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)


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