Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Dutch Med...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 27th November 2016)       
The weather on today's visit was slightly warmer, than the freezing temperature's that we've experienced during the last few days.  It was overcast, but dry, with a slight, but still chilly breeze.  Around 80 Black-headed Gulls were present on my arrival.  Numbers reached a maximum of around 200 of these gulls between 10.30 and 11.30.  With birds coming and going, I estimate that somewhere around 250 individuals visited altogether, during my four hour watch.

With the return of   2AFD  a fortnight ago, the overall number of 'Darvic-rung' birds wrose to 28, out of a revised total of 33 BHGs expected to return over the course of the winter.  Two of the five remaining gulls,   2AAS  and   2ACX , are long overdue and I now believe we have lost them and they have probably died.  With   2ADD  wintering at Carrickfergus, I was then left waiting on the two remaining gulls,   2BRB  and   2BRC .

Although   2BRB  failed to appear last winter, I have not wrote it off, as I reckoned it was just passing through when it was caught and ringed.  I am still hopeful, this gull will stop by again.  The remaining gull on the list was   2BRC , which despite having a patchy re-sighting history, was the final bird that I have been waiting on.

I could not predict a return date for   2BRC , but at 11.43 this morning,   2BRC  became the last of today's 19 re-sightings.    2BRC  is special to me, as I caught it by hand on the 1st February 2015, the day I first met Adam McClure.  During that meeting, we caught and ringed   2BRA ,   2BRB ,   2BRC  and   2BRD .  The overall total now rises to 29 out of 33 and barring any surprises, this should be it until   2ADD  returns in March 2017.

At present, I am hoping to see the return of the Swedish 'metal-rung' BHG -   6438391 , which arrived back around this time last winter.  No sign of it today, so fingers crossed for next Sunday.  Even the Icelandic-rung BHG, never appeared today.  'One Leg', was with me as soon as I arrived this morning and returned on a further two occasions looking for a feed of bread.

Every week now, I make a point of hand feeding the gulls.  This is to gain their confidence, which would make them easier to catch for ringing, once I gain my permit.  A couple of the gulls have now started to land on my hand, to prise out the bread in my clenched fist.  One of this year's youngsters, stands on the roof of my car and readily takes a bite by hand.  

Black-headed Gull  -    2BRC   -  Antrim Marina  (27 Nov 2016)

Black-headed Gulls Re-sighted  (Sunday 27th November 2016)
 2AAT   2ABF   2AAF   2AAR   2AAK   2AAP   2ABN   2AAN   2AAC   2AAH 
 2BRA   2ABS   2ADJ   2ACV   2AAD   2ADV   T35J   2ABK   2BRC    

Sunday's Absentees
 2AAA   2ABA   2AAB   2ABL   2AAV   2AFD   2BRD   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Common Gull numbers were down today.  Only three adults appeared which included the Scottish-rung   EY64036 .  There was just the two juveniles, but no sign of the 'metal-ringed' bird from Norway, which was spotted last Sunday.  No ringing details have arrived for this bird as yet.  Even the Herring Gull, which has been seen over recent weeks, failed to show up during my visit.

On my arrival this morning, a pair of Mute Swans, accompanied by two cygnets, were swimming past the Marina towards the Lough, having come from up-river.  The independent youngster, appeared from up-river at 10.39, followed by an adult -   W34158 , which came from the same direction at 11.01.  A second un-ringed adult, was spotted at 11.30, but I missed on what direction it came from.

During my visit, two people came to me to report on seeing dead fish up-river.  As they had spotted my car was carrying plates which reads 'Environment Study Vehicle', they obviously thought I was studying the river.  I had to inform them, that the Council deemed these plates a necessity in order for me to gain access to the Marina and that I was actually studying the gulls.

This does raise the question, as to what's going on up there and does it present a threat to the wildlife in the area.  Of late, there has been a drop in the number of Mallards and Mute Swans present and I'm wondering if there are problems.

Having said that, Mallard numbers were slightly up this week, with around 40 birds when I arrived, which increased to about 70 ducks when I departed at 1pm.  I have yet to see a ring on any Mallards this winter.

A single Hooded Crow, 2 Magpie's and 11 Jackdaws were the only other species noted.

Parkhall Housing Estate & Antrim KFC
Due to the failure once again of   2AAV's  appearance at Antrim Marina, I checked the Elim Church at the Parkhall Housing Estate, to see if it was there.  Although a couple of Black-headed Gulls, were dotted around the estate, there were no birds at the Church.

In the car park of the nearby KFC outlet, around 30 BHGs were present, but none of these were ringed.


      Saturday 26th November 2016       
My main aim today, was to start off at Inch in County Donegal and then follow the coast of County Londonderry, finishing at the town of Coleraine.  Leaving home in foggy conditions, the forecast was for the fog to lift during the early afternoon.

Arriving at Inch, the fog was still quite heavy.  On one of the fields, on the Inch Levels, I spotted a large number of Greylag Geese, along with smaller numbers of Canada Geese and Whooper Swans.  Scoping these was near impossible through the gloom.  Having waited for ages, for the fog to lift, it was not until late in the afternoon, when it became possible to look for 'neck-collars' and 'colour-rings'.

I estimated that the Greylag's numbered around 300 birds and within these, I recorded six birds with 'neck-collars'.  Five of them,   B|PH ,   A|CC ,   B|PN ,   A|BV  and   B|ST , are from the new Irish Greylag Goose Study.  The sixth goose -   BSS , I reckoned was from a Scottish Study and I reported it by email to Robert (Bob) Swann.  Back in July this year, I sighted   NDD  on Ushet Lough on Rathlin Island and this one belonged to his project.

On Sunday evening, Bob replied,   BSS  was indeed one of his birds.  It was ringed as an adult male, on the 6th November 2005, at Loch Eye, Ross-shire in Scotland.  It has had quite a history of re-sightings:-

14 Nov 2005  -  Miltonduff, Elgin, Moray, Scotland.
05 Mar 2006  -  Lough Beg, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
09 Mar 2006  -  Lough Beg.
29 Mar 2006  -  Lough Beg.
11 Nov 2007  -  Inch Island, County Donegal, Republic of Ireland.
19 Jan 2008   -  Inch Island.
21 Nov 2010  -  Inch Levels, County Donegal.
22 Nov 2010  -  Inch Levels.
23 Nov 2010  -  Inch Levels.
30 Dec 2010  -  Shiskine, Isle of Arran, Ayrshire, Scotland.
19 Dec 2011  -  Loch Askog, Isle of Bute, Argyll, Scotland.
16 Apr 2012  -  Loch Quien, Isle of Bute.
21 Jan 2013   -  Inch Island Lake, County Donegal.
28 Nov 2014  -  Inch Levels.
21 Jan 2015   -  Inch Levels.
30 Jan 2016   -  Inch Levels.
12 Mar 2016  -  Myroe Levels, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
26 Nov 2016  -  Inch Levels (my sighting).

Some people might not like the idea of birds being fitted with 'neck-collars', but the above results prove how invaluable these are in tracking the habits of certain species.  My thanks to Bob, for supplying this birds history.  The photos below were taken through foggy conditions.

New Sighting  -  Greylag Goose  -    BSS   -  Inch Levels, County Donegal  (26 Nov 2016)

As mentioned above, the other 5 Greylag's are from the Irish Study.  Three of these -   A|BV ,   B|PN  and   B|ST  are new sightings for me, whereas   B|PH  and   A|CC , have been recorded in the past couple of months on Inch Lake.

Recently, I have received the ringing details for the Greylags spotted in September and October on Inch Lake, which includes the latter geese mentioned above.  Time, and the length of this posting, means that I'll add these at a later date.  With the sightings of several new gulls, I'm considering on an extra post, which will deal with the recoveries in more detail.

New Sighting  -  Greylag Goose  -    A|BV   -  Inch Levels, County Donegal  (26 Nov 2016)

Re-Sighting  -  Greylag Goose  -    A|CC   -  Inch Levels, County Donegal  (26 Nov 2016)

Re-Sighting  -  Greylag Goose  -    B|PH   -  Inch Levels, County Donegal  (26 Nov 2016)

New Sighting  -  Greylag Goose  -    B|PN   -  Inch Levels, County Donegal  (26 Nov 2016)

New Sighting  -  Greylag Goose  -    B|ST   -  Inch Levels, County Donegal  (26 Nov 2016)

I checked all 300 Greylags for 'Collars' and 'Colour Leg-Rings', as well as the 30'ish Canada Geese, 2 Baracle Geese and around 60 Whooper Swans, but nothing else was found.  A large number of Whooper Swans were in a field a short distance away, but I never got the chance to get to these or complete the rest of today's planned schedual.

I came across a set of Volts Wagon car keys, that somebody had dropped.  Returning to the car park, there was a VW parked and I waited for the owner to return.  Eventually, a man arrived and entered the car.  I then drove round to the 'Pump House' car park, at the other end of Inch Lake.  There was another VW parked here and the keys worked on it.

As it was now so late in the afternoon, the light was beginning to fail and the fog thickened again.  After a lengthy wait, the owner returned, much relieved that I had found the keys.  My reward was £20, which easily paid for my fuel for the day.  Despite not getting much done, at least I'd done someone a good turn.


      Sunday 27th November 2016       
Completing my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, I drove to Belfast, with the aim of covering the coast through to Larne.  As I ended up, spending so much time at both Whitehouse Lagoon and Dargan, these were the only sites to be covered.

Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast
There were plenty of gulls and waders here today, which also included the largest number of Lapwings that I've ever seen here.  As most of them were well bunched together, I spent ages scoping them for 'colour' rings, without any luck.

I did re-sight two birds previously recorded here - Icelandic-rung Oystercatcher GW-GfN and one of Adam's BHG's -   2BHB .  Another one of Adam's gull's was seen standing in a puddle of water, thus hiding the lower half of the code on the ring and all I got was   DK .

I had a suspicion, that this was a new sighting for me and had to wait for about 45 minutes for it to move.  Although it was a long way off, once it did move, my camera picked up the full code   2ADK .  This gull would have been ringed quite early in Adam's Study.

Three 'metal-ringed' birds were also spotted - Herring Gull, BHG and an Oystercatcher.  All three were too far away to read the numbers, but if they had been 'colour-ringed', I'd have got all three.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BHB   -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (27 Nov 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADK   -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (27 Nov 2016)

Oystercatcher  -  GW-GfN  -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (27 Nov 2016)
(Green Flag Has Fallen Off)

Dargan, Belfast
Lately, while visiting the mudflats at Dargan, I've been keeping an eye on the gulls which congregate on the roof of the Belfast Waste Transfer Station on the Dargan Industrial Estate.  Many of the gulls here, have no fear at entering the building through an open doorway.  They seem to be taking full advantage of the rubbish inside on their search for food.

Parking on the road outside the premises, I checked on the gulls standing on the lamp-posts with my binoculars.  The very first BHG that I looked at had a 'metal-ring'.  Grabbing my camera, I walked along the road to get a better view and then spotted a white 'Darvic-ring' on it's other leg.  Returning to the car to check photos for the code, it read J5P9.  In knew this gull gull was from Norway, as the Norwegian 'colour-rings', always start with the letter 'J'.

Returning home, I entered the gull on the live online Norwegian ringing site and gained instant access to it's history.  Again, I don't have time to list all of it's re-sightings, but there has been quite a few.  J5P9 was ringed as an adult male on the 15th April 2011, at Vøyenbroa, on the northern outskirts of the capital Oslo, by Carsten Lome.

J5P9 is no stranger to Dargan, as Adam McClure spotted it here on the former landfill site on the 16th December 2013 (Read).  The distance was given as 1,159 Kms / 720 miles in a south-west direction.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway (White) J5P9  -  Dargan, Belfast  (27 Nov 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway (White) J5P9   -  Dargan, Belfast  (27 Nov 2016)

Vøyenbroa, Oslo, Norway  to  Dargan, Belfast, Northern Ireland


      Monday 28th November 2016       
Today, I continued my visit to the east coast of County Antrim to complete what I had intended to do yesterday.  As I had to return home to prepare for work, I decided to start at Whitehead and finish off at Carnlough Bay.  Whiteabbey and Carrickfergus were therefore omitted and I hope to visit these later in the week.

I had intended to call by Adam's house, so he could fill in his section of my application form to move up to a 'C' Ringing Permit.  This would allow me to catch and 'colour-ring' gulls, but having reached Whitehead, I discovered that I had left the form at home.

Also at Whitehead, I was going to try and finish off a partial 'metal-ring' number on a Common Gull that I spotted here recently.  Using bread as a lure, I soon had a number BHGs around my car, along with a couple of Common and Herring Gulls.  There was no sign of the Common Gull that I was after, but a none to shy Black-headed Gull with a white 'Darvic-ring' - H5A, quickly made it's presence known.

I easily took photos and on checking the gulls metal ring for a country of origin, I could see Denmark.  This was my first ever sighting of a Danish gull.  Returning home later in the afternoon, I read an email from Graham McElwaine (Irish Brent Goose Study).  Local birdwatcher, Cameron Moore, had spotted H5A on Saturday and went through Graham to report the sighting.  Kjeld Tommy Pedersen responded sending the gulls details.

5HA was ringed as an adult male, on the 28th March 2015, at Gentofte, just to the north of the Danish capital Copenhagen.  Cameron's sighting was a first for this BHG, having flown 1,158 kms / 719 miles west to Whitehead.

Black-headed Gull  -  Denmark (White) 5HA  -  Whitehead, County Antrim  (28 Nov 2016)

Gentofte, Copenhagen, Denmark  to  Whitehead, County Antrim

When trying to lure gulls, not all succumb to the bait.  One such bird was a Common Gull which was perched on the rails of the Pier beside Whitehead Boatyard.  Looking at it from a distance with the binoculars, I saw that it had a 'Darvic-ring'.  Driving round to get closer, I then scoped the ring, which read -   2ADK , also taking a few photos of the gull.

I emailed Shane Wolsey, as I knew   2ADK   would be from his Common Gull Study on the Copeland Islands in County Down.  Shane was delighted with the sighting, as this was a first for the gull, which was ringed as an adult on the 28th May 2010, on Big Copeland Island.

The Copelands are situated just 13 kms / 8 miles to the south-east of Whitehead, but this sighting just goes to show how some gulls travel about un-noticed.

Common Gull  -    2ADK   -  Whitehead, County Antrim  (28 Nov 2016)

Moving on, I checked Ballycarry Bridge and Glynn, but no rings.  At Sandy Bay in Larne, I tried to re-locate a 'metal-ringed' Turnstone.  I forgot to mention spotting this bird after my previous visits to Carnlough and Glenarm, which also included Sandy Bay.  I strongly believe, that this would be the same Turnstone seen here last winter.  On checking a very good number of waders and gulls, no rings were spotted.  The 'metal-ringed' Oystercatcher that I spotted here last winter, has yet to be seen.

I hit the jackpot at Glenarm.  Luring the Black-headed Gulls there with bread, not only did I re-sight   260D , but I spotted a 'metal-ringed' Mediterranean Gull.  The camera was 'red-hot', with me taking photos of the ring.  As I had also forgotten to bring my notebook, I took as many photos as possible, in order to piece the ring number together.  There has been no sign of the Swedish 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull or Adam's   2ALK , on my recent visits.

Before leaving Glenarm, I had a look at some of the photos and read the address - Arnhem, my Med Gull was Dutch.  Returning home, I looked through a multitude of photos and managed to piece the number together   3.738.593 .  I have reported this gull through the BTO.  This ranks as one of my best finds, as Mediterranean Gulls, are still quite rare in Northern Ireland, but to successfully read a 'metal' on one is especially pleasing.

Thoughts had gone through my head at the time, that this bird was the one Adam McClure had ringed at Blue Circle Island at Larne Lough.  He had 'metal-ringed' a chick there in 2014 and the Dutch rings look very similar to the BTO rings that we use.

Mediterranean Gull  -  Holland    3.738.593   -  Glenarm, County Antrim  (28 Nov 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -    260D   -  Glenarm, County Antrim  (28 Nov 2016)

Finishing off at Carnlough Bay, I re-sighted the Icelandic-rung Oystercatcher OO/W(AA).  Not a bad run out today, with some good finds.  Makes me think, am I missing out on something at Carrickfergus or Whiteabbey!!!

Oystercatcher  -  OO/W(AA)  -  Carnlough Bay, County Antrim  (28 Nov 2016)


Monday, 21 November 2016

Norse Common Gull...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 20th November 2016)       
The first signs of winter has finally arrived, with snow on the hills and frosty mornings.  My visit to the Marina was no exception, with a frosty start and fog that lingered throughout my four-hour visit.  It was chilly all morning, with just a slight breeze.

Around 100 Black-headed Gulls were already present when I arrived.  I began looking for 'Darvic-rung' birds.  With a total of 28 already recorded so far this winter, the continued failure of both   2AAS  and now   2ACX  to return, leads me to think, that they have since perished.  We lost two birds last winter as well, being   2AAJ  and   2ABP , both having failed to return.  There is of course, the slight chance that they might turn up again, though I would doubt it, as gulls tend to be site faithful.

At present, the only other colour-ringed BHG that I'm waiting on is   2BRC .  There may be a slight possibility, that   2BRB  might arrive at some point, although I reckon this gull was just passing through at the time of it's capture to be ringed.    2ADD  is not expected until early March, but for some strange reason, it has not been seen at it's wintering quarters in Carrickfergus during recent weeks, despite searches by Adam McClure and myself.

I had only just started looking for 'colour-rings' this morning, when I noticed a BHG with just a 'metal-ring'.  I was using the telescope at the time, but could see it was a BTO ring and the last two numbers were   *****23 .  Grabbing my camera to take photos, it flew off in the direction of Antrim Town.  This gull never returned during my four-hour visit.  Hopefully, it will remain in the area, so I can have another go at getting it's ring number at a later date.

At 10.34, I spotted a BHG with a taller 'metal-ring', which meant it was a foreign bird.  Checking on the photos I took, it was my second sighting this winter of   571487  from Iceland.  I had hoped it would be the Swedish   6438391 , that arrived here last winter for the second year running.  It's return date was the 29th November 2015, so it is not really expected until next Sunday.  As I was departing at 1pm, I spotted another tall 'metal-ring', but it was a false alarm, as the gull was   571487  again.

There did not seem to be such a high turnover in the number of gulls coming and going, though I would guess on a overall total of 150 to 200 birds.  My total re-sightings of 'colour-ringed' BHGs finished on 20, out of a total of 26 birds that I now expect to record each week.

Black-headed Gull Re-Sightings  (Sunday 20th November 2016)
 2AAR   T35J   2BRA   2ABL   2AAT   2AAC   2AAB   2AAN   2AAD   2ABK 
 2AAK   2ABN   2AAA   2ABF   2ADV   2AAH   2AAP   2ACV   2ABS   2AAF 

Today's Absentees
 2ADJ   2ABA   2AAV   2AFD   2BRD   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR 

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    571487   -  Antrim Marina  (20 Nov 2016)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
The highlight of today's visit to Antrim Marina, was the sighting of a 'metal-ringed' juvenile/1st winter Common Gull.  As soon as I spotted it, I thought it was one of four chicks that I had ringed during the summer (2 at Rathlin Island and 2 at Waterfoot), as part of my training.

Although the British Trust for Ornithology prefer birds to be ringed on their right-legs, I have a habit of facing birds towards me, hence the rings being placed on their left-leg's.  My new sighting was ringed on the left-leg.  I managed 5 photos and then the gull flew off.  Returning to the car to examine the photos (glasses a necessity), I then realised that this was a foreign gull as the ring number started with a 5 and not two letters, as with BTO rings.  The ring was also the same in height as BTO rings, though many of the foreign rings would be slightly taller.

The chase was now on to obtain the whole ring number.  I managed to get close enough to the gull on two further occasions, before it departed from the area, having successfully forced Black-headed Gulls to drop bread that they had picked up by people feeding the ducks.

Returning to the car again to check more photos, I was able to piece the number together, along with the address - Stavanger Museum   5184080 .  My gull was from Norway.  I am really delighted with this sighting, as it is now the second foreign Common Gull on my records.  I reported my sighting through the BTO and now eagerly await the ringing details. 

Juvenile Common Gull  -  Norway    5184080    -  Antrim Marina  (20 Nov 2016)

Common Gull numbers were far better today, as I recorded a maximum of 4 un-ringed adults at one stage.  The Scottish-rung   EY64036  appeared at 12.18, which meant that 5 adults visited the Marina today.  One of these was the gull with the bad leg, which was present throughout my visit.  A total of 4 juvenile Common Gulls were also on site at one point, including the newly discovered ringed bird.  At 09.53, the Herring Gull which has seen over the last few weeks arrived and was still present when I departed.

The independent cygnet, was the only Mute Swan to be seen when I arrived this morning.  A single adult arrived in from the Lough at 10.47, followed shortly afterwards by the arrival of a further two adults.  As I was so busy chasing after gull ring numbers, I failed to note the time and the direction from which they came.  I was able to check all three for rings, but none today.

Mallard numbers continue to be on the low side.  Twelve birds were counted when I arrived, with maximum numbers reached around 11.30, when an estimated 50 birds were present.  Still no sign of any ringed ducks.

A Kingfisher was heard twice, over the course of my visit, but I could not see it.  A single Hooded Crow and a max of  9 Jackdaws, were the only other species noted.


Parkhall Housing Estate & Antrim KFC
As   2AAV  was not at Antrim Marina, I drove up to the Parkhall Housing Estate to see if the gull was at the Elim Church.  There were only 10 BHGs present, but no sign of   2AAV .

At the car park of the nearby KFC outlet, only three BHGs were on site and the Norwegian 'colour-ringed' gull was not here either.  I was surprised though, to see two Ravens rummaging through litter looking for food.


      Ringing Details Received       
Common Gull  -    EZ61039  
On the 3rd July 2016, I made a visit to Rathlin Island, which is situated just off the north coast of County Antrim.  My main aim, was to obtain a rough estimate, as to the number of Common Gull pairs nesting on the south arm of the Island.  Whenever I gain my 'C' Permit, I'd like to start my own 'colour-ringing' project, ringing chicks here and along the east County Antrim coast.

During my visit, I 'metal-ringed' two young Common Gulls, both well feathered and just about ready for their first flights.  One of these,    EZ61039 , has been spotted alive, in County Sligo in the Irish Republic.  It's ring was read on the 28th August 2016, by a Michael Casey, at Doorly Park on the south-eastern out-skirts of Sligo Town.  The sighting was made 56 days after ringing, the distance being 182 kms / 113 miles, south-west from Rathlin Island.

With the help of both Adam McClure and Graham Prole, my hopes of possible photographs were confirmed, as Michael had posted one on Facebook.  I have not been able to get in contact directly with Michael, but I've been assured that he will not mind me using his photo on my Blog.

Juvenile Common Gull  -    EZ61039   -  Doorly Park, Sligo, County Sligo  (28 Aug 2016)
(Photo Courtesy of Michael Casey)

Ushet Lough, Rathlin Island to Doorly Park, Sligo


      Wednesday 16th November 2016       
Today, I called into my local park, known as The Peoples Park, here in Ballymena.  I was on the lookout for ringed Black-headed Gulls and wanted to see if the juvenile   2AXV   was still present.  An estimated 110 BHGs were well spread out, with most birds resting on the lake, the remainder were on the rooftops of the 'Parks Pavilion' and the nearby former 'Cottage Hospital'.

Using bread to lure the gulls to the small shingle beach, I attracted around half of the BHGs towards me, with roughly two-thirds of these being juveniles.  The only ring spotted was that of   2AXV , which I first recorded here on my last visit to the park on the 23rd October 2016.    2AXV   was ringed as a chick on the 7th June 2016, in England.  My report of that sighting can be read (Here). 

Black-headed Gull  -    2AXV   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena  (16 Nov 2016)


      Friday 18th November 2016       
I made a quick visit to the coastal villages of Carnlough and Glenarm this afternoon.  Hoping to re-sight four ringed birds, I had to settle for a Black-headed Gull -   260D , at Glenarm Harbour.

There was no Oystercatchers at Carnlough Bay, where an Icelandic 'colour-ringed' bird had been.  As it was nearing high-tide, these birds could well be on fields inland.

The two other birds not sighted today, were both BHGs, one from Adam McClure's Study and the other a 'metal-ringed' bird from Sweden, which were both last seen at Glenarm.

Black-headed Gull  -    260D   -  Glenarm Harbour  (18 Nov 2016)


Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Latvian BHG Returns...

Not much to write about this week.  I spent most of my afternoons, from Tuesday until Friday, in my back garden.  Being completely covered with concrete and paving slabs, the build up of Moss, Lichens and Fungi, made it all a depressing sight.  I spent several hours each day, power hosing and lifting the sludge.

Even the wooden garden gates and shed, received the hose and are ready now for a much needed coat of paint.  This should have been done during the summer months, but only the front garden saw the paintbrush.

I had planned to go out birding on both Saturday and Sunday, but the car developed a small problem.  The engine kept cutting out whenever I tried to slow down or stop and would also cut out while out of gear, idling.  Why is it, problems with cars always happens at weekends.

One thing was certain, I was not going to miss out on my weekly visit to Antrim Marina.  Having not missed a Sunday, since I started these visits in September 2013, the problems with the car would not produce a hole in my records.

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 13th November 2016)       
Back in early August, I stated that my overall target for Darvic-rung Black-headed Gulls, would total 32 individual birds by the end of the 2016/17 winter.  There has been one addition to the total, when a youngster -   2CJR , ringed in June 2016, put in a single appearance.

With the arrival of   2BRD  two weeks ago, the total reached 27 out of a possible 33 gulls.  Over the last couple of weeks, I had predicted the return of   2ACX , which after today's visit, is still absent.  This gull is now a month overdue and I'm beginning to think that we've lost another bird.

I have also been predicting the return of   2AFD .  I had commented, there could be a slight chance of it's return last Sunday, but really did not expect it until today.  As there was no sign of it last week, then today was the day.  At 11.03 this morning, my 17th re-sighting, was indeed   2AFD .  Ringed by Adam McClure, as an adult male, here at Antrim Marina on the 12th February 2014, we know that this gull goes to Latvia to breed (Read Here).  My last sighting of   2AFD  was made on the 6th March 2016.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AFD   -  Antrim Marina  (13 Nov 2016)

The return of   2AFD , now takes my total of 'colour-ringed' gulls to 28, out of the new revised total of 33.    2ACX , as mentioned above, is one of 5 gulls that has yet to return.    2AAS , should have been here since early August and I reckon that we have 'lost' this gull.    2ADD , we know winter's at Carrickfergus on the east coast of County Antrim and should return to Marina by early March next year.

This now leaves us with   2BRB  and   2BRC .  Both of these gulls were ringed at the Marina on the 1st February 2014, along with   2BRA  and   2BRD .  Except for   2BRA , I am still trying to build profiles on these birds.    2BRD  has a patchy re-sighting history and only seems to be a regular during the months of December and early January.

  2BRC , on the other hand, arrived back at the Marina last winter on the 25th October, but was then absent until the 17th January 2016.  It was recorded for about a month, then disappeared again.  Going by it's re-sighting history, I'm not sure when to expect it back again, perhaps it might be January next year.

  2BRB , failed to return at all last winter.  It could be possible, that this gull was just passing through at the time when it was caught and ringed.  I have not given up on this one yet and there's always the chance that it might turn up during this winter.

Of the 28 gulls that have now been recorded this winter, 26 should now form the benchmark for weekly sightings.  The two exceptions are   2CJR , as mentioned above, just passing through and   2ALH .

  2ALH  is known to winter in County Down, but bred during the 2016 summer in the locality of Antrim Marina.  After the breeding season ended, it remained until the 11th September and has more than likely returned to it's wintering site.  I'm hoping   2ALH  will return to breed here again next year, but before then, I will have a go at locating it at Bangor or Ballyholme.

97 Black-headed Gulls were present when I arrived this morning.  It was not quite as cold as last week, as the wind was blowing from a south-westerly direction and there was a heavy cover of cloud.  During my four hour visit, I recorded 23 'Colour-ringed' BHGs.  The highest number of gulls present was between 10.30 and 11.30, with a maximum of around a 150 birds.  There was no sign of the Icelandic-rung BHG which arrived back last Sunday.

I do not think there was such a high turnover of gulls coming and going this week.  'One-leg', was with me as soon as I arrived and quickly enjoyed a feed of bread.  She soon disappeared, but came back for 'seconds' around mid-day.  Another 'one-legged' BHG was also present today, this one though was missing it's left leg.  I've noted a 'right-legged' gull in previous winters, but would have no idea if this would be the same bird.

Each week that I come here, I spend a bit of time hand feeding the gulls.  Several of them are becoming so used to me, they'd even perch on the door of my car when it is left open.  Dropping bread at my feet while kneeling, several of the youngsters could easily be caught by hand.  My intention, is to gain the gulls confidence, which will help me to catch and ring them once I obtain my 'C' Permit.  I now have one bird, which has started to alight on my hand.

Black-headed Gull Re-sightings  (Sunday 13th November 2016)
 2AAN   2ABK   2AAH   2ABL   2AAK   2BRA   2ADJ   2AAP 
 2ABF   2ABN   2AAD   2AAT   2ADV   2AAR   2ACV   2AAA 
 2AFD   2BRD   2ABS   2ABA   2AAF   2AAB   2AAV 

Today's Absentees
 T35J   2AAC   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
The lower turnover in BHGs was also reflected with fewer Common Gulls visiting.  The adult with the bad leg was present all morning.  A second adult arrived around 11am, followed by a single juvenile at 12.07.  The Scottish-rung female did not appear.  The Herring Gull which arrived a couple of weeks ago, was also present throughout the morning.

The first Mute Swan to appear, was the independent juvenile at 10.13, which arrived from up-river.  Two un-ringed swans swam in from the Lough at 10.30.  W34158 came from up-river at 11.20.  These were the only swans today.

As with the swans, Mallard numbers were also low.  31 birds were counted when I arrived and a head count just before I departed at 1pm, gave a total of 52.  There has been no sign of any ringed Mallards from County Monaghan.  Normally, some of the ducks ringed and released by the gun clubs there, end up here.

The only other species at the Marina today were, a max of 9 Jackdaws, 1 Hooded Crow and a single Pied Wagtail.

Antrim KFC
As   2AAV  was at the Marina today, I did not have to stop at the Parkhall Housing Estate.  Passing through the estate on my way to the KFC car park, there wasn't a single BHG on the roof of the Elim Church anyway.

At the KFC outlet, around 30 BHGs were present, along with one adult and two juvenile Herring Gulls.  The Norwegian-rung Black-headed Gull -   JK35 , was amongst them.

Black-headed Gull  -    JK35   -  KFC, Antrim Town  (13 Nov 2016)


Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Icelandic Returnee...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 6th November 2016)       
Another excellent day for my latest visit to Antrim Marina.  Plenty of sunshine and hardly a cloud in the sky.  It was however, slightly on the nippy side with the slight breeze blowing in from a north-easterly direction.

Around 100 Black-headed Gulls were present when I arrived and much like last Sunday, there seemed to be a good turnover of gulls coming and going.  I would guess that 200 to 250 individuals, visited the Marina.  Numbers did drop away after 11am, partly due to canoeists arriving, and the presence of a couple of surf-boarders a short time later.

With the arrival of   2BRD  last Sunday, my overall total of 'Darvic's' reached the 27 mark.  22 of these were re-sighted today, but again there was no sign of   2ACX , which I had expected to return by now.  I thought there might be a slight chance that   2AFD  might arrive as well, but he did not appear either.  Given the run of northerly and easterly winds that we are experiencing at present, these should aid the return of both gulls.

'One Leg', made her presence known at 09.25 and with a good feed of bread from my hand,  was soon off again.  She came back to me later in the morning for a second feed.  During recent visits, I made a point of hand feeding the other gulls as well.  I'm trying to gain their confidence, making them easier to catch for ringing in the future.  A number of this year's youngsters, have been watching and learning, with some now getting in on the act.

Black-headed Gulls Re-sighted at Antrim Marina  (6th November 2016)
 T35J   2AAP   2AAN   2AAT   2BRA   2AAD   2AAC   2AAR 
 2ABK   2ABS   2ABN   2AAF   2ACV   2ABL   2ADV   2AAB 
 2ABA   2ABF   2AAK   2ANS   2AAA   2ADJ       

Today's Absentees
 2AAH   2AAV   2BRD   2ALH   2CJR 

At breakfast this morning, I thought I would check on the dates for a couple of 'metal-rung' BHGs, one Swedish and the other Icelandic.  As their dates were late November and early December, I departed for the Marina, not expecting to re-sight either bird for the next few weeks.

At 11.53 this morning, I spotted a Black-headed Gull with a 'tall metal-ring', so knew this was a foreign bird.  I couldn't believe it when I scoped the ring and saw   571 .  I knew straight away, this was my Icelandic bird, back for the fourth winter running.  Grabbing my camera, I successfully obtained enough photos of the gull and it's whole ring number -   571487 .

My first ever sighting of this gull was at the end of the 2013/14 winter.  It returned on the 7th December 2014 and was last seen on the 11th January 2015.  It's 3rd return was noted on the 6th December 2015 and my last record of it was on the 13th March 2016.  I wonder if it took advantage of the northerly winds, as it has arrived back a month early.

I am really delighted to see it's return, as it is the second oldest Black-headed Gull that I have on my records.  Ringed as a chick on the 19th June 2003, the duration is now 13 years, 4 months and 18 days.

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland   571487   -  Antrim Marina  (06 Nov 2016)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Common Gull numbers are slowly on the increase with 5 adults and 2 juveniles present today.  Two of these adults were easy to identify, as one had an injured or perhaps permanent leg problem, whilst the other bird was the Scottish gull   EY64036 .  One thing I always notice about these gulls, is the vast variation of body size, plumages, head shapes/markings, plus leg colourations.  Beak patterns can also vary greatly.

If I had the time each week, I would be pretty sure that each bird here could be identified with the aid of photos.  As the winter progresses, more of these gulls should appear and I'm eagerly keeping an eye out for the Finnish-ringed bird, recorded back in February.  It will be over 21 years of age, if it does arrive back for another winter - fingers crossed.

A single adult Herring Gull, spent most of the morning here and a juvenile which arrived just before 10.15, only stayed for about 5 minutes.  It looked very nervous about all the activity and the number of folk running about - clearly not used to all this.

Concentrating on the gulls, I've again missed the arrival of Mute Swans.  Only two adults were present when I arrived this morning.  By the time of my departure shortly after 1pm, a total of 7 adults, along with the independent juvenile were on site.  The two usual ringed birds -   W34158  and   Z91982  were amoung these.  The swan with the fish-hook embedded in it's leg, has not been seen over the last couple of weeks.  Having said that, there is a small female swan with a black mark on it's leg, situated in the same position where the fish-hook would have been.  I reckon, this is the same bird and the hook has now been dis-lodged.

Mallard numbers are still on the low side, with around 30 when I arrived and between 60 to 70 ducks around 1pm.  There are still no ringed birds here.

The only other species recorded at the Marina today, was a single Rook and a maximum of 11 Jackdaws.  

Elim Church, Parkhall and Antrim KFC
After my latest visit to Antrim Marina, I drove over to the Parkhall Housing Estate, to look for   2AAV .  Around 30 BHGs were present on the roof of the Elim Church.  Using bread as a bait to lure the gulls to me, there was no sign of   2AAV .  Looking at the remaining gulls on the roof, I spotted one with a tall foreign 'metal-ring'.  Grabbing my camera, I got as close to the Church as possible and started taking pictures.  Soon afterwards, all the gulls flew off in the direction of the town centre.

Checking through the photos at home, many were useless due to the sun's reflection on the ring.  I initially, I thought I had a 'partial' number for a new Black-headed Gull, reading it as   3923 .  I then decided to compare the number against that of a Finnish BHG, which I had seen recently in the car park of the nearby KFC.  I then realised that I had placed the digits in the wrong order, which should have read   239 .

It now made sense, this was the same gull that I saw at Kentucky Fried Chicken -   ST239.172 .  The last time I recorded this gull was on the 2nd October 2016.  At least I know, it is still in the area.

Black-headed Gull  -  Finland   ST239.172   -  Elim Church, Antrim Town  (06 Nov 2016)

Moving on to the car park at KFC, between 50 and 60 BHGs were standing around, along with a couple of juvenile Herring Gulls.  Again, using bread as a lure, I soon had a hungry audience around my car.  To my delight, I spotted the Norwegian BHG -   JK35 .  Having last seen this gull on the 11th September 2016, here at KFC, I thought it had moved away from the locality.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    JK35   -  KFC, Antrim Town  (06 Nov 2016)


      Ringing Details Received       

Black-headed Gull  -    EW32806  
I could have kicked myself when I received the ringing details of this Black-headed Gull from the British Trust for Ornithology.  Last winter, I only managed 'partial' numbers on this gull's 'metal-ring'.  My first sighting was on the 25th October 2015, during my second ever visit to Kinnego.  The next and last sighting, was a month later, on the 29th November.

Suzanne Belshaw, has been making fairly regular visits to Kinnego Marina this winter, as it is closer to where she lives.  I sent her an email with the ring numbers recorded last winter, including the 'partial' -   EW3*806 .  During a recent visit to the site by Suzanne, not only did she spot this gull, but she recorded the missing number '2'.  Asking her if she wanted to report   EW32806  to the BTO, she declined and left it to me.

When the ringing details arrived from the BTO, 'alarm bells' started ringing in my head, when I read - North Ronaldsay.  It suddenly dawned on me, that I had questioned the ring number in an email sent to Adam McClure.  Checking back on past emails, there it was   EW32806 , I had the number all the time.

All this came about, when I recorded a 'partial' on another BHG -   EN*2966 , spotted during my first ever visit to Kinnego, on the 27th September 2015.  Having read about a BHG from North Ronaldsay on Adam's Blog around that time, I had asked was this the same bird.  No was the reply and he added the Ronaldsay's birds number.

By the time I had spotted the gull, Adams email had slipped my mind.  As I had no recent dealings with the gull until Suzanne's sighting, I had not even given the bird a thought.  What's more, the gull also appears on the BTO's updated Online Ringing Report.

Anyway,   EW32806  was ringed, aged at least two years, on the 9th June 2011, at Twinyess, North Ronaldsay, Orkney Islands, Scotland.  I presume that the record on the BTO's Online Ringing Report, was the first ever re-sighting of this gull, having been recorded on the 17th August 2015.  The distance given was 591 Kms / 367 Miles, SSW.  The duration since ringing, up to Suzanne's sighting on the 25th October 2016, is 5 years, 4 months and 16 days.

My thanks go to Suzanne for her sighting and photos.  I've used these to 'stitch' the ring number together and placed it onto a photo I took of   EW32806 , last winter.

Black-headed Gull  -    EW32806   -  Kinnego Marina, Co. Armagh

Twinyess, Orkney Islands, Scotland to Kinnego Marina, Co. Armagh, NI.


      Monday 31st October 2016       
My aim today was to look for 'ringed' Black-headed Gulls at Ballycastle, Portrush and Coleraine, these birds having been sighted last winter.

I was on the lookout for an Icelandic-rung BHG, but I was dismayed by the lack of gulls of any species.  I scoped what few gulls I could find, including just two BHGs.

Portrush was only a little better than Ballycastle.  Where have all the gulls gone to?  Again, I scoped what few I could find, but there was no sign of the BHG from Scotland.

Arriving at the Strand Road, beside the River Bann, a fair number of BHGs were present.  I was on the lookout for the Norwegian - White J9J2, which should have returned by now.  I was also trying to re-sight the Finnish-rung   ST255.167  and the Scottish-rung -   2E18 .  Checking about all of a hundred BHGs, none of the ringed birds were re-sighted.

Before leaving Coleraine, I drove up to the McDonalds fast food outlet, to see if the young Black-headed Gull that I personally ringed at Inch in County Donegal, was still present.  Having been ringed on the 31st May 2016, I was delighted to find that   EZ61022 , was still here.

Watching it's behaviour, this young gull has become a real bully.  As far as I know, this is still the only confirmed sighting of any of the young BHGs that were ringed at Inch during the three visits made in May and June.

Black-headed Gull  -    EZ61022   -  McDonalds, Coleraine  (31 Oct 2016)


      Sunday 6th November 2016       
Leaving Antrim, I knew there was little that I could do on the coast, as it was nearing high-tide.  I therefore decided to visit Whitehouse Lagoon, Carrickfergus, Whitehead, Glynn and Sandy Bay in Larne.  As things turned out, I failed to get to Glynn and Larne, due to the time and the oncoming darkness.  With the clocks going back an hour last weekend, night comes far too early now.

Whitehouse Lagoon
Plenty of gulls and waders were still on the mudflats here, which were slowly disappearing with the incoming tide.  I did find it strange, as there were no Oystercatchers, which normally gather here in good numbers.

Scoping through the birds, I spotted 6 'metals', all on Black-headed Gulls.  The rings on four of these gulls were tall, which meant they were all from foreign countries.  I also noticed, that two of the four, were ringed on their left-legs.  All six gulls, were too far away to read the numbers, but I might have got the codes if they had been 'colour-ringed'.

I could only attract 11 BHGs, 3 Common Gulls and 3 juvenile Herring Gulls, at Carrickfergus Harbour.  I was on the lookout for some of Adam's Study birds, but drew a blank here.

I drove up to the nearby Leisure Centre, where I encountered around 100 BHGs, the largest number that I've ever seen here.  These gulls are certainly used to people being around.  I slowly walked through the gulls gathered all around my feet, between the two ponds.  Spending some time here, carefully checking for rings, nothing was found, but I could have had a 'field day' catching them.

Only a small number of gulls were present, due to the high-tide.  I did however, spot a Common Gull with a 'metal-ring'.  I knew straight away, this would be new bird, as the previous two 'metals' here, were on birds easily identified.  A Scottish-rung Common Gull that I recorded in July was ringed on it's left-leg, whereas today's gull was ringed on the right-leg.  The other Common Gull previously recorded here, had a crippled left-leg.

My only problem, was to try and get close enough to take photos of the ring.  I also had problems with the sun, as it was now setting, producing strange lighting conditions.  In the end, I finished with another 'partial' number on an 'Upside-Down' ring -   6599 .  Back at home, I checked the alignment of the numbers and address with other rings that I have recorded.  I concluded that the full number would read -   E**6599 .

Common Gull  -    E**6599   (Upside-Down Ring)  -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (06 Nov 2016)