Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Birds Getting Hungrier...

Once again, my latest post is a little on the late side.  This is due to my inclusion of a run out on Monday and the decision to add the day to this article.  This is also the first post to be compiled on my new laptop, which I'm still getting to grips with.

Recently, I have been experiencing problems with my old computer, which is now showing it's age, hence an upgrade to something more modern.  Having transferred my main files and data via a memory-stick, it is taking me slightly longer to locate the desired information - I'm getting there though.  As with anything new, it takes a little time to get used to a new system.

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 25th September 2016)       
Today's visit to Antrim Marina, saw far calmer conditions, compared to yesterday's heavy rain and strong winds.  A good number of Black-headed Gulls were present on my arrival.  I set to work straight away looking for 'colour-ringed' birds and recorded 15 inside 30 minutes.  Around 09.30, I made a head-count of the gulls present - 153 Black-headed, 1 Common and 1 Herring Gull.

The BHG numbers peaked to around 200 birds by 10.15.  With plenty of early feeding by people giving food to the ducks, numbers started to decrease shortly afterwards.  The gulls are now becoming very hungry, so natural food must be harder to locate.  'One Leg', appeared at my car window, as soon as I had parked.  After having it's fill of bread, feeding from my hand, it soon disappeared, only to return at 11.00 for more.

My 20th and final 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull to be recorded, was   2ANS  at 11.15.  I had not seen this one since the 14th August.  There is still no sign of   2AAS , which by next Sunday, will be two months overdue - have we lost another bird?

Next Sunday also takes us into the month of October.  Three other BHGs are due to return for another winter at the Marina.  Going by previous records,   2ADV  should appear by the 2nd or 9th October, whilst   2AAR  and   2ACX  are expected between the 9th and 16th.    2ABP , which normally returns at the same time as   2AAR , never made it back last winter and I class this one as 'dead'.

Again, there is no sign of the young Black-headed Gull   2CJR , which first appeared here two weeks ago.  I wonder if this young gull has moved on.  It seems that youngsters tend to roam around for a while, before settling down in an area to see out the winter.

I now have the ringing details for   2CJR , from Adam.  It was ringed on the 3rd July 2016, at Blue Circle Island in Larne Lough, which is 32 kms / 20 miles to the north-east of Antrim Marina.  My sighting was the first one of this young bird since being ringed. 

Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina  (Sunday 25th September 2016)
 2ABK   2AAT   2AAH   2BRA   T35J   2AAD   2AAA   2AAN   2AAF   2ADJ 
 2ABN   2ABL   2AAP   2AAK   2AAC   2AAB   2ACV   2ABS   2ABF   2ANS 

The Absentees
 2ABA   2AAV   2ALH   2CJR 

Black-headed Gull  -    2ANS   -  Antrim Marina  (25 Sep 2016)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Not a great day for spotting other birds, as there was so few to be seen.  An adult Common Gull and an immature Herring Gull (probably a 3rd winter bird), were present when I arrived and both remained throughout my visit.

Two Mute Swans, were later joined by a further three arrivals - appearing from up-river on their own in each case.  None of the first three were ringed and these are most likely to be the same three that are here on most weeks.  The two later arrivals were   Z91982  and   W34158 , both having returned to the Marina in recent weeks.

I noticed that one of the un-ringed swans, has a fish-hook embedded onto it's leg.  The hook also has a short length of fishing line attached to it.  Looking at the photo, the hook should be fairly easily dislodged, as it seems only to have a slight hold.
Mute Swan Leg with Fish-hook   -  Antrim Marina  (25 Sep 2016)

Around 50 Mallards, quickly increased in numbers to a peak of around 80 birds by 10.30.  Numbers dwindled after this time, as many of the ducks received a good feed of bread.  There is still no sign of any ringed Mallards.  

The only other birds noted during my visit, was a single Hooded Crow and a maximum of 9 Jackdaws.

Elim Church, Parkhall & Antrim KFC
Seeing as   2AAV  was not at Antrim Marina, I stopped by the Elim Church at Parkhall, it's favourite haunt.  There was far fewer Black-headed Gulls at the Church today, with only 15 birds present and no sign of   2AAV .

Driving on, to the car park of the KFC outlet nearby, there was no sign of the Norwegian Black-headed Gull -   JK35 , last seen here on the 11th September 2016.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Finnish BHG -   ST239.172 , that I spotted here last Sunday, is still present.  So far, no ringing details have arrived for this gull.

Black-headed Gull  -  Finland    ST239.172   -  KFC, Antrim Town  (25 Sep 2016)


      Ringing Details Received       
I have now received a reply concerning the Greylag Geese that I spotted at Inch Lake in County Donegal.  The details for these birds with Orange 'Neck-collars', will be sent in due course, going by the email.

No info has arrived for the Finnish Black-headed Gull that I first spotted on the 18th September 2016 and recorded again on Sunday 25th September (see above).

Adam has sent me the ringing details of the young Black-headed Gull   2CJR .  This is included in my latest visit to Antrim Marina article (also above).


      Saturday 24th September 2016       
An awful day weather-wise, with strong winds and heavy rain for most of the time.  A very late decision was made to go to the nearby coastal villages at Glenarm and Carnlough.  Knowing it would be nearly high tide, I thought any birds present would be easily scoped.

At both sites, hardly any birds were to be seen at all.  There was nothing at Glenarm and at Carnlough Bay, I discovered a group of 38 Ringed Plovers resting close to the small play park, situated on a pebbled area above the high-tide line.  Scoping these little birds, I did spot one with a 'metal-ring'.  Using the car as a hide, I positioned myself as close to the play park as I could get and zoomed in for photos.

As I had feared, the plover was just a little too far away, to get any details on the ring.  I would have had no problems, if it had been 'colour-ringed'.  Other than this, the outing today was a 'dead loss'.

'Metal-ringed' Ringed Plover  -  Carnlough Bay  -  (24 Sep 2016)


      Sunday 25th September 2016       
Upon completing my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, I travelled to the bottom end of Lough Neagh to Kinnego Marina.  Then, I checked out Lurgan Park nearby, before heading to Belfast and stopping by the Dargan Mudflats and finishing with a prolonged visit to Whitehouse Lagoon.

Kinnego Marina
I made a fairly quick stop at Kinnego.  Black-headed Gulls, were the only gull species to be seen, as well as a small number of Mallards.  A quick look of around 80 BHGs, produced three of Adam's Study birds,   2BPN ,   2BPS  and   2BPT .  I am especially keen to re-sight   2BPP  at this site, as we know it's from Latvia.

Adam caught and 'colour-ringed' this gull on the 29th October 2014, the first record of it in Northern Ireland.  The bird already being in possession of a Latvian 'metal-ring', was ringed as a chick in 2005.  My first sighting of this gull was on the 29th November, last autumn/winter, despite a few earlier visits to Kinnego.  Suzanne Belshaw is keeping an eye on this site as well and hopefully, we can obtain an earlier return date.

I also recorded a few 'metal-ringed' BHGs at Kinnego last winter and I'm hoping to re-sight these, especially one bird whose ring number I failed to complete -   EW3*806 .

Black-headed Gull  -    2BPT   -  Kinnego Marina  (25 Sep 2016)

Lurgan Park
Suzanne has also been keeping an eye out for ringed birds at Lurgan Park.  Just lately, she recorded an Icelandic-rung Black-headed Gull, failing to obtain the last digit of the number -   53794*  .  This is almost certain, to be the same bird that I recorded on a single occasion last winter, at Victoria Park in Belfast, on Christmas Day -   537949 .

One of Adam's 'colour-ringed' BHG chicks, has also been recorded by Suzanne at Lurgan Park on several occasions.    2CCH  was ringed on the 24th June 2016, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, in County Down, around 41 kms / miles to the east of Lurgan Park.

I stopped by Lurgan Park, after leaving Kinnego Marina.  I did not see   2CCH , but I did spot the Icelandic BHG.  Scoping the 'metal-ring', I could see Iceland, but the bird flew off before I could get photos.  The major problem with this site, is people throw bread directly onto the lake to feed the ducks and swans.  There is very little in the way of perches, making it very hard to read ring numbers.

Last winter, I recorded two 'metals' here on BHGs -   EW57424  and a partial   EN290**   EW57424  was ringed as a chick in 2008 at Kingsbury Waterpark, Warwickshire, England.  Both birds were spotted in late November 2015 and I'm hoping they will return this winter.

Dargan Mudflats
Arriving here at Dargan Bay, the incoming tide was well up, leaving very little of the mudflats exposed.  This was very helpful, as any remaining birds were well within scoping range.  One 'colour-ringed' Black-tailed Godwit was spotted on the waters edge.  This was a re-sighting of a bird that I first recorded here on the 31st July 2016 - Green over Green - Orange over Red Flag.  Read my post on the bird here (Sighting) and here (Ringing Report).

Black-tailed Godwit  -  GG-ORflag  -  Dargan Mudflats  (25 Sep 2016)
Whitehouse Lagoon
Plenty of the mudflats were still exposed at Whitehouse Lagoon.  The Lagoon fills by means of concrete pipes, which pass underneath the motorway connecting it to the waters of Belfast Lough.  The incoming tide, forces birds off the Lough and into the Lagoon, thus providing a little more feeding time or to roost.

No new rings were recorded, but I did re-sight four 'colour-ringed' birds.  Most note-able, was a Black-headed Gull from Adam's Study -   2ASF .  My only previous sighting of this bird was on the 19th March 2016, on one of the two nesting platforms at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, nearby.  Having been ringed as a chick at Blue Circle Island in Larne Lough in 2013, it probably bred at the reserve during the summer.

The three other birds were the Icelandic-rung Oystercatcher - GW-GfN, Polish-rung BHG - White T56W and Common Gull -   2AIN , from Shane Wolsey's Study on the Copeland Islands.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ASF   -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (25 Sep 2016)


      Monday 26th September 2016       
Returning to Glenarm and Carnlough, following Saturday's disastrous visit, I was a little more successful in recording 'ringed' birds.

Going to Carnlough Bay first, I re-sighted the Icelandic-rung Oystercatcher - Orange over Orange, White AA.  This is now my fourth sighting, having previously recorded it three times in August.  Plenty of other gulls and waders were also scoped, but no other rings were spotted.  I could not see the 'metal-ringed' Ringed Plover, that I recorded on Saturday either.
Oystercatcher  -  Orange over Orange, White AA  -  Carnlough Bay  (26 Sep 2016)

At Glenarm, I quickly re-sighted the Swedish 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull -   6431692 .  My first sighting was made on the 14th September 2016, here at the harbour.  I threw out some bread, to bring the gulls in closer to photograph the ring in order to confirm that it was the same bird, which it was.  The gull is less nervous now, than when I first spotted it.

Black-headed Gull  -  Sweden    6431692   -  Glenarm Harbour  (26 Sep 2016)

Scoping the remaining gulls on the shoreline, which were not attracted to my offering of bread, I spotted an 'Orange-Darvic' on a Black-headed Gull.  I guessed straight away, that this would be one of Adam's birds, probably a new sighting.  Having zoomed in to take photos, I obtained the code   2ALK , which surprised me.

This was the very same gull that I recorded twice on the same day (20th August 2016), first at Sandy Bay in Larne, then a short time later on the shoreline at Glynn.  It has now moved 18 kms / 11 miles up the Antrim Coast to get to Glenarm.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ALK   -  Glenarm Harbour  (26 Sep 2016)

Moving on from Glenarm, I visited Ballygalley Bay and Drains Bay, both just to the north of Larne.  At Ballygalley Bay, I scoped a number of gulls and waders, also a single adult Brent Goose with 5 youngsters, but no rings here.

At Drains Bay, no rings were seen on any of the gulls or waders.  Three 'metal-rings' were spotted on adult Shags on a rock just off the shoreline.  Seven Shags, along with two Cormorants, were drying out their wings on the rock.

Putting on a pair of 'wellies', I slowly walked out towards them, stopping every now and again to photograph the rings.   Getting closer, I made the birds very nervous and they eventually took off, landing on the sea.  Returning to the car, I looked through my pictures, but got nothing at all on the rings.

The Shags, were probably ringed as chicks on the 'Maidens', which is a small group of islands visible from Drains Bay.  Back at home, I checked the BTO's Online Ringing Report, to get an idea of the number of Shag chicks that have recently been ringed in County Antrim.  The report gives totals ringed from 2007 to 2015, which adds up to 327 chicks altogether (Table below).

Shag Chicks Ringed in County Antrim  (2007 - 2015)
 2007   2008   2009   2010   2011   2012   2013   2014   2015   Total 
14 0 53 57 37 85 81 0 0 327

I am presuming that these were all ringed on the Maidens.  I do not know who the ringer or ringers would have been, but it is a pity that these youngsters were not fitted with 'colour-rings' as well.  Given that the yearly total is not exceedingly high, the additional cost of adding 'colour-rings', would generate far more recoveries/sightings.  The three 'metal-ringed' birds that I observed today, had they been 'cr-ringed', would have easily been 'nailed'.


Monday, 19 September 2016

'Coloured' Geese...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 18th September 2016)       
It was very dull at Antrim Marina today.  For most of my visit, drizzly rain fell for long periods and on a couple of occasions, changed to quite heavy showers.  Around 80 Black-headed Gulls were present, mostly perched on the Long Jetty, when I arrived.  Maximum numbers peaked around 11.45, with around 140 birds being counted.

So far this winter, 24 'Darvic-ringed' gulls from Adam McClure's Study, have been recorded here.  17 of these birds were sighted during today's visit, which also included   2ABA , which I have not seen since the 7th August 2016.  There are 9 other BHGs from Adam's Study, which are expected to return over the course of the winter, the overall target being 33.

There was no sign of the juvenile   2CJR , that I spotted for the first time, last Sunday.  I am still waiting on the ringing details from Adam for this young BHG.  Again, there is still no sign of   2AAS , which should have returned by early August.

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2AAD   2ABS   2AAA   2AAF   2ADJ   2ACV   2AAP   2AAN   2ABL 
 2ABF   2AAH   2ABK   2AAC   2AAK   T35J   2ABA   2AAT    

The Absentees
 2ABN   2AAB   2AAV   2BRA   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR 

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABA   -  Antrim Marina  (18 Sep 2016)

Other Birds
Neither of the Mute Swans pairs, along with their cygnets (broods of 4 and 6), appeared today.  Last week, after the arrival of the pair with four young, all the other Mute Swans were chased off by the very aggressive male.  These included the usual 3 un-ringed birds, present on most weeks and the two 'metal-ringed' swans   Z91982  and   W34158 , both recent returnees.  These five swans were the only ones present throughout my visit today.

Around 60 Mallards, increased to around 100 birds by 10.30, before numbers started to drop again.  Many enjoyed a good feed of bread from a lot of early visitors, along with their children.  There is still no sign of any 'metal-ringed' ducks.

No Common Gulls, or the usual pair of Herring Gulls were to be seen on today's visit.  An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and a juvenile Herring Gull, visited briefly.

2 Hooded Crows, 1 Magpie and a maximum count of 8 Jackdaws, were the only other species noted at the Marina today.

Elim Church, Parkhall and the Antrim KFC Car Park

Elim Church
As   2AAV  was not at the Marina today, I drove up to the Elim Church at Parkhall to check on it's presence there.  A number of Black-headed Gulls were perched on house rooftops throughout the estate and there was no sign of   2AAV  at the Church.  Out came the bread, which soon attracted around 60 gulls, including   2AAV .

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAV   -  Elim Church, Antrim Town  (18 Sep 2016)

KFC Car Park
Now, it was on to the car park at the KFC outlet, a short distance away.  I was checking for the presence of the Norwegian BHG -   JK35 .  This gull never appeared, despite a prolonged visit - having spotted a Black-headed Gull with a 'metal-ring'.

The ring was slightly taller than the British BTO rings, so I knew this was a foreign bird.  I wondered straight away, if this could be the Icelandic Black-headed Gull that I recorded here on the 16th February 2016.  On that occasion, I was only able to get a partial number -   5**556 , before the gull flew off, not to be seen again.

Having joined the other gulls for the bread being thrown from my car window, my bird was nervous and kept walking away to towards the front of the car.  This was making the task of photographing the ring, very awkward.  Upon taking lots of pictures, I looked to see what I had.

The ring turned out to be from Finland, and I had only captured   ST239 .  From previous experience, I knew that I was missing the last three numbers.  After a second session of feeding, I had enough photos to complete the number   ST239.172 .  This is the second Finnish Black-headed Gull, that I have now recorded, the first just a few weeks ago, on the 11th August 2016 at Coleraine.

Going by the ring number, today's BHG could be fairly old.  The ring number on the Coleraine bird was   ST255.167 , ringed as a chick in July 2006.  Last winter, Adam McClure read a 'metal-ringed' Finnish Black-headed Gull at Ballyronan -   ST304.210 , ringed as a chick in June 2014.  The 'Finns', also use the same rings on their Common Gulls and   ST177.028 , that I recorded at Antrim Marina on the 28th February 2016, was ringed as a juvenile in August 1995.

I'm guessing that it may be likely, today's bird was ringed somewhere between 2002 and 2004.  I have reported the gull online and now await the details.

Black-headed Gull  -  Finland    ST239.172   -  KFC, Antrim Town  (18 Sep 2016)


      Ringing Details Received       

Black-headed Gull  -  White EAK9
While at Victoria Park in Belfast, on September 4th 2016 (read here), I re-sighted the Dutch Black-headed Gull - 'White EAK9'.  Last winter, I made two sightings of this gull, the first here at Victoria Park on the 17th October 2015 and again on the 25th December 2015, in the car park of the nearby Connswater Shopping Centre.

'White EAK9' had been re-sighted on four occasions since December 2015.  Prior to the breeding season, it was recorded on the 3rd and 30th April 2016 back in Holland, at Benthuizerplas, Zoetermeer.  After the breeding season had ended, it was then re-sighted at the same location on the 16th & 19th June 2016.

My post for last year's first sighting can be found (here), along with the reply from Frank Majoor.  My thanks go to Frank, and also to Benny Middendorp for the latest update on EAK9.

Lesser Black-backed Gull  -     F461  
RIAS - which is an animal welfare and rehabilitation centre at Quinta de Marim, Olhäo, Portugal, has sent me an updated file for   F461 .  Having recently re-sighted this gull on the 27th August 2016,  it has not been reported anywhere else since my initial sighting on the 10th October 2015.  Both my sightings were made at Whiteabbey shore.

I am still waiting for the details for these two birds:-
Greylag Goose  -    A|CC   -  Spotted at Inch Island Lake, County Donegal.
Black-headed Gull  -    2CJR   -  Spotted at Antrim Marina.


      Wednesday 14th September 2016       
With a bit of time available today, I drove the short distance to the coastal villages of Carnlough and Glenarm, on the County Antrim coast.

Carnlough Bay
Arriving here, my attention was quickly focused on a few Brent Geese.  4 adults, along with a total of 6 youngsters, were scoped for rings, but none this time.  2 Kittiwakes were perched among the Black-headed and Common Gulls.  This is my first sighting of this species here.  Checking all the gulls, which also included Great & Lesser Black-backed's, none of these were ringed either.

I was fairly sure, that one of the Turnstones was 'metal-ringed'.  They were standing in a small group, waiting for the tide to move out.  The bird I saw, scratched it's head and I thought I could see a quick flash of a ring.  Returning from my visit to Glenarm, all the waders were on the move feeding, but I could not see my likely 'ringed' suspect.

Scoping through the waders, which included Turnstones, Ringed Plovers, Redshanks, Dunlins, Oystercatchers and two Curlews, no rings were spotted.  There was no sign of the 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher from Iceland, which I have recorded here on a couple of occasions of late.

Pulling into the car park at the harbour, a number of Black-headed Gulls were perched along the rooftop of the Glenarm Potteries building.  Taking a quick look through the Binoculars, I noticed one bird was 'metal-ringed'.  Using the telescope, I could see that the ring was taller than the British BTO rings, so knew I that I was looking at a foreign bird.

Re-positioning my car to take photos of the ring, it was just out of view.  After waiting for a while, for the gull to move it's legs, I decided to take a risk and try luring the bird down with bread.  There was a possibility, for it just to fly off and I might then have problems in getting close enough to it again.

The bread worked, as it joined quite a few other BHGs in the free hand-out.  Wary at first, it slowly edged closer and came into camera range.  I constantly took photos, pausing every so often to throw out more bread, therefore keeping the gulls interested.  After a while, I moved the car off to another part of the car park and checked to see if I had the full number.  If not, I would have another go at feeding.

Realising that this was a Swedish ring, I knew I'd be looking for seven numbers.  Making a few scribbles in my notebook, I was successful, the number read -   6431692 .  Initially, I thought the ring number seemed familiar, as I've recorded a '  643 ' at Antrim Marina - was it the same bird on it's way back?

After returning home, I checked my records, the one recorded at Antrim was actually   6438391 , so my bird was a new sighting.  I reported the gull to the Ringing Department at Stockholm Museum and received the ringing details on Friday morning.

  6438391  was ringed as a chick on the 4th June 2011, at Lake Tåkern which is situated 216 kms / 134 miles south-west of the Swedish Capital.  The whole lake which is 12kms long, by 8 kms wide, is a Nature Reserve and the Black-headed Gull colony on the southern shore, is estimated to hold in the region of 1,800 pairs.

The distance to Glenarm is about 1,318 kms / 819 miles in a west-south-west direction.  My sighting came 5 years, 3 months and 10 days, since the gull was ringed.  I was well pleased to get this, as it is the second Swedish BHG that I've now recorded.

Black-headed Gull  -  Sweden    6431692   -  Glenarm Harbour  (14 Sep 2016)

Lake Tåkern, Sweden to Glenarm, County Antrim

While trying to obtain the number of the Swedish bird, another gull that I was here to locate, arrived to join in for it's share of the bread.  I aim to record   260D  at least once a month at Glenarm.  This Black-headed Gull 'winters' here every year and my first sighting of it this winter was on the 10th August 2016, having last recorded it at Glenarm on the 23rd February 2016.
Black-headed Gull  -    260D   -  Glenarm Harbour  (14 Sep 2016)


      Saturday 17th September 2016       
On the agenda today, was another visit to Inch Island Lake in County Donegal, following a quick check on the gulls on the River Foyle which flows through the City of Londonderry.  After Inch, I would check sites on the eastern side of Lough Foyle for Brent Geese.

River Foyle, Londonderry
The river here on the edge of the City of Londonderry, is effected by tidal movement.  As I was driving over the new Foyle Bridge, I spotted gulls on the mudflats, revealed by the receding tide.  Parking at a lay-by at the end of the bridge, I walked down to the edge of the river and scoped the gulls and waders.

The only ring spotted was on a juvenile Black-headed Gull.  The 'Orange-Darvic' was one of Adam's birds, which would probably have been ringed on the small island at Inch Lake, my next destination - 11 kms / 7 miles NW from here.

During late May and early June, three visits were made to the island to ring Black-headed Gull and Sandwich Tern chicks.  The juvenile on the mudflats, was too far away to get a clear reading of the code on the ring.  I think it looks like   2DAD .  I've sent a copy of the photo to Adam, to see what he thinks.  Adam, will also know what codes were used at Inch Lake.

As far as I'm aware, this would be the first of the 'colour-ringed' youngsters from Inch Island Lake, to have been spotted.  It was a pity that the bird I was watching flew away.  I will be back again in a few weeks, so will try again.
Juvenile Black-headed Gull  -  River Foyle, Co. Londonderry  (17 Sep 2016)

Inch Island Lake
I paid a brief visit here last Saturday, but felt that I should pay another visit again today.  During that visit, I recorded a Greylag Goose with an 'Orange-Collar'   A|CC .  I had that feeling in my head, that if I returned today, I would record more of these 'collars', which turned out - correct.

There was no sign of last week's goose, but I did spot another four 'Orange-Collars'.  Three of these geese were on the water and it was fairly easy to obtain the codes on the 'collars' -    A|DC ,   A|CZ  and   A|DT .  The fourth goose was spotted sleeping on the small island, in the middle of the lake.  Zooming in from a very long distance, the code on it's 'collar' looks to read   A|DU .

I have reported these four birds to the new Greylag Goose Study.  I'm hoping the details for all five birds will be sent to me during the week.  I know from previous emails, they tend to be a bit on the slow side checking on or returning these.  You'd think, anyone or group, that are conducting colour-ring studies, should always be checking for reported sightings.

It does get frustrating, when observers report rings, only to get delayed acknowledgements or no reply at all - as was the case in one gull that I reported to Scotland, fairly recently.

Greylag Geese  -    A|CZ   &    A|DC   -  Inch Island Lake  (17 Sep 2016)

Greylag Goose  -    A|DT   -  Inch Island Lake  (17 Sep 2016)

Greylag Goose  -    A|DU   -  Inch Island Lake  (17 Sep 2016)

The next photo shows the position of   A|DU  on the small island at Inch Lake (Inside Red Box).  From the point where I was standing, I had to zoom in to get the above picture.  It's amazing that I was able to get any details on the collar at all.

Where   A|DU  is situated on the small island on Inch Island Lake (Red Box)

Of special interest were 5 Black Swans on the lake.  A single Barnacle Goose - spotted on the island and two Whooper Swans, one on the lake and the other at the edge of a Barley field (picture below).

Whooper Swan  -  Inch Island Lake  (17 Sep 2016)

Ballykelly, Myroe Levels & Ball's Point  (Lough Foyle)
I was on the lookout for Brent Geese at these sites.  About 1,000 Brents were on the mudflats at Ballykelly Bank.  I had a terrible time trying to read some of the 'colour-ringed' birds - their legs just sank into the mud.  I singled out two birds in particular, that appeared to be mated together and both 'colour-ringed'.  I had just started taking photos, when the usual happened.

A couple, along with three children, parked behind me and within seconds the kids, making so much noise, scared the majority of the birds away.  The remaining birds, were too far out on the mud to scope.

No geese were present on the mudflats by the Myroe Levels, but I could see a large group of geese in the distance at Ball's point.  I drove to the Point, where around 800 to 900 more geese were on the water, making it impossible to read rings here.

Returning home and checking the photos that I took of the two geese at Ballykelly, I had nearly got the codes correct for both birds.  Reporting them to Graham McElwaine, he was able to identify them correctly and they were a pair, as suspected.

The male (Red K, Blue V) and the female (Red L, Blue A), were both ringed on the 8th August 2007, at Bathurst Island, inside the Arctic Circle of Canada.  They normally spend their winter in County Kerry, in the south-west corner of the Republic of Ireland.  Graham, also recorded both birds in the same area on the 14th September.  Many of the geese on Lough Foyle, will be resting and feeding up before continuing on their journey south.

My thanks to Graham for the ringing details.

Brent Geese  -  (Red K, Blue V)  and  (Red L, Blue A)  -  Ballykelly  (17 Sep 2018)


      Sunday 18th September 2016       
On completion of my visit to Antrim, I drove up to Portrush and then Coleraine hoping to re-sight birds that I recorded last winter.  I checked out plenty of gulls, but no rings were spotted.


Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Stormy Weather...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina - (Sunday 11th September 2016)       
Weather conditions during my visit to Antrim Marina today, was quite good, being fairly warm and sunny.  It was however, very blustery and as the day wore on, the wind strength increased while I was visiting other sites.

Black-headed Gull numbers very fairly good, with around 80 birds present when I arrived and a maximum of around 200 were present by 11am.  After this time, numbers started to dwindle despite no canoeists being present this week.  Perhaps due to the weather conditions, the gulls were very hungry and were ever watchful for people arriving to feed the ducks.

I recorded 19 Darvic-rung BHGs, the tenth of which, was a new sighting.    2CJR  is a 2016 youngster and becomes the 40th 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull which I have recorded here since I began my visits to the Marina back in September 2013.  It is the 24th bird to be recorded for this, my fourth winter season watching for 'colour-rings', as part of my effort in helping Adam McClure with his Northern Ireland BHG Study.  It also increases the overall total of expected sightings over the course of this winter to 33.

I am waiting on   2CJR's  ringing details from Adam.  It was likely to have been ringed at Blue Circle Island in Larne Lough or at Castle Espie in County Down.  Blue Circle is the closest to Antrim Marina.  The third site where chicks were ringed this summer, was at Inch Island in County Donegal.  As far as I'm aware, Adam has not caught and ringed any juveniles at Antrim Marina of late.

There is still no sign of   2AAS , which is a month overdue now and should have returned by early August.    2ABA  and   2ANS , for some reason, have not been re-sighted here for several weeks now.    2BRD , is due to pay a return visit, though re-sightings of this gull are usually quite patchy in the autumn and early winter.

Just after I had parked the car on arrival, a Black-headed Gull hovered by my window.  I knew straight away this was 'One-leg', making it's second appearance.  After, it got it's fill of bread, feeding from my hand, I never saw it again for the remainder of my visit.

Juvenile Black-headed Gull  -    2CJR   -  Antrim Marina  (11 Sep 2016)

Black-headed Gulls Re-sighted Today
 2AAT   2ABS   2AAC   2AAB   2ACV   2ABF   2ABK   2AAD   2AAP   2CJR 
 2ALH   2AAK   2AAH   2ADJ   2AAA   T35J   2ABL   2AAN   2BRA    

Today's Absentees
 2ABN   2ABA   2AAF   2AAV   2ANS 

Other Birds At Antrim Marina
When I arrived at the Marina today, three Mute Swans were present, but not the three that are usually here.  Two of them (Un-ringed), were the parents of six large cygnets, the third swan was 'metal-ringed' -   W34158 .  My last record of   W34158  was on the 24th June 2016, having previously been sighted throughout the year.

At 09.32, a second pair of Mute Swans, along with four cygnets, arrived from up-river.  This is probably the same birds I spotted just before I departed from the Marina last Sunday.  Due to the presence of the canoeists, they hung around the breakwater at the entrance to the Lough.  This pair of swans were very aggressive to the other swans and the pair with the six youngsters, headed off to the Lough.

Both   W34158  and   Z91982 , which arrived at 09.40, were chased off as well, both re-locating themselves onto the small sandy beach area.  A further three Mute Swans, which I reckon are the normal birds that have been here over the last few weeks, arrived from up-river at 11.53.  Every attempt by these three to get to the slipway, was thawtered by the pair with the cygnets.

2 Adult Common Gulls were perched at the long wooden jetty when I arrived this morning, flying off shortly afterwards.  An adult also paid a brief visit later on, but there was no sign of the Scottish-rung   EY64036 , that appeared last week.  The Herring Gull pair was also absent again for the second week running.  An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull arrived at 10.10 and stayed for about an hour.

Mallard numbers, increased from around 60 birds to 100+ by 11am and soon afterwards started to de-crease.  Still no sign of rings amongst these.

The only other birds to be recorded today, were a single Rook and Hooded Crow, along with a maximum of 10 Jackdaws.

Elim Church, Parkhall and KFC
On completion of my visit to Antrim Marina, I drove up to the Parkhall Housing Estate to see if   2AAV  was at the Elim Church.  About 50 BHGs were present, but no sign of   2AAV .

At the car park of the KFC outlet, between 40 and 50 BHGs were standing about and I soon spotted the Norwegian-rung   JK35 .  My last sighting of this one was on the 14th August.

Black-headed Gull  -    JK35   -  KFC, Antrim Town  (11 Sep 2016)


      Ringing Details Received       

Black-headed Gull  -    EL86728 
During the week, I received the ringing details for the BHG, which I spotted at Kiltonga Nature Reserve at Newtownards on Saturday 3rd September 2016.    EL86728  was ringed as a chick at Downholme, North Yorkshire, England, on the 5th June 2008.  The distance between the two sites was given as 254 kms / 158 miles - west from the ringing site.  The duration from ringing to sighting is 8 years, 2 months and 29 days.

As with most 'metals', this one is likely to be another first sighting.    EL86728   is also the second Black-headed Gull from Downholme that I have now recorded.  The other bird was   EL97734 , which I spotted on two occasions last winter at Victoria Park in Belfast and was ringed on the 12th June 2007.  This is another nice record of the movement of BHGs between England and Northern Ireland.

Black-headed Gull  -    EL86728   -  Ringing Site (Blue)  Sighted at (Red)

Common Gull  -    EJ72587 
On Sunday 4th September 2016, I spotted a 'metal-ringed' Common Gull on a rooftop at Groomsport Harbour.  I successfully took enough photos to piece the ring number together -   EJ72587 .  This was the very same gull that I got a partial number for, on the 5th March 2016, while it was standing on grass in the harbour area.

Believing this gull could be quite old, I returned on a couple of occasions soon afterwards to try and complete the number -   EJ7**87 , without joy.  I now have the ringing details for   EJ72587  , which would have been the oldest BTO-rung Common Gull on my records, had I got the full number back on the 5th March.

Having been ringed as a chick on the 22nd July 2003 on the nearby Copeland Islands, it was bettered by Common Gull -   ET69908 , which was ringed as a chick on the 24th June 2002 in Scotland, and spotted at Whitehead in County Antrim (Sighting) and (Details), on the 31st July 2016.

My sighting of   EJ72587  comes 13 years, 1 month and 13 days, since being ringed.  Groomsport lies 6 kms / miles WSW from the Copeland Islands.  

Herring Gull  -    GJ2588* 
Just recently, the British Trust for Ornithology, was able to generate Ringing Recoveries for partial ring numbers I had recorded, on a Sandwich Tern -   DK6678*  and a Black-headed Gull   E*98138 .  I then decided to try them again for a juvenile Herring Gull that I spotted on one occasion last winter at Portavogie Harbour in County Down.

During the week, I received a recovery report from the BTO.    GJ2588* , was ringed as a chick on the 5th July 2014, at the Copeland Islands, 27kms / 16 miles to the NNW of Portavogie.  The duration between ringing and my sighting of it on the 27th February 2016, is 1 year, 7 months and 22 days.

I was slightly surprised that the ringing date was in 2014, as I thought it was a 2015 youngster.  Having taken another look at the photos that I took, it was older, as some the grey feathers had grown on it's back. 


      Saturday 10th September 2016       
It is now that time of the year for the Brent Geese, to start returning to Northern Ireland from their breeding grounds in the Arctic regions of Canada and Greenland.  Today, I decided to check on sites at Myroe on the north coast of County Londonderry and at the Inch levels in County Donegal.

All was pretty quite at Myroe goose-wise, as no birds were seen.  Two very large flocks of birds were noted.  On a ploughed field, was the largest number of Common Gulls that I've ever seen.  There was at least 800 of these gulls, along with as many as 200 Black-headed Gulls.  In another area at Myroe, a mixed flock of Ringed Plovers and Dunlins, were also in the range of 900 to 1,000 strong.

A juvenile Peregrine Falcon made an unsuccessful attempt at trying to catch one of these small waders, but had been easily spotted and out-manoeuvred the young falcon.  A fair number of the gulls and waders were viewed for colour-rings, but no joy.

Looking at the small island on Inch Lake, it seemed eerily quiet.  Back in late May and early June, we came here to ring young Black-headed Gull and Sandwich Tern chicks.  The noise that they created was gone, as were nearly all of these birds.  The honking of around 80 Canada Geese, broke the silence.

150+ Mute Swans were well scattered throughout the lake, some with their broods of juveniles.  Three Black Swans, were swimming by the small island, where around perhaps 60 to 70 Greylag Geese were eating on the vegetation or lazing about on the water.

Scoping the birds throughout the lake, I spotted a Greylag on the island wearing an Orange 'neck-collar'.  I could not read the code with the scope, as the distance between the causeway and the island was so great.  I did not hold out for much joy with the camera either, but was really delighted that it did 'pick-up' the code -   A│CC .  I have reported this one to the organisers of the new Greylag Goose Study in the Republic of Ireland.

Greylag Goose  -    A│CC   -  Inch Island Lake  (10 Sep 2016)


      Sunday 11th September 2016       
On completing my visit to Antrim Marina, I only had a limited amount of time to search elsewhere for rings.  Weather conditions was also becoming steadily worse, with the wind speed increasing in strength.  I decided, just to visit Whitehouse Lagoon, the Dargan Mudflats and Whiteabbey Shoreline.

Whitehouse Lagoon  (1st Visit)
Arriving here, I found that the tide was well out and most birds present were just too far away to scope and even the camera would not pick up codes at such a distance.  I decided, to come back again later on.

Dargan Mudflats
I remained here for a very long time.  Plenty of gulls and waders were feeding or just standing facing into the wind.  The tide was on it's way back in, pushing birds ever closer towards me.  Many gulls, along with good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Oystercatchers were scoped.  One 'Orange-Darvic' was spotted on a Black-headed Gull, but it flew off as I was zooming into the ring.

Whitehouse Lagoon  (2nd Visit)
Arriving back here for a second time, the Lagoon was now about half flooded by the incoming tide.  Far more gulls and waders were now present and five colour-ringed birds were recorded.  Four of these were re-sightings and the fifth was of a new ring -   2BHB  from Adam McClure's Study.  Another one of Adam's BHGs -   2ANB  was a re-sighting of a gull that I first spotted last weekend.

Adam emailed the file for   2BHB .  Having gone un-sighted since being ringed as a chick on the 2nd June 2014 at Blue Circle Island in Larne Lough,  it was spotted twice today.  It was first seen on the shore at Kinnegar, Holywood, by Robin Vage.  Holywood lies on the opposite side of Belfast Lough from Whitehouse Lagoon, where I then recorded it.

As most of the birds were just standing facing into the wind, I was only able to take photos of them from behind.  Even, with resting the camera on the window frame of the car, it was getting pushed about by the wind.

New Sighting  -  Black-headed Gull  -    2BHB   -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (11 Sep 2016)

Re-Sighting  -  Black-headed Gull  -    2ANB   -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (11 Sep 2016)

The Polish-rung Black-headed Gull White T56W, was the closest and easiest bird to photograph.  This is now my third re-sighting of it here this autumn/winter, having initially recorded it on the 27th August 2016.

Black-headed Gull  -  T56W  -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (11 Sep 2016)

Despite there being two very large flocks of Oystercatchers, the only 'ringed' bird spotted, was the re-sighting of GW/GfN.  Having returned to Whitehouse Lagoon on the 20th August 2016, for a second winter running, this is now my fourth re-sighting.  This bird was ringed as a breeding adult in Iceland in June 2015.  For those who have not been following my Blog, the 'Green Flag', has fell off at some point.
Oystercatcher  -  GW/GfN  -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (11 Sep 2016)

I also made my third re-sighting of Common Gull -   2AIN .  The gull was so far away from me, I was just barely able to get capture the code with my camera.  Ringed as a chick in June 2012, by Shane Wolsey on the Copeland Islands, my two previous sightings were made on the 24th October 2015 and the 27th August 2016.

Common Gull  -    2AIN   -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (11 Sep 2016)

Whiteabbey Shoreline
After leaving Whitehouse Lagoon, I drove the short distance to the shoreline at Whiteabbey.  On arriving here, very little of the shore was visible, with large wind-driven waves lashing in.  Only a small group of gulls were present and quickly scoped.  The wind was so strong, I had to stop the tripod from being blown over.