Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Spot On...

      Antrim Marina - Monday 15th October 2018       
Although I spent Saturday afternoon birdwatching in County Down, I fell ill that evening, and postponed my visit to Antrim Marina on Sunday.  Having improved by late afternoon on Sunday, I visited my local park in Ballymena and went to the Marina on Monday morning.

Getting into my car this morning, there was ice on the windscreen, and the temperature read 2.5°C.  On reaching Antrim Marina, the temperature had risen to 5.5°C.  I arrived at 9.15am, and had planned to depart at midday, but stayed until 1pm instead, trying to get a particular photo.  Throughout my visit, we had warm bright sunshine, a near perfectly blue sky, and the Lough was a smooth as glass.

Over my two previous posts, I stuck my neck on the line, predicting the imminent return of three gulls in particular.  A fortnight ago, I predicted the return of   2AAR   from Poland, and the return of   2ADV , whose summer residence is as yet unknown - though I would hazard a guess, it's somewhere in Continental Europe.

Last week, I made mention, that the small 'metal-rung' female Scottish-rung Common Gull, was also due to return.    2AAR   and   2ADV , were predicted to return, between this, and next weekend.

At 9.40, this morning, my fifth 'colour-ring' sighting of the day, was that of   2AAR .  I returned to my car, to collect my camera, but   2AAR , flew off.  I waited until 1pm, hoping it would pay another visit, without any luck.  My luck was returned in another way.  Having decided to stay for that extra hour, my other predicted returnee -   2ADV , was spotted at 12.33.  Just as well, that I had my camera to hand this time, as moments later, it also flew off.  A 'metal-rung' Common Gull, was also spotted, at 11.45 this morning, but more on that one, can be read below.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADV   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (15 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 15th December 2013, at Antrim Marina)

Before the arrival of    2AAR  and   2ADV , my 'winter list' of 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, stood at 25 individuals.  Along with the aforementioned two gulls, I re-sighted 19 'colour-rings' altogether today, with 8 gulls not appearing.

As of late, overall numbers of BHGs visiting the Marina, were disappointingly low for most of the time, never exceeding the 60 mark.  There was a sudden boost in numbers, over the last half hour of my visit, when the overall total, may have topped one hundred.  I still firmly believe, that the new building works, are effecting the number of gulls visiting.  Many of the 'colour-ringed' gulls, departed almost as quickly, as they had arrived.

With the overall number of 'colour-ringed' BHGs, now having increased to 27, the next returnee, should be   2AFD , from Latvia.  I reckon, it will return by the weekend of Sunday 4th November.  Five of the gulls, that I caught and ringed last winter, have yet to be re-sighted.  One of these five   2CST , can be read about below (see Sunday 14th October).

Of the other four,   2CSD , was the juvenile BHG, that damaged it's tail, making it's flight awkward.  Although I'd love to re-sight it again, I reckon, this gull would have been an easy target for a predator, such as a Sparrowhawk.

  2CSF , was spotted in northern Iceland, on the 12th July 2018, it's return is now eagerly awaited on.    2CSC , should arrive back in November, as I believe, this was the same bird that landed on my fist, during each of the previous two winters - initially as a juvenile.

This then leaves us with   2CSH , which I know nothing about.  If it were a resident, is should have been re-sighted long ago.  It's non appearance so far, would indicate it's from the Continent.  I can only speculate on this at present, but it's return will strengthen this notion.  In the meantime, I'll just have to wait and see.

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina - Monday 15th October 2018
 2AAB   2AAT   2CJT   2AAN   2AAR   2AAA   2BRA   2CSR   2ABF   2ABK 
 2ACV   T35J   2CSJ   2ABS   2CSA   2AAK   2ADV   2ADJ   2CSL    

Today's Absentees
 2AAP   2ABN   2ABL   2AAV   2BRD   2CSB   2CSK   2CSS 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Common Gulls, have to be my starting point today.  As mentioned in previous posts, I reckon the new building work, is putting the Common Gulls, off, from visiting.  A single adult appeared last week, and was clearly nervous.  At 9.30 this morning, an adult arrived, which I reckoned, was the same bird spotted last Sunday.  I based this on the small, yellow tip, on it's beak, but it seemed less wary this week.

At 11.45 this morning, I spotted two Common Gulls flying around the Marina.  One of them landed on the concrete jetty, was the bird recorded earlier, the other landing on the long wooden jetty, was 'metal-rung'.  Moving towards it, armed with my telescope and camera, I was disappointed, just to see the 'ring butts' - not a letter or number in sight.  After a few minutes, the gull flew off, landing on the distant breakwater at the entrance of Lough Neagh.

I have no doubt, that this was the small Scottish-rung female -   EY64036 , who I stated last week, was now due to return.  Hopefully, I can get a few photos of the ring on my next visit.

If this is   EY64036 , then this is the sixth winter running, that it has been recorded at Antrim Marina.    EY64036 , initially wintered in 2013/2014, as a juvenile/1st winter bird, having been ringed as a chick in June 2013, at Hunterston, in Ayrshire, Scotland.

Metal-Ringed Common Gull at Antrim Marina, on Monday 15th October 2018

A sub-adult Herring Gull, arrived at 9.25, but flew off moments later.  This bird appeared to be slightly different, to the sub-adult, which has been present here over previous weeks.

There were no Mute Swans on my arrival, but the family party of two adults and five large cygnets, arrived in from the Lough at 10.35.  They hauled themselves onto the slipway, remaining throughout the rest of my visit.

Mallard numbers, were more or less the same as last week, down from the 100 plus recorded not so long ago.  With 30 to 40 birds present on my arrival, the maximum just surpassed the 70 mark, by 12.30.  Still waiting on my first ring sighting this winter.

Other species noted today, were 4 Magpie's, 2 Hooded Crow's, 4 Jackdaw's and a single Grey Wagtail.

Due to staying, that extra hour at Antrim Marina, I did not have time to visit the other sites around Antrim Town.  I had to return home to Ballymena, to get ready for work.  This included making my dinner, as the wife was working.


      Saturday 13th October 2018       
What a miserable day it was today.  It rained constantly until the latter hours of the afternoon.  Checking the 'Tide Tables' for the eastern coast of Northern Ireland, high tide, was roughly around 2.30pm.  Thinking of where to go today, I decided to visit the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, in County Down, first, before cutting across to Millisle, and then southwards towards a finish at Portaferry.  Last week, I had planned to visit sites in County Down, but ended up, remaining at Kinneger Beach, for the whole afternoon.

Arriving at Castle Espie, the rain was still pouring down.  I made my way to the hide, which provides good views of Strangford Lough, and the tidal lagoon, within the centre's grounds.  Being in position, for the eventual high tide, I was hoping to see a good number of waders and gulls, arriving onto the lagoon to roost.  By 3.15pm, the tide filled the shore in front of the hide, but none of the expected birds, came near the lagoon.

Despite this, there were thousands of Brent Geese spread out over the Lough, and as the incoming tide, pushed them ever closer to me, I spotted two birds that were 'colour-ringed'.  Although, still a good distance away from me, I captured their 'ring codes', with my camera.

Returning home, I emailed Graham McElwaine, reporting my sightings, with a reply arriving a couple of hours later.  The first goose spotted, rung Niger(Black) J / White P, was ringed earlier this year, having been rung on the 10th February 2018, at Dundrum, a few miles to the south of Castle Espie.

It was re-sighted on five occasions through March to mid April (21st), at Dundrum, and was then reported on the 23rd April, on the Isle of Tiree, in the Inner Hebrides, Scotland.  No further sightings were reported, until I recorded the goose today.  In the meantime, this bird has bred within the Canadian Arctic Circle, as it appeared to have a juvenile in 'tow' with it today.

Brent Goose  -  NJWP  -  Castle Espie, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (13 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 10th February 2018, at Dundrum Inner Bay, Co. Down)

The second 'colour-ringed' Brent Goose, spotted, was Niger(Black) A / White U.  This bird, was also ringed at Dundrum, but this time, in 2006.  Originally ringed as White K / White P, it was re-trapped on the 9th February 2018, at Dundrum, and had it's rings replaced, as it's initial rings, were worn.

NAWU, over the years, favours Strangford Lough and Dundrum Bay, as it's principle wintering quarters, but has been known to venture further south, visiting Baldoyle Bay and the Malahide Estuary, in the Republic of Ireland.  Away from Ireland, it has only been reported on a single occasion, in Iceland.

Brent Goose  -  NAWU  -  Castle Espie, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (13 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 10th January 2006, at Dundrum Inner Bay, Co. Down)

With a hugely disappointing visit to Castle Espie, I stopped briefly at Islandhill, before moving on the Millisle - a 'hotspot' for 'ringed' Common Gulls.  Arriving at Millisle, my first thought was 'where have all the gulls gone', which turned out to be the theme for the rest of the afternoon.

Gulls and waders, were nearly non-existent, all down the eastern shore of County Down.  They had all moved inland, where some fields had hundreds of gulls feeding on them.  Perhaps, the heavy rainfall, may have forced worms to surface in great numbers!!  Anyhow, the gulls on grass, are no good to me whilst trying to 'read rings'.  Even at Portavogie Harbour, which normally 'teems', with larger gull species, was practically void of any gulls at all.

The only two spots, that had any sort of numbers, was at Ballywalter and Portaferry Marina.  Ballywalter Harbour, then produced the sighting of the day, which more than 'paid' for the lack of gulls and ring sightings, this afternoon.

Here, for the second time this autumn, I was on the lookout, for my oldest 'British-rung' Black-headed Gull -   ET02500 .  My last sighting of this gull, was made on the 23rd December 2017, here at the harbour, and was my fifth record of the bird overall.  At that point, it had been 19 years, 6 months and 8 days, since   ET02500 , had been ringed as a chick.

Parking my car near the harbour wall, I started to throw out bits of bread, which quickly attracted a small number of Black-headed Gull, and a few juvenile Herring Gulls.  In no time at all, a 'metal-rung' BHG arrived, which immediately began to 'boss' the other gulls, trying to chase them away from my car.  I knew from previous experience, this gull was my bird, but I had to get photos of the ring to prove my sighting.

As always, the gull was hard to track, as it rarely stood still.  With much patience, which also included three dog walkers passing by (the scourge of 'Ring Readers'), my bird returned each time, and enough photos were taken to capture the number.  This was indeed   ET02500 , the duration now being 20 years, 3 months and 28 days, since being ringed on the Copeland Islands, in County Down.

As you can imagine, I was really 'dead' chuffed to record this gull for the sixth time.  Hopefully, it will survive the winter, with a few more sightings being recorded before the breeding season next year.

Black-headed Gull  -    ET02500   -  Ballywalter Harbour, Ballywalter, Co. Down  (13 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 15th June 1998, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

As mentioned above, the only other site, where gulls could be viewed in half decent numbers, was at, and around, Portaferry Marina.  These included, 18 Great Black-backed Gulls, the largest number of these birds, that I've ever seen here.  I paid particular attention to these gulls, as I have recorded one with a 'Blue Darvic', in the past, which was originally ringed at Ireland's Eye, in the Republic of Ireland.

Having to wait ages, for some birds to stand up, no rings were spotted.  By now, it was getting close to dark, and ended a somewhat disappointing afternoon.  A visit to the local chip shop, cheered me up a bit, which quietened down my stomach, as by now, it was playing the 'tom toms'.


      Sunday 14th October 2018       
After falling ill overnight on Saturday, I postponed my visit to Antrim Marina, until tomorrow - Monday.  By late afternoon today, I started to feel quite well again, and decided to make a quick visit to my local park.

Taking a full loaf of bread with me, I checked the Black-headed Gulls for rings, this being my fourth or fifth visit over the last couple of weeks.  I have been very keen to re-sight, two birds that I recorded here last winter, namely -   2CST   &   2AXV .

  2CST , was a juvenile/1st winter bird, that I caught and ringed, on the 7th January 2018, at Antrim Marina, which lies roughly 10 miles south, from Ballymena.  Since being rung, it has not returned to Antrim Marina, despite my weekly visits there.  I spotted   2CST , on the 13th February 2018, here at The Peoples Park, in Ballymena, and thought it might return here this winter.  There was no sign of it today, but fingers crossed, that it will turn up at either site over the next few weeks.

I first recorded   2AXV , during the autumn/winter season of 2016/2017, as a juvenile/1st winter bird, on the 23rd October 2016.  It had been ringed as a chick, on the 7th June 2016, at Marsh Lane Nature Reserve, near Coventry, England.    2AXV , remained at The Peoples Park, until my last sighting that winter, on the 11th March 2017.

  2AXV , returned for the 2nd winter running, on the 1st September 2017, and was last seen on the 25th February 2018.  Today, having just finished off my loaf of bread, I was about to depart, when I noticed the top of a 'Darvic', poking out of the water.  With no more bread left, to entice the gull out of the water, I waited in hope.

As the gull walked along, I could see that it was a 'Black Darvic', but I could not see the code.  People were passing close by, and I was fearful, that the gulls might take flight.  Following the gull with the camera, the full ring came into sight, and photos were taken.  Just seconds later, the gulls were gone, but I had captured the code -   2AXV .

I was absolutely delighted, to have recorded another returning gull - here for it's third winter, and it looks likely, that Ballymena, will be it's wintering site for years to come.  The duration, since being ringed, is now 2 years, 4 months and 7 days, the distance from the ringing site, being 408 kms / 254 miles (NW).

Black-headed Gull  -    2AXV   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  (14 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 7th June 2016, at Marsh Lane Nature Reserve, near Coventry, England)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AXV   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  (13 Dec 2016)


No comments: