Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Growing Gulls...

Finally, as I write this post, I appear to have shrugged off all my ills from the last few months.  My suspected Tendinitus, is now gone, although I could still feel a bit of pain on Monday 18th and Tuesday 19th, whilst hauling a rucksack around on my back.  The timing could not have been better.  I've been trying to take things easy, especially regards to my foot injury back in March.

These last two weeks, has seen me bouncing around the rocky shores of Rathlin Island, looking for Common Gull chicks.  My foot has passed the test, with flying colours, so hopefully, that sees the end of that problem.  As I've not been working with Raptors this summer, I've undertaken a bit of 'Ring Reading', along with finding nests, when time allows.  Now that I'm busy again, I'm finding it difficult to work on my blog as well.

On top of everything, my garden, is also begging for attention.  The lawn, is constantly in need of cutting, as the grass is growing at a fair pace.  My hedge also had to be cut back and the conifer by the garden gate, also, was in need of trimming.  So much to do, and little time to do everything.

This Friday, will see my first ever visit to Copeland Island Bird Observatory.  I'm staying over for the weekend, arriving back around supper time on Sunday.  I was hoping to 'colour-ring' a few late Common Gull chicks there, but my chances may be limited, as Arctic Terns, apparently nest close to the Common Gulls.  Failing that, I'll attempt to carry out a bit of 'Ring Reading' instead.

      Rathlin Island - 18th & 19th June 2018       
On Monday 18th June and Tuesday 19th June, I made my first visits to Rathlin Island, to look for Common Gull chicks, in order to ring them with 'metal' and 'colour-rings'.  On the Monday, my sister Heather and my eldest son's mate, Michael Wright, came along to help in the search and ringing.

The following day, I returned on my own, to check out the colonies, that were more difficult to get to and involved a lot more walking.  Repeat visits to these same colonies, were carried out on Monday 25th and Tuesday 26th June, in order to 'colour-ring' chicks, that were too small to receive 'colour-rings' the previous week.  As well as these, I hoped to catch youngsters that had been missed the first time round.

As I write, the visits have now been completed, but I will publish a review of the results in my next post.  My thanks, goes to Michael and Heather, for their help in locating chicks.  Heather, also returned on Monday the 25th, to help out.

On Monday 19th, my sister took a rest, whilst Michael & I, walked around the edge of Ushet Lough.  This large freshwater, inland lake, is situated, half way down Rathlin's 'southern arm' and attracts a small population of nesting Common Gulls.  Whilst searching for their chicks, on the edges of the lake, I scoped a large flock of Greylag Geese, hoping to spot one with a neck collar -   NDD .  Hoping to re-sight it here for the third summer running, there was no sign of it, but I did spot two other geese with collars, which I think are paired together.

Having captured their codes with my camera -   B|VI   &   B|VJ , these were first ever sightings for me.  I spotted both birds again the following day, but there was still no sign of   NDD .  During my visits, the following week, no geese were spotted with collars. I've reported my sightings to the BTO, through their new DemOn Ringing Database, and now await the ringing details.

Greylag Goose  -    B|VI   -  Ushet Lough, Rathlin Island  (18 Jun 2018)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)

Greylag Goose  -    B|VJ   -  Ushet Lough, Rathlin Island  (18 Jun 2018)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)

An interesting find on Ushet Lough, was a nest belonging to a Lesser Black-backed Gull.  I had been alerted to the possibility of a nest, by an alarm calling adult flying high above me.  A quick search, around the area, where non-breeding and immatures of this species gather, led me to a nest close to the shoreline, which contained two eggs.  I believe, that the only Lesser Black-back, nesting colonies, are to be found on Rathlin's north coast, so this nest was a surprise find.  Hopefully, the eggs will hatch out ok, and I'll be able to ring the chicks in a few weeks.

Nest & Eggs of the Lesser Black-backed Gull  -  Ushet Lough, Rathlin Island (19 Jun 2018)

Although, most of Rathlin's Eider Ducks, now have their recently hatched chicks, out on the sea, a few nests were found among the rocks, whilst searching for Common Gull youngsters.

Female Eider Duck on Nest

At Ushet Port, close to Rathlin's southern lighthouse at Rue Point, numerous seals, had hauled themselves out onto the rocks, to enjoy the sunshine.  Here, the seals, are very tolerant of the islands visitors, who in turn, are in awe, after coming across them and just how close they can get to these wonderful animals.

When I returned to Rathlin's harbour, on Tuesday 19th, to catch the final ferry back to Ballycastle, around half a dozen seals, were basking on rocks right beside the ferry slipway.  These caused quite a stir, as most visitors, would head off to the west lighthouse, to witness the seabird nesting stacks and would not otherwise, see any seals.

Seal Resting at Rathlin Harbour


      Inch Island - 21st June 2018       
On Thursday the 21st June, I visited Inch Island in County Donegal, after receiving an invite from the Causeway Coast Ringing Group.  Usually, group members, led by Ken Perry, visit the small islet on two or three occasions each summer, to ring Sandwich Tern chicks.  This year, the chicks were to be 'colour-ringed' for the first time ever, during today's only planned visit this summer.  I volunteered myself, to write down the 'codes' and 'metal' numbers, whilst the chicks were being ringed.  At the same time, I would keep an eye out for any of the Black-headed Gulls, which Adam McClure, 'colour-ringed' here two years ago, as chicks.

When I arrived at the car park, at 9am, the first boat load, was already making it's way over to the island, which left my ringing trainer John Clarke an I, to be picked up on the second trip.  Talking to John, it turned out, the 'colour-rings' for the terns had been left behind.  As I hadn't brought my ringing pliers with me, I was now free to scan the Black-headed Gulls for 'colour-rings'.  None, were spotted, but the highlight for me, was getting quite close to a Black Swan, sitting on her nest.

As far as I know, a landowner in County Donegal, kept Black Swans as part of a Wildfowl collection, where some birds eventually escaped.  Although, I have seen Black Swans before, not only here at Inch and on the nearby Lough Foyle (near Myroe), I once recorded a pair on the sea at Carnlough Bay, in County Antrim, which is not far from where I live.

Black Swan on her Nest  -  Inch Island, Co. Donegal  (21 Jun 2018)


      Antrim - 23rd June 2018       
Due to the lack of gulls present at Antrim Marina, during recent random summer visits, I had avoided the site, over the last couple of weeks and decided to pay a visit today.

Firstly, on my way up to Antrim Marina, I stopped by the Tesco Warehouse, at Antrim's, Kilbegs Industrial Estate.  During my last visit here on the 3rd of June, I discovered that the Mediterranean x Common Gull pair, had three recently hatched chicks.  Having nested on the exact same spot for the third summer running, this year, they successfully hatched out their eggs.

Sadly, one of the chicks, appears to have perished, but the two remaining youngsters, are now beginning to grow their feathers.  The female, remained close by her chicks and when the male (Med Gull), eventually arrived, he just lay down close to the ridge of the roof.  I'll keep track, of these two youngsters, as I want to capture photos of them, when well feathered.

Mediterranean x Common Gull Chicks, at the Tesco Warehouse, Kilbegs, Antrim Town  (23 Jun 2018)

As I neared Antrim Marina, I spotted numerous gulls in flight, which bode well for my visit.  I wasn't disappointed, as around 80 to 100 gulls, were constantly on site.  Setting about, looking for 'colour-ringed' birds, I spotted 8 'Orange Darvic's' from Adam's Black-headed Gull Study, a BHG with a 'metal-ring', a BHG with a 'Red Darvic' and a Common Gull, with a 'Blue Darvic'.

The 8 from Adam's Study, were,   2ABS ,   2ADJ ,   2CSJ ,   2BRA ,   2CJT  ,   2ABF ,   2CSK   and   2AAP .  Both   2CSJ   and   2CSK , were ringed here during last winter, and today's sightings indicate that they have both remained in the area during the summer.  When ringed, they were aged as 2nd Winter and adult respectively.  After taking numerous photos of the 'metal-ringed' BHG, it turned out to be   2ABL , who managed to discard it's 'colour-ring' a while back.  All of the above gulls, had been considered as 'Resident', to Antrim Marina.

The Black-headed Gull, with the 'Red Darvic' -   2AX9 , was ringed as a chick, on the 20th June 2017, by The Clyde Ringing Group, at Elvanfoot, in the South Lanarkshire area of Scotland.  Having just turned a year since being ringed, it was 182 kms (WSW) from the ringing site.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AX9   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (23 Jun 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 20th June 2017, at Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire, Scotland)

Back in March, a Common Gull, with a 'Blue Darvic', touched down on the railings at Antrim Marina, but flew off again before I could get my camera.  At the time, I thought it was the very early arrival of   2AJP .  No further sightings materialised, over my next few visits, but today, there was a Common Gull, with a 'Blue Darvic', among the BHGs on the slipway.

It stayed around long enough for me to take a few photos, and indeed, it was   2AJP , a gull that I had hoped to re-sight.    2AJP , was first recorded at Antrim Marina, on the 13th June 2016, by Suzanne Belshaw.  At the time, Suzanne, was helping me to record the resident BHGs, when   2AJP   appeared.

  2AJP , was ringed as a chick, on the 29th June 2013, by Shane Wolsey, on the Copeland Islands in County Down.  It's first re-sightings occurred in March 2014, when Graham Prole, recorded the then 1st winter bird, on three occasions at Poppintree Park, in the Irish Capital - Dublin.  Oddly, the gull has not been reported from anywhere else since, other than the summer visits to Antrim Marina.  I recorded the gull on two occasions last summer (June & July 2017), and today's sighting confirms the birds presence for a third year running.

Common Gull  -    2AJP   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (23 Jun 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 29th June 2013, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)


      Castle Espie - Sunday 24th June 2018       
Today saw my 4th recent bi-weekly visit to Castle Espie, in County Down.  Having realised that some of Adam's 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, were going un-recorded at the Wetland Centre, I decided to carry out these regular visits to record the gulls.

With each visit, the status of the nesting gulls, changes by some degree.  Along with my sister Heather, we noticed that many nests have failed since our last visit a fortnight ago.  Not only that, some of the ringed adults, appear to have left Castle Espie altogether.  It may be possible, that these gulls, are heading directly to their wintering sites.

Even, in my home town of Ballymena, Black-headed Gulls are now returning to the Peoples Park and even in the housing estate where I live, a bird has arrived back recently.

Despite the nest failures, we were here to record 'colour-rings'.  A total of 12 'Orange Darvics' were recorded, three of which, were not recorded during the three previous visits.  The nine re-sightings were,   2CBK ,   2BKK ,   2BKD ,   2AKT ,   2CAP ,   2AHF ,   2CBR ,   2BKL   and   2CAD .

I intend to create a new spreadsheet for the Castle Espie sightings, which will run along side my Antrim Marina spreadsheet.  It will help me to keep track of my sightings, both during the summer and winter.  Now that I have WWT membership, I reckon many new sightings of foreign rung birds will be recorded over the course of the winter season.

Today's three new sightings are shown below.  All the gulls were reported to both Adam and the BTO.  Adam, has yet to reply, but the BTO, had the ringing details for two of the gulls, which according to their DemOn Database, are first re-sightings.  The photos taken today were not particularly good, but this in part was caused by extremely bright sunshine, which in turn caused very dark shadows underneath the gulls.

Black-headed Gull  -    2APR   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (24 Jun 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 15th June 2015, at Castle Espie)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CBP   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (24 Jun 2018)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 24th June 2016, at Castle Espie)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CKS   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (24 Jun 2018)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)


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