Wednesday, 11 April 2018

4 BH Gulls - Back Home...

      Saturday 7th April 2018       
My main aim this afternoon, was to visit Millisle, which is a 'hotspot' for Common Gull ring sightings.  I planned my timing to co-inside with a high tide, which would bring the gulls in close to me.  You can imagine my disappointment, as no Common Gulls were to be found at the site.

On my way to County Down, I called in briefly to Whitehouse Lagoon, as I knew it would be largly devoid of water, as it takes time for the tide to flood in through the concrete pipes.

Not too many gulls about, but a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits, were present in the distance.  Most of these, were huddled together roosting, but a couple of dozen birds, were feeding on the mud.  Scoping through the feeding birds, I spotted one with colour-rings.

Using my camera, I zoomed in and took a few photos.  I did not hope, on capturing the ring combination, due to the distance involved.  On checking the pictures, I was pleasantly surprised, to find that I could see RW(8)-RY.

The white eight, 'rang a bell', in my head - had I seen this bird before?  On returning home and checking my records, I had recorded this bird on the nearby Dargan Mudflats, on the 24th July 2016, which at that time, was it's only ever sighting in Northern Ireland.

Having been ringed as an adult male, in Iceland, at the time of my initial sighting, RW(8)-RY, had only been recorded at Leighton Moss, in Lancashire, England, other than a couple of other re-sightings in Iceland.  In January 2017, I received an email, reporting on the progress of RW(8)-RY, since I had spotted it at Dargan.  The bird had been recorded at two sites in County Cork, in August 2016, December 2016 and January 2017.

I have reported my latest sighting to the Icelandic Wader Group and await a reply.  I'm wondering, if this is the first sighting since January 2017 and whether my sighting will be a second record for Northern Ireland.

Black-tailed Godwit  -  RW(8)-RY  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Co. Antrim  (07 Apr 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 7th July 2010, at Lambadalur, Northern Iceland)

Throughout my travels along the east coast of County Down, I checked on numerous small flocks of gulls and geese for rings, with two new sightings being recorded.

At John's Port, just to the north of the village of Portavogie, I spotted a Brent Goose, ringed -   4    .  Graham McElwaine, from the Irish Brent Goose Research Group, replied to my email, with the birds file attached.

  4    K  , was ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 8th May 2016, at Breiðabólstaðatjörn, Álftanes, in south-west Iceland.  In the short period since it has been ringed, there are already numerous re-sightings.  These are too many to list, but the bird wintered on Strangford Lough in 2016 (Greyabbey) and 2017 (Greyabbey), and was re-sighted on one occasion, back in Iceland, in May 2017.

My sighting today, is the 3rd in 2018, with all three records being recorded on the outer Ards Peninsular - the other two sightings, having been made around the shore at Ballyhalbert.

My thanks to Graham, for his prompt reply and the PDF File.

Brent Goose  -    4    K    -  John's Port, Portavogie, Co. Down  (07 Apr 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 8th May 2016, at Breiðabólstaðatjörn, Álftanes, SW Iceland)

The second colour-ringed bird to be spotted, was that of a juvenile Herring Gull, at Portavogie Harbour.    A:E65 , is almost certain, to be the same gull spotted here a couple of months ago, on which occasion, it flew off before I could take photos and capture the code on the ring.

I have reported the bird to both Dave Grant and Iain Livinstone, but as yet, have not received a reply.  However,   A:E65 , was probably ringed as a chick, on the 5th July 2017, at Lady Isle, Troon, Ayrshire, Scotland.

Just recently, I reported   A:E87 , on the behalf of David Nixon, who spotted that gull at Dundrum, in County Down.  My bet, is that, both   A:E65  and   A:E87 , were ringed on the same date.  The distance from Lady Isle, to Portavogie, is 127 kms / 78 miles (SSW).

Herring Gull (Juvenile)  -    A:E65   -  Portavogie Harbour, Co. Down  (07 Apr 2018)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)


      First Rathlin Colour-ringed Common Gull       
On Sunday evening (8th April 2018), I received an email from a Seamus Enright, concerning a 'colour-ringed' Common Gull, which was ringed last summer.    2BAN , was ringed as a chick, during my second visit to Rathlin Island, on the 24th June 2017.

Due to the heavy predation of Common Gull eggs and chicks, by two pairs of Great Black-backed Gulls, only 36 Common Gull pulli were colour-ringed on the island, in total.

It has been a long wait, for my first re-sighting of these Rathlin birds, but Seamus spotted   2BAN , at Kilshanning Point, Tralee Bay, County Kerry, Republic of Ireland.  The distance, in a straight line, from Rathlin to Kilshanning Point, is 415 kms / 257 miles, in a south-west direction.  I reckon, that   2BAN , has travelled west and then southwards down the Irish coast, which adds a lot more mileage.

The duration since being ringed, was 0 years, 9 months and 15 days.  Hopefully, now that the 'ice', has been broken, a few more re-sightings will come along.  Even if a third of the 'colour-ringed' youngsters survived the winter, there will be a least elevan more birds around, waiting to be spotted.

My thanks, goes to Seamus Enright, for reporting   2BAN .  Unfortuantly,   2BAN , flew off before Seamus could obtain a photo.

Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim to Kilshannig Point, Co. Kerry
(415 kms / 257 miles South-West)


      From David Nixon       
On the 4th April 2018, I received an email from fellow birdwatcher David Nixon.  He had sighted two 'colour-ringed' birds, at Dundrum (Inner Bay), in County Down, namely a Common Gull and an Oystercatcher.  David enquired, if I could 'nail' the origins of both birds, which for me, was a now easy task.

The first of the two, complete with a photograph, was that of a Norwegian Common Gull - (White) JA175.  Colour-rings from Norway, always begin with the letter 'J'.  I entered the ring combination, onto the 'Live' Norwegian Ringing Database, and soon obtained the birds ringing and re-sighting history.

(White) JA175, was caught and ringed, as a juvenile female, on the 18th September 2016, at Sandnes, Norway.  It was re-sighted, three days after ringing, in the same locality and had not been reported again, until David spotted it at Dundrum.  The distance from Sandnes to Dundrum, is 875 kms / 543 miles, in a south-west direction.  The duration since being ringed, was 1 year, 6 months and 17 days.

(White) JA175, is the third (that I know of) 'colour-ringed' Norwegian Common Gull, to be found in Northern Ireland, in the last two winters.    JA19 , was got at Whitehouse Lagoon, County Antrim, on the 12th February 2017, and (White) JA9M, was recorded on the 11th March 2018, at Donaghadee, Co. Down.

Common Gull  -  (White)  JA175  -  Dundrum (Inner Bay), Co. Down  (04 Apr 2018)
(Ringed as a Juvenile (female), on the 18th September 2016, at Sandnes, Norway.)
(Photo Courtesy of David Nixon)

The Oystercatcher, which was from Iceland, was easy as well.  Although, this was David's first 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher, his description of the 'colour-rings', was similar to birds that I have personally recorded.

Right leg had a white ring with letters 'CA', (the C over the A) below knee joint.

Left leg had silver BTO ring above knee joint and red above light green below knee joint.

I emailed Böddi, at the Icelandic Wader Group, and soon had a reply.  RG-W(CA), was 'colour-ringed', as a chick, on the 19th June 2016, at Skipar, Stokkseyri, in Southern Iceland.  It was re-sighted on three occasions, the final time, was at fledging, on the 21st July 2016.

From then, it hadn't been re-sighted anywhere, until David, spotted the bird at Dundrum (Inner Bay), on the 4th April 2018.  The distance from Stokkseyri to Dundrm, is 1,369 kms / 850 miles (SE), and the duration since ringing, was, 1 year, 9 months and 16 days.

Many thanks to David, for sharing his sightings.  It's a pity, there was no photo for the Oystercatcher.


      Gulls Returning Home       
In my previous post, I mentioned that three Black-headed Gulls, had been re-sighted back in their native countries.  On re-checking the 'Live' Polish and Norwegian Ringing Databases, a fourth gull has now been reported back home.

The earliest mover, was the Polish   T58T , which winter's at Lurgan Park, in County Armagh.  It was reported back in Świnoujście, Poland, on the 23rd March 2018.  Having 'wintered' at Lurgan Park, for the second year running, it was last seen there, on the 27th February 2018, by Suzanne Belshaw.  Suzanne, was the first to see it this winter, when she reported spotting the gull, on the 1st December 2017.  On the 25th February, I went to Lurgan Park, as I wanted to see   T58T , before it headed home.

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

The 30th March 2018, saw two more of our 'wintering' Black-headed Gulls, reported back in their own countries.

(White) TY43, is a bird of special interest.  I came across it, at Antrim's Baptist Church, on the 16th October 2017.  Having accessed it's ringing and re-sighting history, on the 'Live' Polish Ringing Database, I learned that it was no stranger to Antrim.

Back in October 2013, Adam McClure, happened to spot TY43, at Antrim Marina.  I had just started my weekly winter visits to the Marina and having just completed my 5th winter of 'Ring Watching' there, I've yet to see TY43, on the site.

Further re-sightings of TY43, at Antrim's Baptist Church, confirmed it's status as a winter resident at Antrim.  In the three years, between 2013 and 2017, the gull had gone un-recorded, until I came across it.  My last sighting of TY43, was on the 25th February 2018.

Ringed as a second year bird, on the 9th February 2012, hopefully, TY43, will make a return next winter.

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

The second gull reported back home on the 30th March 2018, was the Norwegian   J22Z   J22Z , was a new sighting for me this winter and was spotted at Kinnegar Beach, Co. Down, on the 4th March 2018.  Two weeks later, on the 18th, I re-sighted it again, at Kinnegar.

Since then, it has only taken 12 days, to return to Norway, having been spotted 12 kms south (at Sandnes), from it's original ringing site at Mosvatnet, Stavanger.

Due to spotting   J22Z , so late in the winter, it's impossible to state, whether the bird is a winter resident around the Kinnegar shore, but will be one to look out for next winter.

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

On the 8th April 2018, another foreign Black-headed Gull, which winters at Lurgan Park, in County Armagh, had been re-sighted back in Norway.  (White) J4P4, has been a frequent winter visitor to Lurgan Park, for many years.

It's return to Lurgan Park, during this winter, was noted by Suzanne Belshaw on the 1st December 2017 and was it last seen there before returning home, on the 27th February 2018, also by Suzanne.  I called by Lurgan Park, on the 25th February, as I wanted to record J4P4 and the Polish   T58T , before they departed.

It's latest sighting, was at Tronvikbukta, which is 11 kms (NW), from where it had been ringed as a chick (26th June 2006), at Stanga, Råde, Norway.

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


Friday, 6 April 2018

3rd Black-tailed Godwit...

      Antrim Marina - Monday 2nd April 2018       
I had planned on making a final (extra) visit to Antrim Marina yesterday, but with poor weather forecast for today, I knew I had a better chance of recording gulls.  The forecast was spot on, as there was plenty of rain, which turned to sleet and snow on occasions.  There was a bitingly cold easterly wind and the temperature remained below 3°C.

Despite the conditions, far fewer gulls appeared, than I was hoping for.  Out of 38 'colour-ringed' birds recorded throughout the winter, only 14 were re-sighted during my visit.  Half of those, were birds that I caught and ringed a couple of months ago.

The one bird, that I was hoping to record at the Marina -   2ADD , did not appear.  On checking the local KFC outlet, he was not there either.  As he was not at the outlet last week, he must be on the Lough now, which is where he breeds.

I will avoid the Marina, for a few weeks now, and at a later date, will return to record the resident gulls.  I will be recording the status of those birds that I ringed during the winter, so as to establish which are residents from those that are non-resident.  I can then start to build profiles for each of these gulls and their comings and goings.

At no time during my visit, did the number of Black-headed Gulls, exceed to 50 to 60 mark, though most were clearly hungry.  Some of the gulls, made 'lightening' visits, disappearing just as quickly, as they had arrived.  Obviously, nesting duties were on their mind, therefore making a quick return to the 'Torpedo Platform'.

Looking over to the platform, several hundred BHGs, could be seen, and another thought entered my head.  I wondered how many of those birds, could actually be summer visitors, coming from goodness knows where, to breed.  If this was the case, just how many of these gulls, are taking advantage of a easy meal at the Marina.

Perhaps, some of the gulls could be coming from the Republic of Ireland to breed here, and heading back south for the winter.  This is an aspect, that I've never thought on previously.  Adult gulls, are not caught and ringed over the summer months at the Marina, so there may well be a whole different population present, that we know nothing about. 

'Colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina on Monday 2nd April 2018
 2CSJ   2CSA   2CSR   2CSB   2BRA   2CSS   2CSC 
 2AAC   2CSF   2ADJ   2AAB   2AAA   2AAV   2ABS 

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

Other Species at Antrim Marina
As far as other species were concerned, very few birds were recorded at the Marina today.  The now regular pairs of Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls, arrived at 09.35 and 10.05 respectively, remaining throughout my visit.  Any adult Common Gulls that appeared, stayed briefly, before returning to the Lough.  At least two individuals could be identified, due to their different leg colours and a juvenile that arrived at 10.55, only remained for about 10 minutes.

Mallard numbers continue to be on the low side.  I did not make a head count on arrival, but 24 birds were counted just before my departure.

13 adult Mute Swans and 3 cygnets from last summer, were already present on my arrival and no other birds arrived.  My previous visit here, saw the largest numbers of swans, recorded this winter.  I had to wait ages for some of the swans to exit the river, but   W34156  was recorded at 10.45 and   W34158 , at 11.25.

A single Hooded Crow, was the bird that would take bread at the window my car.  This one, has become an irregular visitor to the Marina of late.  4 Jackdaws and a pair each of Pied Wagtails and Chaffinches, were the only other species recorded.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC & Baptist Church
Only a couple of Black-headed Gulls, were present at each of these three sites.  With the absence of   2ADD , at the KFC outlet, I'm sure he is now on Lough Neagh, though I still have not recorded him at Antrim Marina.

The Polish Black-headed Gull - White TY43, that I recorded on several occasions, at Antrim's Baptist Church, has been re-sighted back in Poland.  I'll write more about this in my next post, as two other Black-headed Gulls, have also returned to their native countries.  I will be keeping an eye, on the 'Live' Norwegian and Polish Ringing Databases, as a few other gulls may be reported back home over the course of this coming week. 


      Ringing Details Received       
As far as I can remember, the only ringing details, that I'm currently waiting for, are those of the five Whooper Swans spotted in County Donegal.  I emailed Kanes Brides of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and also reported my sightings through the BTO's new 'DemOn' Ringing Database.

As yet, I have not received anything from Kane and the BTO, has emailed Kane, looking for the ringing information.  This means, the details of the 'colour-ringed' swans, are not on the BTO's system, so all five swans, could have been ringed fairly recently.

I have just reported an Oystercatcher and a Common Gull, which were brought to my attention, by fellow birdwatcher David Nixon.  I will feature David's sightings in my next post, as I now have the details for both birds.


      Saturday 31st March 2018       
This afternoon, I once again concentrated my efforts around Belfast, checking Whitehouse Lagoon, the mudflats at Dargan, Kinnegar Beach and the RSPB's 'Window on Wildlife' Reserve.

Kinnegar Beach, has been especially good at producing 'Ring Sightings' of late, with another new sighting being discovered today.  Herring Gull -   0Y:W , is from the relatively new project, at the Copeland Islands, which lie a short distance away from Kinnegar.

I am still waiting for Adam McClure, who is the ringing co-ordinator for the project, to reply, but I have some details, from an earlier email.

  0Y:W , was ringed as an adult, on the 23rd May 2014, on Big Copeland Island.  As far as I know, it's only other sighting, was made on the 24th August 2015, when it was spotted on Rathcor Beach in County Louth.  Rathcor, is on the southern shore of Carlingford Lough, which separates Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland.

The distance from the Copelands to Rathcor Beach, is 88 kms / 55 miles (SW), and from the Copelands to Kinnegar Beach, is 21 kms / 13 miles (WSW).

Herring Gull  -    0Y:W   -  Kinnegar Beach, Co. Down  (31 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult, on the 23rd May 2014, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)

The only other ring spotted during the afternoon, was that of Black-headed Gull -   2BHB , who is breeding on 'Platform 2', at the RSPB's WOW Reserve.  This is my second sighting here this spring, having recorded the gull's return to breed here for the second year running.


      Sunday 1st April 2018       
Acting on an email received recently from Richard Donaghey, I decided to make a visit to the Bann Estuary, a site that I've not visited since my secondary school days.  I was intrigued to learn from Richard, that there was a hide overlooking the mudflats, which I never knew about.

Having checked the satellite images, on Google Earth, I had no trouble finding the hide.  On my arrival, the tide was still fairly high, so I decided to return after a couple of hours.

In the meantime, I headed off to the Myroe Levels, hoping to record some Brent Goose rings.  On arriving, I couldn't find a single bird on their usual fields.  At the north end of the levels, I walked up to the top of the seawall, to find Brents on a spit of land in the distance.  I decided not to wait for the birds to come on to the fields, so checked the rest of the levels to see what was about.

I came across, small numbers of Whooper Swans and Greylag Geese, but no rings or collars, were spotted on any of the birds.  A larger flock of around 80 Whoopers, presented me with a problem, trying to approach the birds to telescope range.  They kept walking away, though I was no where near the birds themselves.

Taking my time, they slowly got used to my presence, but not a single ring was spotted.  Time was getting on now, so I returned to the Bann Estuary.

By now, the tide was well on it's way out, and the mudflats were becoming exposed.  Relatively few birds, were actually feeding, which was not really surprising, as many would be returning home to breed.

I could not use the hide, as a key was needed from the National Trust, this unknown to me before hand.  I positioned myself to the side of the hide, which was not ideal, as some birds spotted my presence and flew on.

I did strike 'Gold', as four Black-tailed Godwits, to the left of me, had a colour-ringed bird amongst them.  Using my camera, I easily captured to ring combination.

On returning home, I looked up the combination and duly reported my sighting to the Icelandic Wader Group.  Böddi, replied, sending me a PDF File of the birds history.

OY-WW(X), was ringed as an adult male, on the 13th July 2011, in Northern Iceland.  Before I saw it today, there has been five previous re-sightings :- 14th November 2011, at Oare Marshes, Kent, England - 27th November 2011, at Blackwater River, Co. Waterford, Republic of Ireland - 17th December 2011, at Youghal Bay, Co. Cork, Republic of Ireland - 13th April 2015, here on the Bann Estuary, Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland - and on the 17th December 2017, at Dungarvan Bay, Co. Waterford, Republic of Ireland.

I was extremely lucky to spot this bird, but the estuary here, will definitely be on my agenda next winter.  With the power of my camera, I should pick up another few rings at this site.  I'll have to contact the National Trust and arrange to become a keyholder for use of the hide.  OY-WW(X), is the third 'colour-ringed', Black-tailed Godwit, that I have now spotted.

Black-tailed Godwit  -  OY-WW(X)  -  Bann Estuary, Co. Londonderry  (01 Apr 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 13th July 2011, at Siglufjörður, Northern Iceland)