Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Partials Solved...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 5th February 2017)       
We have had a mixed week weather-wise, with some calm days, while other's were wet and windy.  Last night started frosty, but I got up this morning to foggy conditions.  At Antrim Marina, the fog persisted throughout my visit, but was thin enough that I could still read rings.

Last Sunday, I ended my visit early, as the gulls were not landing and frustration got the better of me.  No problems today, except for a fifteen minute period, while a canoeist prepared and launched his craft.  When I arrived at 9.15 this morning, 64 Black-headed's and 1 Common Gull were already present.  From around 11am, BHG numbers easily topped the 200 mark.

Over the course of the winter, I have recorded 30 'colour-ringed' BHGs here and 20 of them were re-sighted today.  Towards the end of the month,   2ADD  should return.  At present   2ADD , has 'parked' himself at the Antrim outlet of Kentucky Fried Chicken, which is almost two miles away from the Marina.

This gull is known to spend the winter at Carrickfergus, on the east coast of County Antrim.  I discovered last year, that he stops for a few weeks at KFC, before finally completing his 'long & arduous' journey to breed on Lough Neagh.  After ending today's visit to the Marina, I drove up to the KFC outlet and quickly spotted   2ADD  in the car park there.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADD   -  KFC, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (05 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as an adult male, on the 29th November 2013, at Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim)

Yesterday, I went looking for   2ALH , at Ward Park in Bangor, County Down.    2ALH , ended up being on my winter list, as she did not leave Antrim Marina until September, long after the breeding season had finished.  Knowing she winters in either Ballyholme or Bangor, I went looking for her in December and got her at Ward Park.    2ALH , was not present yesterday, but gull numbers there, were far lower than normal.

The last week of February or the first week of March, should see the return of a Black-headed Gull with a 'metal-ring'.    EG55380  (upside-down ring), is the 6th oldest of this species on my records, ringed as a chick in 2005.  It appears that this gull stops by the Marina, prior to the beginning of the breeding season.  I've recorded it in the early spring, over the last two years, but it was not spotted at the Marina last summer, when a concentrated effort was made to establish which of the 'ringed' BHGs were actually resident in the area.

Today, I also recorded the Icelandic BHG -   571487 , which arrived around 11.55.  This is my 4th sighting of the gull this winter, having returned on the 6th November 2016.    571487 , is the 2nd oldest BHG on my records, having been ringed as a chick in 2003.  This is the fourth winter running, that I have recorded it here.

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    571487   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (05 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2003, near Reykjavik, Iceland)

The Black-headed Gull, which I call 'One-Leg', made her arrival known to me at 11.23 this morning.  She got her usual feed of bread from my hand and came back looking for 'seconds', shortly before my departure at 1pm.

Black-headed Gull Recorded on Sunday 5th February 2017
 2AAF   2CJT   2ACV   2AAA   2ABN   2AAH   2AAC   2AAR   2AAT   2AAB 
 2BRA   2AAD   2ABF   2AAP   2AAV   2ADJ   2ABK   2ABS   2AAK   2ABA 

Sunday's Absentees
 T35J   2AAN   2ABL   2ADV   2AFD   2BRC   2BRD   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR 
(Note:-   2ALH  is known to winter in County Down)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAB   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (05 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 11th December 2012, at Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
A single adult Common Gull, was already present when I arrived this morning.  The maximum number of 6 adults, were recorded at 12.30.  A single juvenile was spotted at 11.09 and presumably this was the same youngster which remained until my departure.  There was no sign of the 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls, from Scotland and Finland.

The Herring Gull, which has been present on most of my winter visits, arrived at 10.06.  It was joined for a short while by another immature bird at 10.30, this one looked as if it had hatched during the 2015 summer.

A Lesser Black-backed Gull, appeared at 12.39.  The species is rarely recorded here in the winter now, unlike in previous years, where visiting birds were deemed to be of Icelandic origin.  Perhaps this gull is an early arrival, as our summer breeding birds are known to winter in southern Europe.

Mallard numbers remained fairly constant throughout my visit, with around 40 birds present on my arrival.  Finally, I have recorded one with a 'metal-ring'.    5MN 1156 , was last sighted here on the 17th June 2016.  It was ringed in County Monaghan, in June 2015 as a juvenile, ready for release.  The gun clubs in Monaghan purchase young ducklings from a farm, rear, and then release them into the wild.  This 'offsets' those lost by being shot.

I'm left wondering, whether or not, there is some significance about today's sighting of   5MN 1156 .  My first ever sighting of this Mallard, was made on the 14th February 2016 - (co-incidence?).  Has it arrived back for the breeding season, having been away all winter?

Mallard  -    5MN 1156   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (05 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as a juvenile, June 2015, in Co. Monaghan, R. of Ireland)

6 Mute Swans and two cygnets, were soon joined by a pair, along with their two cygnets.  Another pair arrived from up-river at 11am and a further pair came in from the Lough at 11.40.  I managed to check the legs on 9 of the 12 adults, looking for rings, but again no joy.

Other species recorded today, were a record 20 Jackdaws, 1 Hooded Crow,  a single juvenile Moorhen, 2 pairs of Starlings, 1 pair of Pied Wagtails, a female Grey Wagtail and a male Chaffinch.  A Kingfisher, was heard, but not seen.


      Ringing Details Received       
On Thursday, I received the ringing details from the BTO, for the Mute Swan -   W39610 , which I spotted at the former Belfast Waterworks, last Sunday.

It came as a nice surprise, to learn that it had been ringed on the 18th May 2015, at Castle Semple Country Park, on Lochwinnoch, Scotland.  Ringed as an unsexed, 2nd year bird, it had travelled 118 kms / 97 miles SW, to get to Belfast.

Normally, Mute Swans tend to be fairly local in their movements, so I was delighted to record my second swan from Scotland.  On the 12th May 2016, I sighted    W32105 , at Antrim Marina.  This one had been ringed at Hogganfield Loch, Glasgow, on the 17th November 2011 (Blog).

Mute Swan  -    W39610   -  Castle Semple Country Park to Belfast Waterworks
( 118 Kms / 97 Miles SSW )

On Friday, I received an email from Hayley Douglas, who actually ringed   W39610 .  She thanked me for reporting my sighting, which was very much appreciated.  It is always nice to get some feedback from the ringers themselves.

Hayley went on to inform me of a new project starting this summer concerning Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  As part of the Clyde Ringing Group, they intend to 'Colour-Ring' and 'Satellite-Tag' these gulls in May and June.  It will be worthwhile, to look out for them in Northern Ireland, next autumn and winter.  There is a 'Facebook' account called 'Tag-n-Track', where you can follow their progress (Link).

My thanks to Hayley for her acknowledgement and letting me know about her new project.  Should I spot any 'colour-ringed' Lesser Black-backed Gulls, that are not listed on the cr-birding site, then I can at least try Hayley.


      Saturday 4th February 2017       
Today, I drove down to County Down, which I had intended to do a few weeks ago, but with developing problems with my car, I only got as far as Holywood, deciding not to go any further.  My itinerary for this afternoon was to cover sites at Bangor, Groomsport, Donaghadee, Millisle, Ballywalter, Portavogie and Portaferry.

Here at Bangor, I tried to re-sight two Black-headed Gulls,   2ALH  from Adam's Study, which is wintering at Ward Park and one with a 'Red Darvic', whose code I had failed to obtain on my previous visits.  With far less gulls than normal, neither bird was located.

Around 150 gulls, mostly Black-headed, were spotted on the roof of the nearby Bangor Campus.  Despite trying to lure the gulls down, they remained on the roof, with most lying down enjoying the sunshine.  Those that were standing were scoped for rings, but none were spotted.

Only a handful of Black-headed and a couple of Herring Gulls were present.  It only took a few minutes to check these, but no rings.

It was a case of 'Deja Vu', with the Black-headed Gulls at Donaghadee, but before this, I spotted a 'colour-ringed' Herring Gull on rocks, which had been surrounded by the rising tide.    1K:W  was a first sighting for me of another bird from the new study on the nearby Copeland Islands.

I have emailed Adam McClure, who not only runs the Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study, but is also the ringing co-ordinator of the new Herring Gull Study on Copeland.  I am still waiting on the ringing details, but   1K:W , is now my 8th Herring Gull sighting from the Study.

Herring Gull  -    1K:W   -  Donaghadee, Co. Down  (04 Feb 2017)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)

'Deja Vu', indeed.  Parking on the slipway, luring the gulls with bread, I soon had three 'ringed' Black-headed Gulls around me - 1 'colour-ringed' and 2 'metal-ringed'.  This is very much remininsent of the 5th March 2016, when I had the same combination of three 'ringed' BHGs.

The 'colour-ringed' gull was easily sorted, being   2BAL , from Adam McClure's study and my first ever sighting of it was made on the 5th March 2016, as mentioned above.

My camera, went into 'overdrive', taking pictures of the two 'metals'.  The gulls were easily identified, as one had lighter coloured legs than the other.  On checking my photos, I had completed the numbers on both 'metals'.

The gull with the lighter coloured legs, was   EY99583 , and was very nervous in trying to approach me for a share of the bread.  Not so shy, was the BHG with the darker legs.  It had an 'upside-down' ring, which read   EG55486 .  Remembering, that I had a 'partial' number on a similar ring last year, I sent a text message to my sister Heather and asked her to check both numbers on my Blog.

In her reply, Heather confirmed that the partial number recorded on the 5th March 2016, was that of BHG   EG55*46 , on an 'upside-down' ring.  Happy days, I've finally completed the full ring number.  There was no mention of   EY99583  on my Blog, so when I returned home, I checked both my files and spreadsheet, but   EY99583  turned out to be a new sighting.  I have reported both gulls to the BTO and now await their ringing details.

As a matter of interest, the third of the rings recorded on the 5th March 2016, was that of   EX97817 , the same BHG that I re-sighted here on the 24th December 2016, though not present today.

My thanks, to my sister Heather, for taking the time to check these gulls on my Blog.

Black-headed Gull  -    EY99583   -  Donaghadee, Co. Down  (04 Feb 2015)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)

Black-headed Gull  -    EG55486   (Upside-down Ring)  -  Donaghadee, Co. Down  (04 Feb 2017)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)

Black-headed Gull  -    2BAL   -  Donaghadee, Co. Down  (04 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 22nd June 2014, at the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Known to be a hotspot for both 'colour and metal ringed' Common Gulls, I have had fairly good success in 'reading' metals here. At present, I have a couple of 'partials', which need completing.

One such bird, was recorded on my records as   EG55*** , on an upside-down ring.  Although I have recorded several gulls with the same prefix,   EG55***  was noted for a problem with it's right foot.  For some reason, it cannot stand with the foot flat to the ground.  My only previous sighting of the gull was made on the 23rd January 2016.

Today, I spotted a 'metal-ringed' Common Gull, with the same problem with it's foot.  Scoping the ring, I could see that it was placed upside-down.  Out came the camera and several photos later, I pieced together,   EG*5450  on the ring.  Despite missing out on the first number, I'm convinced that both sightings were of the same gull, with the full number reading   EG55450 .

This sorts out another 'partial' and I've reported the sighting to the BTO and now await the ringing details.  At present, I reckon the gull was ringed on the nearby Copeland Islands, probably as a chick in either 2005 or 2006.

Of interest, is just how close the number is to that of the Black-headed Gull, whose partial number was completed a short time earlier at Donaghadee.  The difference between the two numbers was just 36 (read above).  

Common Gull  -    EG55450   (Upside-down Ring)  -  Millisle, Co. Down
(Left :- Photo Taken on 04 Feb 2017  -  Right :- Photo Taken on 23 Jan 2016)
(Note the problem it has with it's right foot)

A second Common Gull, made a very determined effort to get a share of the bread, which was being used as a lure.  Easily recognised, as it has no feet, I had named the gull 'Stumps'.  I first spotted this gull on the 2nd July 2016, noticing that it was 'metal-ringed', but it flew off before I could get any photos.  On the 13th August, it landed in front of me long enough, that this time I managed to get a few pictures and a partial ring number   E**820* .

Despite my efforts to try and entice 'Stumps' to land on the ground, it was not obliging.  For now, I'm stuck with another partial ring number.

Common Gull  -    E**820*   -  Millisle, Co. Down
(Given the name 'Stumps'  -  Photo Taken on 13 Aug 2016)

After Millisle, I made quick visits to Ballywalter, Portavogie and ended the afternoon at Portaferry.

At Ballywalter, the only ring spotted was that of   ET02500 , the oldest BHG on my records (Blog).  I went on to spot a 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull at the Marina in Portaferry, but despite all my attempts to lure the gull towards me, it remained where it stood.  There is no public access to the Marina.  5 Sandwich Terns, were also present at the Marina and one of these was 'metal-ringed'.


      Sunday 5th February 2017       
After completing my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, I drove down to the east Antrim coast, starting at Whitehouse Lagoon and was supposed to finish at Whitehead.  Because of what happened at Whitehouse Lagoon, I returned there before heading home.

Whitehouse Lagoon
Not quite as many gulls and waders were present today, but with the incoming tide not really effecting the Lagoon, most birds were well out on the mudflats.  Scoping for rings, the only one spotted was a 'Green Darvic' on a Common Gull.  Although my camera has a greater reach than my telescope, the gull was just out of range to capture the code on the ring.  I suspected that this Common Gull may have come from Norway and I've never recorded one with a green ring before.

I drove to the main car park, thinking that if I walked around the edge of the Lagoon, I could cut down the distance between me and the gull.  As usual, people always seem to get in the way when I'm trying to 'Read Rings'.  This time, two men and a young lad, started to fly a drone and by their actions, they seemed to be novices.

Having got the craft airborne, it was flown low, straight over the Lagoon and scared all the birds away.  They probably decided not to risk flying the drone over the parkland, in case they should loose control and hit folk out walking.  I returned to the Lagoon before going home and though the tide was well on it's way in, my Common Gull was still gone.

Common Gull  -  With Green Darvic  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (05 Feb 2017)
(Possibly from Norway)

Whiteabbey Shoreline
Just like Whitehouse Lagoon, not too many gulls were present on the Whiteabbey Shoreline.  Scoping through the gulls, I spotted a Common Gull with a 'Blue Darvic'.  Waiting on the gull to exit the water, photos were easy to get and the code read   2AIP .  Today's sighting, is my 5th for this gull, having first spotted it here on the 10th October 2015.

A man and his wife, stopped with me, just as I was about to take photos and asked if I had seen anything interesting.  A short conversation took place about what I do and my Blog.  Finding it all very interesting, they said they would look up the Blog, to see if I managed to get the code on the ring.  If you should be looking in, here it is.

Common Gull  -    2AIP   -  Whiteabbey Shoreline, Co. Antrim  (05 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as Chick, on the 11th June 2012, at the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Having got   2AIP   sorted, I continued to scope the gulls and then spotted a 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull.  I could tell by the height of the ring, that this gull was foreign.  Again, just out of camera range to clearly read the code, I was able to make out some details.  As the numbers, were above the address, I think that this gull may have come from Finland.  Pity it was not colour-ringed, as I would have had no problem obtaining the code.

'Metal-Ringed' Black-headed Gull  -  Whiteabbey Shoreline  (05 Feb 2017)
(Possibly from Finland)

Carrickfergus Harbour
The harbour is a good spot to record some of the Black-headed Gulls from Adams study.  The only one amongst 30'ish which approached me for bread, was the German ringed   IA114059 .  Adam captured this gull back in January 2016 and added a 'Darvic Ring',   2ANX .

Today's sighting is my second of the winter for   2ANX , having confirmed it's return to Carrickfergus on the 10th December 2016.  It was spotted twice in Poland, during March and July 2016 at Swinoujscie, close to the border with Germany.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ANX   /  Germany    IA114059   -  Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (05 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 14th May 2008, at Ostvorpommern, Germany)

Some gulls, resting on the harbour wall, opposite from where I was positioned, were not interested in the lure of bread.  Scoping these, I spotted a 'metal-ringed' Common Gull.  I was about to walk round to get closer and take photos of the ring, when a man walking his dog frightened them all off.  I didn't have time to wait for their return, as I still had to visit Whitehead and make a second visit to Whitehouse Lagoon.

Last winter, a Common Gull with an 'Orange Darvic' was spotted here on several occasions.  Originating from Aberdeenshire in Scotland, I had hoped to see it back at Carrickfergus this winter, but no joy on this one as yet.

Around 40 Black-headed Gulls and 7 Common Gulls were present and the only ring spotted was that of the Danish Black-headed Gull - (White) 5HA.  Today's, is my third sighting of 5HA this winter, having first spotted it here on the 28th November 2016 (Blog).  I had hoped that a Common Gull, which I had got a partial reading on a 'metal-ring', would show up, but still no sign of this one.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  5HA  -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (05 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as 3rd Year Male, on the 28th March 2015, at Gentofte, Denmark)


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