Thursday, 2 March 2017

Internet Problems...

Due to problems with the internet at home - which now seems to have righted itself - I'm running badly behind, with this post.  At times, I experienced no connection at all, which certainly has not helped.  I've decided to skip the ringing recoveries that have come in and will make a start on these after the publication of this post.  My apologies, to those, that have been looking for the latest article.


      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina - Sunday 26th February 2017       
It has been another fairly mild week, leading up to my visit to Antrim Marina today.  However, the weather was awful, as it rained for most of time here.  If that wasn't bad enough, there was an exceptionally heavy downpour at 11.45.

Black-headed Gull numbers were poor, never exceeding 80 birds.  Only 9 'colour-rings' were re-sighted today, out of a total of 30 recorded this winter.  I'm now convinced that many gulls have now departed for their breeding sites.  Looking out onto the 'Torpedo Platform', a good number of gulls could be seen there.  It is likely, that they are trying to claim their 'nesting pitches'.

I have forgot to mention 'One Leg', recently.  She is still here and makes her presence known to me once I've parked my car.  Hovering beside the window of the car, she waits to get her feed of bread.  She arrived back later in the morning for a second feed.  

A 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull was spotted at 09.40, but this turned out to be   2ABL , who has managed to loose it's 'colour-ring'.  I'm on the lookout for another 'metal-ringed' BHG -   EG55380 , which has appeared here in early spring over the last two years - 1st March 2015 & 28th February 2016.

One bird that I'm expecting to arrive back again soon, is   2ADD .  Although, I have seen him at the Antrim KFC outlet during recent weeks, he was not present there today.  The Norwegian   JK35 , was spotted at the KFC outlet. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABL   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (26 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 23rd January 2013, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    JK35   -  KFC, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (26 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2014, at Vassöy, Stavanger, Norway)

Black-headed Gulls Re-Sighted on Sunday 26th February 2017
 2CJT   2AAR   2AAA   2AAB   2ACV   2ADJ   2ABK   2ABL   2AAT 

Sunday's Absentees
 T35J   2AAP   2AAK   2AAH   2AAC   2ABN   2AAD 
 2ABS   2ABA   2AAF   2AAN   2ABF   2AAV   2ADV 
 2AFD   2BRA   2BRC   2BRD   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR 
(Note:-    2ALH  was know to be Wintering in Bangor, Co. Down)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Each time I visit Antrim Marina, the swans grab my attention first.  Being so large, you can't miss them.  7 adults, plus one cygnet, were spotted by the slipway when I arrived this morning.  A second cygnet arrived from up-river, soon afterwards and was probably a sibling of the one already present.  No other swans appeared throughout the remainder of my visit.

On parking my car, I noticed one of the swans was 'metal-ringed'.  I knew this was not the bird, that arrived here a couple of weeks ago, as it was smaller.  Checking out the number, it was   W34158 , who's last sighting here was recorded on the 27th November 2016.  Where it has been since November, is anyone's guess, but in the previous year, it was present at Antrim Marina, throughout the winter.  All of today's swans were checked for rings.

Mute Swan  -    W34158   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (26 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 17th March 2014, at Antrim Marina)

Not a single Common Gull or the ever present Herring Gull, were recorded during today's visit.  I'm wondering, if the mild weather over recent weeks, has acted as a trigger for the Common Gulls to move towards their breeding grounds.  The recent build-up in the number of these gulls at sites such as Glynn and Kinnegar beach, would suggest this.

Mallard numbers, were average.  With 37 counted on my arrival and maximum numbers quickly reached the 70 mark.  The 'metal-ringed' drake, was not to be seen again this week.

Other species recorded on my visit today, were 11 Jackdaws, the juvenile Moorhen (2 minutes), 2 male Chaffinches, 1 female Chaafinch (not with the two males), a female Grey Wagtail and the pair of Pied Wagatils.


      Ringing Details Received       
All of the ringing details that I have been waiting on, have now arrived.  These include some recent gull sightings, plus Greylag Geese spotted last November.  The best one of the lot, is that of Common Gull -   ET03580 , which I had suspected might be quite old.  Does   ET03580 , become my oldest BTO rung Common Gull sighting?  Time does not allow me to add these now, but they will appear in my next post.

There will also be some sad news, of Black-headed Gull chicks, which we ringed on Inch Island, in County Donegal, last summer.


      Monday 20th February 2017       
During the last couple of weeks and hopefully until the end of April, I have been visiting the Myroe Levels at Lough Foyle, situated on the north coast of County Londonderry.  My aim here is to spot Brent Geese with 'colour-rings'.  The Brent's were ringed by members of the Irish Brent Goose Research Group, in a project started in 2001.

In the spring of 2016, I started visiting the site at Myroe, from mid March until late April.  Reporting my sightings of 'ringed' Geese to the Group secretary - Graham McIlwaine, I discovered that the birds at Myroe were under-recorded, and a few of my sightings proved to be 'real gems', in words used by Graham.

By the end of April 2016, all the geese had departed from Myroe, migrating north to their breeding grounds within the Canadian Arctic Circle - stopping in Iceland along the way.  On their return in the autumn, I tried to 'read rings' on a few occasions, but found it to be near impossible.

My method to record the colour and code on each ring, is via photos.  It was a major problem last autumn, trying to obtain these, because the geese remained on the water's of Lough Foyle and fed on the mudflats when the tide receded.  Their feet and lower legs, were nearly always covered in mud and it was rarely possible to photograph the rings on both legs at the same time (my preferred way to confirm sightings).

At this time of the year, the geese are now feeding on grass in the fields and ring numbers are easier to obtain.  The other good thing about taking photos, is any mistakes in reading codes, are quickly identified by Graham.  Sometimes due to height of the grass, certain codes are not what the appear to be or a colour was not White, but Lime, etc.  Photos are a brilliant way to avoid such mistakes, which I'm sure could creep in, with other folk trying to 'read rings'.

With the next few weeks of continued observations, I will be able to record the regulars at the site, which will later be joined by those making their way north towards Iceland, 'staging' at Myroe, before their major sea crossing.

My Blog posts are now published later in the week, because of these Monday visits.  'Ring Reading' is very time consuming.  After travelling around spotting the rings in the first place, photos have to be sorted, labelled and filed, all my spreadsheet/databases have to be updated, emails sent to and received from 'ringers', the BTO or similar bodies.  After all that, I then have to prepare my next 'post'.

Brent Goose Flock at Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  (20 Feb 2017)

An estimated three to four hundred Brents were present during today's (20th February), visit to Myroe.  I recorded 12 'colour-ringed' birds amongst these.  As it would take up far too much room in the post to add all the photos, sightings, etc., I am only going to list the birds and add one or two photos each week.  A few of these geese were recorded here in 2016, whilst the others are new sighting's this spring.

The 12 birds recorded were :-    2 | D   (2017),   9   X  (2017),  (White) C   3   (2016), (White) B   6   (2016), (White) 2   T   (2016),   N   V  (2016),  **   K  (2016),  (White) 4 (White) I (2016),    U   U  (2016),    X   U  (2017),      L  (2016)  and    L    7  (2017).

The goose marked **, has lost the colour ring on it's right leg.

Brent Goose  -    9   X   -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  (20 Feb 2017)
(New Sighting on 14th February 2017 / Waiting on Ringing Details)

Brent Goose  -  (White) 2   T   -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  (20 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as an adult, on the 18th May 2014, at Seltjarnarnes, Reykjavik, Iceland)
(Also recorded at Myroe in March & April 2016)

While at Myroe, I am always on the lookout for rings on other species, such as gulls, waders and Little Egrets.  Today, I spotted a 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher - YG-W(JA), knowing straight away that it belongs to a new wader study in Iceland.  This is my fourth bird from the study to be recorded this winter -  GW-GfN (Whitehouse Lagoon, also last winter), ON-WfY (Dargan Mudflats) and OO-W(AA) (Carnlough Bay).

Reporting my sighting to the Group, Böddi, was very quick to reply.  YG-W(JA), was caught on the nest last summer, just north of Selfoss in southern Iceland.  'Dummie eggs', were placed in the nest while the bird was captured and ringed - the real eggs being replaced afterwards, so no damage could be done to them.

As this new study, is only at the 'nestling' stage, more of these 'colour-ringed' birds will turn up in future winters and should also see the return of Oystercatchers previously recorded, as they tend to be faithful to their wintering sites.  My thanks to Böddie, for his quick responce.

Oystercatcher  -  Y(ellow)G(reen)-W(hite)(JA)  -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  (20 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as a Breeding Adult, on 11th May 2016, near Selfoss, S. Iceland)

Myroe Brent Geese - Monday 27th February 2017
Another 12 'ring' sightings were made during my latest visit to Myroe, on Monday 27th February.  The flock size was a good bit lower in numbers this week, with an estimated 150 to 200 birds present.

  N   V  (2016), (White) L (White) C (2017),       X  (2016), (White) 2   T   (2016),   2 | D   (2017),   L   7   (2017),   U   U   (2016),   9   X   (2017), (White) 4 (White) I (2016),   H   2   (2016),   X   L  (2016) and **   K  (2016).

Brent Goose  -    U   U   -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  (27 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as a 2nd Year Female, on the 15th May 2006, at Alftanes, Reykjavik, Iceland)
(Also recorded at Myroe in March & April 2016) 

Brent Goose  -    L   7   -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  (27 Feb 2017)
(Juvenile, Ringed on the 18th November 2016, at Strangford Lough, Co. Down)
(New Sighting at Myroe on the 14th February 2017)

On Monday 20th February, whilst recording the Brent Geese at Myroe, I spotted a Raven near the railway bridge, the first that I've ever seen in this area.  During today's visit (27th), I could hear a pair of Ravens calling in the distance.

Investigating a small patch of trees beside an un-occupied farmyard, I was greeted by the pair - alarm calling.  I soon found what I think is their nest, placed in the upper branches of a medium height Scots Pine.  The chosen nest-site, is unlike any that I've ever recorded in Northern Ireland.

The nest-tree is directly beside a concrete lane, which separates it from the farm-yard.  I moved away very quickly, as Ravens are in the process of laying their eggs at this time of the year and I don't want them deserting the nest.  If all goes well, I'll bring Adam to the site, to ring the chicks when they're ready.

I also re-sighted the Oystercatcher - YG-W(JA), during today's visit to the Myroe Levels.


      Friday 24th February 2017       
Today, I covered the east coast of County Antrim, starting at Carnlough Bay and finishing at Glynn, on Larne Lough.  I was hoping to re-sight two Black-headed Gulls -   2PAC  at Carnlough and   260D  at Glenarm, but neither bird could be located.

A number of Brent Geese were present in Carnlough Bay and I was hopeful of re-sighting a goose that I've recorded here in April 2015, and again in February 2016, but none of these geese were ringed.  I did however spot the 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher, which has spent the winter here.  Having first spotted OO-W(AA) on the 10th August 2016, my last sighting was on the 28th November.  Nice to know that it is still around.

Oystercatcher  -  O(range)O(range)-W(hite)(AA)  -  Carnlough Bay,  Co. Antrim  (24 Feb 2017)

I stopped at a few spots along the coast, looking out for ringed birds, coming across more Oystercatchers, than gulls.  By the time I got to Sandy Bay in Larne, the tide was so far out, practically no birds were to be seen at all.

Moving on to Glynn, there were quite a number of gulls about, especially good numbers of Common Gulls.  They were far too far away and even had I spotted a 'colour-ring', I had no chance of reading the code.  Time was getting on by this stage, so I had to return home and get prepared for work. 


      Sunday 26th February 2017       
After completeing my weekly visit to Antrim Marina and the KFC outlet in Antrim, I returned to Glynn, which was my finishing point on Friday's outing.  I had intended to do this yesterday, but ended up not going out at all, as something else cropped up.  The weather was not great anyway, with plenty of rain.

At Glynn, the tide was still a little high and no gulls had arrived, so I returned to Sandy Bay.  Here, the out-going tide was just right and I comfortably scoped through numerous waders.  Oystercatchers were standing in a nice group and easily scoped.  I looked for the 'metal-ringed' bird, that was here on the 9th January 2017, on which I was only able to obtain a partial number - '  246 ', on an upside-down ring.

Unfortunately, none of these were ringed and the one that was here last winter -   FH84092 , has failed to make it back.  Scoping the other waders, I spotted a 'metal' on a Turnstone, no doubt the same bird that I've seen on a couple of occasions during this winter and  is probably the same bird that was here during the 2016 winter.  I also had a Dunlin, which was 'metal-ringed'.  Rings on small waders are impossible to read, as these birds move around too fast and do not allow close approach.  A handful of Purple Sandpipers were a nice sight.

Returning to Glynn, the gulls were now present in good numbers, especially the Common Gulls.  The gulls were at a nice distance, to read rings, but nothing was spotted, not even a 'metal'.

Moving on to Whithead, Black-headed and Common Gulls were very easy to check for rings.  The Danish Black-headed Gull - White 5HA, was the only ringed bird present.  

Black-headed Gull  -  White 5HA  -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (26 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 28th March 2015, at Gentofte, Denmark)

At Carrickfergus, I checked the gulls at the harbour and on the ponds at the Leisure Centre, but was surprised not to find even one of the 'colour-ringed' BHGs from Adam's Study.

The shoreline at Whiteabbey, normally provides a good number of gulls, especially on a receding tide.  The total lack of birds, was very unusual for this site.  A Black-headed Gull with a yellow 'colour-ring', was spotted standing in the water of a river which flows into Belfast Lough.  Only the top of the ring could be seen, so I played a waiting game, with camera in hand.  Having had a good wash and a drink, the gull then took flight, flying inland over Whiteabbey.

This is the second time, if memory serves me right, that I've spotted a yellow ring here at Whiteabbey (unsuccessfully read).  Resuming my search for other rings, I spotted a tall 'metal' on another Black-headed Gull.  This bird is foreign, but was too far away to attempt to read the code.  A small group of Brent Geese, near the Loughshore Park, were also checked for rings.  The walk was a waste of time, as these produced nothing either.

Whitehouse Lagoon, was still flooded, so I finished off the afternoon at Dargan, checking the Waste Disposal Station and the nearby mudflats.  Again, very few gulls were about at either site, but I did spot an 'Orange Darvic', on the mudflats.  I'm positive that this is from Adam's Study, but all I could get on the ring was   **LP , missing out on the start number of 2 and the first letter.

I had my suspicions, that this was   2ALP , a gull that I first recorded on the 20th September 2015, at the nearby Whitehouse Lagoon.    2ALP , was subsequently spotted in July 2016 at Lake Hovindammen, in Oslo, Norway.  This led to the question - did   2ALP  actually breed in Norway?  On the 28th September 2016,   2ALP  was back at Whitehouse Lagoon, having been photographed there by Suzanne Belshaw.  Despite all of my visits to both Whitehouse Lagoon and the mudflats at Dargan, I've yet to spot   2ALP  this winter.

I was out of luck, as the gull flew off, landing further out on the mudflats.  It was now late in the afternoon and the heavily clouded sky, meant the available light was fading fast, therefore ending my travels for the day.

Black-headed Gull  -    **LP   -  Dargan Mudflats, Belfast  (26 Feb 2017)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ALP   -  Lake Hovindammen,  Oslo,  Norway  (16 Jul 2016)
(Photo Courtesy of John Sandøy)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ALP   -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Co. Antrim  (28 Sep 2016)
(Ringed as a chick, on the 18th June 2013, at Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)


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