Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Return of a Finn...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Monday 2nd January 2017&)       
That's right!!!  A Sunday visit on a Monday?  I actually did go to the Marina, to carry out my weekly Sunday visit.  I arrived at 09.10, but departed to return home at 09.45.  I was not feeling well, but things got so bad, I had to leave.

No, it had nothing to do with New Year's celebrations, as I did not go out anywhere.  The problem started after I had stopped in Newtownards, to get a sausage supper to eat on the way home, after my birdwatching outing in County Down.  I was sick all night and this continued into Sunday morning.

I decided to return the following morning (Monday).  During the visit, which is now fairly routine, two 'metals' appeared.  The first of these, was spotted around 09.40, on a Black-headed Gull.  Grabbing the camera, I took lots of photos and was able to piece the number together -   EY37326 .  I knew straight away, this was one of Adam's rings and I suspected that it belonged to   2ABL .

We had noticed of late, that there was a problem with the 'colour-ring' on   2ABL  , as it somehow managed to slip over the gull's ankle.  I sent a text message to my sister, asking her to check the 'metal' number on my Blog.  Her reply confirmed that this was indeed   2ABL .  In future, I'm going to have to search for the 'metal' on each visit and obtain photos to verify the presence of   2ABL .  This will not be ideal, but will have to be done.

The second 'metal' was spotted on a Common Gull, the story of which can be read in 'Other Birds'.  I departed at 12.40, which is slightly earlier than normal.  Overall, I made 20 re-sightings of 'colour-ringed' gulls, out of a total of 30, which have recorded since August.  The highlight of these, was a second sighting of   2BRC , which arrived back at the Marina on the 27th November.

I am not expecting to see the return of any more 'ringed' Black-headed Gulls over the coming weeks, except for    2BRB , which I think is fairly unlikely.  Altogether, 5 gulls have failed to return this winter, which were present last winter.  Two were the juveniles -   EL72723  &   EY13763 ,   2AAS  &   2ACX  from Adam's Study and the Swedish-rung   6438391 .

  EG55380 , is the next BHG, that I will hope to record here.  I believe this gull uses the Marina as a staging point en-route to wherever it breeds at.  Ringed as a chick on the Copeland Islands in 2005, it is one of the oldest BHGs on my records.  If all goes well, it should return in late February or early March.  It has not been recorded during summer breeding visits at the Marina, so I doubt that it nests locally.

The final two gulls, will be   2ADD  which is currently wintering in Carrickfergus and   2ALH , which was recently located wintering at Ward Park, in Bangor, County Down.  Both are residents at the Marina during the breeding season.

Black-headed Gulls Re-sighted on Monday 2nd January 2017
 2CJT   2AAT   2AAC   2BRA   2ABL   2BRC   2ABK   2AAP   2ABF   2AAD 
 2AAN   2AAH   T35J   2AAF   2AAA   2ABS   2AAB   2ACV   2AAR   2AAK 

Monday's Absentees
 2ABN   2ADJ   2ABA   2AAV   2ADV   2AFD   2BRD   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR 

'One-Leg', was present as usual.  Of late, this gull has been very wary and would not take bread from my hand, but she has finally settled and is back to being hand fed.

In my Post two weeks ago, I mentioned a young Black-headed Gull which readily perches on my fist to feed on bread.  It has been camera shy, but during today's visit, I finally managed to get a couple of photos.

Young Black-headed Gull Feeding from My Hand  -  Antrim Marina  (02 Jan 2017)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Around 12.00 today, it was 'action stations', when I spotted a large Common Gull perched on the decking of the 'Long Jetty' bearing a 'metal-ring'.  I knew it was not the Scottish-rung gull, as she is a lot smaller.  My thoughts were 'racing', was this the return of the 20 year old bird from Finland, which I recorded here on the 28th February 2016.

I had just lifted the camera from the car, when my gull flew off.  Keeping an eye on it, the gull landed on the 'Concrete Jetty', just yards away from me.  The camera was 'red hot', with plenty of photos being taken of the bird and it's ring number.  I could tell, by what I saw through the viewfinder, it was indeed   ST177.028 .

Ringed as a juvenile, on 6th August 1995, today's re-sighting now makes   ST177.028 , over 21 years and 4 months of age.  I was really delighted to record the return of this Common Gull.  It still has six years to go, in order to break the longevity record of 27 years and 10 months, but here's hoping.  You can read about last years sighting (Here). 

Common Gull  -  Finland    ST177.028   -  Antrim Marina  (02 Jan 2017)

Common Gull  -  Finland    ST177.028   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (02 Jan 2017)

Common Gull  -  Finland    ST177.028   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (02 Jan 2016)

Common Gull numbers during today's visit, peaked at 9 adults and a single 1st winter juvenile.  This was easily the highest number of these gulls to be recorded here so far this winter.  It would have been nice if the Scottish-rung   EY64036 , had appeared as well, to add to the total.  The usual Herring Gull, was present throughout.

Over the last couple of weeks, there has been a lack of adult Mute Swans.  Three adults and the resident cygnet, were here when I arrived.  At 10.05, a pair of swans, along with two cygnets arrived from the Lough.  Judging by the aggressive attitude of the female, I reckon that this is the same pair, which were here at the start of the winter, along with four youngsters.

Another two adults, arrived from up-river around 11.00, just as a light shower of rain started.  I was able to check 5 of the adults for rings, but none today.  While chasing after the Finnish Common Gull with the camera, another independent cygnet slipped in.

Mallard numbers, continue to be on the low side.  Just 15 birds at first, increased to around 40, by the time of my departure.  I'm still waiting to spot my first 'ringed' duck of the winter.

Other species recorded during the morning, were 11 Jackdaws, 1 Magpie, 1 Hooded Crow and the pair of Pied Wagtails.

Elim Church, Parkhall & Antrim KFC
Seeing as   2AAV , was not present at the Marina, I checked it's other haunt at the Elim Church in Parkhall, Antrim.  Not many gulls were present either here, or at the nearby KFC car park, but no sign of   2AAV  or any other ringed birds.


      Ringing Details Received       

Common Gull  -  Norway    5184080  
On Tuesday 3rd January 2017, the ringing details finally arrived for the young Norwegian Common Gull, which I spotted at Antrim Marina on the 20th November 2016.

  5184080 , was ringed as a unfledged chick on the 14th July 2016, in the Aure area, fairly close to the west coast of Norway.  My sighting was made 4 months and 6 days later and the distance was given as 1,127 kms / 701 miles in a south-westerly direction.

Aure, Norway to Antrim Marina, Northern Ireland  -  1,127 Kms / 701 Miles South-West

Common Gull  -     2ACJ  
Also on Tuesday 3rd January, I received a reply from Shane Wolsey, concerning   2ACJ , which I spotted on the 22nd December 2016, on the beach at Kinnegar, Holywood, Co. Down.

  2ACJ  was ringed as an adult on the 14th May 2010, on Big Copeland Island in County Down.  My sighting was a first for this gull and 6 years, 7 months and 8 days, had elapsed since being ringed.  Another gull from Shane's Common Gull Study, it comes hot on the heels of   2ADK , which I spotted on the 22nd November 2016, at Whitehead in County Antrim.

Also ringed on the 14th May 2010 on Big Copeland Island, it was another first re-sighting.  It's quite amazing, that 'colour-ringed' gulls of this size, can go about for so long un-noticed.  Just goes to show, that Study birds can 'pop up' long after being ringed.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AJC  
While I was Kinnegar Beach on the 22nd November 2016, I also spotted a Black-headed Gull from Adam McClure's (NI) Study.    2AJC , was ringed as a chick on the 19th June 2014, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre in County Down.

It's first three re-sightings were made at the nearby 'Window on Wildlife' Nature Reserve owned by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, in May 2015 and then twice in March 2016.  Although a good number of BHGs breed on the two pontoons at the Reserve, I think it is very unlikely that   2AJC , actually bred there during the summer of 2016.

As both pontoons, were well watched throughout the breeding season, no further sightings were made of this gull on the site.  Two pairs of Mediterranean Gulls bred successfully for the first time at the Reserve, hence the interest by an army of birdwatchers.  If   2AJC , had remained on site, there would have been no reason for it not to be have been spotted.

Since March, there were no further sightings, until the day before I got   2AJC   at Kinnegar, when Robin Vage recorded it on the same beach.  


      Thursday 29th December 2016       
Last winter, I recorded a total of 4 BHGs that had been ringed in Iceland.  Three of these, wintered at Antrim Marina, Victoria Park  in Belfast and at Ballycastle Harbour on the north coast of County Antrim.  The fourth gull appeared at Antrim KFC, but I only saw it briefly, before it flew away.  I was only able to obtain four of the six numbers on the ring of this one, missing out on the second and third digits.

Of the three that wintered during 2015/16, two have been recorded back on their sites at Antrim Marina and Victoria Park, (read my previous post).  I had already tried on a couple of visits, to re-sight the gull at Ballycastle Harbour, but had no joy.

Today, I had another go.  Parking at the harbour, only two BHGs were lured in with bread, along with plenty of Herring Gulls.  I walked across to the nearby beach, were I discovered around 100 gulls, consisting of Herring, Common and around 60 BHGs.  Scoping these, I soon spotted a BHG with a tallish 'metal'.  This surely has to be my Icelandic bird.  Unfortunately, I could not get close enough to it, to get any details of the number.

Icelandic(?)  Black-headed Gull  -  Ballycastle, Co. Antrim  (29 Dec 2016)

While on the beach, I noticed another species of gull that is a scarce winter visitor to Northern Ireland.  I had spotted a couple of Little Gulls last winter, but the photos I took of them were far too 'seedy'.  The one I spotted today, allowed me to approach fairly close to it and I managed to get a few excellent photos.  It's a pity, that it was not ringed, as it would have made quite an addition to my records. 

Little Gull  -  Ballycastle, Co. Antrim  (29 Dec 2016)
Little Gull  -  Ballycastle, Co. Antrim  (29 Dec 2016)

Moving on to Portrush and scoping lots of gulls, I came across a Herring Gull close to Ramore Head, that had a 'White Darvic'.  The bird was a long way off from me, but I took a couple of photos.  Seconds later, the gull moved out of sight behind the rock that it was standing on.  There were lots of Herring Gulls in the area, which constantly took off and landed again.  I spent the guts of three hours trying to spot my gull again without joy.

Checking the code on the ring when I returned home, it was hard to read it, but I could make out ':C', which told me that the gull had been ringed by the Clyde Ringing Group in Scotland.  I sent emails to Adam McClure and Suzanne Belshaw, for their ideas on what the code on the ring was.  I also sent an email to Iain Livingstone, secretary of the Clyde Ringing Group, adding my thoughts on the code.

Both, Adam and Suzanne, read the code as 4A9:C, in their replies, which went against my idea of A4B:C.  A couple of days later, Iain emailed his reply :-

 Hi Gareth,

Nice one..tricky but go with me on this!

:C makes it ours, no one else using this ending (C=Clyde).

The C is at the top, we have number- letter- number so A4B can't be correct but I can see why you reported it as that (possible), easier for us as we know the sequences.

The first two are "pointy" so have to be either 1,4 or A, the last number is round at the top so is 8 or 9, in your second photo it looks like a 9.
 I used the rings with C to the top in the first year only and then switched as some birds were reported in water and couldn't get the most important digits so used the :C at the bottom since.  It could be 1A9:C but that was on a GBB and has been seen several times (in NI) with photos.

4A9 was used by Nina in her research project, and I think this is the bird, ringed as a breeding adult female Herring Gull GR83003 in colony on Coul Point, Islay.  First report since ringing. If Nina used rings with C at bottom then I'm talking rubbish as usual!

But I think this is it!

Stonking Little Gull...and I think "nice photo" is the understatement of the year!...stunning photos would be fairer!

Have a good New Year and I hope you see plenty more CRG birds in 2017 and beyond.

Thanks Gareth.

All the best,


Many thanks to Iain for his detailed reply and to both Adam and Suzanne on hitting the 'target'.  Coul Point on the Scottish island of Islay, is situated around 65 kms / 40 miles to the north of Portrush.  Iain didn't however, get back to me, with the ringing date.  At least, I got a satisfactory result on this Herring Gull.

Herring Gull  -  (White)  4A9:C  -  Portrush, Co. Antrim  (29 Dec 2016)

I had intended to visit Coleraine today, but having remained for so long in Portrush, I hadn't time, as darkness was drawing in.


      Friday 30th December 2016       
Today, I went back to Portrush for a while, to see if I could re-sight yesterday's Herring Gull in order to obtain better photos of the 'Darvic-ring'.  Having checked plenty of gulls, no rings were spotted, so I moved on to Coleraine.

In Coleraine, I was still hoping to record the return of a Norwegian Black-headed Gull, re-sight the Scottish-rung   2E18   and look for the BHG which I spotted here on my previous visit, this one having a British 'metal-ring'.

Stopping to check the jetty, opposite Coleraine Harbour, 30 to 40 Redshanks and as many as 50 to 60 Black-headed Gulls were resting.  Scoping the Redshanks first for 'colour-rings', I actually spotted one with just a 'metal'.  I took a photo of the bird, then all of the Redshanks lifted and flew down-stream on the River Bann.  I was bitterly disappointed, but hopefully, I'll get this bird again, as the jetty is frequently used by the Redshanks.

Redshank  -  Coleraine Harbour, Co. Londonderry  (30 Dec 2016)

Turning my attention to the gulls, I then spotted the BHG with the 'metal', which I observed during my previous visit.  Having taken a few photos, the gull then flew up-river in the direction of the jetty on the Strand Road.  I checked my photos, to find that I had the five digits -   63832 , but was missing the two letters that start the sequence.  I knew the first letter would be an ' E ', but I needed the all important second letter.

Moving on to the jetty at the Strand Road, bread was used to lure in plenty of Black-headed Gulls and I soon spotted   2E18 .  I was lifting the camera to take a photo, when I noticed a youngster which belonged to Adam's (NI) Study -   2CAR .  I took a few photos of both birds.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CAR   -  Strand Road Jetty, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry  (30 Dec 2016)

Black-headed Gull  -    2E18   -  Strand Road Jetty, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry  (30 Dec 2016)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2014, at Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire, Scotland)

I continued to throw bread out and then spotted the Black-headed Gull with the 'metal-ring'.  This time, it was a lot closer and after taking loads more photos, I had a complete number -   ES63832 .  I've never recorded a ring starting with '  ES ', but I reckoned it could be quite old.  Returning home, I reported the gull online to the BTO.

Checking my emails, after returning home from work on Tuesday evening, the BTO had sent their reply.    ES63832 , became the fifth oldest BHG on my records, having been ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2005, at Loch Urr, Dumfries & Galloway, in Scotland.  The duration from ringing to my sighting, was 11 years, 6 months and 11 days.  Loch Urr, lies 174 kms / 108 miles, to the east of Coleraine.

Black-headed Gull  -    ES63832   -  Coleraine, Co. Londonderry  (30 Dec 2016)
(Upside-down ring on left leg)

I suspected that   2CAR , might well have been one of the chicks that Adam and I ringed in County Donegal in June 2016.  As far as I know, none of these 'colour-ringed' youngsters have been reported.  It came as a bit of a 'let down', to learn that   2CAR , was ringed on the 24th June 2016, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre in County Down.    2CAR  has flown 91 kms / 57 miles north-west, to get to Coleraine.

As the Norwegian BHG, failed to show up, I moved on to the McDonalds fast food outlet, just up the road.  Here, I was looking for the young BHG, which I had ringed as a chick, at Inch Island, Co. Donegal on the 31st May 2016.  As was the case on my last visit here, the young gull was absent.  Around 50 BHGs were checked for rings, the majority being juveniles.

By now, it was getting on in the afternoon, but I thought I'd make a quick visit to the Myroe Levels before it got too dark.  Arriving at the levels, I thought I'd check the area where Greylag Geese and Whooper Swans usually congregate.  No Greylags, but around 80 Whooper's were feeding on an earthen field, which had been used to grow potatoes during the summer.  Scoping these, no 'rings or collars' were spotted, so my wait to get one of these on a Whooper, continues.

Moving on to where the Brent Geese would normally be found, I was delighted to find them feeding on the grass fields.  During my previous visits to the area, the geese could only be seen feeding on the mudflats of Lough Foyle, which I do not find 'ideal' for 'Ring Reading'.

Around 1,000 Brents were present, spread out in four large groups.  On parking, I scoped the group closest to me and spotted 5 birds that were 'colour-ringed'.  Following these with the camera, I was able to obtain the 'codes' on two of the geese.  I have reported these to Graham McElwaine of the Irish Brent Goose Research Group.

Brent Goose  -    F     L   -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  (30 Dec 2016)

Brent Goose  -    2     D   -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  (30 Dec 2016)


      Saturday 31st December 2016       
I went to County Down today, which in the end, proved to be a poor decision.  Due to a high tide, not too many gulls, geese or waders, were present to be scoped.  On my way to the coast, I stopped by Kiltonga Nature Reserve and the KFC outlet, both at Newtownards.

At Kiltonga, I spotted one BHG with a 'metal-ring'.  I had an awful problem, trying to lure the gulls towards me, as there were far too many people about.  The couple of photos, that I managed to get of the ringed bird, gave me a partial number '  L867 '.  I checked my records after returning home, realising this would be   EL86728 .  Today's sighting, was my second for this gull, having first spotted it on the 3rd September 2016 - read (here) and (here).

Black-headed Gull  -    EL86728   -  Kiltonga NR, Newtownards, Co. Down  (31 Dec 2016)

At the KFC outlet, I lured around 30 BHGs, but no rings were spotted.  I had hoped that the Belgium-rung gull, that I spotted here on my previous visit would still be present (Read), but there was no sign of it.

Travelling around the shore of the Inner and Outer Ards Peninsular, no rings were spotted until I reached Millisle.  Here, I spotted three 'colour-ringed' Common Gulls, these often being recorded here.  The one 'metal-ringed' Common Gull that I concentrated on, turned out to be   ET03580 .

This is my second sighting of this gull, having first recorded it here on the 3rd December 2016.  Currently, I am still waiting on the ringing details from the BTO.  Having, not had a reply as yet, I am beginning to think there is a problem with this sighting.  It is possible, the BTO is struggling to find the details or perhaps they were never submitted.

Common Gull  -    2A60   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (31 Dec 2016)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 7th July 2013, at Hunterston, Ayrshire, Scotland)

Common Gull  -    2ACA   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (31 Dec 2016)
(Ringed as an adult, on the 14th May 2010, at Big Copeland Island, Co. Down, N. Ireland)

Common Gull  -    2BBC   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (31 Dec 2016)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 23rd June 2009, at Big Copeland Island, Co. Down, N. Ireland)

Common Gull  -    ET03580   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (31 Dec 2016)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)


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