Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Double Dutch...

I could not get to Antrim Marina on Sunday morning, so I went on Monday morning instead.  By the time I was free to go anywhere on Sunday, I decided to cover the east coast of County Antrim, starting at Carnlough, finishing at Glynn, just south of Larne.  The only ring spotted was at Sandy Bay, Larne, where I spotted an 'Orange Darvic', on a Black-headed Gull.  When I went to take photos, to obtain the code, my camera gave a message 'No Card'.  Doohhh!!!, the memory card was at home, still in my laptop.

After Monday's visit to Antrim Marina, I went on down to Belfast (Kinnegar Beach) and the County Down coast, covering Groomsport to Millisle.  The only place where I recorded any 'ringed' birds, was at Donaghadee, where I spotted 5 birds which were new sightings for me.

Yesterday (Tuesday), I was back on the east Antrim coast, this time, moving on southwards from Glynn, covering Whitehead to Whitehouse Lagoon.  During Tuesday night / Wednesday morning (today), Northern Ireland was hit with thunder storms and torrential flooding in some parts.  At home, our house, shuddered and windows rattled, after a flash of lightening was instantly followed by an almighty blast of thunder.

A bright flash of light was experienced inside our house and the internet hub stopped working.  Although, the hub is up and running again now, we are experiencing extremely slow streaming, which is not helping me with this post.  I'll publish the post in sections, as I cannot do it all in one go.  As can be seen below, I'll have quite a bit of info to add.

It's now Friday evening and at last, we have proper internet connection.  With the lend of a router, thanks to a friend of my eldest son, I can now add to this post.  We have ordered a replacement router, but it will be a fortnight before it arrives.

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina - Monday 21st August 2017       
Today, saw the third of my weekly winter visits to Antrim Marina.  It was quite a mild day, so I was surprised by the numbers of Black-headed Gulls, which were present throughout my four hour visit.  Departing, around 1.15pm, a total of 117 BHGs were counted.  On top of this, around another 100 to 120, BHGs, were resting in the middle of the playing fields, near the leisure centre.  They were not present there, on my way to the Marina, earlier.

The gulls are now 'biting', looking for the bread being fed to the ducks.  A total of 14, of Adam's 'colour-ringed' gulls, were recorded over the course of my stay.  9 of them were added to the winter list, which has grown to 15 in total for the three weeks.  Three of these 9 gulls, are considered as non-residents, being   2AAK ,   2ABN  and   2AAN .  Other gulls, such as   2ACV ,   2AAH ,   2AAD  and the Lithuanian - White T35J, should have returned by now.  Perhaps these birds were in the flock near the leisure centre.

As the autumn kicks in and natural food becomes scarcer, the gulls will undoubtedly, arrive in greater numbers looking for a feed.  It was good to see   2CJT , a youngster ringed last winter, now starting to show it's adult plumage.

Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina  -  Monday 21st August
 2AAB   2AAF   2AAC   2ADJ   2AAN   2ABK   2AAK 
 2ABL   2CJT   2ABS   2ABN   2ABF   2AAT   2AAA 

The only Absentee

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAA   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (21 Aug 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 12th November 2012, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABF   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (21 Aug 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 20th January 2013, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CJT   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (21 Aug 2017)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Juvenile, on the 4th December 2016, at Antrim Marina)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
During the morning, the young Herring Gull arrived, followed by both it's parents a short time later.  Not long after, the youngster was joined by a second, with both begging for food from the adults.  I sometimes wonder, whether both belong to the adult pair, or is the second youngster, just trying it's luck.

An adult pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, appeared briefly, but no sign of Common Gulls today.

Mallards, were present in good numbers throughout my visit and a count shortly before my departure, numbered 83 birds.  Again, no rings were seen on these.  I often wonder, if the gun clubs in County Monaghan, are still releasing ducklings into the wild.  Usually, before release, the ring them with 'metal's, which are purchased from the same company, which produces the rings for the British Trust for Ornitholy.

The pair of Mute Swans, with their 5 cygnets, were the only ones present today.  A further 5 adult Mute Swans, appeared at the breakwater, separating the Marina with Lough Neagh, but decided not to come in.  Their failure to come in, may have been as a result of the father of the cygnets, swimming out towards them, with wings arched.

Other species recorded during my visit, were 3 Hooded Crows, 11 Jackdaws, 3 Magpies, 1 Rook, 1 juvenile Grey Heron and 4 Grey Wagtails, 2 of which were juveniles.


      Ringing Details Received       
On Thursday last week (17th Aug), I finally received the ringing details of an immature Common Gull, which I spotted on the beach at Millisle, County Down, just over a month ago.  With around 15 'metal-rung' Common Gulls present that day, I targeted an immature, as the others were all full adults.  To my delight, my bird, turned out to be Norwegian.  

Common Gull  -  Norway    5182366   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (14th July 2017)

Date Details Location Distance Duration
09 Jul 2016 Ringed as a Chick by H.I. Hansen Norsk Hydro, Karmøy Island, Norway 0 kms / 0 miles 0y  0m  0d
14 Jul 2017 Spotted by Gareth Platt Millisle Beach, Co. Down, Northern Ireland 835 kms / 518 miles (SW) 1y  0m  5d


      Monday 21st August 2017       
Having completed my visit to Antrim, I drove down to the out-skirts of Belfast, calling by the Kinnegar Beach, at Holywood.  Here, the tide was starting to go out and a steady stream of gulls and waders arrived to start feeding.  As usual, folk out walking their dogs, kept scaring the birds away.  I soon got fed up with this and moved on.

Feeding the gulls with bread at Groomsport Harbour, I soon had an audience comprised of mainly Black-headed Gulls, with a few Common and Herring Gulls.  After about half an hour and no rings spotted, I departed for Donaghadee.

Approaching the outskirts of this small town, I could see a group of what I initially thought were gulls, on a group of rocks, just off-shore, with the tide here, well out.  Pulling onto the side of the road, I grabbed my binoculars and realised these were Sandwich Terns, with a few Common Terns in the mix.

Taking my telescope and camera, I walked slowly across the beach towards the birds.  Scoping the group of 50 to 60 Terns, I spotted three 'colour-rings'.  Edging, just slightly closer, I took photos of all three Sandwich Terns, an adult and two juveniles.  After taking the initial photos, I edged closer each time, taking more photos, until the Terns flew off.

Back in the car, I checked to see what I had and was successful with the codes on the two juveniles, but that of the adult looked a bit dodgy, reading - White EB?, the third letter being possibly an N or H.

Returning home, early in the evening, I checked out the cr-birding site, with Ewan Weston being the contact for that particular ring series.  I emailed Ewan, also enquiring about the origin of the two juveniles, whose rings appeared to belong to Holland -   21.C  and   28.C .  With only 7 digits, between the two numbers, I doubted whether these were Dutch.  I thought surely, they must have came from a more local location.

Ewan replied, also sending a copy to Mardik Leopold, in Holland.  Confirming that White EBN, was ringed by the Grampian Ringing Group in Aberdeenshire, on the 16th August 2010 - it is no stranger to Northern Ireland.  Cameron Moore, spotted it, on the 20th July 2015, at Whitehead in County Antrim.

Ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the Ythan Estuary, White EBN, has been spotted at two other sites.  On the 28th April 2012, it was seen at Girdleness in Aberdeenshire, 20 kms from Ythan and also at Ainsdale Beach, Merseyside, England - 24th, 27th August and 7th September 2016 (418 kms).  My sighting, comes after 7 years and 5 days, since EBN was ringed.  Donaghadee lies 370 kms / 229 miles, south-west of the Ythan Estuary.

Sandwich Tern  -  White  EBN  -  Donaghadee, Co. Down  (21 Aug 2017)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 16th August 2010, on the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)

Next, came a reply from Mardik Leopold.  He stated, that   21.C  and   28.C , are Dutch, having been ringed in the south-west of the Country.  He has emailed the ringer Ruben Fijn and I'm now waiting on the ringing details for these young Terns.

Juvenile Sandwich Tern  -  Holland    21.C   -  Donaghadee, Co. Down  (21 Aug 2017)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)

Juvenile Sandwich Tern  -  Holland    28.C   -  Donaghadee, Co. Down  (21 Aug 2017)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)

Moving on, I drove into Donaghadee and parked in the spacious car park, close to the Community Centre.  I've had a bit of success, in reading new rings here lately and today produced another two new sightings for me.

First, was a Herring Gull -   4J:W .  This bird is from a new study being carried out on the Copeland Islands.  As I have the ringing data - supplied by Shane Wolsey for the Herring Gulls, up to 2015, I was able to check on the ringing date, which was the 6th May 2015.  I have informed Adam McClure, about my sighting, as he is the ringing co-ordinator for the Copeland Islands.  As yet, I have not heard back from Adam, so I do not know whether this is a first re-sighting.

Herring Gull  -    4J:W   -  Donaghadee Community Centre Car Park, Co. Down  (21 Aug 2017)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Breeding Adult, on the 6th May 2015, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

The second bird, a Common Gull, bearing a 'Blue Darvic', presented me with a problem - the code could not be read.  The ring, is so badly worn, that it is now appearing to be more white, than blue.  My only solution here, was to try and lure this extremely shy gull towards me with bread and get photos of it's 'metal-ring'.

Most of the pictures were useless.  With only three photos that were readable, I managed to get the numbers   38433 , but niether of the two letters preceeding it.  Returning home, I checked with the ringing details given to me by Shane Wolsey, to discover the gull was ringed -   EX38433  and the Darvic should have read -   2HTT .

This is the same gull spotted here last year (30th May 2016), by Suzanne Belshaw.  As far as I'm aware, these are the only two sightings of this gull since it was ringed as a chick in 2011.  The duration is now 6 years, 2 months and 19 days.  The Copelands lie, 2 kms / 1 miles to the north.

I've added the photo taken by Suzanne and this highlights just how much the 'colour-ring' has deteriorated, during the past year.  

Common Gull  -    2HTT     EX38433   -  Donaghadee Community Centre Car Park, Co. Down (21 Aug 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 2nd June 2011, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Common Gull  -    2HTT   -  Donaghadee Community Centre Car Park, Co. Down  (30 May 2016)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

I finished off the afternoon at Millisle and all I got was a flat battery.  As by now the rain had started falling, I forgot to turn off my headlights, after parking.  Unusually, for this car park on the Millisle seafront, not a single car was to be seen.  I waited for ages, until a young couple finally arrived and jump-started my car.  Thank goodness, I carry jump leads, a habit I kept from my Taxi driving days.  You never know, when you can do someone a good turn or visa versa in my case.


      Tuesday 22nd August 2017       

Within minutes of my arrival on the seafront at Whitehead, I was joined by Cameron Moore, was lives locally.  A long conversation took place between us and at the same time, we were keeping an 'eye-out' for ringed birds.

A Herring Gull with a 'metal-ring', was spotted on the roof of a nearby house, but by the time that Cameron and I had finished talking, it had flown off.  With a loaf in the car, I was going to try and lure it down into the car park

During our chat, Cameron told me about two terns he had seen recently at Whitehead, both of which, were 'colour-ringed'.  Photos of the Common and Sandwich Tern's, were sent to the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Asscociation Blog.  Cameron, asked me look up these birds to obtain their ringing details.  I now have the results for both birds and will publish these in a separate post on Cameron's behalf.

The Common Tern is ringed -   4.38   and the Sandwich Tern -   EFH .  

At Carrickfergus, I was hoping to spot   2ADD , a BHG which winters here.  Normally, after the end of the breeding season,   2ADD  would stop at Antrim's KFC Outlet, before continuing his short flight to Carrickfergus.  Recent visits to the outlet, saw little or no BHGs present.  I thought that   2ADD , may have gone straight to Carrick this time.

Stopping at the harbour, I attracted 31 Black-headed Gulls, by throwing bread out of the car window.  There was no sign of   2ADD , but I did spot another one of Adam's Study bird's -   2ADB .  Ringed as an adult male, on the 25th November 2013,   2ADB  winters at Carrickfergus, but it's breeding site is as yet unknown.  

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADB   -  Carrickfergus Harbour, Co. Antrim  (22 Aug 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 25th November 2013, at Carrickfergus Harbour)

With only   2ADB , spotted at the harbour, I decided to try the ponds at Carrickfergus Leisure Centre, which is roughly a five minute drive away.  Again, there was no sign of   2ADD .  In fact, trying to get the 40 or so BHGs off the pond, was impossible.  They had no interest in the bread being thrown down to the ducks.  I did notice a juvenile, with an 'Orange Darvic', flying in and landing on the pond.

As far as I know, the only site where Adam definitely ringed young Black-headed Gulls this summer, was at Castle Espie in County Down.  He was attempting to visit the closer Blue Circle Island in Larne Lough, but I've had no confirmation about this.  I'll try for this young bird on a later date, when the gulls become a little hungrier.

A small female duck, also caught my eye, so I took a few photos of it.  Being no expert on ducks, I emailed a pictutre to the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Association, asking if they could identify it.  Wilton Farrelly, replied, to say that it was a Mandarin Duck.  My thanks, to Wilton, as he saved me a lot of time, trying to research it online.

Female Mandarin Duck  -  Carrickfergus Leisure Centre, Co. Antrim  (22 Aug 2017)

My next stop, was at the Loughshore Park at Jordanstown.  The tide was rapidly retreating, which saw the arrival of Black-headed and Common Gulls.  Spending around 30 minutes here, the only ring spotted, was a 'metal' on a Common Gull.  I had no chance of reading this one.

Whiteabbey Shore
A stone's throw from Jordanstown, is the beach at Whiteabbey.  This is a good site to observe several species of gull, which also attracts lots of the bigger gulls.  At the moment, I'm especially keen to re-sight a Portuguese-rung Lesser Black-backed Gull.  In the last two years, I've spotted it here between August and October.  No sign of it today, but I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for this one.

Despite, several hundred gulls present, the only ring spotted was on a Common Gull, which I've recorded on this same beach, on six other occasions.    2AIP , was ringed as a chick, by Shane Wolsey, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down.  Ringed on the 11th June 2012, the duration is now, 5 years, 2 months and 11 days.  The Copelands, lie 23 kms / 14 miles, east of the Whiteabbey shore.

Common Gull  -    2AIP   -  Whiteabbey Shoreline, Co. Antrim  (22 Aug 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 11th June 2012, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Whitehouse Lagoon
Arriving at the Lagoon, with the tide well down, there were loads of gulls and waders feeding on the newly exposed mud.  Only two ringed birds were spotted, these both being returnees.  The first one sighted, was an Icelandic Oystercatcher, colour-ringed (GW-GfN), as a breeding adult in 2015, returning now for the third winter running.

The first record of it being at Whitehouse Lagoon, was made by me, on the 6th September 2015, remaining until the 20th February 2016.  GW-GfN, was then spotted on 5 occasions in early spring, back in Iceland, between the 31st March and 26th April 2016, showing all the signs of breeding on the later date.  On the 20th April, it was noticed, that the 'Green Flag' (Gf), on it's right leg had fallen off.

On the 20th August 2016, the Oystercatcher was back at Whitehouse Lagoon, for the second winter running.  Recorded at the Lagoon on numerous occasions throughout the winter, it's final sighting was made by Suzanne Belshaw, on the 25th February 2017.

Having reported my latest sighting, I was informed, that the summer sightings of Oystercatcher's in Iceland, were still to be added to the databases, but GW-GfN, was recorded there on the 31st March 2017.

Oystercatcher  -  GW-GfN (Flag Missing)  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Co. Antrim  (22 Aug 2017)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Breeding Adult, on the 5th June 2015, Efranes, Iceland)

The second 'ringed' bird at Whitehouse Lagoon, was the Polish-rung Black-headed Gull - White T56W.  Ringed as an adult, at a breeding colony on the Odra Reservoir, in Northern Poland, the first re-sighting of it was made by Stuarty McKee, at the Lagoon on the 15th January 2015.

Returning, during the 2015/16, 2016/17 and now the 2017/18, winter seasons, sightings of T56W, continue to be scarce for some reason.  Although, Whitehouse Lagoon is well watched, T56W, has not been sighted anywhere else in the Belfast area and the gull seems to disappear after December each year (barring Stuarty's sighting in 2015).  Since being ringed in June 2012, T56W, has yet to be spotted anywhere else, other than Northern Ireland.

Black-headed Gull  -  White  T56W  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Co. Antrim  (22 Aug 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult, on the 16th June 2012, at the Odra Reservoir, Bielinek, Poland)

RSPB's WoW Reserve, Belfast
My final stop of the day, was at the Window on Wildlide Reserve, run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.  Here, I spent around two hours observing Terns from Hide Two.  I was hoping that one with a colour-ring would appear, but had no joy.  Only Common Terns were present, a couple of these bearing 'metal-rings'.  Apparently, a Black Tern, has been present over the last couple of days, but it never showed up while I was in the hide.  I'm still waiting to observe my first 'colour-ringed' Tern here.


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