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)


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