Saturday, 25 June 2016

What - Six...

      Latest Visit To Antrim Marina       
On Friday 25th June, I made my latest visit to Antrim Marina.  I had been hoping to make two visits each week, but I've been too busy doing other 'birdie' things.

In my aim to record all of the 'Resident' Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, one gull turned up during my visit, which has left me with a slight dilemma -   2AAT .  I last recorded this gull on my final weekly, winter visit on the 27th March 2016.  Checking back on the random visits made to the Marina last summer,    2AAT  was not recorded from the 5th April 2015, until the first of my 2015/2016 winter visits on Sunday 2nd August.

Having not been sighted until now, does this mean   2AAT  has returned having completed it's nesting season somewhere else or has it been nesting nearby without being noted?  The answer to this will not be known now and perhaps observations during next year's breeding season, may shed some 'light' on the problem.

A second sighting of   2ALH , a gull which was originally ringed as a chick on the Copeland Islands in County Down in 2013, adds more fuel to the belief that it is breeding on the 'Torpedo Platform' close by.  It will be interesting to see whether this bird remains at the Marina for the forthcoming winter.

I also noted, that   2ABF , was collecting nest material on the small sandy beach.  Some gulls are clearly making renewed attempts at breeding, having lost their original eggs or chicks.  At Inch Island on Wednesday, I came across several BHG nests with eggs or newly hatched chicks, all probably the result of a second attempt to rear young. 

Black-headed Gull Sightings  -  Friday 24th June 2016
 2AAH   2AAF   2ABS   2AAV   2AAT   2BRA   2ABF   2ALH   2AAC 

Resident BHGs  -  Recorded During the 2016 Breeding Season
 2AAV   2AAP   2AAA   2ADD   2AAH   2ABK   2ABL   2BRA   2AAB 
(4/13) (2/13) (5/13) (7/13) (8/13) (6/13) (7/13) (4/13) (3/13)
(8/13) (6/13) (3/13) (6/13) (4/13) (2/13) (3/13) (1/13)
(Total Sightings / Total Visits)

First Summer Sighting of    2AAT   -  Antrim Marina  -  (24 Jun 2016)

Second Summer Sighting of    2ALH   -  Antrim Marina  -  (24 Jun 2016)

During my visit, 2 Mute Swans were present, one of which was ringed -   W34158 .  Around 30 Mallards were also present and with most legs viewed, neither of last week's 'metal-ringed' drakes were sighted.  I also briefly re-sighted the Common Gull   2AJP , which was first recorded here by Suzanne Belshaw on the 13th June 2016 (Ringing details below).


      Ringing Details       
Suzanne Belshaw emailed me with the ringing details of Common Gull   2AJP , which she spotted at Antrim Marina on the 13th June 2016.  Also a 'Ring Watcher', Suzanne knew this would be one from Shane Wolsey's Study on the Copeland Islands in County Down.

In his reply to Suzanne, Shane stated that   2AJP   was ringed as a chick on Big Copeland Island on the 29th June 2013.  This gull's only other previous sighting was on the 1st March 2014 at Dublin in the Republic of Ireland - 153km/95 miles to the south-west.  The distance from the Copelands to Antrim Marina is 45km/28 miles in a westerly direction.

Again, my thanks to Suzanne for the information.

Common Gull  -    2AJP   -  Antrim Marina  (24 Jun 2016)


      3rd Visit to Inch Island       
The third and final visit was made to Inch Island in County Donegal on Wednesday 22nd June.  The ringing party was made up with John Clarke and Ken Perry, who concentrated on Tern chicks and Adam McClure and myself, 'colour-ringing' Black-headed Gull youngsters.  Andrew Speer, the Head Wildfowl Ranger and boatman, along with his son Jack, helped to locate chicks.

Once again, our time on the island was limited, as many gulls, terns and ducks, still had nests with eggs.  Several pairs of Tufted Ducks, have now laid since our previous visit to the island.  Also, three of the Black-headed Gull chicks that we 'colour-ringed' last time out, were found dead - unfledged.  I never got round to ringing any Common Tern chicks, as we were too busy with BHGs.

I will post a summary of the three visits, once I obtain the results from Ken.  Our thanks to Andrew, for allowing us to ring at this very interesting little island.

Head Wildfowl Ranger and Boatman - Andrew Speer with young Sandwich Tern
Inch Island, County Donegal  -  (22 Jun 2016)

Young Sandwich Tern  -  Inch Island, County Donegal  (22 Jun 2016)


      Buzzard Chicks Ringed       
On Thursday 23rd June, Eimear Rooney, of the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group (NIRSG), along with Adam McClure, met up with me to ring Buzzard chicks at some of the tree nests that I have been following this summer.  Neither of them carry out any cliff work to ring chicks, so none of these sites were included.

Eimear has been studying Buzzards in Northern Ireland for several years, which includes the 'metal-ringing' of youngsters, along with the addition of coloured 'wing-tags' bearing a number or a letter and fitted onto chicks large enough to take them.  Eimear allowed me the privilage, to 'metal-ring' these birds as part of my training.

In all, 14 youngsters were processed during the day.  Time didn't allow for all nests to be visited.  A couple of other nests, could not be attempted, as the young were too big and 'branching out', or the trees were too risky for climbing.

One Buzzard nest turned out to be something special.  I had checked the site a couple of weeks back.  Although at the time, no young could be seen, it was obvious that there was at least one chick, going by the droppings on and below the nest, also by the prey debris present.

On our arrival, three large youngsters could clearly be seen standing on the nest.  I took out my camera and zoomed in.  I saw a fourth chick and possibly a fifth, which to the three of us, was probably unlikely.  You can imagine our surprise, when Adam reached the nest with the use of climbing irons, shouting out - there's six!!

Lowering these down in two sets of three, Eimear began the task of processing them, by which time three adults were now in the air, alarm calling.  This confirmed the presence of two females.  We'll never know, whether the females laid their eggs and incubated them side by side, or laid them as one clutch and took turns at incubation.

One chick, was slightly too small for a 'wing-tag' to be fitted, but the nest was easily the highlight of the day.  This is the second Buzzard nest to be recorded with six young in Northern Ireland, the first being at Mount Stewart in County Down last year.  Normally, Buzzards would fledge one to three, occasionally four chicks, but two six's in two years is quite something.

Three Buzzard Chicks Old Enough to Branch Out  -  (21 Jun 2016)

Adam McClure Did all the Climbing  -  (23 Jun 2016)

Eimear Hard at Work Processing Two Chicks  -  (23 Jun 2016)

Head Shot of Young Buzzard Chick  -  (23 Jun 2016)

Buzzard Chick With 'Wing-tag' Fitted  -  (23 Jun 2016)

The Surprise View Adam Got at the Nest  -  (23 Jun 2016)
(Photo Courtesy of Adam McClure)

The Six Chicks Ready to be Replaced into Their Nest  -  (23 Jun 2016)

Eimear (Looking Like a Proud Mum)  -  (23 Jun 2016)

My thanks to Eimear and Adam, for coming to ring these Buzzard youngsters.  If any of the chicks are found after fledging, I'll post these stories on the Blog.  My thanks also go to landowners for their permission to allow direct visits to the nests.  No names can be given, to safeguard the locations.


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