Tuesday, 9 August 2016

4th Season Starts...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
On Sunday the 7th August, I arrived at Antrim Marina at 9.00am to begin my fourth winter of 'Ring Watching'.  During these weekly Sunday visits, I will be recording ringed birds that stay here throughout the winter or perhaps, are just passing through.

My main priority, is to record the Black-headed Gulls from Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Study.  These gulls have orange 'colour-rings' fitted to their left legs and I have gradually collected enough information in order to build profiles for each bird.  Some of these gulls are resident, while others depart in the spring to breed elsewhere and return during the autumn to see out another winter at the Marina.

The breeding sites for several Black-headed Gulls are unknown, unlike that of a couple of other birds, such as   2AAR  and   2AFD  which are known to breed in Poland and Latvia.  Also, by recording these gulls on a regular basis, their sudden absence gives an indication as to when, they have perished.  Altogether, 39 'colour-ringed' BHGs have been recorded at the Marina since I began studying them here, 37 of these are from Adam's Study.

The other two gulls are - White T35J - ringed as a chick in Lithuania in 2006 and has recently arrived back, while - White 2APT - ringed as a chick in 2013 in Scotland, was recorded on just one occasion, passing through.

Of Adam's birds, five are classed as having died, due to their continued absence.  The last two of these was   2ABP  and   2AAJ  (which had been sighted in north-east England), both failing to return last winter.    2AFR , was spotted at the Marina on one occasion during this summer.  This gull became the 39th 'colour-ringed' BHG and has been classed as just passing through.

I now start this winter on the lookout for 32 'colour-ringed' BHGs, one of these,   2AAP  which is an all year resident, is already causing concern, having not been seen since the 3rd of June.    2ADD , may not be seen now until next spring, as it is known that he winters at Carrickfergus.    2ALH  (38th Darvic), which arrived here for the first during the summer and bred out on the Lough, might go back to County Down to winter, but this remains to be seen.  I'm not sure about the status of   2BRB .  This gull was ringed at the Marina early in 2015 and may just have been passing through at the time.  No sightings of it were made during the 2015/16 winter, but for the present, I am not discounting it's eventual re-appearance.

There is also the 'metal-ringed' BHGs to watch out for: -
  571487  - from Iceland, ringed as a chick in 2003 and recorded in each of the previous three winters.

  6438391  - from Sweden, ringed as a chick in 2014.  It spent it's first winter at the Marina and returned last winter for the second year running.

  EG55380  - ringed as a chick in 2005 on the Copeland Islands, here in Northern Ireland, has also been recorded in each of the last three winters (returning in early spring).

2015 bred youngsters -   EL72723  and   EY13763  from Inch Island in Donegal and Coquet Island in England, both spent their first winter at the Marina.  Will they return for a second winter?

There are also two 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls to watch out for:-
  EY64036  - from Scotland, ringed as a chick in 2013.  It spent it's first winter at the Marina and also returned in both 2014 and 2015.

  ST177.028  - from Finland.  Having been ringed as a juvenile in August 1998, this is the oldest bird of any species that I have recorded.  I finally completed the ring number on the 28th February 2016 and I reckon this is the same gull that eluded me during the winter of 2015.  I'm hoping to see the return of this gull during the winter and if it does appear, it will be over 21 years old.

There are also the 'metal-ringed' Mallards and Mute Swans to watch out for.  During the course of this winter, there will also be new sightings and I'm looking forwards to the challenge of 'Ring Watching at Antrim Marina'.

Black-headed Gulls Recorded on Sunday 7th August
 2AAD   2ABN   2AAT   2AAK   2ABA   2ANS   2BRA   2ABL 


Other Birds at The Marina
No Common Gulls were seen today.  During the last few weeks of summer visits, 4 adults and a second summer bird were quite often seen.  This included the 'colour-ringed'   2AJP , which has not been seen now since the 22nd July.  Ringed as a chick in 2013, at the Copeland Islands in County Down, we suspect that it bred or attempted to breed on Lough Neagh and may now have departed to it's wintering quarters.

At the start of the summer, there was an adult pair of Herring Gulls present at the Marina.  Over the course of the season, only one of these birds was to be seen, thinking the other was on nest duty.  Until lately, this gull remained alone, but the recent arrival of a near adult (some juvenile plumage showing), leads me to think that something happened to it's original partner.  These two are showing all the signs that they are now pairing up together.  A youngster from this summer made a brief appearance, but was soon chased off by the new pair of Herring Gulls.

Mallards numbers were exceptional, with a maximum of 152 birds been counted at 12.00.  Having looked at most legs, no rings were recorded.  No Mute Swans were to be seen on my arrival.  A pair turned up at 9.40, with a 3rd bird arriving at 10.23.  All three swans came from upriver, but they all remained on the water, making it impossible to look for rings.

The only other birds noted were 11 Jackdaws and a single Rook.   


      Norwegian BHG -   JK35  - Returns       
After completing my latest visit to Antrim Marina, I drove across Antrim Town, to the car park at the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet.  I was checking on the presence or absence of   2ADD .  He was not to be seen, but I did get a surprise re-sighting.  The Norwegian Black-headed Gull   JK35 , has returned.

My first sighting of this gull was on the 24th January 2016 at the KFC cark park (Read & Read), where it remained until the 13th March.  Checking the live online Norwegian Ringing Database, I discovered that   JK35  had bee re-sighted back in Norway on three occasions - 8th April, 20th April and the 22nd April 2016, in the Stavanger area (Read).

Returning home, I re-checked the Database, to find that no further sightings had been reported until now, when I added my latest find.  Ringed as a chick in June 2014, close to Stavanger, it is looking very likely that this gull has chosen the KFC outlet as it's wintering quarters.  If this is the case, then it may be possible that   JK35   will be re-sighted here for years to come.

Black-headed Gull  -    JK35   -  KFC, Antrim Town  (07 Aug 2016)

The Car Park at KFC, Antrim Town  -    JK35   - being the Closest Gull  (07 Aug 2016)


      Ringing Details Received       
During the week, the British Trust for Ornithology emailed the ringing details of the Common Gull -   ET69908  - which I spotted at Whitehead on the east coast of County Antrim, last Sunday (31st July).  My efforts in trying to photograph the ring, has been rewarded, as this gull now becomes the oldest British ringed Common Gull on my records and as a bonus, came from Scotland.

  ET69908  was ringed as a chick on the 24th June 2002, on the Kilmaronaig Islands, Loch Etive in Scotland.  My sighting, came 14 years, 1 month and 7 days, since being ringed.  The distance is 191 kms / 118 miles in a southerly direction.  As with most 'metals' that I record, this will likely be a first re-sighting and I'm sure the ringer will be delighted when he receives the report.

Back on the 2nd July 2016, I recorded four 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls in County Down, 3 at Millisle and 1 at Groomsport (Read).  Collectively, these four, at that time, became the oldest BTO ringed Common Gulls that I had recorded, having been ringed in 2005, 2006, 2006 and 2008, as chicks on the nearby Copeland Islands (Read).

The oldest Common Gull overall, that I have recorded, is -   ST177.028  - which I recorded at Antrim Marina on the 28th February 2016 (Read).  This gull from Finland, was ringed as a juvenile on the 6th August 1995 and my sighting came 20 years, 6 months and 22 days later.   

Loch Etive, Argyll & Bute, Scotland to Whitehead, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland

I am still waiting on the ringing details for a Common Tern and two Black-tailed Godwits.  I did receive an email from Ricky, of the Dublin Bay Birds Project, concerning the Common Tern, but he is waiting to get his hands on the database.  I have reported all three birds to the BTO, hoping to obtain some info on these, as it taking a while for the ringers to get back to me.


      Sunday 7th August 2016       
After my visits to Antrim Marina and the KFC outlet in Antrim, I drove on to the east County Antrim coast, visiting Carrickfergus, Whitehouse Lagoon and the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve at the Belfast Harbour Estate.

My aim was to try and locate   2ADD , which not present at Antrim Marina or the KFC outlet.  Thinking he may have flown on to 'Carrick', I tried the harbour and the ponds at the nearby Leisure Centre.  For the first time ever, there was not a single BHG to be seen while I was at the harbour.  It was a different story on the ponds, as there were around 100 BHGs present, but not one ring was spotted and no sign of   2ADD .

Whitehouse Lagoon
As it was near high tide, not much of the mudflats were exposed.  Even so, there was still a few hundred gulls and waders present and after scoping all these birds, only a single 'metal-ring' was spotted.  This happened to be on a Black-headed Gull, which was the closest bird to me.

My thoughts went back to a BHG, that I spotted in nearly the exact same position on the 6th September 2015.  Having just purchased my new camera, I thought, due to the distance, I would not be able to obtain any details on the ring.  However, on returning home and checking the couple of photos that I did take, a partial number could be seen -    EX***** .  I then wished, I'd been more persistent at trying to get the whole number.

Uncanny or what!!  After returning home and checking today's photos, I did complete the whole number, getting   EX53262 .  Could this be the exact same gull?  It will never be known, but this partial number in my records, will now be listed as 'complete'.  I have now reported this BHG to the BTO and should get it's ringing details during the week.

Part of the title of my Blog is entitled - '& rings spotted elsewhere'.  I'm just starting my second winter of looking for rings elsewhere, but what I have recorded over the last few weeks, makes for interesting reading.  I'm really looking forwards to the next few months, recording new rings and re-sighting the ringed birds that were recorded last winter.    

Black-headed Gull  -    EX53262    -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (07 Aug 2016)

RSPB's WoW Reserve, Belfast Harbour Estate
My final stop of the day was at the Window on Wildlife Reserve on the Belfast Harbour Estate which is run by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

I was hoping to spot 'colour-ringed' Common Terns, which nest on two platforms in the lake.  I spent a long time scoping from each of two hides.  The terns are at various stages in their nesting season, some are still sitting on eggs, while others have newly hatched or fledged young.  I reckon, many of the terns lost eggs or small chicks to the gulls, which were nesting in good numbers earlier in the season.

I spotted several adult 'metal-ringed' Common Terns and at one point, had three 'metals' in the scope at the same time.  As the ringing of terns, does not take place on the reserve, these birds would have been ringed elsewhere and have chosen this site in which to breed.  Due to the distance between the hides and the perching spots which the terns use, I had no chance of reading 'metals'.  If these same birds had been 'colour-ringed', I would have got them all.

As it was high tide out on Belfast Lough, good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Oystercatchers were also present roosting here, while waiting on the tide to go out, making it possible for them to feed on the mudflats.  Unfortunately, they were all a little too far away from the hides, to view for rings.

'Metal-ringed' Common Tern  -  Belfast Harbour Reserve  (07 Aug 2016)


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