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.


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