Tuesday, 26 July 2016

First CR Godwit...

For many birds, the 2016 breeding season has now finished and for many of these, the timing could not have been better.  Of late, our summer weather has deserted us.  Having turned a good bit cooler, we have also experienced quite a lot of rain recently.  Due to the conditions, I have not been out and about as much, especially during periods when I could find time to go.

Checking on a few passerine nests, I was too late in ringing some chicks, such as Whinchat and Sedge Warbler.  Two Meadow Pipit nests failed, probably due to the rain, with the vegetation at one nest being completely flattened. Predators seemed to be the cause of failure at other nests, including Chaffinch and Blackbird.  I have a few 'A' rings left, so I will still be on the lookout for nests, though I reckon these will be mainly used on Swallow chicks.

As we approach August, many species will be on the move towards their wintering quarters, such as the gulls.  Their youngsters, will be starting to roam and finding places where they will settle for the months ahead.  I am also feeling the urge to start 'Ring Watching' again, visiting sites to record the return of birds that I recorded last winter.

      Today's Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
My quest to record all of the 'Resident' Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina during the summer of 2016, in my opinion, has been fairly successful.  With the help of Suzanne Belshaw, I feel that enough visits have been made, that we now know for certain who the residents are.  Of late, we have also witnessed the return of BHGs that were last recorded in early spring, indicating that they had bred elsewhere.

To record 'returnees', during the summer visits, had never even entered my mind and has proven to be an added bonus.  These gulls would have already been on site by the time I start my winter visits and I would have been none the wiser as to their actual status.

Visits to the Marina, will continue for the next couple of weeks and hopefully will see the return of another couple of the 'Study' birds.  With all of the sightings of each 'colour-ringed' gull, a profile can be made for each bird as to their status and their 'comings and goings'.  I sometimes wonder, if these BHGs here, are the most closely studied gulls in the British Isles.  My fourth winter of weekly Sunday visits, will begin on the 7th August.

Last week, saw a further two visits being made to the Marina.  Suzanne, had a fairly quite time on Monday 18th July.  Very few gulls were around and only three birds were recorded.  I continued my series of Friday visit's on the 22nd and while at the Marina, had a quite unexpected surpsrise.

Suzanne appeared at my car, this being the first time that we have ever met.  As promised, we had a coffee and a chat in the cafe and then continued on a joint visit recording the gulls.  We re-sighted thirteen of the 'study birds', as well as spotting the 'colour-ringed' Common Gull -   2AJP .  It was great to finally meet Suzanne, who's input this summer is very much appreciated.

Black-headed Gull Sightings  -  Monday 18th July 2016  (Suzanne Belshaw)
 2AAC   2AAT   2ABK 

Black-headed Gull Sightings  -  Friday 22nd July 2016  (Suzanne Belshaw & Myself)
 2ABK   2ADJ   2AAH   2AAT   2ABL   2AAF   2ALH 

BHGs  -  Recorded During the 2016 Breeding Season
 2AAV   2AAP   2AAA   2ADD   2AAH   2ABK   2ABL   2BRA   2AAB   2ADJ   2ABF 
(7/21) (2/21) (8/21) (11/21) (9/21) (12/21) (10/21) (8/21) (6/21) (13/21) (7/21)
(6/21) (9/21) (9/21) (7/21) (8/21) (7/21) (3/21) (1/21) (1/21) (1/21)
(Total Sightings / Total Visits)

      Ringing Details Received       
On Tuesday 19th July, the British Trust for Ornithology sent me the ringing details of the 'metal-ringed' Common Gull -   EX38128  - which I spotted at Millisle on the 16th July.  I delayed my latest Blog posting, as I was hoping for recovery details of a Common Tern and Black-headed Gull, which I had expected to be sent on Monday, but these never arrived.

On Friday, I did receive an email from the BTO concerning the Black-headed Gull, which was reported as   ET82500 .  In my last post, I thought the first number was a bit dubious looking (0 or 8) and eventually reported it to the BTO, via the online reporting form.  I did however, send an email direct to the BTO, with photos of the ring attached, for their opinion.

In their reply, Dorion Moss, agreed on my initial assumption that the first number was a zero and the gull's number was indeed   ET02500 .  He went on to say that   ET82500  actually belonged to a Stone Curlew.  What a sighting that would have been as a 'Ring Watcher' in Northern Ireland.

Common Gull  -    EX38128  
Was ringed as a chick on the 2nd June 2010, by Shane Wolsey on Big Copeland Island, 8 kms away to the north.  This is likely to be another first re-sighting, as with the other 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls, that I recorded recently in County Down.  I hate having to 'pester' the BTO about previous sightings.  The sooner that they can get their new interactive reporting and checking system up and running the better.


      Colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit       
Sunday 24th July, was another poor day weather-wise.  Frequent showers of rain fell throughout the day and it was not until the late afternoon, before I ventured out.  I decided to go 'Ring Watching', calling at the Sunday Market at Nutt's Corner, before moving on to Belfast, visiting Whitehouse Lagoon and the mudflats at Dargan.

Nutts Corner is situated inland, on a direct line from the eastern shores of Lough Neagh to Belfast.  Held every Sunday, the market is a good place to buy all sorts of things at fairly cheap prices.  Here, people have to eat, and where people eat, there's rubbish, and where's rubbish, there's gulls (and crows).  I was pleasantly surprised at the number of gulls to be seen here.

Large numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were present along with a smaller number of Herring Gulls.  A few recently fledged chicks of both species were spotted, as well as a single juvenile Common Gull (no adults present).  Although, the gulls were easily scoped, no rings were spotted.  However, this site may produce a ring or two over the winter period, so may well be worth checking from time to time.

At Whitehouse Lagoon, the tide was beginning to ebb.  There was a multitude of gulls present, many with fledged youngsters and were very close to the road, being easily scoped.  Not a ring was to be seen on any of the birds though.

I did however, hit the 'jackpot' at the Dargan mudflats.  I spotted my first-ever 'Colour-ringed' Black-tailed Godwit.  It flew off, just as I was zooming in with the camera to take photos.  You can imagine my 'curses', as I had not noted the combination of the 'colour-rings'.  The Godwit flew in the direction of eastern side of the bay, so I walked round trying to relocate it.

When I did re-sight it, the bird was actually closer to me than previous.  This time, I made a mental note of the combination, before successfully obtaining photos. 

Black-tailed Godwit  -  Red over Yellow  /  Red over White '8'  -  Dargan  (24 Jul 2016)

Black-tailed Godwit  -  Red over Yellow  /  Red over White '8'  -  Dargan  (24 Jul 2016)

Back home again, I 'hoaked' through my files for the copy of a 'Godwit Colour-Ring Guide', that Adam had sent to me last year via an email.  Looking through this, I found the corresponding 'ring-combination' and have now sent an email to Tomas Gunnarsson in Iceland.  I'm looking forwards to his reply.

Corresponding Ring Combination

(Each of the four rings above, will be of a single colour.  The colours used are in the squares on the right and are indicated by a strip on the ring itself.  As an example, Niger (Black) can only be found on the lower right ring.  The 'metal-ring' is in grey below the knee.)


Monday, 18 July 2016

An Exceptional Re-sighting...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
Only the one visit has been undertook at Antrim Marina this week.  I called in on Friday 15th July and recorded twelve 'Darvic-ringed' Black-headed Gulls from Adam McClure's Study.  Two of these re-sightings were of   2ABN  and   2ABA , the first time these gulls have been spotted during the summer.  They were last noted at the Marina on the 28th February and the 6th March respectively.

It is obvious, that they have bred elsewhere and have now returned for the winter, much like   2AAN , which had appeared back on last week's visits.  The decision to make an effort in recording the 'Resident' gulls during the summer, not only confirmed the local breeders, but is now providing extra information by providing the return dates of gulls that did not breed locally.

As I did not make weekly visits in the past, until the start of August, these gulls would have already arrived back and I would have been none the wiser as to their status at the Marina.  This new info, adds to my study of the BHGs here and provides Adam with invaluable records for his project.

Judging by my previous sightings, the next three Black-headed Gulls due to return, should be    2AAK ,   2ACV  and   2AAD .  If my predictions are correct, they will be back within the next couple of weeks and likely in that order.  The Lithuanian bred - White T35J, should arrive back on the 2nd or 3rd week of August.

One gull is causing me some concern, that being   2AAP .  It is a definite 'Resident' at the Marina, having being recorded during the summer on random visits in 2015, but only twice over the course of this summer.  I class this gull as one of those, that is always under your feet, much like   2AAT .  For some reason, it has not been spotted now, since the 3rd of June.

In the second table below, I have now omitted the word 'Resident', as the last five gulls are clearly not the case, with just   2AAT  being a possible exception.

Black-headed Gull Sightings  -  Friday 15th July 2016
 2AAT   2ABL   2AAF   2ADJ   2ALH   2ABN 

BHGs  -  Recorded During the 2016 Breeding Season
 2AAV   2AAP   2AAA   2ADD   2AAH   2ABK   2ABL   2BRA   2AAB   2ADJ   2ABF 
(6/19) (2/19) (7/19) (11/19) (8/19) (10/19) (9/19) (7/19) (6/19) (12/19) (6/19)
(6/19) (8/19) (8/19) (6/19) (7/19) (5/19) (2/19) (1/19) (1/19) (1/19)
(Total Sightings / Total Visits)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABN   -  Antrim Marina  (15 Jul 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABA   -  Antrim Marina  (15 Jul 2016)


      Ringing Details Received       
Shane Wolsey has sent an email with the ringing and re-sighting details of Common Gull -   2ANJ , which I spotted at Millisle on the 2nd July 2016.

It was ringed as a chick on the 11th June 2012, at the Copeland Islands, situated just a few kilometres away from Millisle.  The only previous re-sighting of this gull, was on the 19th October 2013, also at Millisle.

My thanks go to Shane for providing this information.


      Black Guillemot Re-Sighted At Glenarm Harbour       
As I stated in my last post, whenever I'm on the east coast checking on Raptor nests, I never pass Glenarm Harbour or Carnlough Bay, without stopping to check for ringed seabirds.

At Glenarm Harbour, I have especially been on the lookout for two Black Guillemots, that I spotted on the 26th June 2015.  One of these bore a 'metal-ring', on which I was not able to get any details, as the bird was always in the water when seen.  So far, I have not spotted this Guillemot.

The second Guillemot, had a yellow 'Darvic-ring' with the code FT.  After numerous visits over the last few weeks, I finally re-sighted   FT  on the 13th July.  It is using the same nest-hole in the harbour wall, as it did last year.  (Click Here) to read last year's post, which includes the ringing and re-sighting details.

Black Guillemot  -    FT   -  Glenarm Harbour  (13 Jul 2016)

Black Guillemot  -    FT   -  Glenarm Harbour  (13 Jul 2016)


      Two New 'Metals' In County Down       
On Saturday 16th July, I had to go to Belfast, after which, I decided to go and pay another visit to Millisle, to try for some more 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls.

On arrival, the tide was well out and the few gulls that were about, was well spread out on the sands feeding.  I did however, tempt some of these to the car park with bread.  With it being such a warm sunny day, there were lots of folk around and my attempts to photograph 'metal-rings' was seriously hindered, by walkers frightening the gulls away.

I did attract three Common Gulls with 'colour-rings', also another three with 'metals' on their right leg.  A 'metal-ringed' Herring Gull also arrived for it's share of the bread.  The 'colour-rings', were quickly sorted, being the regular sightings here,   2BBC ,   2ACA   and   2ADX .

The method I adopt for obtaining 'metals', is to pick a bird and not take my eyes off it, while at the same time, taking snaps of the ring.  By throwing bread in different directions, this gets the gulls moving around, so I can hopefully obtain pictures of different parts of the ring.  Should a gull fly off, I would delete the photos and start again on another ring.

With three 'metals' present, I had an awful time trying to get pictures, due to walkers.  After several attempts, I did manage to complete the number for one Common Gull -   EX38128 .  Checking my records after returning home, this was another new sighting and I have now reported it to the BTO.

Looking over my records, I have two outstanding partials for Common Gulls here at Millisle, these being   **72536  and   E*12513 .  Hopefully at some point, I will complete these numbers should the gulls turn up again.  Although all the 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls, that I have been recording at Millisle, originated on the nearby Copeland Islands, I feel that it is important to record these, as many of the gulls would otherwise go un-noticed, even after their death.

I was able to quickly obtain the number on the 'metal-ringed' Herring Gull -   GA00153 .  A re-sighting, I first recorded this one on the 24th December 2015.  Having been ringed as a chick on the Copelands on the 22nd June 2005, this once shy gull is not shy anymore and is now allowing close approach.

New Sighting  -  Common Gull  -    EX38128   -  Millisle  (16 Jul 216)

Re-Sighting  -  Herring Gull  -    GA00153 (Upside-Down Ring)   -  Millisle  (16 Jul 2016)

After Millisle, I drove on down to Ballywalter Harbour.  The only ring to be found there was on a Black-headed Gull.  I successfully obtained the number on the 'metal', which started with the letters   ET .  I knew by these letters, this was the gull that I got a partial number for on the 31st January 2016 here at Ballywalter Harbour.

Back then, I noted the number as being   ET0**** , but looking at today's photos, I was not completely convinced whether the first number was a '0' or an '8'.  Having settled for '0', I emailed copies of the photos to fellow 'Ring Watcher' Graham Prole in Dublin, for his opinion.  Graham reckoned it was an '8', so I have now reported this BHG to the BTO as   ET82500 .

My thanks to Graham (Graham's Blog) for his opinion. 

Completed Ring Number  -  Black-headed Gull  -    ET82500   -  Ballywalter  (16 Jul 2016)


      An Exceptional Re-Sighting       
Adam McClure contacted me recently, concerning one of the BHGs from his Northern Ireland Study.  This re-sighting of a NI bred bird, is quite exceptional.  I recorded the same gull -   2ALP , on two occasions last winter, which had been the only records of it since being ringed as a chick in 2013.  Adam will be posting the details on his Blog later this evening.  (Click Here) here to view it. 


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Finally - A Tern...

      Latest Sightings At Antrim Marina       
The two latest visits to Antrim Marina, have been made on consecutive days by Suzanne Belshaw and then myself.  During Suzanne's visit on Thursday 7th July, a total of seven sightings were made, which included the return of   2AAN  and a first ever sighting at Antrim Marina of   2AFR .

I am now convinced, that BHGs are already returning from their breeding sites to spend another winter here.  With the arrival of   2AAT  a couple of weeks ago and now   2AAN , I will re-define next summers breeding records to start on the 3rd week of April until the end of the second week of June.  The last sighting of   2AAN  at the Marina was on the 6th March 2016, just before the breeding season started.

The sighting of the new Black-headed Gull -   2AFR  - is interesting.  Ringed as a chick on the 19th June 2014, at Castle Espie in County Down, this was the gulls first re-sighting.  It is at an age, where it may have bred for the first time this summer.  The question is, was it at the 'Torpedo Platform', somewhere else, or not breeding and just wandering about?  I wonder if this gull will 'hang' about for a while at the Marina?

My thanks to Suzanne as always.  An extra pair of eye's making visits, just goes to show, what can be recorded.

On my visit the next day, Friday 8th July, I re-sighted 12 BHGs, including   2AAN .  I had hoped to re-sight   2AFR , as no photos of it have been taken yet, but it was not present.  Otherwise, my visit was fairly routine.

I have, and I'm sure Suzanne would have noted this as well, there are very few youngsters about.  This makes me think, as was the case last summer, the BHGs have not had a very successful breeding season out on the 'platform'.  I reckon predation by the Lesser Black-backed Gulls, nesting on the rooftop of the Tesco Warehouse in Antrim, is taking it's toll on the nesting gulls and terns.

During our visits, both Suzanne and I, recorded the Common Gull -   2AJP .

Black-headed Gull Sightings  -  Thursday 7th July 2016  (Suzanne Belshaw)
 2AAC   2AAN   2ABK   2ADD   2AFR   2ANS   2BRA 

Black-headed Gull Sightings  -  Friday 8th July 2016 (Myself)
 2ABS   2AAT   2AAF   2ADD   2AAV   2ALH 

Resident BHGs  -  Recorded During the 2016 Breeding Season
 2AAV   2AAP   2AAA   2ADD   2AAH   2ABK   2ABL   2BRA   2AAB   2ADJ 
(6/18) (2/18) (6/18) (10/18) (8/18) (9/18) (8/18) (7/18) (5/18) (11/18)
(6/18) (6/18 (8/18) (7/18) (5/18) (6/18) (4/18) (2/18) (1/18)
(Total Sightings / Total Visits)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAN   -  Antrim Marina  (08 Jul 2016)

Young Black-headed Gull  -  Antrim Marina  (27 Jun 2016)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)


      Ringing Details Received       
In my last post, I reported on the new sightings of four Common Gulls with 'metal-rings', three of these at Millisle and the fourth at Groomsport.  During the week, the BTO sent me the details for the gulls.  As it turns out, all four birds were ringed on the nearby Copeland Islands, pretty much as I had suspected.

What is more interesting, they are the oldest Common Gulls that I have now sighted with BTO rings.  Curious to know if these were first re-sightings for the gulls, I emailed the BTO and they confirmed that all were firsts.  My effort to get the numbers on the 'metals', was well worthwhile.  I have listed them below, in age order.

Common Gull  -    EG55236 
Ringed as a chick on the 14th June 2005, on Big Copeland Island, this gull is now the oldest that I've recorded under the BTO's ringing scheme.  At 11 years and 18 days, it falls a long way short of the Common Gull from Finland that I spotted at Antrim Marina on the 28th February 2016.  This one was twenty years, 6 months and 22 days.

Common Gull  -    EG55652 
Ringed as a chick on the 10th June 2006, on Big Copeland Island.  It is now 10 years and 22 days, since being ringed.

Common Gull  -    EW31160 
Ringed as a chick on the 29th June 2006, on Big Copeland Island.  It is now 10 years and 3 days, since being ringed.

Common Gull  -    EW31140 
Ringed as a chick on the 9th June 2008, on Big Copeland Island.  It is now 8 years and 23 days, since being ringed.  I had assumed, this gull was ringed on the same date as the previous bird, the numbers being so close together, but there was two years of a difference.

Greylag Goose  -    NDD 
During my recent visit to Rathlin Island, on the north coast of County Antrim, I spotted a Greylag Goose with an orange 'neck-collar' at Lough Ushet.  Taking photos from a distance, I just managed to obtain the code, which looked like   N00 , but in fact, turned out to be   NDD .

I sent an email to the new Greylag Goose project in the Republic of Ireland, asking if this goose was one of theirs.  Afterwards, I realised the code was slightly different, not having a 'bar' after the first letter.  I went onto the cr-birding website and entered the code and found a match.  I then emailed Bob Swann from Ross-shire in Scotland, enquiring if the goose was one of his and it was.

  NDD  was caught and ringed as a juvenile female on the 11th November 2014, as a by-catch, with Greenland White-fronted Geese being the main target.  The ringing site was at Ronnachmore, near Bowmore, on the Island of Islay in Argyll, Scotland.  Islay is situated 53kms / 33 miles to the north of Rathlin Island.

My sighting on Rathlin, is the 3rd for this goose.  The first was at Bridgend on Islay, on the 29th September 2015.  It's second sighting was on 2nd May 2016 at Lough Doo, Fair Head on the County Antrim mainland.  Fair Head is the massive headland which faces onto Rathlin Island.

My thanks to Bob Swann and Carl Mitchell for the ringing details and info.


      The Chase for a Common Tern       
Back on the 9th June, I spotted a Common Tern, which bore a 'yellow Darvic' on it's right leg, on the foreshore at Glynn, Larne Lough in County Antrim.  The tern was a fair distance from me and with the photos I took, the code on the ring was not legible.

I have since, made repeated visits in the hope of seeing this tern again.  Every time the tide receds, gulls and terns, arrive to bath where the freshwater Glynn River flows into Larne Lough.  This is always, the best time to look for 'colour-rings'.

During this weekend, we have experienced a fair amount of rain, thus making it impractical to go looking for or checking on nesting birds.  Instead, I went to Glynn on both Saturday and Sunday, 'Ring Watching'.

On Saturday, I spotted another of Adam's 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.  Just barely obtaining the code, it was   2ANK .  Adam has not sent me the file for this gull yet, but it was ringed as a chick in 2015 on the nearby Blue Circle Island and this was it's first re-sighting. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2ANK   -  Glynn, Larne Lough  (09 Jul 2016)

Persistance, finally paid off on Sunday's visit.  I obtained the code for the 'Darvic-ringed' Common Tern -   PFV .  On checking the cr-birding website, I discovered this tern was ringed as part of the Dublin Bay Birds Project, in the Republic of Ireland.  I emailed Niall Tierny and also reported the tern to the BTO and now await the ringing details.

Common Tern  -    PFV   -  Glynn, Larne Lough  (10 Jul 2016)


      Common Gull at Carnlough Bay       
Each time I am on the East County Antrim Coast checking on nests, I never pass by Glenarm Harbour or Carnlough Bay without checking the gulls for rings.  On Wednesday 6th July, I re-sighted Common Gull   2HTX   at Carnlough.  This is now the 5th time that I have recorded this gull here.

Ringed as a chick on the 2nd June 2011, it is from Shane Wolsey's Study on the Copeland Islands in County Down.

Common Gull  -    2HTX   -  Carnlough Bay  (06 Jul 2016)


      On The Ringing Front       
I have been out and about looking for and checking nests of other species other than raptors and gulls.  I need a range of species and add to my ringing totals, if I am to progress from a 'Trainees Permit' to a 'C Permit.  I am finding this a bit laborious, but it has to be done.

Due to a mixed conflict of interests, I have missed out on the ringing of some chicks, as they were too old and wary, while a couple of other nests had been predated.  Hopefully, by the end of the summer, I will have ringed enough birds to progress, also bearing in mind my past experience of ringing.

Meadow Pipit Nest  -  5 Eggs (12th June) &  5 Young (26th June) About to be Ringed

Black Guillemot Chick Having Just Been Ringed  (06 Jul 2016)

Swallow Chick About to be Ringed


Monday, 4 July 2016

4 New 'Metals'...

      Latest Visits At Antrim Marina       
The breeding season is coming to an end and I am now certain that some Black-headed Gulls are already on the move to their wintering sites.  The recent arrival of   2AAT  at the Marina, had me wondering about it's status.  Was it breeding nearby or has arrived for the winter.

On Monday 27th June, while in the hills checking on nests, I saw three small groups of Black-headed Gulls (6, 8 and 10 birds), battling against a very strong west wind.  These gulls were obviously flying over the mountains heading inland from the coast.  I am fairly certain, that they are heading for their wintering quarters.

I am pondering on the idea, to re-define the dates of the breeding season at Antrim Marina, starting from the 3rd week in April, finishing on the 2nd week of June.  This might eliminate winter stragglers and early returnees.

During the last week, three more visits have been made to the Marina to record the resident BHGs.  Suzanne Belshaw made her latest visit on Monday 27th, I was there on Friday 1st July and Neville McKee paid a brief visit on Saturday 2nd.

Nothing new or startling to report on.  All three of us spotted the Common Gull   2AJP , which arrived recently.  Suzanne did record the male Mallard   5MN 1160 , which is likely to be the duck whose number, I failed to obtain two weeks ago.

Again, my thanks to Suzanne for her latest contribution and to Neville for his first sightings this summer.

Mallard  -    5MN 1160   -  Antrim Marina  (27 Jun 2016)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Black-headed Gull Sightings  -  Monday 27th June 2016  (Suzanne Belshaw)
 2AAF   2AAT   2AAV   2ABS   2ADJ   2ALH   2ANS   2BRA 

Black-headed Gull Sightings  -  Friday 1st July 2016  (Myself)
 2AAF   2ADJ   2ABS   2ADD   2AAB   2AAT   2ABK   2ALH   2AAA 

Black-headed Gull Sightings  -  Saturday 2nd July 2016  (Neville McKee)
 2BRA   2AAB 

Resident BHGs  -  Recorded During the 2016 Breeding Season
 2AAV   2AAP   2AAA   2ADD   2AAH   2ABK   2ABL   2BRA   2AAB 
(5/16) (2/16) (6/16) (8/16) (8/16) (7/16) (7/16) (6/16) (5/16)
(10/16) (6/16) (4/16) (6/16) (6/16) (4/16) (5/16) (3/16)
(Total Sightings / Total Visits)


      More on Common Gull - Blue 2AJP       
In my last post, I gave the ringing details for Common Gull   2AJP , which turned up at Antrim Marina recently.  Initially spotted by Suzanne Belshaw, she contacted Shane Wolsey, knowing it would be from his study on the Copeland Islands in County Down.

Shane replied, to say, that it had been ringed as a chick on the 29th June 2013 and it's only previous sighting was on the 1st March 2014 in Dublin City, in the Republic of Ireland.

During the week, I received an email from fellow 'Ring Watcher' Graham Prole.  Having read my Blog, he realised it was actually - himself who had spotted this gull.  He recorded it on three occasions, also seeing the gull on the 8th and 15th March 2014, at Poppintree Park in Dublin.  Graham also attached a photo of   2AJP  , showing it in juvenile plumage.

My thanks to Graham, for the info and photo.  This gull is the first bird, that Graham and I have both seen.  Click on (Tallaght Gulls + Rings) to visit Graham's Blog.

Common Gull  -    2AJP   -  Poppintree Park, Dublin City  (01 Mar 2014)
(Photo Courtesy of Graham Prole)


      Ringing on Inch Island, County Donegal - Summary       
Ken Perry has emailed the combined totals of gulls and terns, which were ringed during three visits to Inch Island on the 31st May, 8th and 22nd June.

Ken and his team, 'metal-ringed' a total of 357 Sandwich Tern and 32 Common Tern chicks.  Adam McClure and I, concentrated on 'colour-ringing' Black-headed Gull youngsters, during visits 2 and 3, with a final total of 122 being processed.  As Adam was not present on the first visit, I 'metal-ringed' 43 young BHGs, 4 of which were caught and 'colour-ringed' during the following visit, giving a final total of 161 ringed young.

Ken also commented on the number of large chicks to be found dead during our final visit, which echoed comments made by Adam and myself.  Ken had hoped to ring as many as 150 Common Tern chicks, but for some reason the colony had been decimated.  We have come to the conclusion, the birds on the island have been heavily predated on since our previous visit.

On the whole, the visits were very productive, with a good number of chicks ringed.  I'd like to thank Ken and Head Wildfowl Ranger Andrew Speer for inviting us to the island.  Hopefully, the first re-sightings of the young BHGs, should start coming in fairly soon.


      Buzzard Chicks - Occasionally Four       
In my last post, having recorded a Buzzard nest containing six chicks, I stated that Buzzards normally rear one to three, occasionally four chicks.  Well, on the 27th June, I went out to try and obtain head-counts at some of my cliff nest-sites and fell in with one of those occasional four.

While scoping the nest from a considerable distance, I had counted three chicks, then to my surprise, a fourth youngster stood up and stretched it's wings.  I took a photo of the cliff and then moved in closer and waited till I could get a picture, with all four birds in view at the same time.

This is the third nest of four that I have now recorded, the other two was back in the early 90's in the Aghafatten and Ballymena areas of County Antrim.

Location of Buzzard Nest on Cliff-face  -  County Antrim  (27 Jun 2016)

Buzzard Chick on the Nest (Right), Siblings to the Left  -  County Antrim  (27 Jun 2016)

Not far from this Buzzard nest, along the same stretch of cliff, is a Peregrine nest-site.  On checking this one, I discovered that the nest-ledge was empty.  It seemed strange, as no adults were present, which would immediately lead to alarm calling, indicating the presence of fledged young.

I discovered a single chick, a short distance away, where the Peregrines had nested in the last two years.  A few minutes later, the female arrived in and started calling.  The single youngster took off and flew along with it's mother for around 5 minutes.

I walked along directly underneath the cliff and no other chicks took to the air, leaving me satisfied that this pair had just reared a single this year.  They had fledged three chicks, in each of the last two years.

Fledged Peregrine Chick  -  County Antrim  (27 Jun 2016)


      Ring Watching Again       
On Saturday 2nd July, I had intended to visit Rathlin Island on the north coast of County Antrim.  The weather forcast was not great, with frequent and heavy showers predicted, which turned out to be the case.  With such conditions, it was pointless going out to look for or revisit nests and I went 'Ring Watching' instead.

I decided to go to County Down and visit my Common Gull 'hotspot' at Millisle and then on to Groomsport.  The 'hotspot' turned out to be on 'fire' today.  Arriving at Millisle, there were Common Gulls all over the place, with many feeding along the low waterline.  I drove back up into the village for a loaf and then returned.

Throwing bits of bread out of the car window, I was soon inundated by the Common Gulls.  At one point, I counted 9 birds that were 'metal-ringed' on their right legs and 4 with 'colour-rings'.  One of the 'metal-ringed' birds, was walking around on it's 'stumps', having lost both of it's feet.  This bird could not cope with the frenzy and flew off before I could get a photo.

Another ringed Common Gull, had an injured or broken ankle and turned out to be   EX38230 , which I have recorded twice before, on the 5th March and 24th April 2016.  I managed to obtain the whole ring numbers for three other 'metals', which matched 'partials', that I got earlier in the year.  I have reported these three new sightings to the BTO and now await their details.    EX38230  was ringed as a chick on the nearby Copeland Islands, on the 2nd June 2010.

The four 'coloured-rings', consisted of the re-sightings of   2ACA ,    2ADX   and   2BBC  and a first ever sighting for me of   2ANJ .  These gulls are all from Shane Wolsey's Study on the Copeland Islands.  I have sent an email to Shane and now wait for his reply.

  2ACA  was ringed as an adult on the 14th May 2010.  This is now my fourth re-sighting of this Common Gull.    2ADX    was also ringed on the 14th May 2010 as an adult, with today's sighting being my fifth for this bird.    2BBC  was ringed as a chick on the 23rd June 2009 and today's is now my 6th record of it.

With so many Common Gulls about, I'd presume many of these are either non-breeders or have failed in their nesting attempts.  I was well pleased in getting the details for four 'metals', as these are not easily 'won'.

New Sighting  - Common Gull  -    2ANJ   -  Millisle  (02 Jul 2016)

Re-sighting  -  Common Gull  -    2ACA   -  Millisle  (02 Jul 2016

Re-sighting  -  Common Gull  -    2ADX   -  Millisle  (02 Jul 2016)

Re-sighting  -  Common Gull  -    2BBC   -  Millisle  (02 Jul 2016)

New Sighting  -  Common Gull  -    EG55236   -  Millisle  (02 Jul 2016)

New Sighting  -  Common Gull  -    EG55652   -  Millisle  (02 Jul 2016)

New Sighting  -  Common Gull  -    EW31160   -  Millisle  (02 Jul 2016)

Re-sighting  -  Common Gull  -    EX38230   -  Millisle  (02 Jul 2016)

After leaving Millisle, I drove up the coast a short distance to Groomsport.  My intention was to scope the gulls and terns on Cockle Island, which is situated at the entrance to the harbour.  To my surprise, there were very few birds on the island.  Not many chicks were to be seen and I fear that predation has taken its toll here.

I had hoped to sight 'colour-ringed' Common and Sandwich Terns, but none of the later and very few pairs of the former could be seen.

I did fall in with another 'metal-ringed' Common Gull in the harbour's car park.  I nipped up to a shop and bought another loaf and soon afterwards, completed the full number.  Another new sighting,   EW31140  is likely to have been ringed on the same day as   EW31160 , the new sighting I recorded in Millisle.  I have now reported this one to the BTO as well.

New Sighting  -  Common Gull  -    EW31140   -  Groomsport  (02 Jul 2016)

I also spotted my Hooded x Carrion Crow pair feeding on the shoreline of the harbour.  With them were two fledged youngsters.  On the 12th March, I confirmed that the pair were nest-building in the trees at the wee park beside the harbour.

It is good to see that they were successful in their nesting attempt.  One chick, which was close to it's mother, showed more grey on it's plumage, than the second chick nearby.

Female Carrion Crow with Hybrid Youngster  -  Groomsport  (02 Jul 2016)
(This Youngster Much Greyer Than It's Sibling Below)

2nd Youngster from Hooded x Carrion Crow Pairing  -  Groomsport  (02 Jul 2016)


      A Visit To Rathlin Island       
On Sunday 3rd July, I visited Rathlin Island with the aim of ringing a few Common Gull chicks on the 'south arm'.  Here, they nest on the shore line in a 'loose' colony of around 50 pairs.  Arriving here, I was very disappointed to find nearly all chicks were at the fledging stage.  Those that did not fly, simply went onto the sea instead.

I had based my visit here, by the size of the Common Gull chicks on the roof of the Tesco Warehouse, while on my visits to Antrim Marina.  It is now obvious, the gulls here had nested far earlier, than those in Antrim and visits to Rathlin will have to be made in early June on future visits.

Once I obtain my 'C' ringing permit, I intend to 'colour-ring' chicks here in the coming years.  I estimate, that there are at least 80 to 100 pairs of Common gulls nesting between the south and west lighthouses on Rathlin.

My effort to ring chicks here resulted in a grand total of two.  One at Rue Point, with a second on the inland Lough Ushet.  Disappointing, but at least I know to come here earlier next year.  No dead or recently hatched young were found, but I did come across one nest with three eggs.

Common Gull Youngster  -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island  (03 Jul 2016)

Common Gull Nest  -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island  (03 Jul 2016)

Also on the rocks close to the south lighthouse, were large numbers of seals, which allowed close approach.  With the number of visitors to the island, they must be well used to people being about.

Seals at Rest Close to the South Lighthouse, Rathlin Island  (03 Jul 2016)

At the inland Lough Ushet, as well as ringing a second Common Gull chick, a flock of 100+ Greylag Geese were out in the middle of this large lake.  Scoping these for neck collars, one of the birds was spotted with an orange collar.  Moving around the Lough, to try and get photos, I just about managed to obtain the code -   N00 .

I have now sent an email to the organisers of the new Greylag ringing project in the Republic of Ireland, to see if it is one of their birds.

Greylag Goose with Neck Collar  -    N00   -  Lough Ushet, Rathlin Island  (03 Jul 2016)