Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Rings are Flowing...

The last couple of weeks, has seen me out and about looking for nests, so I can ring chicks at a later date.  My left foot, is still causing me problems, since injuring it at work on March 17th.  Long walks is a non starter, so Raptor surveying is out of the question.  I'll not go into nest details, but this post, includes my latest 'Ring Reading' outings and the reported sightings of two young Common Gulls, that I ringed on Rathlin Island, last summer.

Adam McClure, was supposed to send me the details for the latest Black-headed Gull sightings at Belfast's Window on Wildlife and Castle Espie, on Monday.  It is now Wednesday, so I've decided to publish the post, without these details.  It is a busy time of the year for many birdwatchers, so it could still be a while, before I hear back from Adam.


      Saturday 26th May 2018       
Antrim Marina and the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve in Belfast, were the two sites on today's agenda.  On my way to the Marina, I stopped by the Tesco Warehouse, at Kilbegs in Antrim, to check up on my Mediterranean x Common Gull pairing.  I've been hoping to capture the pair together in the same photo, but had no joy until now.

Today, I got my photo, which now confirms my sighting.  This is the third year running that the pair have nested in the exact same spot.  I'm fairly sure, that no chicks hatched out, in the previous two years, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a result this summer.

The Med x Common Gull Pair at the Tesco Warehouse, Kilbegs, Antrim  (26 May 2018)

At Antrim Marina, the Black-headed Gulls are still not showing, with very few birds about.  Two 'colour-ringed' birds were spotted, being   2AAA   and   2AAV .  With a few hundred pairs nesting on the nearby 'Torpedo Platform', I continue to find it surprising, that gulls are not visiting the Marina in larger numbers.

Perhaps the brilliant weather that we are now experiencing, could be the reason for this.  Now that Mayflies are abundant in enormous numbers, the gulls are likely to be taking these and are ignoring the need for bread being fed to the ducks by many people.  The 'metal-ringed' Mute Swan -   W34158 , was present, with most of the 20 swans checked for rings.  A single Common Gull, flew around for about 5 minutes, but did not land.  I have been hoping to spot a 'colour-ringed' bird that has appeared here, during the last couple of summers.

Belfast Window on Wildlife Reserve
At the RSPB's WoW Reserve in Belfast, I was curious to see if the new 'Tern Platforms', had been placed onto the Lagoon, and check out the existing platforms for any of Adam's BHGs.

Arriving at the visitor centre, overlooking Platform One, the new Tern Platforms, had indeed been recently placed.  The staff, are now keeping their fingers crossed, for an uptake by the Common Terns.  The platforms, are close enough, that any 'colour-ringed' birds, are close enough for my camera to capture codes.

After a lengthy time, looking at the Black-headed Gulls, on platforms one and two, two 'colour-ringed' birds were spotted.  One of these, which was a new sighting for me, was   2BJB , a bird that I was made aware of, from a recent email from David Nixon.

It was on Platform Two, along with a single chick (photo).  The photo also shows, a couple of Common Terns, which are prospecting for nesting space.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BJB   -  RSPB's WoW Reserve, Belfast Harbour Estate  (26 May 2018)

The second 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull -   2CDB , I knew instantly, was also a new sighting on the Reserve.  On returning home and entering it's code onto my spreadsheet, I was surprised to find that this gull was spotted at Castle Espie, thirteen days ago.  In my blog post at the time, I stated that I was unsure, if it was actually breeding at Castle Espie, but today, it was attempting to build a new nest.

  2CDB , was ringed as a chick, at Castle Espie in June 2016, and my sighting of the gull there two weeks ago, was a first re-sighting.  The change of site, is an interesting move, with the gull having travelled around 10 miles to reach the WoW Reserve.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CDB   -  RSPB's WoW Reserve, Belfast Harbour Estate  (26 May 2018)

There is an enormous gap with the nesting Black-headed Gulls, with many birds still attempting to nest and a fairly largish number, having quite well feathered chicks.

I could also see chicks, under two of the pairs of Mediterranean Gulls.  The immature bird, that I stated, was possibly breeding, making up 7 pairs altogether, is definitely sitting on a nest.  A 'metal-ringed' adult, from one of the other pairs was also spotted.  This has to be the same bird, I photographed here last year.


      Sunday 27th May 2018       
Today, I was off to Castle Espie again, this time arriving early enough to carry out a prolonged visit.  I came here two weeks ago, (read my previous post), and I made comment, that a lot of work is needed at the site, due to the number of 'ringed' Black-headed Gulls that I recorded.

I had since applied for full membership of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, which entitles me to free visits to their centres.  With 'the bit between my teeth', I have decided to carry out my own research on the birds here, saving me £9 on every visit.  Not only did I record another 12 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, I re-sighted 6 of the 11 from my previous visit and captured the number for a 'metal-ringed' bird.  On top of that, I went on to record a Mediterranean Gull from Poland, a Common Gull from Norway, and an Oystercatcher from Iceland - a very nice haul indeed.

Many Black-headed Gulls, were still sitting tightly on their nests.  Either on eggs or very small chicks, the colony here, is two to three weeks behind many of their counterparts at the RSPB's WoW Reserve, in Belfast.  Bearing this is mind, many gulls, will no doubt reveal their 'colour-rings' at a later date.  I now plan to return in two weeks time for a third visit.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AHJ   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (27 May 2018)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AHN   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (27 May 2018)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AJD   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (27 May 2018)

Black-headed Gull  -    2BJT   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (27 May 2018)

Black-headed Gull  -    2BKD   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (27 May 2018)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CAH   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (27 May 2018)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CAJ   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (27 May 2018)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CAN   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (27 May 2018)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CAP   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (27 May 2018)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CBK   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (27 May 2017)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CBR   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (27 May 2018)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CBS   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (27 May 2018)

A BHG, with a 'metal ring', was also spotted.  With the gulls at the Centre, being so tolerant to visiting people, this had to be one of the easiest 'metals', in which I could capture the code.

With the ring being placed 'upside-down', I immediately had my suspicions, that this gull was ringed on the Copeland Islands.  Returning home and checking Copeland ringing data, that Richard Donaghey had supplied to me a while back, my gull was indeed ringed on the Islands.

  EX97259 , was ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2013, on the Copelands Mew Island.  Entering it's number onto the British Trust for Ornithology's new DemOn Ringing Database, I was able to ascertain, that my sighting was a first for this bird.    EX97259 , appears to have just built a new nest, but has not laid eggs as yet.  Lifting up, to chase other gulls away, it would quickly return to the nest and sit down again.

Black-headed Gull  -    EX97259   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (27 May 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2013, on Mew Island, Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

There is a very classy looking hide at Castle Espie, which overlooks part of the western shore of Strangford Lough.  The south facing side of the hide, looks onto a lagoon, where a section of the Black-headed Gull colony nests, whilst the north facing side, looks onto a tidal lagoon.

At the time of my visit, the tide was starting to retreat and I concentrated my stay at the hide, peering out from the north side.  Here, a flock of 300 to 400 hundred Oystercatchers, were resting, waiting to get onto Strangford Lough to feed.  Many Black-headed Gulls, were also present, probably a mixture of breeding (off duty) birds, along with non-breeders.

A few Common Gulls, were dotted about, these mainly being last summers youngsters and there was the odd one or two Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  6 un-ringed Black-tailed Godwits and a pair of Greylag Geese, with 8 goslings, walked about picking for food.

Among one group of Black-headed Gulls, was my sighting of the day.  A young Mediterranean Gull, was spotted, bearing a 'Red Darvic'.  Easily capturing a partial code -   PUA* , I knew straight away, this was a Polish-rung bird.  Now, a waiting game began, which lasted for the best part of two hours, trying to capture that missing letter.

The missing letter, was constantly obscured by grass and the situation, was made worse, when the gull decided to lay down and have a long doze.  While, it was resting, I scanned the other birds for rings, and spotted a Common Gull, standing on one leg, bearing a 'metal-ring', and an Oystercatcher, standing on one leg, bearing two 'colour-rings'.

Eventually, my Med Gull, got up and flew off, and I never had a chance to capture that missing letter.

Mediterranean Gull  -    PUA*   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (27 May 2018)

The young Common Gull, which stood on one leg, bearing a 'metal-ring', had me wondering - was this one of my Rathlin Island birds.  Keeping a steady watch on the gull, it too, decided to lay down and have a doze.  I was more fortunate with the gull, as when it did rise, it actually flew and landed closer to me, but revealed a 'Green Darvic', instead of a 'Blue' one.

I still had to zoom, from quite a distance, but did capture the code.  I have a problem focusing on anything, which is very close to me, and my glasses, were in the car.  I asked a member of the public, who was among many folk in the hide, could he read the code on the photo.  His reply was,   AISC , in which case, it's origin, had me completely baffled.

After returning home, and downloading the photos onto my laptop, I realised the ring actually read -   J31V .  The gent, in the hide, had tried to read the ring upside down, hence getting   AISC .  Beginning with the letter 'J', I now knew, my gull was from Norway.

Entering the code, onto the 'Live' Norwegian Ringing Database, my sighting of   J31V , was the first record for this young Common Gull, since being ringed.  It was rung, as a chick, on the 13th July 2017, at Høvåg skole, Lillesand, Norway - 946 kms / 587 miles (west-south-west), to Castle Espie.

Common Gull  -    J31V   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (27 May 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 13th July 2017, at Høvåg Skole, Lillesand, Aust-Agder, Norway)

My 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher, was another bird, that decided to lay down and have a doze.  Whilst it was standing, I could see Orange above Black on the left leg, and knew there would be 'colour-rings' on the other leg, which was tucked up underneath the birds body.

After a while, it stood up, revealing a 'Yellow Ring', on it's right leg.  Knowing, the Oystercatcher, would have come from Iceland, I sent an email to Böddi.  In the email, which had a photo attached, I stated that the bird was possibly missing another 'colour-ring' or possibly a 'colour-flag'.

The following morning, I received a reply from Böddi, with the Oystercatchers PDF File attached.  Böddi, confirmed, that the bird was missing a 'White Flag'.  I felt like a 'Right Nit', when I opened the PDF File.  Here, was a bird, that I had first spotted on the Dargan Mudflats in Belfast, on the 9th October 2016.  Normally, I check ring sightings on my spreadsheet, but in this case, I didn't.

Ringed as a chick, in July 2015, both my sightings, are the only records of it since being tagged.  Anyhow, at least I gained results for two of the three birds.

Oystercatcher  -  ON-WfY  -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 13th July 2015, at Miðhús, Hvolsvöllur, Iceland)

Today's visit to Castle Espie, was very rewarding and shows the potential of what could be recorded here, not only over the next few weeks, but during the forthcoming winter as well. 


      Two Common Gulls Spotted       
On May 22nd, I received an email from David Nixon, who spotted two juvenile Common Gulls, bearing 'Blue Darvics'.  With an incoming tide, at the 'Inner Bay', Dundrum, Co. Down, he recorded   AJT , which he reckoned was   2AJT , and was almost 100% sure, that the other bird was   2BBC .

Having taken over the use of the 'Blue Darvics', which were formerly registered to Shane Wolsey, on his Common Gull project on the Copeland Islands, I was able to accept David's sightings.

  2AJT , was ringed as a chick on the 17th June 2017, at Rue Point, on Rathlin Island, and   2BBC , was ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Arkill Bay, on Rathlin.  I had began 'colour-ringing' Common Gull chicks, on Rathlin, as part of a new Co. Antrim study.  Due to heavy predation, by two pairs of Great Black-backed Gulls, only 36 young Common Gulls were ringed on Rathlin Island, in 2017.

  2AJT  and   2BBC , are now the 2nd and 3rd sightings, of Rathlin birds.  On the 8th April 2018,   2BAN , was reported at Tralee Bay, in Co. Kerry (415 kms / 257 miles), south-west of Rathlin.  The two gulls sighted by David, at Dundrum, were roughly 115 kms / 71 miles to the south-south-east.

My thanks goes to David, for reporting the birds, just a pity there were no photos to accompany the sightings.


Friday, 18 May 2018

A Bit of Everything...

It has been a little over a month since my last post and frankly I've done very little in that time, except to catch up on some chores around my house and garden.  Normally, I'd be in the hills looking for Raven and Raptor nests, but due to an accident at work on March 17th, this was not possible.  A heavy wooden pallet fell onto my left foot, and though no broken bones were found at my local A&E Department, walks of any length were painful.

Even, as I write, I occasionally get sharp, painful twinges in the arch of my foot or a throbbing of my big toe.  On the whole, my foot is starting to settle down and I still reckon, that a break or something knocked out of position has been missed.

Over the same period, a small trickle of emails continue to arrive, one of which, I found to be surprising and quite proud of.  My blog, had been selected into the top 80 birding blogs, out of the 1000's of such blogs on the internet.  I was aware of such an accolade, as our own Northern Ireland Birdwatching Association, was also awarded the diploma, which I now proudly display, on the sidebar.  Ranked 69th, it would be great to climb to a higher position.

During the summer months, posts are few and far between, but continue on a weekly basis from August.  Now that my foot, is finally on the mend, I've started to go out and about again, but long, hard, treks over the hills, won't even be considered.

This post, is quite lengthy, but will more than make up, for the last few weeks, and should keep my readers happy, until the next publication.

      Saturday 12th May 2018       
I had deliberately avoided Antrim Marina for a month, so as to create a gap between recording the Black-headed Gulls, which winter there and recording the summer residents.  So, today, I embarked on my first summer visit to the site, before heading to the RSPB's, Window on Wildlife Reserve in Belfast, this being the result of an email that I received from David Nixon.  More about that, can be read below.

On my way to Antrim Marina, I stopped by Antrim's Tesco Warehouse at the Kilbegs Industrial Estate.  Here, I wanted to check up, on pair of gulls which I've recorded here during the previous two summers.  I wasn't disappointed, as I found the Mediterranean x Common Gull, nesting in the exact same spot as previously.  The female (Common Gull), was sitting tight on eggs, while her partner stood on the apex of the roof.  Believe it or not, I departed without taking photos, but decided to call back the next day, due to circumstances at the Marina.

At Antrim Marina, there was a very poor showing of gulls, which was largely explained by the enormous amount of un-eaten bread floating on the river.  Being such a nice sunny day, the area around the Marina, experienced a lot of families out for the afternoon around Lough Neagh, which would be Antrim's equivalent to being at the seaside.

None of the small numbers of Black-headed Gulls landed anywhere, but flapped over the river, dropping to pick up small morsels of bread and flying off.  24 Mute Swans on the river, had no intentions of coming ashore.  The only swan on the slipway, was 'metal-ringed', and this was the ever present   W34158 .  I decided to leave, planning to return earlier the next day - Sunday.

I then headed to the WoW Reserve, on Belfast's Harbour Estate.  Intrigued by an email that I received from David Nixon, I was keen to see   2BAL , a BHG belonging to Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Study.    2BAL , is a gull known to 'winter', at Donaghadee, having been recorded there in 2015, 2016 and early 2017, by Suzanne Belshaw and myself.  I visited Donaghadee several times over this past winter, but failed to record   2BAL .

David, had stated that   2BAL , was spotted on platform 2, as well as a second bird from Adam's Study, which looked to be   2BJB .  I spent several hours on the WoW Reserve, checking platform 2 and the Common Terns standing on the planks in front of Hide 2.

Platform 2, was awash with nesting Black-headed Gulls and a number of pairs of Mediterranean Gulls.  It did not take long to spot   2BAL   on the front edge of the platform.  The gull had it's own nest containing one egg, situated just in front of two pairs of nesting Med Gulls.    2BAL , had a lot of problems, with an off-duty Med Gull, as this bird stood very close to the single egg.  

Eventually, it moved off and   2BAL , was then able to return to it's nest and sit in peace and quite.  It was good to record this gull again, and had me wondering - did it spend last winter in Belfast, instead of Donaghadee? 

Black-headed Gull  -    2BAL   -  RSPB's WoW Reserve, Belfast Harbour Reserve  (12 May 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 22nd June 2014, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

I was now on the lookout for   2BJB , as well as two other gulls -   2ASF   &   2BHB  - that I had recorded on platform 2, back in March, prior to the start of the breeding season.  I spent a long time, scoping through the masses of gulls, looking for the 'Orange Darvics', when I eventually spotted one.  Grabbing the camera, I zoomed across to the far side of the platform and a few photos later captured the code -   2AJF .

  2AJF , did not register with me, as being a gull, having previously been recorded.  Returning home and checking my spreadsheet, this gull was indeed a new sighting.  I reported my latest sightings to Adam and now await a reply. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2AJF   -  RSPB's WoW Reserve, Belfast Harbour Estate  (12 May 2018)
(Waiting on Ringing Details from Adam McClure)

I alternated between hide one overlooking platform 2 and hide two, which overlooked the wooden platforms where the recently returned Common Terns were resting.  A couple of the Terns were ringed with 'metals', but I need 'colour-rings', to obtain a result.  Searching for Mediterranean Gull nests on platform 2, I counted six definite and a possible 7th.  The 7th pair, consisted of an adult, paired to an immature, which happened to be 'metal-ringed'.

It took a while, to get a photo of the immature bird, showing the 'metal-ring', eventually obtaining an unobstructed view.  At least, two dozen Black-headed Gull chicks were spotted, while other pairs were still busy nest building.  In the end, I departed, without spotting   2ASF ,   2BHB   or   2BJB .  

Immature Mediterranean Gull Showing 'Metal Ring'  -  RSPB's WoW Reserve  (12 May 2018)


      Sunday 13th May 2018       
Sunday's outing, was more or less, a repeat of where I went yesterday.  Starting in Antrim, I stopped by the Tesco Warehouse, before moving on to Antrim Marina.  Then, it was back to the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Centre in Belfast, where this time, I visited the main building which overlooks nesting platform one.  Remaining there, for the best part of two hours, I finished off the afternoon, with visits to Kiltonga Nature Reserve at Newtownards and the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, situated on the western shore of Strangford Lough.

I stopped by the Tesco Warehouse, where this time, I took a few photos of the Med x Common Gull pair.  The female can be seen sitting on the nest, while her partner was resting by the ridge of the roof.  I'm hoping, that some time over my next few visits, I'll be able to capture the male taking his turn, incubating the eggs.  Photos, showing both birds incubating, will confirm my sightings of these being a pair.  As stated before, this is the third year in a row, that they have nested on the exact same spot.

Common Gull x Mediterranean Gull Nest  -  Antrim's Tesco Warehouse, Co. Antrim  (13 May 2018)

At Antrim Marina, only a couple of dozen Black-headed Gulls, arrived during my visit there.  Keen to record the resident BHGs, I departed after about an hour.  Gulls, were clearly not interested in visiting the Marina, despite a few hundred pairs nesting on the nearby torpedo platform.  Two 'colour-ringed' BHGs, did land briefly, these being   2BRA   &   2ADJ .  A few Mute Swans, were on the slipway and one of them was   W34158 .  I could tell by the reaction from a couple of the swans, that they were not regular visitors to the Marina, not at all happy with my close approach.

Belfast Window on Wildlife Reserve
Having spent a lengthy time yesterday, at hide one, overlooking nesting platform 2, and hide two, overlooking the wooden planks, today I viewed nesting platform one, from the main building. Platform one, was not quite so easy to view, due to the density of nesting Black-headed Gulls and the height of some of the vegetation.

Spending the best part of two hours viewing, with the addition of a couple of cups of free coffee, three 'ringed' BHGs, were spotted.  The first of these, was one, bearing an 'Orange Darvic' from Adam's Study.  Landing briefly in front of the main building, it took off again, before I could obtain a photo.  The other two gulls were 'metal-ringed', one on the platform, too far away to read, and the second was on a nest, fairly close to the main building.

Despite the short distance and having to take photos through a closed window, I stated that my camera, might just be able to capture details on the ring.  It was a waiting game, to get a clear view of the ring, but eventually I had the chance to take a single photo.  Checking the picture, I had captured a partial number -   666 , followed by what looks like being an   8 .

At home, I checked my spreadsheet for the four digits, to find that Adam was using 'metal' rings containing  6668 , back in 2015.  They were from the  EY  series, so my gull would probably be ringed -   EY6668* .  Throughout my visit, the gull sat on an empty nest, so there is every chance to complete the number at a later date - once eggs are laid or chicks appear.

Black-headed Gull  -    E*666(8)*   -  RSPB's WoW Reserve, Belfast Harbour Estate  (13 May 2018)

Talking to the RSPB staff at the Centre, I was informed that three new nesting platforms are due to be placed on the lagoon inside the next couple of weeks.  The platforms (2 small and 1 large), are to be situated between the main building and hide one and at half the distance between nesting platforms one and two.

The idea behind this, is that the recently returned Common Terns, will have their own 'gull free' nesting sites.  To me, this is quite exciting news.  Being closer to the main building and hide one, this would give me a great opportunity to spot 'colour-ringed' Terns, on these gull and vegetation free nest sites.  Can't wait to what develops on these.

Kiltonga NR, Newtownards
Moving on to Kiltonga Nature Reserve, at Newtownards, County Down, I wanted to see, if Black-headed Gulls nested there.  If they did, it would provide another site, where rings could be read quite easily.  To my disappointment, no gulls, were found nesting and the few Black-headed's that were present were not ringed.

Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down
By the time I reached Castle Espie Wetland Centre, it was already 4.15 in the afternoon.  On learning that the Centre was due to close at 5pm, I only had 45 minutes to search for 'ringed' Black-headed Gulls.

The Centre, is home for several species of ornamental ducks and geese, but a fairly large Black-headed Gull colony is to be found on the grounds.  Their nests here, are easily viewed, as the gulls are very tolerant to the public.  On walking through, I started noticing 'Orange Darvics', all over the place.  Concentrating on taking lots of photos, I decided to check for the codes once I got back to the car.

45 minutes quickly passed by and once settled back into my car, I slowly checked the photos.  To my delight, I had captured the codes for 11 individuals.  Returning home and checking my spreadsheet, 3 were re-sightings and 8 were gulls that I had never seen before.  I sent an email to Adam, who replied a couple of days later with the birds files.  Somehow, he's overlooked my sightings at the Belfast WoW Reserve.

Adam, was really delighted with my haul, which included several first ever sightings.  Below, I've listed the gulls in ring order and added the interesting facts.

  2AHF , was ringed as a chick at Castle Espie, on the 19th June 2014.  My sighting today, was the first record of the gull, since being ringed.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AHF    -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (13 May 2018)

  2AKT , was ringed as a chick, on the 23rd June 2015, at Castle Espie.  The only previous sighting of the gull, was made on the 23rd February 2016, when I spotted the then juvenile at Kircubbin, on the eastern shore of Strangford Lough  (11 kms / 7 miles SE).

Black-headed Gull  -    2AKT   -  Kircubbin  (23 Feb 2016)  &  Castle Espie  (13 May 2018)

  2APT , was ringed as a chick at Castle Espie, on the 23rd June 2015.  My first sighting of   2APT , was at Whiteabbey Beach (Co. Antrim), on the 20th August 2016 (20 kms / 12 miles NW), followed by a sighting at the nearby Whitehouse Lagoon, on the 27th August 2016.  I re-sighted   2APT , at Whitehouse Lagoon, on the 4th September 2016 and finally on the 19th October 2016.

There were no other sightings, until the 13th March 2018, when   2APT , was once again spotted at Whitehouse Lagoon, by David Nixon and Philip McHaffie.  With my sighting today, we now know, this gull winters in Belfast and is back breeding at it's natal colony.

Black-headed Gull  -    2APT   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (13 May 2018)

Yet another gull, ringed as a chick, on the 23rd June 2015, at Castle Espie, my sighting today, was the first ever record of   2ARL , after all this time.  I find it quite amazing, that some of the gulls spotted today, have never been re-sighted around Strangford Lough, since being ringed.  There is an 'army' of 'Ring Readers' around Strangford, that look for 'ringed' Brent Geese and you'd think that some of them, would have come across the 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ARL   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre,  Co. Down  (13 May 2018)

  2ASA , has a short, re-sighting history.  Ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2013, on the Copeland Islands, in County Down, it was spotted around a month after fledging, at Whitehead in County Antrim (18th July 2013).  Almost a year later,   2ASA , was discovered at Castle Espie, the first of a handful of sightings here, (Jul & Sep 2014), (Apr 2016), (Apr 2017).  Earlier this year (Feb 2018), it was spotted near Dundonald, a few kilometres to the north.

  2ASA , was a new sighting for me and was the only gull from the eleven that I recorded today, which was not raised here as a chick, but is now breeding at Castle Espie.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ASA   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (13 May 2018)

  2BJF , was ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2014, here at Castle Espie.  My sighting of the gull today, was the first record of the bird since being ringed.  These first sightings have me wondering!  With most of the Wildfowl, being 'metal-rung' and 'colour-ringed', the staff at the Centre, must surely monitor these birds.

Do they check on the Black-headed Gulls as well?  They must be aware, that many chicks have been ringed here and there is every chance of re-sightings.  Perhaps, this is not something they do, as the gulls are wild birds.  It seems to me, that regular visits are needed at the Wetland Centre, throughout the year, as much info on the BHGs here, is going unrecorded.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BJF   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (13 May  2018)

  2BKA , was ringed as a chick, at Castle Espie, on the 19th June 2014.  The only previous sighting of the bird, came four months later, when Adam, spotted it at Antrim Marina (County Antrim), on the 24th October 2014, which was on a Friday.  I undertake weekly (normally Sunday) visits to the Marina between August and March, but   2BKA , must have just simply passed through.    2BKA , was another new sighting for me.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BKA   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre,  Co. Down  (13 May 2018)

  2BKK , was ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2014, at Castle Espie.  Two sightings in 2016 (Apr & Jul), here at Castle Espie, were the only records of the gull, until I spotted it today.  Another new sighting for me, it seems that   2BKK , does not travel far.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BKK   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (13 May 2018)

  2BKL , was one of two gulls (  2APB ), that I spotted here at Castle Espie, on the 2nd June 2017, during my only other previous visit to the Wetland Centre.  At the time, my sightings were the first ever, since the gulls had been ringed as chicks, at the site.    2APB , which was not re-sighted today, was ringed at the Centre, on the 15th June 2015, whilst   2BKL , was ringed here on the 19th June 2014.

Today's sighting of   2BKL , is now the second record for this gull.  I wonder, does it winter here, or does it go elsewhere?  Only regular visits to Castle Espie, can answer this question.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BKL   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (13 May 2018)

  2CAD , is interesting.  Having been ringed as a chick, at Castle Espie, on the 24th June 2016, it's only previous sighting, was made on the 12th June 2017, at Bull Island, Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland.  The interesting part, is it's presence there, during the breeding season, despite it still being an immature bird.    2CAD , is another new sighting for me, and it does appear to be breeding on the Wetland Centre at present, another example of a gull returning to it's natal colony.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CAD   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (13 May 2018)

  2CDB , was the youngest of today's sightings at Castle Espie.  Ringed as a chick, here, on the 24th June 2016, my sighting is another first since being tagged.  I wouldn't be sure if it is actually breeding at present, but once again, it's another example of a gull returning to it's natal colony.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CDB   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (13 May 2018)

There is no doubt, that a lot of work is required at Castle Espie.  Regular visits throughout the year, is a must, to try and establish the movements for each gull.  I reckon, that today's visit, only scratches the surface of what can be learned at the site.  No chicks, have hatched out as yet, at Castle Espie, so I'm presuming, that lots of rings are being hidden by incubating birds.  On top of that, the 45 minutes, that was available to me before the Centre closed, meant I did not have time to get around all the nesting areas.

Another, inhibiting factor, is the admittance price of £9.  I wonder, if a 'free pass' could be offered, so I could undertake regular visits, which would greatly increase our knowledge of the Black-headed Gulls at Castle Espie.  As the gulls here, are readily tolerant to visitors, this ideally has got to be the best place in Northern Ireland, to Study a breeding colony and all it's ringed gulls.


      Ringing Details Received       
I have now received an update for the Black-tailed Godwit - RW(8)-RY, which I re-sighted for a second time at Belfast's Whitehouse Lagoon (see previous post).  My sighting, on the 7th April 2018, is the second record of the bird, having been spotted in Northern Ireland.  I first recorded the Godwit, on the nearby mudflats at Dargan, on the 24th July 2016.

After my initial sighting, I was sent an update, informing me that RW(8)-RY, had been re-sighted on three occassions in County Cork, in the Republic of Ireland.  The last of those three sightings, was made on the 22nd January 2017, the final record of the bird until it's appearance at Whitehouse Lagoon.

Back on March 24th 2018, I recorded 5 Whooper Swans and 3 Greylag Geese, during a trip to the Inch Levels, in County Donegal, and all were new ring sightings to me.  Over this last week, the ringing details have finally arrived for all eight birds.

As I had expected, Whooper Swans -   ZXN ,   ZXR ,   ZXS   &   ZXT , had all been caught and ringed during the same catch.  Ringed on the 12th August 2017, at Lake Kálfborgárarvatn, Fljótsheiði, in Northern Iceland, my sightings at Inch, were the first re-sighting record for all four birds.  They were all spotted again at Inch, by an unknown observer, on the 4th April 2018.

Whooper Swan -    BSF  - was also caught and ringed on Lake Kálfborgárarvatn.  Caught on the 9th August 2011, it was originally 'colour-ringed' -   AFP , but had it's 'colour-ring' replaced with   BSF , when captured on the same lake again, on the 8th August 2013.  Away from Iceland, any re-sightings of   BSF , have all been made in Ireland.

On the 31st December 2014, it was spotted at Cahermore, in County Galway and by the 27th March 2015, had moved northwards to the Inch Levels, where it was also recorded on the 22nd March 2018, just two days before my sighting on the 24th.

Of the three Greylag Geese, spotted at Inch, one bird -   A|BC , has never been spotted anywhere else, other than in the area around Inch.    A|BC , was ringed as an adult female, at Inch, on the 6th February 2013, and has multiple re-sighting history in the locality.

The aim of the Irish Greylag Goose Study, was to record the movements between the Irish and Icelandic populations.  The other two Greylags that I spotted at Inch -   A|AT   &   A|AD , must have raised a few questions, as they, at one time, were spotted in Norway.  Both geese were ringed as adult females, on the 21st November 2012, at Inch, though I'd be pretty sure, they are a pair.

On the 30th October 2013, both birds were spotted at Lake Orrevatnet in the south-west of Norway.  They obviously wintered in Norway, as they were both spotted again on three occasions in mid March 2014, at Lake Ergavatnet, situated just to the south of Lake Orrevatnet. Since then, all of their numerous sightings, have been around the Inch Levels, in County Donegal.


      Gulls Back Home       
In my previous post, I reported on 4 Black-headed Gulls, that had returned to their own countries, having wintered in Northern Ireland.  2 of the 4, were reported back in Poland, whilst the other two, returned to Norway.  Recently, I checked up on the gulls progress on the 'Live' Polish and Norwegian Ringing Databases.

There have been no further re-sightings of the Polish BHGs -   T58T   or (White) TY43, since my last post or indeed any of the other Polish gulls that I have previously recorded.

However, on the Norwegian side, there have been further re-sightings for (White) J4P4 (1), and   J22Z   (3).  As well as these, another four Black-headed Gulls, have been reported back in Norway.

  J08K , was a gull, that I came across, at Belfast's Waste Transfer Station, on the Dargan Industrial Estate.  I recorded it on the 25th December 2017, whilst searching for another Norwegian Black-headed Gull - (White) J5P9.  Indeed, J5P9, has not been seen since the 18th April 2017, in Norway.

  J08K , was re-sighted at Klepp, by two different observers, on the 23rd & 26th April 2018.  Despite, only recording the gull, on a single occasion last winter, I'm hoping it will return to Belfast next winter.  Ringed as a third calendar year male, on the 3rd April 2015, at Nærbø,   J08K , was most likely to be the gull that Adam spotted during the 2016/17 winter.  Seen on the Dargan mudflats close by, it was too far away, from Adam, to be able to read the code.  Klepp, is 16 kms north from the original ringing site.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    J08K   -  Dargan Waste Transfer Station, Belfast  (25 Dec 2017)

(White) T4TJ, is my Christmas Day gull.  Wintering, around the Connswater Shopping Centre, in Belfast, the only time that I can search for this bird each winter, is on Christmas Day.  As all the stores are closed for the day, I get total peace and quite, to try and attract the gulls down onto the car park.

Having now recorded T4TJ, for the third winter running, the gull was spotted on the 23rd April 2018, at Killingen, Oslo.  Ringed as a third calendar year male, on the 19th April 2013, at Texburger Vekerø, Oslo, the latest sighting at Killingen, is just 1 km south from the original ringing site.  It's only other Northern Ireland sighting, was made on the 13th January 2014, when Adam also recorded T4TJ, at the Connswater Shopping Centre.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway (White)  J4TJ  -  Connswater, Belfast  (25 Dec 2017)

(White) J2UP, was the surprise sighting on Christmas Day.  Having travelled to Belfast to look for T4TJ, at the Connswater Shopping Centre car park, a second Black-headed Gull, bearing a 'White Darvic' landed.  Initially, I thought it was the Dutch BHG (White) EAK9, who I had been hoping to re-sight as well.  Having zoomed in with my camera, I realised, that I had another Norwegian gull.

Although, I failed to record EAK9, on Christmas Day, I was rewarded with two 'colour-ringed' Norwegian and a 'metal-rung' Black-headed Gull from Lithuania.  J2UP, has been spotted at a breeding colony, on the island of Tuskjær, on the 30th April 2018.  The island, is 25 kms SW, from where J2UP, was ringed as a third calendar year female, at Lørenskog, on the 8th April 2013.  It will be interesting to see if J2UP, returns to Belfast this winter.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway (White)  J2UP  -  Connswater, Belfast  (25 Dec 2017)

  JJ02 , was a gull that I recorded on a couple of occasions last winter, just to the south of Carrickfergus, in County Antrim.  It was presumably the same gull that I saw there, the winter before, but failed to read the code on the ring.

Since returning to Norway,   JJ02   has been reported on five occasions, at three different sites around Oslo.  The most noticeable of these, was on the 19th April 2018, when it was seen at the breeding colony on Killingen Island, just offshore from Oslo.  Ringed in the St. Hanshaugen District of Oslo, as a adult female, on the 12th June 2014, I fully expect to see this very 'forward' of gulls, back at Carrickfergus next winter.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    JJ02   -  Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (10 Feb 2018)


      Black-headed Gull Spotted in Poland       
One of the Black-headed Gulls, which I caught and ringed at Antrim Marina, this winter, as part of my training, has been spotted in north-east Poland.

  2CSL , was caught and ringed, as an un-sexed adult, on the 24th December 2017.  My last sighting of it at the Marina, was on the 19th March 2018.  10 days later, on the 29th, it was seen at Olsztyn, a distance of 1,740 kms / 1,081 miles, to the east of the Marina.

The 'colour-ring', was not reported to Adam, who was unaware of the sighting.  I had used my own 'metal ring' on the gull, so the re-sighting report, was sent to my ringing trainer, whom passed the record on to me, though the whole process has taken a number of weeks to come to light.  The 'colour-rings' I used, are registered to Adam.

At least, I now know the status, of one of the twelve birds that were 'colour-ringed' at the Marina last winter.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSL   -  Shortly After Being Ringed at Antrim Marina, on the 24th December 2017


      Sad End For A Common Gull       
On April 29th, I received an email from Calum Campbell, who is the ringing co-ordinator, for the 'Orange Darvics' used on Common Gulls in the Aberdeen area of Scotland.  In fact, the email, was circulated to all the observers, who at one time or another, had spotted Common Gull   2A06 .

Calum, received an email from a Graeme Louise, reporting on the sad end of   2A06 :-

Hi ,

Hope you both are well.

Sadly this was the easiest Darvic I've read.

Arrived at work this morning and saw this bird on the ground flapping wings but unable to walk .

When I finished my round 4 hours later, it hadnt moved far.I phoned the SSPCA , and met them on site.

Both its legs were damaged and it had an open wound on its underside. The bird was put down.

For your records it was at the Divex building near the large car park , where Royal mail staff park cars , opposite Stewarty Milne HQ.

As usual any info re this bird would be appreciated .

Cheers ,


  2A06 , was caught and ringed, on the 2nd July 2015, at Westhill, near Aberdeen, Scotland.  It's first re-sighting, was made on the 12th December 2015, when I spotted the gull resting at Carrickfergus Harbour, and it was re-sighted again there, on the 19th February 2016, by Cameron Moore.

There were no further reports, until September 2017, where it was recorded on the 17th & 21st, by (GB), at Pow Burn, Prestwick, Ayrshire, in Scotland.  Indeed, (GB), sent me an email, by way of a 'heads up', that   2A06 , might be making it's way back to Northern Ireland, where it appears to spend the winter around Belfast Lough.

(GB), was correct, as   2A06 , was again spotted at Carrickfergus Harbour, this time, by Paul McCullough.  I then saw   2A06 , on the 4th March 2018, this time, on the beach at Kinnegar, Co. Down.  This was the final sighting, before the gull was found injured, having returned to Westhill, in Aberdeenshire.

My thanks to Calum, for keeping us all in the loop and to Graeme, for a seperate email, that he sent to me.  The demise, of many a ringed bird will often go un-recorded, but here, we have a full history for one bird.

Last Photo of Common Gull  -    2A06   -  Before it's Death in Scotland
(Kinnegar Beach, Co. Down  -  04 March 2018)