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)


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