are easily scoped from the hides, I was on the lookout for any colour-rings, but none were spotted.  Of special interest, was the two pairs of Mediterranean Gulls, both nesting on the same platform.  The pair to the left had two chicks and the second pair in the middle, had at least one chick.

Although I have not read or seen any announcements, I think this would be the first year that these 'Med' Gulls have nested here.  Good numbers of Common Terns are now nesting on the platforms as well, but no rings have been spotted on any of these either.


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