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)


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