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.)


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