Tuesday, 21 November 2017

New Recruits...

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 19th November 2017       
Today, saw mild weather conditions again, with hazy sunshine and just a slight breeze.  Good numbers of Black-headed Gulls, were already present on my arrival.  Numbering, around the 100 mark, more gulls soon arrived, taking the total to around 150 birds.  This total remained constant throughout my four hour visit, though gulls were clearly coming and going.  The overall number of individuals, would easily have surpassed the 200 mark.

With 24 'colour-ringed' BHGs to look out for, 19 were spotted by the time I departed at 1pm.  Again, there was no sign of the North Ronaldsay gull, so it's looking likely this bird has moved on.  I was hoping to report the return of the Icelandic BHG, which is 'metal-ringed'.  Although, it's now due, there was no sign of it.

  2AAF , is causing me some concern.  When I last saw it on the 5th November, it had an injured leg and spent most of it's time hunched up on the long jetty.  It is not a very good sign, when the birds are in this condition and looking sorry for themselves.  Having been absent during the previous two visits, perhaps   2AAF  is just lying low somewhere.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina  -  Sunday 19th November
 2ABN   2AAT   T35J   2ABF   2AAB   2CJT   2AAN   2ADJ   2AAR   2ACV 
 2AAP   2AAK   2ABK   2BRA   2ABS   2AAA   2ADV   2ABA   2AAV    

Today's Absentees
 2AAC   2AAF   2ABL   2AFD   2ANS 

With Adam back on the scene, the Orange Darvic's, were now available and three BHGs were duly caught by hand and ringed.  All three are of known age, as two were juveniles, and the third is into it's second winter.  This second winter bird, is the one that arrived two weeks ago and perches onto my hand to be fed.  I still believe, it is the very same gull, that did this last winter, as a juvenile.  As it has only re-appeared of late, it is obviously not a resident.

If one or two gulls could be ringed each week, until I finish my winter visits at the end of March, then a nice overall total may be achieved.

Two of the New Recruits  -  Juveniles    2CSA   and     2CSB   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (19 Nov 2017)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Today, the highest number of Common Gulls, so far this winter, appeared.  Four adults, were present for most of my visit, but did not include the Scottish-rung   EY64036 .  This bird, did arrive as predicted, back in September, but has not been seen since.  I'd be fairly sure, it is still frequenting Lough Neagh.  These gulls seem to stay clear of the Marina, until the winter weather becomes colder and harsher.  The lack of natural food, seems to draw them in to the Marina, during such times.  From late December, I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for the return of the Finnish bird.  It will be over 22 years old, should it make it back again.

An adult Herring Gull, arrived at 09.30, which I think is the same bird that was here along with a juvenile, earlier this autumn.  A juvenile, appeared at 10.20, which might be the same youngster, though more grown up.  The near adult, which has been here over the last few weeks, was very late arriving today and appeared at 12.40.

When I arrived, four adult Mute Swans, plus two cygnets, were already present on the slipway.  Being busy with the Black-headed Gulls, other Mute Swans slipped in unnoticed.  I ended up, with 9 adults and three cygnets, by the time of my departure.  Only one bird was ringed -   W34158 .

Mallard numbers, were again on the low side, with maximum numbers of around 40 birds.  Again, no rings were spotted on any of them.

A single Kingfisher, flashed by the Marina on a number of occasions.  5 Hooded Crows, 8 Jackdaws and 2 Magpies, were the only other species noted.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC and Baptist Church
After leaving the Marina, I checked the BHGs at Antrim's Elim Church, KFC and Baptist Church.  Gulls were present in small numbers at all three sites.  The only ring spotted, was my second sighting this winter, of the Polish (White) TY43, at the Baptist Church.  It's beginning to look, as if this gull is wintering at Antrim Town.  A new sighting, when I spotted it, on the 16th October, I thought that it might just be passing through.  Continued sightings over the next couple of months, would cement it's status here, as a winter resident.

Black-headed Gull  -  Poland  (White)  TY43  -  Antrim Baptist Church,  Co. Antrim  (19 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as an Unsexed 2nd Calendar Year, on the 9th February 2012, at Olsztyn-Kormoran, Poland)


      Ringing Details Received       
The Browser that I prefer to use - Firefox - recently upgraded to what was stated to be a faster system.  However, this is far from the truth, and it is now operating at a painfully slower speed.

I therefore decided to switch to Microsoft Edge.  When coming round to working on my blog, I am encountering several problems while editing.  I tried using another Microsoft Browser and also Google Chrome, but these do not solve my problems.

As working on this post, has taken an age to put together, I will not add 'Ringing Details Received' this time.  I'll include them in my next post, by which time, I might have received the details for my Whooper Swan and latest Herring Gull sightings.


      Thursday 16th November 2017       
I decided to try my luck on County Down coast today.  I chose to start, on the west side of Strangford Lough, beginning with a first ever visit to Dundrum and working the coast, moving around to Killyleagh.  On the way down, I called by Corbet Lough and the Lough at Castlewellan Forest Park.

At Corbet Lough, I spotted one of Adam's BHGs, -   2ADR .  This gull was ringed here as an adult female, in December 2013.  Although   2ADR , winters at Corbet Lough, it seems to be breeding somewhere on Lough Neagh.  I spotted   2ADR , at Kinnego Marina, on the 14th August 2016 and there is a record of it having been at Kinnego, in October 2015.  The Marina, is situated on the southern edge of Lough Neagh and is situated 20 kms / 12 miles north-west of Corbet Lough.  It seems as if   2ADR , spends a little time at Kinnego, once the breeding season is over.

Black-headed Gull  -     2ADR   -  Corbet Lough, Co. Down  (16 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 6th December 2013, at Corbet Lough, Co. Down)

None of the 40'ish Black-headed Gulls at Castlewellan, were ringed, so it was on to Dundrum.  Here, there were extensive mud-flats, which were fully exposed, as the tide was out.  Away in the distance, a flock of gulls, numbering between 6 and 7 hundred birds could be seen.

Not so far away, were small groups of Brent Geese, with a number of birds carrying 'coloured' rings.  Even, with the power of my camera, they were still too far out to read the codes.  I must say, Dundrum looks promising, so I'll make a return visit on a later date.  I need to arrive at a time, when the tide starts to recede and see what happens.

Moving on from Dundrum, I checked small groups of gulls and waders, all along the coast.  No more rings were spotted until I reached Ardglass Harbour.  On the rocks opposite the harbour, a couple of hundred gulls of various species, were resting.  Scoping through these, I spotted a sub-adult Herring Gull, ringed -   R17:M , a new sighting.  I knew by the code, that this was from the Isle of Man and the gull has now been reported to both Kevin Scott and the BTO.

I remained at Ardglass, for quite a while, hoping to spot another ring, especially as there were an excellent number of Black-headed and Common Gulls.  It started to get dark and as the light was failing, I called it a day.  Heading for home, I was disappointed at not spotting another 'colour-ring'.

Herring Gull  -     R17:M   -  Ardglass Harbour, Co. Down  (16 Nov 2017)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)


      Saturday 18th November 2017       
My plan today, was to check the beach at Whiteabbey.  I have been hoping to see the return of a Portuguese-rung Lesser Black-backed Gull, but there is still no sign of it.  There is also the possibility, that a Polish-rung Mediterranean Gull, might also return to Whiteabbey.

With the tide fast receding, gulls were arriving in good numbers, both to feed and bathe in the river, which flows into Belfast Lough.  The first ring spotted, was my third sighting here of the juvenile Black-headed Gull -   2CPN , from Adam's Study.  As Adam, is back online, I finally received the ringing details for this youngster.

 2CPN , was ringed as a chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Blue Circle island, on Larne Lough.  The island lies 18 kms / 11 miles, to the north-east of Whiteabbey Beach.  Having took a few photos, this youngster seems to be looking quite good and should survive the winter. 

(Juvenile)  Black-headed Gull  -     2CPN   -  Whiteabbey Shoreline, Co. Antrim  (18 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

The next ring to be spotted, was a 'Yellow Darvic', on a Black-headed Gull.  The bird was washing itself, at the edge of the river, which flows down the beach and into Belfast Lough.  Scoping the ring, all I could read was ' 4H ', as the remainder of the ring was submerged.  Immediately, I thought, this was the gull which has evaded me, during the past two winters here.

I kept a sharp eye on the gull, in case it should take flight, which eventually, it did.  Following the gull in flight, it landed further up the beach to the north.  Moving along the footpath, as quickly as possible, I was now in camera range.  A few snaps later, and the code on the ring was secured -   214H .  I recognised the number sequence and knew this gull was from a project in County Mayo, in the Republic of Ireland.  On returning home, I emailed Eoin McGreal, reporting my find.

On Monday morning, the reply was in.    214H , was ringed as a chick, on the 4th June 2007.  My sighting, was the first record for this gull.  With a duration of 10 years, 5 months and 14 days, I find it amazing, that the   214H  has remained undetected for so long.  Should this be the same BHG, which has evaded me in the past, then it would be safe to assume, it winters here every year.

I should mention, two other BHGs, from the Lough Mask Project, which were also first sightings, long after being ringed.  On the 22nd March 2016, I spotted  236S , at Glynn, on Larne Lough.    236S , had been ringed as a chick, in June 2007.  Suzanne Belshaw, spotted  290P , at Lurgan Park, in County Armagh, on the 10th March 2017.    290P , was also ringed as a chick in June 2007.

My record of  214H , makes it a hat-trick of first sightings for 2007 youngsters.  Lough Mask, is situated, 253 kms / 157 miles, south-west, from Whiteabbey.

My thanks to Eoin, for replying so quickly, with the ringing details of this gull.

Black-headed Gull  -    214H   -  Whiteabbey Shoreline, Co. Antrim  (16 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 4th June 2007, at Lough Mask, Co. Mayo, Rep. of Ireland)

A Common Gull, with a 'Blue-ring', was next to be spotted.  Although, well out, my camera caught the code -   2AIP  .  Today's, is my eighth sighting of   2AIP .  The first ever sighting was made back in October 2015, and my previous sighting was on the 22nd August 2017.  Ringed as a chick, on the Copeland Islands in June 2012,   2AIP , is now approaching five and a half years of age.

Common Gull  -     2AIP   -  Whiteabbey Shoreline, Co. Antrim,  (16 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 11th June 2012, at Big Copeland Island, Co. Down) 


Wednesday, 15 November 2017

First Whooper...

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 12th November 2017       
With most 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, having returned for the winter, I am now waiting on three birds.    2BRC  and   2BRD , are both infrequent visitors, whilst   2ADD , who winters in Carrickfergus, will not return until the spring.    2ADD , hadn't been sighted since June, despite my recent efforts to locate him at Carrickfergus.  Finally, I found him at Carrick yesterday (14th) and now know, he is still alive and kicking (read below).

The weather, was nice and calm, for today's visit at the Marina.  With a fair bit of sunshine and a light breeze, the conditions suited flies, which were out in large numbers.  Many of the Black-headed Gulls, were seen feeding on the flies, whilst on the wing.  Numbers fluctuated all morning, ranging from 30 to around 150 birds.

20 'colour-ringed' BHGs were spotted today, out of a total of 24, which have been recorded since the start of August.  The most noticeable absentee, was   2AFD , which arrived back last Sunday, from Latvia.

The 'metal-ringed' BHG from North Ronaldsay, in the Orkney Islands, was also absent, having been spotted during the previous two visits.  I had hoped to see the return of an Icelandic BHG, but there was no sign of it either.  'Metal-ringed', as a chick in 2003, it is now due to arrive, so fingers crossed for my next visit.

Colour-ringed BHGs at Antrim Marina  -  Sunday 12th November 2017
 2AAC   2ACV   2AAB   2ADJ   2BRA   2AAV   2ADV   2CJT   2AAR   T35J 
 2AAN   2AAA   2ABL   2AAT   2ABF   2AAK   2ABN   2ABS   2AAP   2ABA 

Today's Absentees
 2ABK   2AAF   2AFD   2ANS 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
The sub-adult Herring Gull, which arrived here a few weeks ago, appeared at 10.15, but only stayed for around 30 minutes.  The only Common Gull, was spotted at 11.30.  This adult, was probably the same bird, which would come and go throughout the remainder of my visit.

3 Mute Swans, plus 2 cygnets, were present when I arrived at 09.30 this morning.  A 4th adult arrived in from the Lough at 10.20, followed by another two at 12.20.  Five minutes later, a cygnet and an adult arrived in, and the adult turned out to be   W34158 , who is not a parent of the cygnet.  The eighth and final adult, appeared at 12.38, again arriving in from the Lough.  None of the other swans were ringed.

Mallard numbers, were lower today and never exceeded 50 birds.  The milder weather, was likely to be the cause, with fewer birds looking for an easy meal.  No rings spotted, though most ducks were checked.

Barring members of the crow family, no other species were spotted.  7 Hooded Crows, 9 Jackdaws and a single Magpie, were today's sightings.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC and Baptist Church
After leaving the Marina, I checked the other now customary sites, at Antrim's Elim Church, the KFC outlet and Baptist Church.  With Black-headed Gulls present in small numbers at all three, the only ring spotted, was my fourth sighting this winter of the Norwegian -   JK35 .  Despite, all of my weekly visits,   JK35   has only been recorded once each month at KFC, since arriving back in August.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    JK35   -  Antrim KFC, Co. Antrim  (12 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2014, at Stavanger, Norway)


      Another Returnee       
I usually spend my time, reporting on new and returning 'ringed' birds.  This week saw the return from the wilderness, of another - well, not a bird anyway.

Adam, has broken his silence, citing problems, with his computer and emails.  Offering, his sincere apologies for the absence of any communication, he is now trying to catch up with his Northern Ireland Study.  I am now receiving a steady stream of replies, for gulls that have been sighted, as far back as June.  I will report on these in my next post, under 'Ringing Details Received.

Adam, is also offering the use of his 'Orange Darvic's, so that we can ring some new recruits at Antrim Marina and elsewhere.  This couldn't have come at a better time.  My request to use the 'Blue Darvic's', which I hold, apparently clashes with those used on a Black-headed Gull Study, elsewhere.  My 'Darvic's', were registered for use on Common Gulls only, and the codes are exactly the same for each species.

I'm glad, to see Adam back again.  Despite his absence, I never stopped emailing my sightings, in the continuation of his project.  Long may this continue.


      Tuesday 14th November 2017       
With so little to add to this weeks post, I held back on publication, so that I could get out and find something.  Except for visiting Antrim Marina, I am still a bit on the sore side, since my operation.  The weather, has played a role in this.  Of late, it has been cold and windy and I dare'nt risk catching a cold or the flu.
Today, Tuesday 14th, saw perfect conditions.  Although cloudy, there was hardly a breath of wind and the temperature outside, was good.  I decided, to cover the east coast of County Antrim, starting at Carnlough and then move southwards towards Belfast, before the night set in.  I got as far as Carrickfergus, before the skies darkened and the rain began to fall.

I re-sighted four birds on my travels and recorded two new rings, which included my first Whooper Swan.  A chance meeting with Cameron Moore, at Whitehead, also brought news, about other gull re-sightings.

Carnlough and Glenarm
I was very disappointed, in the lack of gulls and waders, at both villages.  The only ring spotted, was my second sighting this winter, of an the Icelandic Oystercatcher.  Spotted on the 7th October, this is the birds second winter here at Carnlough Bay, since being ringed in May 2016.  

Oystercatcher  -  Iceland  Orange|Orange  /  White (AA)  -  Carnlough Bay, Co. Antrim  (14 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as a Breeding Adult, on the 10th May 2016, at Kjalarnes, Iceland)

Sandy Bay, Larne
Moving, towards Larne, I checked small flocks of gulls and waders, in several places.  The next ring found, was at Sandy Bay, in Larne.  Herring Gull   3T:W , was ringed as a breeding adult, on the 4th May 2015, on the Copeland Islands in County Down.  Sandy Bay, is situated 26 kms / 16 miles (NW), of the Copelands.  Today's, is my third record of   3T:W , at Sandy Bay, having initially spotted the gull on the 5th December 2015.

Herring Gull  -    3T:W   -  Sandy Bay, Larne, Co. Antrim  (14 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as a Breeding Adult, on the 4th May 2015, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)
By the time that I arrived at Glynn, on Larne Lough, the tide was well out.  Again, not many gulls or waders were present, although there was a nice flock of 40+ Whooper Swans.  Had any of the gulls been ringed, they would have been too far out to read.  The Whoopers, however, were mostly lying half way out, on the seaweed.

I knew, they were just reachable with my camera, should any be ringed.  Despite my efforts, trying to find my first 'ringed' Whooper Swan last winter, in Donegal and at Myroe, I was still waiting.  I decided, to wait on this bunch at Glynn, and I was eventually rewarded, by spotting -   ZAF .  No sooner, had I took a few photos, when something spooked the Swans and they all made a dash for the waters of the Lough.

Whooper Swan  -    ZAF   -  Glynn, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim  (14 Nov 2017)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)

Parked beside the boat club at Whitehead, I had been checking the gulls for about 10 minutes, when Cameron Moore arrived.  We had a lengthy chat, which included the recent sightings of two Norwegian rung BHGs, spotted here at Whitehead.  Although, not sure of the ring numbers, he said he would email the photos to me this evening.  Another Black-headed Gull, which Cameron, was eager to spot again, was the Danish - White 5HA.  As Cameron lives at Whitehead, he checks for rings, practically every day.

Cameron departed, and within 5 minutes, a gull with a White Darvic, landed in the car park, close to my car.  A quick peek through my binoculars, and it was none other than 5HA.  Ringed as an adult male in March 2015, Cameron was the first person to spot the gull, on the 26th November 2016.  I recorded 5HA, on four occasions last winter, with my final sighting being on the 26th February 2017.  Nice to see another returnee, and Cameron could not believe how 'jammie', I was.

Black-headed Gull  -  Denmark  (White)  5HA  -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim (14 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 28th March 2015, at Copenhagen, Denmark)

True to his word, Cameron emailed the photos of the Norwegian-rung Black-headed Gulls, plus one of Adam's Study birds -   2ANX    2ANX , along with   2ADD , were my targets at Carrickfergus, after leaving Whitehead (report below).

The two Norwegian birds were   J896   and   JJ02 .  I came across   JJ02  , at Carrickfergus (also below).    J896 , was recorded on a single occasion last winter, when Cameron and I spotted it on the 4th February.  We got it independently of each other at Whitehead.  Ringed as an adult male in April 2014, at Stavanger, it seems that    J896   is only a visitor to Whitehead, while on passage.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    J896   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (12 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 18th April 2014, at Stavanger, Norway)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)

On reaching Carrickfergus Harbour, I was on the lookout for Adam's Study birds, especially   2ADD   and   2ANX .  Parking on the harbour wall,   2ADD   was among the gulls, attracted to the bread I threw out.    2ADD , was last seen in June, at Antrim Marina.  Normally, he would spend a week or two, at Antrim's KFC outlet after the breeding season, before moving on to Carrickfergus, where he spends the winter.  It was great to see him again.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADD   -  Carrickfergus Harbour, Co. Antrim  (14 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 29th November 2013, at Carrickfergus Harbour, Co. Antrim)

My second target was   2ANX , a Black-headed Gull ringed in Germany, in 2008.  Adam, caught the gull in January 2016 and applied the colour-ring.  I never got   2ANX , during my visit to Carrickfergus harbour, but Cameron Moore, happened to call by three-quarters of an hour later and   2ANX  was present.

This is now the fourth winter that this German BHG, has been recorded at Carrickfergus :- 2013/2014, 2015/2016, 2016/2017 and now 2017/2018.

Black-headed Gull  -  Germany    IA114059   /    2ANX   -  Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (14 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, 14th May 2008, at Ostvorpommern, Germany)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)

Leaving Carrickfergus Harbour, I moved on to Rhanbouy Park, situated on the southern edge of the town.  I first came here a few weeks ago and discovered a good vantage point, with a sea-wall separating Belfast Lough, from the local houses.  On that occasion, it was getting dark, when I spotted a young Black-headed Gull with an Orange Darvic.  This young bird, would have come from Adam's Study, but there was no sign of it today.

Throwing bread over the wall, I attracted a good number of gulls, which included one with a 'Green Darvic'.  A few minutes later, the code was read and photos taken.  Ringed -   JJ02 ,  this was the gull that Cameron had spotted a few days earlier at nearby Whitehead.  I strongly believe, this is the same gull, which I had sighted last winter, just to the south.

Ringed, as an adult female in June 2014, this was it's first reported sighting outside of Norway.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    JJ02   -  Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (14 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 12th June 2014, at Oslo, Norway)


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

2AFD Returns...

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 5th November 2017       
I delayed my visit to the Marina this morning, arriving at 9.30 and planned for a 1.30pm departure.  The reason being, that heavy over-night rain was forcast to clear by 10am and as I left my home town of Ballymena, the rain was still falling.  Approaching Antrim, the skies cleared and the sun shone.  It remained this way throughout my four hour stay, but there was a light nip in the breeze.

Normally, I would depart around 1pm, but as things panned out, the 1.30 departure, was a blessing.  At that time, there was so many families around my car feeding the birds, I had to wait an extra ten minutes.  By this time, I had re-sighted 22 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.  As I was starting to reverse away from the small concrete jetty to my right, another 'colour-ringed' BHG landed on the rails.

I held my car on the clutch and took a peek through my binoculars.  I couldn't believe my luck, as this was the Latvian bird   2AFD .  I had hoped to re-sight this gull all morning, as I had predicted it's return in my last post.  Parking the car again, I proceeded to take a number of photos.  The gull itself, went through a heavy bout of preening.  Had it just completed it's journey?

Since last winter (2016/2017), I have wondered about the status of this bird, whether it was still alive or dead.  Having recorded it's return on the 13th November,   2AFD , was only recorded once (18th December), during the remainder of my weekly 'Winter Visits', which ended on the 26th March 2017.

Adam, caught and ringed   2AFD   at the Marina, on February 12th, during the 2013/2014 winter, but it was not seen again until the following winter of 2014/2015.  I was soaked to the skin in my car, trying to photograph, what turned out to be   2AFD , in my own town of Ballymena, on the 13th November 2014.  It's return to Antrim Marina, was recorded by Paul Lynas, two days later.    2AFD , was spotted on 14 occassions throughtout the 2014/15 winter, with the last sighting being recorded on the 22nd March.

Richard Bonser, from London, was on a birdwatching trip to Latvia, when he spotted   2AFD on the 4th and 5th of April 2015, at a rubbish dump, close to the capital Riga.  Six days later, the gull was spotted again on the same dump by Eddie Fritze.

On the 1st November 2015, I recorded the return of   2AFD   at Antrim Marina.  Over the winter of 2015/2016, only 7 sightings were recorded, the final one being made on the 6th March.  As each winter comes and goes, it appears that   2AFD , makes fewer and fewer appearances, a trend I hope he'll buck this winter.

With the arrival of   2AFD , my 'Winter List' of 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, now stands at 24.  Including   2AFD , I recorded 23 'colour-ringed' birds today.  The only absentee, was   2ANS , which Suzanne Belshaw, spotted last Monday, whilst covering the Marina in my absence.  My last sighting of   2ANS , was way back, on the 25th June 2017.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AFD   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (05 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 12th February 2014, at Antrim Marina)

Date Details Location / Distance
12 Feb 2014 Ringed as an Adult Male, by Adam McClure Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
13 Nov 2014 Ring Read by Gareth Platt Wakehurst Playing Fields, Ballymena, Co. Antrim (15 kms NNW)
15 Nov 2014 Ring Read by Paul Lynas Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
22 Mar 2015 Ring Read by Gareth Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
04/05 Apr 2015 Ring Read by Richard Bonser Getlini Landfill Site, Riga, Latvia (1,905 kms / 1,183 miles ENE)
11 Apr 2015 Ring Read by Eddie Fritze Getlini Landfill Site, Riga, Latvia
01 Nov 2015 Ring Read by Gareth Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
06 Mar 2016 Ring Read by Gareth Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
13 Nov 2016 Ring Read by Gareth Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
18 Dec 2016 Ring Read by Gareth Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
05 Nov 2017 Ring Read by Gareth Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
First and Last Sightings for    2AFD   Each Winter and Sightings Away from Antrim Marina

Black-headed Gulls Spotted on Sunday 5th November 2017
 2AAK   2AAC   2CJT   2BRA   2AAV   2AAR   2AAT   T35J 
 2AAF   2ABL   2AAP   2ABN   2ABK   2ADV   2AAN   2ADJ 
 2ABS   2ABF   2AAB   2ABA   2ACV   2AAA   2AFD    

The Only Absentee

Numbers, of Black-headed Gulls, at the Marina today, were very erratic.  At 11.30, not a single BHG, was to be seen.  However, shortly after 12.00, numbers picked up again, with a day's high, of around 150 gulls now present.  Feeding the BHGs by hand out of the car window, one bird came and perched itself onto my fist.  I could tell by the colour of it's legs, that it was a 2016 bred bird.  Was this the same gull, which perched on my hand last winter as a youngster?

As it picked the bread out from my fist, I moved my hand around, but the gull stayed 'put'.  If this is the same bird, then it is also a recent returnee.  Pity, I've heard nothing from the BTO, regarding my request to use the Blue 'colour-rings' that I currently hold.  This gull, along with a few others, would have been ringed by now.  

Another gull, which I thought might return today, was a 'metal-ringed' bird from Iceland.  I did not have high hopes on this one anyway, but it should return by next Sunday, if all goes well.  A Black-headed Gull, with a BTO sized ring was spotted at 9.42am.  This one turned out to be my first sighting of a bird recorded by Suzanne last Monday -   EZ22177 .

Suzanne, reported the gull to the BTO and it's ringing details arrived back the following day (Wednesday).    EZ22177 , was ringed as a chick, on the 13th June 2016, on North Ronaldsay, which is part of the Orkney Islands, situated just to the north of the Scottish mainland.  The distance to Antrim Marina, is 567 kms / 352 miles, SSW.  This was Suzanne's second sighting of a North Ronaldsay BHG, this winter.  On the 8th September 2017,   EW32806 , was recorded for the third winter running, at Kinnego Marina, in County Armagh.

Again, my thanks to Suzanne, for sharing her sightings and info.

Black-headed Gull  -    EZ22177   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (05 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 13th June 2016, North Ronaldsay, Scotland)

Other birds at Antrim Marina
Since the break up of the Mute Swan family a few weeks ago (pair, plus 5 young), I've yet to see all five youngsters together.  On my arrival today, 2 youngsters were present, joined by a 3rd at 11.18, which arrived in from the Lough, along with two adults.  The adults however, were not the parents, as one bird had such a red beak, it was approaching scarlet in colour.  This was a new bird here, as I've never seen one before, with a beak this dark in colour.

The new arrivals, joined up with two adults, which were also present when I arrived this morning.  A further three adults, arrived in from the Lough at 11.38, making a total of 7 adults and 3 cygnets.  None however, carried rings.

Mallard numbers, were low at first, with perhaps 30 birds present.  Numbers quickly grew, with birds flying in from the Lough.  By 11am, at least 60 Mallards were now present, with no further increases.  No sign of any 'metal-ringed' ducks.

Only two Common Gulls appeared throughout the morning.  Coming and going, I was quite sure, that they were the same two birds on each sighting.  I'm still waiting on my second sighting this winter of a Scottish-rung Common Gull, last seen on the 25th September.  The sub-adult Herring Gull, which appeared here a few weeks ago, arrived at 10.14 and remained throughout my visit.

(Sub-Adult)  Herring Gull  -  Antrim Marina  (05 Nov 2017)

Other species recorded at the Marina, during my visit, were 6 Hooded Crows, 9 Jackdaws, 1 Magpie and a single Grey Wagtail.

After leaving the Marina, I checked for Black-headed Gulls at the Elim Church, in Antrim's Parkhall Housing Estate, the Antrim KFC outlet and finally, Antrim's Baptist Church.  No rings were spotted at the first two sites and not one gull was even present at the Baptist Church.


      Monday 6th November 2017       
I did not have time to work on this post during the day yesterday (Monday), as I had a number of things to do, which included a visit into the town.  I still had some unused bread from Sunday's visit to Antrim, so checked on the gulls, at Ballymena's - 'Peoples Park' and KFC outlet.

Over one hundred, Black-headed Gulls, now frequent the park's lake, but no rings were spotted.  However, at the KFC outlet, a juvenile BHG was sighted with a 'metal-ring'.

Drawing the gulls in with bread, I started taking photos of the ring.  A driver, of a van parked nearby, watched me taking pictures and did his best, to scare them away, by revving the engine.  Why are some people, such 'Pr----', when they see folk using a camera?  Dog walkers, are often, just as bad.  These type of people, should be 'Politicians', as most haven't a clue!!!

However, despite the efforts of the van driver, I still managed to piece the young gulls 'ring number' together -   EZ33164 .  I have reported this juvenile to the BTO.  Checking the number, against my spreadsheet, I believe, that I have spotted a bird from the Elvanfoot colony, South Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Two other young gulls from the colony, have already been sighted in Northern Ireland, this winter.    EZ33136 , 'colour-ringed' -   2BP2 , was spotted by Cameron Moore, at Whitehead (Co. Antrim), on the 28th August 2017.  Suzanne Belshaw, spotted   EZ02451 , at Lurgan Park Lake, Co. Armagh, which was still present there on the 2nd November.  Both, were ringed as chicks, at Elvanfoot, on the 20th June 2017.

On that particular date, the ringers, exhausted their supply of 'colour-rings' and just 'metal-rung' the remaining chicks.  Iain Livingstone (Secretary of The Clyde Ringing Group), made comment, that the colony experienced a higher number of chicks this summer. 

(Juvenile)  Black-headed Gull  -    EZ33164   -  Ballymena KFC Car Park, Co. Antrim  (06 Nov 2017)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)


Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Super Suzie...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina - Monday 30th October 2017       
I was not able to visit Antrim Marina this week, as I am recovering from an operation - more on that, at the end of this post.

This is my fifth winter, studying the Black-headed Gulls, at Antrim Marina and up to now, I have not missed a 'weekly visit'.  Knowing, I would not be fit enough, Suzanne Belshaw offered to step in, for the continuity of my Study.  Arriving at 09.45 and departing at 12.15, her effort, recording the gulls, was truely excellent and for this, I offer Suzanne, a big - Thank You.

My 'Winter List' of 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, totalled 22 birds, having recorded the return of both   2AAR   and   2ADV , on my last visit to the Marina.  Reporting on this, I also mentioned the demise of three other gulls, which I believed had perished.  Surprise, surprise, one of those three appeared during Suzanne's visit.

  2ANS , was last recorded at the Marina, way back, on the 25th June 2017.  Sightings of   2ANS , have always been patchy, although the gull is considered as a 'Resident'.  At least, one of the three, is alive and well.  I'm sure   2ANS , will also be relieved to know - it's still living!!    2ANS , now increases the 'Winter List' to 23 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ANS   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (30 Oct 2017)
(Ringed as a Juvenile / 1st Winter bird, on the 12th November 2015, at Antrim Marina)
(Photo taken by Suzanne Belshaw)

The Lithuanian, (White) T35J, was also recorded by Suzanne.  This gull, which had been absent for the past three weeks, was present throughout her visit.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  T35J  -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (30 Oct 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd June 2006, at Lake Kretuonas, Lithuania)
(Photo taken by Suzanne Belshaw)

Arriving at Antrim Marina, Suzanne knew she was on the lookout for 22 'colour-ringed' BHGs.  By the time of her departure, 19 of them were recorded, plus she had the addition of   2ANS .

Now that we are entering the month of November,   2AFD , should arrive back from Latvia, either this coming weekend or the next.  As usual, I will be keeping my fingers crossed, hoping it has survived it's journey's.  With the run of northerly winds, that we are currently experiencing, this should aid gulls returning from Scandinavia and Europe.

As well as   2AFD , it may be possible to see the return of a 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull from Iceland.  Recorded during each of the previous four winters, the earliest date of return, was on the 6th November 2016.  Ringed as a chick, in 2003, it is one of the oldest BHGs on my records.

Black-headed Gulls  Recorded at Antrim Marina on Monday 30th October 2017
 2AAB   2AAC   2AAF   2AAK   2AAN   2AAP   2AAR   2AAT   2ABF   2ABK 
 2ABN   2ABS   2ACV   2ADJ   2ADV   2ANS   2BRA   2CJT   T35J   2ABL 

The Absentees
 2AAA   2ABA   2AAV 

On top of Susan's magnificent effort, recording 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, she also managed to sort out, two 'metal-ringed' birds.  One of these, is   EY37326 , or should I say,   2ABL    2ABL , managed to lose it's colour-ring, as noted on the 12th March 2017.

The second gull, is a completly new sighting.  Although, Suzanne's bridge camera, is not quite as powerful, as my own, she managed to track the gull and obtain enough photographs to complete it's ring number -   EZ22177 .  Suzanne, will report her sighting to the BTO and will forward the ringing details, once received.

New Sighting  -  Black-headed Gull  -    EZ22177   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (30 Oct 2017)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)
(Photo taken by Suzanne Belshaw)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Suzanne, did not include the other birds present at Antrim Marina, in her email.  However, a 'metal-ringed' Mute Swan spotted, was -   W34158 , a now regular visitor this winter.


      Ringing Details Received       
The ringing details have now arrived, for a Finnish-rung Black-headed Gull, spotted on the 16th October, at Antrim's, Kentuky Fried Chicken outlet (Photo).  Ringed   ST263.237 , I thought the gull may have been around 10 years of age.  I came to the conclusion, by comparing it's number, with other Finnish gulls, previously recorded.

I'm going to have to eat some 'humble' pie.    ST263.237 , was ringed on the 27th April 2017, on the eastern edge of the Finnish Capital of Helsinki.  The distance, was given as, 1,940 kms / 1,205 miles in a westerly direction, the duration being 5 months and 19 days, since being ringed.

As many 'metals' go un-recorded, at least the ringer, will be pleased to hear of this sighting.


      Post Operation       
Having under-gone an operation last Thursday, at Antrim Area Hospital, I'm now feeling quite well.  Friday and Saturday, were particularly painful days, which I'm glad to see the back of.

If I continue to progress at the rate that I'm currently experiencing, I should be out and about again this weekend.  My Doctor, has put me off work until the 2nd of January, which was also suggested by my night-shift manager.  This is due, to the fact that I undertake a lot of heavy lifting and it will take a few weeks, before I can be on my feet for long periods as well.

Many thanks, to all those who sent text messages or emails, wishing me good luck and a speedy recovery.  They were much appreciated.  Again, Thanks to you All.