Monday, 19 December 2016

In Search of 2ALH...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 18th December 2016)       
It has been another fairly mild week weather-wise.  Today was no exception, being cloudy and slightly warmer than last Sunday.  It was pretty 'run of the mill' - re-sighting 'colour-ringed' gulls today, with 23 out 30 being recorded.  I was glad to spot   2AFD , during today's visit, as I've not seen it, since it's return from Latvia, on the 13th November.

On my arrival this morning, 57 BHGs were counted and the maximum number of these birds present, probably came close to around the 200 mark between 10.30 to 11.30.  Once again, there is no sign of the 'metal-ringed' BHG from Sweden, which is now well overdue.  Even the Icelandic 'metal-rung' BHG, is evading me at present, having only been sighted once since it's return on the 6th November 2016.  'One-leg' was present today, but for some reason, will not take bread directly from my hand.

One of the young Black-headed Gulls, has started to perch on my fist, prizing out bits of bread.  This is upsetting the other gulls trying to fly in to pinch a bite.

After completing my four hour visit to Antrim Marina, I travelled south to Bangor, County Down in search of   2ALH .  You can read how I got on below.  

Black-headed Gull Sightings  (Sunday 18th December 2016)
 2AAC   2AAT   2ABS   2ADJ   2ABK   2ABN   2CJT   2BRA 
 2AAK   2AAF   2AAD   2AAP   2AAR   2ACV   2AAH   2ABF 
 2AAN   T35J   2AAA   2AFD   2ADV   2AAV   2AAB    

The Absentees
 2ABA   2ABL   2BRC   2BRD   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR 
Read about   2ALH  below  -  (Sunday 18th December 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AFD   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (18 Dec 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAB   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (18 Dec 2016)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
As with the Black-headed Gulls, the number of Common Gulls, was also up today.  A maximum of 6 adults were present at one time, which also included the Scottish-rung   EY64036 .  3 Juvenile Common Gulls were also counted at one stage, but still no second sighting of the 'metal-ringed' youngster from Norway.  The near adult Herring Gull was on-site throughout my visit.

Common Gull  -    EY64036   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (18 Dec 2016)

Mallard numbers are still quite low overall, with 43 being counted at first, increasing to around 70 birds.  Still no rings to be seen on any of these.

The cygnet was just arriving from up-river, as I parked my car this morning.  It was joined later in the morning by two adults, having arrived independently of each other, also from up-river.  None of the swans were ringed.

Other species recorded on today's visit were, 10 Jackdaws, 1 Hooded Crow, 1 Magpie and a pair of Pied Wagtails.  A Moorhen was seen on the river, close to the jetty on the Antrim side of the Marina.  This was a first for a long time.  Moorhen's were frequently seen here during my first two winters, but are a rare sighting these days.

As   2AAV , was at the Marina today, I didn't bother visiting the Parkhall Housing Estate or the car park at Antrim KFC.


      Ringing Details Received       
To my dismay, the ringing details for several gulls, have still not arrived with me.  I am especially keen on hearing something about the Common Gull   ET03580 .  There is a good chance, this one might become the oldest BTO-rung bird of this species on my records.  I have received replies from the BTO confirming all my other sightings for the 3rd December 2016.  There has to be some reason for the ringing details, not to have been sent out as yet.

Black-headed Gull  -  Poland     T58T  
The sighting of   T58T  at Lurgan Park (see below) was confirmed by the Polish Ringing Group today (Monday 19th).  I now have access to it's online ringing details.  I'll add these onto my next post, as this one is already quite lengthy.


      Tuesday 13th December 2016       
This afternoon, I called in to my local park, The Peoples Park in Ballymena.  There were fewer Black-headed Gulls present than normal, with around 80 birds.  The number of juveniles amoung these were noticeably fewer, than of late.

Again, using bread to lure the gulls, around 50 to 60 birds were viewed for rings.  The only one spotted was that of the English-rung youngster -   2AXV .  This is now my fifth sighting of the gull, having first spotted it here, on the 23rd October 2016.

Juvenile / 1st Winter Black-headed Gull  -    2AXV   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  (13 Dec 2016)


      Thursday 15th December 2016       
Following on from my two recent Sunday visits to Lurgan Park, there is a sense of urgency to try and complete 'partial' ring numbers on a couple of Black-headed Gulls.  I found that Sunday's, are not very good days, as there is too much human activity and 'ring-reading' is near impossible.  I had a satisfactory visit today, with far less people about.

Suzanne Belshaw has been quite active, checking both Lurgan Park and nearby Kinnego Marina for rings.  Between us, we managed to confirm the return of   EW57424 , for the second winter running.  Having been ringed as a chick in 2008, this gull has probably wintered here every year and was only discovered due to sustained efforts to help Adam with his Northern Ireland BHG Study.    EW57424  was one of three rings to be spotted today.

The two 'partial' numbers,   EL8060*  spotted by Suzanne and   EN29*** , that I recorded, were my main targets today.  I'm certain that the gull I spotted, is the same bird that I had a 'partial' for last winter -   EN290**  - (upside-down ring placed on the left-leg).  Despite the desire to complete the numbers, neither gull was located during my visit.  Both of these birds may just be passing through, so I'll try and get back during next week.

Recently, Suzanne has also recorded two 'colour-ringed' BHGs.  The Norwegian (White) J4P4, is no stranger to Lurgan Park, while one with a 'yellow' ring is a recent new sighting.  Although Suzanne, was not 100% sure of the code, she thought that it read   T68T  and was from Poland.  While on my visit, I spotted both of these gulls, the Polish bird's ring actually read -   T58T .

Back at home, I sent an email to Suzanne, reporting today's progress with the gulls.  It turned out, that Suzanne was actually at Lurgan Park earlier in the day and spotted the same three ringed gulls as I did, but no sign of the two with 'partial' numbers.  Both of us, have reported   T58T , on the live Polish Ringing Site and now await the ringing details once confirmation has been made.

On our recent visits, there has been no sign of the Icelandic 'metal-rung' BHG at Lurgan Park, which is likely to be   Iceland 937949 .  I found this gull at Victoria Park in Belfast, last winter, on the 25th December 2015.  Back on September 8th 2016, Suzanne got a partial number, missing out on the final digit -   Iceland 93794* , whilst all I got was   Iceland .  It wouldn't surprise me if this gull is back in Belfast now.

Black-headed Gull  -    EW57424   -  Lurgan Park, Co. Armagh  (15 Dec 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway (White) J4P4  -  Lurgan Park, Co. Armagh  (15 Dec 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -  Poland   T58T   -  Lurgan Park, Co. Armagh  (15 Dec 2016)


      Friday 16th December 2016       
I try to visit the coastal villages of Glenarm and Carnlough at least once a month throughout the winter.  The main gull of interest is a BHG, ringed   260D , which I hope to re-sight it on each visit.  There is also a Common Gull, rung   2HTX , which is occasionally sighted at Carnlough Bay.  A 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher from Iceland, has also been recorded at Carnlough Bay this winter and I'm trying to record this one, monthly as well.

Due to Christmas production at work, I might be kept busy over the next week or so, hence today's visit. Any free time during this period will therefore enable me to concentrate on other places.  I also had time today, to visit Ballygalley and Drains Bay, finishing at Sandy Bay in Larne.

Starting at Carnlough Bay, I was confronted with a 'high-tide', which was not really suitable, as there is very little beach-front where gulls and waders could feed.  Scoping the few birds that were about, no rings were spotted.  Some gulls were lying down and their legs couldn't be seen.  Returning to the car, I started to throw out some bread, attracting just 9 Black-headed Gulls.  I was going to depart after 5 minutes of feeding, when a flock of 40 to 50 other BHGs arrived.

Amongst these was one with a 'colour-ring' -   2PAC .  When Adam was with me at Antrim Marina last Sunday, he mentioned that Neal Warnock had recently spotted a 'yellow-ringed' BHG at Carnlough, so this might well be the same bird.  Last winter, I had a similar sighting here, but the gull only touched down briefly and I did not have time to read it's code.

At that time, I thought it might have been   260D  from neighbouring Glenarm.  Could it be possible, that   2PAC  was here last winter?  I might get some idea, once I receive it's ringing details.  I have emailed the North Thames Gull Group in London, as   2PAC  seems to be one of their birds.

Black-headed Gull  -    2PAC   -  Carnlough Bay, Co. Antrim  (16 Dec 2016)

Checking the gulls at Glenarm, Ballygalley and Drains Bay, no rings were spotted, so I moved on to my final destination - Sandy Bay.

Arriving here, I was gob-smacked by the number of Gulls and Oystercatchers present, along with a good number of other small waders.  Last winter, I recorded a 'metal-ringed' Oystercatcher, which I have been hoping to spot again this winter, but there was no sign of it.  I did spot the 'metal-ringed' Turnstone for the second time this winter, presumably the same bird which was here last winter.

Edging closer to try and photograph it's ring, I then spotted a 'colour-ringed' juvenile Common Gull, which was moving in and out of the surf.  My attention was now focused on this bird, taking many photos.  Most of these were useless, due to the build up of debris stuck to the ring, but I eventually got the code -    2H22 .

This would be the same bird that was spotted by Cameron Moore on the 14th September 2016, at Whitehead, which lies around 13km / 8 miles to the south from Sandy Bay.  I have sent an email to the Clyde Ringing Group in Scotland, enquiring whether it belongs to them.

Time was now against me, as I had to return home, cook my dinner and prepare to go to work.  I'll try for the Turnstone again on some other date.  It will be a tall order, trying to get the 'ring-number' on this one.

Juvenile / 1st Winter Common Gull  -    2H22   -  Sandy Bay, Larne, Co. Antrim  (16 Dec 2016)


      Sunday 18th December 2016       
Today, after completing my weekly visit at Antrim Marina, I decided to go to Bangor in County Down in search of   2ALH .

  2ALH  is a smallish female Black-headed Gull.  It was ringed as a chick in June 2013, on the Copeland Islands in County Down, by Adam McClure who runs the Northern Ireland Study on this species.

During the winter's of both 2014 & 2015, it was spotted at Ward Park in Bangor and at neighbouring Ballyholme.    2ALH , then turned up at Antrim Marina during the summer of 2016.  I was making frequent visits to the Marina in order to establish, which of the BHGs, that I record on my weekly winter visits there, were actually resident to the area.

My sighting of   2ALH , on the 3rd June 2016, meant that she was here breeding for the first time on the nearby 'Torpedo Platform'.  She was still present at the Marina, after the breeding season had finished.  When I began my fourth winter of 'Ring Watching at Antrim Marina',   2ALH  ended up being placed on my 'Winter List', which started on the first Sunday in August.

The last time that I recorded   2ALH , was on Sunday 11th September 2016.  I had stated on my Blog, that she had probably returned to winter in County Down and that I'd have a go at trying to locate her there sometime.

My attempt to find   2ALH  today was successful, as I found her at Ward Park, in Bangor.  Using bread to lure the gulls,   2ALH  soon arrived at my feet.  We now know for certain that she's here and it will be interesting to see if she returns to Antrim next summer to breed.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ALH   -  Ward Park, Bangor, Co. Down  (18 Dec 2016)

Walking around the park, checking for rings on other gulls, I came across another Black-headed Gull, this one had a 'Red-Darvic'.  As I reached for my camera, a lady with two dogs scared the gulls off.  I searched, but could not re-locate the bird, so will have another go possibly next Saturday.

While looking for the BHG, I came across a Greylag Goose, standing on an island on one of the small ponds.  This one had a 'White-Darvic', with the code '209'.

Returning home and checking the 'cr-birding site', I could not find a scheme that matched this 'colour-ring'.  I sent a few emails to other birdwatchers in the hope that someone could help me out on this one.  Adam McClure, replied, suggesting that I should contact Kerry Leonard and Shane Wolsey.  Kerry has since got back to me :-

Hello Gareth

Thanks.  This is part of a wider BTO project looking at goose movements around Belfast for the airport using gps tags.  White 209 was a test bird marked in Bangor about 18 months ago when we were working out how to catch them.  He ( or she I cannot remember which) is not very exciting though and has never been seen away from ward park, I see it nearly every time I am down, so it is one of the very local birds which does not move too far.  It actually bred in the park last year, not sure about this year.  Some of the gps tagged birds have moved a bit further, including Scotland,  and there have been movements of three birds between belfast and Bangor so always worth recording.

Thanks for the record.

My thanks goes to Kerry for his quick reply.

Greylag Goose  -  (White) 209  -  Ward Park, Bangor, Co. Down  (18 Dec 2016)


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