Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Monster on the Loose...

No - not really a monster, monster, it's actually my new Nikon P1000 camera, that arrived from Switzerland, on Friday afternoon.  With having to work on Friday evening, I did not have enough time to explore the camera's capabilities, before I set out, early on Saturday afternoon.

As a 'Ring Reader', this new bit of kit, with it's 125x (3000mm) optical zoom, which extends to 250x (6000mm), in digital zoom, is to say the least, amazing.  As can be read below, I'm already obtaining sightings, that even my former P900, could not have reached.  I don't want to downplay, my P900, as it has played a major part in my success as a 'Ring Reader', but the P1000, will present other possibilities.

One example, I can immediately think of, are those Roseate Terns, which often turn up in the autumn, at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve in Belfast.  Some of them were ringed with 'metals' on both legs - one, a BTO ring, and the other a specially coded ring unique to Rockabill or Lady's Island Lake, in the Republic of Ireland.  The frustrating part, was that the terns were just out of reach, for my P900, to read these codes.

Photo taken from the Rockabill Blog - Showing the Special Metal Ring (read their blog here)

Another use for the new P1000, is in Raptor Study work.  With it's powerful zoom, head counts of say - Peregrine chicks, can be accessed without the need to approach nests.  The video function, can be used to film the chicks, or even in nest protection work, filming folk up to no good.  They wouldn't even have a clue, that they are being watched/filmed from half a mile or more away.

I'm definitely going to have some fun on the loose with this monster, and yes, it's a bit of a 'brute', for a bridge camera.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 22nd October 2018       
Getting up early on Sunday morning, I was supposed to carry out my weekly visit to Antrim Marina.  However, it was raining really hard, and I decided to remain at home for the whole day.  It can be difficult enough to record the gulls at the Marina, with half of my viewing area cut off by the new construction work.  I therefore decided to drive up to the Marina, on Monday.

Before I continue with Monday's visit, I must make mention of an email that I received on Friday 19th October, from Graham McElwaine, who is the ringing coordinator for the Irish Brent Goose Research Group.  Graham, called into Antrim Marina, earlier that day, whilst up this way for a meeting.

He spotted, six of Adam's 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, which included   2AAR , who's return to the Marina, I couldn't confirm last week, via a photograph.  The other 5 birds that Graham recorded were   2AAT ,   2ABF ,   2ADJ ,   2CSJ   and   2CJT .  A seventh BHG, with a White Darvic, was also spotted, though the code was not read.  This one would have been the Lithuanian T35J.

I replied to Graham on Saturday evening, thanking him for the sightings, which I have added onto my spreadsheets.  In the same email, I presented Graham, with a nice poser!! (read about Common Gull -   2HVL   below).  My thanks to Graham, for his Antrim sightings, and for confirming the code on my Common Gull.

My visit to Antrim today (Monday 22nd October), lasted from 9.30am until Midday.  The weather was perfect, though slightly cool, with plenty of sunshine and a slight breeze.  With the return of   2AAR   and   2ADV , last weekend, the total of 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, recorded at the Marina this winter, had increased to 27 birds.

Despite, the shortened visit, 23 'colour-ringed' gulls were recorded today, the highest total for a single visit so far this winter.  Of the four gulls, which were not recorded at the Marina,   2AAV , was spotted later on, at it's other favourite haunt - Antrim's Elim Church.

Two other 'ringed' gulls, caught my attention today.  The first of these, present on my arrival, was a 'metal-ringed' bird, which promptly flew away and did not return.  This could have been   2ABL , who managed to discard it's 'colour-ring', a long time ago.  The other, a 'colour-ringed' bird, completely took me by surprise, as I could have sworn it was   2ABA .

A non resident,   2ABA , would return to the Marina, in late July.  Having recommenced my weekly visits, in early August, there had been no sign of   2ABA , and, along with   2AAC , I wrote off both birds a few weeks ago as dead.  Another gull, whose visits have decreased, as it has became older, is   2ANS , who I thought would have put in an appearance by now.  I'm open minded on   2ANS , at present and still hopeful on it's return.  Anyway,   2ABA , flew off as I returned to my car to get the camera, but fingers crossed for my next visit.

Overall numbers of Black-headed Gulls visiting, are still slightly below what I'd normally expect to see at this time of the year.  The maximum total, reached a peak of around 100 birds, shortly before my departure.  The gulls are becoming visibly hungrier, and now come a lot closer for food.  It should not be too long now, before I can start catching birds to be ringed.

The next returnee, should be   2AFD , from Latvia.  I would be very surprised, should it arrive by my next visit, but I'm still plumping on the first weekend of November.  This will leave me with a few gulls, that I caught and ringed last winter.  I'm still building profiles on these birds, so at present, do not know anything about their return dates.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAR   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (22 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 21st December 2012, at Antrim Marina)

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina - Monday 22nd October 2018
 2AAT   2ADV   2CJT   2AAN   2CSR   2ADJ   2ABS   2CSA 
 2CSJ   2BRA   2AAR   2ABN   2AAB   2CSK   2ABF   T35J 
 2AAA   2AAP   2CSB   2ACV   2CSS   2ABK   2AAK   

Today's Absentees
 2ABL   2AAV   2BRD   2CSL 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
A couple of weeks ago, I stated that the small female Common Gull, which had been 'metal-rung' as a chick, in Scotland, was due to return.  Last week, saw the return of that gull, though I could not confirm the ring number.

At 11.15 this morning, I again saw her standing on the railings of the long jetty.  Trying to take photos of the ring number, all I could get, was the 'ring butts', before she took off heading out to the breakwater.  It seems as though, she's not too fond of the new 'works compound', but having said that, I know from past experience of her, it takes a week or two for her to settle back into 'life' at the Marina.  I'll capture that ring number, at some time.

If this was    EY64036 , she was the third adult Common Gull, recorded at the Marina, during my visit.  The first one appeared at 09.53, the second arriving around 10.20.

Metal Ringed Common Gull  -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (22 Oct 2018)

A sub-adult Herring Gull, was already present on my arrival, remaining throughout my visit.  This bird has been a quite regular visitor over the last few weeks.  A second near adult, landed at the end of the long jetty, around 11.40.  It only remained for a matter of minutes, not seemingly to fond of all the activity around the Marina.

3 adult Mute Swans, were present throughout my visit, which included   W34158 .  Four large cygnets, flew by at 10.50, heading towards the Lough, having come from upriver.  I wondered if the belonged to the family party, which had five cygnets, which have been frequent visitors to the Marina.  If so, this is the first time, any of these cygnets, have ventured away from their parents.

Mallard numbers, are still on the fairly low side, with around 40 birds at first, increasing over the morning to around 60 ducks.  Again, the majority were checked for rings, but still no joy on these.

3 Hooded Crows, a pair of Pied Wagtails, and the unusually low total of 3 Jackdaws, were the only other species noted today.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC Car Park & Baptist Church
With a shortened visit to Antrim Marina, I had time to visit the three other sites in Antrim Town, before returning home and getting ready for work.

With   2AAV , absent from the Marina today, I stopped by the Elim Church, it's other favoured haunt.  On parking, I could seen a fair number of gulls on the roof, and straight away noticed a 'metal-ring', glistening in the sunshine.

Looking at it through my binoculars, this Black-headed Gull, was rung on the left leg, and the tallish ring told me that it was a foreign bird.  I immediately suspected that it was from Finland, as I've noted in the past, they nearly always ring their gulls on the left leg.

Using my new camera, I could not believe the 'ease', zooming into the ring number, despite the gull, resting by the ridge of the roof.  Having taken a handful of photos from different angles, all the gulls took to the air, flying towards nearby houses.  I could hear that distinct call the gulls make, when they announce 'there's food over there'.

Retreating back to my car, I looked to see what I'd captured on the ring, to find I had an incomplete number -   ST239.1** , and the gull was from Finland.  Hoping to lure the gull back to the Church, with bread, the only ring spotted, was that of   2AAV .

Later, on returning home, I checked my 'partial number' on the spreadsheet, which came up with a match.  Today's sighting, appears to be   ST239.172 , which spotted in this area in 2016.  I recorded it, on four occasions that year, 3 times at the nearby KFC car park (18th Sep, 25th Sep & 2nd Oct), and here at the Elim Church, on the 6th November.

Today's sighting, is no doubt the same gull, but hopefully, it will hang out long enough in the area, so that I can complete the full ring number.  If this is,   ST239.172 , it is 14 years, 3 months and 11 days, since it was rung as a juvenile, on the 11th July 2004, at Turku, Finland.

Black-headed Gull  -  Finland    ST239.1**   -  Elim Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (22 Oct 2018)

Moving on to the nearby KFC car park, just 18 Black-headed Gulls, and a single Common Gull, were present.  No rings spotted here though.

My final stop, was at Antrim's Baptist Church.  Here, I was 'gobsmacked', by the number of Black-headed Gulls, in the area.  Most were resting on the grass areas around the Church, and easily exceeded a highest ever total, of 200 plus birds.  Parking in the grounds of the Church car park, about 150 of the gulls, came for my bread offering.

Despite the large total, the only ring spotted, was that of the Polish-rung (White) TY43.  Having come across this gull last winter, I have established, that TY43, is a 'winter' resident around the Baptist Church.

Black-headed Gull  -  Poland (White) TY43)  -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (22 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as a Juvenile/1st Winter bird, on the 9th February 2012, at Olsztyn, Poland)


      Saturday 20th October 2018       
Having had a largely disappointing visit to County Down last weekend, I thought I'd give it another go today.  On the way, I stopped to check three sites in the Belfast area - Whitehouse Lagoon, Whiteabbey shore and the mudflats at Dargan.

The first ring of the day, was spotted on the Whiteabbey shoreline, this being, Common Gull,   2AIP , which is frequently recorded here.

Common Gull  -    2AIP   -  Whiteabbey Shoreline, Whiteabbey, Co. Antrim  (20 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 11th June 2012, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)

Next stop, was at Whitehouse Lagoon, where surprisingly, not a single ringed bird was spotted.  This was quite surprising, as there were loads of gulls and waders 'on show'.

Moving on to the mudflats, at nearby Dargan, I spotted a 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher, which was quite distant.  Using my new camera, this was going to be the first serious test, of it's zoom capability.  That test, easily exceeded expectation, and I thought 'WOW', this is a seriously useful bit of kit.

The Oystercatcher, rung OR-W(NC), was a bird spotted by Suzanne Belshaw, here on these mudflats, on the 2nd March 2018.  Suzanne's sighting, was the first record of it, having been rung as a breeding adult, in south-west Iceland, on the 19th May 2017.

I emailed my sighting to Böddi, and received an updated PDF file in return.  OR-W(NC), had been re-sighted twice in Iceland, since Suzanne saw it in March.  It was recorded on the 2nd April, and again, on the 11th June 2018, back in Garður, where it had originally been ringed.

My thanks goes to Böddi, for supplying the update.  As I write this, it's just occurred to me, that Böddi, has not sent updated files, for Oystercatcher's recorded this winter at Whitehouse Lagoon and Carnlough Bay, as well as that of a new sighting, I recorded on the pond beside Kinnegar Beach.  I must drop him a note about these, as they have clearly been overlooked.

Oystercatcher  -  O(range)R(ed)-W(hite)(NC)  -  Dargan Mudflats, Belfast  (20 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 19th May 2017, at Garður, SW Iceland)

Moving on, into County Down, the next ring spotted, was on a Herring Gull, along the Donaghadee seafront.  The code on this bird, was easily captured, being   2K:W .  Returning home, and checking my spreadsheet, it appears, that this was a first ever sighting for this gull.

I have most, if not all, of the ringing data, for these type of rings, which belong to a fairly recent project, started on the Copeland Islands in 2014.    2K:W , was ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 5th May 2015.  I have emailed Adam McClure, who is the ringing coordinator for the project.  I doubt that I'll receive a reply, as Adam, has not responded to emails in months, and his own blog, has not been updated since February 2018.

Big Copeland Island, lies a short distance away from Donaghadee, so   2K:W   is fairly local.  Several other Herring Gulls, from this project, are also awaiting their first re-sightings, which is surprising due to their size.

Herring Gull  -    2K:W   -  Donaghadee (Seafront), Co. Down  (20 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 5th May 2015, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

The next 'ringed' bird spotted, was another Herring Gull, from the aforementioned project -   1L:W .  Spotted on the 'north beach', at Millisle, this was my third sighting of   1L:W , which was ringed on the 6th May 2015.

My previous sightings were made on the 3rd September 2016, and on the 11th March 2018.  The first ever sighting of   1L:W , was made by David Nixon, on the 10th February 2016.  All records of this gull, have come from the Millisle area.

Herring Gull  -    1L:W   -  Millisle (North Beach), Co. Down  (20 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 6th May 2015, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

There were loads of gulls on the beach just to the north of Millisle.  Having spotted and photographed the Herring Gull, I began scoping through the many gulls present, as the tide was fully out.

A Black-headed Gull, was spotted with a tall 'metal', on it's left leg, which I presume, would be a Finnish bird.  Even with my new camera, the gull was too distant, to zoom into it's ring.  I dared not try to cut down the distance, as gulls closer to me, would have took to the air, which would have resulted in the others, to do likewise.

In a distant clearing, I then spotted a Common Gull, with a 'Green Darvic'.  I guessed straight away, that this bird, was Norwegian in origin.  Now came the first big test, for my new camera.  From the road, where I was parked, to the gull, was easily one kilometre or more, away.  Success, the code was captured, being -   J202 .  My old P900, which has served me well, over the last two years, would not have got this one.

Returning home, I entered the gulls ring number, onto the 'Live Norwegian Ringing Database', and soon had it's ringing and re-sighting history.    J202 , was ringed as a chick, on the 20th July 2013, in the Mandal area, of Norway.  It's only previous re-sighting, was made on the 1st August 2016, 1 kilometre away from the ringing site.  The duration, is now 5 years and 3 months, since being rung, having travelled 885 kms / 549 miles (WSW), to reach Millisle.

Common Gull  -    J202   -  Millisle (North Beach), Co. Down  (20 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 20th July 2013, at Mandal, Norway)

Normally,   J202 , should have been the sighting of the day, but that was surpassed by a Common Gull, from Shane Wolsey's former project on the Copeland Islands.  As regular readers of my blog, are aware, the 'Blue Darvic's' used by Shane, tend to become illegible at a serious rate, once used.

Today, I fell in with four of these Common Gulls, two here on Millisle's north beach, and another two at Millisle itself.  Despite taking long range photos of all four gulls, three of the 'Darvic's' were in such poor condition, they appeared to be 'White' and virtually unmarked.  I know from experience, if you can get close enough to such rings, the 'indentation' of the code can be read, which unfortunately could not be done today.

However, I was able to capture some details on one bird, who's code, could not be read until I had returned home, and downloaded the photos to my laptop.  Here, the code appeared to read -   2HVL , which from the ringing records that I had been given, by Shane, would have been a first ever re-sighting.

As mentioned earlier in this post, I was in contact with Graham McElwaine, concerning Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina.  As a 'poser', I sent a copies of my photos to Graham, to see if he could make out the code.  His reply came back as   2HVL .  Suzanne Belshaw, was also sent copies of the photos, whilst responding to an email that I received from her.  Again, the reply came back as   2HVL .

Satisfied, with these responses, I could now except the record of my own sighting.  It has been 7 years, 4 months and 18 days, since   2HVL , was ringed as a chick, on Big Copeland Island (8 kms N.).

Common Gull  -    2HVL   -  Millisle (North Beach), Co. Down  (20 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 2nd June 2011, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)

Not so long ago (30th September 2018), I received an email from a Jan Rod, who had spotted a Common Gull, on the Rogerstown Estuary, at Portrane, County Dublin.  This bird, also had a 'Blue Darvic', which was also in a very poor condition.  Jan, reckoned the code read -   2ABA , but was not 100% sure.  It would have helped, if this gull, had been re-sighted here in the past, but if Jan's reading of the code was correct, this would have also been the first record of the bird, since it had been ringed as a chick, in June 2010.

Over the course of our correspondence, I quoted, that it was a pity, that Jan could not have taken any photos.  Jan informed me that his current camera, was not powerful enough, to capture images at a long distance, and due to my blog, was considering the purchase of a Nikon P900.  This was halted, as Nikon, had just released their new camera, the P1000, which I knew nothing about, until Jan brought it to my attention.  Whilst Jan ponders on what to do next, I could not resist, and my new P1000, is already proving to be an invaluable bit of kit.


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