Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Another Med - Well Nearly...

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 3rd December 2017       
The weather for today's visit to Antrim Marina, was exceptionally mild, coming after a short wintery spell of late.  Though quite cloudy, it was not cold in the slight breeze.  This had an effect on Black-headed Gulls present today, with lower overall numbers.  The totals throughout my visit, ranged from around 80, to 120 birds.  With gulls coming and going, at least 150 individuals visited.

Until two weeks ago, 24 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, had been recorded since the first Sunday in August.  With a further 5, having been ringed recently, I was on the lookout for 29 today.  When I completed my visit at 1pm, 23 had been re-sighted and there were 6 absentees.

I'm still waiting on the return of three gulls.  These are   2BRC ,   2BRD  and   2ADD .  Although, I was fairly sure   2BRD  appeared last Sunday, it flew off before I could confirm the code.  There was no sign of it today and   2ADD , is not expected until next spring.

 2AAF , is absent for the fourth week running.  A bird that's always under your feet, it had an injured leg when last seen and did not look too good.  As the weeks pass, I'm becoming surer that we've lost this gull.  During todays visit,   2AAK , seemed to be ill.  Present, throughout my visit, it spent most of it's time on the long jetty, all hunched up and fairly lifeless.  Hopefully, it's nothing too serious.

In my previous post, I forgot to mention the non appearance of an Icelandic BHG.  Although it was due to return, there was no sign of it today either.  Of late, I have visited Ballycastle and Victoria Park in Belfast, where two other 'metal-ringed' Icelandic BHGs, are known to winter, but there was no sign of them having returned.

No new birds were ringed today.  Arriving at the Marina, I discovered I had no ringing pliers.  On Monday, I gave them a slight oiling and had left them on the kitchen table and completely forgot all about them.  At home, we don't eat at the table and all manner of odds and ends, are placed on it.  Even so, the gulls were not overly keen today, perhaps due to the mild weather.

A few folk arrived very early this morning to feed the ducks, with the gulls quickly stealing their share.  Two women in particular, came with a full carrier bag of bread, which were fed only to the gulls, in the main cark park.  The ducks this time, never got a share.

There was no sign of the juvenile Black-headed Gull, which appeared here last week, having showed the signs of an attack, by a bird of prey.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina  -  Sunday 3rd December 2017
 2ABK   2CSA   T35J   2AAK   2AAP   2ACV   2AAB   2AAR 
 2CSC   2BRA   2AAN   2ABS   2AAT   2CJT   2ADV   2CSB 
 2AAC   2ABN   2CSD   2ABF   2CSF   2ADJ   2AAA    

Today's Absentees
 2ABA   2AAF   2ABL   2AAV   2AFD   2ANS 

Below, are the first photos, of the two gulls that were caught and ringed during last Sunday's visit.

(Juvenile)  Black-headed Gull  -    2CSD   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (03 Dec 2017)
(Ringed on the 26th November 2017, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSF   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (03 Dec 2017)
(Ringed on the 26th November 2017, at Antrim Marina)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Only two adult Mute Swans and a single cygnet, were present when I arrived this morning.  Three more adults, plus another cygnet, swam in from the Lough at 10.30.  One of the adults was   W34158 , which is frequent visitor.  A sixth adult, also arrived in from the Lough at 11am.  Noticing, that it was also ringed, this one turned out to be   W34157 .

 W34157 , along with   W34158 , were ringed at the Marina, on the 17th March 2014, by Ken Perry, who was working with trainees.  Since being ringed,   W34157 , is normally a spring visitor to the Marina.  My first sighting of this swan at the Marina, was on 1st February 2015, which was the only sighting that year.

I never saw it again, until the 3rd January 2016, with seven sightings being made that spring - the final record being on the 6th March 2016.  Five sightings were made in the spring of this year - 12th February to the 26th March.

 W34157 , surprised me, when it reappeared on the 18th September 2017 and then not seen again, until today.  These latest visits are quite interesting for a bird that normally appears in spring.

The sub-adult Herring Gull, which has been here on most weeks, was present throughout my visit.  A juvenile, put in a brief appearance around 11am.

Only three adult Common Gulls, appeared today, one of which spent most of the morning here.  There is still no sign of the small Scottish-rung female, which has not been seen since the 25th September.  Looking at her past re-sighting record, she should be appearing more regularly by now.

Mallard numbers remain low, with a maximum of between 40 and 50 birds.  I'm fairly sure, that all were checked for rings over the course of the morning, but there were none today.

Other species recorded, were 3 Hooded Crows, 8 Jackdaws, 2 Magpies and a male Pied Wagtail.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC and Baptist Church
As   2AAV , was not the Marina, I was expecting to find the gull at Antrim's Elim Church - a favourite winter haunt.  Surprisingly, when I arrived at the Church, not a single gull was to be seen.

Moving up the road, a short distance, to the car park at the KFC outlet, 33 Black-headed and a single Common Gull were standing about.  Among these was the 'colour-ringed' Norwegian BHG -   JK35 .  Since arriving back, on the 6th August 2017, it has only been spotted once each month, with today's sighting being the 5th time.    JK35 , is here for the third winter running, having initially recorded the gull, on the 24th January 2016.   

Black-headed Gull  -    JK35   -  Antrim KFC Car Park, Co. Antrim  (03 Dec 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2014, at Vassøy, Stavanger, Norway)

Finishing at Antrim's Baptist Church, only a couple of Black-headed Gulls were to be seen.  These were perched on roadside lampposts, but on checking them with the binoculars, no rings were spotted.


      Ringing Details Received       
On returning home from my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, I had received an email from Kane Brides of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.  Offering his apologies, for a delayed reply, the ringing details of my first ever 'ringed' Whooper Swan were attached.

I came across   ZAF , on the 14th November 2017, at Glynn, on Larne Lough.    ZAF , was ringed as an adult female, on the 13th February 2013, at the WWT's Reserve at Martin Mere, in Lancashire, England.  Having been spotted the following day,   ZAF  was not seen again until the 30th December 2014, when it reappeared at Martin Mere.

It was next recorded in Iceland, on the 26th March 2017, when spotted at Hrafnagil, on the north coast of the island.  This was to be it's last sighting, until I came across it at Glynn.

My thanks to Kane, for sending on these details. 


      Wednesday 29th November 2017       
Today, was the only time that I got out this week.  Starting at Whitehouse Lagoon, I visited a number of sites, finishing of at Portavogie, in County Down.  Although plenty of gulls and a few waders were checked for rings, I had three re-sightings and two new birds.  A further two gulls, with 'colour-rings', were also spotted, but I failed to obtain their codes.

Whitehouse Lagoon
At Whitehouse Lagoon, I recorded (White) T56W for the third time this winter.  This Polish-rung Black-headed Gull, was first spotted on the 22nd August 2017, this being the third winter in a row, that I've recorded it here.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  T56W  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Co. Antrim  (29 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as an Unsexed 2nd Calendar, on the 16th June 2012, at Bielinek, Poland)  

Whiteabbey Shore
I had a big surprise, when I arrived at Whiteabbey.  With a shoreline normally teeming with gulls, only a couple of dozen larger, mostly Herring Gulls, were present.

17 Brent Geese, were spotted and I thought, there had to be a good chance of a ring.  I had to wait for a while, till the geese came ashore, but I was rewarded with the sighting of a single 'colour-ringed' bird.  Lime K - Yellow 3, was a new sighting for me.

On receiving it's ringing details from Graham McElwaine, it appears that LK-Y3, is no stranger to Belfast Lough.  With a lengthy re-sighting history, LK-Y3 always spends the winter travelling between Belfast Lough and Strangford Lough in County Down.  Ringed in 2010, it has been spotted in Iceland on three occasions - 2012, 2013 and 2017 and every winter in Northern Ireland.

Brent Goose  -  Lime(K) Yellow(3)  -  Whiteabbey, Co. Antrim  (29 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 20th October 2010, at Strangford Lough Gasworks, Co. Down)

Victoria Park, Belfast
On my last visit to Victoria Park, on the 17th October 2017, I only managed to get a partial number, on a 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull   EY981** .  It, along with a number of other gulls, flew away due to the persistent disturbance by folk walking their dogs.  Despite my failure to obtain the full number, I reckoned that it was   EY98138 , ringed as a chick in 2015, at Saltholme, in England.

On today's visit, I was hoping to get this gull again and complete the whole number.  Parking in a good clear area of the car park, I started throwing out bits of bread.  In no time at all, I had around 50 Black-headed Gulls and loads of feral pigeons around my car.  A gull with a metal-ring appeared, which I thought was the same bird from my last visit here.  This time, I completed the number, but didn't realise until I got home, it was another gull.

 EL97734 , is a bird that was already known to me and today's sighting is now my fourth record of it.  My initial sighting of   EL97734, was on the 14th November 2015.  I later spotted it on Christmas Day 2015 and last saw it on Christmas Day 2016.  It was ringed as a chick, on the 12th June 2007, at Downholme, in North Yorkshire, England.

The duration, is now 10 years, 5 months and 17 days, since being ringed.  The distance from Downholme to Victoria Park, is 265 kms / 164 miles (West).  I was well pleased to record another returning gull, this being the third winter in a row, that I've recorded it.   EL97734 , has probably wintered at Victoria Park for years, but went undiscovered until I took up 'Ring Watching'.

I was disappointed not to find any other rings.  Not only did   EY981** , fail to turn up, but I had hoped to record the return of a Dutch BHG that is 'colour-ringed and an Icelandic BHG, with a 'metal-ring'.  A couple of Adam's 'colour-ringed' BHGs, have been recorded here in the past, so hopefully some of these will be back by the time of my next visit.

I like coming to Belfast on Christmas Day, as this is the only time of the year that I get some peace and quiet, when trying to find ringed gulls.  With most people at home, enjoying their festivities, I can work in the deserted car parks of the nearby shopping centres, hence the Christmas Day sightings.

Black-headed Gull  -    EL97734   -  Victoria Park, Belfast  (29 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 12th June 2007, at Downholme, North Yorkshire, England)

Ballyholme Beach
Stopping at the beach at Ballyholme, a number of gulls could be seen in the distance, as the tide was now well out.  Scoping through these, I spotted a Black-headed Gull, with an Orange Darvic.  Although, I knew it would be one of Adam's study birds, I could not read the code through the scope.  Knowing that an attempt to get closer, might scare the gulls away, I relied on my camera to capture the code.

The result, was a new sighting, the code reading  2AHK .  Reporting my find to Adam, it turns out, this was a first sighting of a bird ringed as a chick in 2014, at Castle Espie.  Now approaching three and a half years, since ringing, it proves there are other gulls from Adam's Study, waiting to be discovered.  Ballyholme, lies 15 kms / 10 miles (NNE), from Castle Espie. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2AHK   -  Ballyholme, Co. Antrim  (29 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2014, at Castle Espie, Co. Down)

The next ring spotted, was on a Common Gull, on rocks just north of Donaghadee.  The flock of 70 to 80 Common Gulls, were resting on the same rocks, where I spotted two Dutch juvenile Sandwich Terns, back in August.  The only down side, was the gulls were a long way off from me.  Making a slow approach, taking photos as I went along, the gulls were too wary and flew off.

On checking my photos, the code on the ring was not readable.  However, the code on the Blue Darvic, read downwards, with the number 2 at the top.  As seen on many of these rings, they are clearly disintegrating and the code difficult to read.

Although, this gull would have been ringed on the nearby Copeland Islands, the only one I know of, that has a code which reads downwards, would be   2ABF , which has always been sighted at Millisle - a little further south from Donaghadee.  In fact,   2ABF , was recently reported to me, by David Nixon (23rd November), while searching for Brent Geese at Millisle.

My gull today, might well be   2ABF , but who knows, it might just be a different gull altogether.

'Colour-ringed' Common Gull  -  Donaghadee, Co. Down  (29 Nov 2017)

On reaching Millisle, 4 ringed Common Gulls, were spotted.  Three of these had 'metals', and I was not able to lure them towards me.  A 'colour-ringed' bird spotted in the distance, turned out to be the regularly sighted   2BBC .    2ABF , mentioned above, was not here, so it makes you wonder.

Common Gull  -    2BBC   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (29 Nov 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 23rd June 2009, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

I've never recorded any rings at Ballyhalbert, but I nearly had a good one today.  While scoping numerous gulls in the distance, I spotted a Mediterranean Gull with a Red Darvic.  Thoughts entered my head straight away, that this was the Polish-rung  PNU0 . Knowing I would have to get closer, to try and read the ring, the gull flew off towards Ballywalter, before I even had a chance to lift the camera.

Ringed as a chick, in May 2012, all of my sightings of   PNU0 , have been in the Belfast area - (former Waterworks, Whiteabbey Beach and Whitehouse Lagoon), from December 2015 to December 2016.     PNU0 , was recorded on four occasion this summer (May (1) and June (3), having been spotted back in Poland for the first time since being ringed.

Although my gull flew towards nearby Ballywalter,   PNU0  is no stranger there, having been spotted in the village back in 2013.  If this is definitely   PNU0 , it will only be a matter of time, before I record it's return to the Belfast area,


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