Friday, 26 January 2018

Running Late...

I'm well behind, trying to get this post published this week.  With, the death of a friend and trying to get my new car fully legal, the days quickly passed by.  I collected the car on Tuesday, but found that I couldn't get Road Tax online, as the car had previously been registered to a disabled person.  Two visits to the Main Post Office in Ballymena yesterday (Thursday), finally saw me 100% legal. 

During the week, I was able to reply, to several emails.  I prioritise them, as I do not like to delay those seeking a reply.  My cold/flu, is still a slight problem.  After four weeks, my condition is finally improving.  I found it very uncomfortable at work, but daren't take time off, having returned at the beginning of the year, having been off for ten weeks, recuperating from an operation.

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 21st January 2018       
My visit to Antrim Marina today, was conducted in atrocious weather.  It rained throughout the four hours I was there, which was very heavy, sometimes alternating to a heavy drizzle.  I remained in the car for nearly the whole time, trying to read whatever rings I could see.  No matter, what position I placed my car, the rain still came through the opened window and I became quite wet.  The light was so poor, I found it hard to read distant rings with the telescope.

A good number of absentees are listed this week, but, it was more than likely, that some of these gulls did appear, but were missed.  With the appearance of  2BRC , last Sunday, I was on the lookout for 38 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls today, though only 25 were recorded.

Due to the weather conditions, no attempt was made at catching any new gulls for ringing.  I noticed, that one of the juveniles,   2CSD , that was ringed a few weeks ago, has been in the 'wars'.  Although, it sustained a leg injury, a couple of weeks after being ringed, this appears to have worsened and it's tail seems to be bent to it's right.

I wondered, if this could be due, to an attack by a Sparrowhawk.  The gulls, were spooked on several occasions today, as a male Sparrowhawk was noted hunting, probably taking advantage of the poor light.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina on Sunday 21st January 2018
 2ABF   2CSA   2AAA   2CJT   2AAP   2ABK   2CSB   2CSC   2CSD 
 2CSJ   2ABN   2ABL   2BRA   2AAN   2ADJ   T35J   2AAT   2CSR 
 2ACV   2AAK   2CSL   2AAR   2AAC   2AAB   2ANS       

Today's Absentees
 2AAF   2AAV   2ABA   2ABS   2ADV   2AFD   2BRC 
 2BRD   2CSF   2CSH   2CSK   2CSS   2CST    

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSD   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (21 Jan 2018)
(Ringed as a 1st winter bird, on the 26th November 2017, at Antrim Marina)
(Note, injury to leg and tail)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
It was not a good day for Common Gull sightings.  Only two adults and a 1st winter bird, showed up today.  There was no sign of either of the metal-ringed birds from Scotland or Finland.  Both adults, were already present on my arrival and remained throughout my visit.  The juvenile, appeared at 11.40.

A sub-adult Herring Gull (11.08), was joined by an adult at 11.32.  These are most likely to be the same birds, seen here each week.

12 adult Mute Swans and two cygnets, which were on the slipway, when I arrived, included the regularly spotted  W34158 .  No other swans appeared by the time of my departure, just after 1pm.

20 Jackdaws, were present at one point, which I think is the highest total so far this winter.  5 Hooded Crows, 2 Magpies, a single Pied Wagtail and two juvenile/1st winter Moorhens, were among other species present today.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC Car Park and Baptist Church
As  2AAV , was not seen at the Marina today, I stopped by Antrim's Elim Church, a favoured haunt away from the Marina.  On parking beside the Church, a couple of BHGs, flew straight towards me, as I lowered my window.  Obviously, some of the gulls, now know the routine.  One of them, was  2AAV , which landed beside me on the grass verge.   2AAV , is not so forthcoming, when it appears at Antrim Marina.

A quick check, on the other 25 to 30 gulls, revealed no more rings.    2ARH , that was spotted here a couple of weeks ago, may have been passing through at the time, or possibly wintering somewhere nearby.

Moving on to the car park at the nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, only six Black-headed Gulls, were present.  Although, none of them were ringed, I still threw out a couple of slices of bread.

Finishing off at Antrim's Baptist Church, the rain had finally stopped.  Around 50 Black-headed Gulls, were in the area.  Parking behind the Church, the gulls, soon flew towards me, with an offering of bread.  Those, that landed on the ground beside my car, included the metal-ringed -  EW39319 .  This was my second confirmed record of this gull, this winter.  I now have the ringing details on the gull, which was ringed as a chick in 2009.  I'll report on this on in my next post.

Some of the gulls, were not interested in my offering of bread and landed on the roof of the Church.  They included the Polish-rung (White) TY43.  It was my fifth sighting of the gull this winter and the first for 2018.  I initially spotted it here, on the 16th October 2017.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  TY43  -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim, Co. Antrim  (21 Jan 2018)
(Ringed as a 2nd Calendar Year bird, on the 9th February 2012, at Olsztyn, Poland)


      Ringing Details Received       
The ringing details for two of the four, Black-headed Gulls, that I've been waiting on, have arrived from the BTO.  I don't have time to add these on today's post.  They will be added onto next my post, by which time, the other two ringing recoveries will have hopefully arrived.


      Colour Rings       
I received an email from Jez Blackburn, concerning the Blue 'colour-rings', that I presently hold.  They are registered for use on Common Gulls, but Jez, has authorised the use of the Blue 2F** series, to be used on Black-headed Gulls.  My reason for applying in the first place, was due to the fact, that Adam had disappeared from the ringing scene for several months and I wanted to add new recruits at Antrim Marina.

Now that Adam, is back with us, I have been using his Orange rings at Antrim Marina.  With, clearance having been received by Jez, I now plan to use the Blue 2F**, rings on Black-headed Gulls, at my local park.  I'm aiming to begin an Antrim Marina, type Study next winter, pending an endorsement being added to my ringing permit and permissions from my local Council.

The Peoples Park, in Ballymena, has no resident BHGs.  With the gulls there, being ringed with my own colour-rings, weekly sightings at the park, can be dealt with by me and would take a lot of pressure off Adam, who already has his hands full, recording my weekly sightings at Antrim Marina.

My rings, would only be used at the park, with Adams rings being used at all other NI sites.  The Peoples Park Study, would still be used, as part of Adam's Northern Ireland project.


Wednesday, 17 January 2018

22 Year Old Finn...

I'm beginning to get over the serious bout of the cold or flu.  Because of it, I have not been out and about, deciding to keep out of the cold weather.  My weekly visit to Antrim Marina, was a must do, and this week saw the return of a very special Common Gull from Finland.  The electrical problems with my car, are ongoing, and I've decided to part with it.  I have purchased another car, which should be available by the weekend, pending on it passing it's MOT test.  The dealer, is trying to get the car booked in, through a cancelation.  With my cold getting better and a reliable motor, I can confidently get back out 'Ring Reading'.


      Antrim Marina - Sunday 14th January 2018       
My visit to Antrim Marina, started off very well, weather-wise.  With a near cloudless blue sky, sunshine and a slight breeze, things changed slowly as the morning wore on.  Due to the arrival of a very special Common Gull, I remained at the Marina, till around 2.45pm.  By that time, a very strong wind was now blowing in from the Lough and the light had diminished, due to thick cloud cover.

This week, I was on the lookout for 37 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.  I had re-sighted 30 of these by 12.53, but at 12.56, I spotted  2BRC , which is one of the two BHGs, that I was still waiting on this winter.  This just leaves  2ADD , to return, which should happen in late February or early March.

, was ringed at Antrim Marina, on the 1st February 2015 and was re-sighted on four occasions before the end of the 2014/15 winter.  A non resident,  2BRC  returned in October 2015, being recorded on just seven occasions by the end of March 2016.  Last winter, 2016/17, I only saw it on three occasions, the first on the 27th November and the third on the 22nd January 2017.

Although, a scare visitor to Antrim Marina,  2BRC  is quite approachable, which makes me think, that it is used to being around people and it's ring has not been noticed.  It might spend the winter at another location in the Antrim area, paying in-frequent visits to the Marina.  I have also pondered on the idea, that  2BRC  is a foreign bird, hence it's late appearance.  Anyhow, with no new gulls caught and ringed this week, I will be on the lookout for 38 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls next week. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2BRC   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (14 Jan 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 1st February 2015, at Antrim Marina)

The number of Black-headed Gulls present throughout my visit was very good.  At all times, totals were between 100 and 150 birds, but between 12.00 and 1pm, the place was manic.  Black-headed Gulls during that hour, easily exceeded the 250 mark, along with the other gulls, swans and ducks, there were a lot of birds about in such a small area.  Folk, came along to feed the birds, throughout the morning, but there was a lot of visitors at the same time, as gull numbers were at their highest.

The gulls were joining feeding frenzies and high speed chases were going on all over the place.  Due to the arrival of the aforementioned Common Gull, I tried without success to find three 'colour-ringed' BHGs.  These were the two youngsters that were ringed last Sunday and  2ANS .  However, as I stayed on for longer than normal,  2AFD  was spotted at 13.19,  2AAB  (13.26) and   2AAV  (13.43).   

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls Spotted Today at Antrim Marina  (14 Jan 2018)
 2CSC   2AAA   2ADJ   2BRA   2AAT   2ABK   2ACV   2AAR   2AAN 
 2AAP   2ABN   2CSR   2AAK   2CSL   2ABL   2CSD   2CSA   T35J 
 2CSK   2CJT   2CSJ   2AAC   2CSB   2CSH   2CSF   2ABF   2ABS 
 2ADV   2BRD   2ABA   2BRC   2AFD   2AAB   2AAV       

Today's Absentees
 2ANS   2CSS   2CST 

At 13.50, I then spotted a BHG with a tall 'metal-ring', which turned out to be my second sighting this winter, of the Icelandic  571487 .  With all the commotion going on around me, I knew I only had a few seconds to take photos of the 'metal', before my gull would fly off, which it did.  I managed to capture the whole ring number, but the gull was away before I could get a full photo of the bird itself. 

Ring of Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    571487   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (14 Jan 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2003, just outside Reykjavík, Iceland)

At this point, I gave up on the Black-headed Gulls, as I probably would not find any more ringed birds.  Some people, must have thought that I was running around like a lunatic and enquired about what I was doing.  Explaining about the rings, Adam's Study and the countries where some of these gulls had come from, really caught their attention and many questions were answered.

Many were gobsmacked, as they never knew what was in front of their eyes and today saw several countries being represented by their birds.  We had (White) T35J from Lithuania,  2AFD  that goes to Latvia,  2AAR  that has bred in Poland,  2ACV  which likely breeds in Leighton Moss in England, the Icelandic  571487 ,   EY64036  from Scotland, and finally the very special Common Gull from Finland -  ST177.028 .

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
At 12.10 today, I spotted a Common Gull with a tall 'metal ring'.  I knew straight away this bird had to be  ST177.028 , the gull I've been talking about to my curious onlookers over the last couple of visits and even earlier today.

I was a short distance away from my car, scoping for rings, when I spotted the gull on the ground a few feet away from the car.  Turning the scope onto the bird, I could see ' 7.02 ' on it's ring.  I slowly made my way back to my car to grab my camera.  Having took two photos, it flew off.  I went into hot pursuit, trying to relocate the gull to take pictures of it's ring.

Each time I found the gull, it was off again, taking part in the chases, trying to force BHGs to drop their food.  At times, it disappeared altogether or would arrive and perch on the rails at the end of the long jetty.  I did manage a few photos of the ring, but was missing the numbers ' 02 '.

Still,  ST177.028 , was back for the third winter in a row.  Having been ringed as a juvenile in August 1995, today's sighting means that  ST177.028 , was ringed 22 years, 5 months and 8 days, ago.  The oldest recorded Common Gull, was aged 27 years, 10 months and 19 days.  My gull might not beat that record, but at least it's still one of the oldest ever recorded.

Common Gull  -  Finland    ST177.028   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (14 Jan 2018)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 6th August 1995, at Maaninka, Finland)
(The numbers '  02 ' were not captured)

It was actually, quite a good day for Common Gulls, with 12 adults and two juveniles being recorded.  One of the juveniles, was still in a very brown plumage, which lacked the greyer feathers, such youngsters would normally be displaying at this time of the winter.  One of the juvenile Black-headed Gulls, also displayed a lot of brown which was very dark in colour.  I've often wondered, if such birds are foreign and is a trait that such birds would display.

The small female Scottish-rung Common Gull -  EY64036 , arrived at 10.34 this morning.  I recorded her last week, which had been the first time, since her initial return on the 25th September 2017.

The first Herring Gull, arrived at 10.45, this being a third calendar year bird.  Both the recently recorded adult Herring Gulls arrived together at 12.17, as well as a juvenile around ten minutes later.

7 Mute Swans and 2 cygnets, were on the slipway, when I arrived this morning.  Another two adults, flew in from the Lough at 10.40.  The final adult, which swam in from the Lough at 11.33, turned out to be  W34158 , which is regularly recorded here.

Mallard numbers, are on the rise again.  Around 30 to begin with, the numbers increased throughout the morning, with 60 to 70 ducks present, when I departed around 2.45.  Most were checked for rings, but these are definitely lacking this winter.

14 Jackdaws, 5 Hooded Crows, a single Pied Wagtail and the juvenile Moorhen, were the only other species noted.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC & Baptist Church
By the time I got to Antrim's Elim Church, the light was fading fast and I knew the rain was not too far off.  Although,  2AAV , was a late arrival at the Marina, I still had to check the Church for   2ARH , which surprisingly turned up here last Sunday.  Attracting around 30 Black-headed Gulls with bread, many were now reluctant to land.  With about half, briefly doing so, no rings were spotted.

At the KFC, I had similar problems with gulls reluctant to land.  A small number of Black-headed Gulls flying overhead, diverted to the car park, as I was throwing bread out from the car window.  They were probably heading for their roost at the time.  With between 40 and 50 gulls now present, just over a dozen actually landed.  Amongst these was a Mediterranean Gull, with a BTO sized 'metal-ring' on it's right leg.

However, this bird was missing it's left foot, which has obviously been severed from just above the ankle joint.  Had this gull been 'colour-ringed', the ring would have slipped off.  As I was turning the camera on, it took off and that was the last that I saw of it.  There was no sign today, of the Norwegian -  JK35 .

I now made a quick dash, to Antrim's Baptist Church.  As I arrived, the first drops of rain had started to fall, but there was not a gull in sight.  I called it a day and drove back home.


      Ringing Details Received       
I am still waiting on the British Trust for Ornithology, to send the ringing details for some of my gull sightings.  These are for, four 'metal-rung' Black-headed Gulls and includes one from Lithuania.

I did receive the details for a juvenile 'colour-ringed' Herring Gull, that was spotted by David Nixon, at Killough, Co. Down, on the 15th November 2017.  David, had reported  L03:M , direct to the ringer, but received no reply.

I then offered to report his sighting, to the BTO, through the new Demon Ringing Database.    L03:M , was ringed on the 25th June 2017, on the Isle of Man, a large island, which lies between Northern Ireland and the British Mainland.  The distance from the ringing site, to Killough, is 58 kms / 36 miles, WNW.  Unfortunately, David did not get a photo of the Herring Gull.


Thursday, 11 January 2018

Not Well...

I have not been out and about lately.  Having returned to work, after recuperating from my operation, I have come down with a real stinker of a cold or flu.  Despite that, I could not miss my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, which I did not enjoy, as I just could not get warmed up.  My car is also causing problems, as the electrics are playing up.  So far, the fault cannot be located, which is not handy and the car is up for it's MOT test next week.

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 7th January 2018       
It was a very frosty visit to Antrim Marina this morning.  Although, there was a total blue sky and bright sunshine, it remained cold throughout my visit.  Arriving just after 9am, my usual four hour visit, lasted an extra hour today.  I had so many folk coming to me for a chat, about what I was doing, I could not fully focus on searching for ringed gulls.  Having spotted  2ABF  at 12.08, the next hour or so was completely lost.

With 35 'Colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls to look for, I was still eleven birds short at 13.20pm.  With over 200 gulls present from midday, searching through them was not easy, as so many folk were on site feeding the birds.  Gulls were flying around all over the place and there were some spectacular chases going on between the Common and Black-headed Gulls.

My final two sightings, was  2CSF  at 13.40 and  2BRD  at 13.42.    2BRD , only arrived back at the Marina last Sunday, so it was nice to get it again.  Another gull I was glad to see, was  2CSH .  It was caught and ringed here on December 10th 2017, but hadn't been seen in the three previous weeks.  With so many gulls coming and going today, I reckon the overall turnover of individuals was in excess of 250 altogether.

Another two Black-headed Gulls were caught and ringed during the visit, these being two first winter birds.  This total, to watch out for next Sunday, now increases to 37.  I'm still hoping that   2BRC , will put in an appearance.  This is the only BHG, that I'm waiting on, until the return of  2ADD  in the spring.  Before leaving, I scanned through as many gulls as possible looking for the 'metal-ring' of the Icelandic BHG, that arrived back on the 10th December, without joy.

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls  Recorded at Antrim Marina  (07 Jan 2018)
 2CSA   2BRA   2CJT   2AAA   2AAC   2AAK   2ADJ   2CSJ   2CSB 
 2CSL   2CSR   2AAN   2ABS   2ABL   T35J   2ABK   2AAR   2ADV 
 2AAP   2CSH   2CSK   2AAT   2ACV   2ABF   2CSF   2BRD    

Today's Absentees
 2ABN   2ABA   2AAB   2AAF   2AAV   2AFD   2ANS   2CSC   2CSD 

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSH   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (07 Jan 2018)
(Ringed at Antrim Marina, on the 10th December 2017)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
I had a big surprise today, when I spotted a small Common Gull, with a 'metal-ring.  I knew straight away, that this was  EY64036 , though I had to scope the ring to be sure.  It arrived at 11.15, this morning and was a bird that I was giving up as 'lost/dead'.    EY64036 , arrived back to the Marina, for the fifth winter running, on the 25th September 2017 and today was the first sighting since then.  Normally, this gull would be a frequently recorded throughout the winter, so I'm glad to see that it is alive and well.

Today, was quite good for the overall number of Common Gulls at the Marina.  3 adults and a 1st winter/juvenile, were already present when I arrived.  I made a final head count, just before I departed and had 9 adults and the single juvenile.  I kept a careful watch on the Common Gulls, at all times, hoping the 'metal-ringed' bird from Finland appears.  Having been recorded in February 2016 and January 2017, if it returns, it will be nearly 22 and a half years old.  I'm really keeping my fingers crossed for this one.

Common Gull  -    EY64036   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (07 Jan 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 20th June 2013, at Hunterston, Ayrshire, Scotland)

As well as the increase in the number of Common Gulls, there were also a few extra Herring Gulls visiting.  As well as the two adults and a sub-adult, which pop by on a fairly regular basis, at least two other sub-adults and three juveniles stopped by for a short time.

6 adult Mute Swans and 2 cygnets, were on the slipway, when I arrived this morning.  With so much going on at the Marina today, I frequently missed the arrival of other Mute Swans.  A head count at 1pm, gave me 14 adults and 4 cygnets.  Over the last few weeks, there have been just the two cygnets, so another two was a surprise.  I wonder if these are all siblings, as there were five to start with.  Two adult swans with rings, were the regular  W34158  and a fourth sighting this winter of  W34157 .

Cormorants, are regularly seen around the Marina, diving in the river which flows by into Lough Neagh.  I never count these during my visits, unless they come ashore, as did today's bird in the photo.

Cormorant  -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (07 Jan 2018)

Mallard number were very low, when I arrived,  with just eleven birds were counted.  As the morning wore on, birds flew in from the Lough and a head count at 1pm, gave me a total of just over 40.  Still no rings spotted any of these.  So far this winter, only a single 'metal-ringed' Mallard has been spotted and that was  5MN 1156 , on the 22nd October 2017.

Other species recorded, were, 9 Hooded Crows, 11 Jackdaws, a single Pied Wagtail and the juvenile Moorhen.


Antrim's Elim Church
As  2AAV , was not at the Marina, I checked Antrim's Elim Church, which is a favourite haunt.  Throwing out bits of bread on my arrival, I did spot an 'Orange Darvic', on a Black-headed Gull flying overhead.  I was immediately suspicious, as it's behaviour did not match that of  2AAV , which would be quick to land beside my car.  I could not take for granted, my gull was  2AAV , so I needed it on the ground to be sure.

Eventually, it landed on the grass, on the other side of a footpath.  Looking at the ring through the Binoculars, I could see an ' H ' and wondered - who are you!  I coaxed it onto the footpath with bread and took a couple of photos.  The ring read  2ARH , a code that I recognised, though I knew I'd never seen this gull before.

After returning home, I checked my spreadsheet to find that   2ARH , was brought to my notice by Suzanne Belshaw.   2ARH , was spotted on the 13th May 2017, at Kiltonga Nature Reserve, in Newtownards, County Down.  As this sighting was made during the breeding season, I asked Suzanne, were Black-headed Gulls breeding on the site.  Suzanne, did not know, so I looked online for any reference of breeding on the Reserve, without success.

Having been ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2013, on the Copeland Islands in County Down, the first ever sighting of   2ARH , was made by Stephen Maxwell.  Stephen, spotted  2ARH , on the 16th June 2016, at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Nature Reserve in Belfast.  It seems, that  2ARH , was possibly breeding on one of the two platforms, on the Reserve's Lake.

If  2ARH , did breed in the Newtownards area in 2017, this would represent an interesting change of site, as Belfast and Newtownards, are 11 miles apart.

My sighting today, was the first winter record of this gull and the third sighting, since  2ARH  was ringed.  Perhaps, it does winter in the Antrim area, but not around the Elim Church, despite my frequent checks over the past two winters.    2AAV , however, did not show up at the Church today.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ARH   -  Elim Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (07 Jan 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2013, at Mew Island, Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Antrim's KFC Outlet
Moving on to the nearby car park, at Antrim's KFC outlet, the Norwegian rung   JK35  was among the 18 Black-headed Gulls and a single Common Gull.  This is now my sixth sighting of   JK35  this winter.  Interestingly, I have only recorded it here once a month since it's return, and this usually occurs around the start of every month, with the exception of November, when I spotted it on the 12th.

Black-headed Gull  -    JK35   -  Antrim KFC, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (07 Jan 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2014, at Vassøy, Norway)

Antrim's Baptist Church
Finishing off the afternoon at Antrim's Baptist Church, very few gulls were present.  It took all of 5 minutes to check them for rings, but none were found.


      Ringing Details Received       
I'm still waiting on the ringing details for several gulls, but they have not arrived as yet.  This is the downside of being a ringer and running a blog.  It takes so much longer, to receive recoveries from the British Trust for Ornithology, which can be a trifle annoying.


Monday, 1 January 2018

Sanderlings - Nearly...

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 31st December 2017       
Very strong westerly winds, greeted me at Antrim Marina today, but overnight rain had ceased.  As the morning wore on, the winds eased, making my visit more on the pleasant side.

Probably, around 100 Black-headed Gulls were standing around much of the Marina, when I arrived.  It was too windy for them to perch on the railings.  A total of 31 'colour-ringed', gulls were recorded today,  25 of which were spotted within the first 50 minutes.    2AAV , was the last to arrive at 13.13, which saved me from having to look for it at Antrim's Elim Church.

My sixth sighting, at 9.16, was of  2BRD .  This is one of three BHGs, that I was still hoping to record again this winter.  I thought I spotted it on November the 26th, but it flew off before I managed to get out of the car, with my camera.  On that occasion, I couldn't find it again, to confirm it's presence.

 2BRD , is an interesting gull, as it bucks the usual trend of 'winter site' fidelity.  Caught and ringed during the 2014/15 winter at Antrim Marina, it returned to the Antrim area the following winter, being recorded on many occasions at the Marina, from August 2015, until January 2016.  I only recorded  2BRD  twice last winter, having spotted it in October and November.  Where it spent the remainder of the 2016/2017 winter is anybody's guess.

 2BRD , has been spotted in March 2015 (twice) and March 2017 (twice), at Lurgan Park lake, at the southern end of Lough Neagh.  This means, that the gull is stopping off here for a short time, before heading off to breed, wherever that might happen to be.  The last sighting of  2BRD , was in June 2017, when it re-appeared at Lurgan Park, possibly having completed it's breeding attempt.

Although, the lake at Lurgan Park, is well watched by Suzanne Belshaw, it still leaves us wondering where   2BRD , has been since June.  It will now be interesting to see how long  2BRD  remains at Antrim, this winter.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BRD   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (31 Dec 2107)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 1st February 2015, at Antrim Marina)

One of today's absentees, is  2CSH , which was ringed recently, on the 10th December.  Perhaps, it was just passing through at the time, but, has not been seen since.

The Icelandic 'metal-ringed' BHG, that arrived back last Sunday, was not seen today and the health of   2AAK , is continuing to improve.

Around 150 Black-headed Gulls, was today's maximum total, which was around midday.  With most of the ringed birds remaining throughout my visit, I estimated an overall total of 200 -220 gulls, coming and going today.

No gulls were ringed during my visit.  With the arrival of  2BRD , I'll be on the lookout for 35 'colour-rings', next Sunday.  Perhaps,   2BRC  might also turn up.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina on Sunday 31st December 2017
 2AAA   2AAP   2ABK   2BRA   2AAT   2BRD   2AAB   2ACV 
 2AAC   T35J   2AAR   2CSF   2CSB   2ADJ   2AAN   2CSA 
 2CSL   2CSJ   2CJT   2CSC   2AAK   2ABF   2ABN   2ABA 
 2ADV   2CSR   2CSK   2CSD   2ANS   2ABS   2AAV    

Today's Absentees
 2AAF   2ABL   2AFD   2CSH 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Today, saw the best showing, so far this winter of both Mute Swans and Common Gulls.  On my arrival,  11 adult Mute Swans and two cygnets, were standing on the Marina's slipway.  Another two adult swans, swam in from the Lough at 10.50.  All were checked for rings, with two being spotted.  One, was the regularly recorded  W34158 , the other being my third sighting this winter of  W34157 .  Both birds, were ringed here, on the 17th January 2014.

Two adult and two juvenile Common Gulls, were also present when I arrived this morning.  As the morning wore on, a total of 9 adults, plus the two juveniles, terrorised the Black-headed Gulls, forcing them to drop food.  Today, saw the highest number of Common Gulls, so far this winter, but here is still no sign of the Scottish-rung bird, which I'm now pretty sure, has perished.

As we are now entering the month of January, I'm keeping my fingers crossed, in the hope of re-sighting a 'metal-ringed' Common Gull from Finland.  Having recorded it February 2016 and again in January 2017 (twice), should it return for a third winter running, it will be over 22 years of age.  In the last two winters, it has appeared when Common Gull numbers, were at their highest at the Marina.

An adult Herring Gull, was soon joined by a juvenile, which was probably the same one coming and going throughout the morning.  A second adult arrived at 10.42, with what I think was a third year bird, arriving at 11am.  This immature, only stayed around for about 15 minutes and was gone again.

Mallard numbers, seemed to be quite high all morning.  I was too pre-occupied with the gulls to make a head count of the ducks when I arrived, but I reckon they numbered around 80 birds, when I departed at 1.25pm.  Quite a number were checked for rings later in the morning, but none were seen.

Other species, included, 5 Hooded Crows (including the one which feeds from my hand), 8 Jackdaws, the pair of Pied Wagtails and for a second week in a row, a juvenile Moorhen.

Antrim's KFC & Baptist Church
As  2AAV , was a late arrival at Antrim Marina, I just drove on past the Elim Church and headed straight for the car park at Antrim's KFC outlet.  22 Black-headed and a single Common Gull, landed for the bread being thrown out, but no rings here today.

Finishing off at the Baptist Church, I had my fourth sighting this winter of (White) TY43, a Black-headed Gull from Poland.  There is no doubt, that TY43, is wintering in the area, having been recorded in October, November and now twice this month.

At the far edge of the Church's car park, there was a BHG, with a 'metal-ring'.  I had no chance of reading it from where I was positioned, but the gull was probably  EW39319 , whose whole ring number was confirmed here last Sunday.  I'm still waiting on the ringing details for this one.

Black-headed Gull  -  Poland (White) TY43  -  Antrim Baptist Church, Co. Antrim  (31 Dec 2017)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed 2nd Calendar Year, on the 9th February 2012, at Olsztyn-Kormoran, Poland).


      Ringing Details Received       

I am still waiting on the details for several gulls, that I have spotted lately.  Being a trained ringer and reporting my sightings through the BTO's new Demon database, it will perhaps take a little longer to receive a reply.  Members of the public, who are non-ringers, would more than likely be dealt with first.  The Christmas Holiday period, would also add to the delay, in sending out the recovery details.


      Thursday 28th December 2017       

Today, I decided to return to Ballycastle, to try and confirm the return of a suspected Black-headed Gull from Iceland -  585774 .  During the 2015/16 winter, I discovered this gull, at Ballycastle Harbour.  Having initially spotted it on the 21st November, I also recorded it again on the 14th December and 30th January.

Last winter (2016/17), I re-sighted a Black-headed Gull on Ballycastle beach, with a tall foreign ring, which I believed was   585774 .  Having tried on a couple of occasions to read the ring number, I failed.  Just recently, I once again spotted a Black-headed Gull with a tall ring.  This time, I had to give up, due to the onslaught of very heavy rain.

Today, my target landed for a few seconds and then flew off again.  At this point, I had managed to take a single photo.  Despite walking around the harbour area, I could not find the gull again.  I returned to my car and had a look at my photo, to find I had captured a partial number -  585*** .  This is surely -  585774 , but I'll have to try again, as a incomplete number is no proof.

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    585***   -  Ballycastle Harbour, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim  (28 Dec 2017)

Portrush was my next stop, where I called into the East Strand car park.  Here, I was hoping to make my second sighting this winter of Black-headed Gull -  EW83177 . With around 60 Black-headed Gulls, and smaller numbers of Common and Herring Gulls, no rings were spotted.

Moving on to the town's Ramore Head and Lansdowne Crescent, I scoped around 100 Herring Gulls, without any luck.  Scanning the rocky shore along Lansdowne Crescent, I spotted a small group of Sanderlings in the distance.  Grabbing my telescope and camera, I walked down towards them.

There were 18 Sanderlings, huddled together on a corner of a giant slab of rock.  Around 40 Purple Sandpipers, were resting, though scattered across the same slab, along with 2 Redshank and 7 Turnstone's.  Moving as close to them as possible, without flushing the birds, I starting scoping what legs were visible.  Initially, I had no success, but I kept checking in hope of rings.

Eventually, I glimpsed a colour-ring on one of the Sanderlings, which lead to a long wait, for a clear view of the leg.  After a while, a second bird was spotted, also colour-ringed.  I took photos of both birds, but they were resting, with one leg tucked up underneath them.  I really needed to see their right and left legs, in case they carried rings on each leg.  The inevitable happened, when two young boys came along and threw stones towards the rocks.  Not knowing the waders were there - my birds flew off..

I had intended to go to Coleraine, but by now, the light was beginning to fade.  On returning home, I replied to an email from Richard du Feu, concerning my recent Knot sighting at Whitehouse Lagoon.  While on the subject, I attached my Sanderling photos, to see what Richard thought of them.

It turns out, my Sanderlings were ringed by Jeroen Reneerken, and would have two colour rings on each leg, as well as a colour flag, which happened to be green on these birds.  A little later that evening, Richard sent another email, which contained a link, showing a photo of what might possibly be one of the two birds I saw at Portrush (See here).

Colour-ringed Sanderling  -  Lansdowne Crescent, Portrush, Co. Antrim  (28 Dec 2017)

Colour-ringed Sanderling  -  Lansdowne Crescent, Portrush, Co. Antrim  (28 Dec 2107)