Thursday, 30 March 2017

Final Visit...

I have been experiencing more problems with the internet connection at home.  The problem has now been located, this being a damaged cable leading into the hub.  It seems that 'someone', has been over zealous with the hoover.  The problem has now been sorted and I'm up and running again, 100%.

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina - Sunday 26th March 2017       
Since last Sunday, the weather has been very unsettled with some rain and frosty nights.  This changed yesterday (Saturday), being more like spring, with plenty of sunshine and warmer conditions.  Today, was even better and probably the warmest day of the year so far.

Today, also concludes my weekly Sunday visits to Antrim Marina, ending a fourth season of winter 'Ring Watching'.  Starting on the first Sunday in August, ending on the last Sunday in March, I haven't missed a week in all this time.  Although each weekly visit is usually around 4 hours long, the amount of information that I have gathered on the ringed birds here, is becoming quite impressive.

I have built profiles for many of the birds, especially the gulls, where the arrival and departure dates of many individuals can be fairly accurately given.  Two of the 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls from Adam's Northern Ireland Study, failed to return this winter and I assume they have perished.  These were   2AAS  and   2ACX .

Two other 'colour-ringed' BHGs, which never made it back in the previous winter -   2AAJ  and   2ABP , still failed to return this winter.  I stated at the time, they were probably dead, but I was hopeful.  No recovery news, has been forthcoming on any of these gulls.

Four 'metal-ringed' BHGs, also failed to return during this winter season.  The most notable, was a Swedish-rung bird, that arrived as a juvenile in the 2014/15 winter and returned during the 2015/16 winter.  Two juveniles, one from County Donegal and the other from the east coast of England, did not come back.

The fourth gull, was one I've been looking out for recently.  Being one of the oldest BHGs on my records, I had recorded this bird in early spring, during the previous three years.  I know from past sightings, that any visit this gull makes to the Marina, is brief.  There could be a good chance, that it has passed through un-recorded this year.

As always, I'm forever hopeful, that some of these birds will be re-sighted in the future, but for now, I'll have to wait to see what next winter brings.

Today's visit to Antrim Marina, was noteable for the lack of BHG's, with just two birds appearing at 11.00, neither of them ringed.  I took a look at the nearby 'Torpedo Platform' through the telescope and it was a 'hive' of activity, with a large number of gulls.

I will avoid the Marina throughout April.  In May and June, I will resume visits to record the 'resident' BHGs, with at least one, possibly two visits each week.  Judging by the regular visits made last summer, I'm fairly certain that non-residents, start to return in late July.  These are gulls, that have bred early, having completed their season, or possibly those that failed to fledge young.

Due to these observations, I'm contemplating on the idea, of starting my 5th winter season of 'Ring Watching', on the first Sunday in July, instead of the first Sunday in August.  Some of the non-residents, such as the Lithuanian (White) T35J,   2AAD  and   2AAK , returned to the Marina at the end of July / beginning of August last summer.

I'm also expecting to go into hospital for a long awaited operation.  I have made it clear, that I cannot go for this until the end of June at the earliest.  After the 'op', I will not be allowed to drive a car for several weeks, so I'll be hoping on a lift from other family members.

Last Wednesday, the ringing details arrived, for the young Black-headed Gull -   HA24.967 , spotted at the Marina last Sunday.  It was ringed as a chick, on the 12th June 2016.  The ringing site, was an island on Lake Kretuonas, in eastern Lithuania.  Interestingly, this is the very same island, that (White) T35J was ringed on as a chick in 2006.  The distance, to Antrim Marina, was given as 2,044 kms / 1,270 miles, west.

Lake Kretuonas, Lithuania to Antrim Marina, Northern Ireland

Other Species at Antrim Marina
Both pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, that appeared at Antrim Marina last Sunday, were present throughout today's visit.  A 5th one arrived briefly at 11.34.  The usual Herring Gull did not show up and no Common Gulls were recorded either.

21 adult Mute Swans and 2 cygnets were present on my arrival and numbers increased to 27 adults and 4 cygnets, by the time of my departure.  All of the latter swans, swam in from the Lough, which looked like glass, being so calm.  The two 'metal-ringed' birds -   W34157  and   W34158 , which have been recorded over recent weeks, were both spotted today.

Mallard numbers, were extremely low.  11 were counted at first and overall numbers did not exceed the 30 mark.  There were far more males than females about and no sign of any 'ringed' birds.

Other species recorded were:- 1 Hooded Crow, 7 Jackdaws and a male Chaffinch.  It is not surprising to see lower numbers of other species, as many will be preparing for the oncoming breeding season.  From where my car was parked, I could see a pair of Blue Tits, inspecting a hole in a tree on the opposite side of the river.

Antrim KFC Outlet
Checking the car park of the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, no gulls were present.  The Norwegian -   JK35 , is probably well on it's way back to Norway.  I shall be keeping an eye on the 'Live' Norwegian Ringing Database, to see if   JK35 , is spotted back home.  Last spring, my last sighting of   JK35 , was made on the 13th March and it was next spotted in Stavanger, on the 8th April. 


      Friday 24th March 2017       
I called into my local park today, to check on two 'ringed' gulls.  The female Lesser Black-backed Gull -   GC27112 , was quickly spotted on the roof of the park's pavilion, standing beside her partner.  Checking on photos taken in the last two years, I was not able to establish, whether the male was her originl mate.    GC27112 , arrived back to The Peoples Park, earlier than usual this year, but was on her own to start with.

The young Black-headed Gull from England, which was present here throughout the winter, was absent.  In fact, only two BHGs were spotted, a 1st winter bird on the lake and an adult on the roof of the pavilion.  Normally, BHG numbers, would often be in the hundred plus mark.  It's that time of the year now, where most gulls are away to their breeding sites.

Lesser Black-backed Gull  -    GC27112   -  and Her Mate  -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  -  (24 Mar 2017)


      Monday 27th March 2017       
Today, I drove up to the Myroe Levels on the north coast of County Londonderry.  I'm checking this site each Monday until the end of April, to record Brent Geese, many of which 'stage' here on their journey back to breed within the Canadian Arctic, via Iceland.

A flock of around 350 birds, were present today, but after a three hour visit, not a single 'ringed' goose was recorded.  The problem, was their choice to feed well up in the field and were just out of range for both my telescope and camera.

Brent Goose Flock  -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  -  (27 Mar 2017)

Brent Goose Flock (Zoomed in)  -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  -  (27 Mar 2017)


      Summer Months       
Now that most gulls are away to their breeding sites, my Blog now takes a rest.  Further posts will be added, once I've collected enough material for publication.  Updates on any of the 'ringed' birds recorded over the winter, will be added, as details come through.

My attention over the next few months now turn to nesting Birds of Prey.  I intend to Blog on some nests, once these are located and can be followed with the minimum of disturbance.  I will be continuing my training to become a ringer and some articles will be posted about this.  More material will become available in May and June, when I return to Antrim Marina, to record the 'resident' gulls.

For now, I hope everyone has enjoyed my efforts to record 'ringed' birds, especially our wintering gulls.  Thanks to all for following my Blog and the emails that I've received.


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Lithuanian Surprise...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina - Sunday 19th March 2017       
During the week, leading up to today's visit at Antrim Marina, there has been quite a change in the weather.  Having experienced settled spring-like conditions, we have seen quite a lot of rain and sometimes quite strong winds.

Overnight rain on Saturday night and Sunday morning, was clearing, as I arrived at the Marina, with just two light showers during my visit.  Although quite breezy, the wind increased in strength over the course of the day.

I thought that the conditions might encourage the Black-headed Gulls, to appear in greater numbers looking for food.  This never happened and maximum numbers present, never exceeded 80 birds.  29 BHGs were counted on my arrival and the re-sighting of 'colour-ringed' birds, was a drawn out affair.  The youngster   2CJT , was the first to be recorded at 09.30, with the ninth and final gull,   2ABS , being spotted at 12.48, just prior to my departure.

Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina  (Sunday 19th March 2017)
 2CJT   2AAT   2BRA   2ABK   2AAV   2AAA   2ADJ   2ADD   2ABS 

Sunday's Absentees
 T35J   2AAP   2AAK   2AAH   2AAC   2ABN   2AAD   2ABA 
 2AAB   2AAF   2AAN   2ABL   2ABF   2AAR   2ACV   2ADV 
 2AFD   2BRC   2BRD   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR       
(Note:-    2ALH  was known to be Wintering at Bangor, County Down)

Overall BHG numbers visiting the Marina, would have been well over the hundred mark, as birds were constantly coming and going - looking for a quick bite to eat.  I scoped the nearby 'Torpedo Platform' and BHG numbers easily topped the 200 mark.  It could be seen, that many were claiming spots to nest on.  Quite a few of the Marina's resident 'colour-ringed' BHGs, would have been there as well.

'One Leg', was also present today.  She has never been recorded here during the breeding season, so I was a bit surprised to find her still here.  Normally, she makes her presence known to me, but she never bothered today.  As next Sunday completes my 4th winter season of 'Ring Watching' at Antrim Marina, I'm not expecting to see 'One Leg' again.

Two BHGs that I was keeping an eye out for, was   2ALH  and   EG55380   2ALH , bred here last summer and remained at the Marina until September, before moving on to Bangor, in County Down, where she was found in December - wintering at Ward Park.  The 'metal-ringed' -   EG55380 , is now well overdue.  This gull, is the 6th oldest on my records, having been ringed as a chick in 2005 (Copeland Islands, County Down).  It has been recorded here in spring, over the last three years.

Two 'metals' were spotted this morning.  The first was the Icelandic -   571487 , which has 'wintered' in the Antrim area for the fourth time, since I started coming here.  Ringed as a chick in 2003, I reckon that it has come to Antrim throughout it's life and had gone un-noticed over the year's.

  571487 , is the 2nd oldest BHG on my records.  Today, it remained at the Marina for most of the morning.  It was quick to get it's share of the bread being fed to the ducks.  I have noticed this eager desire in the past, where gulls 'load up' with food directly prior to departing for their breeding sites.  Going by today's observations, this will be my last sighting of   571487 , for this winter. 

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    571487   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  -  (19 Mar 2017)

Date Details Location Age
19 Jun 2003 Ringed as a Chick by Ólafur Á. Torfason Álftanes, Reykjavik, Iceland. 0y 0m 0d
23 Mar 2014 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. 10y 9m 4d
07 Dec 2014 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. 11y 5m 18d
11 Jan 2015 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. 11y 6m 23d
06 Dec 2015 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. 12y 5m 17d
13 Mar 2016 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. 12y 8m 23d
06 Nov 2016 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. 13y 4m 18d
19 Mar 2017 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. 13y 9m 0d
 Wintering History of Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    571487   -  at Antrim Marina
(Each Colour Band Represents First and Last Sightings Each Winter)

The 2nd 'metal-ringed' BHG, took me by surprise.  Having spotted a juvenile/1st winter, bird with a 'BTO sized ring', I thought that this was a British-rung gull.  Taking the first, which turned out to be many photographs, I realised I had a foreign 'ring'.

What I did find interesting about the young gull, was that it seemed to be 'quite at home', as it was quickly into the scrums for bread, being fed to the ducks.  Although, this was my first sighting of the gull at the Marina, wherever it has spent the winter, it was clearly used to the presence of people.

After a lot of chasing around, trying to obtain photos of the ring number, I finally succeeded.  My Black-headed Gull was from Lithuania and ringed -   HA24.967 .  I have reported it online to the BTO  and now await it's ringing details.  I thought that the young Norwegian-rung Common Gull, spotted last autumn, was my best sighting here this winter, but   HA24.967 , easily top's that one.

Juvenile / 1st Winter Black-headed Gull  -  Lithuania    HA24.967   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (19 Mar 2017)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
It was another good visit, as far as Mute Swan numbers were concerned.  With 16 adult and a single cygnet present on my arrival, numbers built up to 23 adults and 3 cygnets.  Again, most adults came out of the water and two 'metal' rings were spotted.  These were   W34157  and   W34158 .

Mallard numbers, were extremely low.  17 birds at first, increased to around the 30 mark, soon after my arrival.  Some of the ducks, departed again, after getting a feed of bread.  When I departed, just after 1pm, only 19 were still present.  No rings were spotted on any of them today.

Once again, no Common Gulls were recorded today, but the usual Herring Gull, was a late arrival, appearing at 12.24.  It quickly departed again, as it was chased off by two pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  They arrived at 09.50 this morning and unusual for this species, they remained throughout my visit.  They took over the role of the Common Gulls, by continually 'harrying' the Black-headed Gulls for food.

Other species of birds recorded at the Marina were:- 2 Hooded Crows, 9 Jackdaws and 2 male Chaffinches.

Antrim KFC Outlet
Completing my visit to Antrim Marina, I drove across the town to check on the gulls at the KFC outlet, especially the presence of the Norwegian -   JK35 .  Not a single gull was to be seen.  It would be safe to say, that   JK35 , is now on it's way back to Norway.  Checking up on the final re-sighting date last year, it was last spotted at the KFC car park on the 13th March 2016.


      Ringing Details Received       
Recently, I sent an email to The British Trust for Ornithology, enquiring about a 'metal-ringed' Common Gull, which I spotted on the shoreline at Whiteabbey on the 11th October 2015.  Having obtained a partial number reading   *A001* , I had assumed it was a BTO ring and the full code would be something like -   EA001**  .

I also assumed, the gull may have been ringed on the Copeland Islands, in County Down, as a certain ringer there, habitually places the rings 'upside-down' on their birds.

In their reply, the BTO stated, that they have no 'British-rung' Common Gulls on their database, starting with the letters '  EA '.  In their opinion, my gull had an old ring, originating in either Poland or Norway.  Having read this, it was a pity that I was not able to complete the whole number at the time.

Common Gull  -    *A001*   (Upside-down)  -  Whiteabbey Shoreline  -  (11 Oct 2015)


      Sunday 19th March 2017       
I was not able to get out yesterday, but today, after finishing off in the Antrim area, I drove to Belfast, to visit the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve.  I wanted to check on the Black-headed Gulls there, as I knew, many would have returned to claim nest-sites on the two 'Tern Platforms' on the lagoon.

As I had expected, gulls were plentiful, with many courting and others busy building nests.  Three Mediterranean Gulls, were also spotted.  Two pairs of these gulls bred successfully for the first time ever here last year and as far as I'm aware, three youngsters fledged.

Scoping the gulls on the platform in front of 'Hide One', for rings, I spotted one of Adam's Study birds.  I could not read the code on the ring with the telescope, but my camera was able to zoom in and capture the code -   2BHB .

  2BHB , was ringed by Adam as a chick in June 2014, at Blue Circle Island on Larne Lough, just a few miles to the north of Belfast.  It's first re-sightings were recorded twice on the same day (11 Sep 2016), when Robin Vage spotted it on the beach at Kinnegar and later on that same day, I got it at Whitehouse Lagoon.  The two sites are situated opposite each other on Belfast Lough.

I spotted it for the second time at Whitehouse Lagoon, on the 27th November 2016.  It's presence now on the 'Tern Platform', at the RSPB's Reserve, might be   2BHB's , first attempt at breeding.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BHB   -  RSPB's WoW Reserve, Belfast  -  (19 Mar 2017)

The Tern Platform, as seen from Hide One
(Look Carefully and   2BHB's  Position is Circled in Red)


      Monday 20th March 2017       
Today, I continued with my now weekly visits to the Myroe Levels, situated on the north coast of County Londonderry.  I was hoping to see some Brent Geese this week, having not spotted a single goose, during a three hour visit last Monday.

On my arrival, not a single goose was to be seen.  Driving up and then down again, over the complete length of the levels, I found a flock of around 400 birds, floating on the waters of Lough Foyle.  I parked the car and waited for them to fly onto the fields.  I didn't have to wait long, as the geese flew over my car and landed close by.

My only concern, was the presence of farmers, that were 'strip cutting' turf, which would eventually be used for lawns, etc.  The cutting machine, slowly moved towards the geese and they ended up flying back onto the Lough.  While they were on the field, I managed to record 6 'colour-ringed' birds.  These were all re-sightings of geese previously recorded here this spring - (White) 2   T ,   U   U ,   L   7 ,   6 |  K ,   9   X   and   N   V .

The geese eventually made their way onto a spit of land, that was too far away for scoping.  I waited for another two and a half hours, but they never re-appeared onto the Levels.

Brent Goose  -    6 | K   -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  -  (20 Mar 2017)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 8th March 2013, at Red Arches Road, Baldoyle, Co. Dublin)


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Lack of Gulls...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina - Sunday 12th March 2017       
Another fairly mild week weather-wise, led up to today's visit, which was again a nice spring day, though not quite as warm as last Sunday.  With   2ADD , finally making his way to Antrim Marina last week, the overall total of 'colour-rings', recorded here since last August, increased to 31.

Around 30 Black-headed Gulls were present on my arrival, increasing to just under 100 birds, between 10.30 and 11.30.  With birds coming and going, overall numbers of individuals would have been well over the hundred mark.  11 of the 'Study' birds were recorded today.  Some gulls were busy courting and a couple were seen carrying nest material.  With the arrival of canoeists at 11.30, the number of gulls present afterwards decreased.

Several of the Black-headed Gulls have now departed for their breeding sites.  I stated in last week's Blog, that the presence of   2AAR , should be my last sighting of him for this winter.  Having arrived back from Poland on the 16th October 2016, he was re-sighted on every Sunday visit, bar one.  His absence today, leads me to think, he's on his return journey to Poland.

Last Sunday, and again today, I was on the lookout for a 'metal-ringed' BHG -   EG55380 .  This one is the 6th oldest BHG on my records, having been ringed as a chick in 2005.  It has made brief appearances at the Marina, around this time, in each of the last three years.  The only 'metal-ringed' bird, which showed up today, was   2ABL , was has managed to loose it's 'colour-ring'.

The 'metal-ringed' BHG that appeared last Sunday, did not show up today.  I only managed to get a single photo of the gull, when it flew off.  Looking at the digits on the upside-down ring, I had the last two numbers '  E****73 '.  This gull, was most likely passing through, so I doubt I'll see it again.

Only two more visits, will complete my fourth season of winter 'Ring Watching at Antrim Marina'.  I have yet to miss a week recording the gulls here.  The information, that I've gathered on each 'ringed' gull, is becoming quite impressive.  My only regret, is that the breeding sites of many of the gulls are still unknown.  If these were ascertained, it would complete the profile for each bird.

We are ever hopeful, that observers throughout the British Isles and Europe, spot these gulls either on migration or at their breeding sites.  Gulls spotted while on migration, would give us some indication of where they are heading to.  A major problem, with the re-sighting of the gulls, is the 'orange-coloured ring's'.  They tend to be overlooked, as they match the colour of the gull's legs.

Last Summer, with the help of Suzanne Belshaw, regular visits were made to the Marina, to establish which of the BHGs were 'Resident' to the area.  I defined the breeding season as - starting at the beginning of April, ending at the end of July.  I discovered that the inclusion of July, was not a good idea, as it appeared that some gulls were re-appearing during the month, having not been seen in the period of April to June.  This was especially highlighted by the early return of the Lithuanian (White) T35J.

July, had been included, because some gulls, may have lost first clutches and had possibly relaid, thus extending their breeding period.  Having said that, it is also possible, that some gulls fail later in their attempt at breeding, then just give up and move towards their wintering sites, hence July returns.

Keeping these possibilities in mind, I am re-defining the breeding season this summer, as starting in early April and ending at the end of June.  Any of the 'Study' birds, not recorded during these three months, will be classed as non-resident.

'One-Leg', was present today and made her presence known to me.  I know she is not a resident at the Marina, so today might well be my last sighting of her until the Autumn.  With only two more Sunday visits remaining, I'm hoping for the return of   2ALH , who we know wintered in Bangor, County Down.

Black-headed Gulls Re-Sighted on Sunday 12th March 2017
 2AAT   2CJT   2ABK   2ADD   2AAA   2ABL 
 2ABS   2ADJ   2AAV   2AAF   2AAN    

Sunday's Absentees
 T35J   2AAP   2AAK   2AAH   2AAC   2ABN   2AAD   2ABA   2AAB   2ABF 
 2AAR   2ACV   2ADV   2AFD   2BRA   2BRC   2BRD   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR 

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAN   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  -  (12 Mar 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 21st December 2012, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAF   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  -  (12 May 2012)
(Ringed as a Juvenile/1st Winter, on the 12th January 2013, at Antrim Marina)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Today's visit, again saw good numbers of Mute Swans, with 15 adults and 4 cygnets present on my arrival at 09.15.  Over the course of my visit, a further eight adults arrived in from the Lough, taking the total to 23, similar to last week.  Most of the swans came out of the water and two rings were spotted -   W34157  and   W34158 .

Mallard numbers were not great, hovering around the 50 mark throughout my visit.  Again, most were checked for rings, but no luck today.

No Common Gulls were recorded, but the usual Herring Gull arrived at 09.35, remaining for the remainder of my visit.

Other species recorded at the Marina were, 2 Hooded Crows,  11 Jackdaws, 1 Magpie, 1 Moorhen, 2 male and 1 female Chaffinch and a pair of Pied Wagtails.

Antrim KFC
Having checked Antrim's KFC outlet last Sunday, the Norwegian BHG -   JK35 , was not there and I thought it might be on it's return home.  Just to be sure, I called by the outlet on completion of my visit to the Marina.  About 30 BHGs were present, which did include   JK35 .  I will have to call here, for another couple of weeks, in order to establish the departure date of this gull.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway  J  -  KFC, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  -  (12 Mar 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2014, at Vassöy, Stavanger, Norway)


      From Suzanne Belshaw       
Back on the 3rd February 2017, Suzanne Belshaw spotted a Black-headed Gull with a 'Blue-Darvic', during her regular visit to Lurgan Park.  The code was easily read, being   2F05 .  Checking the online cr-birding site, Suzanne reported the gull via email to the ringers concerned.  Kane Brides responded to say that the gull had been ringed at Preston Docks, Lancashire, England and had previously been spotted in Cardiff, Wales.

Kane, went on to say that Ciaran, would have more details, but no more was heard from either of them.  I suggested to Suzanne, that she should report her sighting to the BTO.  They replied, sending the ringing details of her sighting.

  2F05 , was ringed as a juvenile/1st winter bird, on the 17th December 2012.  As the BTO, do not send reports on previous sightings, the date of the Cardiff sighting is unknown.  The distance from Preston Docks to Lurgan Park, is 246 kms / 153 miles, in a north-west direction.

Black-headed Gull  -    2F05   -  Lurgan Park, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  -  (03 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 17th December 2012, at Preston Docks, Lancashire, England)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Suzanne's latest visit to Lurgan Park, was quite productive, with three 'ringed' Black-headed Gulls, being spotted.  The best of the bunch was -   290P .  On checking the online 'cr-birding' site, Suzanne sent an email to Chris Benson and Eoin McGreal.

Chris replied, seemingly well pleased, as this was the first reported sighting of   290P , since it was ringed as a chick, on the 16th June 2007, at Lough Mask, Co. Mayo, R. of Ireland.  The distance from Lough Mask to Lurgan Park, is 220 kms / 136 miles, in a north-east direction.

On March 22nd 2016, I spotted   236S , at Glynn, Co. Antrim, which was also a first sighting.  It was ringed at the same location as Suzanne's sighting, though five days later.  It's interesting, how some gulls, pass through the year's un-recorded.     

Black-headed Gull  -    290P   -  Lurgan Park, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  -  (10 Mar 2017)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 16th June 2007, at Lough Mask, Co. Mayo, Republic of Ireland)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

While at Lurgan Park, Suzanne spotted a 'Metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull.  Unfortunately, she only managed to get a single photo of the gull.  Having checked her photo, all Suzanne could see of the ring, was the letters '  EP '.  Of all the BHG sightings that I have made, I've yet to spot one with a ring number starting with these letters.

Yes, I say unfortunately, because checking the BTO's 'Online Ringing Recoveries', most of the gulls listed, with the starting letters '  EP ', were ringed in the late 80's.  Looking at the legs of the gull in Suzanne's photo, it can be seen, that they are very dark in colour.  As adult Black-headed Gulls become older, their legs darken down with age, initially starting off as bright red.

Although, I would very much doubt, this gull was ringed in the 80's, there is still a good chance, that it was ringed sometime in the 90's.  Suzanne's sighting, might have easily 'trumped', my oldest BHG record, which belongs to   ET02500 , ringed in June 1998.

Black-headed Gull  -    EP*****   -  Lurgan Park, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  -  (10 Mar 2017)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

The sighting of   2BRD , at Lurgan Park, by Suzanne, is of interest.  Another gull from Adam's Northern Ireland Study, it was caught and ringed at Antrim Marina on the 1st February 2015, as an adult male.  I re-sighted it at the Marina on the following Sunday (8th February) and it was next spotted on the 15th March 2015 by Kevin Kirkham-Brown and then on the 24th March 2015, by Suzanne Belshaw, both of these sightings being at Lurgan Park, Co. Armagh.

On the 3rd August 2015,   2BRD , was back at Antrim Marina, having been spotted by Neville McKee.  Over the 2015/2016 winter,   2BRD  was recorded at the Marina on numerous occasions, with the last sighting having been made on the 31st January 2016.

For some reason,   2BRD , has been virtually absent from Antrim Marina this winter.  I only recorded it twice throughout the 2016/2017 period, having spotted it on the 30th October and then on the 13th November.  The virtual absence at the Marina, of some of the study gulls this winter, is quite puzzling.  Although this winter has been quite mild, I could see no reason, as to why some of the gulls did not make regular visits.

With Suzanne's, latest sighting of   2BRD , at Lurgan Park, it seems that it stops here, on the way to it's breeding site.  It might just be possible, that   2BRD   breeds nearby, perhaps on one of the islands on the southern shore of Lough Neagh.  One thing I know for certain, is that it does not breed in the Antrim area.  Having made summer visits to the Marina in 2015 and 2016,   2BRD   was not spotted here during the breeding season.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BRD   -  Lurgan Park, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  -  (10 Mar 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 1st February 2015, at Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Map Showing Lurgan Park (Green) and the Ringing Sites of the Black-headed Gulls
(Yellow =   290P , Orange =   2BRD , Blue =   2F05 )

My thanks goes to Suzanne for sharing her sightings and the use of her photos.  Suzanne's regular visits, to both Lurgan Park and Kinnego Marina, are certainly paying dividends, with many 'rings' having been recorded this winter.


      Saturday 11th March 2017       
Today, I started at my local park, before visiting sites along the coast from Sandy Bay in Larne, County Antrim to Kinnegar Beach, at Holywood in County Down.  Returning home, my last visit was to Victoria Park, in Belfast.  Throughout the afternoon, I noticed a distinct lack of gulls at all places visited.  This is a sign, that many are well on their way to their breeding sites.

The Peoples Park, Ballymena
Not a lot of gulls were present in the park, but entering the main gate, I could see a Lesser Black-backed gull perched on the roof of the Pavilion.  I soon confirmed that this was the female -   GC27112 , which arrived back on the 17th February 2017, for the 3rd spring running.  Her mate, was not with her on her return, but I did spot a large male on the park's lake, today.  I've no idea, whether these two are a pair, but will have to check on this again soon.

Lesser Black-backed Gull  -    GC27112   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antim  -  (11 Mar 2017)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 1st July 2006, at Horse Island NR, Ayrshire, Scotland)

Having quickly sorted my LBB Gull, my attention then focused on the Black-headed Gulls.  Very few were interested in my offering of bread, but among those that did appear was the juvenile   2AXV .  This young gull, has spent the whole winter here, having first been spotted on the 23rd October 2016.

Juvenile Black-headed Gull  -    2AXV   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  -  (11 Mar 2017)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 7th June 2016, at Marsh Lane NR, near Coventry, England)

Sandy Bay, Larne and Glynn
Although the tide was on it's way out, there were practically no gulls at Sandy Bay.  A small number of Ringed Plovers, Turnstones and Dunlins, were feeding on the newly exposed beach.  The Dunlin with the 'metal-ring', was still present, this one having been spotted on my previous visit here.

Gull numbers were not great at Glynn, either.  Two 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls were spotted, standing beside each other.  Due to the distance involved at Glynn, only 'colour-ringed' birds are of any use here.  Pity, these two weren't 'colour-ringed', as I could have got the codes from where I was situated.

Pair of 'Metal-ringed' Common Gulls  -  Glynn, Co. Antrim  -  (11 Mar 2017)

Carrickfergus Harbour
Again, very few gulls were present and scoping these, there were no rings.

Whiteabbey Shoreline
The only ring spotted at Whiteabbey, was a 'metal', on a Herring Gull.  Although, quite a long way off, my camera was just about picking up the digits on the ring.  I started to play a waiting game, for the Herring Gull, to move around a little, so I could get photos of the ring from different angles.  Other gulls were getting in the way and then my gull flew off, heading out over Belfast Lough.  

All I had on the ring, was '  259 ', with the last two digits being indistinguishable.  As this was a BTO ring, the number would have started with two letters, beginning with '  G ', reading -   G*259** .

Herring Gull  -    G*259**   -  Whiteabbey Shoreline, Co. Antrim  -  (11 Mar 2017)

Whitehouse Lagoon and Dargan
Although the tide was receding, Whitehouse Lagoon, was still pretty much flooded, so I gave it a 'bye ball' today.

Checking the rooftops at Dargan Industrial Estate and the adjacent mudflats, it was a similar story as elsewhere, with very few gulls and waders about.

Kinnegar Beach, Holywood
By the time I arrived here, the tide was well out.  Although, slightly better in gull and wader numbers, compared to the other sites visited today, there was still a marked decline, as compared to other recent visits here.  Scoping through the gulls and waders, two 'metal-rings' were spotted, one on a Black-headed Gull and the other on a Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Even, if they had been 'colour-ringed', I think I would have been 'hard pushed', trying to get the codes on these one.

Victoria Park, Belfast
Completing a largely disappointing afternoon, I called into Victoria Park, in the hope of recording at least one 'colour-ringed' gull.  It was the usual story, with very few gulls present.

Three Greylag Geese were spotted with 'White Darvic's'.  These are part of a new study, recording the possible clash between the geese and the nearby airport.  Read about this in a previous post that I made (Read Here).

White 202 and White 210, were first sightings for me, both having been ringed here on the 12th February 2016.  The third goose, White 212, was spotted on one of the parks islands.  I first recorded this one on my previous visit here, on the 29th January 2017.  Despite the distance, between me and the bird, my camera just about managed to capture the code on the ring.

Greylag Goose  -  (White) 202  -  Victoria Park, Belfast  (11 Mar 2017)
(Ringed at Victoria Park, on the 12th February 2016)

Greylag Goose  -  (White) 210  -  Victoria Park, Belfast  -  (11 Mar 2017)
(Ringed at Victoria Park, on the 12th February 2016)

Greylag Goose  -  (White) 212  -  Victoria Park, Belfast  -  (11 Mar 2017)
(Ringed at Victoria Park, on the 14th October 2016)


      Sunday 12th March 2017       
Returning home, after my visit to Antrim, I called by the dis-used Tardree Quarry, to check if the Ravens were nesting.  The nest was quickly located, with the pair using the same ledge as last year.  Although, I kept my distance, the female still flew of the nest.  I took a couple of photos and then departed.  This is now my fourth Raven nest so far this spring. 

Position of Raven Nest at Tardree Quarry, Co. Antrim  -  (12 Mar 2017)

Raven Nest at Tardree Quarry, Co. Antrim  -  (12 Mar 2017)
(Photo Taken from the Same Position as the Photo Above)


      Monday 13th March 2017       
Every Monday until the end of April, I am visiting the Myroe Levels, to record 'ringed' Brent Geese.  Spending three hours in the area today, not a single Goose was spotted.  I checked the whole length of the Levels looking for them, also checking the waters of Lough Foyle and the adjacent Nature Reserve.  I gave up in the end, but hopefully they will be back next Monday.