Tuesday, 31 January 2017


As my car was off the road, very little birdwatching has been done lately.  Having got the clutch re-paired, it was not till mid Saturday afternoon before I could legally drive it on the road, having passed it's MOT re-test.  I'm a bit behind now, in planning what I was wanting to do, but these things happen.

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 29th January 2017)       
It has been another mild week locally, although a sharp frost had set in early last night, thawing out in most places by early morning, due to incoming cloud cover.

This led to another pleasant visit to Antrim Marina, mild, with sunny spells and very little wind.   Not a single gull was present when I arrived, except that of a Black-headed Gull which lay dead on the grass by the large car park.  I checked it for rings, but noticed a trail of feathers, which made me think, that the gull had been killed by a hawk.  The gull had not been opened up, therefore I reckon the hawk was disturbed by an arriving motorist.

At 09.15, a group of 7 Black-headed Gulls arrived, which included the juvenile   2CJT .  They only stayed for about 5 minutes, then flew back out to the Lough.  Small groups of gulls would fly in, but were reluctant to land.  This behaviour, went on throughout my visit.  Two BHGs, did land again at 10.39, with   2CJT  being one of them.  They stayed for a few minutes and flew off again.

A large flock of around 50 BHGs arrived shortly before 11.30 and as they would not land either, I got frustrated and decided to end the visit.  The only thing that I can think of, is that gulls were present before I arrived this morning and the 'hawk kill', has spooked them and made them nervous.

Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina  (Sunday 29th January 2017)

Sunday's Absentees
 T35J   2AAT   2AAP   2AAK   2AAA   2AAH   2AAC   2ABN   2AAD   2ADJ 
 2ABK   2ABS   2ABA   2AAB   2AAF   2AAN   2ABL   2ABF   2AAV   2AAR 
 2ACV   2ADV   2AFD   2BRA   2BRC   2BRD   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR    
(   2ALH  is known to be wintering at Ward Park, Bangor, Co. Down)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
A single Common Gull and a single Herring Gull, arrived with the small flocks of Black-headed's, but none of these landed either.

4 adult Mute Swans were present when I arrived and a single cygnet appeared at 09.40.  Further adults arrived at 09.42 (pair), 09.53 (single) and 09.56 (single), taking the total to 8 adults.  A second cygnet appeared at 10.07 and at 10.24, saw the arrival of a pair and two cygnets, making it 10 adults and 4 cygnets altogether.  All the swans came from up-river.  There has been no sign during the last few visits of the independent cygnet, which used to walk up to my car to be fed.  None of the swans were ringed.

23 Mallards, at first, soon swelled in numbers to around 60 to 70 birds, with small flocks of two to seven birds, flying in from the Lough.  Many of them were checked for rings, but still no joy with these.

Other species recorded during today's visit were :- 3 Hooded Crow, 2 Magpie, 12 Jackdaws, juvenile Moorhen, pair of Pied Wagtails, a male Grey Wagtail and a male Chaffinch.


Elim Church, Parkhall Housing Estate & Antrim KFC
I checked for   2AAV  at the Elim Church in the Parkhall Housing Estate.  It was not amongst the 30 to 40 Black-headed Gulls present, but unlike Antrim Marina, they all readily landed to the lure of bread.

Moving on to the nearby car park of the KFC outlet, the 20'ish BHGs, along with 2 adult and a juvenile Common Gull, produced no rings.  Last Sunday, I recorded the return of   2ADD  here and re-sighted the Norwegian   JK35   the week before, but no sign of either today.


      Ringing Details Received       

Mediterranean Gull  -  Holland    3.738.593  
During the week, the BTO emailed the ringing details for a Mediterranean Gull, which I found at Glenarm on the 28th November 2016 (Blog).  After reporting the gull online to the BTO, the weeks ticked by, waiting on a reply.  In recent correspondence with the BTO on another matter, I also asked about   3.738.593 .  They themselves, were waiting on information from Holland.

In the meantime, I had taken a 'longshot' and emailed Frank Majoor from Holland, hoping he might be able to track down the ringer concerned.  The 'longshot' paid off, as Frank replied, to say the gull was ringed as a chick in 2015, by Leon Kelder, at Lake IJsselmeer (Blog).  Although Frank did not furnish the actual ringing date, I expected that it was ringed in June or July.

The ringing details sent by the BTO, confirmed those sent by Frank and the date of ringing was the 20th June 2015.

Common Gull  -    2H22  
I spotted this Common Gull on the 16th December 2016, at Sandy Bay in Larne (Blog).  It was no stranger to the shores of County Antrim, as Cameron Moore was the first to record this juvenile, at Whitehead,  on the 14th September 2016.

Although I will not go into too much detail, there was a long story behind the 'colour-ring' used on this young gull, especially, whether it was yellow or orange.  The code '2H22', was used on both colours and on Common Gull chicks ringed during June 2016.  When everything was 'done and dusted', our gull was   2H22 .

Iain Livingstone from the Clyde Ringing Group, in Scotland, supplied me with the young gull's ringing details.    2H22 , was ringed on the 20th June 2016, at Bennecarrigan, on the Isle of Arran, Ayrshire, Scotland.  The distance to Whitehead is 83 kms / 52 miles south-west from Arran and 75 kms / 47 miles to Sandy Bay.

My thanks goes to Iain for the Ringing Information and to Cameron Moore for the September sighting and photo.

Juvenile Common Gull  -    2H22   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (14 Sep 2016)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)

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

Common Gull  -    2H22   -  Ringing Site (Green)  &  Re-Sightings (Red)


      Saturday 28th January 2017       
Having got my car repaired, I could not drive it anywhere, as it had failed it's MOT test and the current MOT certificate had expired during the week.  The re-test was at 2.45 this afternoon and this time, the car passed.  Although it was too late to go anywhere, I called by my local park to check on the Black-headed Gulls.

Armed with a loaf of brown bread, around 60 gulls took advantage of a feed.  Although, there is always a good number of BHGs on the Park's lake, rings are very hard to come by.  The only one spotted today, was that of the now familiar   2AXV .  Today's sighting, is my 7th of the juvenile, having first recorded it at the Park, on the 23rd October 2016.  I estimated, that 110 to 120 gulls were present altogether.

Juvenile Black-headed Gull  -    2AXV   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  (28 Jan 2017)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 7th June 2016, at Marsh Lane Nature Reserve, near Coventry, England)


      Sunday 29th January 2017       
On completion of my visit to Antrim, I drove to Belfast to check on sites there.

Belfast Waterworks
Arriving here, I soon fell in with a 'colour-ringed' Greylag Goose and then noticed that it was also wearing a 'GPS Collar'.  The code on the ring was (White) 204 and I knew this bird had been ringed as part of a new local study.  On the 18th December 2016, I spotted (White) 209, at Ward Park, in Bangor, County Down.  Having contacted Kerry Leonard, he replied, outlining the aims of the project (Read Here).

There appears to be a growing concern with the geese, which may cause a 'bird-strike' with incoming and outgoing flights to the nearby City Airport.  Having been to Victoria Park on several occasions, as well as later on today, aircraft do fly extremely low over the park.  I came across an article in the Belfast Telegraph, which outlines the problem (Read).

Returning home, I reported my goose sightings to Kerry, having recorded another three at Victoria Park, later on.  Kerry, kindly sent me a copy of the spreadsheet containing the ringing details of all the geese ringed so far.  Although, these geese can be considered as 'domestic', I will continue to watch out for them, due to the fact they are ringed and part of an ongoing project.  Every ring counts, when you're a 'Ring Watcher'.

Greylag Goose  -  (White) 204 /   5274805   -  Belfast Waterworks  (29 Jan 2017)
(Ringed as an adult female, on the 12th February 2016, at Victoria Park, Belfast)

The next ring to be spotted was a BTO 'metal' on a Black-headed Gull.  This gull was quite wary, popping back onto the water each time I approached to take photos.  In the end, I managed two photos of the ring, but both showed the 'ring-butts' and no details of the number.

Last winter, I got a partial number on a Black-headed Gull, in exactly to the same spot -    ET9***2 .  The behaviour of that gull mirrors that of today's sighting.  Far too many people were moving about, which did not help trying to get this gull's number.  The only solution would be to visit during a weekday, which does not really appeal to me, due to the volume of traffic.

Checking Mute Swans swimming in the water of the lower pond, I could see a female, which was 'metal-ringed'.  I tried to lure her onto one of the concrete platforms, which is at water level, but had no luck.  Having gone away, to check on birds on the upper pond, I came back to find a swan standing on one of the platforms.

I was in business, at it was the 'ringed' female.  Scoping the ring, I could see the address on the outside of the ring, so had to change position to take photos of the number between the legs of the swan.  Although the sun was causing problems, I managed to get the code   W39610 .  I have reported it online to the BTO and now await the details.

Mute Swan  -    W39610   -  Belfast Waterworks  (29 Jan 2017)

Victoria Park, Belfast
Arriving at Victoria Park, I was astonished by the number of people and families feeding the 'ducks'.  I knew, I had no chance to try and find gulls with rings, with several being recorded here in the past.  Folk were throwing bread onto the lake and I needed the gulls out of the water and perched.  I did spot one Black-headed Gull with a 'tall-metal', which i believe was likely to be the Icelandic -   537949  .  My last re-sighting of this gull was made on Christmas Day.

Despite my problems with the gulls, Greylag Geese were far easier to observe.  Several birds made their way up to the railings at the side of the lake and three 'colour-rings' were spotted - (White) 208, 211 and 212.  Greylags - 211 and 212, were also fitted with 'GPS Collars'.  I've already mentioned the project concerning these Greylags above.

All three geese were ringed here at Victoria Park,  208 on the 12th February 2016, 211 on the 8th September 2016 and 212 (the last within the project so far), on the 14th October 2016.  I've only added a photo of 208, as I managed to capture it's 'metal' number as well.

Greylag Goose  -  (White) 208  /    5274808   -  Victoria Park, Belfast  (29 Jan 2017)

Greylag Geese  -  (White)  211  &  212  /    5274810   &    5274811   -  Victoria Park, Belfast  (29 Jan 2017)

Kinnegar Beach, Holywood
Moving on to the beach at Kinnegar, hundreds of gulls and waders were feeding on the out-going tide.  Since my previous visit here, there has been a considerable increase in the number of Common Gulls present.  I ended up spending far longer here than I had intended.  My thinking, that there had to be at least one 'colour-ring', were shattered and I couldn't even spot a 'metal'.

Dargan Industrial Estate, Belfast
I went to check on the gulls which perch in large numbers on the roof of the Belfast Waster Transfer Station.  When I arrived, they were too busy, flying in and out of the building.  Only a few birds, perched anywhere long enough to view for rings, but no luck here.

Whiteabbey Shoreline, Belfast Lough
I could not have arrived here at a worse time.  With plenty of gulls perched on the shoreline, nearly all flew out onto Belfast Lough, due to a dog chasing after them.  Dog walkers are a constant problem, when you're out and about looking for rings.  Waiting for a while, to see if the birds would return, I was running out of time before dark and decided to make a quick visit to Whitehouse Lagoon.

Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast
Plenty of gulls and waders were scoped for ring's, which included lots of Lapwings and good numbers of both Oystercatchers and Godwits.  Disappointingly, nothing was spotted other than the Icelandic 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher (GW-GfN), which has been present here since the 20th August 2016.


Wednesday, 25 January 2017

On The Move...

With my car off the road, until later this week, I've been unable to get out and about.  My younger son Adrian, took me up to Antrim Marina in his car, so I was able to complete my weekly visit there.  My thanks to goes to Adrian.

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 22nd January 2017)       
A shorter than normal visit was made to Antrim Marina today.  Arriving around 09.30, we departed at 12.10, calling by the KFC outlet in Antrim before returning home.

Over the last few day's, we have experienced another short 'cold snap', with a few frosty nights.  Our visit to the Marina, saw milder conditions, cloudy and not too cold.  A light breeze was blowing in from the Lough, but overall the visit was quite pleasant.

80 to 100 Black-headed Gulls were already present on our arrival.  The numbers swelled to an estimated 220 gulls by 11am, thus making it a busy visit looking for rings.  As the gulls were coming and going, the turnover of individuals, may have been in the region of up to 300 birds.  The gulls were clearly very hungry and many soon crowded around people carrying bags of bread.

Having recorded 30 'colour-ringed' gulls here so far this winter,  22 of these were re-sighted during our visit.  The most interesting of these, was the third sighting of   2BRC .  Past records for this gull, suggests that it frequents the Marina more often as spring approaches.  It will be interesting to see if this trend continues over the next few weeks.  Prior to the turn of the year, sightings are quite rare.

In past weeks, I stated that I was only expecting one, possibly two more Black-headed Gulls, to arrive before the last Sunday in March - the finishing date of my fourth winter of 'Ring Watching' at Antrim Marina.

I'm only hopeful for an appearance of    2BRB , a gull which I believe was just passing through, at the time of ringing in February 2015.  The other gull is   2ADD , which winters at Carrickfergus and breeds here on Lough Neagh.  On completion of today's visit,   2ADD  is only a short distance away, having been spotted at the KFC outlet in Antrim - (read below).

Black-headed Gulls Present at Antrim Marina  (Sunday 22nd January 2017)
 2ABN   2AAF   2AAR   2AAD   2AAC   2AAT   2ABK   2BRC 
 2ABS   2AAN   2CJT   2ABF   2ADJ   2ABL   T35J   2AAH 
 2AAP   2BRA   2ACV   2AAK   2AAV   2ADV       

Sunday's Absentees
 2AAA   2ABA   2AAB   2AFD   2BRD   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR 

Black-headed Gull  -    2BRC   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim (22 Jan 2017)
(3rd Appearance at Antrim Marina this Winter)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
As with the Black-headed Gulls, Common Gull numbers were also up today.  At one point, a total of 8 un-ringed adults were counted, though one particular bird with very dark 'wing butts', may well have been a second winter bird.  It was a rather stunning looking gull, but flew off before I could get any photos.

The 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls, (Finland)   ST177.028  and   EY64036 , were also recorded during my visit, thus taking the total of adults to at least 10.  This was my second sighting of the Finnish gull this winter, the first being made on the 2nd January 2017.

  EY64036 , arrived back at the Marina on the 4th September 2016, to begin it's 4th winter at the site, having initially arrived as a juvenile during the 2013/14 winter.  Today's sighting of it, is my 10th since it returned and was last sighted here on the 18th December.

A single Juvenile / 1st winter Common Gull, spotted at 09.40, only stayed for about five minutes.

Common Gull  -  Finland    ST177.028   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim (22 Jan 2017)
(Ringed as a fledged Juvenile, on the 6th August 1995, at Manninka, Finland)

Common Gull  -    EY64036   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (22 Jan 2017)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 20th June 2013, at Hunterston, Ayrshire, Scotland)

The Herring Gull, which has been present during most weeks, arrived just before 10.00am and remained throughout the remainder of my visit.  The last of it's immature feathering has just about gone now.  Not long before I departed, a second Herring Gull appeared, this one being a full adult.

Eight adult Mute Swans, along with 4 cygnets, were probably the same birds recorded last Sunday.  With so many Black-headed Gulls present, we missed the arrival of another pair of adults.  All 10 adults were successfully checked for rings, but no luck today.

Mallard numbers were fairly good, with a maximum of around 80 birds present between 10 and 11 o'clock.  Many were checked for rings, but I'm still waiting for my first this winter.

A juvenile Moorhen, represented the first showing of this species in a long time.  Still in it's brown plumage, it was probably a late youngster, having hatched in the autumn.  If memory serves me right, no Moorhens were recorded here last winter, but a pair of these birds were recorded throughout the 2013/14 and 2014/15 winters.

Kingfishers, are frequently heard, though rarely seen, as they pass the Marina.  Normally, I only record these birds, if they actually stop by.  Today, saw the best ever showing of Kingfishers here.  A pair 'buzzed' around for a short time and even showed signs of courtship.

Pair of Kingfishers  -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (22 Jan 2017)

The only other species sighted on my visit, were a single Hooded Crow, 9 Jackdaws and a pair of Pied Wagtails.

Antrim KFC Car Park
As   2AAV  was at the Marina, I did not have visit the Elim Church, in the Parkhall Housing Estate.  I did decide to visit the car park at the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet.  I wanted to check to see if the Norwegian   JK35   was present, seeing as it had re-appeared last Sunday.

It was not to be seen among the 30'ish BHGs and single juvenile Common Gull, but I got a surprise, when I spotted an 'Orange Darvic'.  I told my son, this was probably   2ADD  and this was soon confirmed, with the use of binoculars.

  2ADD , winters at Carrickfergus on the east County Antrim coast.  Towards the end of the 2015/16 winter, I came across   2ADD  at the KFC car park during my (then) infrequent visits there.  It dawned on me, that   2ADD  was using the car park as a staging point on it's way to Antrim Marina for the breeding season.    2ADD  was recorded for several weeks at KFC, the last sighting being on the 6th March 2016.

The following Sunday, (13th March), it returned to the Marina and remained there until the 15th July.  On the 2nd August, I got   2ADD  back at the KFC outlet, obviously making it's move back to Carrickfergus where Suzanne Belshaw recorded it at the harbour there on the 21st August.

With the re-appearance of   JK35  last Sunday, and now   2ADD , it is obvious that some Black-headed Gulls have made their decisions to make a move towards their breeding grounds.  Perhaps, the mild weather throughout this winter, may be a contributing factor.  

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADD   -  KFC, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (22 Jan 2017)

PS.  Adam McClure, emailed an updated file for   2ADD .  Adam himself, spotted the gull at Carrickfergus on the 19th January.  This clearly shows, that   2ADD's  movement to Antrim is recent.


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

No Car...

I do not have much to report about this week.  This is due to problems that I'm having with my car.  The thrust-bearing in the clutch is playing up and it was only a matter of time, before the clutch gave up entirely.

Last night (17th January), the inevitable happened and the car is now off the road - I cannot get any gears.  The best date to get a new clutch is on Thursday next week (26th), so I'm now completely grounded.  This is really annoying, as there are three 'metals', that I'm really eager to get :- Redshank at Coleraine, Oystercatcher at Larne and the possible re-sighting of an Icelandic Black-headed Gull at Ballycastle.

I will not miss next Sunday's visit to Antrim Marina.  I will ask my younger son to run me up in his car.  This being my fourth winter 'Ring Watching' there, I'm determined not to put a 'hole' in my records.  Until the car is back on the road, there will be very little to write about.

      Today's Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
Today, I arrived at the Marina just after a light shower of rain, but it remained dry throughout the rest of my visit.  Once again, the visit was conducted in very mild conditions, although cloudy, it was far from being cold, with a light wind blowing.  During the week, we had a cold snap, with freezing temperatures and some snow.  Overall, the winter in Northern Ireland, has been very mild.

I believe that this has been reflected in the number's of Black-headed Gulls that visit the Marina.  At times in the previous couple of winters, the numbers would reach 250 to 300 birds, but no sign of this happening during the current season.  I've noticed a few of the gulls starting to develop their 'dark heads', a sign of the oncoming breeding season.

During today's visit, I re-sighted 19 out of the 30 'colour-ringed' BHGs that have been recorded since the first Sunday in August 2016.  The maximum numbers of these birds present during my visit, was around the 150 mark.  I'm not really expecting to record any 'new rings' for the next few weeks, but this could change once gulls wintering in other locations, start to move towards their breeding sites.

'One-leg', was present throughout my visit, as was the youngster, which readily perches on my hand to feed on bread.  While it was doing this, I slipped my 'index' finger over it's foot and it could have easily been caught.  I have 'metal-rings' in the car and I was tempted to catch and ring the young gull.  I changed my mind, as I'm not licenced to do this.

Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina  (Sunday 15th January 2017)
 2AAH   2ABK   2CJT   2AAN   2BRA   2AAD   2ACV   2AAT   2ADJ   2AAK 
 2AAR   2AAF   2ABL   2AAP   T35J   2ABN   2ABF   2AAV   2ADV    

Sunday's Absentees
 2AAA   2AAC   2ABS   2ABA   2AAB   2AFD 
 2BRC   2BRD   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR    
(Note:-   2ALH  is known to be wintering at Ward Park, Bangor, Co. Down)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Although the Black-headed Gulls were present in greater numbers this week, it was not the case for Common Gulls.  A single adult arrived at 10.28, staying throughout the rest of my visit.  A juvenile appeared at 10.50, but only stayed for about 5 minutes.

An immature Herring Gull, made a brief stop at 11.15.  Probably a second year bird, it seemed wary of the people moving about and quickly moved on.  The near adult, which is usually present on most of my visits, arrived at 11.36.  Like most of the other gulls, there was no sign of it last Sunday.

When I arrived this morning, 4 adult Mute Swans were present, which included a pair with two youngsters.  Another pair, along with their two young arrived from up-river at 09.35.  This was the pair with the aggressive female.  The number of adults increased to 8, when a further two birds arrived in from the Lough around 10am.  None of the 8 adults were ringed.

Mallard numbers, are at last approaching the normal total.  Around 40 birds, increased to around the 80 or 90 mark, by the time of my departure.  Many of these were checked for rings, but I'm still waiting to get my first one this winter.

The other birds recorded during today's visit were :- 11 Jackdaws, 1 Hooded Crow, 1 Magpie, a pair of Grey Wagtails, a pair of Pied Wagtails and a male Blackbird.  If memory serves me right, I think this is the first Blackbird, that I've spotted here, since I started coming to Antrim Marina.

Antrim KFC Outlet
Because   2AAV  was at the Marina today, I was not going to bother visiting it's other haunt at the Elim Church, on the Parkhall Housing Estate or call by the KFC outlet nearby.  Due to the problem with my car, I did not dare to travel anywhere else, so decided to check the KFC outlet on my way home.

I was ever so glad that I did this, as I got the Norwegian   JK35 , in a group of around 30 other Black-headed Gulls.  Despite checking the KFC car park on most weeks, I last recorded this gull here on the 13th November 2016.

My first ever sighting of   JK35 , was made on the 24th January 2016.  Over the following few weeks, the gull remained at the KFC outlet, with my last sighting of the winter being made on the 13th March 2016.  It was then re-sighted on three occasions in April 2016, back in Norway.  On the 7th August 2016, I recorded it back at Antrim.

It's absence since November, makes you wonder where it has been.  Could it be possible, that   JK35   is using Antrim as a staging post and winter's elsewhere.  Still quite a young bird, it will take another year or two, to establish it's migration patterns.

Black-headed Gull  -    JK35   -  KFC, Antrim Town  (15 Jan 2016)
(Ringed as a chick, on 18th June 2014, at Torvmyra, Norway)


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Strange BHG...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 8th January 2017)       
My visit to Antrim Marina, was undertaken in exceptionally mild conditions.  Hardly a breath of wind and plenty of sunshine, the gulls on the whole, decided to give the Marina a 'by ball', as very few turned up.  Only one Black-headed Gull was present on my arrival, but it did not stay for long.

After this, not one gull appeared until 10.25, when a group of around 40 birds arrived.  From 10.26 until 10.41, I re-sighted 9 gulls with 'colour-rings', before they all departed again.  'One-leg', was amoung the group and all attempted to grab some bread that I was throwing out.  In all, I doubt if the total exceeded 50 birds altogether.

I gave up at 12.40, as the few gulls that did arrive in, never got to perch and I decided to move on.  All in all, it was a very poor visit as far as the gulls were concerned, but this happens sometimes.

Black-headed Gulls Re-sighted on Sunday 8th January 2017
 2CJT   2AAA   2ACV   2AAR   2AAD   2ABK   2AAT   2AAH   2AAK 

Today's Absentees
 T35J   2AAP   2AAC   2ABN   2ADJ   2ABS   2ABA 
 2AAB   2AAF   2AAN   2ABL   2ABF   2AAV   2ADV 
 2AFD   2BRA   2BRC   2BRD   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR 
(Note:    2ALH  is known to be wintering at Ward Park, Bangor, Co. Down)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
The lack of Black-headed Gulls to be seen during my visit to the Marina, was reflected by the non-appearance of any Common Gulls or the Herring Gull, which is usually present.

There was a marked increase in the number of Mallards, as compared to recent weeks.  68 birds were counted on my arrival and numbers reached the 90'ish mark by 12.00.  Many of these were viewed for rings, but I'm still waiting on the first for this winter.

Seven adult Mute Swans and two cygnets, were present when I arrived at 09.10.  This included the pair, which are the parents of the two cygnets, the female aggressive, as always.  At 09.47, another pair of Mute Swans, along with their two youngsters, arrived in from the Lough.

A tenth adult appeared from up-river at 12.15.  Eight of these adults were checked for rings, without joy.  The independent cygnet, which has been regularly sighted over recent weeks, failed to show up today.  The increase in the number of swans, is quite welcomed, especially by families, coming to feed the ducks.  Several made comments about the lack of swans over the last few weeks.

Other species recorded today were :- 9 Jackdaws, 1 Hooded Crow, singles pairs of Pied and Grey Wagtails and 3 Chaffinches (1 male and 2 female).

Elim Church, Parkhall & Antrim KFC
Seeing as   2AAV , was absent at the Marina, I went looking for it at the Elim Church in the Parkhall Housing Estate, also visiting the nearby KFC outlet.    2AAV , was spotted amongst the 20 or so BHGs and 3 Common Gulls at the Church.  Around the same number of BHGs were present in the car park of the KFC outlet, but no further rings were spotted at either site.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAV   -  Elim Church, Parkhall, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (08 Jan 2017)


      Ringing Recoveries Received       

Mediterranean Gull  -  Holland   3.738.593 
As yet, there has been no official reply, concerning a 'metal-ringed' Mediterranean Gull, which I spotted at Glenarm on the 28th November 2016 (Read Here).
I decided to email Frank Majoor, who ringed the Black-headed Gull (White) EAK9, which I have recorded in Belfast, in both this and last winter.  I thought it would be a 'long-shot', that Frank may be able to identify the ringer, who may have rung this gull.

The 'long-shot', has paid off, as Frank has now replied.    3.738.593 , was ringed as a chick, by Leon Kelder, at De Kreupel Island, situated to the north-east of Amsterdam.  The island is man-made and lies on the artificial Lake IJsselmeer.  The distance to Glenarm is 770 kms / 478 miles in a north-west direction.

Frank, did not disclose the exact ringing date, but   3.738.593 , probably hatched out in June or early July 2015.  My thanks to go to Frank, for doing this for me.  

De Kreupel Island, Lake IJsselmeer, Holland to Glenarm, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland


      Thursday 5th January 2017       
Today, I checked The Peoples Park in Ballymena for rings, but as per usual, the only one to be found was   2AXV , on a juvenile Black-headed Gull.  I first recorded this young gull on the 23rd October 2016. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2AXV   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  (05 Jan 2017)
(Ringed as a chick on the 7th June 2016, at Marsh Lane Nature Reserve, nr Coventry, England)


      Saturday 7th January 2017       
It was early afternoon, before I could get out today.  My plan was to cover the east coast of County Antrim, beginning at Sandy Bay in Larne and finishing at the Whiteabbey shoreline.  I spent so long at Sandy Bay, my time was limited and culminated with quick visits to both Whitehead and Whiteabbey.

Sandy Bay, Larne
Since September, I have been hoping to re-sight a 'metal-ringed' Oystercatcher that wintered here in 2015/16.  I have had no luck, until now, when I spotted a ringed Oystercatcher.  I never even got a chance to take photos of the bird or it's ring, as a curious man, out walking his dog, he asked if I'd spotted anything interesting.

What I thought would be a brief conversation, lasted for ages, but I must confess, found interesting.  This chap, formerly from Kent in England, now lives here, his choice being cemented by the scenery that County Antrim has to offer.

While all this was happening, my bird took off, along with other Oystercatchers towards nearby playing fields.  I remained in the area for ages, hoping on it's return to the beach, but this never happened.

Checking out the other birds for rings, there was no sign of the 'metal-ringed' Turnstone, spotted here on recent visits.  Walking towards Larne Harbour, I spotted a Common Gull with a 'metal-ring', standing on a rock a long distance away from me.  Having took a photo of it, the gull was just out of reach to gain a legible reading of the number.  Had it been a 'shade' closer, I would have persisted to get the code.  Even so, what appears to be the numbers '  46 ', could be seen.

'Metal-ringed'  Common Gull  -  Sandy Bay, Larne, Co. Antrim  (07 Jan 2016)

At Larne Harbour, I spotted a Herring Gull standing on a pier with a 'yellow Darvic'.  Moving closer, I took a few photos and was able to read   3T:W .  Returning home and checking my records, this was my second sighting of   3T:W , having first spotted it at Sandy Bay, on the 5th December 2015.

Herring Gull  -    3T:W   -  Sandy Bay, Larne, Co. Antrim  (07 Jan 2017)
(Ringed as an adult, on the 4th May 2015, at Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)

Time was getting on, so I rushed to Whitehead, to find several other birdwatchers present.  Asking what was so special, it turned out to be a female Black Redstart, which is a rather rare bird to be spotted in Northern Ireland.  As I have no interest in rarities, I moved on to Whiteabbey, as there were hardly any gulls at Whitehead.

It was now so late, that it was starting to get dark and hardly any gulls were present at Whiteabbey either.  I just presumed that they had all gone off to roost for the night.


      Sunday 8th January 2017       
After completing my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, I returned to Whiteabbey.  Spending a while scoping the gulls and waders for rings, I was surprised not to find any, with so many birds present.

I got more or less, the same result at Whitehouse Lagoon, with the 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher from Iceland being the only bird spotted.  Today's, was my tenth sighting of this Oystercatcher, since it arrived back on the 20th August 2016.

Checking the mudflats at Dargan, hardly any birds were present, but I did spot a Black-headed Gull from Adam's Study, bearing an 'Orange Darvic'.  The gull was too far away to obtain the code on the ring.

Around 150 Black-headed Gulls were roosting on the roof of the Belfast Waste Transfer Station at Dargan, but no rings.  While at Dargan, I came across another site on Duncrue Road, which had plenty of gulls on rooftops.  Scoping lots of Black-headed and Herring Gulls, no rings were spotted.

I did however, spot a very unusual Black-headed Gull.  The plumage on this bird was very dark, while it's head and beak was very dirty.  I was left wondering, how could this gull get itself into such a mess.

Emailing my sightings at Antrim Marina, to both Adam McClure and Suzanne Belshaw, I made mention of this 'minging' BHG and attached a few photos.

'Dark-coloured' Black-headed Gull  -  Dargan, Belfast  (08 Jan 2017)

On Monday 9th January, I received this email from Suzanne :-

Re the dark black-headed gull, the photos I've attached were taken at Belfast WoW in May this year.  Apologies if I've sent them before.  There was a lot of debate at the time, but I don't know what the conclusion was.  The warden, Chris, was aware of the bird and the last I heard he was going to investigate whether there were gulls roosting on coal somewhere within the estate (which at the time would have been very cosy - heated by the sun).  But this doesn't explain why only one individual was so badly affected.  I saw a few other gulls on the day with some dark patches, but nothing approaching the colour of this bird.  As you can see, the bird looked pretty miserable when it rained, and seemed to be getting a bit waterlogged.


'Dark-coloured' Black-headed Gull  -  RSPB WoW Reserve, Belfast  (May 2016)
(Photos Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

This was an interesting development and now proves that it truly has a dark plumage.  Since Suzanne's sighting in May, this gull would have undergone it's moult.  If the feathers were dirty, they would have been replaced by the more normal colouring.  The fact that it is still dark, means that the plumage is genuine, which must be quite rare.  The RSPB's (Window on Wildlife) Reserve, is only a short distance away from Duncrue Road.

My thanks to Suzanne for her email (I'm sure she meant May 2016) and photos.


      Monday 9th January 2017       
My aim today, was to cover the east Antrim coast, beginning at Carnlough, ending at Glynn, with special emphasis on the 'metal-ringed' Oystercatcher, at Sandy Bay in Larne.  By the time I'd finished at Sandy Bay, I had no time available to visit Glynn.

Carnlough Bay
Plenty of gulls and waders were to be found at the exit of the Glencloy River, where it enters the sea.  Scoping these, the only ring spotted was   2PAC , a Black-headed Gull which I first sighted here on the 16th December.  Only a few Oystercatchers were present, which did not include a 'colour-ringed' bird from Iceland.

A small group of 24 Brent Geese, were close to the shore nearer to the village of Carnlough.  Of the few, that came out of the sea, no rings were spotted on any of these.

Black-headed Gull  -    2PAC   -  Carnlough Bay, Co. Antrim  (09 Jan 2017)
(Ringed as an adult, on 27th February 2016, at Pitsea Landfill Site, Essex, England)

Glenarm Harbour
At Glenarm Harbour, I used bread to lure around 60 Black-headed Gulls towards my car.  I soon spotted   260D , which was the gull I had hoped to spot.  This is now my sixth sighting since it returned to Glenarm on the 10th August 2016.

Black-headed Gull  -    260D   -  Glenarm Harbour, Co. Antrim  (09 Jan 2017)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 15th June 2008, at Lough Mask, Co. Mayo, R. of Ireland

Drain's Bay
At Drain's Bay, I stopped to check the rock which is a favourite for both Shags and Cormorants, drying out their wings.  2 Cormorants and 3 Shags were present and one of the Shags was 'metal-ringed'.  I tried, as in the past, to get close enough to the rock, to try and photograph the ring.  They are too wary of people and flew off before I could get anywhere near them.

'Metal-ringed' Shag  -  Drain's Bay, Co. Antrim  (09 Jan 2017)

Sandy Bay, Larne
Arriving at Sandy Bay, I quickly spotted the 'metal-ringed' Oystercatcher, which I spotted here on Saturday.  My problem was trying to get close enough to take photos of the ring.  The tide was quickly receding, which did not help.

I had thought, this was the same bird that wintered over 2015/16 at Sandy Bay.  Trying to follow this bird was a nightmare, as unlike last winter's bird, it was not allowing me to get too near.  Having managed it take some photos, the reason soon became clear - it was not the same bird.

The one image that did reveal part of the ring number, showed a BTO ring, placed upside down.  A partial number reading '  5246 ' was obtained.  The Oystercatcher, that I recorded last winter was ringed -   FH84092 , on a ring which was fitted the correct way up.  I think it will be quite a challenge, to gain the whole number, but I'll give it a go.

'Metal-ringed' Oystercatcher  -  Sandy Bay, Larne, Co. Antrim  (09 Jan 2017)