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.


No comments: