Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Death of a Swan...

I have not been too far travelled of late.  Still not quite 100%, since my operation, I've now caught a slight cold.  I'm scheduled to return to work on the 2nd January and I do not want my health getting out of hand.  As I write this, I'm beginning to feel a bit better, but still prefer to remain at home for the present.  Perhaps, it's just as well, as we have been experiencing a blast of wintery weather recently.

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 10th December 2017       
Despite, the weather, visits to Antrim Marina, is a must do.  Not a single weekly 'winter visit', has been missed and I'm now well into my 5th winter of 'Ring Watching' at the site.

Although cold, with plenty of snow lying about, it was quite mild otherwise, this leading to a quite pleasant four hour visit.  With 29 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls to look out for, only 19 were recorded by the time I departed at 1pm.

I was surprised, with the lower number of Black-headed Gulls present today.  At no time, did I think the overall number of gulls present, exceeded the 100 mark and at one point, I was left with just a single BHG.  They appeared 'edgy', possibly due to the hawk in the area.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina  -  Sunday 10th December 2017
 2CJT   2ABN   2BRA   2AAP   2CSC   2CSB   2CSD   T35J   2ABF   2ACV 
 2AAR   2ADV   2AAK   2ABS   2CSA   2AAT   2ABK   2AAN   2AAC 

Today's Absentees
 2AAA   2ADJ   2ABA   2AAB   2AAF   2ABL   2AAV   2AFD   2ANS   2CSF 

I mentioned  2AAK  last week, looking unwell and hunched up.  Today, it appears to be more mobile, though one could tell, it's not back to full health.

One of the juveniles -  2CSD , ringed two weeks ago, has injured it's right leg.  It could clearly be seen limping slightly and not comfortable putting full weight onto the leg.  Despite it's injury, the young gull appeared to be quite sprightly.

There is still no sign of the 'metal-ringed' BHG from Iceland.  It's return, is now well overdue.

Although the gulls were edgy, as mentioned, another bird was caught and ringed - this one, an adult.  This means, I'm on the lookout for 30 'colour-rings' next Sunday, with three others still to arrive back.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSD   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (10 Dec 2017)
(Not able to place full weight on the right leg)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Not a single Mute Swan, was present on my arrival this morning.  The first one arrived at 10.30, from up-river and was the male with the very red beak.  This is the bird, which spends most of it's time beside my car, which hinders attempts at catching gulls to be ringed.

Fifteen minutes later, another two adults swam in from the Lough, followed by two cygnets, a short distance behind.  A further three adults arrived in from the Lough at 11.05, taking the total to 6 adults and 2 cygnets.  None of today's birds were ringed.

While working on this post, news came in from Adam, that a Mute Swan was hit in the head, with a bolt from a Crossbow and died a while later.  This is shocking news to hear and I hope the culprits are caught.  I'll write a bit more in my next post about this, once I get more info.

Something also needs to be done with dog walkers at the Marina.  Although there are signs, asking for dogs to be kept on a lead, these are far too small and high up, which means they go largely unnoticed.  During today's visit, the swans were chased twice by dogs.  One swan, fell and somersaulted trying to reach the safety of the river.  Although, this is a regular occurrence, today was the first time that I voiced my concern to the dog owners.

Mallard numbers were again low.  With 31 birds counted on my arrival, numbers increased to around 40 birds, before dropping back down to around 30.  One gent, noticing the decline, suggested that foreigners were taking the ducks.  This was not the first time, that I've heard this type of comment.

Three of four adult Common Gulls, were present for most of my visit, and there is still no sign of the Scottish-rung bird.  With only the single sighting, way back in September, I'm beginning to think this gull is a 'gonna'.  A full adult Herring Gull, which arrived at 10.40, remained throughout the rest of my visit.

Other species at the Marina today, included, 9 Hooded Crows, 10 Jackdaws, a pair of Pied Wagtails and a single Grey Wagtail.  A Kingfisher, whizzed by me, flying out towards the breakwater and returned up-river a short time after.

I was almost ready to publish this post, when an article appeared on the BBC Northern Ireland News Website.  This concerned the Mute Swan mentioned above, that was hit with a Crossbow bolt.  I've added a link (Read Here) to the news item, but the bird in question, sadly, looks like the large male that comes to my car.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC and Baptist Church
At Antrim's Elim Church, I was hoping to spot  2AAV , as it was not at the Marina for the second week running.  Although, there were very few gulls around the Church, it did not take long for around 40 Black-headed Gulls to arrive.  Throwing out bits of bread, their calls must have alerted others in the area.   2AAV  appeared, and soon dropped down beside my car, receiving it's share of the bread.

At the Kentucky Fried Chicken car park, there were fewer BHGs, than normal, plus a single Common Gull.  5 minutes, was all the time I needed, as no ringed birds were present.  Before leaving, I crumbled up four slices of bread, then watched from a short distance.  The Norwegian 'colour-ringed' BHG, did not appear.

My final stop, before heading back home, was at Antrim's Baptist Church.  Around 30 Black-headed Gulls, were perched all around the area.  Some, were on the roof of the Church, others, on nearby houses or lampposts.  As the gate into the car park of the Church, was closed, I drove to another car park behind the building.

Scanning the gulls on the Church roof with my binoculars, I spotted a 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull.  This was most likely to be the same bird that I spotted on the 16th October 2017.  I forgot to mention seeing it in my post, as I had spotted a Polish BHG, which was 'colour-ringed' - (White) TY43.  On that occasion, the 'metal-ringed' gull, was too far away to even try and photograph it's ring.

Walking up to the fence of the Church, I was still quite a distance away from the gull, but having took a few photos, I could see that the ring could be read.  With the gull often flying away and arriving back again, I would take more pictures.  This process, went on for the best part of two hours.  Having captured most of the code, I was missing the second letter.  Knowing the first letter would be an 'E', I had -   E*39319 .  From what I can see of the second letter, I think it is a 'W', but will have to try again on another day, just to be sure.

Black-headed Gull  -    E*39319   -  Antrim Baptist Church, Co. Antrim  (10 Dec 2017)


      The Peoples Park, Ballymena       
On the 5th December, I called into my local park.  I've noticed recently, that the number of Black-headed Gulls present, have increased greatly.  I pass the park, all the time in my car and would take a glance to see what's about.  Usually, a hundred plus Black-headed Gulls, are frequently spotted now.

Taking a full loaf, I used it all, in attracting the gulls.  There feral pigeons are a real nuisance.  Although, I'm trying to concentrate on the gulls, the pigeons would land all over me.  Despite the unwanted attention, around 50 Black-headed Gulls, jostled for a share of the bread.

The only ringed gull present, was my third sighting this winter, of   2AXV .  This bird spent last winter here, as a juvenile, between the 23rd October 2016, to the 11th March 2017.  I re-sighted it again, on the 1st September, having arrived back for the second winter running. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2AXV   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  (05 Dec 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 7th June 2016, at Marsh Lane Nature Reserve, nr Coventry, England)


      Returnees Reported       
Suzanne Belshaw, has been in contact recently, to report the return of the Polish BHG -  T58T , at Lurgan Park in Co. Armagh.  Having initially spotted it this winter, on the 1st December, she recorded it again for a second time, on the 8th December.

 T58T , was present last winter at Lurgan Park, having been spotted on numerous occasions between the 15th December 2016, until the 19th February 2017.  Its good to hear of another returnee.  Adam, has posted an article on  T58T , on his Blog (Read Here). 

Black-headed Gull  -    T58T   -  Lurgan Park Lake, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  (01 Dec 2017)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 16th July 2016, at Świnoujście, Poland)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Adam, copied me in to a reply, to Paul McCullough, who spotted another returnee, this time at Carrickfergus.  This one, was of a Scottish-rung Common Gull -  2A06 .  I received an email from Scotland, in September, reporting  2A06 , had been spotted at Prestwick.  The 'Ring Reader', who would rather remain anonymous (initials, GB), suspected that  2A06 , might have been on it's way back to Northern Ireland.  Again, Adam has posted an article on his blog, about  2A06  (Read Here).

Common Gull  -    2A06   -  Carrickfergus Harbour, Co. Antrim  (09 Dec 2017)
Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 2nd July 2015, at Westhill, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)
(Photo Courtesy of Paul McCullough)


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