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)


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