Tuesday, 27 December 2016

One Year On...

I had intended to post Christmas Greetings on my Blog, but ended up not finding time.  I therefore wish my readers a happy Christmas and New Year, even though it's a little late.

The title of this post, points to several re-sightings of gulls recorded exactly one year ago.  Read 25th December below.  I've rushed to get this post published, so forgive me for any spelling mistakes etc.  Once I find time, I'll check through it and correct any errors.

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 25th December 2016)       
It might be Christmas Day, but I could not miss my weekly visited to Antrim Marina.  It was very cloudy, but dry, with a strong westerly wind blowing in.  On arrival, I recorded 69 Black-headed Gulls.  The maximum total seen at any one time, only reached the 100 mark, which was disappointingly low.

Otherwise, it was a fairly routine visit, with 21 re-sightings of 'colour-rings'.  The 'metal-ringed' Icelandic BHG   571487 , was spotted for the third time this winter.  The Swedish 'metal-rung' BHG, has still not returned and I'm starting to think, there is little hope of seeing it now.

Black-headed Gull Sightings  (Sunday 25th December 2016)
 2CJT   2ACV   2ABN   2AAT   2AAN   2AAR   2ANS 
 2AAA   2AAD   2AAP   2AAH   2ADJ   2AAK   2BRA 
 2ABF   2ABS   2ADV   2ABA   2AAB   2AAV   2ABK 

Today's Absentees
 T35J   2AAC   2AAF   2ABL   2AFD   2BRC   2BRD   2ALH   2CJR 
(Note :-   2ALH  is known to be at Ward Park in Bangor, Co. Down)

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    571487   -  Antrim Marina  (25 Dec 2016)

Other Birds Seen at Antrim Marina
Today, must go down as one of the worst visits ever for recording birds at the Marina.  Not only were the Black-headed Gull numbers being unusually low, the same applied for the Mallards.  18 of these birds were counted on arrival. but numbers did not exceed 40.

The young cygnet, quickly made it's way to my car.  It has got used to my Sunday visits and soon came looking for a feed of bread.  Two adult Mute Swans, later arrived from up-river, but neither were ringed.

Only two adult Common Gulls, along with two juveniles, put in appearances during my visit and the usual Herring Gull was present throughout my stay.

Other birds included, 10 Jackdaws, 1 Magpie, 1 Hooded Crow and a pair of Pied Wagtails.  A very poor day for sightings and this led to me departing at 12.30, instead of the usual 1pm.


      Ringing Details Received       

Black-headed Gull  -  Belgium    7T 69957  
At last - the ringing details for the Belgium-rung   7T 69957 , arrived in the post on Christmas Eve - 24th December.  I had waited 2 months and 15 days, to get this, having spotted the gull in Newtownards on the 9th October 2016.

Ringed in April 2007, as a second year, it would have hatched out around June 2006.    7T 69957 , becomes the 11th oldest BHG on my records and was well worth the effort in trying to obtain the whole ring number.  On the day I spotted it, I had a problem with the sun reflecting off the ring, which made it awkward to take photos (Report).

  7T 69957 , is the 2nd BHG from Belgium, that I've now recorded.  9 years, 5 months and 20 days, had elapsed since it was rung.  The distance was given as 771Kms / 479 miles, north-west of the ringing site.  It is likely, this is a first ever sighting of the gull, as many 'metals' go unread.  As usual, there is no way to be certain about this.

Read about my first Belgium BHG -   8T 30294  (Here).

Recovery Details and Map for Black-headed Gull  -  Belgium   7T 69557 

Black-headed Gull  -  Poland    T58T  
During recent visits to the lake at Lurgan Park in County Armagh, both Suzanne Belshaw and myself, confirmed the 'colour-ring' of a Polish Black-headed Gull.  Suzanne had first spotted the gull and suspected the ring read   T68T .  On the 15th December, we both visited the park, Suzanne in the morning and I was there in the afternoon.  We both took photos and the 'colour-ring' number actually read   T58T  (Report).

Having reported our findings on the 'live' online Polish Ringing Website, we got access to it's ringing details.  It turn's out that   T58T , was only ringed 152 day's earlier, on the 16th July 2016, as an adult.  Although the breeding season would have just about ended by this time, it may well have bred in the area.

The ringer was Łukasz Borek, the same man who ringed Black-headed Gull - (White) T56W, which is currently wintering at Whitehouse Lagoon in Belfast (read 24th December below).  On the 9th July 2016,  Łukasz spotted   2ANX , which is from Adam's Northern Ireland Study, but was ringed in Germany in 2008 and carries a German 'metal-ring'.  Adam, added the 'colour-ring' in January 2016.

Świnoujście, which lies on the Polish/German border, was were   2ANX  was sighted and   T58T  was ringed.  The distance to Lurgan Park, where   T58T  was sighted, was given as 1,334 kms / 828 miles, in a westerly direction.

Świnoujście, Poland to Lurgan Park, Co. Armagh, N. Ireland

Black-headed Gull  -    2PAC  
In my previous 'Post', I reported about the sighting of a Black-headed Gull, at Carnlough, 'colour-ringed' -   2PAC .  I emailed my sighting to Paul Roper of the North Thames Gull Group.  Paul has since replied, to say that   2PAC , was ringed on the 27th February 2016, at Pitsea Landfill site, situated to the east of London, England.

Neal Warnock, was the first to spot   2PAC , at Carnlough on the 3rd December, before my sighting of it on the 16th December.  The distance was given as 578 kms / 359 miles, in a north-west direction.  I've added a link (Read Here) for both the ringing and sighting details.

My thanks to Paul for his responce.

Adam McClure, has also published an article on   2PAC , on his Blog (Read).  Here, he mentions the possibility that   2PAC  was on it's way to the continent to breed (when caught), which was the conclusion that I also came to.  Along with   T58T , mentioned above, these birds have been ringed for only a short time and may well be sighted during future winter's in Northern Ireland.  The Danish-rung (White) 5HA, ringed in 2015 and currently wintering at Whitehead, may also fall into this category.


      Thursday 22nd December 2016       
My plan for today, was to visit Lurgan Park, in the hope of completing the 'partial' numbers on the 'metal-rings' of two Black-headed Gulls -    EN29***  and   EL8060* , before going to Bangor to search for a BHG with a 'Red-Darvic' at Ward Park.  Due to the heavy traffic in Belfast, I decided not to go to Bangor, but went to the beach at Kinnegar instead.

Lurgan Park Lake
Spending an hour here, there was no sign of either of the BHG's with partial 'ring-numbers', which I was searching for.  I did re-sight   EW57424  and the Norwegian (White) J4P4.  Suzanne Belshaw, arrived just before I was due to depart.  Although she stayed for a while longer, she didn't see either of the birds that I was after.

Kinnegar Beach, Holywood
Having spent too much time trying to get through Belfast, I stopped by Kinnegar at Holywood, instead of going to Bangor.  This turned out to be a good choice, as I spotted two 'colour-ringed' gulls, which were new sightings for me.

Although, both gulls were resting well out from the car park, I managed to zoom in and capture both ring numbers.  Black-headed Gull -   2AJC , is from Adam Mclure's Northern Ireland Study, while Common Gull -   2ACJ , is from Shane Wolsey's Study based on the nearby Copeland Islands.  I'm currently waiting for replies for both sightings, from Adam and Shane.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AJC   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (22 Dec 2016)

Common Gull  -    2ACJ    -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood,  Co. Down  (22 Dec 2016)


      Saturday 24th December 2016       
It was a late start today, as I had to wait for morning rain to pass by.  Having failed to get to Bangor on Thursday, I decided to go there today, stopping at Whitehouse Lagoon in Belfast first.  After Bangor, I went on to visit Donaghadee and Millisle, before it got dark.

Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast
No new rings spotted, though plenty of gulls and waders were present.  I re-sighted three 'colour-ringed' birds - BHGs   2ASF  and Polish (White) T56W, also the Icelandic Oystercatcher GW-GfN.  It was nice to get a December sighting for T56W.  Due to very bright sunshine, a couple of the photos were not great, as a couple of the birds were quite a distance away from me. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2ASF   -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (24 Dec 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -  Poland (White)  T56W  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (24 Dec 2016)

Oystercatcher  -  GW-GfN  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (24 Dec 2016)

Ward Park, Bangor, County Down
I was hoping to find a Black-headed Gull with a 'Red Darvic', which I spotted here last Sunday, and was scared off by a dog walker.  Despite a pro-longed stay and the best part of two loaves used, the only gull spotted was   2ALH , which I wrote about in my previous post.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ALH   -  Ward Park, Bangor, Co. Down  (24 Dec 2016)

Donaghadee, County Down
The afternoon was passing quickly by, leaving Bangor, my next stop was at Donaghadee.  I was hoping to re-sight a Black-headed Gull, with a partial number -   EG55*86 , which I spotted on the 5th March 2016.

Parking at the exact same spot and using bread to lure the gulls towards me, I ended up with just 13 BHGs around me.  One of these was   EX97264 , which I recently re-sighted on the 3rd December, about half a mile away.  Another ringed BHG, was   2BAL , which I first recorded here, on the 5th March 2016.  Both birds were ringed on the nearby Copeland Islands as chicks in 2013 and 2014 respectively.  The gull with the 'partial' number never showed up.

Another ringed BHG -   EG55718 , which I've previously recorded in the area, was not seen during my latest two visits to Donaghadee.  On checking my photos at home, I'd forgotten to take one showing   EX97264  in full.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BAL   -  Donaghadee, Co. Down  (24 Dec 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -    EX97264   -  Donaghadee, Co. Down  (24 Dec 2016)

Millisle, County Down
As the light was now starting to fade, I made a rushed drive to Millisle.  Here, many of the gulls were too far away to scope for rings and the available light was not helping.  I did spot a 'colour-ringed' Herring Gull, perched on rocks, quite a distance from the shore.  Taking photos, I barely got the code which read -   4M:W .

  4M:W  was ringed as an adult in May 2015 on the nearby Copeland Islands.  My only previous sighting of this gull was made on the 3rd January 2016.

Herring Gull  -    4M:W   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (24 Dec 2016)


      25th December 2016       
It might be Christmas Day, but I had to take advantage of the festive occasion, visiting the Connswater Shopping Centre and Victoria Park, both in Belfast.  I knew both sites would be reasonably quiet, which would help me to read rings in peace.  Once I had completed my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, I headed for Belfast.

Connswater Shopping Centre, Belfast
My principle target at Connswater Shopping Centre, was a Black-headed Gull that I spotted here on Christmas Day last year - Norwegian (White) J4TJ.  Having already checked the live Norwegian Ringing Website, there has been no re-sightings of this gull since my sighting on Xmas day 2015.

The car park at the shopping centre was deserted on my arrival, even the gulls were absent.  Waiting for gulls to appear in the sky, a couple were seen flying nearby.  I started throwing out bits of bread, which I hoped would attract their attention.  After about ten minutes, I was spotted and Black-headed Gulls started to 'bomb' in, their calls alerting others.

Soon after, a bird with a 'White-Darvic' was spotted.  Looking at it through the binoculars, this was the Dutch-rung - EAK9.  This was my second sighting of it this winter, having sighted it in the nearby Victoria Park on the 4th September 2016.

On Xmas day last winter, I spotted EAK9, at this very same spot in the car park.  It was then re-sighted back in Holland, twice in April and twice in June 2016.

EAK9, did not stay for long.  Having grabbed a few bits of bread, it flew off.  Time was moving on and though plenty of gulls, both Herring and Black-headed, were now competing for bits of bread, I thought that no more rings would be seen.  I was on the verge of giving up, when I spotted a 'White-Darvic' again.  Looking through the binoculars, thinking it was likely to be EAK9, I was delighted to find that this one was my target, (White) J4TJ.

Black-headed Gull  -  Holland (White)  EAK9  -  Connswater Shopping Centre, Belfast  (25 Dec 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway (White)  J4TJ  -  Connswater Shopping Centre, Belfast  (25 Dec 2016)

Victoria Park, Belfast
Delighted with my success at Connswater Shopping Centre, I drove to Victoria Park, a short distance away.  Arriving here, I was very disappointed to find a couple of families were feeding the gulls and ducks with bread.  The problem with this, is that they throw the bread onto the lake, which is no use to me when trying to read rings.

With only four other cars, parked in the car park, I chose an open spot well away and waited.  A short time later, the families moved on, my chance to lure the gulls.  It soon became quite hectic, with around 60 Black-headed Gulls vying for the bread.

The first ring to be spotted was that of   2AJV , one of Adam's Study birds.  This is now my third sighting of this gull having previously recorded it on the 14th November 2015 and 4th September 2016.  It was ringed as a chick on the 19th June 2014 at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre in County Down.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AJV   -  Victoria Park, Belfast  (25 Dec 2016)

A second BHG with an 'Orange-Darvic' touched down briefly.  It was scared off along with the other gulls, by a young boy.  I didn't even get the time to read the code with my binoculars or take photos.

After the kid moved on, I continued throwing out bread and the gulls quickly returned.  All 'hell' broke out, as I soon had three gulls with 'metal-rings'.  I was unable to single out any particular one of these, as they kept taking to the air and landing again.  I noticed that one of these had a taller ring, which would be foreign.  Could this be the Icelandic gull that I got here last Christmas Day.

All I could do, was just to keep photographing the rings, hoping it would be possible to piece the numbers together for all three gulls.  Returning home, I checked through the 100 plus photos, which I took through the day.

To my delight, I got results for all three.  The Icelandic BHG was easy, as it's ring was not only taller, but placed upside-down.    537949 , is the same gull that I recorded here on Xmas day, last year.  It was ringed as a chick in Iceland on the 2nd July 2006.

An interesting sighting of an Icelandic-rung BHG, was made by Suzanne Belshaw.  On the 8th September, Suzanne recorded a partial number - reading Iceland   53794* , on an upside-down ring, at Lurgan Park in County Armagh.  On a later date, I also saw the gull at Lurgan Park, but could only see 'Iceland' on the ring.  Despite further visits, it was not seen there again.  There was no doubt, that this was   537949  and I presumed it had moved on to Belfast.

The numbers on the other two 'metals' were surprising easy to distinguish.  Although, both carried BTO rings, their leg colours were used to identify each gull.  The one with the darker legs, was   EL97734 .  This was now my third sighting of this gull, having first sighted it on the 14th November 2015, recording it again on Christmas Day 2015.  It was ringed as a chick in June 2007 at Downholme in North Yorkshire, England.

The second ring on the gull with the lighter leg colour, was   EY98138 .  I also recorded this one on Christmas Day 2015.  On that occasion, I obtained an in-complete number for this juvenile, reading    98138 .  Knowing that the number would start with an ' E ', the full number would read   E*98138 .

It was not until the summer of 2016, that I tried the BTO with 'tongue in cheek', to see if they could generate a ringing recovery.  A reply duly arrived, giving it's details.  My hunch that no two chicks ringed in 2016, having the same five digits, proved to be correct.

  EY98138 , was ringed as a chick on the 18th June 2016 at Saltholme, Stockton-on-Tees, in England.  It is great to see this youngster, one year later.  I've added the photos that I took of this one last year. 

Black-headed Gull  -    EL97734   -  Victoria Park, Belfast  (25 Dec 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -    EY98138   -  Victoria Park, Belfast  (25 Dec 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -    E*98138   -  Victoria Park, Belfast  (25 Dec 2015)

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    537949   (Upside-down ring)  -  Victoria Park, Belfast  (25 Dec 2016)

Kinnegar Beach, Holywood & Dargan Industrial Estate, Belfast
With time getting on, I departed from my successful visit to Victoria Park and went back to the beach at Kinnegar, having previously visited it on Thursday 22nd December.  By now, it was becoming quite stormy, with plenty of showers.  A quick scope of the gulls revealed no rings, so I moved on to Dargan.

Scoping around 200 gulls roosting on the roof of the Belfast Waste Transfer Station at Dargan, the only ringed bird to be spotted, was that of the Norwegian (White) J5P9.  My first ever sighting of this gull was made at the same site on the 27th November 2016.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway (White) J5P9  -  Dargan, Belfast  (25 Dec 2016)

Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast
By now, it was starting to get dark, which was not helped by the heavy clouds overhead.  Scoping the gulls and waders, I spotted the Icelandic-rung Oystercatcher, which was seen yesterday.  A Mediterranean Gull was spotted, this one carrying a 'Red-Darvic'.  Due to the distance and the failing light, I could not read and the camera could not capture the code on the ring.

I suspect, that this is the Polish-rung   PNU0 , which I recorded on the shoreline at nearby Whiteabbey, in both September and October 2016.  As can be seen, the blueish tinge is caused by the twilight.

Mediterranean Gull  -  Poland    PNU0   -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (25 Dec 2016)


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