Thursday, 4 October 2018

Portuguese Delight...

Not much birding done of late, due to other commitments, but I carried out my normal visit to Antrim Marina, and followed that up, with a quick visit to Belfast's Whitehouse Lagoon.  During the week, while at home, I spotted a couple of loose flocks of Black-headed Gulls, flying slowly southwards.  These were possibly foreign birds, making their way to their wintering quarters.

Even in my home town of Ballymena, Black-headed Gull numbers seem to be increasing, especially on the lake, at my local park.  With the weather turning more autumnal, many of our 'ringed' birds, should now be settling down to winter at their favourite haunts.

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 30th September 2018       
Arriving at the Marina, at 9.50am, this morning, I carried out a normal four hour visit, departing just after 1.50pm.  With 25 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, recorded so far this autumn/winter season, 19 of them were spotted today.

The new 'works' compound, is still having an effect, on the number of gulls present, though some birds seem to have got used to it's presence.  Between, 1 & 2pm, saw the maximum number of Black-headed Gulls, which only reached 80 to 90 birds, whereas, I would normally expect to see as many as 150.

Now that we are entering the month of October, it should not be too long now, before we see the return of   2AAR   from Poland, and   2ADV , who's summer haunt is unknown.  If both are true to form, they should return between Sunday 14th, and Sunday the 21st October.  Next, would be   2AFD , who we know, goes to Latvia for the summer.  This gull is expected between Sunday 28th October, and Sunday 4th November.

Five of the twelve Black-headed Gulls, which I caught and 'colour-ringed', here last winter, have yet to be recorded so far during this autumn/winter season.  One of these,   2CSF , was spotted in northern Iceland, on the 12th July 2018, so I'm especially eager, to note the return of this one.  Another bird, which was rung   2CSC , might not arrive back until November.

This is the gull, which appeared in November 2017, which landed on my hand to feed.  I was certain, that it was the same gull, which as a juvenile, fed on my hand during the 2016/17 winter.  Because of the birds, confiding nature, it was easily caught and ringed.  I wonder if   2CSC , will announce it's arrival this winter, by landing on my hand?  

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina on Sunday 30th September 2018
 2ADJ   T35J   2CSA   2AAB   2CJT   2AAP   2CSJ   2CSR   2ABK   2BRA 
 2CSB   2ACV   2AAN   2ABF   2CSL   2AAK   2ABS   2AAV   2AAA   

Today's Absentees
 2AAT   2ABN   2ABL   2BRD   2CSK   2CSS 

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABS   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (30 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 23rd January 2013, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAB   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (30 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 11th December 2012, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAV   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (30 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 28th December 2012, at Antrim Marina)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Not a single Common Gull, was recorded at the Marina today, and for the first time this season, no Lesser Black-backed Gulls, appeared either.  Could it be possible, that the new 'works' compound, is dissuading the presence of the Common Gulls?  A single, near adult Herring Gull, was present throughout my visit.

Mallard numbers, were slightly lower this week.  Around 50 to 60 birds, present on my arrival, increased to between 80 and 90 ducks by the time of my departure.  Again, most were checked for rings, but still no joy.  I wonder if the County Monaghan 'Gun Clubs', are still rearing ducklings, which are tagged before release?

The only Mute Swan, recorded today, was   W34158 , which was present throughout my visit.  For the benefit, of the English lady, I was talking to,   W34158 , was ringed as an adult female, here at the Marina, on the 17th March 2014.  I spotted her, trying to read the ring number of the swan, and called out the number to her.  It turned out, that she was also a 'bird ringer'.  I never even thought to ask her a name, but she was very interested in my 'Ring Reading' at the Marina, and left with a card for my blog.

Other species recorded today, were, the three Hooded Crows (2 juveniles), 9 Jackdaws, a single Pied Wagtail, and a pair of Grey Wagtails.

Antrim KFC car park & Baptist Church
As   2AAV , was at the Marina today, I did not stop at Antrim's Elim Church.  But, driving by the church on my was to the KFC car park, only three Black-headed Gulls were perched on the roof.

No sign still, of the Norwegian-rung, Black-headed Gull -   JK35 , at the KFC car park.  It should really have returned by now.  I'm starting to think, as it was not seen back in Norway, during the past summer, that this bird has not survived it's migration.  However, I'm still hoping for it's return.  I'll not write this one off, just yet.

28 Black-headed Gulls, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Common Gull, and not for the first time in recent weeks, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, were counted at the KFC car park.

Finishing off, at Antrim's Baptist Church, only 12 Black-headed Gulls, were present.  This is a huge drop in numbers, where a few weeks ago, as many as 150 birds were present.  The Polish BHG - (White) TY43, was not present here today.


      Whitehouse Lagoon - Sunday 30th September 2018       
As my time out today was limited, I departed from the Antrim area, and headed straight to Whitehouse Lagoon, on the edge of Belfast.  Knowing, it would have been high tide on the coast, the Lagoon would not have been filled up with water, just yet.  On my arrival, the Lagoon was two-thirds under water, and filling fast.

Plenty of waders and gulls were present, and within ten to fifteen seconds, of scanning these birds with my binoculars, I spotted a Lesser Black-backed Gull, in the distance, which seemed to have a dark lump on it's leg.  Using the telescope, I could see that the lump, was actually a 'colour-ring'.  Grabbing my camera, which has a greater reach than my telescope, I took a few photos.

Sitting back, (using my car as a hide), I looked at the photos, and couldn't believe my luck.  This was my fourth sighting, of the Portuguese-rung -   F461 .  My previous three sightings of this gull, were made just up the road, on the Whiteabbey shoreline.  Having first recorded   F461 , on the 10th October 2015, I re-sighted the gull twice the following year, on the 27th August 2016, and the 15th October 2016.  Despite all my visits to Whiteabbey and Whitehouse Lagoon, in 2017,   F461 , eluded me, if it had returned.

'Ringed', Lesser Black-backed Gulls, are a scare commodity in Northern Ireland, so I'm always keen to re-sight birds previously recorded.    F461 , had been ringed by 'RIAS', which looks after sick and injured animals and birds.  No doubt,   F461 , was one of their patients, and was tagged before release.  It's fantastic, to record this gull again.  I have reported my sighting to RIAS, and await their reply.  I'm dying to know, whether or not,   F461 , has been reported anywhere else since October 2016, until now.

Lesser Black-backed Gull  -  Portugal    F461   -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (30 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 18th November 2014, at Quinta de Marim, Olhäo, Portugal)

It took a while, before I spotted the next ring, and this one was a Black-headed Gull from Adam McClure's, Northern Ireland Study.  Having spotted the bird with my binoculars, it took flight, as I was zooming in with my camera.  It landed in the river, directly in front of me, and started to bathe.  I had to wait for around 10 minutes, but after it came out, I managed a few photos.

Rung,   2ANB , I thought I had recorded a gull previously unknown to me.  On returning home, and checking my spreadsheet, I discovered that this was actually my third sighting of the bird.  I had previously recorded   2ANB , twice before, at Whitehouse Lagoon, on the 4th & 11th September 2016.

  2ANB , had been ringed as a chick, in July 2015, at Blue Circle Island, on Larne Lough, which is situated about 20 kms / 12 miles, to the north-east from Whitehouse Lagoon.  I have reported my sighting to Adam, but replies these days, are few and far between.  Until I receive a reply, I've no idea whether there are any other sightings of   2ANB , since my initial sightings in 2016.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ANB   -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (30 Sep 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 15th July 2015, at Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)


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