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.


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