Friday, 7 September 2018

A Near Drowning...

I had intended to publish a post, which concerned ring sightings, recorded by Suzanne Belshaw.  However, when I got around to editing photos, sent by Suzanne, my online photo editor, was not available due to server problems.  It was late on Tuesday afternoon, when I discovered, that the editor was back online.  This meant, that it was too late to begin working with Suzanne's pictures, as I needed to start this latest post of my own.  Not only that, Suzanne, has now sent more photos, along with other sightings.  Another attempt will be made, after the publication of this post.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 3rd September 2018       
Once again, I favoured a Monday, rather than a Sunday visit to Antrim Marina.  With the kids now back at school, the canoe training, will have finished for another summer, which would mean uninterrupted Sunday visits.  The gulls are not keen to approach, when so much is going on.

Today's visit, saw calm and sunny conditions, which also meant the gulls were not too hungry.  Many birds, simply enjoyed the sunshine, resting at the breakwater, separating the Marina from Lough Neagh.  Having recorded 24 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, so far this winter, only 12 of these were recorded today.

Having arrived at 09.15, and departing at mid-day, overall numbers fluctuated between the 70 and 100 mark.  Having said that, I noticed that most of the 'colour-ringed' gulls, which were recorded, quickly left the Marina, and not seen again.

We are now into the month of September, and weather-wise, it is still very mild for this time of the year.  I do not really expect to see any great change in gull numbers until October.  One thing I have noticed though, there has been a marked decrease in the number of juveniles present.  The reason for this, is not clear, but the weather surely cannot be blamed.  

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina on Monday 3rd September 2018
 2AAT   2ACV   2CJT   2CSB   2CSA   2ADJ 
 2CSJ   2ABS   2CSR   2CSL   2AAA   2BRA 

Today's Absentees
 T35J   2AAP   2AAK   2ABN   2ABK   2AAB 
 2AAN   2ABL   2ABF   2AAV   2CSK   2CSS 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
There was a slight upturn with the Mute Swans, during today's visit.  On my arrival, two un-ringed adults, were already present on the slipway, remaining throughout my visit.  A 3rd adult, appeared from up-river, at 10.26, but decided to swim on out to the Lough, about 10 minutes later.  At 10.46, the adult pair, along with their 5 youngsters, arrived in from the Lough.

This family, have been around for several weeks now, but the two adults, did not take too kindly, to the two other adults on the slipway.  After some initial 'argy bargy', they all soon settled down.  Drama started, when another pair, along with a medium sized cygnet, swam in from the Lough, at 11.35.

The two adults from the family group, began to chase off the newly arrived adults.  In doing so, they isolated the cygnet, whom they then tried to drown.  After a prolonged struggle, the young cygnet, managed to reach the sandy beach area.  The male, also came ashore, grabbing the youngster by the neck, and climbed onto it's back.

At this point, I intervened and saved the chick.  Lifting it up, I walked across the Marina and placed it onto the river, near it's distressed parents.  Within minutes, the family adults, again pursued the cygnets parents, again isolating the cygnet.  Swinging around, the once again tried to drown the youngster.

With the youngster now on the other side of the river, I thought it was a 'gonna'.  Having been submerged several times, how long could it's energy and breath hold out, I wondered.  A good 5 minutes or so passed, and the youngster managed to break free, taking refuge behind a moored boat.

A minute or two later, it re-appeared, at the other end of the boat, and swam towards it's parents, who by now, were on their way back towards the Lough.  They all re-united, and the cygnet survived for another day.  It's parents, must have been a young inexperienced pair and at no time, tried to save their youngster.  Hopefully, they'll learn from this near disaster, and keep their offspring away from the Marina.

Mallard numbers were far lower, than those of past weeks.  Around 30 birds, gradually increased to around the 50 mark, by the time of my departure.  Again, most were checked for rings, but still no joy so far.

3 adult Common Gulls, came and went, throughout.  Each sighting, most likely involved, one of the same three, which was the maximum number counted at any one time.  The very 'people friendly' juvenile appeared at 10.31, and remained for the rest of my visit.  A single Lesser Black-backed Gull and a single Herring Gull, would arrive for minutes at a time, and probably were the same two individuals seen each time.

An adult Hooded Crow, along with it's two juveniles, spent most of their time scavenging for bread.  5 adult Jackdaws, completed the other species recorded at the Marina today.

Antrim's Elim Church & KFC Car Park
With   2AAV , being absent at the Marina, I called by Antrim's Elim Church - the gull's usual winter haunt.  Around 30 BHG's were present, but no sign of   2AAV .

Moving on to the nearby car park, at the Antrim KFC outlet, there is still no sign of the Norwegian BHG -   JK35 .  This gull, has returned during August, in both 2016 and 2017, and is now overdue.  

However, in 2015, it was spotted on the 25th September 2015, at Stranraer, Dumfries & Galloway, in Scotland.  My first ever sighting ever of   JK35 , was recorded on the 24th January 2016.  Perhaps, the weather in Norway, has been mild enough, which may encourage the gulls there to remain longer.

Among the 25 to 30 Black-headed Gulls, present in the car park, were two Mediterranean Gulls.  Last week, saw a single Med, at the car park and a few weeks back, two moulting birds were recorded.  Med's, are still  quite rare, as a breeding species in Northern Ireland, but reported sightings outside of the breeding season, are becoming more frequent.  Birds are now regularly reported on the NIBA website, which underlines the interest in this species.  Both gulls at the KFC car park, are very approachable, unlike most other Meds elsewhere.

The Two Mediterranean Gulls at Antrim's KFC Car Park  (03 Sep 2018)


      Ringing Details Received       

Black-headed Gull -   2CJF 
Adam McClure, has not responded to my sighting of   2CJF , spotted last week, at Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down.  I would assume, my sighting in all probability, is the first record since the gull was ringed.

However, having also reported the gull, through the BTO's DemOn database, it's ringing details arrived this morning (Friday 7th September).    2CJF , was caught and ringed, as a juvenile, on the 3rd July 2016, at Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim.  It has travelled 22kms / 13 miles (SSW), to reach Kinnegar.

Oystercatcher - YL-W(UA)
Spotted on the pond, beside Kinnegar Beach, last week, I reported this Oystercatcher to Böddi, in Iceland.  Böddi, replied to state that YL-W(UA), would have been ringed in Iceland, this summer.  He does not have the details as yet, but will send them on, as soon as he receives them.

Mediterranean Gull -   AY.KA 
During the week, I received an email from Andreas Zours, from Germany.  He kindly informed me, about the latest sighting of the young German-rung Mediterranean Gull -   AY.KA .  This bird, was one of the gulls I reported about, on my post 'Mini Med Invasion'.

  AY.KA , was initially spotted in Northern Ireland, on the 17th July 2018, by Cameron Moore, in his home, seaside village, of Whitehead, in County Antrim.

On the 1st September 2018,   AY.KA , was re-sighted on the seafront at Bray, Co. Wicklow, in the Republic of Ireland, having been spotted by Brian Burke.  The distance from Whitehead, to Bray, is 174 kms / 108 miles (SSW).

Ringed as a chick, on the 8th June 2018, on the Rehbach Gravel Pits, near Leipzig, the distance to Bray, is 1,757 kms / 1,091 miles.

My thanks to Andreas, for the latest update.  Surprisingly, no more news has arrived, concerning the other young Meds, that I reported on, except for the Polish   PYU8 , in this article.


      Saturday 1st September 2018       
Today, saw another late start, so I decided to head off to Millisle, in County Down, to see if I could record some 'ringed' Common Gulls.  With a high tide due around 4pm, at Millisle, I wanted to be at Kinnegar Beach, by the time the tide started to recede.

Common Gull numbers at Millisle, were not any where near, to what I was hoping for.  The more gulls present, usually means there is a greater chance of recording a few 'metal-rung' birds.  Around 20 adults, along with 6 juveniles, were well spread out, along the length of the car park and the main beach.  These still produced 4 'colour-rings' and three 'metals'.

One of the 'colour-ringed' birds, was of, special interest -   2HSH .  Today, saw my second sighting of this gull, having first recorded it here, on the 21st July 2018.  Ringed as a chick, on the 10th June 2011, the only other record of   2HSH , was made on the 30th July 2013, when Adam McClure, spotted the gull here at Millisle.

As regular readers are aware, Millisle, is a 'hotspot', for 'ringed' Common Gull sightings, and a site, where I undertake fairly frequent visits.  This makes my latest sighting of   2HSH , all the more interesting, and makes one wonder, where has this gull been over the years.

As can be seen by the photo,   2HSH , is a tad scruffy looking in it's appearance, but what the picture does not show, is that the bird's tail, is completely missing.

Common Gull  -    2HSH   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (01 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 10th June 2011, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)

The three other 'colour-ringed' Common Gulls, were of the regularly recorded birds   2BBC ,   2ACA   and   2ADX .  The photo of   2ADX , shows just how worn the ring is, but the indented characters, can still be read.

Common Gull  -    2ADX   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (02 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 1st June 2010, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)

Of the three 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls, a bird with a crippled foot, did not come near enough to me, so I could photograph it's ring.  Having said that, I'm almost 100% certain, it was   EX38230 , whose number, I've recorded on five previous occasions.  I will not consider this sighting, as the ring was not read.

Turning my attention, onto a second 'metal', this Common Gull, flew off, as a dog walker passed by.  Looking at the couple of photos I took, I could see a '  G ', in the ring number, and I knew straight away, that I had a possible new sighting.  Unfortunately, I could not re-locate the gull.

Looking to see what information on the ring, I had captured, showed   G648 , followed by what appears to be a   0 .  Knowing the letter preceding the   G , would be an   E , I was missing the last digit, and the number would read -   EG6480* .  On returning home, and checking my spreadsheet, this would have been a new sighting.

I have emailed the BTO, to see if they can generate a recovery report.  I'm hoping that this gull was ringed as a chick, therefore meaning, many chicks were ringed at the same site and on the same date.  As this gull, also had an 'upside-down' ring, I suspect, that it was ringed on the nearby Copeland Islands.

Once again, and a further two examples later in the afternoon, it just shows, how thoughtless dog-walkers are.  They can clearly see that a camera is being used to photograph the gulls, but continue regardless.  Are all dog-walkers, such 'MINDLESS MORANS', if not, I don't think I've come across one yet.

Common Gull  -    EG6480*   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (01 Sep 2018)
(Waiting on a reply from the BTO)

The third 'metal', I came across, was on the beach, at the southern end of the car park, on Millisle's seafront.  As soon as I saw, the partial inscription on the ring, I knew it was that of the Norwegian gull -   5182366 .

After, taking a number of photos, the gull flew out to sea, and did not return.  Looking to see, what I had captured, I was missing the first of the two 6's, but there was no doubt, this was the Norwegian bird.

My first sighting of   5182366 , was on the 14th July 2017, the gull still bearing some of it's juvenile plumage.  The second, and third sightings, were made this summer, when the gull was recorded on the 29th June, and 21st July.  Nice to see, that it is still here, and I would love to get a 'colour-ring' fitted at some point over this winter.  Once the gulls are hungry enough, I will attempt to catch a few.

Hopefully, some of the other gulls, whose 'colour-rings', are in such poor condition, can be captured and fitted with new Darvic's.

Common Gull  -  Norway    5182366   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (01 Sep 2016)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 9th July 2016, at Austevik, Karmøy, Norway)

A small number of Black-headed Gulls and Herring Gulls, were also present.  One of the Herring Gull's bore a metal-ring, which I guess was   GA00153 , but I made no attempt to read the ring.  Judging by it's behaviour, this had to be the same bird and it's ring can be read at any time, as it is such a regular to the car park.

Time, was also against me, as I had to make a move towards Kinnegar Beach, and be in position, for the out-going tide.  As the tide receded, the gulls, waders and terns, started to arrive.  I spent ages looking for rings, and eventually spotted a Lesser Black-backed Gull, with a 'metal'.  This was of no use to me, being so far away, but it was just as well, as another one of those pesky dog walkers happened along.

Moving along the road, towards the army camp, I parked beside the causeway, which forms a sewer outlet into Belfast Lough.  Here, plenty of big gulls, Oystercatchers and terns, were beginning to gather.  Nearly all the terns, were Commons, with just a sprinkling of Sandwich Terns, which was the species I was most likely to record 'colour-rings' on.  Many Common Terns, were spotted, with 'metals', but not a single 'colour-ring', could be found.  None of the Sandwich Terns, were ringed.

A 'colour-ringed' Herring Gull, was spotted in the distance.  As I got out of the car with my camera, to walk closer to the gull, I noticed another one of those dog-walkers, coming towards me on the beach.  The inevitable happened, everything took off and landed again even further away.  My chance had gone, and so had the afternoon.  I then decided to return, tomorrow.


      Sunday 2nd September 2018       
Today, I decided to head back to County Down, arriving at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, in good time to catch the incoming tide, on Strangford Lough.

On entering the hide, which overlooks Strangford Lough, I was disappointed by the lack of birds to be seen.  However, I stayed put, and waited.  As I waited, the hide saw many visitors, who were out exploring the grounds of the Wetland Centre.  Among these, were a couple on holiday, from Chicago, Illinois, USA.  Asking, if I had spotted anything interesting, I informed them, that I was 'Ring Reading', something they had never heard of before.

By this time, I had a 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull, on my telescope, which was too far away, for the code to be read.  They took a peek at the 'Orange ring', which I explained, would belong to Adam McClure's, Northern Ireland Study.  They left shortly afterwards, but I gave them one of my cards, and suggested they look up my blog, when they return home.  They could then check, to see if I was successful, in my quest to read a ring or two.

As the tide came in, I read three rings altogether.  Two were re-sightings of Adam's gulls, which I recorded during the breeding season at Castle Espie.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BXJ   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (02 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2016, at Castle Espie)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AHJ   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (02 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 29th March 2013, at Castle Espie)

My third sighting, was that of the young Polish-rung, Mediterranean Gull -   PYU8 .  Ringed in June, this summer, I first recorded   PYU8 , on the 29th July.  With today's sighting, it looks like this youngster might remain here for the winter.

Mediterranean Gull (Juvenile)  -    PYU8   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (02 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 6th June 2018, at  Rybical, Warmińsko-Mazurskie, Poland)

A few flocks of Brent Geese, were also spotted, flying past Castle Espie.  These are the early arrivals, of birds returning from their breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic.  Over the next few weeks, thousands will descend onto Strangford Lough and there will be plenty of rings on these to look out for.
With the time approaching 5pm, which is when the Centre, closes for the day, the tide was well on it's way in.  By this time, a number of Ringed Plovers, Dunlins, Oystercatchers and gulls, were checked for rings, but there were no more additions.

Leaving Castle Espie, I made my way towards Kinnear Beach.  Passing a road sign for Islandhill car park, I decided to call by.  I have meant to visit here, on previous visits to Castle Espie, but always forgot to call in.  Suzanne Belshaw, had recently spotted a 'colour-ringed' Herring Gull (  0P:W ) at Islandhill, so I wondered if it would still be there.

Pulling into the car park, there was   0P:W , right in front of me.  This was my second sighting of this gull, having recorded it at Belfast's Whitehouse Lagoon, on the 7th February 2016.  Other sightings of   0P:W , that I know about, were on the 25th October 2015, at Knockinelder Bay, Co. Down (Graham McElwaine), 19th January 2017, here at Islandhill (Ross McIlwrath), and more recently, by Suzanne Belshaw, on the 1st September, also at Islandhill.

  0P:W , belongs to a relatively new study, on the Copeland Islands, in County Down.  Shane Wolsey, had supplied me with the ringing data for these Herring Gulls, up to 2014.    0P:W , was ringed as an un-sexed adult (probably breeding at the time), on the 23rd May 2014.

Herring Gull  -    0P:W   -  Islandhill, Comber, Co. Down  (02 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 23rd May 2014, on The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Finishing off the afternoon at Kinnegar Beach, there was no shortage of birds.  This time, I was left undisturbed by dog walkers, the couple that did happened to pass by, remained on the road.

After scoping thousands of legs, the only ring spotted, was most likely to be on the same Herring Gull spotted yesterday.  Although, a good distance out, I still managed to capture it's code -   0L:W .

This is now my second sighting of this bird, having first recorded it here, on the 19th October 2016.  From the aforementioned Copeland Study,   0L:W , was ringed on the 22nd May 2014.  Apart from my two sightings, the only other sighting that I know of, occurred on the 21st November 2015, when Derek Charles, spotted   0L:W , also on Kinnegar Beach.

Herring Gull  -    0L:W   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (02 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 22nd May 2014, on The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)


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