Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Well Overdue Post...

This post is well overdue, but I have not really had the time to sit down and work on it.  Everything that I've done over the last couple of months cannot be put into print, but I've presented a few snippets of what I've been up to.  This post should be the start of more frequent postings, due to the fact that some gulls are already on the move towards their wintering quarters, and the search for ringed individuals will begin again.

      Antrim Marina       
A handful of visits have been carried out at Antrim Marina to record the resident Black-headed Gulls.  Four of these were made in May - 2nd, 12th, 20th and 29th and the last two were on the 1st and 8th June.  Not a single 'ringed' gull appeared during the visit made on the 20th May.

So far, it's pretty run of the mill, with no real surprises.  Gulls recorded, except for one, have all been present during past summer visits.  It's nice to see that the juvenile -   2CJT   that was ringed here last winter, is still present, having been recorded on two occasions.    2ANS , that was ringed as a juvenile during the 2014/2015 winter, has also been sighted and now of breeding age, may well be nesting on the nearby 'Torpedo Platform'.

During my last visit on the 8th June, I recorded 12 of the 'colour-ringed Gulls, with one bird in particular grabbing my attention.    2ABN   has returned, having been classed as a non-resident.  Over the past four winters,   2ABN  departs normally in late February, except in 2015, where it stayed until late March.  It has never been sighted at the Marina in the months of May or June, with it's earliest ever return date being recorded on the 15th July, last summer.  The early return of   2ABN ,  suggests it's breeding season probably ended in disaster.

Talking of early returns, I have recently spotted Black-headed Gulls back in the estate where I live and John Clarke in Coleraine, has also commented on the return of these gulls at the harbour there.  Another instance of gulls on the move, was noted on the 9th June.  I was at a disused quarry in the hills above my home town of Ballymena, scoping for Lapwing chicks to ring, when a loose flock of around 50 Black-headed Gulls flew over, heading in a westerly direction.  It seems reasonable to assume that failed breeders are already heading towards their wintering grounds. 

 2AAV   2AAF   2ADD   2CJT   2AAA   2AAC   2ADJ   2ABS 
4/6 4/6 4/6 2/6 3/6 1/6 2/6 4/6
2/6 1/6 1/6 3/6 1/6 1/6 1/6 1/6
Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls recorded at Antrim Marina
(Sightings / Visits)

Black-headed Gulls  -    2CJT   &    2ANS   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (12th May 2017)

During my visits to the Marina, large numbers of Mute Swans have also been checked for rings.  Totals have ranged from 20'ish to 30'ish birds, all presumably non-breeders and the two usual 'metal-ringed' birds -   Z91982  and   W34158 , have been recorded on several occasions.  A third 'metal', was new to the Marina -   Z90255 .

I recorded   Z90255   on two occasions - 2nd and 12th May, but it has not been seen since.  It was ringed as a 2nd calendar year female, on the 12th February 2016, at Victoria Park in Belfast, which is situated 26 kms / 16 miles away to the south-east.

Mute Swan  -    Z90255   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim,  (2nd May 2017)

The only swans present on the 8th June, were a pair with 5 cygnets.  Both adults and their youngsters later came ashore on to the small sandy beach, but neither of the adults were ringed.

Pair of Mute Swans with 5 Youngsters  -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (8th June 2017)

A 'metal-ringed' Drake Mallard, has also been spotted on two of my visits.  Although it is one of the Mallards released by the gun clubs in County Monaghan, I was unable to obtain the important last four digits on it's ring.

Metal-Ringed Mallard  -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (12th May 2017)

Over the course of my recent visits, the odd Common, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls would arrive to steal bread from the Black-headed Gulls.  During my last visit to the Marina on the 8th June, a Common Gull, with a 'Blue-Darvic' appeared.  I knew straight away, this would be   2AJP , which probably bred in the area last year.  Scoping the ring, I soon confirmed the code and took a few photos.

You can read about   2AJP , on my new Common Gull Blog (here).

Common Gull  -    2AJP   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (8th June 2017)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 29th June 2013, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)


      Common Gull Project       
Now that my ringing licence has been upgraded to a 'C Permit', with endorsements to ring the chicks of gulls and raptors unsupervised, I can now proceed with my proposed Common Gull Project, 'colour-ringing' chicks at sites in County Antrim.

As Shane Wolsey, has given up on his study ringing Common Gulls on the Copeland Islands, I've taken over the use of his 'colour-rings' and study.  I have created a 2nd Blog (here), which will not only act as a platform for my project, but will incorporate sightings of gulls ringed by Shane in the past.  I will become the registered owner of the 'Blue-Darvic' series on the cr-birding (cr-birding) site in due course.


      Gulls Re-Sighted Back Home       
Every now and again, I would check the 'Live' Polish and Norwegian 'Ringing Database', to see if any of the gulls that I recorded last winter, have returned safely home.

To my delight, all four Black-headed Gulls recorded over the 2016/2017 winter, have been re-sighted back in Norway and a 5th Black-headed Gull spotted during February of 2016, has also been recorded again there.  On top of these, a 'colour-ringed' Mediterranean Gull, has been reported back in Poland for the first time since it was ringed as a chick there in May 2012.

To be continued.....

      Belfast RSPB WoW Reserve       
I have visited the Window on Wildlife Reserve in Belfast on a few occasion, with the priority of spotting any 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls from Adam' Study.  The gulls nest on two platforms on the lagoon and can be viewed fairly easily from the main building or one of the hides.

So far, I have recorded two of Adam's birds -   2ASF  and   2BHB   2ASF , was ringed as a chick in June 2013, on Blue Circle Island in Larne Lough.  Two year's passed, before it's first re-sighting's, both at Whitehouse Lagoon, which is only a short distance away from the WoW Reserve.  Suzanne Belshaw, was the first to record   2ASF , on the 4th August 2015, followed by a sighting on the 19th October 2015, by Adam.

The next sighting was made by me on the 19th March 2016, when I spotted   2ASF  here on the Reserve, presumably breeding for the first time.  After the breeding season, I recorded   2ASF  in September, October and December, back at Whitehouse Lagoon.  This is now the second breeding attempt by   2ASF  on the Reserve.

  2BHB  is another gull which was ringed as a chick on Blue Circle Island, 2nd June 2014.    2BHB , went unrecorded until the 11th September 2016, when Robin Vage spotted it on the shore at Kinnegar and later that day, I saw it at Whitehouse Lagoon.  These sites, are on opposite sides of Belfast Lough.

I re-sighted   2BHB  again on the 27th November 2016, at Whitehouse Lagoon and then on the 19th March 2017, where it was making it's first breeding attempt, here at the Reserve.  During my last visit on the 29th May 2017, I spotted   2BHB  feeding a single chick.

The Belfast WoW Reserve, is situated 22 kms / 14 miles south-west of Blue Circle Island, where both birds were ringed as chicks.

Black-headed Gulls  -    2ASF   &    2BHB   -  Belfast WoW Reserve  (22 Apr 2017)

The Mediterranean Gulls, now nesting on the Reserve, are attracting a lot of interest with local birdwatchers.  These are the rarest of the breeding gulls in Northern Ireland.  Last year, two pairs nested here for the first time and both successfully fledged chicks.

This summer, there are 5 pairs nesting, all on the same platform.  While scoping these gulls, I noticed a male from one of the pairs, has a 'metal-ring'.  I had no chance reading the number, just a pity it wasn't 'colour-ringed'.

Metal Ringed Mediterranean Gull  -  Belfast WoW Reserve  (06 May 2017)

Two of the Mediterranean Gull Nests  -  Belfast WoW Reserve  (06 May 2017)


      A Visit to Rathlin Island       
On Sunday 28th May, I visited Rathlin Island on the north coast of County Antrim.  I wanted to check on the Common Gulls, nesting along the east coast of the island, as this will be my main site for 'colour-ringing' chicks, as part of my new project.  I reckon, there are between 60 to 80 pairs, with the main concentration of nests around the Rue Point Lighthouse.  This year, there are far fewer nests in Doon Bay and the presence of Great Black-backed Gulls, could well be the cause of this.

The shoreline along the east coast is extensive, with a lot of low lying rocks, where the gull nests are well spread out in a loose colony.  On the inland freshwater Lough Ushet, there are around another 20 pairs.  Most are on a small island, though three nests with eggs were found on the edge of the Lough.

A major problem with the coastal nesting Common Gulls, is the presence of a Great Black-backed Gull.  While approaching some nests near Bruce's Castle, a male Great Black-back, was observed trying to plunder the Common Gull nests.  The gulls in mass, tried their best to stave off the threat.  This was the only area, where I found several empty nests.  Overall, about two-thirds of nests contained two eggs, with three eggs in the remaining third.  Two nests were also found with recently hatched chicks - a single and one with three.

I shall be returning this weekend (17th June), to hopefully find and 'colour-ring' my first youngsters.

Common Gull Nests With Eggs and Chicks  -  Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (28 May 2017)

Moving on down the coast, I eventually fell in with the Great Black-backed Gulls nest on a small headland.  This is my first nest of this species, where I could actually get to the nest.  Nests spotted in the past, were all on rocky islands and not accessible.  This gulls nest contained three eggs and I now have 'H' sized 'metal-rings', so hopefully I will be able to ring their chicks at some stage.  Close to the nest, were the shells of Common Gull eggs, which the Black-backed's had successfully plundered.

Great Black-backed Gull on Nest  &  it's Eggs  -  Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (28 May 2017)

I also fell in with four Eider Duck nests.  The first one of these, I spotted the female sitting, so I carefully approached her and took some great photos.  The other three nests, the females were accidently flushed, revealing their eggs - a 6, 5 and 3.  The nest of 6 eggs, was found on the floor of a small cave (pictured).

Eider Duck on Nest  &  Eider Duck Eggs  -  Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (28 May 2017)

Oystercatchers, were numerous all along the eastern coast and numbered between 10 and 15 pairs.  I came across the chicks of two pairs and a nest containing two eggs.  Three recently hatched chicks were located fairly close together.  Another chick found along the coast, was slightly older and may have had siblings hiding nearby.  While ringing the Common Gulls, I hope to fall in with some Oystercatcher chicks, as I now have rings for these as well.

Oystercatcher Eggs & Chick  -  Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (28 May 2017)


      West Side of Strangford Lough       
On Friday the 2nd of June, I undertook my first ever visit to sites along the western edge of Strangford Lough in County Down.  It was well worth the journey, as the countryside and coastline was delightful.  The main reason for going, was to check on new places to 'Ringwatch' during the forthcoming winter.

My first stop, was at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, a site where Adam McClure has 'colour-ringed' many Black-headed Gull chicks in the past.  I was 'blown over' with what I saw here.  Not only were the gulls nesting near to people walking around, but they were unbelievably tame and approachable.  There is also a collection of duck and geese species and I hadn't a foggiest idea what half of them were.  Another visit here, is a must, on a day where I can devote more time.

While at Castle Espie, I did spot two of Adam's McClure's 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls -   2BKL   and    2APB , both new to me.  I have reported my sightings to Adam and now await his reply.

Black-headed Gulls  -    2BKL    &    2APB   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (02 Jun 2017)

At the village of Strangford, there is a small island, quite close to where the Strangford Ferry moors.  It was just a few weeks ago, that I noticed the island, while on the other side of the Lough at Portaferry.  I was there 'Ring Watching', when I noticed that the gulls were on the island and obviously nesting there.

What a remarkably small island that it is too.  Named 'Swan island', there is a sizeable colony of Black-headed Gulls and a couple of pairs of Common Gulls nesting there too.  There appears to be plenty of Common Terns nesting and a few pairs of Sandwich Terns seem to be nesting on the blind side of the island.

Spending around two hours here looking for 'colour-rings', which may well have been readable, I only spotted 'metals' - one on a Black-headed Gull and one on a Common Tern.  The highlight here was spotting a near pure-white Black-headed Gull.  This compliments to near pure black, Black-headed Gull that I spotted in Belfast last winter.

Near Pure White Black-headed Gull with Chick  -  Swan Island, Strangford, Co. Down  (02 Jun 2017)

Passing through the village of Ballyhornan, I came across the roof nesting Herring Gulls, which I was made aware of in a recent email from Declan Clarke.  I counted 7 nests altogether here.

Roof Nesting Herring Gulls at Ballyhornan, Co. Down  (02 Jun 2017)

Practicularly the whole coast down the western side of Strangford Lough looks very promising for 'Ring Watching', with several sandy bays and approachable shorelines in some of the villages.

My final stop was at the village of Ardglass, which has a good sized harbour containing lots of small fishing boats and what a place it is.  There were hundreds of the larger gulls - Herring, Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  They ranged in ages from last summer's youngsters to full adults.  I did not have the time to scope all these birds for rings, but I'm sure there are a few around here.

I did however, spot three that were ringed - two Great Black-backed Gulls with 'colour-rings' and a Herring Gull which was 'metal-ringed'.  The codes and numbers were successfully read.

Both Great Black-backed's, were well known in the area, having had their codes read by other birdwatchers on numerous occasions.  The first one I got was White 1K5:C, which had been ringed as a chick on the 28th June 2014, at Horse Island Nature Reserve, in Ayrshire, Scotland.  I had three sightings recorded at Ardglass on my spreadsheet before today's record - 21st June 2015 (Declan Clarke), 17th January 2016 (James O'Neill) and on 24th August 2016 (Suzanne Belshaw).  The Nature Reserve is situated 161 kms / 100 miles to the north-east from Ardglass.

The second 'colour-ring' to be scoped was   R62:M .  Having spotted the ring, I was not able to obtain a clear photo, as the gulls were crowded together on the harbour wall and then my gull flew out to sea.  I have two previous sightings at Ardglass on my spreadsheet for this bird - 7th May 2016 (Unknown Observer) and on the 24th August 2016 (Suzanne Belshaw).

  R62:M , was ringed as a chick on the Calf of Man, on the 22nd June 2015.  The Calf, is an island off the south coast of the Isle of Man, which itself is a larger island between Northern Ireland and the British mainland.  The distance from the Calf to Ardglass Harbour is 56 kms / 34 miles in a north-west direction.

Great Black-backed Gulls  -  1K5:C  &    R62:M   -  Ardglass Harbour, Co. Down  (02 Jun 2017)

The 'metal-ringed' Herring Gull, was spotted on the rooftop of one of the warehouse's.  My camera managed to capture the number on the ring, except for the first letter -   *A39125 .  Presuming, the first letter would be a 'G', I sent an email direct to the BTO, attaching the photo below.

Lee Barber replied, to state this one was good for an old Herring Gull, but I had to report it through my ringing trainer, using the IPMR ringing sytem.  Seemingly, now that I'm a trained ringer, I have to submit all of my ring sightings this way, which is a 'pain', as I know it will take longer to receive the ringing details.  However, it will be interesting to see how old this gull really is.

Herring Gull  -    GA39125   -  Ardglass Harbour, Co. Down  (02 Jun 2017)


Thursday, 30 March 2017

Final Visit...

I have been experiencing more problems with the internet connection at home.  The problem has now been located, this being a damaged cable leading into the hub.  It seems that 'someone', has been over zealous with the hoover.  The problem has now been sorted and I'm up and running again, 100%.

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina - Sunday 26th March 2017       
Since last Sunday, the weather has been very unsettled with some rain and frosty nights.  This changed yesterday (Saturday), being more like spring, with plenty of sunshine and warmer conditions.  Today, was even better and probably the warmest day of the year so far.

Today, also concludes my weekly Sunday visits to Antrim Marina, ending a fourth season of winter 'Ring Watching'.  Starting on the first Sunday in August, ending on the last Sunday in March, I haven't missed a week in all this time.  Although each weekly visit is usually around 4 hours long, the amount of information that I have gathered on the ringed birds here, is becoming quite impressive.

I have built profiles for many of the birds, especially the gulls, where the arrival and departure dates of many individuals can be fairly accurately given.  Two of the 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls from Adam's Northern Ireland Study, failed to return this winter and I assume they have perished.  These were   2AAS  and   2ACX .

Two other 'colour-ringed' BHGs, which never made it back in the previous winter -   2AAJ  and   2ABP , still failed to return this winter.  I stated at the time, they were probably dead, but I was hopeful.  No recovery news, has been forthcoming on any of these gulls.

Four 'metal-ringed' BHGs, also failed to return during this winter season.  The most notable, was a Swedish-rung bird, that arrived as a juvenile in the 2014/15 winter and returned during the 2015/16 winter.  Two juveniles, one from County Donegal and the other from the east coast of England, did not come back.

The fourth gull, was one I've been looking out for recently.  Being one of the oldest BHGs on my records, I had recorded this bird in early spring, during the previous three years.  I know from past sightings, that any visit this gull makes to the Marina, is brief.  There could be a good chance, that it has passed through un-recorded this year.

As always, I'm forever hopeful, that some of these birds will be re-sighted in the future, but for now, I'll have to wait to see what next winter brings.

Today's visit to Antrim Marina, was noteable for the lack of BHG's, with just two birds appearing at 11.00, neither of them ringed.  I took a look at the nearby 'Torpedo Platform' through the telescope and it was a 'hive' of activity, with a large number of gulls.

I will avoid the Marina throughout April.  In May and June, I will resume visits to record the 'resident' BHGs, with at least one, possibly two visits each week.  Judging by the regular visits made last summer, I'm fairly certain that non-residents, start to return in late July.  These are gulls, that have bred early, having completed their season, or possibly those that failed to fledge young.

Due to these observations, I'm contemplating on the idea, of starting my 5th winter season of 'Ring Watching', on the first Sunday in July, instead of the first Sunday in August.  Some of the non-residents, such as the Lithuanian (White) T35J,   2AAD  and   2AAK , returned to the Marina at the end of July / beginning of August last summer.

I'm also expecting to go into hospital for a long awaited operation.  I have made it clear, that I cannot go for this until the end of June at the earliest.  After the 'op', I will not be allowed to drive a car for several weeks, so I'll be hoping on a lift from other family members.

Last Wednesday, the ringing details arrived, for the young Black-headed Gull -   HA24.967 , spotted at the Marina last Sunday.  It was ringed as a chick, on the 12th June 2016.  The ringing site, was an island on Lake Kretuonas, in eastern Lithuania.  Interestingly, this is the very same island, that (White) T35J was ringed on as a chick in 2006.  The distance, to Antrim Marina, was given as 2,044 kms / 1,270 miles, west.

Lake Kretuonas, Lithuania to Antrim Marina, Northern Ireland

Other Species at Antrim Marina
Both pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, that appeared at Antrim Marina last Sunday, were present throughout today's visit.  A 5th one arrived briefly at 11.34.  The usual Herring Gull did not show up and no Common Gulls were recorded either.

21 adult Mute Swans and 2 cygnets were present on my arrival and numbers increased to 27 adults and 4 cygnets, by the time of my departure.  All of the latter swans, swam in from the Lough, which looked like glass, being so calm.  The two 'metal-ringed' birds -   W34157  and   W34158 , which have been recorded over recent weeks, were both spotted today.

Mallard numbers, were extremely low.  11 were counted at first and overall numbers did not exceed the 30 mark.  There were far more males than females about and no sign of any 'ringed' birds.

Other species recorded were:- 1 Hooded Crow, 7 Jackdaws and a male Chaffinch.  It is not surprising to see lower numbers of other species, as many will be preparing for the oncoming breeding season.  From where my car was parked, I could see a pair of Blue Tits, inspecting a hole in a tree on the opposite side of the river.

Antrim KFC Outlet
Checking the car park of the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, no gulls were present.  The Norwegian -   JK35 , is probably well on it's way back to Norway.  I shall be keeping an eye on the 'Live' Norwegian Ringing Database, to see if   JK35 , is spotted back home.  Last spring, my last sighting of   JK35 , was made on the 13th March and it was next spotted in Stavanger, on the 8th April. 


      Friday 24th March 2017       
I called into my local park today, to check on two 'ringed' gulls.  The female Lesser Black-backed Gull -   GC27112 , was quickly spotted on the roof of the park's pavilion, standing beside her partner.  Checking on photos taken in the last two years, I was not able to establish, whether the male was her originl mate.    GC27112 , arrived back to The Peoples Park, earlier than usual this year, but was on her own to start with.

The young Black-headed Gull from England, which was present here throughout the winter, was absent.  In fact, only two BHGs were spotted, a 1st winter bird on the lake and an adult on the roof of the pavilion.  Normally, BHG numbers, would often be in the hundred plus mark.  It's that time of the year now, where most gulls are away to their breeding sites.

Lesser Black-backed Gull  -    GC27112   -  and Her Mate  -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  -  (24 Mar 2017)


      Monday 27th March 2017       
Today, I drove up to the Myroe Levels on the north coast of County Londonderry.  I'm checking this site each Monday until the end of April, to record Brent Geese, many of which 'stage' here on their journey back to breed within the Canadian Arctic, via Iceland.

A flock of around 350 birds, were present today, but after a three hour visit, not a single 'ringed' goose was recorded.  The problem, was their choice to feed well up in the field and were just out of range for both my telescope and camera.

Brent Goose Flock  -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  -  (27 Mar 2017)

Brent Goose Flock (Zoomed in)  -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  -  (27 Mar 2017)


      Summer Months       
Now that most gulls are away to their breeding sites, my Blog now takes a rest.  Further posts will be added, once I've collected enough material for publication.  Updates on any of the 'ringed' birds recorded over the winter, will be added, as details come through.

My attention over the next few months now turn to nesting Birds of Prey.  I intend to Blog on some nests, once these are located and can be followed with the minimum of disturbance.  I will be continuing my training to become a ringer and some articles will be posted about this.  More material will become available in May and June, when I return to Antrim Marina, to record the 'resident' gulls.

For now, I hope everyone has enjoyed my efforts to record 'ringed' birds, especially our wintering gulls.  Thanks to all for following my Blog and the emails that I've received.


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Lithuanian Surprise...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina - Sunday 19th March 2017       
During the week, leading up to today's visit at Antrim Marina, there has been quite a change in the weather.  Having experienced settled spring-like conditions, we have seen quite a lot of rain and sometimes quite strong winds.

Overnight rain on Saturday night and Sunday morning, was clearing, as I arrived at the Marina, with just two light showers during my visit.  Although quite breezy, the wind increased in strength over the course of the day.

I thought that the conditions might encourage the Black-headed Gulls, to appear in greater numbers looking for food.  This never happened and maximum numbers present, never exceeded 80 birds.  29 BHGs were counted on my arrival and the re-sighting of 'colour-ringed' birds, was a drawn out affair.  The youngster   2CJT , was the first to be recorded at 09.30, with the ninth and final gull,   2ABS , being spotted at 12.48, just prior to my departure.

Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina  (Sunday 19th March 2017)
 2CJT   2AAT   2BRA   2ABK   2AAV   2AAA   2ADJ   2ADD   2ABS 

Sunday's Absentees
 T35J   2AAP   2AAK   2AAH   2AAC   2ABN   2AAD   2ABA 
 2AAB   2AAF   2AAN   2ABL   2ABF   2AAR   2ACV   2ADV 
 2AFD   2BRC   2BRD   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR       
(Note:-    2ALH  was known to be Wintering at Bangor, County Down)

Overall BHG numbers visiting the Marina, would have been well over the hundred mark, as birds were constantly coming and going - looking for a quick bite to eat.  I scoped the nearby 'Torpedo Platform' and BHG numbers easily topped the 200 mark.  It could be seen, that many were claiming spots to nest on.  Quite a few of the Marina's resident 'colour-ringed' BHGs, would have been there as well.

'One Leg', was also present today.  She has never been recorded here during the breeding season, so I was a bit surprised to find her still here.  Normally, she makes her presence known to me, but she never bothered today.  As next Sunday completes my 4th winter season of 'Ring Watching' at Antrim Marina, I'm not expecting to see 'One Leg' again.

Two BHGs that I was keeping an eye out for, was   2ALH  and   EG55380   2ALH , bred here last summer and remained at the Marina until September, before moving on to Bangor, in County Down, where she was found in December - wintering at Ward Park.  The 'metal-ringed' -   EG55380 , is now well overdue.  This gull, is the 6th oldest on my records, having been ringed as a chick in 2005 (Copeland Islands, County Down).  It has been recorded here in spring, over the last three years.

Two 'metals' were spotted this morning.  The first was the Icelandic -   571487 , which has 'wintered' in the Antrim area for the fourth time, since I started coming here.  Ringed as a chick in 2003, I reckon that it has come to Antrim throughout it's life and had gone un-noticed over the year's.

  571487 , is the 2nd oldest BHG on my records.  Today, it remained at the Marina for most of the morning.  It was quick to get it's share of the bread being fed to the ducks.  I have noticed this eager desire in the past, where gulls 'load up' with food directly prior to departing for their breeding sites.  Going by today's observations, this will be my last sighting of   571487 , for this winter. 

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    571487   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  -  (19 Mar 2017)

Date Details Location Age
19 Jun 2003 Ringed as a Chick by Ólafur Á. Torfason Álftanes, Reykjavik, Iceland. 0y 0m 0d
23 Mar 2014 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. 10y 9m 4d
07 Dec 2014 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. 11y 5m 18d
11 Jan 2015 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. 11y 6m 23d
06 Dec 2015 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. 12y 5m 17d
13 Mar 2016 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. 12y 8m 23d
06 Nov 2016 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. 13y 4m 18d
19 Mar 2017 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. 13y 9m 0d
 Wintering History of Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    571487   -  at Antrim Marina
(Each Colour Band Represents First and Last Sightings Each Winter)

The 2nd 'metal-ringed' BHG, took me by surprise.  Having spotted a juvenile/1st winter, bird with a 'BTO sized ring', I thought that this was a British-rung gull.  Taking the first, which turned out to be many photographs, I realised I had a foreign 'ring'.

What I did find interesting about the young gull, was that it seemed to be 'quite at home', as it was quickly into the scrums for bread, being fed to the ducks.  Although, this was my first sighting of the gull at the Marina, wherever it has spent the winter, it was clearly used to the presence of people.

After a lot of chasing around, trying to obtain photos of the ring number, I finally succeeded.  My Black-headed Gull was from Lithuania and ringed -   HA24.967 .  I have reported it online to the BTO  and now await it's ringing details.  I thought that the young Norwegian-rung Common Gull, spotted last autumn, was my best sighting here this winter, but   HA24.967 , easily top's that one.

Juvenile / 1st Winter Black-headed Gull  -  Lithuania    HA24.967   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (19 Mar 2017)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
It was another good visit, as far as Mute Swan numbers were concerned.  With 16 adult and a single cygnet present on my arrival, numbers built up to 23 adults and 3 cygnets.  Again, most adults came out of the water and two 'metal' rings were spotted.  These were   W34157  and   W34158 .

Mallard numbers, were extremely low.  17 birds at first, increased to around the 30 mark, soon after my arrival.  Some of the ducks, departed again, after getting a feed of bread.  When I departed, just after 1pm, only 19 were still present.  No rings were spotted on any of them today.

Once again, no Common Gulls were recorded today, but the usual Herring Gull, was a late arrival, appearing at 12.24.  It quickly departed again, as it was chased off by two pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  They arrived at 09.50 this morning and unusual for this species, they remained throughout my visit.  They took over the role of the Common Gulls, by continually 'harrying' the Black-headed Gulls for food.

Other species of birds recorded at the Marina were:- 2 Hooded Crows, 9 Jackdaws and 2 male Chaffinches.

Antrim KFC Outlet
Completing my visit to Antrim Marina, I drove across the town to check on the gulls at the KFC outlet, especially the presence of the Norwegian -   JK35 .  Not a single gull was to be seen.  It would be safe to say, that   JK35 , is now on it's way back to Norway.  Checking up on the final re-sighting date last year, it was last spotted at the KFC car park on the 13th March 2016.


      Ringing Details Received       
Recently, I sent an email to The British Trust for Ornithology, enquiring about a 'metal-ringed' Common Gull, which I spotted on the shoreline at Whiteabbey on the 11th October 2015.  Having obtained a partial number reading   *A001* , I had assumed it was a BTO ring and the full code would be something like -   EA001**  .

I also assumed, the gull may have been ringed on the Copeland Islands, in County Down, as a certain ringer there, habitually places the rings 'upside-down' on their birds.

In their reply, the BTO stated, that they have no 'British-rung' Common Gulls on their database, starting with the letters '  EA '.  In their opinion, my gull had an old ring, originating in either Poland or Norway.  Having read this, it was a pity that I was not able to complete the whole number at the time.

Common Gull  -    *A001*   (Upside-down)  -  Whiteabbey Shoreline  -  (11 Oct 2015)


      Sunday 19th March 2017       
I was not able to get out yesterday, but today, after finishing off in the Antrim area, I drove to Belfast, to visit the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve.  I wanted to check on the Black-headed Gulls there, as I knew, many would have returned to claim nest-sites on the two 'Tern Platforms' on the lagoon.

As I had expected, gulls were plentiful, with many courting and others busy building nests.  Three Mediterranean Gulls, were also spotted.  Two pairs of these gulls bred successfully for the first time ever here last year and as far as I'm aware, three youngsters fledged.

Scoping the gulls on the platform in front of 'Hide One', for rings, I spotted one of Adam's Study birds.  I could not read the code on the ring with the telescope, but my camera was able to zoom in and capture the code -   2BHB .

  2BHB , was ringed by Adam as a chick in June 2014, at Blue Circle Island on Larne Lough, just a few miles to the north of Belfast.  It's first re-sightings were recorded twice on the same day (11 Sep 2016), when Robin Vage spotted it on the beach at Kinnegar and later on that same day, I got it at Whitehouse Lagoon.  The two sites are situated opposite each other on Belfast Lough.

I spotted it for the second time at Whitehouse Lagoon, on the 27th November 2016.  It's presence now on the 'Tern Platform', at the RSPB's Reserve, might be   2BHB's , first attempt at breeding.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BHB   -  RSPB's WoW Reserve, Belfast  -  (19 Mar 2017)

The Tern Platform, as seen from Hide One
(Look Carefully and   2BHB's  Position is Circled in Red)


      Monday 20th March 2017       
Today, I continued with my now weekly visits to the Myroe Levels, situated on the north coast of County Londonderry.  I was hoping to see some Brent Geese this week, having not spotted a single goose, during a three hour visit last Monday.

On my arrival, not a single goose was to be seen.  Driving up and then down again, over the complete length of the levels, I found a flock of around 400 birds, floating on the waters of Lough Foyle.  I parked the car and waited for them to fly onto the fields.  I didn't have to wait long, as the geese flew over my car and landed close by.

My only concern, was the presence of farmers, that were 'strip cutting' turf, which would eventually be used for lawns, etc.  The cutting machine, slowly moved towards the geese and they ended up flying back onto the Lough.  While they were on the field, I managed to record 6 'colour-ringed' birds.  These were all re-sightings of geese previously recorded here this spring - (White) 2   T ,   U   U ,   L   7 ,   6 |  K ,   9   X   and   N   V .

The geese eventually made their way onto a spit of land, that was too far away for scoping.  I waited for another two and a half hours, but they never re-appeared onto the Levels.

Brent Goose  -    6 | K   -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  -  (20 Mar 2017)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 8th March 2013, at Red Arches Road, Baldoyle, Co. Dublin)