Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Finnish BHG Accepted...

Two weeks ago, I titled my post 'Frustrating', having failed to complete the 'ring numbers', on a couple of birds.  I did however, try my luck on a Whooper Swan and a Finnish Black-headed Gull, sending emails with a couple of 'Iffy' photos attached.

That 'Frustration', has now changed to 'Elation', as the Finnish authorities, were able to accept my 'Partial Number', on their Black-headed Gull.    ST184.964 , is now probably, the oldest ever BHG, ever to be recorded in Northern Ireland (Read Below).

I have recently received a couple of emails, concerning the re-sightings of Common Gulls, that were ringed on the Copeland Islands, in County Down.  My Common Gull Blog, badly needs updating, but I have been pressed for time, even at my attempts, to keep this blog, up to date.  In the meantime, I've added these latest reports, at the end of this post.


      Antrim Marina - Monday 19th February 2018       
For the third week in a row, I postponed my weekly Sunday visit, to Antrim Marina, electing to visit on the Monday, instead.  This has provided me with extra time on Sunday's, to try and locate a few outstanding gulls that have yet to be re-sighted again, this winter.

My visit to Antrim Marina today, was undertaken, in glorious spring-like weather conditions.  With almost clear skies, a slight breeze and plenty of sunshine, the temperature reached 11°C, by the time of my departure.

The warm weather, definitely had an effect on the number of gulls visiting the Marina today.  Numbers, rarely exceeded the hundred mark and for long periods of time, there were no gulls present at all.  Workmen, power-washing, at the café, did not help, as the noise often scared the gulls away.

A total, of 38 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, have been recorded this winter, but only 16 of them were recorded during today's visit.  Many gulls, could be seen flying at high altitude and appeared to be feasting on flies.  Not a lot, can really be read into today's absentees, but I wonder if the absence of the Lithuanian (White) T35J, means this is the last we'll see of it until next autumn.  Last winter, it was not seen after the 22nd January and in 2014, it departed after the 16th February.

The only returnee, that I am still waiting on, is  2ADD , who was later spotted, for the fourth week in a row, at Antrim's KFC outlet.  There is a slight chance, that  2ADD , might make it's way to the Marina, during this coming week, though I reckon the following week would seem more likely.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, on the 19th February 2018
 2AAR   2ACV   2CSR   2CJT   2AAP   2ABN   2CSJ   2ABK 
 2CSA   2AAT   2CSC   2CSB   2CSH   2CSK   2BRA   2AFD 

Today's Absentees
 T35J   2AAA   2AAB   2AAC   2AAF   2AAK   2AAN   2AAV 
 2ABA   2ABF   2ABL   2ABS   2ADJ   2ADV   2ANS   2BRC 
 2BRD   2CSD   2CSF   2CSL   2CSS   2CST       

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
On par with the lack of Black-headed Gulls, at the Marina today, no Herring Gulls appeared, and only one adult Common Gull, was recorded.

Today, saw the highest number of Mute Swans, counted this winter.  14 adults, and 3 cygnets, were already present on my arrival, which included two 'metal-ringed' birds -  W34158  and   W34156 .    W34156 , has now been here for three weeks, having been away since March 2016.

The total of Mute Swans, increased to 20 adults, when pairs arrived at 10.30, 11.57 and 12.05.  One pair, were unwilling to come ashore, and were possibly first time visitors to the Marina.

Mallard numbers, were once again, quite low.  28 ducks were counted on my arrival and a quick count before departure, gave a total of 43 birds.  Still, no rings spotted on any of them.

3 Hooded Crows, 7 Jackdaws, 2 Moorhens and a single Pied Wagtail, were the only other species noted during my visit.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC Outlet & Baptist Church
As  2AAV , did not appear at Antrim Marina, I stopped by the Elim Church, in Antrim's Parkhall Housing Estate, to see if it was there.  Attracting around 30 Black-headed Gulls towards me with bread, one bird landed, which bore a tall 'metal-ring'.

After taking a few photos of it's ring, the gull turned out to be the Icelandic-rung  587471 .  This is the second week in a row, that I have recorded this gull here.  Although  587471 , has been sighted for the fifth winter running, all previous records were made at Antrim Marina.  Despite, being an infrequent visitor to the Marina, it obviously spends it's time around Antrim Town and had never been seen at Elim Church, till now.   2AAV , did not show appear.

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    587471   -  Elim Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2003, just outside of Reykjavik, Iceland)

Moving on to the nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, I had no sooner parked my car, when the Black-headed Gulls came flying over.  Around 30 birds were present and  2ADD  landed in front of me.  This is now the fourth week, that I've recorded  2ADD  at the outlet.  It will not be long now, before  2ADD  completes it's journey to Antrim Marina, from it's wintering grounds at Carrickfergus.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADD   -  Antrim KFC, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 29th November 2013, at Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim)

The Norwegian-rung  JK35 , was spotted soon after  2ADD .  Today's sighting here, is the eighth of this winter, having arrived back for a third winter running, on the 6th August 2017. 

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    JK35   -  Antrim KFC, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2014, at  Vassøy, Stavanger, Norway).

Although, there were around 50 Black-headed Gulls, perched on the roof of Antrim's Baptist Church, none of the four 'ringed' birds spotted last week, were present.  Just like Antrim Marina, lots of gulls could be seen flying high in the sky, catching flies.  The warmer weather, providing much needed protein, no doubt.


      Ringing Details Received       
On February 4th, I came across a 'Metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull from Finland, at the Strand Road Jetty, in Coleraine.  While taking photos of it's ring, a young couple, along with their two children, arrived to feed the swans.  The kids, jumped about and made a lot of noise, thereby scaring the gulls away.

Checking my photos on site, I found that I only had a partial number, which read  **184.96* .  After the young couple and their children moved on, I returned to the Jetty and hoped to complete the gull's ring number.  Some gulls did return, but not the Finnish bird.

At the time, I thought, that I had re-sighted the Finnish Black-headed Gull, which I recorded here in August 2016.  On returning home and checking my records, my latest sighting, turned out to be a different gull, as the 2016 bird, was ringed  ST255.167 .

Looking again at the photos that I took, part of the final missing digit could be seen and it appeared as if it could be a  4 .  The straight back of the digit, appeared similar to the  in  184 .  I presumed the missing first two letters, would be  ST , common on the rings used on Black-headed Gulls and Common Gulls, ringed in Finland.  I also noticed, that the ring itself, was quite worn, which meant  **184.96* , would be quite old.

As stated in my post, I sent an email, with a photo attached to Finland, reporting my Black-headed Gull, as -  ST184.964 .  I know it was a bit 'tongue in cheek', but I kept my fingers crossed, that the sighting would be accepted.  To my delight, I received a reply on Tuesday morning (20th Feb).  What a sighting this one turned out to be.

Not only was the sighting accepted, but my hunch that  ST184.964 , might have been quite an old bird, was more than I had bargained for, as it became the oldest Black-headed Gull, that I have recorded to date (20 years, 8 months and 24 days).

Ringed as a full adult, in May 1997, it is older than my current number one -  ET02500 , which was ringed as a chick in June 1998 and last recorded, at Ballywalter in County Down, on the 23rd December 2017 (19 years, 6 months and 8 days).

Aaahh, the joys of 'Ring Reading', the time and effort, will produce 'Gems', and this one is certainly one of those.  Ironically, this, now my oldest Black-headed Gull, as well as, my oldest Common Gull, (re-sighted recently and ringed in 1995), have both come from Finland.    

Black-headed Gull  -  Finland    ST184.964   -  Strand Road, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry (04 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 11th May 1997, at Sipoo, Uusimaa, Finland).


      Saturday 17th February 2018       
At present, I'm desperately trying to re-sight some gulls, that were recorded in the Belfast area last winter.  One of my main goals, is to re-sight all previous ring finds, at least once every year, for longevity records.

Today, I visited the Whiteabbey Shoreline, Whitehouse Lagoon, the Industrial Estate at Dargan and the Mudflats at Dargan.  At Whiteabbey, I have yet to re-sight two 'colour-ringed' gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull from Portugal and a Mediterranean Gull from Poland.

Once again, there were far fewer gulls about, than normal.  A Herring Gull and 2 Dunlins were spotted bearing 'metal-rings, but the only 'colour-ringed' bird found, was my 5th sighting this winter, of Black-headed Gull -  2CPN .  This juvenile Black-headed Gull, was ringed as a chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Castle Espie in County Down. 

(Juvenile / 1st Winter) Black-headed Gull  -    2CPN   -  Whiteabbey Shore, Co. Antrim  (17 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Castle Espie, Co. Down)

Whitehouse Lagoon, was similar to Whiteabbey, with very few gulls or waders present.  Here, I'm still hoping to re-sight a Norwegian 'colour-ringed' Common Gull, first recorded here last winter.  An Icelandic 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher, has not been recorded since last October.  It arrived back for the third winter running, on the 22nd August 2017.  Going by previous records, this bird usually departs in February, so if it's still alive, I might not see it again until next winter.  No rings at all, were spotted here today.

On the Dargan Industrial Estate, a Norwegian 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull, has yet to be spotted.  White J5P9, was first recorded at Dargan, back in 2013.  It was not seen here again, until last winter, when I recorded it on two occasions.  It likely winters every year around Dargan, but had gone un-noticed until I found it.

With the tide now well on it's way out, I spent a lot of time at the Dargan mudflats.  Gulls were arriving in good numbers, as well as many wader species, especially Oystercatchers and Dunlins.  Last winter, I recorded two 'colour-ringed' Oystercatchers here, one from Scotland and the other from Iceland.  Neither, have been re-sighted again.  A small number of Black-tailed Godwits, had me hoping for a ring or two, but I had no luck with these.

Two Black-headed Gulls, were spotted with 'Orange Darvics', most likely belonging to Adam's Northern Ireland Study.  The sightings, were well apart and could have involved the same bird being spotted twice.  On both occasions, the gull was just out of range, for my camera to catch the code.

However, I was a bit luckier, when I spotted a Black-headed Gull, with a 'Yellow Darvic'.  Although, it was a good distance away from me, my camera did catch the code.  Ringed -  T7V6 , I knew this was a Polish bird, as their 'colour-rings' start with the letter T,  and the gull was a first sighting for me.

I reported my find on the live online Polish Ringing Database and on Tuesday morning, received an email confirming my sighting.  This allows me to view the gull's history on the database.  Ringed as a chick, on the 12th June 2016, at the Odra Reservoir, Bielinek, my sighting was the first record of it, since being ringed.  This gull, will be one to watch out for in the future.  The only problem, is that the mudflats here, are extensive and ringed birds are often out of reach of the camera or telescope.

Black-headed Gull  -  Poland    T7V6   -  Dargan Mudflats, Belfast, Co. Antrim  (17 Feb 2018)
Ringed as a Chick, on the 12th June 2016, at the Odra Reservoir, Bielinek, Poland).


      Sunday 18th February 2018       
Postponing my visit to Antrim Marina, until tomorrow, this gave me plenty of time to re-visit Dargan, as well as visiting Belfast's Victoria Park and the beach at Kinnegar, in Holywood.

Knowing it was high tide, when I arrived at Dargan, I was expecting to find plenty of gulls on the roof of the Waste Transfer Station.  To my disappointment, only a few gulls were present.  Checking out the rest of the area, a small group of Black-headed Gulls were seen by pools of water, in the grounds of a property, were I could not get access to.

As the mudflats, were completely submersed, under the high tide, I drove around Dargan looking for gulls on rooftops, but had little to no luck.  Any birds seen from a distance, were not viewable close to the buildings.

I moved on to Victoria Park, where I had yet to re-sight a 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull from Iceland, and a Dutch 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull.  Attracting, around 50 birds to my car with the offering of bread, not a single ring was spotted.

With the tide, due to start receding, I made my way to Kinnegar beach.  On a recent visit, I had spotted a Common Gull, with an 'Orange Darvic', which may well have been the same bird spotted here in February 2017.  When it arrived, it was too far out, for the camera to capture the code on the ring.

I parked in a prime position, with the beach, just below me.  At this point, only a few Turnstones, prodded about on the waters edge.  As the tide began moving further out, the gulls started to arrive.  As more and more, gulls and waders, began to gather, I wondered if I'd ever spot a ring.

The tide was well on it's way out, when I spotted a Black-headed Gull with a tall 'metal-ring'.  Ringed, on it's left leg, the thought then crossed my mind, could this bird be from Finland.  I had suddenly realised, that all of my Finnish Black-headed Gull sightings, bore their rings on the left leg.  After I returned home, I checked my photos and sure enough, all these birds had been ringed on their left legs.  It then occurred to me, that I had yet to record a 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull from Finland.  Do the Finns, use 'colour-rings'?  I'll have to check this out, when I have time to do so.

Anyhow, with the water line, becoming ever distant, I was about to give up on spotting any more rings, when the Common Gull, bearing an 'Orange Darvic', landed.  On taking a number of photos, just one, actually caught the code on the ring -  2VDT .  This bird, was certainly from Scotland, but was not the same gull spotted here in February 2017.

Another new sighting, I have emailed Calum Campbell, from the Grampian Ringing Group and still await a reply.

On my way back home, I decided to call by Carrickfergus Harbour and the ponds at the town's Leisure Centre.  Although a number of Black-headed Gulls, were present at both sites, no further ring sightings were made.

Common Gull  -    2VDT   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (18 Feb 2018)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details, from the Grampian Ringing Group, Scotland)


      From Jan Rod       
Recently, I have received two emails, concerning Common Gulls, which had been ringed by Shane Wolsey.  As Shane, has given up on his project, I now hold the ringing information and most of the re-sightings.

Jan Rod, contacted me, to say he spotted  2ACT , on the Leisure Centre Playing Fields, at Portmarnock, in County Dublin.  He stated, that the ring, was in very poor condition, which is an ongoing problem with these 'Blue Darvics'.

Jan's sighting, is the fourth record of  2ACT , since it was caught and ringed, as a breeding adult, on the 14th May 2010.   2ACT , was one of the earliest Common Gulls, to be ringed by Shane Wolsey, while conducting his project on the Copeland Islands in County Down.

 2ACT's  other sightings, have all came in the winter season, around Portmarnock or the nearby Dollymount - November 2014, Portmarnock, February 2017, Dollymount Strand, August 2017, Portmarnock Strand and now Jan's sighting at Portmarnock Leisure Centre.

Jan, was not able to supply a photo of  2ACT , so I have added one below, taken by Nick Dorian in August 2017.  My thanks to Jan, for reporting 2ACT and Nick, for his photo.

Common Gull  -    2ACT   -  Portmarnock, Co. Dublin, Republic of Ireland  (17 Aug 2017)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Breeding Adult, on the 14th May 2010, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)
(Photo Courtesy of Nick Dorian)

      From Paul McCullough       
The second email received, was from Paul McCullough, via Adam McClure.  On the 9th February 2018, Paul spotted Common Gull -   2AAC , at the ponds of Carrickfergus Leisure Centre.

  2AAC , was one of the first ever Common Gulls to be 'colour-ringed' by Shane Wolsey on the Copeland Islands.  Caught and ringed, as a breeding adult, on the 18th May 2009, it was one of a handful of Common Gulls, ringed with 'Yellow Darvics'.  Due to the colour, contrasting with the yellow legs of the Common Gulls, Shane started to use 'Blue Darvics', instead.

The 'Yellow Darvics', that were used, have been rarely re-sighted, with the exception of  2BBC , at Millisle.  Paul's sighting of  2AAC , is only the third record of the gull, since being ringed.  It's first ever sighting, was at Carrickfergus Harbour, back in March 2013.  In March 2016, it was spotted at Ballyholme Beach, on the north coast of County Down.

My thanks goes to Paul, for his sighting and photos of  2AAC .

Common Gull  -    2AAC   -  Carrickfergus Leisure Centre, Co. Antrim  (09 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Breeding Adult, on the 18th May 2009, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)
(Photo Courtesy of Paul McCullough)


Thursday, 15 February 2018

Wintery Weather...

Over the past week, Northern Ireland, has experienced quite a bit of wintery weather.  Although, this should not make an impact on gull numbers, there was however, a distinct lack of gulls at some sites that were visited.  All the coastal areas, were clear of snow and despite the strong chilly winds, I would have expected to see far more birds about.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 12th February 2018       
Once again, I postponed my normal Sunday visit to Antrim Marina, which allows me the extra time needed to search for rings elsewhere.  It was 'Baltic', when I arrived at Antrim Marina today.  Although the temperature read one degree above zero, the strong wind blowing in from the Lough, made it very chilly.  It was overcast throughout my visit, though the sun did try to break through.

With the addition of 12 Black-headed Gulls, caught and ringed here this winter, I was on the lookout for a total of 38 'colour-ringed' birds.  I only stayed for three hours today, instead of the usual four, as sightings became fewer as time passed by.  I reckon, that some of the 'colour-ringed' gulls, have now departed for their breeding sites, such as  2ABA  and  2ADV .  The only gull, that I'm still waiting on, to return to the Marina, is  2ADD , which was spotted today, for the third week running, across the other side of Antrim Town.

In my recent posts, I have made mention of juveniles  2CSS  and   2CST , both ringed here on the 7th January 2018, but had not been seen since.  I stated, that some juveniles would tend to wander during their first winter.  Both gulls were absent again today, and though I had no idea on completion of today's visit to the Marina, I would spot  2CST , the next day, in my home town of Ballymena (read below).

By the time of my departure, 24 'colour-rings' had been read, and there were 14 absentees.  The absentees, included 4 birds that have been ringed here this winter ( 2C**  ring series).  My task, will be to, create profiles of these birds and discover, which are residents and which will be winter visitors.

I reckon that  2CSC , is a winter visitor.  This gull arrived at the Marina, a few weeks after I began my 5th winter season - Ring Watching at Antrim Marina.  It was the only gull, that would land on my hand to be fed.  Now a 2nd winter bird, the previous winter, I had a juvenile, which landed on my hand, so I guessed that these two, were 'one and the same'.  Due to it's confiding nature, the gull was easily caught and ringed  2CSC .  There was no sign of the bird today and I'm now wondering if it has also departed.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, on Monday 12th February 2018
 2CJT   2CSF   2AAN   2ABK   2AAR   2AAP   2ACV   2AAK 
 2ABN   2CSL   2CSJ   2AAT   2AAC   2BRA   2CSA   2CSK 
 2CSH   2AAA   2ADJ   T35J   2CSD   2CSB   2ABS   2AAB 

Today's Absentees
 2AAF   2AAV   2ABA   2ABF   2ABL   2ADV   2AFD 
 2ANS   2BRC   2BRD   2CSC   2CSR   2CSS   2CST 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Common Gull numbers were again quite good at the Marina today.  With just two adults present on my arrival, a total of 12 adults and 4 first winter birds were counted, just before my departure at 12.30.  There was no sign though, of the two 'metal-rung' birds from Scotland and Finland.  One of the Common Gulls, actually appeared for the first time this winter.  I recognised it from the past, as it has an injured or mostly likely, broken foot, on which it cannot stand on.

Common Gulls, are my favourite gulls, as there is so much variation in their sizes, shapes, beak colours and winter plumage.  I reckon, that if I had the time, I could recognise each and every one here, from photos, such is the variation.

One of the full adult Herring Gull's, was present when I arrived this morning.  The other full adult, arrived quite late on, at 11.35.  No juveniles, or the sub-adult appeared today.

5 adult Mute Swans and 2 cygnets, were on the slipway on my arrival.  One of the adults, was the regularly recorded -  W34158 .  As the morning wore, a further 8 adults, arrived from either the Lough or from up-river.  Eventually, all the adults exited the river and a second 'metal-ring' was spotted.  This was  W34156 , which arrived back last week, having not been seen here, since the 27th March 2016.  A third cygnet, flew in from the direction of Antrim Town, at 10.25.

Mallard numbers, were an improvement this week.  With 45 ducks counted on my arrival, at least 60 were present, by the time of my departure.  No rings were spotted, despite most legs being checked.

Other species included, 5 Hooded Crows, 8 Jackdaws, 1 Magpie, the pair of Pied Wagtails, a male chaffinch and an adult, plus a juvenile Moorhen.  One of the Hooded Crows, made a half hearted attempt, at feeding on a dead Black-headed Gull.

Hooded Crow feeding on a dead Black-headed Gull  -  Antrim Marina  (12 Feb 2018)


Antrim's Elim Church, KFC Outlet and Baptist Church
Seeing as  2AAV , was not at Antrim Marina, I made my way to the Parkhall Housing Estate, to see if  2AAV , was at it's favoured haunt at the Elim Church.  The Black-headed Gulls, are now well used to me coming here.  As soon as the car window was lowered, the gulls came 'bombing' in towards me.

Throwing out bits of bread,  2AAV , arrived and hovered beside my window.  Around 30, Black-headed Gulls were present, when I then spotted one with a tall 'metal-ring'.  Grabbing the camera, I took enough photos to piece the ring number together.

There was me thinking, I had come across a new gull sighting, but the bird turned out to be the Icelandic -  571487 , a bird I've only recorded at Antrim Marina.  This is the fifth winter in a row that I've recorded  571487 , and though it is an occasional visitor at the Marina, this sighting proves that it remains and winters in Antrim Town.

 571487 , is the second oldest Black-headed Gull, that I have on my records.  Today's sighting takes the duration since being ringed to, 14 years, 7 months and 24 days.

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    571487   -  Elim Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (12 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2003, just outside of Reykjavik, Iceland)

Antrim's KFC Outlet
Moving on to the nearby KFC Outlet,  2ADD  quickly appeared beside my car.  With almost 40 Black-headed Gulls present, it was the only 'ringed' bird.  Normally,  2ADD , will remain here until the beginning of March, before completing it's journey to Antrim Marina, from where it winters in Carrickfergus. The earliest date, that  2ADD , has arrived at the Marina, was back in 2014, when it appeared there, on the 16th February.

Antrim's Baptist Church
My final stop of the afternoon, was at Antrim's Baptist Church and the visit lasted far longer than I had planned.  Driving through the housing estate towards the Church, many Black-headed Gulls, could be seen bathing on the flooded pools of water, by the grass verges of the road.  Driving by the gulls, I could see the top of an 'Orange Darvic'.

As I had no chance of reading the code, due to the height of the grass, so I made my way to the car park behind the Church.  Again, throwing out bits of bread, soon brought many gulls towards me.  The first ring spotted, was that of the Black-headed Gull, with the 'Orange Darvic'.  The gulls 'weren't playing ball', and would not land beside my car.  I ceased throwing out bread and the birds began landing on the roof of the Church.

The 'Orange Darvic', belonged to  2AAB , who I had recorded a short time earlier, at Antrim Marina.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAB   -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (12 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 11th December 2012, at Antrim Marina)

While sitting in my car at the Church, the gulls would all take flight and arrive back again a short time later.  This coming and going, was continuous for the best part of two hours, but my reason for staying, was the re-appearance of a Black-headed Gull, spotted here a week ago.  This bird, bore a 'metal-ring', on it's left leg, but the flock it was in, flew off into the distance and did not return.

I had recently read the 'metal-ring', on another Black-headed Gull, here, but it was ringed on the right-leg.  I then realised, the ring on my new gull, was taller than the rings we use on our gulls, so this bird was foreign.  It would come and go as well, but most of the time, it would land high up on the Church roof.  This proved to be a problem, when trying to take photos of the ring and I ended up, obtaining a partial number.

I think this bird is from Finland, with only two photos taken, showing details on the ring.  The number definitely ends in  90 , but I also had  87 .  The word ' zoology ', can be read in the address, and this would appear in the middle of the ring number, with the ' z ' situated underneath a dot.  Finnish rings, would start with the letters  ST , and have six numbers, so my ring should read   ST*87.*90 .  Hopefully, this gull, might still be here on my next visit and I'll try again to complete the number.

Black-headed Gull  -  (Possibly Finnish)  -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (12 Feb 2018)

Whilst waiting on my possible Finnish bird, both of the other 'ringed' Black-headed Gulls, that I've recorded here, appeared.  First was the Polish (White) TY43, and this was now my sixth sighting of the gull this winter.  I have now proved, that the gull resides here during the winter, so it will be one to watch out for in the future.  My initial sighting of (White) TY43, was made on the 16th October 2017.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  TY43  -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (12 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as a 2nd Calendar year, on the 9th Feb 2012, at Olsztyn-Kormoran, Warmińsko-Mazurskie, Poland)

The other Black-headed Gull, was the Scottish-rung  EW39319 , a ring which was first read on the 24th December 2017.  Today's, is my third confirmed sighting of the gull, so it is now looking likely, that this bird is also a winter resident around the Baptist Church and another one to look out for in the future.

Black-headed Gull  -    EW39319   -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (12 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 13th June 2009, at Black Rock, Sound of Jura, Scotland)


      Saturday 10th February 2018       
Leaving home in the early afternoon, I started off at Carnlough, on the east County Antrim coast and quickly made my was down, as far as the shore at Whiteabbey.  The reason for covering the coast so quickly, was due to the lack or absence of gulls and waders, at most sites visited.

The only ring found during the whole afternoon, was that of a Norwegian Black-headed Gull, at Carrickfergus.  It was my second ever sighting of  JJ02 , having initially spotted the gull on the shore of Belfast Lough, by Rhanbouy Park in Carrickfergus.  My first sighting, was made on the 14th November 2017, and today's sighting confirms that the gull is wintering here.

Last winter, I spotted a Black-headed Gull, with a 'Green Darvic', quite close to Rhanbouy Park.  Although, I never got to read the code on the ring, this has to be the same bird.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    JJ02   -  Rhanbouy Park, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (10 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 12th June 2014, at St. Hanshaugen, Oslo, Norway).

It was quite late in the afternoon, when I reached Whiteabbey.  On arrival, a good number of gulls of various species were present.  As I walked from the nearby car park, towards the birds, they all took to the air.  Usually, it's dog walkers or other folk disturbing the gulls, but this time the culprit was a female Sparrowhawk.

Most of the gulls landed on the water's of Belfast Lough.  I waited for quite some time, to see if they would return, which they never did.  With the light starting to fade, I headed for home, after, what turned out to be, a disappointing afternoon.


      Sunday 11th February 2018       
With overnight snow, I waited till later in the morning, before heading off to Belfast.  Even when I left home, showers of snow were still falling, but the road surfaces were starting to clear, with the increasing volume of traffic.

Starting, at Belfast's, Victoria Park, I then visited the beach at Kinnegar, before doing the whole east coast of County Down, from Bangor to Portavogie and cutting across country to finish off the afternoon at Portaferry.

Just like the previous day, gull numbers were low or non-existent at many sites.  Only two 'ringed' Herring Gulls, were spotted, both of which, were re-sightings of birds previously recorded at Millisle.  Millisle, is well known to be a 'hotspot' for Common Gulls and a site where many 'ringed' birds are known to frequent.  Even here, very few gulls were to be seen and just two 'un-ringed' Common Gulls were present.

The two 'ringed' Herring Gulls, were  GA00153  and the 'colour-ringed'  4M:W , both having been ringed on the nearby Copeland Islands.    GA00153 , was ringed as a chick, on the 22nd June 2005 and  4M:W , was ringed as an adult, on the 6th May 2015.

Herring Gull  -    4M:W   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (11 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 6th May 2015, on The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

The only other gull of interest, during my visit to County Down, was the Iceland Gull, at Portavogie Harbour.  I first saw it here on the 28th January 2018.  It appears to favour the harbour, but there was no sign of the second Iceland Gull, which Wilton Farrelly, also spotted on the 28th January.  He reported, that his gull was slightly oiled, and differed from the bird I spotted.

Iceland Gull  -  Portavogie Harbour, Co. Down  (11 Feb 2018)


      Tuesday 13th February 2018       
Early this afternoon, I sat down to make a start on this post.  I did not have too much time to spare, as I had to go down town to do a few messages.  On my return from the town, I called into my local park, to check on the gulls there for rings.  I am hopeful for the return of a 'metal-rung' female Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Ringed as a chick in Scotland in July 2006, I first recorded it at The Peoples Park, in Ballymena, on the 17th March 2015 and again on the 25th March.

The following spring, it was back at the Park, on the 5th March 2016, my only sighting of it that year.  Last year, the gull returned slightly earlier, when I recoded it on the 17th February 2017.  Two further sightings were made on the 11th and 24th March.  I have no idea where this gull breeds at, as Lesser Black-backed Gulls have not as yet been confirmed as breeding in Ballymena.

There was no sign of my gull today, but I did record two Black-headed Gulls with 'colour-rings', the first, which came as quite of a surprise.    2CST , was a juvenile, that I caught and ringed at Antrim Marina, on the 7th January 2018.  It was one of two 1st winter black-headed Gulls ringed that day, neither of which, had been seen since, at the Marina.  I made comment on a recent post, that some juveniles, may tend to wander during their first winter, whilst others appear to become attached to a certain wintering site.

I was well pleased, at spotting  2CST , so there's every hope, that the other bird ringed that day -  2CSS , is 'knocking' around somewhere.  The distance from Antrim Marina, to Ballymena, is 17 kms / 10 miles, north-north-west.  

Black-headed Gull  -   2CST   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  (13 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as a Juvenile/1st Winter bird, on the 7th January 2018, at Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim)

The second 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull was  2AXV .  Ringed as a chick, on the 7th June 2016,  2AXV , is spending it's second winter at Ballymena's, People Park.  Having returned, on the 1st September 2017, today's is my fifth record of the gull this winter.

I recorded  2AXV , on nine occasions, during it's first winter at the Park, having recorded it between the 23rd October 2016, until the 11th March 2017.  There's still time, to record this bird, on one or two more occasions, before it departs for the summer.  It would be interesting to see, if  2AXV , will be faithful to The Peoples Park and return for a third winter.

Black-headed Gull  -   2AXV   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  (13 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 7th June 2016, at Marsh Lane NR, nr Coventry, England)


Friday, 9 February 2018


I had a frustrating weekend, with several possible new rings spotted, none of which were read completely or were a bit 'iffy'.  I attempted to write and publish this post on Wednesday.  I had only sat down for five minutes, before our town suffered a power outage, which lasted near on two hours.  Today (Friday), was the first time since, where I had time to work on my Blog.


      Antrim Marina - Monday 5th February 2018       
What a chilly visit to Antrim Marina today.  With the temperature reading -3° on my arrival, it only increased to plus three, by the time of my departure.  With Black-headed Gull numbers, always exceeding the 150 mark, I was kept busy looking out for rings.  A maximum of around 250 gulls were present from 11am onwards, so the overall total visiting, would have well surpassed the 300 mark.

Most of the time, I could hardly feel my fingers, due to them being so cold and no attempt was made at catching any new birds for ringing.  With a total of 38 'colour-ringed' birds to watch out for, 30 were recorded today.

Among the absentees, were  2ABA  and  2ADV .  Checking over their records, both birds were due to depart.  As yet, their breeding sites are still unknown.  The two juveniles -  2CSS  and  2CST , still have not re-appeared since being ringed.

As mentioned last week, the only gull still to arrive at the Marina for this winter, is  2ADD .  Having now moved from his wintering quarters at Carrickfergus,  2ADD  was recorded for the second week in a row, across the town of Antrim, at both the Elim Church and the KFC outlet.  I reckon, it will be another couple of weeks, before he completes his move to the Marina.

Black-headed Gull Re-sightings at Antrim Marina  -  Monday 5th February 2018
 2CJT   2ADJ   2AAK   2CSA   2ABL   2CSC   2AAP   2CSH   2ABK   2AAN 
 2AFD   2CSK   2CSF   T35J   2CSD   2CSL   2ABN   2ACV   2AAT   2ABS 
 2BRA   2AAR   2BRC   2AAC   2ABF   2CSJ   2AAA   2AAB   2CSR   2ANS 

Today's Absentees
 2AAF   2AAV   2ABA   2ADV   2BRD   2CSB   2CSS   2CST 

The highlight of today's 'colour-ring' sightings, was a second appearance this winter of  2BRC .  This gull, is an occasional visitor to the Marina and I've no idea whether it winters somewhere in the area of Antrim Town or stops by on passage.  Only sightings of  2BRC , away from Antrim Marina, will help to solve this gulls movements.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BRC   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (05 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 1st February 2015, at Antrim Marina)

One Black-headed Gull, was spotted on the long jetty, which had a 'metal-ring'.  It took no part, in trying to feed on the bread being fed to the ducks, so I knew straight away, that it was not  2ABL , who managed to discard it's 'colour-ring'.  As the long jetty, had been fenced off by the local Council, due to safety concerns during recent flooding and icy conditions, I could not get anywhere near to the gull to photograph it's ring.

Taking a few photos from a distance, I was able to capture a partial number on an Upside-down ring.  I could not get the first two letters, but as it was a BTO ring, the first letter would have been an  'E' , so I had what possible looks like being -  E*85673 .  Unfortunately, the gull did not stay long, so another new ring eluded me.

Black-headed Gull  -    E*85673   (Upside-down Ring)  -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (05 Feb 2018)

Common Gull numbers, were excellent, going by Antrim Marina standards.  A total of 12 adults and 5 first winter (juveniles), were counted at one stage, although birds were coming and going throughout the morning.  Among these, was the small Scottish-rung female, ringed  EY64036  and the Finnish-rung  ST177.028 .

 ST177.028 , is of special interest due to it's age.  Today's sighting, is the second for this winter, with the gull having returned on the 14th January 2018.  The duration, since being ringed, increases to 22 years, 5 months and 30 days.  The oldest known Common Gull, was 27 years and 10 months.  Hopefully, I'll record this one, another time or two, before it departs for Finland.

Common Gull  -  Finland    ST177.028   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (05 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 6th August 1995, at Maaninka, Finland)

There was a slight increase in the number of Herring Gulls, visiting the Marina today.  Four different sub-adults appeared for short periods, as did two juveniles.  The pair, which has been present over the last couple of weeks, arrived together at 11.34, remaining throughout the rest of my visit.

16 adult Mute Swans, along with three cygnets, were already present on my arrival this morning.  No other swans appeared during my four hour visit.  Two of the birds, bore 'metal-rings', one of which, was the regularly recorded  W34158 .  The second, came as a total surprise, being  W34156 .

This was my 7th sighting of  W34156  here, since it was ringed on this site, in March 2014.  I last recorded this swan, on the 27th March 2016.  I wonder, where has it been, all this time.  I've mentioned this before, but if a 'colour-ringing' project was started, concerning the Marina's swans, then I could identify each bird and their movements.  

Mute Swan  -    W34156   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (05 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 17th March 2014, at Antrim Marina)

Mallard numbers were exceedingly poor.  With, just thirteen ducks present when I arrived, it took all morning for the total to reach the 38 mark.  This was one of the worst totals that I have ever experienced, concerning Mallards at the Marina.

Other species at the Marina today, included 5 Hooded Crows, 8 Jackdaws, 1 Magpie, 1 Moorhen, 1 Chaffinch and the pair of Pied Wagtails.  A pair of Kingfishers, were seen on numerous occasions, whizzing past me.  Very vocal, I reckon that this was all part of their courtship display.


Antrim's Elim Church, KFC and Baptist Church
After completing my four hour visit to Antrim Marina, I drove across Antrim Town and visited the Elim Church, KFC Outlet and Antrim's Baptist Church.  At Elim, I was on the lookout for   2AAV , who did not appear at the Marina.  On parking and throwing out bits of bread, around 40 Black-headed Gulls came bombing in towards me.  Landing directly beside my car, was a BHG with an 'Orange Darvic', which I thought was  2AAV .  On checking the ring, it was actually  2ADD .

Last week, I recorded the return of  2ADD , at the nearby KFC outlet, having wintered at the east County Antrim town of Carrickfergus.  This was the first time ever, that I've recorded   2ADD , at the Elim Church.

I then noticed another BHG, bearing an 'Orange Darvic', this one hovering just outside the window of my car.  When it landed, this was indeed,  2AAV .

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADD   -  Elim Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (05 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 29th November 2013, at Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim)

At the KFC outlet, around 40 Black-headed Gulls, quickly gathered for the offering of bread.  None were ringed, but after a minute or so, one with an 'Orange Darvic', landed directly beside my car.  It was  2ADD  again.  I had only just recorded it, at the Elim Church and it must have guessed that a feed would soon be on offer at KFC.  There was no sign of the Norwegian-rung BHG, though I thought that it might visit on a more regular basis, as the breeding season was drawing closer.

My final stop, before returning home, was at Antrim's Baptist Church.  With 50'ish Black-headed Gulls perched on the rooftop, I noticed one with a 'metal-ring'.  I knew straight away, that this gull was different from the 'metal-rung' bird, that I have noted here of late.  This gull, was ringed on the left leg, whereas my usual sighting is ringed on the right leg.

Even before I had a chance to lift my camera, all the gulls took flight and headed north out of sight.  This was the end, to a weekend, where several new rings were spotted and their numbers or codes eluded me.  All in all, it was quite frustrating.  To me, a good day out, entails at least one confirmed sighting of a new ring.


      Ringing Details Received       
Earlier this week, the BTO, finally sent me the ringing details, of the Lithuanian-rung, Black-headed Gull, spotted on Christmas Day, at the Connswater Shopping Centre in Belfast (Blog).

 HA.33.604 , was ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2016, on a small island, just off shore, from the town of Klaipeda, on the western coast of Lithuania.  The distance to Belfast, was given, as 1,722 kms / 1,070 miles (West).


      Saturday 3rd February 2018       
It was early afternoon, before I could venture out, and decided to concentrate my efforts at Dargan and Kinnegar, both situated in the Belfast area.

Dargan Industrial Estate
Knowing it was a high tide, I knew there would be numerous gulls to be found at Dargan.  I was on the lookout for one Black-headed Gull in particular, this being the Norwegian rung (White) J5P9.  I spotted this gull last winter (2016/17), having recorded it at Dargan, on the 27th November and on the 25th December 2016.  Up to now, I have yet to record the gull this winter.

Adam McClure, was the first, to spot (White) J5P9, at Dargan, back in December 2013.  It's presence last winter, suggested that (White) J5P9, had probably wintered each year, but went undiscovered.

Another Norwegian Black-headed Gull -  J08K , was spotted here, on the 25th December 2017, it's first ever sighting outside of Norway.  I was keen to record this bird again as well.  Having spent the best part of two hours, searching through three flocks at Dargan, neither of them were spotted.

A Black-headed Gull, with an Orange Darvic, was present, but I could not get near enough to it to read the code.  Most likely to belong to Adam's Northern Ireland Study, the group it was in flew off, due to my attempts to close the distance - the start of what turned out to be a frustrating weekend.

Kinnegar Beach, Holywood
Leaving Dargan, I drove to the other side of Belfast Lough, and parked with a good view onto the beach at Kinnegar.  The tide was now rapidly retreating and gulls were arriving, mostly from the nearby sewage works.

Black-headed Gulls, numbered in the hundreds, and there was also a good showing in the number of Common Gulls present.  This mirrors, the same time last year, when Common Gull numbers started to rise here, before the breeding season.  The number of Waders present, were smaller than normal for some reason.

Two Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a Common Gull, were spotted with 'metal rings', but I had no hope of reading them.  I found it frustrating, that with so many gulls present, I couldn't find a bird with 'colour-rings'.

Eventually, with the tide now well out, a Common Gull with an 'Orange Darvic', landed by the water's edge.  Far to far away to read the code, I suspected that this could be  2H70 , a Scottish-rung bird that I spotted here on the 12th February 2017.  Should it be the same gull, I'll try for it again shortly, as I might have time to read the code before it departs.


      Sunday 4th February 2018       
Instead of venturing to Antrim Marina, I decided once again to make use of a whole day, visiting Ballycastle, Portrush, Coleraine and finishing off with a first visit this winter to the Myroe Levels.

I was on the lookout for an Icelandic-rung Black-headed Gull at Ballycastle.  On the 28th December 2017, I only managed a partial reading of it's 'metal-ring' -  585*** .  The full ring number should read   585774 , a bird who's presence I recorded here, during the 2015/16 winter.  Last winter, a BHG, was also present, which had a tall ring, which was probably the same gull.  Unfortunately, despite a couple of tries, I never managed to read the ring at all.

Surprisingly few gulls were present around the harbour at Ballycastle and those that I did manage to lure with bread, were all un-rung.  Walking round to where the river, flows across the beach, I found a flock of 40 Black-headed Gulls, slightly up-river from the footbridge.  Looking at them with the binoculars, none of these were ringed either.

The East Strand car park at Portrush, usually has plenty of gulls resting on the tarmac, but not a single bird was here today.  Moving on to the car park at Landownes Crescent, only a handful of Herring Gulls were present.

I found it strange, that the two coastal towns of Ballycastle and Portrush, were so devoid of gulls.

I had better luck (or not), at Coleraine.  I attracted around 30 Black-headed Gulls onto the jetty at the Strand Road.  My ringing trainer, John Clarke, had reported, that he re-sighted the Scottish-rung Black-headed Gull -  2E18 , during his visit to the jetty.  A 'metal-rung' Black-headed Gull, was also seen, but John could not read the ring.

I did not see  2E18 , but a 'metal-ringed' BHG, did appear.  Sporting a tall ring, I thought this was the Finnish bird -   ST255.167 , which I recorded here on the 11th August 2016.  I was in the process, of taking photos of the ring, when a couple, along with their two kids, arrived to feed the swans.  Of course, the gulls took off, due to the jumping around and noise of the children.

After this, some of the gulls returned, but the 'metal-rung' bird, did not reappear.  After returning home, I checked the photos.  The Black-headed Gull, was from Finland, but it was not  ST255.167 .  Having an incomplete number, the ring read  **184.96* .  Looking carefully at the slight showing of the missing final digit, I reckon it is a  4 , as the straight back of an open 4, can be seen, and looks similar to the open 4 in  184 .
The ring was also very worn, so this gull would be quite old.  The missing first two letters, are most likely to be  ST , common to most Finnish rings used on Common and Black-headed Gulls.  I have sent an email, containing the photos, to Finland.  I know this is a bit 'tongue in cheek', but hopefully they will confirm the sighting.  Fingers crossed on this one.

I then drove the short distance to Coleraine's McDonalds outlet.  John, had reported seeing a 'metal-rung' Black-headed Gull, during his last visit.  Although, the number of BHGs encountered, were in the 30 to 40 mark, no rings were spotted. 

Black-headed Gull  -  Finland    **184.96*   -  Strand Road, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry  (04 Feb 2018)
(Reported to Finland, as    ST184.964 )

Myroe Levels, near Limavady, Co. Londonderry
Finishing off the afternoon, I spent a long time on the Myroe Levels, near Limavady.  Here, I was hoping to find a few ringed Brent Geese and possibly a Whooper Swan or two.

Arriving here the tide on Lough Foyle, was well out.  I only managed to find one group of Brent's, which numbered seven birds altogether.  A quick check on these, revealed no rings.

I discovered, three large flocks of Whooper Swans.  Two of these, numbered in excess of 300 and 200 birds, but were too far away to check for rings.  The Myroe Levels, contained super large fields, probably longer than three football pitches.  Any attempt, to walk these fields to get nearer the swans, would end in failure.  They are particularly nervous to close approach.

The third flock, which I concentrated on, were a bit closer and I could use my car as a hide.  Spending some time on this flock, I counted 197 birds and on 'colour-ring' was spotted.  I played a waiting game, to see if this 'colour-ringed' bird, would make it's way closer to me and my camera.

Slowly, the flock, started to fragment, with birds taking off and flying either east or west.  The swan I was interested with, was a male, who had a partner and four cygnets.  The best photo that I could obtain, shows only hazy digits on the 'Yellow Ring'.

The code seems to read, either  E63  or  E6J .  I'm really grabbing at 'straws', with this one, but I've sent an email to Kane Brides of the Wetland and Wildfowl Trust, to see if he can make anything out of the photo.  He will know the codes that are in use and can check them against this male Whooper.

Male Whooper Swan  -    E63   ? or   E6J   ?  -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  (04 Feb 2018)