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)


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