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)


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