Thursday, 1 March 2018

Nearing the End...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina       
Once again, I opted for a Monday visit to Antrim Marina, instead of my usual Sunday visit.  Since my previous visit, last Monday, my ringing trainer John Clarke, along with his friend and fellow ringer, Ken Perry, called by Antrim Marina, on Thursday 22nd February.  While at the Marina, they recorded 12 of the 'colour-ringed' Study birds, with the 'stand out' sighting of  2CSS , being the bird of the day.

I had not seen  2CSS , since I caught and ringed it, on the 7th January 2018, here at the Marina.  I had come to the conclusion, that  2CSS , may have been passing through at the time of it's capture.  Like many juveniles, some tend to wander, during their first winter, eventually settling down at a favourite site.    2CST , another juvenile, ringed on the same day as  2CSS , was spotted 10 miles to the north at Ballymena.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded by John Clarke & Ken Perry on Thursday 22nd February 2018
 2ABN   2ACV   2CSB   2CJT   2AAR   2CSS 
 2AAP   2CSK   2CSR   2CSL   2AAB   2CSA 

However, having said all that,  2CSS , was in fact spotted by me on Monday's visit to Antrim Marina.  It was the 19th of 29 'Colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls recorded during my latest visit.  Having spotted it, on the long jetty, I returned to my car, to grab the camera.  It flew off, as I was zooming in and I could not relocate it again after that.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, at Antrim Marina, on Monday 26th February 2018
 2CSB   2CSH   2AAC   2CSC   2AAR   2CSJ   2AAN   2ABS   2ADJ   2ANS 
 2CSR   2BRA   2CJT   2AAK   T35J   2AAP   2CSA   2ABK   2CSS   2ABF 
 2ABN   2CSL   2AAA   2ABL   2AAT   2CSK   2AAB   2AAV   2ACV    

Absentees on Monday 26th February 2018
 2AAF   2ABA   2ADV   2AFD   2BRC   2BRD   2CSD   2CSF   2CST 

When I arrived at the Marina today, not a single gull, was present.  Although overcast, there was a bitterly cold wind, which meant I had to return on several occasions to my car to warm up.  The first gulls, started to arrive at 09.45, with numbers reaching the 180+ mark soon after.

One of my reasons for the run of Monday visits, was to see if I could catch some more gulls to be ringed.  The idea being, it should be easier, with less people about.  This has not worked.  Even though the birds still come to hand at the window of my new car, I cannot safely scoop them in, as the windows are not as high as those in my previous car.

There's not a lot to be said, concerning the 'colour-ringed' gulls at Antrim Marina.  With just, four more visits, which will complete my fifth winter of 'Ring Watching at Antrim Marina', I've kept up a good record of each gulls appearances.  As stated before, I'm still waiting on the return of  2ADD , who has currently 'parked' himself across town at the KFC outlet.  There is a good chance, that he'll appear at the Marina, this coming week.  If not, he should definitely arrive back by the following week.

 2BRD , is listed among the absentees during my latest visit to Antrim Marina.  In fact, I saw  2BRD , the day before, at Lurgan Park, in County Armagh.  True to form,  2BRD , visits Lurgan Park, prior to the onset of the breeding season.

Over the next four weeks, many of the 'winter visitors', will start to depart.  For some of these gulls, we still have no idea, where their breeding sites are located.  Fingers crossed, that one or two of them, will be spotted on their travels.

These next four weeks, might provide new ring sightings, if some gulls stop by the Marina, on their journeys back home.  As I write, any migrating, might be held back, as we are experiencing sub-zero easterly winds and much Britain, has been hit by heavy snowfalls.

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Common Gull numbers were fairly good, going by Antrim Marina standards.  A total of 12 adults and two first winter birds, visited today.  The Scottish-rung female,  EY64036 , was amongst these, and I had hoped to get another sighting of the 'metal-ringed' bird from Finland.

The two adult Herring Gulls, arrived at 10.55, with a juvenile appearing shortly afterwards.

15 adult Mute Swans and three cygnets, were already present on my arrival, with no further additions during my visit.  Some of the birds, never left the river and the only ring spotted, was that of the regularly recorded -  W34158 .

Mallard numbers were not great, with around 30 birds on arrival, increasing to about 45 birds by the time of my departure.  So far this winter, only a single 'metal-ringed' drake, was spotted on a single occasion.

Other species recorded, were, 5 Hooded Crows, 8 Jackdaws, 1 Magpie, 2 Moorhens, 1 Pied Wagtail and surprisingly, a cock Pheasant, a species that I've never seen at the Marina before.  Picking the ground around the swans, they took exception to him and chased him off.

First ever sighting of a Pheasant at Antrim Marina  (26 Feb 2018)


      Sunday 25th February 2018       
Having decided, once again, to postpone my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, I covered the other sites, which are normally covered on completion of the Marina visit.  Starting out in the early afternoon, I first checked my local park, before moving on to Antrim's Elim Church, KFC car park and Baptist Church.

I then drove on down to County Armagh, where I visited Lurgan Park and Kinnego Marina.  With what daylight was remaining, I made a quick dash to the Sprucefield Shopping Centre, and then on to the former Waterworks in Belfast.

The Peoples Park, Ballymena
At Ballymena's Peoples Park, I'm keeping a special watch on the park's pavilion, as I'm expecting to see the return of a Scottish 'metal-rung' Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Quite often, as I drive by the park, I glance over to the roof of the pavilion, keeping an eye out.  Today, I ventured in, not only to check the lake for the Lesser Black-backed Gull, but also to check up on two 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.

No Lesser Black-back's, have arrived as yet, but at least 150 Black-headed Gulls and 2 Herring Gulls, were present.  Using bread to lure the gulls from the parks lake, only a third of the BHGs took any interest.  Among these, I spotted  2AXV , which is spending it's second winter here.  Having arrived back on the 1st September 2017, today's, is my 6th record of the gull, this winter.  Arriving as a juvenile the previous winter, it was at the park from the 23rd October 2016, until the 11th March 2017.

During my last visit to the park, on February 13th 2018, I spotted a juvenile / 1st winter BHG, that I caught and ringed at Antrim Marina, on the 7th January 2018, -  2CST .  There was no sign of    2CST  today, and it has not been re-sighted at Antrim Marina, since being ringed.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AXV   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  (25 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 7th June 2016, at Marsh Lane NR, near Coventry, England)

Antrim's Elim Church & KFC Outlet
Although, I attracted around 30 Black-headed Gulls, to me, with bread at Antrim's Elim Church, no rings were spotted.  Another dozen or so, Black-headed Gulls remained on the roof of the Church, which suggests many are not regulars to the area.

Moving on, to the car park, at the nearby KFC outlet, around 50 Black-headed Gulls were seen, and again, several birds kept their distance.  Two 'colour-ringed' BHGs present, were,  2ADD  and the Norwegian  JK35 .

 JK35's , return for the 3rd winter running, was recorded on the 6th August 2017.  Today's sighting, is the first time this winter, that I have recorded the gull, two weeks in succession.  Normally, a single sighting had been made each month, except for January, when it was seen at the start and end of the month.  I'm expecting to see  JK35 , more often now, as it builds up for it's return to Norway.

 2ADD , from Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Study, has now been recorded at the KFC outlet, for a 5th week in a row.  Although,  2ADD , winters at the east coast town of Carrickfergus, it ventures to Antrim's KFC outlet, for a few weeks, before completing it's journey to Antrim Marina and the nearby 'Torpedo Platform', where it breeds.    2ADD , is now due, to make that move, if not this coming week, then definitely the following week.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADD   -  Antrim KFC Cark Park, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (25 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on 29th November 2013, at Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim)

Black-headed Gull  -    JK35   -  Antrim KFC Car Park, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (25 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2014, at Vassøy, Stavanger, Norway.)

Antrim's Baptist Church
A totally unexpected number of Black-headed Gulls, were present in the area of the Baptist Church.  Probably, exceeding 120 gulls, few actually landed on the roof of the Church.  One those that did, was (White) TY43, from Poland.  Today's, was my seventh record of the gull here this winter, having first spotted it, on the 16th October 2017.

Having, very little luck, parked behind the Church, I drove round to the front car park, which was now largely vacant, as many of the parishioners, had departed.  On throwing out bread, around 80 of the gulls landed close to my car.  No further, 'ringed' gulls were spotted.  I was especially hoping to re-sight the Finnish 'metal-ringed' BHG, that had been present on my two previous visits.  Having, only obtained a partial ring number, that gull may have moved on since. 

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  TY43  -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (25 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as a 2nd Calendar Year, on the 9th February 2012, at Olsztyn-Kormoran, Warmińsko-Mazurskie, Poland)

Lurgan Park
Next stop, was at the lake of Lurgan Park.  Here, I was hoping to see two 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls - one from Norway, the other from Poland.  I knew, both gulls have been present here this winter, as Suzanne Belshaw, had recorded them during several of her numerous visits.  I had not seen either since last winter, but hoped to spot both gulls, before they departed for their respective countries.

The first 'colour-ringed' BHG, to be spotted was  2BRD  - an infrequent visitor to Antrim Marina.  I recorded  2BRD , three weeks running at the Marina, on the 31st December 2017, 7th January and 14th January 2018.  Spotting  2BRD  today, follows a regular pattern, where it is spotted in Antrim and then moving on to Lurgan Park, prior to the breeding season.  We still do not know where  2BRD  breeds at, but it could perhaps, be, on one of the islands, close to the southern shores of Lough Neagh.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BRD   -  Lurgan Park, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  (25 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 1st February 2015, at Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim)

Next to be spotted, was one of the two BHGs, that I was eager to re-sight, the Norwegian (White) J4P4.  Despite, Suzanne Belshaw's, regular visits to Lurgan Park, J4P4's return, was not recorded until the 27th December 2017.  Ringed as a chick, in 2006, J4P4, was first recorded wintering at Lurgan Park, back in 2013, when spotted by Stephen Hewitt.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  J4P4  -  Lurgan Park, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  (25 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 26th June 2006, at Råde, Østfold, Norway.)

A hat-trick of 'colour rings', was completed, when I also spotted the Polish-rung  T58T .  Having been ringed as an adult, in July 2016, this the second winter running, that  T58T , has been recorded at Lurgan Park.  It's likely, that  T58T , has wintered here for several years, having gone un-recorded until it had been ringed.

I was well pleased with my visit to Lurgan Park.  Not only did I re-sight the two foreign Black-headed Gulls, but to spot one of my Study birds from Antrim Marina, was a bonus.

With an estimated 300 to 350, Black-headed Gulls, present at the park, I slowly walked through the gulls standing about on the grass or the footpaths.  A few 'metal-ringed' birds have been recorded here in the past, so I was on the lookout for any of these, without joy.  At least, 150 of the gulls remained on the water of the parks lake, so I had no hope of finding rings on them.

Black-headed Gull  -    T58T   -  Lurgan Park, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  (25 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 16th July 2016, at Świnoujście, Zachodniopomorskie, Poland.)

Kinnego Marina
There was a stark contrast in the behaviour of the Black-headed Gulls at Kinnego Marina, as compared to those at Lurgan Park.  The gulls here, were totally disinterested in the bread offering, with most of the estimated 80 gulls, preferring to rest on the water or on a distant jetty, where the public has no access.

Eventually, some of the gulls alighted onto a jetty, where they could easily be viewed and one 'colour-ring' was spotted among them -  2BPN .  Ringed here as an adult, in October 2014,  2BPN , is regularly recorded here by Suzanne.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BPT   -  Kinnego Marina, Co. Armagh  (25 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 31st October 2014, at Kinnego Marina, Co. Armagh)

Using the telescope, to view the gulls resting on a distant jetty, another 'colour-ring' was spotted.  I returned to my car, to get my camera, which has a better reach, than my telescope.  A couple of photos taken, the Black-headed Gull, was ringed -  2BPN .  Also ringed in October 2014, this is another bird regularly recorded here by Suzanne.

The star bird at Kinnego Marina, was  2BPP , from Latvia, which was already 'metal-ringed', when Adam caught it and added the 'colour-ring', in October 2014.  It has failed to return this winter, so may have died since last being recorded here, on the 19th February 2017.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BPN   -  Kinnego Marina, Co. Armagh  (25 Feb 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 29th October 2014, at Kinnego Marina, Co. Armagh)

Sprucefield Shopping Centre & Belfast Waterworks
Time was now getting on, so I made a quick dash for the shopping centre at Sprucefield.  Parking at the McDonalds outlet, not a single Black-headed Gull, was to be seen.  Adam, has caught and 'colour-ringed' birds here in the past and Suzanne has recorded a few of these birds since, including one from a County Mayo Project.  I have seen BHGs here in the past, but I've yet to record a 'colour-ringed bird.

The light, was beginning to fade, when I arrived at the former Belfast Waterworks.  With only a handful of gulls still present, it was not worth the effort to try and lure them out of the water.  With the sun, so low on the horizon, the light would have been 'too poor' to try and take photos.  I called it a day, and headed for home.


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