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)


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