Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Marina Problems...

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 23rd September 2018       
I was back at Antrim Marina, making my usual Sunday visit, though I arrived at the later time of 10.30am, leaving around 2.20pm.  The weather was quite sunny, with the odd shower of rain, one or two of these being quite heavy.  The wind, was blowing in from an easterly direction, which made conditions feel quite cold.

My 'Ring Watching' at the Marina, has now been seriously hampered.  A compound, has been erected, within which, the new Lough Shore Visitor Centre, will be constructed.  Below is information taken from the local Council's website:-

Antrim's popular Lough Shore Park, the gateway to Lough Neagh, is to benefit from a £2.3m investment in a new visitor centre.

Complementing the Council's five star touring caravan park, nearby Antrim Castle Gardens and Antrim Forum, the plans for Lough Shore Park will ensure it remains a popular destination for residents and visitors.

The new centre will feature a dining area on the first floor with stunning views of the picturesque Lough Neagh.  Downstairs, a flexible space will cater for a variety of activities and events.  Lough Neagh Rescue, a vital resource for the whole of the Lough, will also find a new home in the Gateway Centre. 

At present, the gulls appear to be reluctant, to land either on the long wooden jetty or the concrete jetty, with far fewer birds arriving.  Many of the Black-headed Gulls, decided to rest on the grass areas behind the cafe.  Here, they were frequently disturbed by folk passing by, and I fear this might lead to gulls, ignoring the area completely.

In the photo that I've added below, you can see what the Marina looks like now.  The lamppost sticking up to the right inside the compound, is where I used to park, which enabled me to view the gulls to my left and right.

The low wooden jetty, lies to the right of my car, the concrete jetty, can be seen running left to right, in the centre of the photo, whilst the long wooden jetty, is alongside the right hand edge of the compound, ending where the square sign can be seen.

The main visitor car park, is located where the conifers can be seen, and this has made a big impact on the number of folk, coming down to feed the ducks.  As is the nature of most people these days, many are far too lazy to walk around.  This too, will have an effect on the number of gulls visiting, as there will be far less food (bread), on offer.

The next few weeks will be interesting to see how the gulls respond, especially as a number of the Continental birds, have yet to return for another winter.

The View of Antrim Marina on Sunday 23rd September 2018

Arriving at the Marina, I was on the lookout for 25 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, recorded so far during this autumn/winter season.  The number of gulls, which actually landed in the area of my car never exceed 60 birds, and for long periods at a time, no gulls were present at all.

Reading rings, was a long drawn out affair, but by 2pm, 17 rings had been read.  At this point, I was about to leave, but decided to stay on a while longer.  At 2.05, another group of gulls arrived, which included one with a 'metal'.  Looking at the gulls 'middle toe', on it's left foot, I could see that it was raised in an arc, which told me that this was   2ABL   - which has long since lost it's 'colour-ring'.  Just to be sure, I scoped the ring and could read '  7326 ', which was all I needed to confirm   2ABL   -   EY37326 .

With 18 rings read altogether today, the standout sighting was that of   2BRD , which was spotted two weeks ago.  An irregular visitor to the Marina, I was glad to see that it's still present in the area.

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina on Sunday 23rd September 2018
 2CJT   2AAT   2AAA   2ABK   2AAB   2AAN   2CSA   T35J   2BRA 
 2ABS   2CSK   2AAP   2CSB   2BRD   2CSL   2CSS   2ABF   2ABL 

Today's Absentees
 2AAK   2ABN   2ADJ   2AAV   2ACV   2CSJ   2CSR 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, which was present on my arrival, flew away moments later, and never returned.  A 2nd year, Lesser Black-backed, appeared at 1.35pm, but this one remained, bullying the BHGs, for bits of bread.  It was not a good day for Common Gull sightings, with an adult arriving at 1.45, only staying for a matter of minutes.

3 adult Mute Swans, were present throughout my visit, which included the 'metal-ringed'   W34158 .  There was no sign of the family party, which have been regular visitors over the past few weeks.

Mallard numbers topped the 100 mark this week.  With a good 70 to 80 birds present on my arrival, a head count was made, around 12.30, when most were at rest.  I counted 108 birds altogether, which was by far the highest total yet this autumn/winter.  Most were checked for rings, but as yet, still no joy here.

Some of the other species recorded, were, 2 Hooded Crows, which included a juvenile, 8 Jackdaws, 1 Pied and 1 Grey Wagtail, and a Kingfisher, which landed briefly on the low wooden jetty.

The best sighting of all, was a juvenile Shag, which I was surprised to see.  A very curious bird, it came close to the slipway, to see what all the fuss was about - the ducks being fed at the time.  A couple of people, took note of the strange looking bird.

Shags, are normally birds of the coast, and this was the first time, that I've recorded one here.  Their close looking cousins, Cormorants, are often seen at the Marina, normally flying past heading upriver, or feeding close to the breakwater.  As they are seen often, I only ever record these birds, if they haul out onto the Marina, to dry out their wings.

Juvenile Shag  -  Antrim Marina  (23 Sep 2018)

Head Shot of the Juvenile Shag  -  Antrim Marina  -  (23 Sep 2018)


Antrim's Elim Church, KFC Car Park & Baptist Church
As   2AAV , was not at the Marina, I stopped by it's other haunt, at Antrim's Elim Church.  Fewer gulls, than normal were present, but no sign of   2AAV .

At the KFC outlet, I'm still awaiting the return of the Norwegian Black-headed Gull -   JK35 .  Again, fewer Black-headed Gulls here today, and no Mediterranean Gulls.  There was a single adult Common Gull, though.

As with the previous two sites, the Baptist Church, was down in Black-headed Gull numbers.  Just 40 to 50 birds today, but no sign of the Polish-rung (White) TY43.


      Ringing Details Received       
The ringing details of two gulls, have finally arrived from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

On the 19th August 2018, I spotted a 'colour-ringed' juvenile gull, standing among a group of Herring Gulls, at Whitehouse Lagoon, on the edge of Belfast.  I reported the juvenile, to the BTO, as a Herring Gull, rung (White) 39N:C.

The ringing recovery however, states, that the bird was a Lesser Black-backed Gull, which had been ringed as a chick, on the 14th July 2018, at Horse Island Nature Reserve, in Ayrshire, Scotland.  My sighting, was made 1 month and 5 days, after being ringed, the young gull having flown 128 kms / 79 miles (SSW), to reach the Lagoon.

Another interesting point, was the 'metal-ring' used, being   FH38138 .  This suggests, the ring size was 'F', but the 'Ringers Manuel', clearly states, the ring size to be used is 'Go', which means the size of the diameter, is slightly larger.  The 'o', stands for 'overlap', indicating that there should be a slight overlapping of the 'Ring Butts' (ends).

The ringing recovery, also states, that the gull, was reported as a Herring Gull.  The chicks of both species, are hard to tell apart, until well feathered, and even looking at juveniles from a distance, does not make it any easier.  

Herring Gull (Lesser Black-backed Gull)  -  (White)  39N:C  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (19 Aug 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 14th July 2018, at Horse Island NR, Ayrshire, Scotland)

The second recovery, was that of a Common Gull, spotted on the Millisle seafront, on the 1st September 2018.  Missing out on the last digit of it's 'metal-ring' -   EG6480* , I was hoping that the BTO, could still generate a recovery.  I relied on the possibility, that   EG6480* , had been ringed as a chick.  If so, there was a good chance, that enough chicks had been ringed on the same date, which meant the final digits '  0 to 9 ', were used at the same time.  The 'metal-ring', had also been fitted 'upside-down', which suggested to me, that this was a Copeland rung bird.

Indeed, this was a Copeland chick, ringed on the Observatory Island, on the 13th June 2004.  At the time of my sighting, it had been 14 years, 2 months and 19 days, since ringing.  The Observatory Island, is situated just 10 kms / 6 miles to the north of Millisle.  Despite, missing out on the final digit, at least I obtained a result for my troubles.

Common Gull  -    EG6480*   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (01 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 13th June 2004, on The Observatory Island, Copeland Islands, Co. Down)


      From John Clarke       
My ringing trainer, John Clarke, was out and about, doing the rounds, at Portrush and then in his home town of Coleraine.  Only the one ringed bird was spotted, and this was his second sighting of the Norwegian-rung Black-headed Gull -   J47T .

John, first recorded   J47T , on the 9th August 2018, here at the Strand Road Jetty, in Coleraine, this being it first reported sighting in Northern Ireland.  Ringed as a chick, in June 2015,   J47T , is known to winter in Spain, having been spotted there in January 2016, and again in January 2018.

When John first reported   J47T , I thought it was just passing through, but it's definitely interesting to note that the gull is still in Coleraine.  My thanks to John for the update and photo.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    J47T   -  Strand Road (Jetty), Coleraine, Co. Londonderry  (21 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2015, at Stavanger, Norway)
(Photo Courtesy of John Clarke)


      Saturday 22nd September 2018       
Another late Saturday afternoon start, I decided to cover the east Antrim coast, starting at Carnlough, moving southwards to Whitehead.  It's been a while since I last visited Carnlough Bay, and I knew an Icelandic-rung Oystercatcher, should have returned by now.

I was not disappointed, as I easily found - OO-W(AA).  OO-W(AA), was caught and ringed as a breeding adult, in Iceland, on the 10th May 2016.  Having first spotted this bird, at Carnlough Bay, on the 10th August 2016, today's sighting, has seen the return of this Oystercatcher, for the third year running.  Last year, I first recorded it's presence, on the 7th October 2017.

I sent an email to Böddi, in Iceland, reporting my sighting.  He replied, to state that he has not received this summer's ringing and re-sighting data from Veronica Mendez.  Until this arrives with me, I've no idea whether the Oystercatcher, was reported back in Iceland.  My final sighting of OO-W(AA), before it would have return to Iceland, was on the 3rd March 2018.

If memory serves me right, I believe Veronica, goes on holiday at the end of the summer season, and begins to sort out all the data on her return.  I'm still waiting, on the ringing data, for another Oystercatcher - YL-W(UA), which I recorded at Kinnegar, Co. Down, on the 26th August 2018.  Böddi, reckons, this one was caught and ringed, this past summer.

Oystercatcher  - (O)range(O)range - (W)hite (AA)  -  Carnlough Bay, Co. Antrim  (22 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a Breeding Adult, on the 10th May 2016, in south-west Iceland)

Plenty of gulls, waders and terns, were checked for rings, all down the coast, but the next ring found, was at Sandy Bay, in Larne.

Here, I spotted a Sandwich Tern, with a single Green, unmarked ring.  I suspect, that this bird was rung by Alistair Smith, who due to age, is no longer in contact.  I have emailed Ewan Weston, from the Grampian Ringing Group, in Scotland.  I'm still waiting on a reply, but Ewan, usually has the ringing details for Terns, such as these.

If this is one of Alistair's birds, then the 'colour-ring', will stand for the year of ringing, and not that for an individual bird.  Up to 300 chicks, would have been ringed each summer, with a colour ring or rings.

I have also reported my sighting through the BTO's new DemOn Ringing Database.  It will be interesting to see if they can supply a ringing recovery.

Just for interest, four other Sandwich Terns at Sandy Bay, were fitted with 'metal' rings only.  These birds - two adults and two juveniles - were too far away for any attempt to be made at reading their rings.

Sandwich Tern  -        -  Sandy Bay, Larne, Co. Antrim  (22 Sep 2018)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)

From Sandy Bay, through to Whitehead, no other readable rings were found.  On the shore, in front of Glynn railway station, two Common Gulls, were spotted with 'metals'.  An adult, and a juvenile - which was unusually, ringed on it's left leg, were too far away, but if they had been 'colour-ringed', I might just have about been able to read them.

Another gull, although not having a ring caught my eye.  This was an Iceland Gull, which is a scarce winter visitor, to Northern Ireland.

Iceland Gull  -  Glynn, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim  (22 Sep 2018)


      From Cameron Moore & Ian Enlander       
On Tuesday morning, the 25th September, after waking up from the previous nights shift at work, I discovered two emails, concerning the same Sandwich Tern -   UZK .

One was from Cameron Moore, which I was expecting, due to receiving a phone call the previous day, and the other was from Ian Enlander.  They had both spotted the Tern, independently, from each other at Whitehead.  Ian, had already traced the contact ringer, who by the time I read the emails, had replied.

Chris Redfern, reported that   UZK , was ringed as a chick, on the 12th July 2013, on Inner Farne Island, just off the Northumbrian coast, in England.  It's first re-sighting came almost three years later, when it was spotted back on Inner Farne Island, in late June 2016.

The next three re-sightings, prior to it's recent sighting at Whitehead, were on the Ythan Estuary, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland - (Jul 2017 & July 2018 (twice)).

My thanks to Cameron and Ian, for the shared sighting, and to Chris Redfern, for supplying the ringing and re-sighting data.  Cameron, won the 'toss', for the best photo - sorry Ian.

Sandwich Tern  -    UZK   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (24 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 12th July 2013, on Inner Farne Island, Northumbria, England)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)


Saturday, 22 September 2018

Whitehead Sannies...

      Sandwich Terns at Whitehead, County Antrim       
Ian Enlander, and Cameron Moore (twice), have contacted me, concerning their Sandwich Tern sightings, on the seafront at Whitehead.  Normally each autumn, Whitehead attracts good numbers of Terns, especially Sandwich Terns, prior to moving south on migration.  During a recent telephone conversation with Cameron, he stated that far fewer Terns, have been seen this year.

Whitehead, which is situated on Belfast Lough, provides quite easy veiwing of these birds, allowing for good photos of ringed birds.  I'll begin with Ian Enlander's sighting, as all of the other Terns, were reported by Cameron.

My thanks, goes to Ian, and Cameron, for sharing their sightings and photographs.

Juvenile Sandwich Tern - White E54
E54, was caught and ringed, as a juvenile, by The Clyde Ringing Group, on Scotlands east coast.  According to Iain Livingstone, the Group's Ringing Secretary, Sandwich Terns, are well known, from crossing east to west at night, travelling overland from the Firth of Forth, on the Scottish east coast, to the Clyde on the west coast.

This probably explains the reason, why we get so many Sandwich Terns, crossing the Irish sea into Belfast Lough, these having arrived from the likes of the Ythan Estuary, in Scotland, the Farne and Coquet Islands, in England, and even some Dutch birds.

The distance from Blackness, in Stirlingshire, where E54 was ringed, to Whitehead, is 196 kms / 121 miles (SW).  Spotted by Ian, on the 11th September, E54, had been ringed three weeks earlier.

Sandwich Tern  -  (White)  E54  -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (11 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a Fledged Juvenile, on the 21st August 2018, at Blackness, on the Firth of Fourth, Scotland)
(Photo Courtesy of Ian Enlander)

On the 5th September, Cameron Moore, recorded 6 ringed Sandwich Terns - 4 'colour-ringed', and 2 with 'metals'.  There always seems to be plenty of 'Sannies', with 'metals', but few are rarely read, so credit goes to Cameron.  Even more so, as both metals, turned out to be quite interesting.  I'll start with the colour-rings.

Sandwich Tern - Red KAN
  KAN , was caught and ringed, as an adult, at Ynylas, in Wales, by Tony Cross, who these rings are registered to.  I have emailed Tony, but as yet, he has still to reply.  Entering   KAN's   'metal' number onto the BTO DemOn Database, it appears that   KAN , was encountered in 2015, having been ringed in 2013.

The Database, does not list ringing or resighting localities as yet, so I'm in the 'blue', until I receive a reply from Tony.  Wales lies, across the Irish Sea, to the south-east, from Northern Ireland.

Sandwich Tern  -    KAN   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (05 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 25th August 2013, at Ynyslas, Ceredigion, Wales)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)

Sandwich Tern - Red EZD
  EZD , is interesting, as it is now over eighteen year old.  It was caught and ringed, as a full adult in July 2000, at Seal Sands, Teesmouth, in England.  There were no sightings, until this tern was re-captured by members of the Grampian Ringing Group, at the Ythan Estuary, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

This was on the 21st August 2011, when the tern was then fitted with it's colour-ring -   EZD .  At this point, it had been 11 years, 1 month and 2 days, since being ringed with a metal.  With Cameron's sighting on the 5th September 2018, the duration now stood at 18 years, 1 month and 17 days.

I have emailed Ewan Weston, from the Grampian Ringing Group, but he is in China, so I've no idea, about the re-sighting history of   EZD , since it was fitted with the colour-ring.  Once I receive word, I'll report it in a later post.

The distance from Seal Sands, to Whitehead, is 291 kms / 180 miles (W), and from the Ythan Estuary to Whitehead, is 367 kms / 228 miles (SW). 

Sandwich Tern  -    EZD   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (05 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 19th July 2000, at Seal Sands, Stockton-on-Tees, England)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)

Sandwich Tern - Red EVF
Caught as a juvenile, in August 2011, also on the Ythan Estuary, it is another bird ringed by The Grampian Ringing Group.  As mentioned above, Ewan, is in China, so I'll have to wait, to see if the tern has history of any sort.

Sandwich Tern  -    EVF   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (05 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Juvenile, on the 21st August 2011, on the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)

Sandwich Tern - Lime EJF
  EJF , was ringed more recently, by The Grampian Ringing Group, having been ringed as a chick, on the Forvie National Nature Reserve, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  At just over two years old, Cameron's sighting at Whitehead, might be a first re-sighting, since ringing.  Again, I'll have to wait on Ewan's return from China, for more details on this bird.

As in the case of two Sandwich Terns, that I spotted at Carrickfergus, a few weeks ago.  The 'Lime' colour of the ring does not show up well, especially in photographs.  These can easily be mistaken for 'White', which would cause a few problems, especially if the same coding sequence was in use.

Sandwich Tern  -    EJF   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (05 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 29th June 2016, at Forvie National Nature Reserve, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)

Sandwich Tern - DB12670
  DB12670 , would easily be my top candidate, from Cameron's sightings today.  Not only did he manage to read the 'metal' ring, but the bird turns out to be 22 years of age.  Ringed as a chick, in June 1996, after inputting the ring number onto the BTO's new DemOn Database, this appears to be the first ever confirmed reading of the ring.

Ringed on Coquet Island, off the Northumberland coast, in England, the direct line distance, is 273 kms / 169 miles (WSW), to Whitehead.  The exact duration, being 22 years, 2 months and 13 days.  A superb sighting by Cameron, and duly rewarded by it's age.

  DB12670 , becomes the second oldest Sandwich Tern, that I've entered onto my spreadsheet.  The oldest, at 23 years and 26 days, was of a 'metal-ringed' bird, I recorded at Portrush.  Ringed as a chick, on the 16th July 1993, on Ogilby Island, in County Down, I read it's ring, at the East Car Park, in Portrush, on the 11th August 2016.

Cameron did not forward a full photo of   DB12670 , just one showing it's leg and part of the ring number.

Sandwich Tern - Holland NL1603
The sixth of Cameron's sightings, on the 5th September, showed an unusual 'metal ring', again on a photo showing - 'leg only'.  I contacted the BTO by email, asking if this ring belonged to a Dutch Sandwich Tern (not taking for granted, the ring started with the letters NL, which would mean the Netherlands).  A reply arrived, stating that it was a Dutch bird, and to report it, through DemOn, in the usual way.

At present, according to DemOn, the BTO, has processed the sighting, but I've yet to receive the actual ringing details.  When they do arrive, I'll publish them in the 'Ringing Details Received' section, in a later post.

Sandwich Tern  -  Holland    NL 1603   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (05 Sep 2018)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)

On the 17th September, I received another email from Cameron.  He had recorded, another three ringed Sandwich Terns, two with 'colour-rings', and successfully read the 'metal' ring, on a third.  Having, now read three 'metals' of late, it just goes to prove how close you can get to the Terns at Whitehead.  The two 'colour-rings', were interesting, as these involved another two birds from Coquet Island, which was mentioned above.

I emailed Chris Redfern, who is the contact addressee for these rings.  Chris, replied to state, that the Whitehead sightings, were the first record for either bird away from Coquet Island.  In fact, neither of the two, had been reported at all from the day they were ringed, until the summer of  2018.

Both had been spotted back on Coquet,   UHF , being present from the 25th June, until the 19th August, whilst (White) UZF, was seen from the 14th July, until the 25th August.

My thanks to Chris, for supplying the info.

Sandwich Tern  -    UHF   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (17 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 26th July 2013, on Coquet Island, Northumberland, England)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)

Sandwich Tern  -  (White) UZF  -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (17 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th July 2016, on Coquet Island, Northumberland, England)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)

The 'metal-ringed' Sandwich Tern -   DE24910 , was from the Ythan Estuary, in Aberdeenshire, in Scotland.  Ringed as a chick, on the Estuaries Forvie National Nature Reserve, many terns from the area, have been spotted at Whitehead - most of which are 'colour-ringed.

Ringed on the 17th June 2010, I wondered why, the Grampian Ringing Group, had not given this young bird a 'colour-ring'.  Checking my spreadsheet, it seems as if, 'colour-rings', were first used by the Group, in the autumn of 2010.  I entered the ring number   DE24910 , onto the BTO's DemOn Database.  It showed, that the only previous sighting, was made on the 27th July 2010.

Although the DemOn Database, does not list site details, I would presume, that it was re-captured on the Ythan Estuary, by the Grampian RG.  It seems, that 'colour-rings', were first introduced there, by the Group, in August 2010.  

Sandwich Tern  -    DE24910   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (17 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th June 2010, at the Forvie National Nature Reserve, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)


Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Old 'Oyk'...

I'm on holiday this week, but little has been done birding wise, suffice my weekly visit to Antrim Marina.  Due to unforeseen circumstances, the visit to the Marina, was made on Monday, and not on Sunday, as planned.

I'll have no car for a few days, as I've left it in with the mechanics, so a couple of minor problems, can be sorted, and the underside treated, to help prevent corrosion.  With winter coming, and add in some of the unusual spots, where I take the car, every little bit helps to prolong it's life on the road.

Later this week, I'll publish the post, about Cameron Moore's & Ian Enlander's, Sandwich Tern sightings at Whitehead, in County Antrim.  Just yesterday, Cameron, reported another three birds, two of which, I should hear details of, later this evening, from Chris Redfern.  The details for the third bird, reported to the BTO, should arrive in the next day or two.

A long awaited email, arrived from Chris Acheson, concerning an Oystercatcher, which I spotted on the Copeland Islands, on the 1st July 2018 -  read below.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 17th September 2018       
I was supposed to visit Antrim Marina yesterday, but had to make a fairly hasty trip on Monday the 17th instead.  The visit lasted just two and a half hours, instead of the usual four.

With the sighting of   2BRD , last Sunday, my 'winter list' of 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, rose to 25 individuals.  19 of those birds, were recorded today, and no sign of   2BRD .

A fairly routine visit, I just concentrated on the BHGs today, and disregarded other species.  BHG numbers, varied from around 60 to 120 birds.

Over the last couple of visits, I stated my concern about   2AAC  (resident) and 2ABA (non resident).  Taking another more detailed look at my spreadsheet, I'm convinced   2ABA , is dead, and I very much doubt if   2AAC , is alive.

  2ABA , was an early returnee after each summers breeding season, usually arriving back by mid July.  Normally,   2ABA , would remain at the Marina, until March, before moving on.  This year, the last sighting of it, was on the 14th January, and thereafter, I'm now sure, it has met it's fate.  Below, I've listed the first and last sightings of   2ABA , each autumn/ winter season.

I first began 'Ring Reading at Antrim Marina', during September 2013, and   2ABA , was first recorded by me, on the 25th.

2013/2014 - Last sighted on the 9th March 2014.
2014/2015 - Returned by 11th July 2014, departed after the 1st March 2015.
2015/2016 - Returned by 2nd August 2015, departed after the 6th March 2016.
2016/2017 - Returned by the 15th July 2016, departed after the 19th February 2017.
2017/2018 - Returned by the 16th July 2017, absent since the 14th January 2018.  

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, on Monday 17th September 2018
 2AAT   2CJT   2CSB   2ACV   2ABL   2ABS   2AAK   2ADJ   2BRA   2CSA 
 2CSR   2CSK   2ABK   2AAP   T35J   2CSJ   2CSL   2AAA   2ABN    

Today's Absentees
 2AAB   2AAN   2ABF   2AAV   2BRD   2CSS 


      Ringing Details Received       
During the week, I received an email from Chris Acheson, offering his apologies, for personal reasons.  Chris, is the ringing secretary, for the Copeland Bird Observatory, and sent me information, concerning a 'metal-rung' Oystercatcher, which I spotted on the 1st July 2018.

Initially, I thought that the Oystercatcher, was poorly rung, as there was a large gap, between the 'butts', of a clearly worn 'metal ring'.  After re-checking my photos several times, I realised, the gap had been caused, by a piece of the ring, actually breaking off.  I ended up with a partial ring number, missing the last digit -    FC7612* .

As it turns out,  FC7612* , was ringed on the Copeland Islands, in 1998, which makes it 20 years old.  The missing digit, would have been used on one of 5 Oystercatchers, ringed on the island that summer.  FC76120 , was used on a chick, from a single brood.   FC76121/22/23 , were used on a brood of 3 chicks, and  FC76129 , was used on a juvenile, in September 2018.  The four chicks, were ringed on the 27th June 1998.  The other five rings -  FC76124/25/26/27 & 28 , were used on other species.

It's a shame, that we could 'nail', the individual bird, but at 20 years, it's the oldest Oystercatcher, that I've recorded to date.

My thanks, goes to Chris Acheson, for searching through the Copeland ringing records.

Oystercatcher  -    FC7612*   -  Lighthouse Island, The Copeland Islands, Co. Down  (01 Jul 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick or a Juvenile, in 1998)


Saturday, 15 September 2018

Birthday Weekend...

I have deliberately delayed this post, which allows Suzanne's sightings, to be aired for a few days.  Last weekend, was my birthday weekend, therefore very little birdwatching was undertaken, hence very little to report on.

It is now Saturday the 15th September, and last night, I finished at work, to begin a week's holiday.  Again, very little birdwatching will be undertaken during this period, but my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, won't be missed.

Cameron Moore, has been in contact with me, concerning 6 Sandwich Tern sightings at Whitehead, and Ian Enlander, has also reported a Tern sighting at the village.  I'm waiting on the ringing details for a couple of the birds.  Whether they arrive with me or not, I'll post an article on these later during the week.

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 9th September 2018        
Today's visit to Antrim Marina, saw a change in the weather, compared to my last visit on Monday.  A fairly strong westerly wind was blowing in from the Lough, and it was overcast, with the odd shower of rain.

This saw a marked change in the Black-headed Gulls behaviour, as the birds were on the lookout for bread being fed to the ducks.  Numbers visiting, peaked at around 150 birds, by mid-day, the highest so far this autumn.

Since I began this, my sixth winter, of 'Ring Watching at Antrim Marina', a total of 24 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, had been recorded so far.  My spreadsheet, is shaping up nicely, highlighting gulls that should have been recorded by now.

Two weeks ago, I commented on the non-appearance, of gulls   2AAC ,   2ABA , and to a lesser degree,   2ANS   2AAC , a resident, and   2ABA , considered as a winter visitor, should have been recorded well before now.  I'm convinced now, that these two, have met their fate, and we've seen the last of them.  As for   2ANS , I'm still open minded about this gull, as it has become an irregular visitor, the older it has become.

Another regular I had voiced my concerns on, was   2AAP .  This bird, is usually one of those gulls, whose always 'under your feet'.  Having, not been seen since the 13th August,   2AAP , was my 13th sighting today, when it arrived at 10.14.  At least, I now know, this gull is alive and kicking.

Of the twelve Black-headed Gulls, that I caught and ringed last winter, as part of my ringing training, their residential status is unclear.  With so few gulls present during summer visits, I've no idea for certain, who are residents, except for   2CSF   and   2CSL   2CSF , was spotted in northern Iceland, in July, whilst   2CSL , has already returned from Poland, where it had been recorded in March.

Of the ten other gulls ringed last winter, six have been recorded on a fairly frequent basis each week, though I have a feeling judging by my sightings,   2CSK   and   2CSS , might both be non-residents.  This leaves us with 4 gulls, still outstanding -   2CSC ,   2CSD ,   2CSH   and   2CST .

  2CSD , was the juvenile, who injured itself, in the couple of weeks after being ringed.  Perhaps the victim of a hawk attack, or possible a collision with wires, it's tail was distorted, leaning to one side.  The young gull, whilst in flight, looked clumsy and may have since met its fate, becoming an easy target for an attack by a Sparrowhawk.  At present, I think this one has been lost.

  2CSC , is the gull, which lands on my hand. If memory serves me right, this happened during November 2017.  I was convinced, it was the same bird that followed the same behaviour during the winter of 2016/2017 - as a juvenile/1st winter bird.  It's very behaviour, made it easily caught and ringed.  I'm sure,   2CSC , is a non-resident, and look forwards to seeing it's return, perhaps announcing it's arrival, by perching on my hand.

No conclusions, can be made about   2CSH , as yet, but if it is still alive, it must surely be a non-resident.  This leaves us with   2CST , which was caught and ringed as a juvenile/1st winter bird, on the 7th January 2018.    2CST , has not been seen at the Marina since ringing, but I did happen to come across it at my local park, in Ballymena, on the 13th February 2018, around 10 miles to the north.  Interesting to see where, if it turns up again, will it be at Antrim or Ballymena.

As already mentioned, 24 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, have been recorded at Antrim Marina, so far, during this autumn and winter season.  Apart from the aforementioned   2AAP , 19 others were recorded during today's visit, with 4 absentees.  However, another bird was added to the winter list, when at 11.44, I spotted   2BRD .

  2BRD , was caught and ringed at the Marina, during my first ever meeting with Adam McClure, who runs the Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study.  Ringed as an adult male, on the 1st February 2015,   2BRD , has a patchy re-sighting history, here at the Marina.

Where the gull, actually 'winters', is unknown, but we do know,   2BRD   arrives at Lurgan Park Lake, in County Armagh, prior to the start of the breeding season - in late February or early March.  Last winter, I recorded   2BRD , at Antrim Marina, on just three occasions (once in December, twice in January).  The gull's appearance today, certainly surprised me.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BRD   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (09 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 1st February 2015, at Antrim Marina)

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, on Sunday 9th September 2018
 2CSL   2CJT   2AAB   2AAA   2AAT   2CSJ   2CSB 
 2ABN   2ABS   2ABF   2AAK   2CSK   2AAP   2ADJ 
 2CSA   2BRD   2CSR   2AAV   T35J   2BRA   2ACV 

Today's Absentees
 2ABK   2AAN   2ABL   2CSS 

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSA   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim
(Photos of   2CSA , Taken on the 19th November 2017, as a Juvenile, and on the 9th September 2018)
(Ringed as a 1st Winter Bird, on the 19th November 2017, at Antrim Marina)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
A single Mute Swan, was spotted on the small sandy beach area, on my arrival today.  On parking my car, I checked the bird, and saw a 'metal-ring'.  Getting closer, I could see the 'blinded right eye', which told me, this was   W34158 .  My last sighting of this bird, was back, on the 26th May 2018.

The now familiar family group of two adults, and 5 large cygnets, arrived from up-river, at 10.55.  By this time,   W34158 , was standing on the slipway, and ignored the attempts of the family male, to bully it.

Mallard numbers, were back to normal this week.  With between 50 and 60 birds on my arrival, numbers reached the 80+ mark, by the time of my departure.  One again, most were checked for rings.  It's been a while, since I last recorded a 'metal-ringed' Mallard here.  Birds, ringed by the gun clubs in County Monaghan, would arrive at the Marina, but the lull in ring sightings, makes me wonder, are they still marking juveniles before release.

Two, adult Common Gulls, present on my arrival, were probably the same two birds, which came and went throughout the morning.  A juvenile, which arrived at 11.53, was not the usual 'over friendly' youngster.  The plumage on this bird, was far more advanced, but our usual 'friend', arrived at 12.07.

During my visit, I was on the watch for a 'metal-rung' Common Gull, which had been ringed as a chick, in 2013, at Hunterston, in Scotland.  This bird first appeared at the Marina, as a juvenile/1st winter bird in February 2014.  It has returned every autumn and winter since - 21st September 2014, 22nd November 2015, 4th September 2016, and on the 25th September 2017.

A single Herring Gull, along with a single Lesser Black-backed Gull, were present at all times during my visit.  A juvenile Herring Gull, appeared just briefly, at 11.53.

An adult Hooded Crow, along with it's two juveniles, were also present throughout.  Just 5 Jackdaws, a juvenile Rook, and a juvenile Magpie, were the only other species seen today.

Antrim KFC & Baptist Church
With   2AAV , visiting Antrim Marina today, I gave the town's Elim Church, a 'bye ball'.  At the KFC fast food outlet, there was an unusual showing of Common Gulls, with two adults and two juveniles present.  A single Mediterranean Gull, was likely to have been one of two present here last Monday, whilst a single Lesser Black-backed Gull, was present, as well.

There was still no sign of the Norwegian   JK35 , among the 22 Black-headed Gulls, which included just two juveniles.  As with Antrim Marina, there has been a marked decrease, in the number of this summers' youngsters.

There was a very good showing of Black-headed Gulls, at Antrim's Baptist Church.  With perhaps, as many, as 120 birds, I was fortunate to find the gate to the front car park open.  Parking in the centre, I threw out bits of bread, attracting most of these birds towards me.

This gave me a clear view of legs, but the only ring spotted, was on the Polish (White) TY43, who's return was recorded on the 5th August.  Once again, juvenile numbers were low, with just 11 youngsters counted.  On each visit to the Church, I've been keeping an eye out, for a 'metal-rung', BHG, which I recorded here on three occasions last winter (Dec, Jan & Feb).  This gull, was ringed as a chick in 2009, in Scotland.

A couple of Finnish 'metal-rung' BHGs, were also recorded here last winter, with one ring being partially read, whilst I completed the number for the second bird.  Hopefully, one or the other, will also appear at some stage.

Black-headed Gull  -  Poland (White) TY43  -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (09 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as Un-Sexed 2nd Calendar Year Bird, on the 9th February 2012, at Olsztyn, Poland)


      Sunday 9th September 2018       
As stated in my introductory, this was my birthday weekend, so I kept my travels to a minimum.  Leaving Antrim, I quickly covered the short stretch of coast, from Whitehouse Lagoon, to Rhanbouy Park, at Carrickfergus.

Just three 'ringed'  gulls, were spotted, all having been recorded in the last couple of weeks.

Black-headed Gull  -  Poland (White) T56W  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (09 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a 2nd Calendar Year Bird, on the 16th June 2012, at Bielinek, Poland)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CPN   -  Whiteabbey Shoreline, Whiteabbey, Co. Antrim  (09 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

Common Gull  -    2AIP   -  Whiteabbey Shoreline, Whiteabbey, Co. Antrim  (09 Sep 2018)
Ringed as a Chick, on the 11th June 2012, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)