Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Catching Up....

As usual, I'm running late to get posts published.  Now that I've resumed my weekly visits to Antrim Marina, posts will be added weekly again.  With some of our continental gulls, having already arrived back, it's now time to look for birds already recorded.  As usual, there will be new sightings made along the way.

Talking of new sightings, we've experienced a mini invasion of young European Mediterranean Gulls into Northern Ireland.  Several, colour-ringed birds, have been recorded, all withing weeks of being ringed.  I'll post a separate article on these, after this post.

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 5th August 2018       
This morning saw the start of my 6th winter season - 'Ring Watching at Antrim Marina'.  From now, until the end of March, I will visit the Marina, at least once a week, supposedly on a Sunday. Towards the end of last winter, I favoured Monday visits.  This allowed me to use Sundays, to visit other sites, which gave me the extra hours that I needed for that purpose.

Although, my winter list of 'ring sightings', was to begin today, I have recently been in contact with Steven Fyffe, who is a ringer, with the Causeway Coast Ringing Group.  Steven, was at Antrim Marina, on the 30th July and on the 1st August.  Over Steven's two visits, he recorded 10 of Adam's 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, and also recorded the return of a Black-headed Gull, from Lithuania - White T35J.

As Steven's visits, was so close to me, starting my 6th winter, I have decided to include his sightings, which became the baseline for this winter's overall list of colour-ring sightings.

 T35J   2AAK   2ABN   2ADJ   2ABK   2AAB   2AAN   2BRA   2CSA   2CSB   2CSJ 
The Eleven Black-headed Gulls, recorded by Steven Fyffe, on the 30th July / 1st August 2018

On my visit, I recorded 16 colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, having arrived at 09.25 and departing at 1pm.  8 of these, were not recorded by Steven, during his visits, thus taking the overall total to 19.  Three gulls,   2ABN ,   2ABK   and   2AAB , did not appear during my visit, but had been seen by Steven.

5 of the 19 gulls recorded so far - White T35J,   2ABN ,   2AAK ,   2ACV   and   2AAN , are considered as non-residents.  White T35J, presumably returns to Lithuania to breed, but since it was caught and 'colour-ringed' by the Polish Ringing Group, in 2011, it has yet to be spotted on it's travels away from Antrim Marina.  Of the four other gulls, only   2ACV , has been sighted during the breeding season - in Leighton Moss, Lancashire, England.

The residential status, of 10 Black-headed Gulls, that were caught and ringed last winter, are uncertain.  A number of visits were made at the Marina over the summer, but quite often, what gulls were present, would not land, so any rings could not be read.  Another two gulls that were also caught and ringed last winter, are definitely non-residential.    2CSL , was recorded in north-east Poland in late March, and more recently   2CSF , had been spotted in northern Iceland.  The return of these two, are now eagerly awaited.

All through today's visit, Black-headed Gull numbers were quite good, exceeding 100 birds at all times, until the trainee canoeists arrived just  after 11am.  After this, numbers varied between none to around 40 birds.  This would be another reason, why visits should be made on a Monday morning.  The canoeists, will arrive each Sunday, until the end of the summer holidays, when the kids return to their schools.

 2ACV   2AAK   2AAN   2CSJ   2ABF   2CSR   2AAA   2CJT 
 2CSB   2ABL   T35J   2CSA   2ABS   2BRA   2ADJ   2AAV 
Black-headed Gulls Present at Antrim Marina - Sunday 5th August 2018

 2ABN   2ABK   2AAB 
Absentees on the 5th August 2018

Black-headed Gull  -  White T35J  -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (05 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd June 2006, at Lake Kretuonas, Lithuania)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Two adult and two juvenile Common Gulls, were mixed in with the Black-headed Gulls, on my arrival this morning.  One of the juveniles, stayed throughout my visit, often coming close to people feeding the ducks.  This is a habit, not normally seen with Common Gulls at the Marina.  Over the course of the morning, 2 adults and a juvenile, would come and go, these presumably being the same birds that were initially spotted.

A pair of Herring Gulls and a pair of Lesser Black-backeds would also come and go throughout the morning.  A second year Herring Gull, also appeared briefly, perhaps one of last years chicks.

Not a single Mute Swan, was present on my arrival.  A single male, arrived in from the Lough, around 10am.  Three other swans, swam in from the Lough, around 10.50, but were quickly chased out again by the male.  He then disappeared up-river shortly afterwards.  I was on the verge of departing at 12.45, when I saw a pair of swans, with 5 largish cygnets, making their way in from the Lough.

I waited for them to make their way to the slipway, and on luring them towards me with bread, discovered that neither adult was ringed.  The cygnets, were understandably nervous, but will come around to being hand fed with bread, once they get used to all the activity surrounding the Marina.

Mallard numbers, were quite good, with around 60 to 80 birds being present.  Most, were checked for rings, but no luck here.

Other species noted, were two Hooded Crows, 8 Jackdaws - 3 being juveniles and a single Magpie.


Antrim's Elim Church, KFC Outlet and Baptist Church
Although,   2AAV , was recorded at Antrim Marina, I stopped by it's other haunt at Antrim's Elim Church.  Around 40 Black-headed Gulls and a single Common Gull, were in the area and most were lured by the offering of bread.  However, no rings spotted here today.

Moving on to the nearby KFC car park, a further 50 BHGs were present, which were already being fed chips from a motorist.  No ringed birds were spotted and there was no sign of   2ADD .  This bird was at the KFC, prior to the start of the breeding season, where he would be seen at Antrim Marina.

Normally, after the breeding season, he would reappear at the KFC outlet for a couple of weeks, before returning to his wintering grounds at Carrickfergus.  The last time I saw   2ADD , was at KFC, on the 19th March.

Another  Black-headed Gull, that I'm hoping to see at the KFC outlet, is the Norwegian   JK35 .  Over the last two autumns,   JK35 , has appeared back on the 7th August 2016 and the 6th August 2017.  For some reason, it was not spotted back in Norway during this summer, but had been recorded on three occasions there in the summer of 2017.  I'm hoping nothing has happened to the gull, but it is due to return any time soon.

Finishing of my Sunday outing, I stopped by Antrim's Baptist Church, where I did not expect to see many gulls.  How wrong I was, as there were around 150 Black-headed Gulls, resting on the grass areas close to the Church.  As luck would have it, the front car par was open, and I drove in and positioned my car in the centre.

Throwing out bread, about two thirds of the gulls flew over to me, which included one with a White Darvic, who I knew would be TY43.  I discovered TY43, wintering at the Baptist Church, last winter.  Initially spotting the gull on the 16th October 2017, my last sighting of it, was on the 25th February 2018.

TY43, was no stranger to Antrim Town, as it's first ever re-sighting after being ringed in Poland (February 2012), was at Antrim Marina, when it was spotted by Adam McClure, in October 2013.  After this, TY43, had obviously gone un-recorded each winter at Antrim, until I fell in with it.  Over the past summer, TY43, was spotted on one occasion back in Poland.  This was on the 30th March 2018, when it was seen at Olsztyn, 2 kms from where it had originally been ringed.

Black-headed Gull  -  TY43  -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (05 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed 2nd Calendar Year bird, on the 9th February 2012, at  Olsztyn-Kormoran, Poland)


      Sunday 29th July 2018       
I had intended to go out, both on Saturday and Sunday, but Saturday, was a complete wash-out, with a month's rainfall, falling during the day.  Deciding not to go out, was a good idea, as many towns and villages reported flooding.  Even my garden shed, who's roof is in need of repair, let in so much water, it appeared as if it was raining inside.

However, Sunday was a more pleasant day and I took myself off to County Down, to cover the western edges of Strangford Lough.  I stopped by many places, where gulls were spotted and recorded five colour-ringed gulls and a metal-rung gull, at three sites, which were all new sightings to me.

The first colour-ring spotted and by far the best of the day, was at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre.  I started to make regular visits to the Centre, back in May, and thought that this site, could well turn up several ringed birds this winter.  I paid the £52 for WWT membership, which allows me free access at any time, other than having to pay £9 per visit.

This is paying dividends already, as I spotted a young Mediterranean Gull with a Red Darvic.  Although the bird, was a long way from the hide, my camera, just about managed to capture the code -   PYU8 .

Returning home, and entering the code, on the live Polish Ringing Database, I received conformation a couple of days later.    PYU8 , was ringed on an Island on Lake Ryńskie, Rybical, in north-east Poland, on the 6th June 2018.  My sighting, came 1 month and 23 days, after being ringed, the gull having travelled 1,757 kms / 1,091 miles west to reach Castle Espie.

Mediterranean Gull (Juvenile)  -    PYU8   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (29 Jul 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 6th June 2018, at Rybical, NE Poland)

The next two colour-rings spotted was at Millquarter Bay, both on Herring Gulls.  The first, on a bird, quite a distance away from me, had a Red Darvic and I just managed to grab a couple of photos, when two surf boarders came along and frightened the gulls off the rocks.  Half flew towards the other side of Strangford Lough, whilst the other half re-settled further up the beach.

Looking at the photos that I captured, they seemed iffy, except for one, where the code appeared to read   005:D .  I recognised the sequence, as being from Dublin, as I've seen pictures on the blog of fellow ringer and ring reader, Graham Prole.

I emailed two photos to Graham, and he replied to confirm, he too thought the code was   005:D .  This gull, was ringed as a chick, on the 30th June 2017, at the Republic of Ireland's Parliament building - 'The Dail', in Dublin City.  My sighting, came 1 year and 29 days, after being ringed, the gull having travelled 118 kms / 73 miles north to reach Millquarter Bay.

Herring Gull  -    005:D   -  Millquarter Bay, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (29 Jul 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 30th June 2017, in Dublin City, Co. Dublin, Republic of Ireland)

With the gulls having settled down again, following the presence of the surf boarders, I couldn't relocate   005:D , again, but then spotted a Herring Gull, with an Orange Darvic.  Again, quite distant, I easily managed to capture the code on this one -   L11:M , which I knew was from the Isle of Man, a large island in the Irish Sea, between Northern Ireland and England.

I emailed Mark Fitzpatrick, who has now taken over ring sightings from Kevin Scott.  Mark replied, to say that   L11:M , was ringed as a chick on the 25th June 2017, on the Calf of Man, a small Observatory island just off the southern coast from the mainland.  My sighting, was 1 year, 1 month and 4 days, since being ringed, having travelled 56 kms / 34 miles west-north-west.

Herring Gull  -    L11:M   -  Millquarter Bay, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (29 Jul 2018)
Ringed as a Chick, on the 25th June 2017, on The Calf of Man, Isle of Man)

The final three rings read, were all at Ardglass Harbour, these being a 'metal' and two 'Darvics'.  Two other 'metals' spotted, were on an adult Herring Gull and an adult Great Black-backed Gull, but I could not get close enough to the gulls to take photos of their rings.  Both were high up on rooftops and were not effected by my presence.

Both gulls, with 'Darvic' rings, were also from the Isle of Man.  Great Black-backed Gull -   S26:M , was ringed as a chick, on the 8th July 2017, on an islet, between the Calf of Man and the Isle of Man mainland.    S26:M , had two other sightings of late, on the 20th June and 2nd July, at Ardglass, by other observers.  It's 1 year and 21 days, since   S26:M , was ringed, having travelled 57 kms / 35 miles (WNW), to reach Ardglass Harbour.

Great Black-backed Gull  -    S26:M   -  Ardglass Harbour, Co. Down  (29 Jul 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 8th July 2017, on Kitterland Island, Isle of Man)

The second 'colour-ringed' gull, was that of Herring Gull -   L38:M , which appeared whilst I was trying to capture the number on the 'metal' of another Herring Gull.  At the time, I was crouched down feeding bread to the gulls, mostly immatures, so I swung around to take a couple of photos of   L38:M .
  L38:M , was ringed as a chick, on the 2nd July 2017, on the Calf of Man.  My sighting was a first for this gull, having travelled 57 kms / 35 miles (WNW), to Ardglass.  Duration since being ringed, was 1 year and 27 days.

My thanks goes to Mark Fitzpatrick, for the prompt replies, concerning the three Isle of Man gulls spotted today.

Herring Gull  -    L38:M   -  Ardglass Harbour, Co. Down  (29 Jul 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 2nd July 2017, on The Calf of Man, Isle of Man)

Having sorted   L38:M , pretty quickly, my attention swung back to the metal-rung bird.  Taking plenty of photos, I retreated back to my car, to check for a completed number.  More than enough photos, gave me the result I needed, the Herring Gull being rung -   GR78268 .

I reported my sighting through the BTO's DemOn Online Database and received the ringing details, a couple of days later.    GR78268 , was ringed as a chick, on the 16th June 2016, on Lambay Island.  The island lies just a few kilometres to the north-east of the City of Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland.

Another first ever sighting,   GR78268 , had travelled 92 kms / 57 miles (NNE), to reach Ardglass.  The duration, being 2 years, 1 month and 13 days. 

Herring Gull  -    GR78268   -  Ardglass Harbour, Co. Down  (29 Jul 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2016, on Lambay Island, Co. Dublin, Republic of Ireland)


      Another Colour Ring at Work       
Over the last few weeks, I have began to scope the gulls, which have been appearing in fairly large numbers, at the factory where I work.  Each evening, I arrive about half an hour, before I need to head into the factory.

Previously, I have spotted a couple of 'metal-rung', Lesser Black-backed Gulls, which were of no use to me, due to the distance from the car park and the rooftops.  However, I did record a 'colour-ringed', Lesser Black-backed Gull, on the 20th July 2018.  Ringed -   F59C , this bird had come from Portugal.

Today, the 2nd August 2018, I spotted my second 'colour-rung' Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Ringed - White 7E1:C, I know this one would have been ringed by The Clyde Ringing Group in Scotland.  The likely sites, would either be Horse Island Nature Reserve or Lady's Isle, both on the Ayrshire coast.  I reported my sighting on the BTO DemOn Database, and now await the ringing details.

Black-headed Gulls, are also starting to appear in numbers on the factory roof, so hopefully, a colour-ring or two, will be spotted on these over the winter.  

Lesser Black-backed Gull  -  White 7E1:C  -  Pennybridge Industrial Estate, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  (02 Aug 2018)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)


      From John Clarke       
John Clarke, who is my ringing trainer and resides in Coleraine, has recently been in contact with me, concerning a few ring sightings.  John, visited two sites in Coleraine and later in the day, went to Portrush.  He recorded rings, at all three sites, beginning with Black-headed Gull -   2E18 , at the Strand Road Jetty, in Coleraine.
  2E18 , was ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2014, at Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire, Scotland.  The first re-sighting, was made on the 26th December 2015, when I came across the bird at Coleraine's Strand Road Jetty.  There has not been many re-sightings of   2E18 , at Coleraine, but this is likely due to the lack of observer coverage.

Enough is known though, to establish, that   2E18   winters in Coleraine, as John has recorded it's return in August 2016, September 2017 and now this year.  More sightings would be of use, especially after the turn of the year, as   2E18 , has yet to be recorded in the months of February or March.

The distance from Elvanfoot, to Coleraine, is 194 kms / 120 miles (W).  I checked the metal number of   2E18 , on the BTO's new DemOn Database, to see if there has ever been any summer sightings, but the result came up, that the ring number belonged to a Merlin.  Clearly, there has been a mistake made somewhere, when the data was entered onto the Database.  All previous recovery reports from the BTO, gave   2E18 's metal number as   EY28043 .

Black-headed Gull  -    2E18   -  Strand Road Jetty, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry  (01 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2014, at Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire, Scotland)
(Photo Courtesy of John Clarke)

Leaving the Strand Road Jetty, John headed up to the nearby MacDonald's fast food outlet.  I would hazard a guess, that he was there for more, than a little 'Ring Reading'.

Whilst at McDonalds, he spotted one of Adam's Study birds, Black-headed Gull -   2CCP .  I do not have the latest details from Adam, but I reckon, that John's sighting, is only the second record of the gull since being ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2016.  The ringing site, was the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, in County Down, which lies 91 kms / 56 miles (SE) of Coleraine.  On the 21st October 2017, I came across   2CCP , at the Strand Road Jetty, in Coleraine, which at the time, was the gulls first re-sighting.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CCP   -  McDonalds Food Outlet, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry  (01 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2016, at The Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down)
(Photo Courtesy of John Clarke)

John's next sighting, was easily, the bird of the day and one that has seen it's share of re-sightings of late.  This German bred, juvenile Mediterranean Gull -   AY.KY , has now been recorded at two sites in Northern Ireland, by three different observers.

At present, there has been a mini invasion of juvenile 'Colour-ringed', Mediterranean Gulls, appearing in Northern Ireland, having come across from three different European countries.  Once I publish this post, I will follow it up, with another post detailing this invasion.  As I write, another two young 'Meds', are being investigated, both seemingly of European origin.

Mediterranean Gull (Juvenile)  -    AY.KY   -  McDonalds Food Outlet, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry  (01 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 8th June 2018, at Rehbach Gravel Pit, Leipzig, Germany)
(Photo Courtesy of John Clarke)

Continuing from his ring sightings in Coleraine, John later drove the few miles to Portrush, to try his luck there.  Here, he fell in with, a Black-headed Gull from Iceland.  Having captured the number on the metal-ring, as being -   598598 , he was not sure of the address.  I replied to his email, and stated that the gull was most likely to have come from Iceland, as they only use six numbers on their rings at present.

I also reminded him of a 1st winter Black-headed Gull, which he came across at Coleraine's Strand Road Jetty, back in March 2018.  It's metal-ring read   589599 , and I suggested the new sighting at Portrush, may have been that same gull.  John re-checked the photos of the ring, and is was definitely was   589598 .

To record, two foreign gulls with metal rings, whose numbers are consecutive, must surely be a rare occurrence.  Although, we do not have the ringing details, of John's latest sighting, we can assume that both gulls were ringed at the same time, within the same colony.  If this is the case, then   589598 , would have been ringed as a chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Brekka, Iceland.  The distance to Portrush, would be roughly 1,300 kms.

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    589598   -  East Strand Cark Park, Portrush, Co. Antrim  (01 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Brekka, Álftanes, Kjós, Iceland)
(Photo Courtesy of John Clarke)


      Saturday 4th August 2018       
I couldn't get away until late this afternoon and therefore, decided to cover the east County Antrim Coast, starting at Waterfoot and finishing off, with a very lengthy stay at Whitehead.  Plenty of gulls and a few waders, were checked for rings, but by the end of the afternoon, only two were found.

The first of these was on a Black-headed Gull from Adam's Study.    2ABH , was spotted at Sandy Bay in Larne, where it was caught and ringed here, by Adam, as an adult bird, on the 21st January 2013.  There have been numerous sightings of   2ABH , at Sandy Bay, all out of the breeding season, between the months of August to early April.  My last sighting of   2ABH , was on the 23rd November 2017.

I was waiting for an updated file for this gull from Adam, but realised, that I had not even informed him about it.  So busy doing other bits and pieces, I'd forgot.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABH   -  Sandy Bay, Larne, Co. Antrim  (04 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 21st January 2013, at Sandy Bay)

At Whitehead, where I finished off for the afternoon, there was a fair sized flock of Sandwich Terns.  Problem was, they were out on rocks, just out of camera range.  This was annoying, as I had spotted one bird with a 'Green Darvic'.  I knew the tide, was incoming, so I waited for the Terns to be pushed closer to me.

Nearing high tide, the Terns were now starting to land on rocks closer to me, but at the same time, also closer to walkers along the beach front.  Some folk, with bright coloured jackets or kids jumping around, would scare the terns off, for short periods of time.

Eventually, I spotted a Tern with a 'White Darvic', and easily captured the code - EHL.  Knowing, this one would have belonged to The Grampian Ringing Group in Scotland, I sent an email to Ewan Weston.  As yet, I have not received a reply from Ewan, so I've no idea about the birds re-sighting history.  Ewan, is normally very quick to reply, so I have a feeling that he is on holiday.

I also entered my sighting, onto the BTO's Database and now have the ringing details.  White EHL, was ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 25th August 2010, on the Ythan Estuary, Newburgh, in Aberdeenshire.  The distance to Whitehead, is 367 kms / 228 miles (SW), and the duration is 7 years, 11 months and 10 days.

Once Ewan replies to me, I'll report the re-sighting history of EHL, if there is any.

Sandwich Tern  -  White EHL  -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (04 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 25th August 2010, on the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)


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