Monday, 15 August 2016

1st 'Sannie' Tern

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
Last Sunday, I began my fourth winter of weekly Sunday visits at Antrim Marina to record the Black-headed Gulls from Adam McClure's Study and any other ringed birds that turn up.  These birds will either reside here throughout the winter or in some cases, be just passing through, using the Marina as a 'pit stop'.

I recorded 15 of Adam's gulls last Sunday, these being the start of a new 'winter list' of sightings.  On Saturday 13th August, I received an email from Neville McKee.  He made a one hour visit to the Marina on Friday 12th and recorded 8 of the study birds.  Five of these, were not recorded by me last Sunday and the winter list now stood at twenty gulls.

The new additions were   2AAB ,   2AAF ,   2AAN ,    2ABK  and   2ALH .  My thanks to Neville for sending the list of his sightings.

BHGs Recorded by Neville McKee on Friday 12th August 2016
 2AAB   2AAD   2AAF   2AAK   2AAN   2AAT   2ABK   2ALH 

On Sunday 14th August, I made my second visit of the winter.  Conditions were very mild, being fairly warm, cloudy, with a light wind blowing from the west.  Not many BHGs were present when I arrived and a quick head count totalled 51 birds.  Numbers, slowly increased to around 120 gulls, before the trainee canoeists started to appear at 10.45.

Once they were on the scene, very few gulls remained and I decided to finish the visit an hour early, departing at 12.00.  I recorded just 13 gulls, with   2ABS  being the only addition to the winter list, which now stands at 21.

One gull that should have arrived back by now is   2AAS , as early August is the usual time for this gull's return.  Hopefully,   2AAS  will be back by next Sunday.  

My Sightings At Antrim Marina on Sunday 14th Agust 2016
 2ANS   2ACV   2AAC   2AAA   2ABF   2ALH   2AAN 

BHGs Absent During My Visit on Sunday 14th August
 T35J   2AAT   2ABN   2ADJ   2ABA   2AAB   2AAF   2BRA 

Other Birds at The Marina
Only 47 Mallards were counted on my arrival, with the total steadily increasing to just over 100 ducks by the time I departed at 12.00.  No rings were seen on any of the ducks which exited the water.  Around 9.42, a very young Mallard chick appeared and was on it's own.  I watched the 'wee fella' for quite a while, often being rebuked as it tried to approach the adult ducks.

Every so often, it would swim upriver, returning after a short period of time.  I fed this little 'chap' some bread and it had no fear of people being close by.  Even, after the canoeists were on the river, it was not even frightened of the crafts, nearly being clobbered on numerous occasions by the paddles.  I hope this little duckling can survive on it's own and it will be interesting to see if it still at the Marina next Sunday.

On It's Own  -  Mallard Chick  -  Antrim Marina  (14 Aug 2016)

Three Mute Swans were present on the river throughout my visit, probably being the same three as seen last Sunday.  They did eventually exit the river, but none were ringed.

No Common Gulls appeared during my visit, while the newly 'paired-up' Herring Gulls arrived at 10.00am and remained throughout the remainder of my visit.

The only other birds recorded, were numerous Jackdaws, a pair of Pied Wagtails, a single Magpie and a single Hooded Crow.

Elim Church, Parkhall, Antrim Town
Having Completed my visit to Antrim Marina, I drove up to the KFC outlet, to look for BHGs   2ADD  and the Norwegian   JK35 , this one having arrived back for another winter.  On my way, I stopped by the Elim Church to check if   2AAV  was present, having recently discovered, this gull 'hangs out' here, when not at the Marina.

Not only was   2AAV  to be found on the roof of the church, but   JK35   was there too.  The Elim church is only a couple of hundred metres away from KFC.    2ADD  was not seen at the KFC car park and I'd be fairly certain, he has now travelled on to the town of Carrickfergus where he spends the winter. 

Black-headed Gulls  -    2AAV   &    JK35   -  Elim Church, Antrim Town  (14 Aug 2016)


      Ringing Details Received       

Black-headed Gull  -    EX53262 
During the week, I received the ringing details for the Black-headed Gull, which I recorded at Whitehouse Lagoon last Sunday (7th August).    EX53262  was ringed as a chick on the 29th May 2012, at Applegarthtown, Dumfries & Galloway, in Scotland, by members of the North Solway Ringing Group.

The distance to Whitehouse Lagoon is 168 kms / 104 miles WSW and 4 years, 2 months and 9 days have elapsed since being ringed.  As with most 'metals', this will probably be another first-sighting.

Applegarthtown, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland to Whitehouse Lagoon, Northern Ireland

Common Tern  -    PFV 
At long last, the ringing details of Common Tern   PFV , have been emailed to me.  Niall Tierney (Dublin Bay Birds), gave his apologies, as he had been away and is only now catching up on his mail.

  PFV  was caught and ringed as an adult on 26th August 2015 at Sandymount Strand, Dublin, R. of Ireland and my sighting was a first for this bird.  A new project began in the autumn of 2015, which aims to capture terns that congregate at Sandymount Strand, during their migration south (Read About The Project Here), my tern being one of these to be caught.

I'm now hoping, that some of the 'metal-ringed' Terns which I have been sighting at Glynn and especially on the RSPB's reserve on the Belfast Harbour Estate, will be caught and 'colour-ringed', as part of this new project.  I've been sighting far too many 'metals', without hope of ever reading these.

The distance from Sandymount Strand to Larne Lough, where   PFV  probably bred either on Swan Island or Blue Circle Island, is 168 kms / 104 miles in a north-easterly direction.  If all goes well, I shall be looking out for this tern again next summer.


      Wednesday 10th August 2016       
On Saturday 6th August, I drove down to Glenarm Harbour, as I knew that Black-headed Gull   260D  was due to return for another winter.  I have recorded this gull over the last two winters, but on this occasion, it was not seen.  Checking nearby Carnlough Bay, no rings were to be spotted at all.

On today's visit, I re-sighted   260D  preening at the edge of the Glenarm River, which flows past the outer wall of the harbour and into the sea.  My last sighting of this gull was on the 23rd February 2016 at Glenarm Harbour.  On the 25th February 2016, I received an email from the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Association, to say   260D  had been sighted at Whitehead, around 29 kms / 18 miles to the south.  Clearly, this gull was on it's way to it's breeding site.

My latest sighting, comes 8 years, 1 month and 22 days, since   260D  was ringed as a chick on the 15th June 2008, at Lough Mask, County Mayo, Republic of Ireland.  The distance from Lough Mask to Glenarm is 264 kms / 164 miles in a north-east direction.  I have reported my latest sighting to the ringer Eoin McGreal, but am still waiting on a reply.  I am assuming, that the breeding site of this gull is still unknown.

Black-headed Gull  -    260D   -  Glenarm Harbour  (10 Aug 2016)

After scoping all the other gulls and the few waders around Glenarm Harbour and on the beach, I drove to the children's play park overlooking Carnlough Beach.  There were lots of gulls, waders and a few terns, at the outlet of the Glencloy River, but I scoped the birds along the beach first.  Towards the end of the beach, a group of Oystercatchers were resting, and I spotted one with 'colour-rings'.

Walking towards them, trying to get closer to take photos, they 'spooked' easily and flew off, landing on the rocky shore towards the Glenarm direction.  Jumping into the car, I drove around and then walked slowly towards them again.  Now in camera range, I started taking photos, then a coach driver, driving past me on the road, blasted his horn.  He may have thought he was being funny, but once again, the Oystercatchers took flight and flew back towards Carnlough Beach.

Checking on the photos already taken, I had 'White AA' on the birds right leg, which obscured the 'Orange-ring' on the left leg.  Back to the play area, I once again walked slowly towards the group of birds.  This time, I kept more of a distance and started to take pictures.  I discovered, that the Orange 'colour-ring' was blank, but I at least had the combination of 'colours'.

Checking the online cr-birding site (Details Here), I discovered that the 'Orange-ring', is actually two rings of the same colour, though this is not obvious, looking at the photos.  The Oystercatcher is from Iceland and Tomas Gunnarsson is the contact ringer, the same as my two recent Black-tailed Godwit sightings at Dargan, in Belfast.  As I am still waiting on a reply from Tomas, I decided to send an email to Iceland Waders and perhaps they can send me the ringing details. 

Oystercatcher  -  White AA / Orange over Orange  -  Carnlough Bay  (10 Aug 2016)

Oystercatcher  -  White AA / Orange over Orange  -  Carnlough Bay  (10 Aug 2016)

Having secured the ring combination for the Oystercatcher, my attention went back to the birds on the shoreline at the exit of the Glencloy River.  The Sandwich Terns were the priority, as these birds never hang around for long.  Eight adults and one youngster were counted.  One bird had a 'metal-ring', but I had no chance of getting close enough to obtain the details.

However, a second tern had a 'Blue colour-ring' - this one I had to get, as this would be a 'first'.  During autumn last year, I did spot a couple of 'Darvic-rung' Sandwich Terns, but could not get close enough to read the codes.  Walking very slowly, I got to camera range and successfully obtained the code   UDL , my first confirmed Sandwich Tern and not for the lack of trying (especially at Glynn during this summer).

On checking the online cr-birding site, when I returned home, I was dismayed to find that two projects were listed as 'Blue' with the starting letter as 'U' and followed by another two letters.  I decided to send a joint email to Ewan Weston of the Grampian Ringing Group in Scotland and Chris Redfern of the Natural History Society of Northumbria & The National Trust.

With Scotland being closer, I thought my tern would have originated from there, but Chris Redfern was the first to reply, to say that this was one of their birds.  Later on Wednesday evening, Chris emailed the tern's details.

  UDL  was ringed as a chick on the 28th June 2014 on Inner Farne Island, Northumberland, England.  The Farne Islands lie just of the east coast of England in the North Sea.  This tern's only previous sighting was on the 10th August 2014, when it was spotted at Port Seton on the Firth of Fourth in Scotland.  It is pointless to give a distance for this bird, as they would rarely travel overland.

My thanks to Chris for supplying the information.

Sandwich Tern  -    UDL   -  Carnlough Bay  (10 Aug 2016)

Sandwich Tern  -    UDL   -  Carnlough Bay  (10 Aug 2016)

While scoping the Sandwich Terns, I spotted a Common Gull with an 'Orange-Darvic'.  Having sighted a 'colour-ring' on the Sandwich Tern, I paid attention to that bird first.  Once sorted, I then looked for my Common Gull again, to find it was now up to it's thighs in the sea.

Scoping through the rest of the gulls and waders, I re-sighted Common Gull -   2HTX .  This bird, which was ringed as a chick in June 2011, on the Copeland Islands in County Down, has spent the whole summer in the Carnlough Bay area.

Common Gull  -    2HTX   -  Carnlough Bay  (10 Aug 2016)

I had to play a waiting game for my newly sighted Common Gull, to show off it's 'legs'.  I knew the tide was on it's way in, so it was just a matter of time, as to when the gull would move.  Eventually, it walked up onto the beach revealing the code -   2VDR , a new sighting for me.

The only previous two 'Orange coloured-rings' that I've spotted before on Common Gulls, was   2A06  at Carrickfergus last December and on a juvenile at Whitehouse Lagoon last October (unread).  I notice from the photo, that there is a small brown tinge on the wing of   2VDR , which suggests it hatched in the summer of 2015.

After checking the online cr-birding site, I emailed Calum Campbell from Aberdeen in Scotland and now await the gull's ringing details. 

Common Gull  -    2VDR   -  Carnlough Bay  (10 Aug 2016)


      Thursday 11th August 2016       
I booked the day off work, as I was going to go on a boat trip from Cushendall to Ailsa Craig in Scotland, to view the seabird colonies there, especially the Gannets.  The trip was cancelled, due to expected bad weather, but here in Northern Ireland, the weather was quite mild.

Instead, I decided to visit Ballycastle, Portrush and Coleraine.

Here, I was especially on the look-out for the Icelandic 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull   585774 , which I recorded here on three occasions last winter.  Despite the large number of BHGs around the harbour area (easily the most I've ever seen here), my target was not present.

There were also lots of Herring Gulls of various ages about, along with a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, but not one was ringed.  Over 100 Kittiwakes were perched on the large boulders, which act as a breakwater to the harbour.  Scoping these for quite a while, no rings were spotted.  I did notice a lack of Common Gulls, which would normally be present in fairly good numbers.  

Stopping at the very large car park at the East Strand, a large group of Black-headed Gulls were roosting in a clear area, along with two Sandwich Terns and a single Common Gull.

Almost straight away, I spotted a juvenile BHG with a 'metal-ring' on it's left leg.  My immediate thought was - this bird was mine.  I have a habit of ringing chicks while facing towards me, thus the ring is fitted on their left legs, as I'm right-handed.  Having taken a couple of photos, I then noticed the pair of Sandwich Terns, which both bore 'metal-rings'.

These two now became a priority, as, if they were to fly off, I'd probably never see them again.  I set about taking photos of the terns, especially the one closest to me.

Then the inevitable happened, people came walking towards the group and everything flew off.  The mentality of some people is 'mind boggling'.  They could see I was taking photos of the birds, yet they still walk straight towards them, instead of going around.

On checking the photos, the tern furthest from me had an 'upside-down' 'metal-ring', but no details could be read.  I had more luck with the closest bird, missing out on the last digit, which looks to be a '3', otherwise I had -   DK6678*.

I did not report this tern online, as I had not obtained the full ring number.  Having thought about it, this tern may have been ringed as a chick.  If this was the case, it is possible that other chicks were ringed on the same date and at the same location, therefore confirmation could be made.  The final number would have to be in the range of 0 to 9.  I have sent an email to the British Trust for Ornithology, with a photo attached, to see what they make of it. 

Pair of 'Metal-ringed' Sandwich Terns  -  East Strand Car Park, Portrush  (11 Aug 2016)

Sandwich Tern  -    DK6678*   -  East Strand Car Park, Portrush  (11 Aug 2016)

I then checked the photos of the young Black-headed Gull.  Only a partial number could be seen on the photos -   EZ610** .  This was all I needed to know, as this gull was ringed by me on the 31st May, as part of my training, during our first visit to Inch Island in Donegal.

Having finished off a couple of 'ring strings' belonging to Ken Perry, I went on to ring 22 young BHGs with rings that I'm holding in the series   EZ61001  to   EZ61100 .  The numbers used that day were   EZ61009  to   30  and my bird is one of these.  As far as I know, this is the first BHG, to have been recorded since the three ringing expeditions at Inch Island.

This young gull has travelled 59 kms / 34 miles in a north-east direction to get to Portrush.  Hopefully, it will remain here and I can finish off the number at a later date.

I was on the lookout for Black-headed Gull   EW83177 , which I recorded here on three occasions last winter, but it was not present.

Juvenile Black-headed Gull  -    EZ610**   -  East Strand Car Park, Portrush  (11 Aug 2016)

My aim in Coleraine, was to see if either of the 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls that I spotted here last winter, had returned.  These were   2E64   from Scotland and 'White J9J2' from Norway, but neither of them were to be seen.

I did spot a 'metal-ringed' BHG on a jetty, just opposite Coleraine Harbour.  I could tell from the height of the ring, that this was a foreign gull.  Parking my car in a large clear area, I set about luring the gulls to me with some bread.  This worked a treat, as my target arrived with other gulls.

After taking lots of photos, I successfully pieced together the ring number - Finland   ST255.167 .  This is the same gull, which local Coleraine birdwatcher, John Clarke, spotted last winter.  He was not able to obtain the full number on the ring, having just got   ST***167  on his photos.  I have reported this BHG online to the BTO and hopefully, it's ringing details will arrive during the week.

Black-headed Gull  -  Finland    ST255.167   -  Coleraine Harbour  (11 Aug 2016)


      Saturday 13th August 2016       
Today, I decided to 'Ring Watch' at several sites, being Whitehouse Lagoon, Dargan Mudflats, the former Belfast Waterworks, Portaferry, Portavogie, Ballywalter and Millisle.  During the afternoon, plenty of gulls and waders were looked at, but the only two sites which produced a ring/rings, was at Dargan and Millisle.

Dargan Mudflats
With the tide on it's way out, hundreds of gulls and waders, were spread out across the mudflats here.  Spending around two hours scoping through these birds, the only ring spotted was an 'Orange Darvic' on a BHG, albeit in the distance.  Waiting patiently, probably the same Black-headed Gull, eventually appeared within camera range.

Having took a few photos, the 'colour-ring' -   2AVA , was a new sighting for me.  This is another one of Adam McClure's Study birds.  Although, I have emailed Adam, I have received no reply as yet.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AVA   -  Dargan Mudflats  (13 Aug 2016)

As per usual at this site, several 'metal' and 'colour' ringed Common Gulls were present.  By the time I arrived here the tide was quite well up again, making easy viewing of the gulls.  I noticed that Black-headed Gulls were present in larger numbers, than normal, but none were ringed.

The 'stand out' sighting here, was of a 'foot-less' Common Gull, which I first spotted on the 2nd July 2016.  Having realised that the gull was bearing a 'metal-ring' and had no feet, it flew off before I could obtain any photos.

My first sighting of it today, was of it standing on the beach, between two other Common Gulls.  I quickly took a couple of photos, thinking it would not come anywhere near me.  The lure of bread did entice it, along with a handful of other gulls.  I managed another couple of photos, before it took off again.  The gull does not appear to be too fond of standing on the concrete on it's 'Stumps', the name I've given to this bird.

Checking the photos for details on the ring, I only captured a partial number ' 820 '.  On checking the position of the numbers underneath the address on the ring, I was able to determine that I had the second to fourth numbers of the code.  As the two letters before the five numbers would begin with an '  E ', the partial code would read -   E**820* .

This code is likely to be the same as the Common Gull -   EX38230 , which I also recorded here today, the numbers '  82 ' being the common factor of both rings.  This being the case, then 'Stumps' would have been ringed as a chick on the nearby Copeland Islands in 2010.  Having had the misfortune of loosing both feet, 'Stumps' has no trouble with standing.

With three'colour-ringed' Common Gulls present, their numbers were quickly obtained, being a second sighting for me of   2ANJ   and re-sightings of   2ADX   and   2BBC .

Common Gull 'Stumps'  -    E**820*   -  Millisle  (13 Aug 2016)

With three 'colour-ringed' Common Gulls present, their numbers were quickly obtained, being a second sighting of   2ANJ   and re-sightings of   2ADX  and   2BBC .

Common Gulls  -    2ANJ   2ADX   &    2BBC   -  Millisle  (13 Aug 2016)

Out of a few 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls present, I picked out two birds to try and obtain their numbers.  One of the two, has a bad leg or ankle.  I know of two such gulls here at Millisle, having obtained the number on one of these, I have been trying to get the number for the other.  It turned out, the bird present today was   EX38230 , which I've now re-sighted on several occasions.

The other Common Gull was   EW31160 , a second re-sighting, having first recorded it's number on the 2nd July 2016.  Here at Millisle, I still have a couple of partials to complete and there is a good possibility that other 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls, have yet to be recorded.

Common Gulls  -    EX38230   &    EW31160   -  Millisle  (13 Aug 2016)


      Sunday 14th August 2016       
Upon completing my visits to Antrim Marina, Parkhall and KFC in Antrim, I drove down to Kinnego Marina, at the bottom end of Lough Neagh.  With several 'metal' and 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls to look out for, the first to grab my attention, was a 'one-legged' BHG with a 'metal-ring'.

My sister, Heather and I, spotted this gull, just the once last winter, but were unable to get any of the numbers.  I knew that Adam had ringed a 'one-legged' Black-headed Gull here, on the 29th October 2014 (Read Here).  I informed Adam of the sighting, but asked him to with-hold the ring number, as I wanted to try and get it on another occasion.

Once again, with the lure of some bread, I managed to obtain the ring number -   EY68264 , which matches the rings used by Adam.  I've reported the gull to Adam, so that he can confirm the number.

On Wednesday 10th August, Suzanne Belshaw paid a visit to Kinnego Marina.  During her visit, she spotted a BHG with a BTO ring, standing on one leg.  Taking photos, she only managed to obtain '  64 ' on the ring, but did not realise that this gull only had the one leg.  During Suzanne's visit, she also recorded   2BPN  and   2BPV , both regulars at Kinnego.

On my visit today, I also recorded   2BPN , as well as regulars -   2BPT  and   2BPS .  I also spotted another one of Adam's Study birds, which I had never seen before -   2ADR .  I am now waiting on the details of this BHG from Adam. 

Black-headed Gull  -    EY68264   -  Kinnego Marina  (14 Aug 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADR   -  Kinnego Marina  (14 Aug 2016)


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