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)


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