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.


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