Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Swan Photos...

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 17th December 2017       
Today's visit to Antrim Marina, saw a big improvement in the weather conditions.  After a spell of sub-zero temperatures and snow, a very mild day was experienced, being calm and fairly warm.

The Black-headed Gulls, were back in higher numbers, than those seen last Sunday.  They appeared to be in good form, as last week, they seemed to be very on edge.  The gulls, were present throughout my four hour visit, with a maximum of around 130 birds at one point.  With gulls coming and going, perhaps the number of individuals visiting, may have involved near to 200 birds.

Recently, six gulls have been caught and ringed, which meant, I was on the lookout for 30 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.  By the time of my departure at 1.15pm, 25 had been re-sighted.  Of the five absentees,   2AAV  and  2AAB , were later spotted at Antrim's Elim and Baptist Churches.  Perhaps, they are religious and enjoy hearing the organ music!!

It was good to see both  2ABA  and  2ABL , which had been absent for a few weeks.  Two weeks ago, I mentioned that  2AAK , was rather ill looking and appeared slightly better last Sunday.  During both weeks, it made no real attempt to try and grab a share of the bread being fed to the ducks.

Today,  2AAK , made several visits to my hand, to take bread.  I watched it fly round in large arc's, coming back again to be fed.  I deliberately kept an eye out and made sure it got a good share of bread.  It has probably eaten very little over the last fortnight.  When on the ground, it still looks very shaky on it's legs.  Hopefully,  2AAK 's health is improving again.

Another two Black-headed Gulls, were caught and ringed during the visit, these being a 2nd Winter and an adult.  Next Sunday, I'll be looking for 32 'colour-ringed' birds.  I kept a keen eye, looking for any 'metal-rings', but it seems as if the Icelandic BHG, has not made it back.  I'll not give up on it for now.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina  -  Sunday 17th December 2017
 2AAK   2AAR   2AAT   2AAA   2BRA   2CSC   2AAN   2ABK   2CSA 
 2ABN   2ADJ   2CJT   T35J   2ABL   2AFD   2ANS   2AAP   2CSB 
 2ABF   2CSD   2ADV   2AAC   2CSF   2ABA   2ACV       

Today's Absentees
 2ABS   2AAB   2AAF   2AAV   2CSH 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Four adult Common Gulls, were present throughout my visit, but again, there was no sign of the Scottish-rung bird.  An adult Herring Gull, also present when I arrived, was joined by a second adult around 10am.  A juvenile, arrived at 10.50, flew around for a few minutes and then headed towards the Lough.

Mallard numbers, are still disappointingly low.  With just a handful of ducks on my arrival, numbers quickly peaked to around 40 birds.

3 adult Mute Swans and 2 cygnets, on my arrival, were soon joined by a fourth adult, appearing from upriver.  One of the three adults, present when I arrived, was ringed, this one being the regularly observed -   W34158 .  The number of adults increased to six, when two birds flew in from the Lough, at 11.50.

In my last post, I mentioned that one of the Swans was killed last Monday, having been shot in the head with a bolt from a crossbow.  The bird in question, was the big male, that would stand beside my car for ages, looking for bits of bread.  I added a Link to the BBC's news article, reporting the death on their website.  I've added two photos below, which appeared on both the BBC website and The Belfast Telegraph.

At the time, I copied in Ruth Wilson (local Council), on an email that I sent to Adam.  I voiced my concern, about dogs chasing the ducks and swans, as their owners failed to have them on leads.  Some of these people, thought it was funny, seeing the swans panicking to reach the safety of the river.

Today, I witnessed, on two occasions, dogs chasing after the swans.  On one of these, an adult and a cygnet, both crashed into the six foot high fencing, which had been placed around the small beach area to prevent anyone falling off the low wall beside it.  Luckily, neither bird was injured, but both were badly shaken by the incident.  Something, badly needs to be done here, to prevent this from happening.

Two Photos of the Mute Swan Killed at Antrim Marina

6 Hooded Crows, 8 Jackdaws, 2 Magpies and a pair of Pied Wagtails, were the only other species recorded during today's visit.


Antrim's Elim Church, KFC and Baptist Church
After leaving Antrim Marina, I made my now customary visits to Antrim Town's Elim Church, KFC car park and the Baptist Church.  A fair number of Black-headed Gulls, were dotted about the Parkhall Housing Estate, where the Elim Church is located.  Parking beside the Church, I threw out bits of bread, I quickly attracted, around 30 BHGs, 1 Common Gull and two juvenile Herring Gulls.  Among them, was  2AAV , who did not appear at the Marina today.

Moving on to the car park of the KFC outlet, bread was used again to lure in the gulls.  Again, about 30 BHGs, 1 Common Gull and one adult Herring Gull, flocked to my car.  No ringed gulls were spotted.  The 'colour-ringed' Norwegian BHG, is acting true to form, with only a single appearance each month, since arriving back in August.  My last sighting of this one, was on the 3rd December.

Arriving at the Baptist Church, no gulls were perched on the roof.  However, between 50 and 60 Black-headed Gulls, could be seen, either on lampposts or on the green grassy areas.  Some of these areas, had pools of water, where many of the gulls were bathing.

With the main gate to the Church, closed and padlocked, I made my way to another car park behind the Church and waited.  Not too long afterwards, gulls started to alight on the roof.  With birds, coming and going, the maximum at one stage, reached 41 gulls.

Two 'colour-ringed' birds were spotted, both staying for just a few minutes.  One of these was a gull from Adam's Study -  2AAB , who also did not appear at the Marina today.  The other gull, was my third sighting this winter of (White) TY43.  Adam, recorded this gull at the Marina, back in October 2013, but it hadn't been seen in Antrim again, until I came across it at the Baptist Church, on the 16th October 2017.  Today's sighting, cements my belief, that TY43 is definitely wintering in the area of the Church and has done so each winter, going un-detected until now.

I was hoping to complete the 'metal' number of another Black-headed Gull, spotted here last Sunday.  Having recorded   E*39319  , on the ring, I was needing the second letter, but this gull did not appear today.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  TY43  -  Antrim Baptist Church, Co. Antrim  (17 Dec 2017)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed 2nd year, on the 9th Feb 2012, at Olsztyn-Kormoran, Poland)


      Friday 15th December 2017       
Today, I started at Whitehead and moved northwards, up the east coast of County Antrim, finishing off at the village of Glenarm.  In between, I checked for rings at Glynn, Sandy Bay in Larne, Drains Bay and the coastal village of Ballygalley.

Only a single ring was spotted and that was of the Danish 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull - (White) 5HA, at Whitehead.  This is my second sighting of 5HA, this winter, having recorded it's return on the 14th November 2017.  Since then, 5HA, has also been spotted by Cameron Moore, on the 16th November and Paul McCullough, on the 28th November.

Ringed as an adult male, on the 28th March 2015, at Gentoffe, on the outskirts of Copenhagen, 5HA, spent last winter at Whitehead - 26th November 2016 to 26th February 2017.

Black-headed Gull  (White)  5HA  -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (15 Dec 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 28th March 2015, at Gentoffe, Copenhagen, Denmark)


      Saturday 16th December 2017       
I could not get out until early afternoon today, so I decided to start from where I finished off yesterday, at Glenarm and again move northwards up the coast to Ballycastle.

With a number of visits, having been made at Glenarm, this winter, there is still no sign of a Black-headed Gull which I've been eager to spot.    260D , was ringed as a chick, on the 15th June 2008, at Lough Mask, County Mayo, in the Republic of Ireland.  It has been known to winter at Glenarm, each year since 2012.  Normally, arriving back in August for the winter, I am beginning to think, that we've lost this gull.

At Carnlough Bay, I have been bemused, by the lack of gulls and waders, on each of my recent visits.  Normally, a good number of Black-headed and Common Gulls, would be present.  However, there was no such problem with Great-Black-backed and Herring Gulls, which were present in their usual small numbers.  Turnstones, were practically non-existent and only a handful of Ringed Plovers were running about.  Usually, there would be a greater number of these waders.

No problem with the Oystercatchers, with the usual numbers to be found.  Among them, was my third sighting this winter, of the Icelandic - OO-W(AA).  Having recorded it's return for a second winter running, on the 7th October 2017, I hope to record this bird at least once each month.

Oystercatcher  -  O(range)O(range) - W(hite) (AA)  -  Carnlough Bay, Co. Antrim  (18 Dec 2017)

My next two stops, were at the beach at Waterfoot and the boat club at Cushendall.  Again, very few gulls or waders were to be found and no rings.

My final stop of the afternoon, was at Ballycastle.  Parking at the harbour, I threw out bits of bread and quickly attracted 30 or so Black-headed Gulls and some juvenile Herring Gulls.  I was especially on the lookout for an Icelandic Black-headed Gull, with a 'metal-ring'.  I first found this bird, during the 2015/2016 winter, here in Ballycastle.  I suspected, the same gull was present last winter, but was not able to read the number on the ring.  The ring was taller, than those we use on our Black-headed Gulls.

Having spent 20 minutes to half an hour, throwing out bits of bread, no rings were spotted.  I then decided to walk over to the beach, to see if any gulls were present there.  Surprise, surprise, a flock of 50'ish BHGs, were settled next to the river which flows down the beach, into the sea.

Scanning through the gulls, with the telescope, I spotted a BHG, with a tallish 'metal-ring'.  This surely, had to be my Icelandic bird.  Known to be quite tolerant of people, I slowly moved towards the gulls and sat down a short distance away from them.  I once again, started to throw bits of bread, trying to lure the gulls towards me.

I was having some success, when the skies opened and the rain hammered down.  Standing up and protecting my telescope and camera, I was hoping it was just a shower.  Soon afterwards, I was drenched and had to give up, as there was no end in sight to the downpour.  At least, I now know my gull is back and will have another attempt at reading the ring soon.


      Monday 18th December 2017       
My plan today, was to visit sites in Belfast, go to Kiltonga Nature Reserve at Newtownards and finish off at Ward Park in Bangor.  Having decided to make an un-scheduled, but lengthy stop at Kinnegar beach, I never made it to Bangor.

My first stop in Belfast, was at the Waste Re-Cycling Plant at Dargan.  This visit was very brief, as I should not be present during working hours.  I did have time to scan the gulls on the roof, but no rings were spotted.  I was on the lookout, for a Norwegian Black-headed Gull, 'colour-ringed' - (White) J5P9, which is known to winter in the area around Dargan.

Next stop, was at the former Belfast Waterworks, which is now opened to the public as parkland.  In the past, I've had a 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull here, but only managed to obtain a partial number -   ET9***2 .  This was back in December 2015 and though I spotted a 'metal-ringed' BHG last winter, it flew off before I could even attempt to try and read the ring.

Today, I managed to read a 'metal-ring', but it was actually a new sighting.  The completed number read -   EZ28165 .  I reported the gull through the British Trust for Ornithology's, brand new database, called DemOn, which became available to ringers recently.  The new DemOn system, takes ringers directly onto the BTO's database.

Having entered   EZ28165 , onto the system, I was able to see that it was ringed as a chick, on the 21st June 2015.  Unfortunately, the new database, does not name the ringing or re-sighting sites.  For these, I'll just have to wait for a reply to be sent out.

As stated, site names are not given, but all dates for a birds history are listed.  I have tinkered with the system, checking the rings numbers of other birds on my spreadsheet.  My idea, is to try and find sightings of birds, after I had spotted them, or even if they had been reported as dead.  With hundreds of ring numbers on my spreadsheet, this task will take quite a while.  

Black-headed Gull  -    EZ28165   -  Belfast Waterworks  (18 Dec 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 21st June 2015.  Waiting on the Ringing Details)

It was then on to Victoria Park, where the only ringed spotted was that of BHG -   EL97734 , which I re-sighted, on the 29th November.  This is the third winter running that I've recorded   EL97734 , at Victoria Park.  It was ringed as a chick, on the 12th June 2007, at Downholme in North Yorkshire, England.  Another Downholme, Black-headed Gull, was also re-sighted later today, at Kiltonga Nature Reserve (read below).

Black-headed Gull  -    EL97734   -  Victoria Park, Belfast  (18 Dec 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 12th June 2007, at Downholme, North Yorkshire, England)

Despite 50 to 60 BHGs, being present at Victoria Park, there was no sign of any other rings.  In the past, ringed Black-headed Gull's from Holland, Norway and Iceland, have been recorded in the area, as well as birds from Adam's Northern Ireland Study.

There was no sign of  EY981** , which I spotted here on the 17th October 2017.  This gull, is most likely to be  EY98138 , ringed as a chick in June 2015, at Saltholme, near Teesmouth, England.  My two previous sightings of  EY98138 , were both made on Christmas Day, in 2015 and 2016.  I will be in Belfast on Christmas Day, this year, so perhaps I'll make it a hat-trick of Christmas Day sightings.

Leaving Victoria Park, I travelled the short distance to the beach at Kinnegar, Holywood.  Although, I had not planned to visit Kinnegar, when I arrived, I simply had to stay on.  Hundreds of gulls and waders, were arriving, as the tide was beginning to recede. I thought a 'colour-ring' or two, were probably certs, but after a hour and a half, scanning legs, I drew a blank.

Especially notable here, were the quite high numbers of Common Gulls, Oystercatchers, Black-tailed Godwits and a sizeable number of Curlews.  Other gull species included numerous BHGs, a smaller number of Herring Gulls and a few Great-Black-backed Gulls.  Other wader species included, Dunlin, Turnstone, Redshank, Ringed Plover and a couple of Greenshanks.  All these birds and not even a 'metal' was spotted.

Time was now getting on, so I rushed as quickly as I could to Kiltonga Nature Reserve at Newtownards.  No sooner, had I parked the car, when Black-headed Gulls started to flock around me.  Obviously, they are well used to being fed here.

Straight away, I noticed a BHG with a 'metal-ring'.  I wondered, could this be the same bird, I've spotted here in the past.  Although, I could not remember it's ring number, I did know it was from Downholme, North Yorkshire, England.

After taking numerous photos of the ring, I retreated to my car, to see what I had.  Going through the pictures, I had  EL8*728 , therefore missing the second number.  Taking another bout of photos, this time, I was able to complete the number -   EL86728 .  On returning home and checking with my spreadsheet, this was the same gull recorded here last winter.  My two previous sightings, were made on the 3rd September 2016 and the 31st December 2016.

Ringed as a chick on the 5th June 2008, it is now 9 years, 6 months and 13 days, since  EL86728  was ringed.  It was pleasing to record another returning gull and makes you wonder, has it been coming here for years, going un-noticed.  The ringer, a Mr A.J. Crease, will be delighted to hear about the re-sightings of two of his gulls on the same day, in Northern Ireland.

Black-headed Gull  -    EL86728   -  Kiltonga NR, Newtownards, Co. Down  (18 Dec 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 5th June 2008, at Downholme, North Yorkshire, England)

Checking the other gulls, Greylag Geese and a Mute Swan for rings, no more were found.  With the daylight now beginning to fade, I quickly drove down the Newtownards KFC outlet.  Eighteen Black-headed Gulls shared the last few slices of a loaf, but no more rings today.

One thing that I noticed during my time out, was the lack of juvenile BHGs.  Has the recent bout of cold wintery weather, with it's snow and sub-zero temperatures, taken it's toll on the youngsters?


No comments: