Thursday, 11 October 2018

Military Intervention...

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 7th October 2018       
I arrived for my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, at 9.15 this morning, departing just after 1pm.  Weather-wise, it was a typical autumn day, mainly dry, after a wet start, with a brisk, warmish wind.  The number of gulls visiting the Marina, was still disappointingly low, with a maximum 70 to 80 birds.

Watching out for the 25 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, recorded so far this during this autumn/winter season, was a long and drawn out affair.  Most of the 'tagged' birds, which did appear, only remained for a matter of minutes, before flying off again.

There is no doubt in my mind, that the new building works, surrounded by the wooden compound wall, is definitely having an effect.  The gulls that do remain for periods at a time, are uneasy in their behaviour, and would take to the air at the slightest distraction.

Later on today, when I visited Kinnego Marina, and Lurgan Park, I witnessed a complete opposite in behaviour, as the gulls at these sites, were all over me.

I recorded 16 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, during my visit, with   2AAA , being the last one sighted at 12.11.  Of the 9 absentees,   2AAV , was found at Antrim's Elim Church - it's favourite haunt away from the Marina.

I've also noticed, over this, and previous visits, that the number of people coming to feed the ducks, has declined drastically.  I reckon, that most cannot be bothered, having to walk around the perimeter of the compound to reach the slipway, where the ducks and swans would gather.  The resultant, lack of bread, may also be a factor, with the gulls having to look for food elsewhere.

Still using my car as a hide, the long wooden jetty, is always out of view.  From time to time, I would walk across to the short concrete jetty, and view the long wooden jetty, but this favourite resting place for the gulls, is little used now.

On each visit, I have rings ready, to tag new birds, but I can't catch any at present.  I'm hoping this will change, once the colder weather creeps in.  I could also do with an increase in Mute Swan numbers, as these make great decoys, to help catch gulls on the ground.

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded at Antrim Marina, on Sunday 7th October 2018
 2CSJ   2AAT   2AAP   2CJT   2ADJ   2CSK   2CSB   T35J 
 2BRA   2CSL   2AAN   2ABF   2ABS   2ABN   2AAB   2AAA 

Today's Absentees
 2AAK   2ABK   2ABL   2AAV   2ACV   2BRD   2CSA   2CSR   2CSS 

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABF   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (07 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 20th January 2013, at Antrim Marina)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
A single 'metal-ringed' Mute Swan, present on my arrival, turned out to be   W34158 .  It was on the slipway, but minutes later was chased out towards the Lough, when the pair, along with their five large cygnets arrived from upriver.  They only stayed for a short time, heading back up the river at 9.55.

Around 30 Mallards, present when I arrived, slowly increased in numbers, when a maximum 69, were counted at 11.07.  A couple of weeks ago, numbers topped the 100+ mark.  Again, most legs were checked for rings, but I'm still waiting on my first this winter.

The sub-adult Herring Gull, arrived at 10.55, and remained throughout the rest of my visit.  A single adult Common Gull, landed on the rails of the concrete jetty, at 12.26.  Being so close to the compound, it looked to be very wary, but was still there when I departed.  I'm keeping an eye out now, for the Scottish 'metal-rung' Common Gull -   EY64036 .  It is now due to reappear, the earliest return dates in the past, were on the 5th October 2014, and the 2nd October 2016.    EY64036 , first appeared here, as a juvenile/1st winter bird, during the 2013/14 winter.  Fingers crossed, that this small female, has survived the summer.

Other species recorded today, were, 7 Jackdaws, 2 Magpies, 1 Rook, a pair of Pied Wagtails, and for the first time ever during my visits, a single Ferel Pigeon.  Strangely, not a single Hooded Crow appeared today. 

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC Outlet & Baptist Church
Due to the non-appearance of   2AAV , at Antrim Marina, I stopped by Antrim's Elim Church.  Although, I skipped the Church last week, as soon as I parked today, I heard the gulls calling, as if to say 'Gary is here'.  Even before I had a chance to throw out bread, the Black-headed Gulls, started to land beside my car, one of them, being   2AAV .  Around two dozen, BHGs, enjoyed a few slices of bread.

At the nearby KFC car park, around 30 BHGs, 1 Common Gull, and a single Mediterranean Gull, were present.  Again, enjoying a few slices of bread, none of the gulls were ringed.  I'm slowly beginning to think, that the Norwegian BHG -   JK35 , is not going to return, possibly having met it's fate, on it's return journey to Norway in the spring.  It was last seen, here at the KFC car park, on the 12th March 2018.

At Antrim's Baptist Church, gull numbers, were back to normal.  Only 12 BHGs, were present last week, but today, the total topped the one hundred mark.  Surprisingly, for this site, most gulls were already standing around the car park, which meant easy viewing for me.

Searching through the BHGs for rings with my binoculars, I spotted one with a 'metal', on it's left leg.  As I was reaching for my telescope, a car pulled up on the main road, and an oldish lady got out carrying a wash basin.  The gulls obviously recognised her, as they all took to the air, flying in her direction.  She then emptied the basin onto the grass verge, which was full of bread.  After their feed, I could not lure most of the gulls back towards me, and could not re-locate the 'metal-ringed' bird.

At first, I could not find the Polish-rung (White) TY43, but after a while, it landed on the Church roof. 

Black-headed Gull  -  Poland (White) TY43  -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (07 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Calendar Year Bird, on the 9th February 2012, at Olsztyn, Poland)


      Saturday 6th October 2018       
As per usual on a Saturday, it was early in the afternoon, before I could get away to do some birdwatching.  My plan, was to visit the beach at Kinnegar, before moving southwards, along the County Down coast.  Arriving at Kinnegar, the tide was well on it's way out, which dashed my hopes of looking for ringed gulls and waders at close range.

Having said that, there were a good number of birds about, which led to an initial decision, to stay put for a while.  The problem with Kinnegar, is that, when the tide is out, the birds here have an extensive area to feed and rest on.  Not only that, I noticed that there were large numbers of Black-headed Gulls, within the grounds of the sewage plant, adjacent to the shoreline, separated by the road that leads to a Ministry of Defence, army camp.

With gulls, moving from the sewage works onto the shore, and vice-versa, there were plenty of legs to look at, as well as birds that remained on the beach.  Over 300 Oystercatchers, were feeding all along the shoreline, but many were too distant to check for rings.

Due to the 'wealth' of birds, my planned short visit, turned into an all afternoon affair, to await on the incoming tide, which would push many of these birds back towards me.

Around 5.30pm, hundreds and hundreds, of gulls and waders, were coming into good range, when my afternoon's patience was suddenly destroyed.  A young couple, who were walking on the other side of the narrow river, which flows across Kinnegar Beach, into Belfast Lough, decided to cross over onto my side.  The young man, easily made it across the river, but the young lady was stuck on her side.

He spied a large plank of wood, which he decided to use as a bridge - that worked, as the lady managed to cross.  The 'slapping' noise, made by the plank hitting the river, meant every bird took to air in fright, flying away in all directions.  I reckoned, he knew what he had just done - as he looked at me, I shook my head in disgust and drove away.

Not a single ring was read.  Over the course of the afternoon, I spotted two birds with 'colour-rings', but they were too far off to read the codes.  One was a Herring Gull, with a 'Yellow Darvic, the other being a Sandwich Tern, with a 'Red Darvic'.  'Metals', were spotted on several birds, but I stood no chance of reading these.

At one point, I viewed three adult Common Gulls with 'metals', a 'metal-rung' Lesser Black-backed Gull, an adult Oystercatcher and two Black-headed Gulls, also 'metal-rung.  One of the Black-headed Gulls, had a tallish 'metal ring' on it's left leg, which told me that it was a foreign bird, possibly from Finland.

Not a productive afternoon, but sometimes luck does not always falls my way.  Talking of luck, I 'outstayed my welcome', on the road that led to the army camp.  I use my car, as a hide, along this road, which is clearly marked, private and 'No Entry'.  Not only does the car allow me close viewing of the birds, but it protected me from the very cold breeze, blowing in off the Lough.  

Eventually, a security van, pulled up alongside my car.  I was politely asked to move on, having been watched on camera for a long period of time.  Appreciative of what I was doing, they could clearly see that I was birdwatching, but I had to clear the roadway, as military vehicles were due to return.  At least, they were understanding to a point, which aids my quest to 'Read Rings'. 


      Sunday 7th October 2017       
Having completed my visit to Antrim, I drove on down to the bottom end of Lough Neagh, to visit Kinnego Marina, and the onto the nearby Lurgan Park.

At Kinnego Marina, I instantly noticed a vast difference in behaviour of the Black-headed Gulls, compared to those at Antrim Marina.  Here, the gulls were all over me, whilst feeding them with bread by hand, the same at Lurgan Park, when I arrived there later.  This behaviour, 'cements' my belief, that the new building project at Antrim Marina, has clearly made the gulls more nervous there, leading to fewer gulls visiting.

Two 'metals', and three 'colour' ringed Black-headed Gulls, were recorded at Kinnego Marina, all turning out to be birds previously recorded.  I was successful, in capturing the details on the two 'metal' rings.

The first of these, was   EN52966 , which was ringed as a chick, just 17 kilometres / 10 miles away, on Blacker's Rock, on the County Tyrone side, of Lough Neagh.  I first came across this gull, here, in September 2015, having read a partial number -   E*52966 , but confirmed it's full number, on the 31st October 2015.  Since then,   EN52966 , is known to winter at Kinnego, having been recorded on numerous occasions by Suzanne Belshaw, and myself.

Today's sighting, is the earliest confirmed sighting of   EN52966 , of any winter.  Prior to the breeding season, the latest spring sighting, was recorded by Suzanne, on the 2nd March 2017.  Strangely, there have been no records for the month of February, and no summer sightings.

Ringed on the 3rd June 2009, the duration up to today's visit, is now 9 years, 4 months and 4 days.

Black-headed Gull  -    EN52966   -  Kinnego Marina, Co. Armagh  (07 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd June 2009, on Blacker's Rock, Lough Neagh, Co. Tyrone)

The second 'metal-rung' Black-headed Gull, was   EW32806 .  Today's sighting, is only the 5th confirmed record of this gull on my spreadsheet, though I recorded a 'partial number' -   EW3*806 , here, on the 25th October 2015.  In the past, I recorded the full number on the 29th November 2015, and on the 25th October 2016, whilst Suzanne Belshaw, has recorded the full number on the 12th January 2017 (Lurgan Park), also on the 7th September 2017.

It is clearly evident, by the number of winter visits made by both Suzanne and myself, that   EW32806 , is not a regular visitor to Kinnego Marina.  Checking the BTO's DemOn Ringing Database,   EW32806 , was also recorded on the 17th August 2015, though the finding site is not given.

  EW32806 , was ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 9th June 2011, at Twinyess, on the Orkney Islands, in northern Scotland.  Kinnego Marina, lies 591 kilometres / 367 miles (SSW), of Twinyess.  The duration since ringing, now being 7 years, 3 months and 28 days.

Black-headed Gull  -    EW32806   -  Kinnego Marina, Co. Armagh  (07 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 9th June 2011, on North Ronaldsay, Orkney Islands, Scotland)

The three 'colour-ringed' BHGs, are all regularly recorded at Kinnego Marina, having been caught and ringed here, as part of Adam McClure's, Northern Ireland Study.

  2BPN , was ringed on the 29th October 2014, as an adult female.    2BPT , another adult female, was rung on the 31st October 2014, as was   2BPV , which was un-sexed.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BPT   -  Kinnego Marina, Co. Armagh  (07 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 31st October 2014, at Kinnego Marina)

Finishing off the afternoon, at Lurgan Park, a couple of hundred Black-headed Gulls, were present.  Walking along the edge of the lake, I threw down bits of bread, and despite checking lots of legs, not a single ring was spotted.

Checking my spreadsheet, it's still too early, to see the return of   T58T , from Poland, whose earliest winter sighting was made on the 1st December 2017, and (White) J4P4, from Norway, whose earliest return date, was recorded on the 11th November 2013.


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