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)


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