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)


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