Monday, 29 August 2016

Portuguese Gull Returns...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 28th August)       
A splendid Autumn morning weather-wise, being very mild, sunny and with a slight north-easterly breeze.  Not so good for gulls though, as there wasn't a single bird to be seen until 9.35, when three juvenile Black-headed's arrived.  I recorded my first 'colour-ring' at 09.59, but had to wait until around 10.40, for BHG numbers to increase.

  2AAK  was my second sighting at 10.37 and   2ABF  was the fifth and final gull to be recorded at 11.13.  With the arrival of the trainee canoeists just before 11am, the gulls would not settle, though plenty were in the air overhead.  Once again, I gave up at 12.00

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2AAD   2AAK   2ACV   2ADJ   2ABF 

The Absentees
 T35J   2AAT   2AAP   2AAA   2AAH   2AAC   2ABN   2ABK   2ABS 

Other Birds
The Herring Gull pair arrived at their usual time, around 10.00.  Even these birds cleared off, after the canoeists arrived.  An adult Common Gull, the first in several weeks, appeared for a short time, at 10.37, as did a juvenile Herring Gull.

Only two Mute Swans were present on my arrival and the usual trio was complete when a 3rd bird swam in from the Lough at 09.40.  A further three Mute Swans came in from the Lough at 10.15, but there were no rings on any of these birds.

40 Mallards, very quickly increased to over 100 present.  They, along with the swans, do not seem to mind the canoeists as much.  I got to look at most legs on the Mallards, but still no rings.

A maximum of 11 Jackdaws, a juvenile Magpie and a pair of Collard Doves, were the only other species noted during today's visit.

Elim Church & KFC
After completing my visit to Antrim Marina, I drove up to the Elim Church at Parkhall to check on   2AAV  and   JK35   at the KFC outlet.  But neither gull was present, though good numbers of BHGs were at both sites.


      Ringing Details Received       
Adam McClure has now sent me the files for the five 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls that I have recently spotted, all of which were new sightings for me.

  2AVA  was spotted on the Dargan Mudflats at Belfast on the 13th August 2016.  My sighting was a first for this gull, having been ringed as a chick on the 18th June 2013 at Blue Circle Island in Larne Lough.  The distance between the two sites is about 23 kms / 14 miles south-west from where it was ringed.

  2ADR  was spotted at Kinnego Marina on the 14th August 2016.  The gull was ringed as an adult female on the 6th December 2013 at Corbet Lough in County Down.  My re-sighting was the 8th for this gull and only the second record of it being at Kinnego Marina.  Having been recorded here on the 9th October 2015, other previous re-sightings were made at the original ringing site - Jan 2014, Oct 2014, Dec 2014, Jan 2015 (twice) and Feb 2016.

It may be likely that   2ADR , breeds close to Kinnego Marina, hence it's presence, but more summer sightings would be needed to 'cement' the idea.  The distance from Corbet Lough to Kinnego Marina, is about 21 kms / 13 miles in a north-west direction.

  2ALK  was spotted by me twice on the 20th August 2016, firstly at Sandy Bay in Larne and then a short time later, on the shore at Glynn.  It was ringed on Blue Circle Island, which can be seen from Glynn, on the 18th June 2013.  There has only been two previous sightings, both at Glynn on the 30th May 2014 and 27th July 2015.

  2APT  was spotted on the 20th August 2016 on the shore at Whiteabbey.  Having been ringed as a chick on the 23rd June 2015, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre in County Down, my sighting was a first for this gull.  The distance from Castle Espie to Whiteabbey is roughly 21 kms / 13 miles in a north-west direction.

  2CBT  was also a first sighting on the 20th August 2016, again on the shore at Whiteabbey.  It was ringed as a chick on the 24th June 2016 at Castle Espie Wetland Centre, (read the account for   2APT  above).

Sandwich Tern  -  White NZR
Ruben Fijn has sent me the ringing details for the Sandwich Tern - White NZR, which I spotted at Whitehead on the 20th August 2016.  It was ringed as a chick on the 28th June 2013, on the island of Scheelhoek, Haringvliet Inlet, just south of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

My sighting was the third for this tern, the second having been made only five days earlier at Coquet Island, Northumberland, England.  The first sighting was on the 28th June 2015 at Texel, part of a chain of islands on the north coast of Holland.  The distance from the ringing site to Whitehead is about 727 kms / 451 miles in a north-west direction.

I wonder by what route this tern took to get from Coquet Island to Whitehead in just five days!!  These are mostly 'sea-going' birds and I would doubt that it crossed mainland England to get here.  My thanks go to Ruben for the details of this Tern.

Sandwich Tern  -  White NZR
(Blue = Ringing Site,  Red = Locations of Sightings)

Black-headed Gull  -    ST255.167 
I obtained the full number on this 'metal' on the 11th August 2016 at the car park, just opposite Coleraine Harbour.    ST255.167  is no stranger to Coleraine, having been sighted by local birdwatcher John Clarke, last winter.  Unfortunately, John could not obtain the full ring number, having captured   ST***.167 , on his photos.

During the week, I received the ringing details from Finland for this Black-headed Gull.  It was ringed as an un-sexed juvenile, on the 22nd July 2006, just north of the town of Turku in south-west Finland.  As with most 'metals', this is likely to be a first sighting.  The distance is given as 1,801 kms / 1,119 miles in a south-west direction and comes 10 years and 20 days since being ringed.

This one becomes one of the oldest Black-headed Gulls on my records. 

Turku, Finland to Coleraine, Northern Ireland


      Monday 22nd August 2016       
I decided to make a quick visit to Portrush, to see if I could re-sight the young Black-headed Gull which I ringed on the 31st May 2016, at Inch Island in County Donegal.  I wanted to try and finish off the ring number, as I was only able to get a 'partial' -   EZ610**  on the 11th August 2016, when a women and her three kids, scared the gulls away.

During that visit, two Sandwich Terns were amongst the gulls, both of which were 'metal-ringed'.  I failed to obtain the final number on the ring on one of these terns -   DK6678* , but had enough for a ringing report to be produced (see my previous post).  All that I knew of the ring on the second tern, was that it was placed 'upside-down'.

On today's visit to Portrush, I spotted a 'metal-ringed' Sandwich Tern on a roof-top, along with many Black-headed Gulls and a few Common Gulls.  With a lot of effort and patience, I managed to obtain the full number -   DE03433 , on an 'upside-down' ring.  Was this the same bird I spotted on the 11th August?

It took well over an hour to get this number, I needed the tern to move about, so as to obtain photos of the ring from different angles.  It spent most of it's time lying down.  I reported the number to the BTO and have received the ringing details.

  DE03433  was ringed as a chick on the 3rd July 2013, at Lady's Island Lake, County Wexford in the Republic of Ireland.  The distance was given as 334 kms / 208 miles in a northerly direction.  Another good result and my fourth ringed Sandwich Tern in two weeks.

Sandwich Tern  -    DE03433   -  East Strand Car Park, Portrush  (22 Aug 2016)

Lady's Island Lake, County Wexford to Portrush, County Antrim

There was no sign of the young Black-headed Gull that I was looking for.  I did however spot an adult 'metal-ringed' BHG on the other side of the roof-top from where the tern was sitting.  I could not get access to get close enough to take photos of the gull, but is it the same bird from Scotland that was here last winter?


      Saturday 27th August 2016       
Today, I decided to do a re-run of the sites that I visited last Saturday, along the East Antrim Coast.  These were Sandy Bay in Larne, Glynn, Whitehead, Carrickfergus, Whiteabbey, Whitehouse Lagoon and I also included the Dargan Mudflats and the RSPB's Wow Reserve.  The tide was out at all of the sites, but by the time I got to Dargan, it was well on it's way in.

After leaving the RSPB's Reserve, I called into Whitehouse Lagoon again on my way home, to have another look for rings here, as the incoming tide would have forced many species off the mudflats and into the Lagoon.

Sandy Bay, Larne
On last Saturday's visit, I was especially looking for an Oystercatcher that had a 'metal-ring', which spent last winter here, but not a single Oystercatcher was to be seen.  Twelve of these birds were on the rocks close to the 'round tower' today, but none were ringed.  I scoped a number of Ringed Plovers, Dunlins, Black-headed Gulls and a single Turnstone and had no luck with these either.

A good mix of gulls and waders, although numbers were a good bit lower than usual.  No Terns today, which was surprising and the only ring spotted was a 'metal' on an Oystercatcher.

A couple of dozen BHGs and a couple of Herring Gulls, but no rings or Terns.  An adult Gannet was sitting on the slipway, perhaps injured in some way, but I left it alone to let nature take it's course.

I checked the gulls at the Harbour and along the beach, but got nothing here either.

Whiteabbey Shoreline
A good mixture of gull species and a few Oystercatchers, with only a single 'colour-ringed' gull being spotted and what a surprise this one turned out to be.

Having spotted a Lesser Black-backed Gull with a 'Black-Darvic', it never even entered my head, I was about to re-sight a bird that I thought, I would never see again.  As soon as I read the code '  F461 ', I knew this was the gull from Portugal that I recorded here at the start of last winter.  Despite all of my visits to Whiteabbey since then, I've never seen this bird again until now.

Only recently, I got in touch with the British Trust for Ornithology, about the very same gull, as I noticed that it was not included on the updated Online Ringing Reports.  It turned out, that the BTO was unaware of the sighting.  I have sent a joint email to RIAS and the BTO, informing them of my latest sighting.  I have also asked RIAS, if there has been any other re-sightings since the 10th October 2016.

Read here (click) and here (click) about this Lesser Black-back on my posts for last autumn.  At that time, I stated that this was my 'gem' for ring-sightings and it still is.  Mainly due to the distance from the ringing site (1,967 kms / 1,222 miles), I'd place it just ahead of my sightings of a 23 year old Sandwich Tern and 20 year old Common Gull. 

One other thing of note, is the colour of the characters on the 'Darvic'.  They are supposed to be Orange, but have now faded to White.

Lesser Black-backed Gull  -    F461   -  Whiteabbey Shoreline  (27 Aug 2016)

Whitehouse Lagoon
I paid two visits to Whitehouse Lagoon, the first was while the tide was well out.  The second visit was made on my way back home, with the incoming tide, fairly well up.

On the first stop, not too many gulls or waders were present and they were scattered over a large area of the mudflats.  The first ring to be spotted, was that of the Oystercatcher which has recently returned from Iceland - Green over White, Green Flag (missing) over Black.

Oystercatcher  -  GW-GfN  -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (27 Aug 2016)

The second ring spotted was a 'metal' on a Black-headed Gull.  This one was the same bird that I recorded on the 7th August 2016, again being the closest bird to me.  Managing to obtain photos of the ring, it was indeed   EX53262  from Lockerbie in Scotland.

Ring of   EX53262   -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (27 Aug 2016)

Calling in at Whitehouse Lagoon for a second time while on my way home, far more gulls and waders were now present, having been forced off Belfast Lough due to the incoming tide.

With lots of birds to scope, the first ring to be spotted was a 'Blue Darvic' on a Common Gull -   2AIN .  I had spotted this gull on one previous occasion, at the nearby Whiteabbey Shoreline on the 24th October 2015.  It was ringed by Shane Wolsey on the 23rd June 2012, at the Copeland Islands in County Down.

Common Gull  -    2AIN   -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (27 Aug 2016)

The next two 'colour-rings' to be spotted were on Black-headed Gulls.  Both being Orange in colour, I knew these were from Adam McClure's BHG Study.  Taking photos of these two gulls, one was so far away, I could not make out the code on the ring.

The other bird was   2APT , a gull I first sighted last Saturday on the nearby Whiteabbey Shoreline.  During the week, Adam emailed me the ringing details for this gull, as can be seen in the Ringing Details Received section above.

Black-headed Gull  -    2APT   -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (27 Aug 2016)

My next sighting was of another 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull - White T56W.  This is one of several birds that I have been on the look-out for, having recorded them last autumn/winter at Whitehouse Lagoon.

My last sighting of T56W was on the 1st November 2015, having initially spotted it on the 10th October 2015.  As this gull was not recorded through the remainder of last winter, I'm wondering if it uses the Lagoon as a 'stopover' before moving on to it's wintering site.

I checked for updates on the 'Live' online Polish Ringing Database, but my sighting last November was the last time T56W was reported.  It was ringed on the 16th June 2012 at the Odra Reservoir, close to the border with Germany. 

Black-headed Gull  -  White T56W  -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (27 Aug 2016)

There are two more BHGs that I am hoping to re-sight this winter.    2ALP  is from Adam McClure's Study, a gull that I recorded twice last winter at the Lagoon.  Having being bred in Northern Ireland, it was spotted during the breeding season in Norway.

The second BHG was ringed as an adult in May 2015 in Norway.     JM75   was only recorded on a single occasion at the Lagoon last winter.  Having checked the 'Live' online Norwegian Ringing Database, it has not been reported since my sighting on the 11th October 2015.  This gull may just have been 'passing through' on it's way to it's wintering site.  Adam McClure, did however, spot a BHG with a 'Green-Darvic' on the nearby Dargan mudflats, later on last winter, but could not get the code on the ring.

Dargan Mudflats
I spent a long time here scoping the gulls and waders and the only ring to be spotted was a 'metal' on a young Cormorant.  It's a pity, this young bird was not 'colour-ringed' as well, as I would have been able to get close enough to obtain the code.

RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve
Seated in 'Hide 2' for about an hour and a half, I once again scoped Common Terns for 'colour-rings'.  As on previous occasions, I spotted numerous 'metals', but had no chance of reading these from a distance.  A Roseate Tern also appeared and bore a 'metal-ring' on each leg.  If any of these birds had been 'colour-ringed', I would have got the codes.

'Metal-ringed'  Roseate Tern  -  RSPB WoW Reserve  (27 Aug 2016)

Perhaps as many as 150 to 200 Oystercatchers were roosting on the edge of the Lagoon here.  They were too well bunched up to view most legs.  I thought, surely there has to be at least one 'colour-ring' amongst them, but only a single 'metal' was spotted.


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