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.


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