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.


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