Thursday, 30 August 2018

Well Travelled Med...

I've held off from publishing this post, on the hope, that some ringing information would arrive.  Now that it is Thursday, I'll wait no longer.  I'm also ready to post an article, about sightings made by Suzanne Belshaw.  Here, I'm waiting on the ringing details for a young Herring Gull, that Suzanne spotted.  Among her other sightings, are that of another young Polish Mediterranean Gull and a re-sighting of an ageing 'metal-rung' Common Gull.  I'll hold off for another few days, but will go ahead with the post, before my next regular posting.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 27th August 2018       
Once again, I opted for a Monday visit to Antrim Marina.  Having not got away on Saturday, this left me Sunday, free to spend several hours looking for rings elsewhere, with good success.

The visit today, saw overcast conditions, with a fairly strong wind, blowing in from the Lough.  The wind was quite chilly for this time of the year, and on occasions, I could hardly feel my finger tips.

I was half an hour later, on reaching the Marina, my visit lasting from 9.30am until mid-day.  All through, Black-headed Gull numbers, always exceed the one hundred mark, though some birds, were clearly coming and going.

The visit, was fairly routine, with no new ring sightings being recorded.  Of the 24 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, recorded so far this winter, 21 of them, were spotted today.

I'm becoming more concerned after each visit, about the non-appearance of some of the birds, which should have been recorded by now.  These are   2AAC ,   2ABA   and perhaps   2ANS , which has had a patchy re-sighting history, the older it has become.

Another gull, which I class, as one of those, that's always under your feet, is   2AAP .  This gull was recorded just before, I began my sixth winter of 'Ring Watching at Antrim Marina', and has been recorded just once since.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed, that these birds are still alive, but their non-appearance, are beginning to cause some doubts.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina  -  Today  (27th August 2018)
 T35J   2AAT   2CSA   2CSJ   2AAK   2CSL   2ADJ 
 2CSK   2CSR   2AAN   2ABL   2AAA   2ABK   2ABF 
 2ABS   2CSB   2CSS   2ACV   2AAB   2CJT   2BRA 

Today's Absentees
 2AAP   2ABN   2AAV 

Below, I've added two photos of Black-headed Gull -   2CSS , which is one of the birds I caught last winter, as part of my training, to catch and ring 'Flying Gulls'.  These clearly show the transformation of the bird over the last five months.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSS   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (27 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a 1st Winter Bird, on the 7th January 2018, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSS   -  On the 12th March 2018, at Antrim Marina

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
As mentioned before, I'm relying on the presence of Mute Swans, as an aid to catching Black-headed Gulls, for ringing.  On my last visit here, not a single Mute Swan appeared and when I arrived today, there were still no swans.

It wasn't until 11.05, that the family party with their five cygnets, arrived in from the Lough.  I easily encouraged them onto the slipway for a feed of bread.  The cygnets, are becoming more 'people friendly', easily feeding from my hand.  Spilling bread onto the ground, the gulls did approach, but are not hungry enough as yet, to get close enough to catch.

An immature female swan, arrived from upriver at 11.14, and might well be one of last winter's cygnets.  She was not allowed to approach the slipway, being driven off by the male, as he was defending his youngsters.  The family party, swam upriver at 11.40, which then allowed the female to come ashore.  Eagerly taking bread from my hand, this bird had no rings.

A slight drop in Mallard numbers, was noted today, though with birds arriving as the morning wore on, an estimated 80 birds were present by the time of my departure.  Most were checked for rings, but still no luck with these.

As with last week, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a Herring Gull, were present most of the time.  Two adult Common Gulls, were most likely to be the same two birds, which also came and went on a frequent basis.

The very friendly juvenile Common Gull, appeared at 1015, and remained throughout my stay.  For some reason, it was not present last week.  The more I see of this bird, the more I'd love to slap a 'colour-ring' onto it.  A bird that presents itself to people in such an easy fashion, would be an ideal candidate for re-sightings.

Other species recorded today, were, 6 Hooded Crows (2 juveniles), 8 Jackdaws (2 juveniles), a single Rook and a juvenile Magpie.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC & Baptist Church
As   2AAV , was not at the Marina today, I stopped by it's favourite winter haunt, at Antrim's Elim Church.  With around 30 BHGs, 2 Common Gulls and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull present, there was no sign of   2AAV .

Moving on to the car park, of the nearby KFC outlet, around 30 BHGs, a single Common Gull and a single Mediterranean Gull, were present.  Although Mediterranean Gulls, are still fairly scarce as a breeding species in Northern Ireland, sightings of these birds so far this autumn, appears to be well up from previous years.

The Norwegian Black-headed Gull -   JK35 , has still not arrived back and is now overdue.  Having not been recorded, back in Norway, over the summer, it's current status is making me wonder.  Fingers crossed, for the return of this one - early days yet!

Mediterranean Gull  -  Antrim KFC Car Park, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (27 Aug 2018)

The number of Black-headed Gulls, at Antrim's Baptist Church, are still well up.  I estimated, that there were as many as 80 to 90 birds present.  With the front gates to the Church, closed and locked, I took myself into the car park and sat down.  Throwing out bread, most of the gulls eventually landed in front of me.  Just the one ring was spotted, and that was of the Polish (White) TY43.  I recorded the return of this bird, on the 5th August 2018.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White) TY43  -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (27 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Calendar Year, on the 9th February 2012, at Olsztyn, Warmińsko-Mazurskie, Poland) 


      Ringing Details Received       
As far as I can remember, the only ringing details that I'm currently waiting on, are for, the young Herring Gull - (White) 39N:C, spotted at Whitehouse Lagoon, on Sunday 19th August 2018.  Although, the Secretary of the Clyde Ringing Group - Iain Livingstone, is aware of my sighting, he is still waiting on the ringer involved, to supply details.

I'm also awaiting updates, for an Oystercatcher and a Black-tailed Godwit, also seen at Whitehouse Lagoon, on the 19th August.  The two, are re-sightings of birds that I've recorded in the past, and at some point, Böddi, will send me their updated files.  Once received, I'll know if these two Icelandic birds, have been spotted anywhere else since I last saw them.  Böddi, is due to return to his office on August 29th.

I have recently received an email from Jan Rod, about one of the Sandwich Tern's, that I spotted, also on the 19th August, at Rhanbouy Park, Carrickfergus.  The bird concerned, was EBL, which I reported on my Blog, as being (White) EBL.  Jan, spotted the tern, six day's later, on the 25th August, at the Skerries, in County Dublin, Republic of Ireland.  He reported the bird, as (Lime) EBL, to Ewan Weston, and kindly reported this to me.

Jan, was correct in his sighting, the tern did have a 'Lime' ring.  At the time of my sighting, I too thought the ring was 'Lime', but was unsure.  I reported EBL, along with EFA, to Ewan, not stating a colour, but attached photos of the two birds to the email.  Looking back, to the re-sighting report I received from Ewan, the first column, gave the colour as 'l', which I overlooked.  Had it been a capital 'L', I might have took more notice, and stands for 'Lime'.

Anyway, at the time, I recorded these two birds, I was not sure, if the rings were indeed 'Lime'. but had faded, or were in fact 'White', which had dis-coloured.  I settled for 'White', in my blog, and thanks to Jan, I will have to correct my blog entry, changing the two terns, to - Lime EBL and Lime EFA.


      Sunday 26th August 2018       
Electing not to visit Antrim Marina today, I decided to go to the beach at Kinnegar.  I wanted to be in position at the car park, overlooking the shore, before the tide started to recede.  Any 'colour-ringed' birds that should arrive, would easily be within range of my camera.

Towards the end of last winter, I discovered Kinnegar, to be a treasure trove for ring sightings and going by what I recorded here today, this winter, will be no exception.

On arrival, I couldn't have got off to a better start.  I spotted a 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher, roosting on the tidal pond, situated across an access road from the shore.  Taking a few photos from distance, I captured the combination as 'Yellow, Green or Lime' on the left leg, and White (UA), on the right leg.  On returning home, and checking my spreadsheet, this Oystercatcher, was a new sighting for me.  Knowing, it would have come from Iceland, I've reported my sighting to Böddi, and await his reply.

Oystercatcher  -  (Y)ellow(L)ime-White(UA)  -  Kinnegar Pond, Holywood, Co. Down  (26 Aug 2018)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)

Parking my car overlooking the shore, a good number of terns and gulls, were already present, standing above the high tide line, waiting for the tide to recede.

The gulls were mostly Black-headed's, with a few Herring, Common and Lesser Black-backed's.  Common Terns, were exactly that, with a smaller numbers of Sandwich Terns, and the odd one or two Arctic and Roseate Terns.

Although some of the Common Terns were 'metal-ringed', none bore 'colour-rings'.  One adult Roseate, had a 'metal-ring', on each leg, which meant it was either from Rockabill or Lady's Island Lake, in the Republic of Ireland.  Strangely, the juvenile that accompanied the adult, had a 'metal-ring' on it's right leg, which suggests that it was ringed as a chick, somewhere other than the two previously mentioned sites.

Among the Sandwich Terns, I spotted four individuals, with 'colour-rings'.  I failed to capture the codes, on an adult, with a 'Blue Darvic', and a juvenile, with a 'Yellow Darvic'.

The 'Blue' ringed Sandwich Tern, was first to be spotted, but a Black-headed Gull, moved across and blocked out my view.  Waiting for the gull to move, I scanned through the other birds and then spotted a 'Sannie', with a 'White Darvic'.  Camera out, I easily managed to capture the code - EDL.

(White) EDL, was a bird I reported on last year, having been spotted by Cameron Moore, at Whitehead, on the 14th September 2017.  It was ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 17th August 2010, by the Grampian Ringing Group, on the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Prior, to Cameron's sighting, (White) EDL, had only been sighted on three other occasions :- near Tiguent, Mauritania (Nov 2011), Saltcoats Harbour, Ayrshire, Scotland (Aug 2013), and Coquet Island, Northumberland, England (May 2015).  I reported my sighting to Ewan Weston, and learned that (White) EDL, had not been recorded, since Cameron spotted the tern last summer.

Sandwich Tern  -  (White)  EDL  -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (26 Aug  2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 17th August 2010, on the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)

As the 'Blue-ringed', Sandwich Tern, was still being blocked out by the Black-headed Gull, I continued to scan the rest of the gulls, and by this time, I noticed that the tide was starting to recede.  More gulls and terns, were starting to arrive, and then I noticed a Black-headed Gull, with an 'Orange Darvic'.

It was one of Adam McClure's, Northern Ireland Study birds, and I quickly caught the code with my camera -   2CJF .  Checking my records at home,   2CJF , was a new bird to me.  I've reported my sighting to Adam, but still await a reply.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CJF   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (26 Aug 2018)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)

With another ring sorted, I again tried for the Sandwich Tern, with the 'Blue-Darvic'.  I was using my camera, and was well zoomed in, when a gull with a 'Yellow-Darvic' strolled through my viewfinder.  It went straight into the river, which flows into Belfast Lough.  I then noticed, that it was a Mediterranean Gull, and I had to get this one.

After having a near five minute wash and preen, the Med gull, exited the river, and the ring code was caught -   2C22 .  I immediately thought, as the ring began with a two, I knew it was British Isles rung bird and this Med Gull, was most likely to have been ringed at Lady's Island Lake, County Wexford, in the Republic of Ireland.  On returning home and checking the cr-birding website, the contact ringer, was Sean Kingston, in Dublin, which cemented my belief that this was an Irish-rung bird.

When Sean replied, I was in for a big surprise.    2C22 , was ringed as a chick, on the 28th June 2017, at a large Med Gull colony, on South Binness Island, Hampshire, England.  After being ringed,   2C22 , was not seen again in 2017.

This all changed, at the beginning of 2018.  On the 4th January,   2C22 , was spotted on Coroso Beach, at Riberia, in (NW) Spain, and three days later (7th Jan), was re-sighted in Portugal, at the mouth of the River Ave, between Vila do Conde and Azurara, on the western coast.

It was not until June 2018, before   2C22 , surfaced again, this time in the Republic of Ireland.  On the 16th and 20th, it was reported from Harper's Island and Glounthane, both in the Cobh area of County Cork.  These were it's last sightings, until it appeared at Kinnegar Beach today - a nice 'spot', with an interesting re-sighting history for such a young bird.

My thanks goes to Sean Kingston for the info.

Mediterranean Gull  -    2C22   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (26 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 28th June 2017, at South Binness Island, Langstone Harbour, Hampshire, England)

Whilst waiting to capture the code on the 'Blue-Darvic' rung Sandwich Tern, I had managed to capture the codes, on three other birds.  My attention, went back onto this tern, who's ring was still being obscured by the Black-headed Gull.

All was lost, shortly afterwards.  A passenger plane, came in low overhead, making it's approach to the Belfast City Airport, close by.  It startled the terns, which all flew off, re-settling further up the beach a few minutes later.  The gulls however, were unfazed, obviously used to the aircraft.  I could not re-locate my 'blue-ringed' Sandwich Tern, but spotted a 'juvenile', with a 'Yellow Darvic'.  Too far away to read the code on this one, I had hoped to fall in with either bird again, but had no luck.

With the tide well on it's way out, and no more rings spotted, I drove along the road leading towards the army camp.  I'm not supposed to drive along here, as it is a private road, bristling with security cameras.  Parking along side the causeway leading out onto Belfast Lough, I've never been challenged, about my presence here.  Perhaps, those behind the cameras, can clearly see that I'm birdwatching.

It was here, that I spotted another Sandwich Tern, with a 'Red Darvic'.  Capturing the code -   KDJ , with my camera, I knew straight away, that I saw this bird last Sunday at Rhanbouy Park, in Carrickfergus, which is situated on the northern shore of Belfast Lough.  After this, the tide was so far out, it would have been nearly impossible to read any more rings, so I left for Whitehouse Lagoon, having already had a nice 'haul' of sightings.

Sandwich Tern  -    KDJ   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (26 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Juvenile, on the 30th August 2015, Ynyslas National Nature Reserve, Dyfed, Wales).

Arriving at Whitehouse Lagoon, the tide was slowly receding here.  The Lagoon, takes quite a while to drain, as the water has to flow out through concrete pipes underneath the motorway and into Belfast Lough.

The first ring spotted here, was an 'Orange Darvic' on a Black-headed Gull.  Although, a long way off, the code appeared to read either   2AFP   or   2AFF , but I scrapped the photos.  The gull belonged to Adam's Study, and it flew off shortly afterwards.

Next to be spotted, was the Oystercatcher - GW-GfN, whose return to Northern Ireland, was confirmed last Sunday.

Oystercatcher  -  (G)reen(W)hite-(G)reen flag(N)iger  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (26 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 5th June 2015, at Mjóanef, Eystri Rangá, Southern Iceland)

A third ring spotted, was that of a Polish Black-headed Gull, whose return to Whitehouse Lagoon, has been eagerly awaited.  (White) T56W, despite having been ringed in 2012, was never sighted until 15th January 2015, when spotted at Whitehouse Lagoon, by Stuart McKee.

T56W, is a strange bird to understand.  Returning each autumn, in 2015, 2016, 2017 and now 2018, it disappears before the end of the year, except for Stuart's sighting in 2015.  Where T56W, goes to after this time is unknown.  Also of interest, is the fact that it has never been re-sighted back in Poland, or along it's travels, since the day it was ringed.

So long as T56W, lives long enough, perhaps one day, we'll learn about it's movements.  For now, at least another gull, has returned to Northern Ireland, for another winter.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  T56W  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (26 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed 2nd Calendar Year, on the 16th June 2012, on Odra Reservoir, Bielinek, Poland)

Leaving Whitehouse Lagoon, I thought I'd chance my luck on the nearby Whiteabbey Beach.  I knew the tide would now be fully out, and any rings spotted, might be out of reach from my camera.  Luck, was on my side, as I had two re-sightings of gulls recorded here previously.

First, was my 9th sighting of Common Gull -   2AIP .  All sightings of this 2012, rung bird, have been on Whiteabbey Beach.  My first record of   2AIP , was in October 2015, and I have recorded it here at least once every winter since.  Nice to see that it is alive and well.

Common Gull  -    2AIP   -  Whiteabbey Shoreline, Co. Antrim  (26 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 11th June 2012, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)

My 2nd re-sighting, was that of Black-headed Gull   2CPN .  Adam McClure, ringed   2CPN , as a chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Blue Circle Island, on Larne Lough (18 kms (NE)).  As a first winter bird, I recorded   2CPN , on four occasions - 24th September 2017, 8th October 2017, 18th November 2017 and finally on the 28th January 2018.

Nothing interesting about it's movements, but a re-sighting, is a re-sighting, and add's to the gull's longevity record.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CPN   -  Whiteabbey Shoreline, Co. Antrim  (26 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2017, on Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)


Thursday, 23 August 2018

New Rings - Old Rings...

As usual, I'm pushed for time.  Having been a 'Ring Reader' for a few years now, the info that I've gathered on each bird, is gradually becoming longer and longer, therefore taking more time, to cross reference sightings.  I don't know where I'd be, without the help of my 'sightings spreadsheet', which also takes up much time, adding durations, distances and links to photos and PDF files etc.  The spreadsheet, also contains a 'Blog Column', where I'm supposed to link my sightings to articles in the blog - this very much, is sadly lacking way behind.

Another young Polish Med Gull, has been sighted by Suzanne Belshaw.  Once, Suzanne, obtains confirmation of her sighting, I'll add a feature, about this and some of Suzanne's other recent sightings, in my next post.  More work, I know, but I think all ring sightings should be documented, which hopefully will encourage others to take up this sometimes challenging subject of 'Ring Reading'.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 20th August 2018       
Having stayed at home on Saturday, to do a few chores around my house and garden, I forsaked my Sunday visit to Antrim Marina, electing to call in today.  Arriving at 9.00am, I spent three hours there, before checking out the other three sites in Antrim Town.

Most of the morning, saw a lot of drizzly showers, which became heavy at times.  As of last week, the 'winter list' of colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, had grown to 23 individuals.  Today, saw good numbers of BHGs, with 100 plus birds present for most of my visit.  However, only 13 'colour-ringed' gulls were recorded, which among them, saw the arrival of    2CSL , at 11.16.

Becoming the 24th BHG, to enter the 'winter list',   2CSL , was one of the 12 gulls that I caught and processed, as part of my ringing training to catch juvenile and adult birds.  Ringed on the 24th December 2017, the gull remained at Antrim Marina, until the 19th March 2018.  Ten days later, on the 29th March,   2CSL , was spotted at Olsztyn, in north-east Poland.

It's great to see the return of   2CSL , and I now await the return of another of those 12 gulls,   2CSF , which was spotted in Iceland, on the 12th July 2018.  I'm also keen to see the return of   2CSC .  This is a gull, that landed on my hand, to eat bread from my clenched fist, on the 5th November 2017.  At the time, I was certain, that it was the same bird, with the same habit, that appeared as a juvenile/1st winter bird in 2016.

Due to this habit, I easily caught this gull on the 19th November 2017, and it was ringed and 'colour-ringed',   2CSC .  I already know, that   2CSC , is a non-resident, due to it's behaviour in the past.  There has been no reports of the gull, during the summer,  but going by last autumn's appearance, I would expect to see it's return in late October or early November.

As several of the 'colour-ringed' gulls, recorded so far this winter, did not appear today, there was little chance of recording some of the other 'colour-ringed' birds that should have been recorded by now.  One of the gulls -   2AAV , that has been recorded at the Marina, this winter, did not appear today.  After leaving the Marina, I did find   2AAV , at it's other favourite winter haunt, at Antrim's Elim Church.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSL   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (20 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 24th December 2017, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina on Monday 20th August 2018
 2CJT   2ABK   2ABN   2AAK   2CSJ   2CSR   T35J 
 2CSA   2CSL   2ABS   2BRA   2ABL   2AAN    

Today's Absentees
 2AAT   2AAP   2AAA   2ADJ   2AAB   2ABF   2AAV   2ACV   2CSB   2CSK   2CSS 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Not a single Mute Swan, appeared at the Marina, during my visit.  I really need them, to help me catch some new BHGs for ringing, as they nip in to grab bread at the feet of the Swans.  At present, the Black-headed Gulls, are too wary and not hungry enough to be caught by hand at the window of the car.

Mallard numbers, were again good, throughout my visit.  I made a head count on arrival, which saw 81 ducks present altogether.  No second count was made, but I'd guess the total number remained around the 80 mark.

A single Herring Gull, along with a single Lesser Black-backed Gull, were present for most of my visit, just being away for minutes at a time.  A 2nd, Lesser Black-backed, arrived at 10.55 and interacted with the first bird, making me think that they were a pair.  3 adult Common Gulls, arrived at 09.36, and came and went throughout the morning.  I'm fairly sure, that they were the same birds, on each re-appearance.  The over-friendly juvenile, did not show up today.

The call of a Kingfisher, drew my attention to the river, where I spotted it flying at speed past the Marina, heading upriver.  Other species recorded, were, 2 Hooded Crows, 1 juvenile Magpie, 1 Rook and 11 Jackdaws, 4 of which were juveniles.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC & Baptist Church
At the Elim Church, I attracted around 30 Black-headed Gulls, along with a single Common Gull, to me with a bread offering.    2AAV , appeared, who had not been recorded at Antrim Marina today.

Moving on to the car park, at Antrim's KFC outlet, no rings were spotted among the 30'ish BHGs present there.  The Norwegian   JK35 , should be back again now, so hopefully, it will be present next time I come here.

At the Baptist Church, far few BHGs were present, as compared to my last visit here two weeks ago.  Estimating around 50 to 60 birds, the Polish (White) TY43, was spotted on the roof of the Church.  This is my second sighting of TY43, since it's return from Poland.  I tried to report my first sighting onto the 'Live' Polish Ringing Database, but the site was down, so I'll have another go soon.

Black-headed Gull  -  White TY43  -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (20 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a 2nd Calendar Year Bird, on the 9th February 2012, at Olsztyn, Poland)


      Ringing Details Received       
Ewan Weston, has replied, having been away for the last couple of months.  The Sandwich Tern (White) EHL, that I spotted at Whitehead, on the 4th August 2018, was also spotted by Cameron Moore, at Whitehead, in July 2015.  Ringed as an Un-sexed adult, on the 17th August 2010, on the Ythan Estuary, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the only other sightings of (White) EHL, have been at Port Seton, in Morayshire, Scotland - August 2014, July 2016 and August 2016.  My thanks to Ewan, for the info.


      Sunday 19th August 2018       
Staying at home on Saturday, to work around the garden, I took off early this morning, starting at the village of Cushendun, which lies fairly north on the east coast of County Antrim and worked my way slowly towards Belfast, finishing at Whitehouse Lagoon.

At Cushendun, I couldn't have made a better start, spotting a 'Blue Darvic', at the village's harbour.  I knew straight away, that this would be one of the chicks, that I ringed this summer on Rathlin Island.  Grabbing the camera, I captured a few pictures and the ring code -   2BCL .

I ringed   2BCL , on the 18th June 2018, on the island's Ushet Lough.  My sighting, is the first record of a 2018 rung Common Gull, spotted away from Rathlin Island.  Two months and one day, has elapsed since   2BCL   was ringed, the young gull, having moved 18 kms / 11 miles (SSE).

Common Gull  -    2BCL   -  Cushendun Harbour, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2018, on Ushet Lough, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim)

I moved slowly southwards, checking gulls and waders, at many places, but no further rings were spotted until I reached Carrickfergus.  Here, I was going to try and locate BHG   2ADD , at the town's harbour.  I turned in off the main road, to find a band was playing beside the wall of the castle, which sits beside the harbour.

I think the band belonged to the Salvation Army, and it and the castle, were drawing in too many people, for my attempt to lure in the gulls.

I therefore moved on to Rhanbouy Park, on the town's southern fringes.  Here, I wanted to see if the Norwegian Black-headed Gull, -   JJ02 , had returned.  Driving by some gulls, perched on the sea wall, I spotted a Common Gull, with a 'metal-ring'.  I swung into action with the bread, and camera at hand.  I soon had two Common Gulls and a handful of Black-headed Gulls, beside my car.

In no time at all, I had enough photos of the Common Gull and it's ring, to check the pictures to see if I could complete the ring number, which read -   EW51632 .

Later that evening, I reported my sighting on the BTO's DemOn Database, but also checked the Copeland ringing records supplied to me by Shane Wolsey, who ringed Common Gulls there between 2009 and 2014.  Sure enough,   EW51632 , had been ringed on Big Copeland Island, on the 6th June 2009.  Having entered the ring number on DemOn, I could see that there have been no previous sightings of this gull.

Rhanbouy Park, is just 19 kms / 11 miles (WNW), from Big Copeland Island, and the duration is 9 years, 2 months and 13 days.

Common Gull  -    EW51632   -  Rhanbouy Park, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 6th June 2009, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)

Moving on to the dead end of Rhanbouy Park, I started to scope the gulls, bathing in the Woodburn River, which flows over the shore and into Belfast Lough.  Here, there were up to 200 gulls, being, Lesser Black-backed, Herring, Common and Black-headed Gulls.  Not a single ring was spotted, but I noticed a flock of seabirds, a few hundred yards further south, perched on the shoreline.

I drove around to a small car park, near to where these birds were located.  Scoping them, I could see that the majority of the birds here, were Sandwich Terns and I knew finding a 'colour-ring' or two was a distinct possibility.

But then, I spotted a 'Green Darvic', on a Black-headed Gull.  Camera out, I soon captured the code, and it was the gull I was looking for -   JJ02 .  I first recorded the code here last winter, having just spotted a 'Green Darvic' in 2016, which was mostly likely to have been the same gull.

I recorded   JJ02 , twice last winter - on the 14th November 2017 and the 10th February 2018, here at Rhanbouy Park.  During the past summer,   JJ02 , was recorded five times in Norway, just a few kilometres away from where it had been ringed.    JJ02 , was ringed as an adult female, on the 12th June 2014, at St. Hanshaugen, Oslo.  The distance to Rhanbouy Park, is 1,148 kms / 713 miles (WSW).

Black-headed Gull  -    JJ02   -  (just south of) Rhanbouy Park, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 12th June 2014, at St. Hanshaugen, Oslo, Oslo, Norway)

With   JJ02   sorted, my attention went back onto the Sandwich Terns.  Around 50 terns were present, seven or eight, having 'metal rings', which were of no use to me, due to the distance involved.  Two 'colour-ringed' birds were spotted, one with a 'Red Darvic' and the other had a 'White Darvic'.

With the Terns, constantly moving about, sometimes flying off and returning, it was very difficult to try and obtain photos.  Eventually, I decided, that I had enough pictures, whereas, I could read the codes, and retreated back to my car.  Looking through these, I had recorded three birds altogether, two with 'White Darvic's'.

These two with 'White Darvic's', were new sightings to me, whilst the one with the 'Red Darvic', was that of a tern, which Cameron Moore, spotted at Whitehead, last year, but this was also my first sighting of the bird.

I reported (White) EFA and (White) EBL, to Ewan Weston, of the Grampian Ringing Group, in Scotland.  Fortunately for me, Ewan, was just back online, having been away for a couple of months and sent me the ringing And re-sighting details for both terns, plus that of (White) EHL, that I recorded a couple of weeks ago, at Whitehead (see Ringing Details above).

White EFA, was ringed as a chick, on the 2nd June 2016, at Forvie National Nature Reserve, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  After fledging, it was seen locally there, on the Ythan Estuary (Jul 2016), before being spotted at Port Seton, Morayshire, (twice) later the same month.  From then, until my sighting, EFA, was recorded twice near Swakopmund, Namibia, in Africa - (Feb 2017 & Apr 2018).  From Forvie NNR, to Rhanbouy Park, the distance is 376 kms / 228 miles (SW).

Sandwich Tern  -  White EFA  -  (just south of) Rhanbouy Park, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 2nd June 2016, at Forvie National Nature Reserve, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)

White EBL, was also ringed as a chick, on the 2nd June 2016, again, at Forvie NNR.  Spotted twice locally there on the Ythan Estuary (Jul 2016), it was recorded later that same month at Port Seton.  From this point, EBL, had gone un-recorded, until I saw it at Rhanbouy Park - 376 kms / 228 miles (SW).

Sandwich Tern  -  White EBL  -  (just south of) Rhanbouy Park, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2018)
Ringed as a Chick, on the 2nd June 2016, at Forvie National Nature Reserve, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)

  KDJ , was a tern that I reported on last year, having been spotted by Cameron Moore, at Whitehead, situated a few kilometres north from today's sighting at Rhanbouy Park, Carrickfergus.  It was ringed as a juvenile on the 30th August 2015, on the Ynyslas National Nature Reserve, near Aberystwyth, Dyfed, Wales.

I decided, not to contact, the ringing co-ordinator of   KDJ , about my sighting of the tern.  Last year's reply was so vague, I couldn't even obtain the 'metal' number for   KDJ , which I use for index purposes on my 'sightings spreadsheet'.  I entered my sighting, on the BTO's DemOn Database, to discover, that this was the first reported sighting of   KDJ .

This means, that Cameron's sighting last year, or for that matter, any other sightings of   KDJ , have never been submitted directly to the BTO.  This is something, that I also discovered just recently.  Having taken over the 'colour-rings' used by Shane Wolsey on Common Gulls here, between 2009 and 2014, it appears, several re-sighting reports, were never submitted to the BTO.  I had pondered on the idea, of submitting historical records, but have decided against it for now, as this would be too time consuming and I'm busy enough at present.

Anyhow, the distance from Ynyslas NNR, to Rhanbouy Park, is 272 kms / 169 miles (WNW).

Sandwich Tern  -    KDJ   -  (just south of) Rhanbouy Park, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Juvenile, on the 30th August 2015, at Ynyslas National Nature Reserve, Dyfed, Wales)

Leaving Carrickfergus, my next stop, would have been, the shoreline at Whiteabbey.  By the time I reached Whiteabbey, the tide was in and the shoreline was gone.  I went on to Whitehouse Lagoon, which was slowly being flooded, by the incoming tide.

A good number of gulls and waders, of various species, were present.  Notably, there was a flock of 100 plus Oystercatchers and 300 to 350 Black-tailed Godwits, but they were still a good distance away from me.  Surely, there had to be 'colour-rings' amongst these, I thought.  I now played the long waiting game, for the incoming tide, to push these birds nearer.

While I was waiting, I spotted two Black-headed Gulls, with Orange Darvic's.  One of these two, was limping very badly and stood on one leg, hiding the colour-coded ring.  This bird, eventually flew off, so I never got the chance to capture the code.

The other Black-headed Gull, was initially out of camera range, but after a while, I managed to read the code -   2ASF .  This gull, was ringed as a chick, in June 2013, at Blue Circle Island, in Larne Lough - 20 kms / 12 miles (NE), from Whitehouse Lagoon.  A regular winter visitor here,   2ASF , had bred at the nearby RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, for the third year running in 2018.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ASF   -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (19 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2013, on Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

With the tide, starting to push the waders closer to me, some of the Oystercatchers, had moved, revealing a bird standing on one leg, with a Black 'colour-ring'.  I knew straight away, that this was the Icelandic bird, which was initially recorded here during the winter of 2015/16.  There should have been a 'Green flag', above the Black ring, but this had fallen off by April 2016.

I had to wait ages, to confirm the two colour-rings on the other leg, which would have been Green over White.  By this time, I had now spotted a 'colour-ringed' Black-tailed Godwit, also standing on one leg, with Orange over a 'Red flag'.

The Oystercatcher, was the first to be confirmed, being GW-GfN.  Ringed as a breeding adult, in June 2015, GW-GfN, has since been recorded here each winter since and back in Iceland, during the summers of 2016 and 2017.  I reported my sighting to Böddi, but received a holiday reply, stating that, he will be out of office, until the 29th August.  I will have to wait, to see if GW-GfN, was re-sighted back in Iceland over this past summer.

Oystercatcher  -  G(reen)W(hite) - G(reen flag)N(iger)  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (19 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 5th June 2015, at Mjóanef, Eystri Rangá, Southern Iceland)

I was now waiting on the Black-tailed Godwit.  By now, the Lagoon, was filling up rapidly, which caused the break up of a large group of Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls.  This revealed a 'colour-ringed' juvenile Herring Gull, but despite the long distance, my camera captured the code - (White) 39N:C.

Although the characters appear to be black in the photo, I knew that the :C, meant that this bird was ringed by the Clyde Ringing Group, in Scotland, and they use 'White Darvic's', with Red characters.  I reported my sighting to the Group's Ringing Secretary - Iain Livingstone.

As yet, Iain, does not have the gulls details, but thinks the bird could have been ringed on the Isle of Arran.  He will trace the ringer, and report back to me, as soon as he can. 

Herring Gull  -  39N:C  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (19 Aug 2018)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)

Finally, after a long, long, wait, the Black-tailed Godwits, had moved enough to reveal both legs of my 'colour-ringed' bird.  The two colour-rings on it's other leg, were Green over Green.

On returning home, I checked my spreadsheet, to discover, this bird was no stranger to me.  I had recorded the bird twice, on the nearby Dargan Mudflats, in July and September 2016.  Ringed as a chick, on the 16th July 2007, over the years, this bird has been re-sighted more times in Northern Ireland, than in Iceland.

Barring, it's own country of origin, GG-ORf, has not been recorded in any other country.  It was seen in western Iceland in April 2010, and in eastern Iceland, in April 2014.  All Northern Ireland sightings, have been around Belfast (Whitehouse Lagoon, Window on Wildlife Reserve and the Dargan Mudflats), except for (Oct) 2007, when it was seen at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre and on Strangford Lough.

I'll have to wait until Böddi, returns to his office, to see where GG-ORf, has been since 2016.

Black-tailed Godwit  -  G(reen)G(reen) - O(range)R(ed flag)  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (19 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th July 2007, at Sydsti-mor, W. of Langhus, Northern Iceland)


Saturday, 18 August 2018

Late Again...

I'm running behind again as usual.  When I do get time to work on the laptop, I find much of my time, is taken up by entering data and links to my spreadsheet.  Folders, have to be created for all new sightings, and photos, PDF Files, BTO Recovery details, etc., have to be moved into them.  On top of all this, I'm receiving a constant flow of emails, concerning sightings and other 'birdie' related items, and these have to be answered.

Also, at home, there has been a major problem, with the roof of my garden shed.  During recent downpours, water had flooded into the shed.  The cause of this, was a long tear, in the felt, which either has been caused by strong winds, or possibly kids, who could easily reach, by standing on top of a tall wall, situated beside the shed.

Instead of re-felting the roof, I opted to purchase corrugated tin, which I had to measure and cut to length.  The tin, is now in place, but still needs to be screwed down, as it is weighted down, with long posts and breeze blocks.  If only the rain would cease for a few hours, so I can make a start.  Again, all this, consumes time, which is really needed to spend in other directions.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 13th August 2018       
Having had little time to get out and about on Saturday, I decided to forgo my Sunday visit to Antrim Marina, settling for a Monday visit instead.  Sunday, was used for a lengthy visit to numerous sites in County Down.

Two days after my first winter visit to the Marina (5th Aug), I received another email from Steven Fyffe.  He had called in briefly to the Marina, on the 2nd & 7th August, recording 5 of Adam's gulls.  Although, these reports were slightly out of sync, from my first two visits, another gull was entered onto the overall 'winter list', when  Steven recorded   2AAT , on the 7th.    2AAT , a year round resident, took the 'winter list' of sightings to 20 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.

 2CSA   2ACV   2AAT   2CJT   2AAN 
Black-headed Gulls Spotted by Steven Fyffe on the 2nd & 7th August 2018

Moving my weekly visit to a Monday, means I can only survey for three hours, instead of the usual four.  After leaving the Marina, I spend upwards of an hour, visiting three other sites around Antrim Town, then need to return home.  Once back, this gives me a little time, to enter my sightings onto the laptop, before preparing myself for work.

A total of 18 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, were recorded during my three hour visit, which included three new birds to the 'winter list'.  With the addition of   2AAP ,   2CSK   &   2CSS , the overall total moved to 23 individuals.    2AAP , is considered to be a resident, whilst the residential status of   2CSK   &   2CSS , is not clear.  These latter two birds, were caught and ringed here last winter, but despite several summer visits, few gulls were actually recorded.

With the winter list already starting to take shape, a couple of gulls, that normally, would have been recorded by now, have not shown up.  These are   2AAC , a resident,   2ABA , a non-resident, which normally returns in mid to late July, and   2ANS , considered to be another resident, whose appearances have become less regular, the older it becomes.    2ANS , was caught and ringed as a 1st winter bird, in November 2015.  It's too early, to write these birds off, but hopefully, they'll turn up soon.

The commencement of each winter's visits, usually sees the absence of one or two gulls from Adam's Study.  Eventually, after a continued absence, the decision is made, that those birds had perished over the course of the breeding season.  Last winter, it was   2AAH   and   2AAD , that failed to make it back, with   2AAF   going missing shortly after I re-commenced my weekly visits.

Black-headed Gulls Recorded at Antrim Marina, on Monday 13th August 2018
 2AAK   2CJT   2ADJ   2CSK   2AAA   2ABF   2CSS   T35J   2AAP 
 2ABL   2ABS   2CSB   2CSJ   2CSA   2ACV   2ABN   2AAV   2ABK 

Monday's Absentee's
 2AAT   2AAB   2AAN   2BRA   2CSR 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Two adult Common Gulls and the very 'forward' juvenile, plus the odd Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull's, were the only gulls, to be seen at the Marina today.  Coming and going, all the time, I think the same individuals were involved each time.  Only the juvenile Common Gull, remained throughout my visit, and was often tantalisingly close to being caught and ringed.  Oh, how I would like to get my hands on this one.

I had placed a net, up against, one of the bollards, but at present, the gulls are too wary of it, and not hungry enough to venture near.  I'm going to re-position the net, at the same spot, during each visit and I should be able to capture a gull or two in the future.

At the moment, I'm ruing the lack of Mute Swans.  I like to use them, to catch the gulls.  When placing bread at the feet of the swans, the gulls try to nip in to grab a piece, that's when I grab them for ringing.  It was late on, into my visit, when the adult pair, along with their five cygnets, appeared from up-river.  At this point, most of the gulls had, had their fill, with bread being thrown out to the ducks.

Mallard numbers, were fairly constant, with around 50 to 60 birds at all times.  It's been a long while now, since I have spotted rings on these.

11 Jackdaws, 6 of which, were juveniles, plus a single juvenile Magpie, were the only other species to be recorded.

Antrim's Elim Church & KFC Car Park
An offering of bread at both sites, attracted a small number of Black-headed Gulls, at each site, but no rings were spotted.  The Norwegian   JK35 , is now due, but not seen today.  I'm wondering on the status of this Black-headed Gull, as it was not spotted back in Norway, during the summer.  Keeping my fingers crossed, on the return of this bird.


      Ringing Details Received       
In a recent post, I reported on the sighting of a Lesser Black-backed Gull - White 7E1:C, perched on the rooftop, of the factory, where I work at.

I have now received the ringing details from both, the BTO, and Iain Livinstone, ringing secretary of The Clyde Ringing Group.  White 7E1:C, was ringed as a chick, on the 9th July 2015, at Horse Island Nature Reserve, Ayrshire, in Scotland.  My sighting, was the first record of the gull, since being ringed.  The distance was given as, 125 kms / 77 miles (SW), from the ringing site, the duration being, 3 years and 24 days.

Adam McClure, has now sent me the PDF File, for a Black-headed Gull, which I ringed at Antrim Marina, last winter.    2CSF , was ringed as a 2nd winter bird, on the 26th November 2017, using one on my 'metal-rings', and Adam's, 'colour-ring'.  Although Adam, sent me a text message, back in July, stating that   2CSF , had been sighted in northern Iceland, but I did not have the details until now.

  2CSF , was spotted, on the 12th July 2018, in the Icelandic town of Akureyri, on the western edge of the Eyjafjordur fiord.  The distance, is roughly 1,379 kms / 857 miles, north-west, from Antrim Marina.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSF   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (17 Dec 2017)
(Ringed at Antrim Marina, on the 26th November 2017)


      Saturday 11th August 2018       
Due to other commitments, I wasn't able to get out to do some birding until the mid afternoon.  As I only had a few hours available, I started the afternoon at Larne, moving southwards, finishing off at Whitehouse Lagoon, just to the north of Belfast.

Despite checking several sites for rings, three were recorded in Carrickfergus.  The first one of these, was   2ADB , at the town's harbour.  From Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Study,   2ADB , was caught and ringed, as an adult male, at the harbour, on the 25th November 2013.  The gull, has a long list of re-sightings at the harbour, with most being made during the winter months.

However, over the last two years, a couple of sightings (May 2017) & (Jun 2018), plus a couple of early July sightings, has me wondering, whether it could possibly be nesting somewhere around Carrickfergus.  Perhaps, there is a rooftop colony somewhere within the town, which has not been discovered.  On the other hand,   2ADB's , nesting attempt at some distant colony, may have failed, leading to an early return.

I took a photo of   2ADB , whilst it perched on the bonnet of my car, but having took it through the windscreen, it was too blurred to be used.

The other two ringed gulls, were located at the Leisure Centre, in Carrickfergus.  The presence of one of these,   2CPS , was a bird that I knew frequented the ponds at the Centre, but this was actually my first sighting of the gull.    2CPS , was ringed last year, as a chick, at Blue Circle Island, a few miles to the north, on Larne Lough.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CPS   -  Carrickfergus Leisure Centre, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (11 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2017, on Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

The third gull, a Common Gull, was a new sighting, bearing a 'metal-ring'.  As usual with 'metals', I set about, taking lots of photos of the ring, with the camera.  I returned to my car and checked to see what I had captured and the ring number, was easily completed, reading   EX38066 .

Although, I reported the gull, through the BTO's DemOn Database, I also checked the number on the ringing data supplied to me by Shane Wolsey, who studied Common Gulls between 2009 and 2014, on the Copeland Islands, in County Down.  Shane, had ringed   EX38066 , as a chick, on the 1st June 2010.  The duration since ringing, was 8 years, 2 months and 10 days, the distance being 19 kms / 11 miles (WNW).

Common Gull  -    EX38066   -  Carrickfergus Leisure Centre, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (11 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 1st June 2010, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)

While taking photos of the ring, I noticed a very large gap between the ring butts.  The gap was very concerning, as the gull could be prone to getting caught up in wire or netting, which could lead to it's death.

Unlike the majority of Common Gulls,   EX38066 , made very close approaches to me, sneaking in to grab bits of bread, that I'd thrown down at the feet of the Greylag Geese.  I decided to return to my car, to collect the ringing pliers and one of my 'Blue Darvics'.  Returning, to tighten the 'metal-ring' and add the 'colour-ring',   EX38066 , had disappeared.

Gap in the Ring Butt of Common Gull  -    EX38066  


      Sunday 12th August 2018       
I skipped my visit to Antrim Marina today, opting for a long distance outing to County Down.  My starting point, was a first ever visit to the fishing town of Kilkeel and slowly worked my way back to the western shores of Strangford Lough.

I checked the legs of hundreds and hundreds of gulls, at numerous sites, and at the end of the afternoon, finishing at Killyleagh, spotted just a single 'metal', on a Common Gull.  This one, was at Millquarter Bay, but was too far away, to attempt to take any photos.

The only highlights, were the sightings of two un-ringed Mediterranean Gulls.  The first of these, was a juvenile, spotted among Black-headed Gulls, on a rooftop at Kilkeel Harbour.  The other, was a full adult, seen at Millquarter Bay.

As mentioned above, I made my first ever visit to Kilkeel.  Around the harbour, may well provide ring sightings, as a couple of hundred gulls, were spread out over a large distance on the rooftops there.  One particular building, with no easy access, had at least 150 Black-headed Gulls.  The gates to this building, were locked for the weekend.


      From John Clarke       
My ringing trainer, John Clarke, has been in contact again.  On the 9th August, he came across a Black-headed Gull - ringed   J47T , at the Strand Road Jetty, in Coleraine, Co. Londonderry.  Having sent me a text message, about the sighting, I informed John, that his gull was from Norway.  John, gave me the go-ahead, to check up his sighting on the 'Live' Norwegian Ringing Database.

In no time, I was sharing, the ringing details of   J47T , with John.  It was ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2015, in Norway, and this was it's first recorded sighting in Northern Ireland.  In Norway   J47T , has been recorded on numerous occasions since being ringed, within kilometres of it's natal colony.

What really stands out about   J47T's , re-sighting history, are two records from Spain.  On the 25th January 2016, as a 1st winter bird, it was spotted at Limpias, near the northern Spanish coast, a staggering (for a young BHG), 1,840 kms / 1,143 miles (SSW).  It was re-sighted at the same locality, on the 21st January 2018.

The last sighting of   J47T , in Norway, was on the 9th July 2018, a month before John spotted the gull in Coleraine.  If the bird is on it's way back to winter in Spain, it's making an odd detour to the route it should be taking.  Instead of flying south-south-west, it has already flown 860 kms / 534 miles, west-south-west, to reach Coleraine.

My thanks to John, for sharing his sighting and for providing the photo.  As far as I know,   J47T , is the first Norwegian Black-headed Gull to be recorded in Northern Ireland, this winter.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    J47T   -  Strand Road Jetty, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry  (09 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2015,  Boganesholmane, Stavanger, Norway)
(Photo Courtesy of John Clarke)