Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Footless Gulls...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 19th February 2017)       
Another mild week weather-wise, led up to today's visit to Antrim Marina.  There was heavy cloud cover throughout my visit, which led to a few light showers of drizzle.  A fairly cool breeze, blowing in from the Lough, practically died out by the time of my departure at the earlier time of 12.30.

27 Black-headed Gulls, were already perched when I arrived, and numbers peaked at around 120 birds by 11am.  It was a poor day for re-sighting 'colour-ringed' gulls from Adam's study, with just elevan birds recorded.  I am now convinced that some gulls have now departed to their breeding sites, which would include the Lithuanian (White) T35J.

Another 'colour-ringed' BHG, that I've overlooked this winter, is   2AFD , a gull which we know breeds in Latvia.  I correctly predicted the date of it's return to Antrim Marina, this winter (13th November 2016), but it has only been recorded once since (18th December).  Where or what has happened to it over the last few weeks is unknown, but it is due to depart from the area, as it's last sighting during the 2015/16 winter, was made on the 6th March.  Another re-sighting before it departs, would be great, as then it would confirm it's presence in the Antrim area.

  2AAR  and   2ACV , were both recorded during my visit today.    2AAR  is known to breed in Poland, while   2ACV  had been spotted at Leighton Moss, in Lancashire, England, during the 2016 breeding season.

The Icelanic   571487 , was also present today.  Neville McKee emailed me to report his sighting of it on Friday 17th February.  It appears that this gull, is remaining close to the Marina, before it departs for Iceland.  Perhaps, it is taking advantage of the easy feeds of bread, which will help build it's energy for the journey north.

Black-headed Gulls Re-Sighted on Sunday 19th February 2017
 2CJT   2BRA   2AAR   2AAC   2ADJ   2AAV 
 2ABS   2AAK   2AAT   2ACV   2ABA    

Sunday's Absentees
 T35J   2AAP   2AAA   2AAH   2ABN   2AAD   2ABK 
 2AAB   2AAF   2AAN   2ABL   2ABF   2ADV   2AFD 
 2BRC   2BRD   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR       
(Note:-    2ALH  was Known to be Wintering at Ward Park, County Down)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABA   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (19 Feb 2017)
 (Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 28th December 2012, at Antrim Marina)
(Non Resident - Breeding Site is Unknown)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
The regular Herring Gull, was later arriving this morning.  Appearing at 11.05, it stayed for about 15 minutes, before departing for the Lough.  The only Common Gull, was spotted at 12.22, which flew a couple of circuits above the Marina and then headed back out to the Lough as well.

Mute Swan numbers were the best that I've seen here in a long time.  10 adults and 4 cygnets, were already present on my arrival this morning.  A further 7 adults, added to the total, with 4 arriving at 10.10, 2 at 11.55 and a single at 12.15.  All of them swam in from the Lough.  At one stage, 12 of the adults were out of the water, but no rings were seen on any of them.

Mallard numbers, were very poor, with just 8 birds when I arrived.  Numbers quickly increased soon after, but the overall total never surpassed the 50 mark.  There was no sign of the 'metal-ringed' drake, which was present during my previous two visits.

Other birds spotted during my visit were 9 Jackdaws, 1 Hooded Crow, 1 Rook, the juvenile Moorhen, a female Grey Wagtail, a pair of Pied Wagtails and two male Chaffinches.  I found the behaviour of the Hooded Crow interesting.  Present throughout my visit, around 11.00, it started making a noise like a low pitched fog-horn.  It was still making the noise, when I ended my visit at 12.30.

Antrim KFC Outlet
With   2AAV , putting in an appearance at the Marina this morning, I did not have to look for it at the Parkhall Housing Estate.   I drove to the KFC outlet to check on the gulls there.  About 40 BHGs were present and   2ADD  was quick to arrive by my car.  Throwing out some bread, the Norwegian   JK35 , soon arrived as well.  I scanned the other gulls with my binoculars, but no more rings.

Black-headed Gulls  -    2ADD   &  Norwegian    JK35   -  Antrim Town KFC Outlet  (19 Feb 2017)


      Ringing Details Received       

Common Gull  -    2H70 
I spotted this Common Gull on the beach at Kinnegar, Holywood, Co. Down, on the 12 February 2017.  Numbers of this species have been increasing here over recent visits, a sure sign that they are about to move towards their breeding sites.

The code on this 'colour-ring' was not easy to obtain, as the gull was quite a distance from me.  Carefully walking onto the beach, without raising the gulls, my camera was just able to capture the number -   2H70 .

This highlights the use of 'colour-rings', to aid re-sightings.  Two other Common Gulls, had also been spotted with 'metals', but there was no chance of reading the numbers on these.

  2H70 , was ringed as an unsexed adult, on the 26th August 2016, on the Ythan Estuary, Newburgh, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  The distance from Newburgh to Kinnegar, is 383 kms / 238 miles, in a south-west direction.  Despite, being recently rung, there should be more sightings made in the future and perhaps I'll spot it again here next spring.  

Ythan Estuary, Newburgh, Scotland to Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down


      Friday 17th February 2017       
I called into my local park today, to check up on the juvenile Black-headed Gull   2AXV .  As some of these gulls are known to be on the move towards their breeding sites, there is always the possibilty of finding new rings.

While entering the park, the first thing that caught my attention, were three large gulls on the roof of the pavillion.  Two of them were Herring Gulls and the other was a Lesser Black-backed Gull, which made my thoughts 'race'.  Could this be the gull which I spotted here, in March of the two previous years.  I quickly made my way through the pavillion and out onto the outside decking for a better view.

Looking up, I could see that the Lesser Black-back, was 'metal-ringed'.  A couple of photos later, I had the end three digits -   112 .  I was delighted, this was the same gull -   GC27112 .  At this point, it flew off.  I only had to wait a short time, before it returned again.  Another couple of photos were taken and this time I had captured the start of the number -   GC271 .

Ringed as a chick on the 1st July 2006, it is now 10 years, 7 months and 16 days, since being ringed.  I first spotted this gull on the 14th March 2015 and obtained the whole ring number on the 17th. (Blog).  I had hoped it would breed in the area, but her and her mate disappeared soon after.  She returned along with her partner on the 5th March 2016 (Blog) and I never saw her again until today.  This time, she has arrived on her own and far earlier than in the previous two years.  I'll check in again soon, to see if her mate re-appears.

I emailed Iain Livingstone of the Clyde Ringing Group in Scotland, to inform him of the re-sighting.  Iain was glad to hear the news and confirmed that no other sightings had been reported from any other location since the gull was ringed, other than mine.  It would be fantastic, if the ring could be read by someone somewhere.  If the gull had been 'colour-ringed', there would have been a greater chance of sightings elsewhere by now.

Although her summer destination is unknown, at least I know to expect her return to The Peoples Park in Ballymena, each spring.  My thanks to Iain for his reply.

Lesser Black-backed Gull  -    GC27112   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  (17 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 1st July 2006, at Horse Island Nature Reserve, Ayrshire, Scotland)

Having sorted the Lesser Black-backed Gull, my attention went back onto the Black-headed's.  Throwing bread onto the shingle area beside the lake, around fifty of the hundred or so BHGs present, came 'bombing' in.  The only ringed bird spotted was that of   2AXV , my eigth sighting, since I first recorded it here on the 23rd October 2016.

Juvenile Black-headed Gull  -    2AXV   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  (17 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 7th June 2016, at Marsh Lane Nature Reserve, nr Coventry, England)


      Saturday 18th February 2017       
Today, I headed back to County Down, with Common Gulls at Millisle being my main priority.  As the tide was coming in when I arrived on the Ards Peninsular, I decided to travel my usual route in reverse.

At Kircubbin, no rings were spotted on the numerous Herring, Common and Black-headed Gulls.  The best showing ever of Oystercatchers here, produced nothing either.

At Portaferry, one 'metal-ringed' Sandwich Tern was spotted standing in a group of ten of these birds at the Marina, which has no public access.  Luring the Black-headed Gulls with bread, there was no sign of the 'metal-ringed' gull seen on my last visit here.

The beach at Cloughey, had the best number of gulls that I've ever seen here.  Mostly Black-headed's, with smaller numbers of Common and a handful of Great Black-backed's, I was disappointed not to spot a single 'metal-ringed' gull.

There are always good numbers of Herring Gulls to be found at Portavogie Harbour, plus a smaller number of Great Black-backed Gulls and the odd Black-headed Gull.  On today's visit, I spotted a 'metal-ringed' Herring Gull, which was ringed on it's left leg.  I spent ages trying to coax it off a warehouse rooftop.  Eventually, it landed to join in with other gulls which were lured by bread being thrown out from the window of the car.

I took a photo of the Herring Gull, but noticed that it's 'ring-butt' was facing me and I couldn't read any details.  I needed the gull to move about, but a van arrived into the car park, raising all the gulls.  Although many returned for the bread, my 'ringed' gull did'nt.

On returning home, I checked the photo of an immature Herring Gull, which I spotted here on the 27th February 2016.  Also ringed on the left leg, could today's sighting be of the same bird?  Despite several visits to the harbour over the winter, is it co-incidence that the sighting dates are similar?

I was only able to obtain a 'partial' number on last year's gull -   GJ2588* , but I'll have to try again fairly soon to get the number on today's sighting.  Far too often, people are a problem, when it comes to reading rings.

'Metal-ringed' Herring Gull  -  Portavogie Harbour, Co. Down  (18 Feb 2017)

No rings were spotted at Ballywalter either, not even my oldest Black-headed Gull, could be located.

Although it is only two weeks since my previous visit to Millisle, I had suspected, by the build up in the number of Common Gulls at Kinnegar, they seem to be on the move towards their breeding sites.  With this in mind, I thought that this might also be the case here at Millisle.  As Millisle, is known to be a 'hotspot' for Common Gulls, there was the possibilty to complete a couple of out-standing 'partials' on 'metal-ringed' birds.

Today, did'nt disappoint in a way, but in another way it did.  A single 'colour-ringed' Common Gull and eight with 'metal-rings' were present.  As always, the code on the 'colour-ring' was easily sorted, this one being -   2BBC .

I spent the best part of two hours, trying to obtain ring numbers.  This was easily the worst visit that I've made here.  Trying to lure the gulls with bread, I have never seen so many people out walking their dogs.  Each time the gulls flew off, I had to pick out another 'metal', if I hadn't enough photos of the previous bird.  In the end, I was lucky to get enough photos for a few of the gulls.

Common Gull  -    2BBC   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (18 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 23rd June 2009, at The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Of the eight 'metals', I obtained numbers on four of them.  The first, was the gull whose partial number was completed two weeks ago -   EG55450 .  The gull is easily identified, as it cannot stand flat on it's right foot.  Today, I was able to get a photo from behind this gull, which clearly shows it's problematic foot.

Of the remaining three 'metals', one turned out to be my third sighting of   ET03580 .  I first recorded this one on the 3rd December 2016, then again on the 31st December.  During corresspondence with the British Trust for Ornithology, I enquired about the delay in receiving this gulls ringing details.  Apparently, the BTO has sent two notifications to the ringer, asking for the details, but the ringer has failed to respond.  I find this a bit annoying, as I reckon the gull could be one of the oldest on my records.

The other two gulls, happened to be new sightings, but I ended up with 'partial' ring numbers on both birds - two more to add to the list.  Ah-well, you can't win them all.

Common Gull  -    ET03580   -  Millisle, Co. Down (18 Feb 2017)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)

The Problematic Right Foot of Common Gull  -    EG55450   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (18 Feb 2017)

Common Gull  -    E**5164   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (18 Feb 2017)
(Partial Number on New Sighting)

Common Gull  -    E*47166   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (18 Feb 2017)
(Partial Number on New Sighting)

Footless Gulls
Also today, I was presented with a slight dilemma.  A Common Gull landed, which had no feet.  The problem with this sighting, was the gull had no 'metal-ring' either.  During my visit two weeks ago, I mentioned that I had re-sighted 'Stumps', a 'metal-ringed' gull with no feet, on which I had only obtained a 'partial' ring number.  However, the gull would not land, but I presumed it was 'Stumps' anyway.

With today's sighting, I thought to myself, that the ring had slipped off 'Stumps' leg.  I took a few photos anyway and after returning home, I compared these, with those that I had taken of 'Stumps'.  I soon realised, that these were two entirely different gulls.  I find it amazing, that two 'footless' Common Gulls, have now been recorded at the same site and my sighting two weeks ago, could have been, of either bird.

Photos at the Top are of 'Stumps' and Those Below are of Today's Sighting
(Note:-  Today's Gull cannot Stand on it's Stumps)

Two 'ringed' Herring Gulls, were also spotted at Millisle, during my visit there.  The first was that of the ever present   GA00153 .  The second bird, caught me completly by surprise.  I was taking photos of a Common Gull, when it suddenly landed on the wall in front of me.  Swinging the camera around to take photos, it flew off again and headed out to sea.  I wasn't even sure, whether I had captured the ring number or not.

On checking the only photo, I was relieved to find that I had the code on a 'Darvic-ring', -   1X:W .  I knew, just by looking at the splendid head of this Herring Gull, that this was a new sighting for me, of a bird from the study being carried out on the Copeland Islands, situated 8 kms to the north of Millisle.  I have emailed Adam McClure, who is the ringing co-ordinator for the study and now await it's history.

Herring Gull  -    GA00153   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (18 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 22nd June 2005, at The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Herring Gull  -    1X:W   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (18 Feb 2017)
(Awaiting the Ringing Details)


      Sunday 19th February 2017       
On completing my weekly visit to Antrim, I drove on down to the bottem end of Lough Neagh, visiting Kinnego Marina and Lurgan Park.  My main point of interest, was to see if the Latvian-rung Black-headed Gull -   2BPP , was still present at Kinnego.  I prefer to do these sites at least once a month during the winter, but problems with my car, meant I was behind in my planned outings.

Lurgan Park, has this winter, produced numerous 'ringed' Black-headed Gulls.  Early on, a youngster -   2CCH , from Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Study, was present for several weeks, having been recorded by Suzanne Belshaw.  Suzanne, also spotted an Icelandic-rung BHG, which we are pretty sure, is a bird that is known to 'winter' at Victoria Park, in Belfast.

Suzanne, recorded a 'partial' number on this gull (  53794* ), on the 8th September 2016 and I confirmed it's return (  537949 ), to Victoria Park on the 25th December 2016.

The Norwegian (White) J4P4, was also recorded at Lurgan Park this winter, by Suzanne.  I looked for this gull on a number of occasions in the winter of 2015/2016, but failed to find it.  It was first recorded here in November 2013 by Stephen Hewitt, who re-sighted it again in January 2015 and was then spotted in March 2015, by Kevin Kirkham-Brown.

Another two Black-headed Gulls, recorded by Suzanne this winter, were new sightings at Lurgan Park.    T58T , from Poland, was ringed as an adult in July 2016 and a recent sighting -   2F05 , was ringed at Preston Docks, Lancashire, England (waiting on more details).

Two 'metal-ringed' BHG's that I recorded last winter, have also re-appeared this winter.    EW57424 , was ringed as a chick at Kingsbury Water Park, in Warwickshire, England and has been re-sighted on a couple of occasions.  The second gull, has given us problems, as both Suzanne and myself, have failed to complete a 'partial' number -   EN290** .

The only one of these to be spotted on my visit to the park today, was the Polish   T58T .

Black-headed Gull  -  Poland    T58T   -  Lugan Park, Co. Armagh  (19 Feb 2017)

Finishing at Kinnego Marina, it appeared that the gulls there were 'breaded out', as they showed little interest in being lured.  My problem here, was that the gulls were resting on a jetty within the grounds of Kinnego Boat Yard.  The area is private and out of bounds, except for boat owners.

I scoped the gulls from a nearby concrete jetty and spotted four 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls from Adam McClure's Study.  These included the Latvian-rung -   T10932 .  Adam caught this gull on the 29th October 2014 and fitted a 'colour-ring'   2BPP , to it.

Two 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, were also spotted, but these were too far away to read the numbers.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BPN   -  Kinnego Marina, Co. Armagh  (17 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as an adult female, on the 29th October 2014, at Kinnego Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -  Latvia    T10932   /    2BPP   -  Kinnego Marina, Co. Armagh  (19 Feb 2017)
(Metal-ringed as a chick, on the 13th June 2005, at Masenu Lake, Riga, Latvia)

Black-headed Gull  -    2BPS   -  Kinnego Marina, Co. Armagh  (19 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as an adult female, on the 31st October 2014, at Kinnego Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2BPT   -  Kinnego Marina, Co. Armagh  (19 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as an adult female, on the 31st October 2014, at Kinnego Marina)


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