Thursday, 1 February 2018

Hectic Week...

After a hectic week, between one thing and another, I finally managed to get a run out, late on Saturday afternoon.  I visited Portrush and Coleraine, but no rings were spotted.  However, I did receive an email from my ringing trainer John Clarke, who informed me that he had re-sighted Black-headed Gull -  2E18 , earlier that day, at the Strand Road Jetty, in Coleraine.  He was not able to read the 'metal-ring', of a second BHG at the site.

Another 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull, was also spotted at the McDonalds outlet, a short distance away, from Strand Road.  Again, John was not able to read the ring, but I enquired whether the bird bore the ring on it's left leg.  A chick that I ringed at Inch Island, in County Donegal, in 2016, was spotted on two occasions at the McDonalds outlet that winter.  I've had no reply from John, as yet, about my query.

John's sighting of  2E18 , is it's tenth record to go onto my spreadsheet.  The gull was ringed as a chick, in June 2014, at Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire, Scotland.  It has been recorded in Coleraine, each winter since.

Sunday's visit to Antrim Marina, was postponed until Monday.  I decided instead, to travel down to Belfast and the east coast of County Down, as I wanted to make use of a traffic free afternoon.


      Antrim Marina - Monday 29th January 2018       
My decision to postpone my weekly Sunday visit to Antrim Marina, was probably a good idea.  Going today, saw blue skies and a light breeze, compared with yesterday's strong winds.  Scoping would have been a problem, but I had no such worries today.

Two weeks ago, saw the appearance of  2BRC , which meant that the only gull I was waiting for this winter, was  2ADD .  I forgot to mention in my last post, that  2ADD , was due to return to Antrim's KFC outlet any time soon.  Although,  2ADD , winters at the east County Antrim town of Carrickfergus, where it has been recorded at this winter, it makes a move to Antrim KFC, prior to the start of the breeding season.

On completion of today's visit at the Marina, I discovered that   2ADD , was indeed present at the car park of Antrim's KFC.  It will remain here for a couple of weeks, before making it's way across town to the Marina.

At the Marina today, Black-headed Gull numbers, were constantly above the hundred mark and later in the morning exceeded the 150 mark.  With a total of 38 'colour-rings' to look out for, 25 were re-sighted during my four hour visit.  Of note in the 13 absentees, are the two juveniles,  2CSS  and  2CST , both having not reappeared since the day they were ringed.  As some youngsters, tend to wander during their first winter, it may well be possible, that they were just passing through at the time of their capture.

With just 8 weeks remaining of my 5th winter, recording the gulls at Antrim Marina, most birds have now been re-sighted at least once during the season.  Three gulls, never made it back, these being  2AAH  and  2ACX , and an un-ringed bird that I named 'One Leg', all probably perished during the breeding season.

During my weekly visits this winter, we lost  2AAF , which is known to be an all year round resident.  Spotted almost every week, from the 6th August 2017, it failed to show up again after the 5th November.

No new gulls were ringed during my visit.  The windows of my new car, are not as high, which makes it difficult to try and catch the gulls by hand from inside the vehicle.  The other ploy to try and catch gulls, is to throw down bread at the feet of the swans.  Gulls are then grabbed, whilst stealing in to nick the bread.  Even this method, is not working at the moment.


Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded at Antrim Marina on Monday 28th January 2018
 2AAT   2CJT   2CSC   2ACV   2BRA   2CSF   2AAR   2ABL   2CSL 
 2ABK   2AAN   2AAK   T35J   2CSA   2AAP   2ABF   2ADJ   2CSK 
 2AAA   2CSR   2ADV   2AAV   2CSB   2ABS   2AAC       


Today's Absentees
 2AAB   2AAF   2ABA   2ABN   2AFD   2ANS   2BRC 
 2BRD   2CSD   2CSH   2CSJ   2CSS   2CST    


Other Birds at Antrim Marina
12 adult Mute Swans, plus 2 cygnets, were on the slipway, when I arrived this morning.  All were out of the water and a quick check for rings, saw the regular  W34158  present.  Another two adults and a cygnet, came in from upriver at 11.08.  I'd have no idea, if this 3rd cygnet, is a sibling of the other two.  The adults, may be the parents of the cygnets, as the aggressive nature of one of the birds seemed similar to those that had the five youngsters at the start of the winter.  A fifteenth adult, swam in from the Lough at Midday.

Mallard numbers, were more or less constant, throughout my visit.  With around 40 birds at all times, most were checked for rings, but again none were spotted.

Common Gull numbers, were also quite high today.  With 4 adults and a single juvenile present for most of the morning, other birds started appearing just after midday.  The Scottish-rung female,   EY64036 , arrived at 12.09, but there was no sign of the Finnish-rung gull.  A final count, before I departed, totalled 10 adults and two juveniles.

The first adult Herring Gull, appeared at 9.30, but the 2nd adult, which has been here of late, did not arrive until 11.42.  A juvenile, that only remained for a short time, made it's brief appearance at 10.37.

Other species recorded at the Marina, during my visit, were :- 5 Hooded Crows, 8 Jackdaws, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Chaffinch and the pair of Pied Wagtails.
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Antrim's Elim Church and KFC Outlet
On leaving the Marina, I drove up through the Parkhall Housing Estate, where the Elim Church is situated.  With only a couple of BHGs present and  2AAV , having been recorded at the Marina, I didn't stop and made my way to the KFC outlet.

Turning into the car park, I could see plenty of gulls standing around on the tarmac.  Parking in my usual position, not a single bird made it's way towards me.  Can they really tell the difference of cars?

Around 40 Black-headed, 4 Herring and a single Common Gull were present.  As soon as I started throwing bread out, the gulls quickly flew over.  Landing directly beside me was one with an Orange Darvic.  I could see  2ADD  on the ring.  The appearance of  2ADD , is bang on time, returning from it's wintering quarters at Carrickfergus.   2ADD , will now frequent the KFC outlet for a couple of weeks, before venturing across town to Antrim Marina, where it will breed on Lough Neagh.

Looking through the rest of the BHGs for rings, I then spotted the Norwegian-rung  JK35 .  Interestingly, this gull has been recorded here once a month, since it's return from Norway, last August.  Now that we are getting closer to the breeding season, I expect   JK35 , will become a regular, building up, for it's return home.  I managed to get a photo, with both  2ADD  and  JK35 , in the same picture.


Black-headed Gulls  -    2ADD   &    JK35   -  Antrim's KFC Outlet, Co. Antrim  (28 Jan 2018)

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      Ringing Details Received       
On Tuesday, I received an email from Adam McClure.  Not only does Adam, run the Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study, but he is also the ringing coordinator for Herring Gull Study on the Copeland Islands.  The email, was confirmation of my sighting of   2V:W , mentioned below.  It was also the first sighting, since the gull was ringed in May 2015.

Last week, I received an email from the BTO, which contained the ringing details for two of the four 'metal-rung' Black-headed Gulls, that I spotted.   I had hoped, that the other two would have arrived by now, which includes a Lithuanian bird spotted on Christmas Day.  As I've stated before, receiving recoveries being a ringer, is painfully slow, especially when I need them for the Blog.

Black-headed Gull  -  EZ28165 
 EZ28165 , was ringed as a chick, by the Merseyside Ringing Group, on the 21st June 2015, at Shotton, Flintshire, in Wales.  The distance to Belfast Waterworks, where I spotted the gull, on the 18th December 2017, was given as 246 kms / 152 miles, in a north-west direction.  The duration, was 2 years, 5 months and 27 days.

Shotton, Flintshire Wales  to  Belfast Waterworks, Northern Ireland

Black-headed Gull  -  EW39319
 EW39319 , was ringed as a chick, by J. Craik, on the 13th June 2009, at Black Rock, Crinan, Argyll & Bute, Scotland.  The distance, to Antrim Town's Baptist Church, where I was finally able to read it's ring, on the 24th December 2017, was given as 157 kms / 97 miles, in a south-south-west direction.

Seeing as I've recorded  EW39319 , at the Baptist Church, since December (21st January 2018), it looks likely that this gull is a winter resident at the site.  It may well, have wintered here, each year since being ringed, so it will be one to look out for, next winter.  The duration, was 8 years, 6 months and 11 days, in December.

Crinan, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  to  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim

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      Sunday 28th January 2018       
Having decided not to visit Antrim Marina, until tomorrow, I decided to take advantage of a traffic free day, to visit Belfast and the East coast of County Down.

Whitehouse Lagoon
My first stop was at Whitehouse Lagoon.  With the tide on it's way out, I was actually surprised by the low number of gulls and waders present, these feeding on the newly exposed mudflat.  It did not take long to scope all the birds, with just the one ring being spotted.

This was (White) T56W, a Black-headed Gull, ringed in June 2012, at the Odra Reservoir, in Poland.  Today's sighting of T56W, is my fourth for this winter, having initially spotted it on the 22nd August 2017.  (White) T56W, has been re-sighted here, every winter, since being first recorded at Whitehouse Lagoon, during the 2014/15 winter.

Black-headed Gull  -  White T56W  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (28 Jan 2018)
(Ringed as an Unsexed 2nd year plus, on the 16th June 2012, at the Odra Reservoir, Poland)

Whiteabbey Beach
Quickly moving on to the beach at Whiteabbey, the situation was far better than at Whitehouse Lagoon.  Here, I had plenty of birds to scope and my first ring was that of Common Gull  2AIP .  It is my third sighting of the gull this winter and the ninth record, since I originally spotted it here on the 10th October 2015.  My previous two sightings this winter, were on the 22nd August and 18th November 2017.  As yet, no one else has reported  2AIP .

Common Gull  -    2AIP   -  Whiteabbey Shore, Co. Antrim  (28 Jan 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 11th June 2012, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Black-headed Gull -  2CPN , was the next ringed bird to be spotted.  Ringed as a chick, on the 16th June 2017, this was my fourth sighting of this first winter gull, at Whiteabbey.  My initial sighting, was made on the 24th September 2017, the gull having travelled 18 kms south-west from where it was ringed on Larne Lough.

(1st Winter)  Black-headed Gull  -    2CPN   -  Whiteabbey Shoreline, Co. Antrim  (28 Jan 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

A Herring Gull and an Oystercatcher, were spotted, both bearing 'metal-rings'.  Unfortunately, they were too far away, even to attempt reading them.

More 'metal-rings' and a 'colour-ring', were spotted amongst a flock of around 200 Knots.  I had no chance of reading the three 'metals', but I patiently waited for a full view of the bird that had a 'colour-ring'.  The Knots, were quite tolerant of people walking past on the footpath, close to where they huddled on the shoreline.  However, when an elderly couple stopped and leaned on the railings, the Knots took off, re-alighting a short distance away.

Re-positioning myself, I again began scoping for the 'colour-ring', without success.  It was now a waiting game, as some of the birds were now starting to feed on the quickly exposing shore.  Eventually, I ran out of luck, as a group of five joggers, ran along the shore, the birds rising and flying out towards the other side of Belfast Lough.

Kinnegar & Ballyholme Beaches
I moved on to the beaches at Kinnegar and then Ballyholme.  At Kinnegar, there were plenty of gulls, waders and a few Brent Geese.  Though the tide, was now well out, I decided not to venture onto the beach, as being exposed to a very strong wind, would have created too much shake in both the telescope and camera.

Things were not a lot better, at Ballyholme, but with a slight difference in wind direction, I decided to have a go at scoping the gulls.  It did not take long, to spot a Herring Gull, with a yellow 'Darvic'.  Moving closer, out on to the beach, I cut down the distance and took a few photos.

I was successful and captured the code -  2V:W , which on returning home, I discovered, this was a new sighting for me.  Ringed as an adult, on the nearby Copeland Islands, I actually hold a copy of all the gulls that have currently been ringed, with these yellow 'Darvics'.  Unless, anyone else, has reported the gull recently, this is a first re-sighting, since being ringed on the 4th May 2015.

Herring Gull  -    2V:W   -  Ballyholme Beach, Co. Down  (28 Jan 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 4th May 2015, at The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Donaghadee, Millisle and Ballywalter
I quickly passed by, both Donaghadee and Millisle.  Although, both beaches had gulls, there were far too many folk out walking, to even attempt to look for rings.

At Ballywalter, the tide was now fully out, but not many gulls were present.  It would have been, too time consuming, to walk out and scope these, so I moved on to Portavogie Harbour.

Ballyhalbert and Portavogie
I had not planned at stopping in Ballyhalbert, but driving along, just above the shore, I spotted a group of Brent Geese feeding.  Pulling onto the roadside, I started scoping and spotted one with 'colour-rings'.  A photo was quickly obtained and a check and count of the flock, revealed no further rings among the 59 geese.

Checking my spreadsheet at home, I discovered my goose, was a new sighting for me, so I reported it to Graham McElwaine of the Irish Brent Goose Research Group.  As always, Graham was on the ball and a short time later I received a reply.

My goose, was ringed as an adult female, in May 2010, in the Akranes area, of Western Iceland.  It has been recorded every year since, wintering on Strangford Lough in County Down.  The goose then appears to move to the outside of the Ards Peninsula, after the turn the year.  It has only been recorded back in Iceland on two occasions - May 2011 and May 2012.

My thanks to Graham, for supplying the history of White J, Red C.

Brent Goose  -  White J, Red C  -  Ballyhalbert Shore, Co. Down  (28 Jan 2018)
(Ringed as an adult female, on the 14th May 2010, in the Akranes area, of western Iceland)

Portavogie Harbour
My final stop of the day, was at Portavogie Harbour.  Here, I was hoping to spot a juvenile Herring Gull, bearing an orange ring.  It flew off, before I could get a photo, during my previous visit, on the 23rd December 2017.  Over 100 gulls were present, mostly Herring Gulls and a few Great Black-backed Gulls.

With the strong wind, most were too busy, floating about in the sky.  I spent over an hour and a half, at the harbour, checking for rings on birds that landed.  I never found the gull that I was looking for, but I did obtain my sixth sighting of a Great Black-backed Gull -  T7VZ .

 T7VZ , was ringed as a chick, on the Isle of Man, in July 2013.  My previous five sightings of it at Portavogie, were on - 3rd March 2014, 13th & 27th February 2016, 30th July 2017 and 23rd December 2017.

Great Black-backed Gull  -  T  -  Portavogie Harbour, Co. Down  (28 Jan 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th July 2013, at Point of Ayre, Isle of Man)

Another gull spotted at Portavogie Harbour, was an Iceland Gull.  Normally, I do not report unusual birds, but seeing as I took a decent photo of the Iceland Gull, I sent a copy to the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Association.  Later, on Sunday evening, I checked the NIBA website, to see if my record of the sighting had been included.  I found, that a report of an Iceland Gull at Portavogie Harbour, had already been submitted by Ian Graham and Wilton Farrelly.

After a while, I received an email from Wilton, to say that my gull sighting, was different from the bird they spotted.  Their bird was heavily oiled, on the breast and face, so two Iceland Gulls had visited the harbour on the same day. 

Iceland Gull  -  Portavogie Harbour, Co. Down  (28 Jan 2018)

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