Tuesday, 7 November 2017

2AFD Returns...

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 5th November 2017       
I delayed my visit to the Marina this morning, arriving at 9.30 and planned for a 1.30pm departure.  The reason being, that heavy over-night rain was forcast to clear by 10am and as I left my home town of Ballymena, the rain was still falling.  Approaching Antrim, the skies cleared and the sun shone.  It remained this way throughout my four hour stay, but there was a light nip in the breeze.

Normally, I would depart around 1pm, but as things panned out, the 1.30 departure, was a blessing.  At that time, there was so many families around my car feeding the birds, I had to wait an extra ten minutes.  By this time, I had re-sighted 22 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.  As I was starting to reverse away from the small concrete jetty to my right, another 'colour-ringed' BHG landed on the rails.

I held my car on the clutch and took a peek through my binoculars.  I couldn't believe my luck, as this was the Latvian bird   2AFD .  I had hoped to re-sight this gull all morning, as I had predicted it's return in my last post.  Parking the car again, I proceeded to take a number of photos.  The gull itself, went through a heavy bout of preening.  Had it just completed it's journey?

Since last winter (2016/2017), I have wondered about the status of this bird, whether it was still alive or dead.  Having recorded it's return on the 13th November,   2AFD , was only recorded once (18th December), during the remainder of my weekly 'Winter Visits', which ended on the 26th March 2017.

Adam, caught and ringed   2AFD   at the Marina, on February 12th, during the 2013/2014 winter, but it was not seen again until the following winter of 2014/2015.  I was soaked to the skin in my car, trying to photograph, what turned out to be   2AFD , in my own town of Ballymena, on the 13th November 2014.  It's return to Antrim Marina, was recorded by Paul Lynas, two days later.    2AFD , was spotted on 14 occassions throughtout the 2014/15 winter, with the last sighting being recorded on the 22nd March.

Richard Bonser, from London, was on a birdwatching trip to Latvia, when he spotted   2AFD on the 4th and 5th of April 2015, at a rubbish dump, close to the capital Riga.  Six days later, the gull was spotted again on the same dump by Eddie Fritze.

On the 1st November 2015, I recorded the return of   2AFD   at Antrim Marina.  Over the winter of 2015/2016, only 7 sightings were recorded, the final one being made on the 6th March.  As each winter comes and goes, it appears that   2AFD , makes fewer and fewer appearances, a trend I hope he'll buck this winter.

With the arrival of   2AFD , my 'Winter List' of 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, now stands at 24.  Including   2AFD , I recorded 23 'colour-ringed' birds today.  The only absentee, was   2ANS , which Suzanne Belshaw, spotted last Monday, whilst covering the Marina in my absence.  My last sighting of   2ANS , was way back, on the 25th June 2017.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AFD   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (05 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 12th February 2014, at Antrim Marina)

Date Details Location / Distance
12 Feb 2014 Ringed as an Adult Male, by Adam McClure Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
13 Nov 2014 Ring Read by Gareth Platt Wakehurst Playing Fields, Ballymena, Co. Antrim (15 kms NNW)
15 Nov 2014 Ring Read by Paul Lynas Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
22 Mar 2015 Ring Read by Gareth Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
04/05 Apr 2015 Ring Read by Richard Bonser Getlini Landfill Site, Riga, Latvia (1,905 kms / 1,183 miles ENE)
11 Apr 2015 Ring Read by Eddie Fritze Getlini Landfill Site, Riga, Latvia
01 Nov 2015 Ring Read by Gareth Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
06 Mar 2016 Ring Read by Gareth Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
13 Nov 2016 Ring Read by Gareth Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
18 Dec 2016 Ring Read by Gareth Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
05 Nov 2017 Ring Read by Gareth Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
First and Last Sightings for    2AFD   Each Winter and Sightings Away from Antrim Marina

Black-headed Gulls Spotted on Sunday 5th November 2017
 2AAK   2AAC   2CJT   2BRA   2AAV   2AAR   2AAT   T35J 
 2AAF   2ABL   2AAP   2ABN   2ABK   2ADV   2AAN   2ADJ 
 2ABS   2ABF   2AAB   2ABA   2ACV   2AAA   2AFD    

The Only Absentee

Numbers, of Black-headed Gulls, at the Marina today, were very erratic.  At 11.30, not a single BHG, was to be seen.  However, shortly after 12.00, numbers picked up again, with a day's high, of around 150 gulls now present.  Feeding the BHGs by hand out of the car window, one bird came and perched itself onto my fist.  I could tell by the colour of it's legs, that it was a 2016 bred bird.  Was this the same gull, which perched on my hand last winter as a youngster?

As it picked the bread out from my fist, I moved my hand around, but the gull stayed 'put'.  If this is the same bird, then it is also a recent returnee.  Pity, I've heard nothing from the BTO, regarding my request to use the Blue 'colour-rings' that I currently hold.  This gull, along with a few others, would have been ringed by now.  

Another gull, which I thought might return today, was a 'metal-ringed' bird from Iceland.  I did not have high hopes on this one anyway, but it should return by next Sunday, if all goes well.  A Black-headed Gull, with a BTO sized ring was spotted at 9.42am.  This one turned out to be my first sighting of a bird recorded by Suzanne last Monday -   EZ22177 .

Suzanne, reported the gull to the BTO and it's ringing details arrived back the following day (Wednesday).    EZ22177 , was ringed as a chick, on the 13th June 2016, on North Ronaldsay, which is part of the Orkney Islands, situated just to the north of the Scottish mainland.  The distance to Antrim Marina, is 567 kms / 352 miles, SSW.  This was Suzanne's second sighting of a North Ronaldsay BHG, this winter.  On the 8th September 2017,   EW32806 , was recorded for the third winter running, at Kinnego Marina, in County Armagh.

Again, my thanks to Suzanne, for sharing her sightings and info.

Black-headed Gull  -    EZ22177   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (05 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 13th June 2016, North Ronaldsay, Scotland)

Other birds at Antrim Marina
Since the break up of the Mute Swan family a few weeks ago (pair, plus 5 young), I've yet to see all five youngsters together.  On my arrival today, 2 youngsters were present, joined by a 3rd at 11.18, which arrived in from the Lough, along with two adults.  The adults however, were not the parents, as one bird had such a red beak, it was approaching scarlet in colour.  This was a new bird here, as I've never seen one before, with a beak this dark in colour.

The new arrivals, joined up with two adults, which were also present when I arrived this morning.  A further three adults, arrived in from the Lough at 11.38, making a total of 7 adults and 3 cygnets.  None however, carried rings.

Mallard numbers, were low at first, with perhaps 30 birds present.  Numbers quickly grew, with birds flying in from the Lough.  By 11am, at least 60 Mallards were now present, with no further increases.  No sign of any 'metal-ringed' ducks.

Only two Common Gulls appeared throughout the morning.  Coming and going, I was quite sure, that they were the same two birds on each sighting.  I'm still waiting on my second sighting this winter of a Scottish-rung Common Gull, last seen on the 25th September.  The sub-adult Herring Gull, which appeared here a few weeks ago, arrived at 10.14 and remained throughout my visit.

(Sub-Adult)  Herring Gull  -  Antrim Marina  (05 Nov 2017)

Other species recorded at the Marina, during my visit, were 6 Hooded Crows, 9 Jackdaws, 1 Magpie and a single Grey Wagtail.

After leaving the Marina, I checked for Black-headed Gulls at the Elim Church, in Antrim's Parkhall Housing Estate, the Antrim KFC outlet and finally, Antrim's Baptist Church.  No rings were spotted at the first two sites and not one gull was even present at the Baptist Church.


      Monday 6th November 2017       
I did not have time to work on this post during the day yesterday (Monday), as I had a number of things to do, which included a visit into the town.  I still had some unused bread from Sunday's visit to Antrim, so checked on the gulls, at Ballymena's - 'Peoples Park' and KFC outlet.

Over one hundred, Black-headed Gulls, now frequent the park's lake, but no rings were spotted.  However, at the KFC outlet, a juvenile BHG was sighted with a 'metal-ring'.

Drawing the gulls in with bread, I started taking photos of the ring.  A driver, of a van parked nearby, watched me taking pictures and did his best, to scare them away, by revving the engine.  Why are some people, such 'Pr----', when they see folk using a camera?  Dog walkers, are often, just as bad.  These type of people, should be 'Politicians', as most haven't a clue!!!

However, despite the efforts of the van driver, I still managed to piece the young gulls 'ring number' together -   EZ33164 .  I have reported this juvenile to the BTO.  Checking the number, against my spreadsheet, I believe, that I have spotted a bird from the Elvanfoot colony, South Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Two other young gulls from the colony, have already been sighted in Northern Ireland, this winter.    EZ33136 , 'colour-ringed' -   2BP2 , was spotted by Cameron Moore, at Whitehead (Co. Antrim), on the 28th August 2017.  Suzanne Belshaw, spotted   EZ02451 , at Lurgan Park Lake, Co. Armagh, which was still present there on the 2nd November.  Both, were ringed as chicks, at Elvanfoot, on the 20th June 2017.

On that particular date, the ringers, exhausted their supply of 'colour-rings' and just 'metal-rung' the remaining chicks.  Iain Livingstone (Secretary of The Clyde Ringing Group), made comment, that the colony experienced a higher number of chicks this summer. 

(Juvenile)  Black-headed Gull  -    EZ33164   -  Ballymena KFC Car Park, Co. Antrim  (06 Nov 2017)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)


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