Monday, 13 February 2017

A 2nd Norwegian Common Gull...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 12th February 2017)       
Another quite mild week, led up to today's visit at Antrim Marina.  It remained dry, barring a light shower of hail-stones, although there was heavy cloud cover.  It was however, bitterly cold, with a strong east/south-east wind blowing.  The wind gradually became stronger as the day wore on.

Not a lot of activity with the gulls today, with a maximum of around 80 Black-headed Gulls at any one time.  It's is hard to judge what the gulls are doing, with limited numbers present.  (White) T35J, though not present these last two weeks, is due to depart on it's return to Lithuania.

I have also noticed the absence of   2ADV , over the last couple of weeks.  It's final winter sightings over the last three years were :- 2nd February 2014, 15th February 2015 and 31st January 2016.  Going by these dates, I reckon   2ADV  has moved on.  So far, it's breeding destination is unknown.

  2AAR , is still present, but it is known to stay at the Marina until early or mid-March, before returning to Poland.  Another gull, which has been absent for a few weeks now is   2ANS .  I had considered this gull to be a resident.  Having been caught and ringed as a juvenile here, during the 2015/16 winter, it was present throughout the summer.  For some reason, it has not been re-sighted since Christmas Day.

  2ADD , is still parked at the Antrim outlet of KFC, though I do not expect him to return to the Marina until early March.  I am also hoping that   2ALH  returns to breed for a second year running out on the Lough.  If all goes well, I also hope to see the return of   EG55380 , at the end of February or the beginning of March

Black-headed Gulls Re-Sighted on Sunday 12th February 2017
 2CJT   2AAT   2ACV   2AAA   2BRA   2ABF   2ABK 
 2AAP   2AAD   2ABN   2AAR   2ABS   2ADJ   2AAH 

Sunday's Absentees
 T35J   2AAK   2AAC   2ABA   2AAB   2AAF   2AAN   2ABL 
 2AAV   2ADV   2AFD   2BRC   2BRD   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
7 adult Mute Swans, along with 2 cygnets, were already present when I arrived this morning.  At 09.50, I noticed that one bird, having just the water, was ringed.  Grabbing the camera, I quickly got the number -   W34157 .  The last time I saw this bird was on the 6th March last year.  He is quite a large male, but I could not tell if he was paired to any of the females present.  Another pair of adults swam in from the Lough at 10.45.  7 of the 9 adults were checked for rings, but the latter two arrivals remained on the river.

Mute Swan  -    W34157   (Upside-down Ring)  -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (12 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 17th March 2014, at Antrim Marina)

20 Mallards, were counted on my arrival and numbers quickly increased to 58 birds by 09.50.  After this, the overall total remained fairly static, with around 60 ducks present when I departed at 1pm.  The drake -   5MN 1156 , having been away all winter, was spotted for the 2nd week running.

There was no sign of Common Gulls until 11.17, when 3 adults arrived, followed by a juvenile a couple of minutes later.  They only remained for a short time.  Single birds would re-appear for a few minutes after this, but there was no sign of the 'metal-ringed' gulls from Finland or Scotland.

Around 10am, the usual Herring Gull arrived.  This near adult, has been present for most of the winter.  At 12.17, a full adult Herring Gull arrived, staying with the other bird through to my departure.

Other birds recorded during my visit, were 16 Jackdaws, the juvenile Moorhen (must get a photo, if I can mind), a pair of Pied Wagtails and a female Grey Wagtail.

Elim Church, Parkhall, Antrim & Antrim KFC
Having completed my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, I drove across Antrim Town, to check on the gulls at the Parkhall Housing Estate and at the car park of the nearby KFC outlet.  Very few gulls were in the Parkhall area, where BHG   2AAV , can sometimes be found at the Elim Church, but not today.

It was a different story at the KFC outlet, where 50 to 60 BHGs were resting in the car park.  Less than half of these, were attracted to the lure of bread.    2ADD  appeared straight away, as if he knew my car and the feeding routine.  Last spring,   2ADD  remained at the KFC outlet until the 2nd week of March, before completing his journey from Carrickfergus to Antrim Marina, to breed.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADD   -  KFC, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (12 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 29th November 2013, at Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim)

The Norwegian BHG -   JK35 , appeared a minute or two later.  Today's is my 6th sighting of this gull, having arrived back for a second winter running, on the 7th August 2016.  I first came across this one in January last year.  It remained in the area until 13th March 2016 and was then spotted back in Norway on the 8th April 2016.  

Black-headed Gull  -    JK35   -  KFC, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (12 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 18 June 2014, at Vassøy Island, Norway)

I carefully checked the rest of the Black-headed Gulls for 'metal rings'.  On the 16th February last year, I spotted an Icelandic BHG with a 'metal', but only got a partial number, before it flew off -   53794* .  I'm hoping that this gull might appear again here this spring.


      Ringing Details Received       
On Saturday 4th February, I drove to County Down looking for 'ringed' birds.  At Donaghadee, I recorded a new Herring Gull, a new Black-headed Gull and managed to complete a 'partial' number on a Black-headed Gull, first spotted there on the 5th March 2016.  Moving on to Millisle, I also completed the 'ring' number for a Common Gull, recorded on the 23rd January 2016.  The ringing details have arrived for all four birds.

Herring Gull  -    1K:W 
Ringed as part of a new Herring Gull study on the nearby Copeland Islands,   1K:W , was ringed as an unsexed adult, on the 6th May 2015.  The only previous sighting of this gull, was made on the 31st August 2015, here at Donaghadee, by Suzanne Belshaw.  The Copelands are situated just 2 kms north of the town.  Duration - 1 year, 8 months and 29 days, up to my sighting on the 4th February 2017.  My thanks to Adam McClure, for the details.

Black-headed Gull  -    EG55486 
My only previous sighting of this gull, was made on the 5th March 2016.  On that occasion, I only managed to obtain a 'partial' number on an upside-down ring, missing out on the first letter and the third digit.  As it was a BTO ring, I knew the missing letter would be an '  E ', so the partial number read -   EG55*86 .

Although I have visited Donaghadee on a couple of occasions this winter, there was no sign of the gull, but I struck lucky when I spotted it along with two other 'ringed' BHGs, lured to a feed of bread.  Taking lots of photos of the ring, I managed to get the missing number - ' 4 ', on an upside-down ring.

  EG55486 , was ringed as a chick, on the 10th June 2006, on the nearby Copeland Islands.  It is now the 8th oldest BHG on my records, the duration being 10 years, 7 months and 25 days, since being ringed.

Black-headed Gull  -    EY99583 
  EY99583 , was one of the three BHGs, lured to a feed of bread at Donaghadee.  The gull was very shy and nervous and now that I have it's ringing details, I can see why.  It's not from Northern Ireland and may just have been passing through, linking up with the other Black-headed Gulls.

  EY99583 , was ringed as a chick, on the 26th June 2015, at 70 Acres Lake, Cheshunt, Essex, England.  Paul Roper from the Thames Gull Group, was the ringer and I was in contact with him not so long ago, concerning another Black-headed Gull -   2PAC , at Carnlough, in County Antrim.  The distance from Cheshunt to Donaghadee, is 493 kms / 306 miles in a north-west direction.

I have since received an email from Paul, thanking me on the sighting, adding a link to the gull on their website (Link).  Thanks Paul.

Common Gull  -    EG55450 
Moving on from Donaghadee, my next stop was at Millisle, where I fell in with a Common Gull, which I spotted on the 23rd January 2016.  It was one of several Common Gulls recorded here, where I've only been able to obtain 'partial' numbers, on their 'metal-rings'.  I have since, completed the numbers on a couple of these, but there are still a couple outstanding.

Saturday's gull was one of those outstanding birds.  Despite getting   EG55*** , on an upside-down ring, I saved the sighting, as I knew how to distinguish this gull.  Although the missing three digits could be any of 999 numbers, I knew that I could identify the gull again, as it was unable to stand flat on it's right foot (see photos in my previous post).

Having taken lots of photos, this time I had another partial number and was missing the first digit of the five number code -    EG*5450 .  I was convinced that this partial number, coupled with the previous partial and the gull's problem foot, added up to a complete number and I reported my sighting to the BTO.

  EG55450 , was ringed as a chick, on the 22nd June 2005, on the Copeland Islands, situated 8 kms north of Millisle.  It becomes the 5th oldest Common Gull on my records.  The duration since being ringed, till my sighting on 4th February 2017, is now 11 years, 7 months and 13 days.

I would imagine, all three of the above 'metal-ringed' gulls, are first sightings.  It is not easy, trying to complete codes on these 'metals', but slowly and surely, I'm getting results.  Many of these birds would have gone through their lives unrecorded, but at least my efforts will make a few ringers happy.


      Saturday 11th February 2017       
Today, I headed off to search for geese and swans, with Inch in County Donegal being my first stop and then on the way back home, I'd visit the Myroe Levels, in County Londonderry.  I couldn't get away until the early afternoon, so my time was limited.

Inch Levels and Lake, County Donegal
Small flocks of both Whooper Swans and Greylag Geese, were well scattered around the fields in the vicinity of the lake, at Inch Island.  Scoping as many birds as possible, the legs on most of the Whooper's were not visible due to the height of the grass.  Those that I could see, produced nothing in the way of rings.  I'm still waiting to find my first 'ringed' Whooper.

With the geese, I was looking for 'Neck Collars'.  Of all the birds checked, two were found in a flock of about 90 Greylags.  The first spotted, was new to me, being   B|TA .  The other goose was   BSS , this being my second sighting of this one.  My first sighting was made in foggy conditions, on the 26th November 2016 (Blog).

  B|TA  is from a new Study in the Republic of Ireland, whilst   BSS  originates from Scotland.  The ringing and re-sighting details of   BSS , can be seen via my Blog entry above.

At present, I am still waiting on the ringing details for other Greylag Geese, which were new sightings, also on the 26th November 2016.  The organisers of the Irish Study, are extremely slow in sending out ringing data.  I have decided to report today's new sighting -   B|TA , to the British Trust for Ornithology.  Perhaps, I'll get something back in far less time.

There was surprisingly few swans and geese on the lake itself.  The lake was actually very 'choppy' due to a very strong wind.  Perhaps the birds have flown off to somewhere more sheltered.  The small island, was virtually deserted, barring a few Lapwings.

Greylag Goose  -    B|TA   -  Inch Levels, Co. Donegal, R. of Ireland  (11 Feb 2017)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)

Greylag Goose  -    BSS   -  Inch Levels, Co. Donegal, R. of Ireland  (11 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 6th November, at Loch Eye, Ross-shire, Scotland)

Myroe Levels, County Londonderry
A good sized flock of around 600 Brent Geese were to be found on the levels at Myroe.  Unfortunately, they were feeding on grass in an area where they are not normally found.  Every now and again, the flock would rise and fly out onto the sea of Lough Foyle.  Each time they returned, they kept landing in the same area to feed.  The problem was, they were too far away to scope.  I sat in my car for over two hours, hoping they would alight somewhere more convenient, but it didn't happen.


      Sunday 12th February 2017       
Having completed my visit to Antrim, I travelled down to Belfast.  My aim, was to see if I could re-sight the Common Gull at Whitehouse Lagoon, which I spotted there last Sunday.  This bird had a 'Green Darvic', and I suspected that it originated in Norway.  The gull was far too far out on the mudflats, to get the code on the ring.  While I was there, folk scared off all the birds, flying a drone over the Lagoon.  I finished off, by making a visit to the Whiteabbey Shoreline.

Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, County Down
Knowing the tide was just on it's way out, I went to the beach at Kinnegar first, as Whitehouse Lagoon would still be flooded.  On my previous visit to Kinnegar, I had noticed that there was a considerable increase in the number of Common Gulls present.

Parking the car, overlooking the beach, I was surprised at the number of gulls and waders, which between them, easily exceeded 1,000 birds altogether.  I had a job on my hands, scoping through that lot.  Black-headed Gulls (300-400), Common Gulls (100-150) and Oystercatchers (e150), were the most numerous, with other gull species and various species of waders making up the total.

I knew that there had to be 'rings' amongst that lot.  After a long time searching through these, they only rings spotted were on Common Gulls - 2 'metals' and 1 'coloured'.  'Metals', are of no use here due to the distance between me and the birds.  I even had trouble in obtaining the 'code' on the 'Darvic'.

I couldn't get anything on the 'coloured-ring', taking photos from the car.  I then had to walk out onto the beach very carefully, to cut the distance down.  Trying not to frighten the gulls away, I did eventually manage to capture the code -   2H70 .  Another new sighting, I reckon it was ringed in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, by the Grampian Ringing Group.  I have now reported it online to the BTO.

Common Gull  -    2H70   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (12 Feb 2017)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)

Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast
I could not have timed my arrival at Whitehouse Lagoon, any better.  A workable area of the mudflats, were now exposed by the receding tide.  Lots of gulls were arriving to feed and I soon got to work, looking for my suspected Norwegian Common Gull.  It did not take long to discover my target bird was here.

Standing with it's head tucked into it's back, I took numerous photos and confirmed the code   JA19 .  My Common Gull was from Norway, as their 'colour-rings' on small gulls begin with the letter 'J'.

Returning home, I entered my finding details onto the 'live' Norwegian Ringing Website and soon had it's life history.    JA19   was captured in a baited trap and ringed as an unsexed adult, on the 30th June 2014, at Lake Lillevatnet, near the town of Ålesund on the west coast of Norway.

It was spotted three times the following month within 1 km of the ringing site, with no further sightings until now.  The distance was given as 1,120 kms / 696 miles from Ålesund to Whitehouse Lagoon and the duration is 2 years, 7 months and 13 days.  I was delighted to get this gull, after the problems last Sunday, this being my first 'colour-ringed' Common Gull from outside of the British Isles.

  JA19 , is the second Norwegian Common Gull, that I've sighted this winter.  I recorded a 'metal-ringed' juvenile -   5184080 , at Antrim Marina, on the 28th November 2016 (Blog).

Common Gull  -    JA19   -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Co. Antrim  (12 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as an Unsexed Adult, on the 30th June 2014, at Lake Lillevatnet, Ålesund, Norway)

With the tide fast receding and my Common Gull sorted, I started scoping through the gulls and waders again.  I soon spotted the now familiar Oystercatcher from Iceland - GW-GfN, ringed as a breeding adult, on the 5th June 2015.  This bird returned to Whitehouse Lagoon in August 2016, for the second winter running, having been spotted back in Iceland, in late March 2016.

The final 'ringed' bird to be spotted, was a juvenile Black-headed Gull from Adam's Northern Ireland Study.  Although the young gull was a long way from me, the code on the ring appears to be   2CJN .  I have emailed a photo of the gull to Adam to see if he will accept the sighting.

Juvenile Black-headed Gull  -    2CJN   -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Co. Antrim  (12 Feb 2017)
(Waiting on Confirmation from Adam McClure)

Whiteabbey Shoreline
At the last minute, with the light fading fast, mainly due to the dense cloud cover, I decided to drive up the road to the Whiteabbey Shore.  This was a real waste of time.  The wind was now so strong, it was blowing the telescope about and I couldn't keep it still enough to view out of it.

I did spot a Common Gull with a 'Blue Darvic'.  Even taking photos with the camera, was near on, impossible.  I was able to make out a blurry image of   2AIP , the gull I spotted here last Sunday.  At this point, I called it, a day, and went home.


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