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)


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