Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Belgium Surprise...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 9th October 2016)       
Another splendid autumn day, with hardly no wind and plenty of sunshine, greeted my latest weekly Sunday visit to Antrim Marina.  There were very few birds about, with only 28 Black-headed Gulls present.

So far this autumn/winter season, I have recorded 24 Darvic-rung BHGs from Adam McClure's NI Study.  13 of these were re-sighted during today's visit.  None of the three gulls, that I was expecting to return either today or next Sunday (16th), have arrived.  If these birds keep to their expected dates, then   2AAR  and   2ADV , should have returned by my next visit, followed by   2ACX  the following week.  At present, we are experiencing a steady flow of easterly winds, which should favour and aid these birds on their journey back.

With our recent good weather, I think many gulls are finding plenty of natural food.  Farmers around the country are busy harvesting Potatoes and Barley, while others are ploughing fields.  Gulls at this time are busy following tractors, as they unearth plenty of insects to feed on.  This could explain the absence of some of the Study birds.

The maximum number of Black-headed Gulls at the Marina, reached a peak of around 120 birds between 10.00 and 10.30.  At this point, several canoeists arrived and their presence kept most gulls from staying.  Even 'One-leg' was late arriving today, noticing her at 12.05.  Grabbing a couple of slices of bread from the car, she quite happily fed from my hand, while I stood beside my car.  This shows how confiding she is of me.

There has been no sign of   2ALH  during the last four visits.  This gull appeared during the summer and bred in the area.  Ringed as a chick in June 2013, on the Copeland Islands in County Down, this was likely her first breeding attempt.  In previous winters,   2ALH  has been sighted either in Bangor or Ballyholme in County Down.  Could it be possible, these are now the locations to start looking for this gull?

There is still no second sighting of the juvenile   2CJR .  It does look increasingly likely, that this gull has moved on.  Some young gulls, once they've 'found their wings', don't know when to stop flying.  Another young - 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull, arrived for less than two minutes, around 11.25, this morning - a new sighting.  Grabbing the camera, I only managed a few photos of the gull and it's ring, before it flew off, not to be seen again.

Checking the photos, on site, I was very lucky to have captured the whole 'ring-number' -   EY98706 .  I've reported this one online to the BTO and should have details back later during the week.  

Black-headed Gull Re-sighted at Antrim Marina  (Sunday 9th October 2016)
 2AAF   2AAT   2ABK   2AAD   2AAA   2ACV   T35J 
 2AAH   2ADJ   2AAK   2AAP   2BRA   2ABN 

Sunday's Absentees
 2AAC   2ABS   2ABA   2AAB   2AAN   2ABL 
 2ABF   2AAV   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR 

New Sighting - (Juvenile) Black-headed Gull  -    EY98706   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (09 Oct 2016)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
No Commons Gulls appeared at the Marina today, while a single adult Herring Gull, quickly moved on, as the canoeists had just arrived.

Mallard numbers were exceptionally low, with a peak of 40 to 50 birds, by 11am.  Only 8 were counted on my arrival at 09.10 this morning.

Mute Swan numbers, seem to be increasing, with 5 adults, plus the pair with 4 cygnets, being present on my arrival.  One of the five adults, was the swan with a 'fish-hook', embedded on one of it's legs.  At 09.40, another adult swan, along with two cygnets arrived, likely the same group seen here last Sunday.  10.30 saw the arrival of   W34158 , the only ringed swan to be recorded today.  There was no sign of the cygnet that was here last Sunday, which is independent, having no parents with it.

The only other species spotted during my visit, were 9 Jackdaws, 2 Hooded Crows and a single Pied Wagtail.

Elim Church, Parkhall & Antrim KFC
On completion of my latest visit to Antrim Marina, I drove across Antrim Town to look for   2AAV , at Parkhall and the two foreign ringed Black-headed Gulls at the car park of the KFC outlet.  There were fewer BHGs at both sites than normal, with none of the 'ringed' birds present at either site.


      Ringing Details Received       
I am still waiting on the files of 5 Greylag Geese, that I spotted at Inch Island Lake in County Donegal, these all having 'Orange neck-collars'.

Nothing yet about the Finnish-rung Black-headed Gull -   ST239.172 .  Having recorded it in the car park of Antrim KFC, during the previous three Sunday's, it was not present on my latest visit on Sunday 9th October.

The sighting of a juvenile Great Black-backed Gull - White 9H3:C, on the 3rd September 2016, had slipped my mind, until I re-sighted a Common Gull at Millisle (read below).  As both birds had been ringed by the Clyde Ringing Group, I have asked the secretary, Iain Livingstone, if he has received the ringing details for White 9H3:C.  Iain, did not have the info at hand and he was to contact the actual ringer.


      Thursday 6th October 2016       
Today, I made a quick run out on the east coast of County Antrim, beginning at Carnlough Bay and ending at Sandy Bay in Larne.  The only ringed birds recorded were all re-sightings.  At Carnlough Bay, the Icelandic-rung Oystercatcher - OO-W(AA), was spotted on the edge of the near high-tide line, just before flying across the main road into a field.  Several other Oystercatchers joined it, to feed on the grass.

At Glenarm, all three of the Black-headed Gulls which I've recorded there over recent weeks, were re-sighted.  Eoin McGreel's -   260D  - from County Mayo, in the Republic of Ireland, was the first to be spotted, followed by Adam McClure's -   2ALK  - from his Study in Northern Ireland.  The third gull of the trio, was the Swedish 'metal-ringed' -   6431692 , first recorded here on the 14th September 2016.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ALK   -  Glenarm Harbour, Co. Antrim  (06 Oct 2016)

At Drain's Bay, several Cormorants and Shags were drying out their wings on a large rock, just a short distance from the shoreline.  None of today's birds were ringed, but on my last visit here on the 26th September, I spotted three Shags with 'metal-rings', but could not get close enough to the to obtain the numbers.  I presumed at the time, that these may well have been ringed as chicks on the nearby islands known as 'The Maidens'.

I have since been informed by Adam McClure, that the Shag chicks were ringed on 'The Maidens', by members of the Copeland Bird Observatory.  Apparently, they had considered using 'colour-rings', but the idea was dismissed.  It is a pity, had these chicks been colour-ringed, I would have easily been able to read the codes.

Perhaps, they may reconsider  the use of 'coloureds' in future ringing expeditions.  I've always stated, that all larger species should be 'colour-ringed', as this does produce more results.


      Sunday 9th October 2016       
Upon completion of my latest visit to Antrim Marina, I stopped by Whitehouse Lagoon and the Dargan Mudflats in Belfast, before continuing on to County Down.  Whitehouse Lagoon was again visited, when I made my return journey home.

Whitehouse Lagoon
My first visit produced nothing at all in the way of rings.  The incoming tide had not effected the Lagoon at this time and most birds present were too far out to scope very well, which was also hindered by the glare of bright sunshine.  Returning again on my way home, the only ring spotted was on the Icelandic-rung Oystercatcher - GW-GfN (Green-flag missing).

Dargan Mudflats
Here at the Dargan Mudflats, the tide was well up and within minutes of scoping the birds, I spotted a 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher, which I had not seen before.  After making a quick note of the 'colour-combination', I managed three photos before the bird flew away.

Ringed, Orange over Black (Niger) on the left-leg, yellow on the right leg, I guessed that this was another bird from Iceland.  I also had the suspicion, that this Oystercatcher should have had a 'coloured-flag', above the yellow-ring on the right-leg.

I reported all three of my recent Oystercatcher sightings to the Icelandic Wader Group, also stating my suspicions of a missing flag.  Böddi, from the group has since replied, and I was right, this bird should have had a 'White-flag'.  They have discovered, that there is a serious problem, as several birds have lost their 'flags'.  Due to this, birds are now being ringed on the right-leg, with a single coded 'Darvic-ring', such as OO-W(AA), that I've recorded at Carnlough Bay.

Böddi, has also sent updated files for today's new sighting and for the Oystercatchers at Carnlough Bay and Whitehouse Lagoon.  I shall add these in my next post.

Oystercatcher  -  O(range)/N(iger) - Y(ellow)  -  Dargan Mudflats, Belfast  (09 Oct 2016)

Every time, I pass through this town, I always make a stop at the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet.  Any fast food outlet is well worth checking, as these act like a magnet in attracting gulls looking for scraps.  Previous visits here have never produced a 'ring' until today, and a nice one it was too.

Initially, I thought this Black-headed Gull was fitted with a BTO ring, as it was not tall, as in the case of many foreign rings.  Having took plenty of photos, I sat back in the car to piece the number together.  You can imagine my surprise, when I read the address 'Brussels'.  A major problem with the photos, was the reflection of the sun on the ring, as well as the nervousness of the gull itself.

Many of the photos were useless, but after a lot of persistence, I managed to obtain the full ring number -   7T 69557 .  This is now my second record of a Belgium-rung Black-headed Gull, having recorded   8T 30294 , in my home town of Ballymena, during February and March 2015.  What fascinates me with birds from Belgium, is that they have to travel hundreds of miles North-West to get here, while most of the Black-headed Gulls that winter in Northern Ireland, arrive from Iceland, Scandinavia or other Northern European destinations.

I reported my new find through the BTO, but I know from past experience, it will be several weeks before I get a reply from Belgium, as they send recoveries by post (uuugh - in this day and age of emails!!!).

Black-headed Gull  -  Belgium    7T 69557   -  KFC, Newtownards, Co. Down  (09 Oct 2016)

Ards Peninsular
Many thousands of Brent Geese were on the waters of Strangford Lough, close to Newtownards.  With the tide still well out most were out of range to be scoped.  The few that I did look at, were not ringed.

Scoping gulls at Kircubbin, Portaferry, Cloughey, Portavogie and at Ballywalter, produced no ring sightings or re-sightings.

My last stop of the day before returning home via Whitehouse Lagoon, was here at Millisle, a hotspot for ringed Common Gulls.  I was delighted, to spot the Scottish-rung Common Gull -   2A60 .  This bird spent last winter at Millisle.  My first sighting of it was on the 24th December 2015 and my final sighting was on the 5th March 2016.

It has returned at some point since my last visit, on the 3rd September 2016.    2A60  was ringed as a chick at Hunterston in Ayrshire, on the 7th July 2013, 131 kms / 81 miles to the north-east of Millisle.  I have sent an email to Iain Livingstone, Secretary of the Clyde Ringing Group, informing him of my latest sighting and enquiring if this gull has been spotted elsewhere during the summer months.
Common Gull  -    2A60   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (09 Oct 2016)

Four other 'ringed' Common Gulls were also seen at Millisle.  Being a Sunday and with plenty of sunshine, there were a lot of people about.  It was hectic trying to obtain ring details, with gulls flying off all the time.  I did however, get the codes on two 'colour-ringed' gulls -   2ADX   and   2ACA .

I managed a single photo of one of the two 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls present, a bird with a crippled leg and got enough of the number to know that this was   EX38230 .  All three were re-sightings of birds ringed on the nearby Copeland Islands.

Common Gull  -    2ACA   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (09 Oct 2016)

Common Gull  -    2ADX   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (09 Oct 2016)

Common Gull  -    EX38230   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (09 Oct 2016)

A 'metal-ringed' Herring Gull, standing well away from the large number of people, was a re-sighting of   GA00153 , ringed as a chick on the Copeland Islands in June 2005.

Herring Gull  -    GA00153   (Upside-down ring)  -  Millisle, Co. Down  (09 Oct 2016)


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