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)


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