Wednesday, 28 March 2018

End in Sight...

My new laptop arrived and all my data was easily transferred.  The biggest plus, was being able to use the fully functioning Firefox Browser.  I had no idea, what the problem was, with my previous laptop, but for some reason, working on my Blog through the Firefox Browser, makes for easier editing, etc.

My two cats, are now banned, from approaching my new machine, as I do not want any more accidental spills.  At home, I'm a coffeeholic and a cuppa is preferred to eating, so as to keep my weight down.  With the Raptor nesting season about to start, long walks into the hills are so much easier, with less weight to contend with.

After next week, posts will become few and far between.  My thoughts now turn to nesting species and 'Ring Watching', will be undertaken to a lesser degree.  I will be checking the 'Live' Polish and Norwegian Ringing Databases, to record the return of gulls that I've sighted this winter in Northern Ireland.

With less data being recorded, I'll try and catch up on my Common Gull Blog and update it with the many sightings gathered this winter.  In the meantime, I hope my readers have enjoyed my efforts to record 'ringed' birds this winter and many a 'Ringer', will no doubt, have enjoyed hearing about their birds.


      Antrim Marina - Monday 26th March 2018       
Today, was meant to be my final visit to Antrim Marina, thus ending my fifth winter of 'Ring Watching' at the site.  However, one Black-headed Gull, has yet to be included onto my 'winter list', although it arrives back in time, for the breeding season ahead.    2ADD , was late in returning and though I did not see him today, I'm fairly certain he's back.

On completing my visit to the Marina, I checked the KFC outlet and    2ADD , was not present.  I think, that since last week's sighting of him at KFC, he has returned to the Marina and was probably out on the 'Torpedo Platform', where he breeds.  I'll make another visit next Sunday and hopefully will record him at the Marina.

My visit today at the Marina, was very poor, as far as the gulls were concerned.  At no time, did the number of Black-headed Gulls, exceed the 50 mark, though there was a high turnover of birds visiting.  I based this on the number of 'ringed' birds present, which departed more or less, as quickly as they arrived.  There was no doubt, many were looking for a quick feed, before heading back out onto the Lough and their breeding site.

Of the 38 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls recorded this winter, only 13 were re-sighted today.  The absence of all of the non-residents, probably means that they are now heading back towards their respective breeding sites and countries.

Although, there was a frosty start on my arrival, with the clear skies and plenty of sunshine, the temperature had risen to 11°C, by the time of my departure.  Looking over to the 'Torpedo Platform', it was swarming with birds obviously laying claim to nesting sites.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina - Monday 26th March 2018
 2CSR   2BRA   2CSS   2AAA   2CSF   2AAT   2ADJ 
 2CSJ   2AAB   2ABS   2AAC   2ABK   2CSA    

Today's Absentees
 T35J   2AAP   2AAK   2ABN   2ABA   2AAF   2AAN   2ABL   2ABF 
 2AAV   2AAR   2ACV   2ADV   2AFD   2BRC   2BRD   2ANS   2CJT 
 2CSB   2CSC   2CSD   2CSH   2CSK   2CSL   2CST       

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
It was a poor visit, concerning other species of birds, except for the Mute Swans.  On my arrival, 21 adult birds, plus three of the original cygnets were present.  The young bird, that was here last week, was not present today.  As the morning wore on, the total of adults rose to 29 birds.  Having had conversations with several people, I actually missed the arrival of most of the swans.

With 32 birds altogether, this was the highest number recorded here this winter.  Most came ashore at some point, but only two rings were recorded -   W34156  and   W34158 .

Mallard numbers, were possibly the lowest, that I've ever counted here.  Only 10 birds, were present on my arrival and a head count just before my departure, gave a total of 27.  Again, most came out of the water at some point, but still no rings.

The adult pair of Herring Gulls, did not show up today, but a nearly fully matured bird arrived at 11.00 and a juvenile arrived for a brief visit at 12.05.  The Lesser Black-backed pair, appeared at 09.35, but came and went throughout the morning.

Only two adult Common Gulls were recorded, but these too, came and went and I was fairly certain that all sightings were of the same two birds.  Each time, Common Gulls arrived, they caught my full attention, in case the one with the 'Blue Darvic', should re-appear.

Other species recorded, were 2 Hooded Crows, 6 Jackdaws, 1 adult Moorhen, 1 Grey Wagtail, the pair of Pied Wagtails and two pairs of Chaffinches.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC Outlet and Baptist Church
Very few gulls were present at Antrim's Elim Church, KFC Outlet or Baptist Church.  This mirrors, the non-appearance of gulls at Antrim Marina and with the nesting season now upon us, another week or two, will see these sites being practically deserted.


      Inch & Myroe Levels - Saturday 24th March 2018       
I decided to take myself off to County Donegal today, with the aim of trying to locate one or two 'ringed' Whooper Swans.  Up until this winter, I had not recorded any ringed Whoopers, despite checking numerous birds.  That 'duck', was broken, as I've found two 'ringed' birds this winter, the first, at Glynn in County Antrim, and the second on the Myroe Levels in County Londonderry.

Despite the fact, that Whoopers, have recently been spotted in Southern Iceland, there are bound to be birds in Northern Ireland, that have not departed as yet.

On arriving at Inch, I could see a few small groups of swans, from the road, whilst looking downhill from the village of Burt.  On reaching the swans, no rings were spotted in three small groups, but on scoping a larger flock of around 80 birds, I noticed an 'Orange Darvic'.  Using, a private - no through road, I parked opposite the flock, situated a short distance from me.

Now using the binoculars, a small flock of around 20 Whoopers, on the periphery of the main flock, actually contained 5 'ringed' birds.  Zooming in with my camera, I captured the codes for all five.  Four of the birds, all with 'Orange Darvics', had codes so close to each other, they must have been captured and ringed at the same time.  

The codes, on these swans, were  ZXN ,   ZXR ZXS   &   ZXT .  The fifth Whooper, had a 'Yellow Darvic', reading  BSF .  I've now reported, all five, to Kane Brides of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and now await his reply.

Whooper Swans  -    ZXN   &    ZXT   -  Inch Levels, Co. Donegal, R. of Ireland  (24 Mar 2018)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)

Whooper Swans  -    ZXS   &    ZXT   -  Inch Levels, Co. Donegal, R. of Ireland  (24 Mar 2018)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)

Whooper Swan  -     BSF   -  Inch Levels, Co. Donegal, R. of Ireland  (24 Mar 2018)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)

Among the flocks of Whooper Swans, were flocks of Greylag Geese, which varied in size.  In one of the flocks, I spotted two Greylags with 'Orange Collars' and I reckon, these two were actually a pair.  The code on one of the 'Collars', was easily read, being -   A|AT .  The second bird, caused me some problems.  The ink, in the final letter, had 'run', making the letter far harder to decipher.  Having to take extra photos, I eventually decided that the badly smugged letter was actually a '  D ', and the ring read -   A|AD .

A third Greylag, with an 'Orange Collar', was spotted on the far side of the large flock of Whooper Swans.  I had to wait a while, for this bird to be clearly viewed and photos taken.  The code was captured -  A|BC , and on returning home, I checked the three sightings against my spreadsheet, to find that all three were new sightings for me.

There is an online site, where folk can report their Greylag sightings from this study, but I was put off from using it, as it can take several weeks to get a reply.  I thought I'd try reporting my goose sightings to the BTO, hoping the ringing details, would be returned much sooner.

This turned out to be an excellent idea, as the ringing information arrived back, in no time at all.  As I'd suspected, all three geese, were caught in the area and the 'collars' were fitted.  As, the BTO, do not supply a re-sighting history, I will still report my sightings on the dedicated website and in due time, will receive each birds re-sighting history.  At least for now, I recorded three new birds and have added to their longevity record.

Greylag Goose  -    A|AT   -  Inch Levels, Co. Donegal, R. of Ireland  (24 Mar 2018)
(Ringed on the 21st November 2012, at Inch Island, Co. Donegal)

Greylag Goose  -    A|AD   -  Inch Levels, Co. Donegal, R. of Ireland  (24 Mar 2018)
(Ringed on the 21st November 2012, at Inch Island, Co. Donegal)

Greylag Goose  -    A|BC   -  Inch Levels, Co. Donegal, R. of Ireland  (24 Mar 2018)
(Ringed on the 6th February 2013, on the Inch Levels, Co. Donegal)

Myroe Levels, County Londonderry
Leaving County Donegal, I then headed to the Myroe Levels, near the town of Limavady, in County Londonderry.  Knowing, it was high tide on Lough Foyle, there was a good chance to find Brent Geese and possibly re-sight an Oystercatcher from Iceland.  I was also on the lookout for more Whooper Swans.

Arriving onto the Levels, only two small groups of Whoopers and a couple of Mute Swans, produced no rings.  Slowly driving northwards along the track which runs parallel to the sea wall, I came upon a small flock of Oystercatchers, which included the very bird that I was looking for.

Colour-ringed (Y)ellow(G)reen-(W)hite(JA), I came across this bird on the 20th February 2017.  Richard Donaghey, recorded it, still on the Levels, on the 4th March 2017 and it was next spotted in Iceland, on the 26th April 2017.  A further three re-sightings during the month of May 2017, were the final reports of this bird, until I came across it today.

As part of a fairly new ringing study in Iceland, YG-W(JA), was ringed as a breeding adult in May 2016.  My sighting of it today, is a late winter record and had I not gone looking for it, I could have missed out altogether, as Böddi, has reported on Oystercatchers arriving back in Iceland for another breeding season.

Oystercatcher  -  (Y)ellow(G)reen-(W)hite(JA)  -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  (24 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Breeding Adult, on the 11th May 2016, in the Selfoss area, Southern Iceland)

I then located a flock of around 150 Brent geese, on a strip of grass, at the northern end of the Myroe Levels.  I reckon, that the local farmer, had reserved this area, especially for the geese, as the rest of the fields locally, had been ploughed up.

Scanning through the geese with my camera, I took pictures, whenever a 'ringed' goose was spotted.  On returning home and checking through my photos, I had the complete codes for 9 different birds and a partial code for a tenth bird.  Of the 9 definite sightings, 8 were re-sightings of geese that I've recorded here in the past, with the ninth goose being a first sighting for me.

Having reported my sightings to Graham McElwain of the Irish Brent Goose Research Group, he replied, also adding the files for each bird.  My new sighting, had only been ringed in May of 2017, so may have well been on the Myroe Levels, in the past whilst un-rung.

  3   6 , was recorded on three occasions after being ringed, all in the month of May, and at the same location in Iceland.  The next sighting, was on the 5th October 2017, at Tank Island, on Strangford Lough, County Down.  On the 9th October 2017, it had moved north-west, to Faughanvale, on Lough Foyle, Co. Londonderry.

The last two sightings before I came across it, were made on the 11th and 27th January 2018, where   3   6 , had made the short flight from Faughanvale to the Myroe Levels, which was where I saw it today.  The most stand-out, of my re-sightings, was that of a bird ringed nearly 12 years ago -   U   U

Brent Goose  -     3    6    -  Myroe Levels, nr Limavady, Co. Londonderry  (24 Mar 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 8th May 2017, in the Álftanes area of South-West Iceland)

Brent Goose  -  (L)ime U - (Yellow) U  -  Myroe Levels, nr Limavady, Co. Londonderry  (24 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 15th May 2006, in the Álftanes area of South-West Iceland)


Wednesday, 21 March 2018


Another interesting week, with a couple of new ring sightings.  The most 'standout' of these, was an Oystercatcher, 'colour-ringed' in Iceland, 'metal-ringed' in Wales and spotted feeding at Kinnegar Beach.

My laptop, never recovered from the drink spill and I'm still having to use a wireless keyboard.  I've purchased a new laptop, which should arrive in the next day or two.  I'll will then transfer all my ringing data to the new laptop.

This process will be quite easy, as every 'ringed' bird that I record, spreadsheet data and so on, are saved in their own individual folders, all stashed inside a main folder, named 'In the Field'.  All I have to do, is copy the main folder onto a memory stick and then transfer it onto the new laptop.

This process, will save me hours of time, trying to transfer each individual folder.  Perhaps, some of my readers, might like to copy this idea, just in case of a later mishap on their machines.  Every so often, I back up my main file onto a memory stick, just in case something goes disastrously wrong.


      Antrim Marina - Monday 19th March 2018       
Today was my penultimate weekly visit of this, my fifth winter of 'Ring Watching' at Antrim Marina.  With parts of the British Mainland, again experiencing an icy blast, with snow in places, today in Northern Ireland, we enjoyed pretty clear skies, sunshine and a fairly bitter east wind.

With Saturday being a washout, with a lot of rain and strong winds, I remained at home and once again decided to postpone my visit to the Marina until today.  Black-headed Gull numbers, never surpassed the 80 mark, at any one time, though individuals were clearly coming and going.  Overall, I think visiting birds, probably were in the 120 to 130 range.

 2AAR  and  2ACV , were both absent today and looking at past records, both have probably departed now.  The Lithuanian (White) T35J, did appear, which equals the latest date, before it's departure for home.  The only gull, that I'm still waiting on to arrive -   2ADD , is still, well and truly 'parked' across town, at the KFC outlet.  It is now 8 weeks, since  2ADD , arrived at the outlet from his wintering quarters at Carrickfergus.

Another two gulls, that I consider to be, winter visitors -  2ABN  and  2AAK , were not present for the third and first weeks respectively.   2AAK , is the gull, that was really unwell at one point during the winter and a bird I made a point of hand feeding during each of my visits.  As it's health improved, becoming stronger on the wing, it's co-ordination, was at times well off, whilst trying to catch bread that I threw into the air for it.

It's flight, is still a bit 'flappy', which might make the bird a target for predators on it's journey to it's nesting area.  If  2AAK , has definitely gone, I hope it makes it back next winter.

This week, I was sorting through some of my sightings at the Marina, when I spotted something quite interesting.  On the 5th February 2018, I spotted a Black-headed Gull, with an upside-down 'metal-ring'.  Perched on the long jetty, I took photos of the ring and only obtained the five numbers, but not the two letters preceding the number.  As it was a BTO ring, the first missing letter, would be an ' E ', which would then have given me -  E*85673 .

On the 5th March 2017, a Black-headed Gull, was spotted on the long jetty, also with an upside-down 'metal-ring'.  On that occasion, I only managed to get the last two numbers ' 73 '.  This surely, has to be the same gull, which has passed through Antrim Marina, two years running.  Perhaps, with luck, I'll see this gull again next year, and 'nail' that missing letter.  

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina - Monday 19th March 2018
 2CJT   2CSF   2CSC   2ADJ   2CSJ   2AAB   2CSA   2AAP 
 2AAT   2BRA   2AAA   2CSK   2CSL   2CSS   2ABS   2AAN 
 2ANS   T35J   2CSR   2ABK   2CSH   2CSB       

Today's Absentees
 2AAK   2AAC   2ABN   2ABA   2AAF   2ABL   2ABF   2AAV 
 2AAR   2ACV   2ADV   2AFD   2BRC   2BRD   2CSD   2CST 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
I must start with Common Gulls today, as to my delight, I got my (hoped for) third sighting this winter, of the Finnish bird -   ST177.028 .  It arrived at 11.10 and was still present when I departed from the Marina, around 12.30.  My previous two sightings, were made on the 14th January and 5th February 2018.

This is the third winter running that I have recorded  ST177.028 , at the Marina.  Ringed as a juvenile, on the 6th August 1995, the duration since ringing, is now 22 years, 7 months and 13 days.  Although I'd doubt, if this gull, will break the longevity record for a Common Gull, of 27 years and 10 months, I'd be delighted to spot it's return next winter.

Common Gull  -  Finland    ST177.028   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (19 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 6th August 1995, Maaninka, Finland.)

Just one adult Common Gull, was present, when I arrived this morning, but by mid-morning, numbers increased to 8 adults and two juveniles.  I kept a keen eye out, for the small Scottish-rung female, but she never appeared.

The adult pair of Herring Gulls, were also present on my arrival and one of the pair, has injured it's foot, since I saw them last week.  A third adult and a juvenile, both arrived in quick succession, around 11.40.  Both birds only remained for around fifteen minutes.  The pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, which arrived a couple of weeks ago, appeared at 10.22 and also remained throughout the rest of my visit.

13 adult Mute Swans, plus three cygnets were already present on my arrival.  One of the cygnets however, was a new visitor, as it had very few brown feathers in it's plumage, as compared to the other three, present over the last couple of weeks.  A further seven adults, arrived in from the Lough in one's and two's, taking the total to 20 adults and 3 juveniles.  Two 'metal-rings' were read, these being -  W34156  and  W34158 .

Mallard numbers, are still on the low side, with 24 birds present on my arrival, increasing to 56, at the time of my departure.  Most legs, were checked throughout the morning, but still no more rings.

Other species recorded, were :- 2 Hooded Crows, 4 Jackdaws, 1 adult and 1 juvenile Moorhen, 2 male Chaffinches and a male Pied Wagtail.  Although never seen, a pair of Buzzards, were often heard calling in the woodland opposite the Marina.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC and Baptist Church
There was no sign of   2AAV , at the Elim Church and no rings were spotted on any of the other gulls which arrived for my offering of bread (18 Black-headeds, 3 Lesser Black-backeds and a single Herring Gull).

At the KFC outlet, there were just over 50 Black-headed Gulls, along with 2 Herring, 2 Lesser Black-backed and a single Common Gull.  The larger gulls, along with a small number of Black-headeds, would not approach my car for bread.

No problem though for  2ADD , who promptly landed beside me.  This bird should have appeared at Antrim Marina by now - perhaps next week.  There was no sign of the Norwegian  JK35 , and on checking the final sighting dates for the last two winters - (13th March 2016 and 12th March 2017), I reckon that it is on the way back to Norway.

Around 70 Black-headed Gulls, were on the grass, in front of the Baptist Church, many bathing in the small pools of water.  Despite my attempts to lure them onto the Church roof, they were all disinterested.  The gate to the large front car park was locked, so I could not gain access.  If I could have got in, the gulls would certainly have come over.


      Ringing Details Received       
After publishing my last post, many readers might have wondered, what was so special, about my sighting, of one of Adam's Study birds  2ATJ .  Spotted on the beach at Kinnegar, in County Down, I knew that I had never seen this Black-headed Gull before, but in a way, I was right and wrong.

Having receieved it's file from Adam, this was a bird that I personally ringed, on the 31st May 2016, at Inch Island, in County Donegal.  In 2016, I joined members of the Causeway Coast Ringing Group, for three visits to the small island, at Inch Island Lake.  Adam, was unable to make it for the first of these three visits.

As part of my training, to regain my ringing permit, I 'metal-ringed' a small number of Black-headed Gull and Sandwich Tern chicks, under the guidance of Ken Perry.  Adam, joined us for the 2nd visit to Inch, on the 8th of June, to begin 'colour-ringing' Black-headed Gull youngsters.  One of these youngsters, was  EZ61019 , a bird that I had ringed on the 31st May.  'Colour-ring',  2ATJ , was added to it's left leg, and this was the bird that I spotted at Kinnegar beach.

 2ATJ , is the first of 124 young Black-headed Gulls to be re-sighted, having been 'colour-ringed' on visits two and three.  The only other BHG, to have been recorded from the three visits, was  EZ61022 , which I also ringed on the 31st May 2016, and one that I discovered at Coleraine's, McDonalds outlet, in October 2016 (2 sightings).

Personally, it felt great, to spot a gull, which I had my hands on as a chick.  Perhaps, with the sighting of  2ATJ , more of the 'colour-ringed' birds from Inch, might now start to turn up.  Inch, is situated, 112 kms / 70 miles, to the north-west, from Kinnegar Beach. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2ATJ   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (11 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 31st May 2016, at Inch Island Lake, Co. Donegal)


      Sunday 18th March 2018       
Having failed to get out on Saturday, due to poor weather, I decided to use Sunday to visit sites other than Antrim Marina.  I went to Kinnegar Beach again, as it has been producing a fair number of 'colour-ringed' birds.

What was meant to be a short visit, actually lasted for most of the afternoon, after which time, I drove round to the Dargan Mudflats, a short distance away.

My patience at Kinnegar, was rewarded, with 5 'colour-ring' sightings, two of which were new birds.  The first ring spotted, belonged to a Common Gull -  2H70 , which I was keen to re-sight, having been ringed by the Grampian Ringing Group in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Of late, I've recorded, three other Common Gulls at Kinnegar, that had been ringed by the Grampian Ringing Group -  2VDT  (a new bird, on the 18th February 2018),  2J52  (a new bird, on the 4th March 2018) and  2A06  (a re-sighting, also on the 4th March 2018).

 2H70 , was ringed as an unsexed adult, on the 26th August 2016, at the Ythan Estuary, in Aberdeenshire.  My only previous sighting of the gull, was made on the 12th February 2017, here at Kinnegar.  At least I've recorded  2H70 , for the second winter running.  I try to re-sight every ringed bird that I have recorded, at least once each year.

I reported my sighting of  2H70 , to Calum Campbell, who is the ringing secretary for the Grampian RG.  Calum, replied, and stated that  2H70 , has not been reported since I saw the gull last year.  My thanks to Calum, for the update.

Common Gull  -    2H70   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (18 Mar 2018)
Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 26th August 2016, at The Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)

The second 'colour-ring' bird to be recorded, was a new sighting.  I've been after a cr-ringed Oystercatcher for several weeks now, but I've failed to read the code on it's White Ring, the bird also had two orange rings on it's other leg.  No sign of that one, but today's Oystercatcher, was rung - Orange/Niger-White(JA), a bird I knew, would have been ringed in Iceland.

Having reported my sighting to the Icelandic Wader Group, Böddi, replied, with some interesting details.  ON-W(JA), was actually, a British-rung Oystercatcher -  FH14394 .  It was ringed by the Scan Ringing Group, on the 10th February 2008, at Penmon Quarry, Anglesey, in North Wales.

On the 7th May 2016, Veronica Mendez Aragon, discovered   FH14394 , on a nest, at Pétursey, in Southern Iceland and was able to read it's ring number.  Exactly one year later,  FH14394 , was again nesting in the Pétursey area, and this time Veronica managed to capture and 'colour-ring' the bird - ON-W(JA).

Could it be possible, that  FH14394 , has changed it's choice of wintering site or has it stopped via Kinnegar, en-route to Iceland, from Wales.  Only further re-sightings, during future winters will answer this question, but in the meantime, I got more info, than I expected after spotting this Oystercatcher.

Oystercatcher  - Orange/Niger-White(JA)  -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (18 Mar 2017)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 10th February 2008, at Penmon Quarry, Anglesey, Wales)

My third 'colour-ring' sighting, was Black-headed Gull -  2AJC , a bird that I've recorded on two previous occasions on the beach here at Kinnegar (27th December 2016 and 17th October 2017).    2AJC , has been spotted by other observers in, May 2015 and March 2016, at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, a short distance away from Kinnegar Beach.

It is strongly suspected, that  2AJC , actually breeds on one of the two nesting platforms situated on the Reserve's Lake.  So far, I've yet to spot  2AJC , on the Reserve, despite several visits during past breeding seasons.

 2AJC , is from Adam's Northern Ireland Study, and was ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2014, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, in County Down.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AJC  -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (18 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2014, at The Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down)

A Herring Gull, rung  2N:W , was the fourth 'colour-ring' sighting, and was another new bird for me.  Although, Adam McClure, is the ringing coordinator for Herring Gulls, ringed on the Copeland Islands, I actually have a copy of the ringing details for all of these gulls.

 2N:W , is from a relatively new project, which began in 2014, and was caught and ringed as an adult, on the 5th May 2015.  I have reported my sighting to Adam (no reply as yet), but I strongly suspect, that my sighting is a first for this gull.  The Copeland Islands, are situated 21 kms / 13 miles away from Kinnegar Beach.

Herring Gull  -    2N:W   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (18 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 5th May 2015, at The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

The fifth 'colour-ring' to be spotted, was that of a Norwegian Black-headed Gull -  J22Z , which I first recorded here on the 4th March 2018.  As these are recent sightings, not much can be read, as to whether this bird actually winters in the Kinnegar area.   J22Z , will soon be heading back to Norway, so will be one to watch out for next winter.

Black-headed Gull  -    J22Z   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (18 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 4th May 2016, at Lake Mosvatnet, Stavanger, Norway.)

After my prolonged visit to Kinnegar, I drove round to the mudflats at nearby Dargan.  On reaching here, the tide was now well out and several hundred gulls and waders were too distant to even bother scoping.  What birds, were close to me, were all unringed.  On my way home, I took a detour to view Whitehouse Lagoon.  Whilst passing by on the Motorway, I could see very few birds were present, so never bothered stopping in.


      Tuesday 20th March 2018       
As I'm off work this week, I decided to call into the RSPB's WoW Reserve in Belfast, before making another visit to Kinnegar Beach, which has produced a number of 'colour-ringed' birds lately.

At the Window on Wildlife Reserve, I called into 'Hide One', which overlooks one of the two nesting platforms, which initially was intended to attract Terns.  Black-headed Gulls, have taken to nesting on these platforms in large numbers. Mediterranean Gulls, have become the 'star' species here, and five pairs nested and fledged chicks in 2017.

Last summer, I recorded two of Adam's 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, nesting on the platform.  Today, I spotted both birds -  2ASF  and  2BHB , on the exact spots, where they had nested last summer.  Both gulls were in courtship display, with their respective partners and defending their niche on the platform.

I noticed in the photos, that I took of the birds, there is a 'metal-rung' Black-headed Gull, beside  2BHB .  I'm not sure, whether this is it's mate, but I'll try and check on that during my next visit.  If they are a pair, it will be interesting to see if they remain together during future breeding seasons.

Two pairs of Mediterranean Gulls have returned so far, none of which were ringed.  Last summer, I noticed that one of the Med Gulls which bred, had a tall 'metal-ring', meaning that it was a foreign rung bird.  Due to the distance, between the hide and the nesting platform, 'metals', cannot be read, but the codes on 'colour-rings', are just about in range.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BHB   -  RSPB WoW Reserve, Belfast  (20 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 2nd June 2014, at Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ASF   -  RSPB WoW Reserve, Belfast  (20 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2013, at Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

On reaching Kinnegar Beach, the tide was beginning to recede, which was an ideal time to watch for gulls and waders, arriving to feed.  No 'colour-rings' were spotted this time, but 'metals', were noted on three gulls.  The first of which, was a tall 'metal', on a juvenile/1st winter Black-headed Gull, which meant it was a foreign bird.

The other two 'metals', were BTO rings, on an adult Black-headed Gull and an adult Common Gull.  Had these three gulls, been 'colour-ringed', I'd have easily captured the codes.

After a while, a dog walker appeared, scaring all the birds to the now distant water's edge.  The lady concerned, passed by me at the car and saw that I was scoping the birds, but carried on to the beach anyway.  How come, so many dog walkers, appear to be 'brainless'?


Friday, 16 March 2018

2nd CR-Norge Mew Gull...

Another late post, this time caused by one of our two pet cats.  On Tuesday evening, 'Fat Cat', jumped up, knocking over a drink, which partly spilled onto the keyboard of my Laptop.  Having sorted and labelled my photos, I attempted to start on this post, to find some of the 'keys' were not working.

On Thursday morning, I linked another 'wireless' keyboard to my laptop, which then enabled me to gain access and make a start on the post.  During the last two days, I've also had to reply to several emails, another hold back, while trying to finish and publish the post.

Adam McClure, has also replied, concerning my sighting of one of his 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls -   2ATJ  (read below).  This one, turns out to be a bit special, but I'll tell the full story, in my next post.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 12th March 2018       
I had intended to visit Antrim Marina, on Sunday, as normal.  As I did not venture away from home on Saturday, due to heavy rain and strong winds, I decided to go elsewhere on Sunday and visit the Marina today, instead.

On my arrival at the Marina, this morning, it was overcast, with practically no wind and the temperature read 6°C.  As the morning wore on, the sun broke through the cloud and with the rising heat, the flies came out supplying a feast for many of the gulls.

At no time, during my visit, did the number of Black-headed Gulls, exceed the 80 mark.  With many, coming and going, individuals may have exceeded the 120 mark.  I had hoped to record my final arrival for this winter, being  2ADD .  I had predicted, his return today, but he is still, well and truly 'parked' at the KFC outlet, across Antrim Town.

 2AAR , is now due to leave for Poland, and the Lithuanian (White) T35J, is still here as well.  Normally, T35J, would have already departed, by now.    2ACV , was also spotted today, having missed being recorded for the first time this winter, on my previous visit, last Monday.  Usually,  2ACV , would have departed by now as well.

I wonder, if these birds can sense a change in the weather conditions, which might explain why they are still here.  The forecast, gives for snow over Britain and parts of Europe, this coming weekend.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've written about  2CSS , which was caught and ringed at the Marina, on the 4th January 2018.  Having been absent for several weeks, after being ringed, it has reappeared of late.  My only problem, was trying to get a decent photo of the gull.  Today, it was the 20th of my 21 'colour-ring' re-sightings and this time, I did manage to obtain a decent picture.

Several of the Black-headed Gulls, have now gone into full courtship display and very quite boisterous.  I took a look at the nearby 'Torpedo Platform', where the gulls breed, to find a couple of hundred birds, are obviously jostling for nest sites.  The breeding season is quickly approaching and my fifth winter of 'Ring Watching at Antrim Marina', will soon be at an end.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina on Monday 12th March 2018
 2AAT   2AAK   2CSF   2ABK   2ABL   2CSA   2CSR 
 2CSC   2CJT   2ACV   2CSJ   2AAR   2AAC   2BRA 
 2ABS   2AAA   2CSB   2AAP   T35J   2CSS   2ABF 

Today's Absentees
 2ABN   2ADJ   2ABA   2AAB   2AAF   2AAN   2AAV   2ADV   2AFD 
 2BRC   2BRD   2ANS   2CSD   2CSH   2CSK   2CSL   2CST    

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  T35J  -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (12 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd June 2006, at Lake Kretuonas, Lithuania)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSS  -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (12 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Juvenile / 1st Winter, on the 4th January 2018, at Antrim Marina)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
8 Mute Swans and 3 cygnets, were present on my arrival at the Marina this morning.  One of these, was  W34158 , easily recognised, as it is blind in the right eye.  Over the course of my visit, a further 7 adult swans arrived, taking the total to 17.  I was able to view all legs, with no further rings being spotted.

Mallard numbers, continue to be on the low side, with around 18 birds at first, increasing to around 40 birds, by the time of my departure.  A few of the females, were persistently chased by drakes.  Nearly all were checked for rings, but so far, I have only the one sighting this winter.

A single adult Common Gull at first, was joined by 5 others during the morning, plus a single juvenile.  At 11.58, one bird landed on the rail of the concrete jetty, which bore a 'Blue Darvic'.  It took off again, two or three seconds later and landed again at the end of the long wooded jetty.  I returned to my car, to grab the camera, but my gull flew off again towards the Lough and did not return.

My thoughts, was that the gull was  2AJP , which has appeared here over the previous two summers.  If it is  2AJP , then it has arrived back exceptionally early.  This gull, has only been recorded here, during the months of June and July.  Hopefully, this bird will reappear on my next visit.

There was no sign of the two 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls, from Scotland and Finland.  I had hoped to see the Finnish bird, at least one more time, before it departed, but the chances of that now, are slim.

The pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls which arrived recently, were present throughout my visit.  The pair of Herring Gulls, arrived at 9.40 and also remained at the Marina.

Other species recorded during my visit, were, 2 Hooded Crows, 6 Jackdaws, 2 Moorhens, a pair of Pied Wagtails and 2 female and a single male Chaffinch.

Antrim's Elim Church
As  2AAV , never appeared at the Marina, I called by Antrim's Elim Church.  Only a couple of Black-headed Gulls were present there, but  2AAV , was not among them.

Antrim's KFC Outlet
At Antrim's Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, just over 30 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Common Gulls and a pair of Lesser Black-backeds were present.  Throwing out bread from my car window,  2ADD  was first to land in front of me.  Normally,  2ADD , would have made it's way to Antrim Marina, so I was surprised to still find it here.

The Norwegian BHG,  rung  JK35 , was also present.  Having been recorded for the third winter running here, this may well be my last sighting of it this winter.  My final records of it during the previous two winters, were recorded on the 13th March 2016 and the 12th March 2017.

Last Monday, I spotted  2CSL  here.  This Black-headed gull, had been recorded at Antrim Marina, a short time previously that day.  It was also present at the KFC car park today, but kept it's distance from my car.  Ringed at the Marina, on the 24th December 2017, it was not spotted there today and I'm now wondering, if it has developed a taste for chicken and chips, hence it's presence at KFC.

Antrim's Baptist Church
Very few Black-headed Gulls were in the area of the Baptist Church, with most gulls spotted flying high in the sky, catching flies.  The temperature had now risen to 9°C, which had obviously encouraged the aerial 'suppers'.  Among the few BHGs, that did land on the Church roof, was one with a BTO 'metal'.  I was not able to read any details on the ring, but the bird was probably the same one recently recorded here.  There was again, no sign of the Finnish 'metal-rung' BHG, which has in all likelihood moved on. 

      Ringing Details Received       
Yesterday morning (Thursday 15th March 2018), I received an email from, Job ten Horn, concerning my sighting of a Bar-tailed Godwit, at Kinnegar Beach, on the 4th March.  It was caught and ringed, as an adult male, on the 3rd September 2008, at Terschelling, in northern Holland.

There have been few re-sightings, but mine in Northern Ireland, is it's first recorded sighting within the British Isles.  Three other sightings were on the 24th September 2008 - Wad ten zuiden van Griend, Holland, 11th May 2011 - Ameland, Holland, and on the 8th December 2015 - Banc d'Arguin, in north west Mauritania.

The Godwit, should have displayed a 'Red Flag', among it's colour-rings, but this has clearly broken off.  My thanks to Job ten Horn, for sending me the ringing information and re-sighting history.  A profile of Job and his research can be viewed (Here).

Bar-tailed Godwit  -  Kinnegar Beach, Co. Down  (04 Mar 2018)
(Ringed on the 3rd September 2008, at Terschelling, Holland)


      From John Clarke       
Recently, I received an email from my ringing trainer, John Clarke.  On a recent visit, to the Strand Road Jetty, in Coleraine, John spotted a juvenile/1st winter Black-headed Gull, and successfully took a few photos of the bird and it's 'metal-ring'.  With the complete ring number captured on the photographs -  589599 , John was unable to make out the address for this foreign rung gull, and asked for my assistance.

My suspicion was raised, that the bird could be of Icelandic origin, as John mentioned that something was written before the actual ring number.  I compared some of my photos of my Icelandic ring sightings, with those sent by John, and these matched.

John, reported his sighting and duly received a reply, confirming that the bird was indeed from Iceland.    589599 , was ringed as a chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Brekka, which is situated to the south-west of the Icelandic Capital of Reykjavik.  The distance, between the two sites, was given as, 1,311 kms / 814 miles (SE) and the duration as, 8 months and 20 days.

My thanks to John for sharing his sighting and supplying the ringing info.  Hopefully, we'll see this bird again in the future.

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    589599   -  Strand Road, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry  (08 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Brekka, Álftanes, Iceland)
(Photo Courtesy of John Clarke)


      Sunday 11th March 2018       
I did not go out on Saturday, due to heavy rain and a strong wind.  Sunday, was a far milder day, so I decided to leave my visit to Antrim Marina, till the following day and ventured to Belfast and County Down instead.

My first stop, was at the Kinnegar Beach, where over a thousand gulls and waders, were noted last Sunday, with several 'colour-ringed' birds being spotted.  What a difference, a week makes, with just 300 to 400 birds present today.

Scoping just about every gull and wader, none of last Sunday's ring finds were present, but I did spot another new 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull.  Rung -  2ATJ , this bird belongs to Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Study.

I reported my sighting to Adam, but he has not replied as yet.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ATJ   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (11 Mar 2018)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)

My next stop, was at Ward Park, in Bangor, County Down, to see if I could find  2ALH , another of Adam's Study birds.    2ALH , was the gull that bred on Lough Neagh, during 2016, and recorded at Antrim Marina on numerous occasions that summer.

I had expected  2ALH , to return to Antrim Marina, last summer, but she never arrived back.  Fearing that something may have happened to her, I went looking for her at Ward Park, were she can be found during the winter and duly found her on the 23rd December 2017.  Today's sighting of her, just confirms that she is still here.  I wonder, if she'll breed at Antrim this year.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ALH   -  Ward Park, Bangor, Co. Down  (11 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2013, on Mew Island, Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Moving on from Ward Park, my next stop was at Ballyholme Beach, in Bangor.  With the tide on it's way out, around 100 gulls, a few waders and a couple of parties of Brent Geese, attempted to come ashore.  I waited for a while, but the birds were constantly being frightened away by dog walkers and joggers.

My next stop, was at Groomsport, where hardly any gulls were present at the harbour.  The few Black-headed and Herring Gulls, were quickly checked for rings, but no joy.  I did notice that the pair of Carrion x Hooded Crow's, are still together, and were busy building their latest nest in the same set of trees where they have nested, over the last two years.

Just to the north of Donaghadee, I noticed two large groups of gulls, on the rocks.  The flocks, were made up of mostly Common Gulls, with a small number of Black-headeds.  Scoping through these, I spotted a Common Gull, with a badly worn 'Blue Darvic'.  This may well be the same bird that I have spotted on previous occasions, along this stretch, but, have yet to 'nail' the code.

I then tried to tie down the gull's exact location, with my binoculars, which would then help me to zoom in with my camera.  No sooner, had I spotted it, the gull then flew off to the other side of the rocks, out of view.

I now focused on the other group of gulls, resting on another set of rocks close by.  This time, I spotted a Common Gull, with a 'White Darvic'.  Although, a fair distance away from me, my camera captured the code - (White) JA9M.  I was immediately delighted, as I knew this bird was from Norway, as their codes begin with the letter 'J'.

Returning home and entering the code onto the 'Live' Norwegian Ringing Database, I was presented with the gull's ringing and re-sighting history.  Ringed as an adult, in 2012, it has been re-sighted on numerous occasions, but my sighting is the first outside of Norway.

It was rung on Lake Tveitevannet, at Bergen, which is 907 kms / 563 miles, to the north-east of Donaghadee, and the duration is now 5 years, 10 months and 23 days.  (White) JA9M, is only my second 'colour-ringed' Norwegian Common Gull.  Last winter, I recorded   JA19 , at Whitehouse Lagoon, in Belfast.  Spotted on the 12th February 2017,  JA19 , has not been sighted since.

Common Gull  -  Norway  (White)  JA9M  -  Donaghadee, Co. Down  (11 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 16th April 2012, Lake Tveitevannet, Bergen, Norway)

After checking another couple of sites at Donaghadee, I then travelled the short distance to Millisle.  Normally, a hotbed for Common Gulls, only a small number of this species were present and no rings were spotted.

On the northern shore at Millisle, I did re-sight a Herring Gull -  1L:W .  I've only recorded this gull once before and that was on the 3rd September 2016, just a little further to the north from where I spotted it today.   1L:W , was ringed as an adult, on the nearby Copeland Islands, in May 2015.

Herring Gull  -    1L:W   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (11 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 6th May 2017, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)

Leaving Millisle, I cut across country to Newtownards and then checked small groups of gulls along the western shore of Strangford Lough.

The first ring to be spotted was on a Common Gull.  It was with a small number of other Common Gulls and a large number of Black-headed Gulls, in a small tidal bay, just to the north of Strangford village.  With my camera, I zoomed in, but the gull was just out of reach, to capture the code on it's 'Orange Darvic'.

Common Gull  -  Ring Code Un-decisive  -  Strangford, Co. Down  (11 Mar 2018)

Checking small groups of gulls and Brent Geese, the final ring of the day was spotted at the fishing village of Ardglass.  A juvenile Great Black-backed Gull - rung  X:139 , was already known to me, though this was my first sighting of it.

 X:139 , was ringed as a chick, on the 17th June 2017, on the Isle of May, Firth of Fourth, in Scotland.  It was spotted at Ardglass Harbour, on the 23rd October 2017, where a local fisherman, captured a photo of it's ring, with his camera.

Unfortunately, the fisherman, did not take a photo of the gull itself and the ring was reported as  X139 , which belonged to a German Herring Gull.  It became clear later, that the colon was not included when the ring was reported and  X:139 , actually belonged to a Scottish Great Black-backed Gull.  There was no doubting the bird, or it's ring, in the photo that I took today.  

Great-Black-backed Gull (Juvenile / 1st Winter  -    X:139   -  Ardglass, Co. Down  (11 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th June 2017, on the Isle of May, Scotland)