Thursday, 29 November 2018

More 1st's...

I couldn't get away on Saturday, and therefore decided to use the whole of Sunday, surveying the north, on the search for rings.  This should have culminated, with a visit to the East Strand, in Portrush, where a 'metal-rung' BHG, should have returned by now.  The afternoon ended a 'tad' short of my plans, though I was well pleased recording my first ever 'colour-ringed' Curlew, and two Sanderlings, 'to boot'.

Visiting Antrim Marina, on Monday, instead of Sunday, really gave me a bit of a headache.  The new construction work at the Marina, does not offer me the peace and quite, which a Sunday would afford me, and I really need time to look for 'ringed' birds elsewhere.

Weeks day's are of little or no use, as not only do I have to contend with a lot of traffic, but I have to return home in good enough time to prepare myself to go to work.  A few hours out, during weekday's, is not long enough, and adds to the fuel bill of my car, which is'nt good either.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 26th November 2018       
Not getting out at all on Saturday, I again decided to put off my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, electing to go on Monday, instead of Sunday.  This left all day on Sunday, to visit other sites on the search for rings.

Arriving at the Marina, just after 09.20, it was a nice calm sunny morning, with an almost complete blue sky.  The temperature gauge in my car read 1.5°C, having read -1.0°C, when I departed from my house.  A good number of Black-headed Gulls, were already present at the Marina, with around 60 birds on site.  Having so far, recorded 30 'colour-ringed' BHGs this winter, I re-sighted 13 birds, within the first half hour of my arrival.

After this time, my latest visit, turned into something of a disaster.  Firstly, two men arrived onto the slipway, with a boat, and took well over an hour, to prepare and launch it onto the river.  During this time, they set up a GPS system on a tripod, placed onto the short concrete jetty.  Immediately, this prevented the gulls from landing onto one of their favourite perching spots.

On asking one of the two men what they were doing, I was told that they were surveying the depth of the river, which flows past the Marina, into Lough Neagh.  According to them, it is looking likely, that the river will have to be dredged at some point in the near future.

Just prior to their boat being launched, a small digger and a dump-truck, arrived on the site.  The men here, then started digging the green, just outside of the compound, where the new cafe is being built.

All this disturbance, meant the gulls would not settle, and I only recorded another five 'colour-rings', when I finally called it a day, at 11.50am.  Black-headed Gulls, did arrive in some large groups, but just flew on, due to all of the activity.  Some did remain, but they just congregated on the low wooden jetty, close to the Crack Willow tree, and never numbered any more than around 50 birds.

Two Black-headed Gulls, that I had hoped to record today -   2AFD   2CSC , never appeared.  Even if they have returned, it would not surprise me, that they never landed due to all of the activity.  The only highlight of this visit, was my 18th re-sighting, which was the 2nd appearance of   2ANS , this winter. 

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, on Monday 26th November 2018
 2CSJ   2CJT   2BRA   T35J   2AAR   2CSL   2AAN   2ABK   2ABS 
 2CSA   2AAK   2AAP   2CSR   2CSH   2ACV   2CSK   2AAT   2ANS 

Today's Absentees
 2AAA   2ABN   2ADJ   2AAB   2ABL   2ABF 
 2AAV   2ADV   2BRD   2CSB   2CSF   2CSS 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
The sub-adult Herring Gull, and an adult Common Gull, were already present on my arrival this morning.  But due to the disturbance around the Marina, they became irregular visitors until my departure.  A second adult Common Gull, arrived just after 11am, but this too, did not favour what was going on.  No sign, of the 'metal-rung', Scottish Common Gull, a bird which I cannot confirm, though I'm sure it is   EY64036 .

The first Mute Swan, arrived from the Lough at 10.23.  It did come ashore onto the slipway, for a short time, before departing towards the Lough soon afterwards.  This bird was not ringed, but the arrival of another Swan at 10.55, turned out to be    W34158 , which is seen on a fairly regular basis.  A pair of un-ringed birds, appeared from the Lough at 11.20, and were still present, along with   W34158 , when I departed.

Mallard numbers, are still on slight high.  35 birds, increased to 47 ducks, by 10.20, and numbered around the 60 mark, by the time of my departure.  Again, most were checked for rings, but still no luck this winter.

There was a slight increase in Jackdaw numbers this week, with 9 birds being counted at one point.  2 Hooded Crows, parked themselves beside my car for long periods.  One of these two, readily took bread from the wing mirror of my car, a habit a bird did last winter.  Other than these, a single male Pied Wagtail, was the only other species recorded.

Normally, after leaving the Marina, I would visit three other sites around the town of Antrim, but I took a lazy fit, and didn't bother with these today.


      Ringing Details Received       
On Saturday the 10th November, I spotted a Herring Gull, on Kinnegar Beach, which was 'colour-ringed' -   T8ZY .  This gull, which had been ringed on the Isle of Man, was reported to both the BTO, and Mark Fitzpatrick, who is the ringing secretary, for the Manx Ringing Group.

The ringing details from the BTO, arrived with me, before Mark, replied to my email.  Between, ringing and my re-sighting,   T8ZY , had been spotted on three other occasions :-

03 Feb 2014 - Clougherhead, Co. Louth, Republic of Ireland.
21 Dec 2014 - Cruisetown, Co. Louth, Republic of Ireland.
17 Oct 2018 - Clougherhead, Co. Louth, Republic of Ireland.
10 Nov 2018 - Kinnegar Beach, Co. Down (my sighting).

My thanks goes to Mark, for forwarding these re-sightings.


I have received an email, from Graham Prole, in Dublin.  He has just received a reply from Germany, concerning a Black-headed Gull, which he spotted at Sean Walsh Park -   X35P   (20 Nov 2018).  Apparently, there is a long delay in replies, due to a staffing shortage.

Graham Prole, was providing me with a 'heads up', as he knows, that I'm waiting for a reply, on Black-headed Gull -   X82N .  Graham McElwaine, spotted   X82N , on the 1st November 2018, at Millquarter Bay, in County Down.  Hopefully, an email, will arrive with me soon. 


      A Sighting from Preston, England       
Arriving home from work, in the early hours of Saturday morning (24th Nov), I checked my emails, finding a couple in my Inbox.  One of these was intriguing, as I was being informed of a gull, which was not one, that I had ringed.  Admittedly, the observer who wishes to remain anonymous (initials - I.S.), only knew the bird as a 'gull'.  Trying to find the owner of the gull through BTO links, led 'I.S.' to contacting me.

The gull in question, was a Black-headed Gull, with a 'Blue Darvic', the code reading   2F02 .  As 'I.S.', reported seeing the gull at Preston Docks (Lancashire, England), my thoughts went back to a Black-headed Gull, spotted by Suzanne Belshaw, with the same or similar code.  On checking my spreadsheet, Suzanne, had spotted   2F05 , at Lurgan Park, in February 2017, this bird having been ringed at Preston Docks, in December 2012.

The Blue 2F(number),(number), series of ring codes, are registered to a different ringer.  The Blue 2F(letter),(letter) series, are registered to me, with both sets of rings, to be used only on Black-headed Gulls.

I replied to 'I.S.', suggesting that he should contact, both the BTO, and the registered ringer, with the details of his sighting, and provided links to each.

After getting out of bed on Saturday morning, I decided to undertake some detective work.  I checked out the Grid Ref, on the BTO's recovery details, that had been sent to Suzanne, and located SD5129, online, on Bing Maps.  Zooming into the same location on Google Maps, brought me down to a street view of Preston Docks.  In no time at all, I pinpointed from where 'I.S.', had taken his picture.

  2F02 , had it's photograph taken, in the car park, at Mariners Way, in Preston.  'I.S.', happened across   2F02 , whilst on his lunch break.  Armed, with all the information that I needed, I created a 'finding site', on my DemOn account with the BTO, and duly reported 'I.S.'s', sighting on his behalf, adding, his name and email address.

As with   2F05 , spotted by Suzanne, at Lurgan Park, I reckon,   2F02 , was caught and ringed on (or around), the same date as   2F05 , which was on the 17th December 2012.  I suggest, that these gulls were caught by hand, using bread, or something similar as a lure, either within the car park, or at the nearby Marina.

I have just received the ringing details for   2F02 , from the British Trust for Ornithology.    2F02 , was indeed ringed, on the 17th December 2012, in the Docks area of Preston.

Black-headed Gull  -    2F02   -  Preston Docks, Preston, Lancashire, England  (23 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 17th December 2012, at Preston Docks)
(Photo Courtesy of I.S.)

Black-headed Gull  -    2F05   -  Lurgan Park Lake, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  (03 Feb 2017)
(Ringed as a 1st Winter Bird, on the 17th December 2017, at Preston Docks, Preston, Lancashire, England)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)


      From Cameron Moore       
Having been pushed for time, to publish my previous post, I can now report on two Black-headed Gull sightings, which have been forwarded to me by Cameron Moore.

On the 10th November, Cameron, spotted one of Adam McClure's Study birds, on the seafront at Whitehead.    2AFF , had been ringed as a chick, on the Copeland Islands, in June 2013.  I have two previous re-sightings on my spreadsheet, the first, was on the 5th May 2014, when   2AFF , was spotted at Whitehouse Lagoon, on the edge of Belfast.

Adam McClure, spotted his own bird at Whitehouse Lagoon, on the 14th September 2015.  It's interesting to note, that this gull has re-surfaced just over three years, since last seen by Adam.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AFF   -  Whitehead, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (10 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2013, on Mew Island, The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)

Having received my text message, concerning the return of the Danish Black-headed Gull - (White) 5HA, on the 18th November 2018, Cameron, called by the seafront at Whitehead, the following day, and saw (White) 5HA, for himself.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  5HA  -  Whitehead, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (19 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a 3rd Calendar Year Male, on the 28th March 2015, at Gentofte, Denmark)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)


      Sunday 25th November 2018       
Having not been able to get out and about yesterday, I decided to make a day of it today, starting at the Inch Levels, in County Donegal, and working my way along the north coast, to finish at Portrush, Co. Antrim.  By the end of the afternoon, I only got as far as the Bann Estuary, having fell in with faces, old and new.

On reaching the Inch Levels by 9am, I could see small pockets of Whooper Swans, dotted around the fields, below my viewpoint on the main road, at Burt.  Most of the Whoopers, were situated well away from any of the side roads, except for two small flocks.  The first flock, which numbered around 50 birds, were in a grass field, along with between 300 and 400 Greylag Geese, and two Barnacle Geese.

Scoping all these, not a single neck-collar, was spotted on any of the Greylags, the Barnacle's were too far away, and the grass hid the legs of most Whoopers.  The legs of the Whoopers, could only be seen as they walked along.

The second field, was sort of divided into two parts, one of grass and the other, which appeared to be ploughed over.  The grass area, had a few Whooper Swans, a nice sized flock of Canada Geese, numbering 50 to 60 birds, amongst which, a few Greylags were also present.  Unfortunately, the grass, was far too high for legs to be checked for rings.

The ploughed area, had Whoopers and a few Greylags.  It was here, that I spotted a 'colour-ring' and a 'metal' only, on two of the 40 to 50 Whooper Swans.  The 'metal', was of no use to me, but I soon captured the code on the 'colour-ring' -   YPY .

On returning home on Sunday evening, I checked out my Whooper Swan sighting on the cr-birding website, to find that   YPY , had been ringed by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.  Sending an email, reporting my sighting, I received a reply from Kane Brides, just before 9am on Monday morning.

  YPY , had been ringed as an adult female, on the 24th February 2016, on the WWT Reserve, at Caerlaverock, in Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland.  Away from Caerlaverock,   YPY , had only been spotted at two other locations, both in Norfolk, England.  On the 14th November 2016, it was seen on another WWT Reserve, at Welney, and then on the 21st January 2017, was re-sighted on the nearby Hilgay Fen.

My thanks goes to Kane, for the quick reply, and information provided.

Whooper Swan  -    YPY   -  Inch Levels, Co. Donegal, Republic of Ireland  (25 Nov 2018)
(Ringed aa an Adult Female, on the 24th February 2016, at Caeraverock, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland)

Leaving County Donegal, my next stop, was on the Myroe Levels, situated on the eastern shore of Lough Foyle.  The first thing that struck me, was where had all the Whooper Swans gone.  I came here, not so long ago, and there were hundreds of Swans dotted about on the Levels and nearby farmland.  The only ones, that I saw here, were steadily gaining height having just taken off, as I approached the Levels.  This group, consisting of around 15 birds, flew westwards towards Eglington.

Driving along the track of the seawall, which separates Lough Foyle, from the Levels, I could see a small number of Greylag Geese and a few dozen Curlews, which were well spread out, over a very lengthy grass field.  Scoping the Greylags first, no 'neck-collars' were seen, so I then scanned through the Curlews.  At the far side of the field, I spotted my first ever 'colour-ringed' Curlew.  I was in trouble with this one, as those who can testify and know the area, can tell you, just how long these fields are.

I even drove around to the road, over on the far side, only to find that I was blanked out, by the embankment of the Coleraine to Londonderry railway line.  Returning to my previous position, I played a waiting game, hoping my Curlew, would at least get to somewhere near, to the middle of the field.

Bit, by bit, the Curlew got closer - to a point, that my new camera, managed to capture the 'colour-rings', even though I was well into digital mode.  Bright sunshine, reflecting off, the grass did not help, but a number of photos were taken.  Pausing to look at what I had captured, my bird had one 'colour-ring', on it's right leg, and two 'colour-rings', on the left leg.  What was worse, was that one of the two 'colour-rings', had a code, which read either '8Y' or 'BY'.

Even after returning home, and downloading the photos onto my laptop, I was still undecided about the code.  Knowing, that if I could track down the ringer, they would know what the correct code should be.  I decided to email the photo, to Richard Du Feu, who seems to know everything about ringed waders, along with photos of two 'colour-ringed' Sanderlings, that I came across, later that afternoon.

Richard, as usual, 'came up trumps', sending carbon copies to the ringers concerned.  Next, came a reply from Hywel Maggs, who is the Senior Conservation Officer, for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, based in their East Scotland office.

The Curlew, was 'colour-ringed', as a chick, on the 19th June 2015, with White(BY), over Yellow, on the left leg, and Green, over it's 'metal ring', on it's right leg.  My sighting of this bird, was a first, having been ringed in the Strathdon area, in Aberdeenshire.  Understandably, I was well pleased, to have my first ever 'colour-ringed', Curlew sighting, confirmed.

Hywel, asked, if he could include my photo, in their next news letter, to which I gladly agreed.  My thanks goes to Richard and Hywel, for their help on this bird.

Curlew  -  W(BY)Y-G  -  The Myroe Levels, Lough Foyle, Co. Londonderry  (25 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2015, at Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)

I spent a long time on the levels, and also checked the estuary, where the River Roe, enters Lough Foyle.  On the whole, I was very disappointed, with the number of gulls and waders present.  Normally, numbers would be far higher than they were today.  Oystercatchers and more Curlews, were scoped, these being present in higher numbers, and even more surprising, was the sighting of a single Brent Goose.

A couple of cars, containing other birdwatchers, were busy travelling up and down the gravel track.  I recognised a couple of these birdwatchers, one of which asked me, had I seen the 'Lesser Yellowlegs'.  I knew of the presence of this rarity, before my visit here, having read about it on the NIBA website.

I had seen Redshank and Greenshank, but according to the NIBA website, the Lesser Yellowlegs, was re-sighted here today.  Even at that, I have no interest in rarities, unless they are ringed.  A ringed bird, tells a story, whereas an un-ringed bird, no matter how rare it is, means nothing to me.

I had spent a lot of time on the levels, with little reward, so I moved on to the Bann Estuary, parking on the Castlerock side of the River.  After initially scoping loads of waders, especially Curlews, on the southern side of the hide, which overlooks the River Bann, I returned to my car, to put on my walking boots.

I had spotted a number of gulls, and a small number of waders, to the north, and needed to walk along the shore, to cut down on the distance.  On my way back to the car, I came across what I thought was another birdwatcher, but in a later conversation, this guy was interested in wildlife photography.  Next, I ran into my ringing trainer John Clarke, and fellow ringer Ken Perry.

They were here, on hearing news, that another 'Lesser Yellowlegs', had been spotted on this estuary.  John, knowing me for my passion of 'Ring Reading', informed me, that he had spotted a 'colour-ringed' Sanderling, nearby, on a recent visit here.

Having, donned my walking boots, I headed off north towards the gulls, and straight away, fell in with a group of Sanderlings.  Scoping these, I spotted a 'colour-ringed' bird, which I found out later, was the very bird John, had told me about.  I took a few photos, and carried on towards the gulls.  Having scanned through them several times, and some nearby Cormorants, no more rings were spotted, and I made my way back.

Stopping to chat to the photographer, we eventually got around to talking about other things, other than wildlife.  It turned out, this guy, Mervyn Graham, was at the same secondary school, around the same time, when my ringing trainer, John and I, attended.  It's a small world at times.

Whilst talking to Mervyn, another Sanderling caught my eye, which was 'colour-ringed', but this one had 'red rings', unlike the bird I had seen previously.  With further photos taken, it was getting late, and Mervyn and I, returned towards our vehicles.  We came across John & Ken, who had no luck in sighting the 'Lesser Yellowlegs'.

I mentioned to John, that I had spotted two 'colour-ringed' Sanderlings, the second of which, was possibly the same bird, that had been spotted by a National Trust Warden.  By the time that I had returned home, John had emailed photos, of his, and the Warden's photos.  My two sightings today, were of the same two birds.  John, also mentioned a website, called 'Animal Track', where the Sanderling sightings, could be entered, which leads to the birds life histories.

The system used to code the 'colour-combinations', seems to be a trifle confusing, but I have decided to use the given codes for each of my sightings.  Note, that 'G1' and 'G4', actually refers to the position of the 'Green Flag', on each birds leg.

The first Sanderling - G4YWBG, was ringed on the 22nd May 2016, at Sandgerði, in S.W. Iceland.  There had been no recorded sightings until this month (November), where it has now been noted on three occasions.  Barring my sighting today, John Clarke, spotted it here on the 18th, whilst Richard Donaghey, saw it on the nearby Portstewart Strand, on the 23rd.

Sanderling  -  G4YWBG  -  Bann Estuary, Co. Londonderry  (25 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 22nd May 2016, at Sandgerði, S.W. Iceland)

The second Sanderling, rung - G1RRYW, was ringed on the 10th May 2011, also at Sandgerði, S.W. Iceland.  It is slowly gathering an interesting re-sighting history :-

May 2011 - Sandgerði, S.W. Iceland.
May 2012 - Sandgerði, S.W. Iceland.
May 2016 - Háubakkar, N.E. Iceland.
May 2017 - Ardivachar, South Uist, Scotland.
Oct 2017 - Bann Estuary, Co. Londonderry, N. Ireland.
Oct 2018 - Magilligan Point, Co. Londonderry, N. Ireland.
Nov 2018 - Bann Estuary, Co. Londonderry, N. Ireland. 

Sanderling  -  G1RRYW  -  Bann Estuary, Co. Londonderry  (25 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 10th May 2011, at Sandgerði, S.W. Iceland )

Having not made it as far as Coleraine and Portrush, today proved quite rewarding, having spotted my first 'colour-ringed' Curlew, also my first 'colour-ringed' Sanderlings.  Last year, I missed out on two 'colour-ringed' Sanderlings at Portrush.  Photos were taken of these two, whilst standing on one leg.  However, two young lads just happened along, one of which unknowingly scared the birds away, by throwing stones.


Thursday, 22 November 2018

Good Days - Bad Days...

A hurried post this week, as I've had little time, to sit and write this out.  With a poor outing on Saturday, I postponed my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, until Monday, only to find I could not undertake the visit, hence, forcing a first ever Tuesday visit, which I could have done without.  I've had to leave out the 'Ringing Details Received', article, and another sighting by Cameron Moore.  These, I'll add to my next post.

      Antrim Marina - Tuesday 20th November 2018       
I once again, chose to visit Antrim Marina, on the Monday, instead of Sunday.  This gave me more time, on Sunday, to check sites, on the east Antrim Coast, finishing off, at Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, in Co. Down.  It also allowed me to re-visit some of the sites that I covered on Saturday afternoon, having recorded no rings, during a very poor day, weather-wise.

Arriving at the Marina, at 09.15, on Monday morning, to my horror, there was a lorry parked in the middle of my observation area, with two men busy power-hosing, the slipway and jetties.  I didn't stand a chance of recording any of the 'ringed' gulls, so I moved on, and checked the other three sites in Antrim Town.

Two 'colour-rings', were spotted at Antrim's Baptist Church.  One, was the Polish Black-headed Gull - (White TY43), and the other, was   2AAB , from Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study.  Having decided, to visit Antrim Marina, on Tuesday,   2AAB , was one of the absentees.

Black-headed Gull's  -  (White)  TY43  &    2AAB   -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Nov 2018)

This was the first time ever, that I have undertaken my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, other than on a Sunday or a Monday.  Tuesday morning, saw a fairly calm day, the temperature reaching 8°C, though it felt a lot colder, with the slight breeze, coming in from an easterly direction.

Throughout my visit, Black-headed Gull numbers, ranged from around 80 to a maximum of around, 120 to 140 birds.  Having recorded 30 'colour-ringed' individuals so far this winter, there was still no sign of   2AFD .  Going by past return dates, from Latvia,   2AFD , should be back again by now.  Hopefully, he is in the area, or perhaps just late in returning.  I'd hate to think, he hasn't survived his journey's to or from Latvia this summer.

Another gull, that I'm waiting on, is   2CSC , a bird I caught and ringed last winter.  With the Black-headed Gulls, now readily feeding from my hand, whilst in flight, I know if   2CSC , should return, this gull will actually perch onto my hand - the wait continues.

  2BRC , is a gull that I don't think I've mentioned so far this winter.  This is one of four Black-headed Gulls, which was caught and ringed, when I first met Adam here, on the 1st February 2015.    2BRC , is a rare visitor to Antrim Marina, each winter, but if it has survived the summer, I would expect to see this bird at some point over the next few weeks.  I actually, caught this bird by hand for ringing, so it has some significance to me, as it was my first capture of a BHG.

By the time of my departure, around 1pm, 25 of the 30 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, recorded so far this winter, were recorded today.  I was glad to see both of last week's latest returnees -   2CSF   &   2CSH .  Another returnee, which has not been recorded, over the past couple of weeks -   2ADV , was also spotted today.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, on Tuesday 20th November 2018
 T35J   2BRA   2AAT   2CSA   2CSB   2AAK   2CSK   2CJT   2ABS 
 2ABL   2AAR   2AAP   2CSH   2ACV   2ADJ   2CSJ   2ABK   2CSR 
 2ABN   2ADV   2AAA   2CSF   2ABF   2AAN   2CSL       

Today's Absentees
 2AAB   2AAV   2BRD   2ANS   2CSS 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Mute Swan -   W34158 , was present throughout today's visit to Antrim Marina.  It was joined, by another two Mute Swans, at 11.45, both un-ringed.  Mallard numbers, were slightly up this week, with around 40 birds at first, increasing to around the 80 mark, on my departure.  Once again, most were checked for rings.

Two adult Common Gulls, and the near adult Herring Gull, were also present throughout my visit.  A further two adult Common Gulls, arrived at 12.24 and 12.33, taking the total to four.  There was no sign of the small 'metal-rung' female, from Scotland.  As yet, I have not been able to confirm her ring number -   EY64036 .

The only other birds recorded during my visit, were 2 Hooded Crows and 4 Jackdaws.


      Saturday 17th November 2018       
What an awful day.  Finally, getting out early on Saturday afternoon, I decided to cover the coast, starting at Ballycastle, and hopefully reaching Carrickfergus, before dark.  I say before dark, but the whole afternoon, appeared to be like 'twilight'.  It was heavily overcast, and everywhere appeared 'gloomy', looking much like a thin fog.

The highlight of my afternoon, was when I neared my first stop, Ballycastle.  The sun broke through, several holes in the cloud, which produced a stunning 'Kaleidoscope', of colours, mixed through the gloom, unbelievable to look at - even stunning.

As I say, this was my highlight.  By the time I reached Carrickfergus, the light was failing at a rapid rate, and night-time was upon me.  I don't know, whether the strong wind, was a factor, but all the way down the coast, very few gulls were to be seen, and not a ring was found.  A long and cold afternoon, produced nothing.


      Sunday 18th November 2018       
Compared to yesterday, Sunday was glorious, with plenty of sunshine, a mostly clear sky, but I still had to contend with that chilly breeze.  I decided, it would be better to postpone my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, until tomorrow, as I had that feeling, that I would find rings today.  How true this was, as I recorded rings at every stop I made, with several re-sightings and a couple of new birds - the highlight being my first ever 'colour-ringed' Shelduck.

I back-tracked slightly today, starting at Glynn, just south of the port of Larne.  The tide, had begun to recede, which normally means, plenty of gulls.  Instead of the hundreds, I was hoping for, only a few dozen appeared, along with a handful of waders.

In the company of another couple of birdwatchers, I waited on the platform of Glynn railway station, scoping the gulls on Larne Lough.  A long way out, I eventually spotted a 'Yellow Darvic'.  Moving well into 'optical mode', my camera captured the code -   2H22 .

This was now my 4th sighting of this Common Gull, and the 6th record for it, on my spreadsheet.  Ringed as a chick, in June 2016, Cameron Moore, made the initial sighting, when he spotted the juvenile, at Whitehead, Co. Antrim, in September 2016.  By December 2016,   2H22 , had moved northwards, a short distance, to Sandy Bay, in Larne, where I recorded the gull for the first time.

The next two sightings, came in July 2017, where I found   2H22 , even further north, at Carnlough Bay, in County Antrim.  That was it, until last month (15th October 2018), when Cameron Moore, again recorded   2H22 , here at Glynn, the scene of today's sighting.

Common Gull  -    2H22   -  Glynn, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim  (18 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 26th June 2016, at Glenscorrodale, Isle of Arran, Ayrshire, Scotland)

My next stop, was at the coastal town of Whitehead.  I came here yesterday, by which time, dusk was setting in.  Only a few Black-headed Gulls were present, but I was on the lookout, for a Danish bird, which according to my spreadsheet records, should have returned by now.  No sign of it yesterday, but this morning, with a larger number of gulls present, there it was - the Danish (White) 5HA.

Although (White) 5HA, was ringed as an adult male, in March 2015, all re-sightings of this gull, have been at Whitehead - the initial record, being in November 2016, when spotted by Cameron Moore.  5HA, remained at Whitehead, until the 26th February 2017, when spotted independently of each other, by Stephen Foster & myself.

I recorded the return of (White) 5HA, on the 14th November 2017, the gull having arrived back for a 2nd winter running.  It remained at Whitehead, until last spotted by Ian Enlander, on the 26th February 2018.  I'm well pleased to see this bird's return for what is now the 3rd winter in a row.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  5HA  -  Whitehead, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (18 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a 3rd Calendar Year Male, on the 28th March 2015, at Gentofte, Denmark)

It was on to Carrickfergus harbour for my next stop.  Here, I was hoping to record a couple of Adam McClure's Study birds.  The only one, that did appear, was   2ADD .  I was really pleased to see this Black-headed Gull, as I failed to record it at Antrim Marina, during the breeding season, this past summer.

  2ADD , is known to winter at Carrickfergus, where it had been caught and ringed, by Adam, in November 2013.  I discovered, through my visits, to Antrim Marina, and other sites, around Antrim Town, that   2ADD , has an unusual pattern of movements.

Just prior to the breeding season,   2ADD   would leave Carrickfergus, and spend a few weeks, at the car park, of the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, on the outskirts of Antrim Town.  It would then move on to the Marina, where it undoubtedly breeds on the nearby, former, 'Torpedo Platform'.  After the breeding season has ended,   2ADD , would again spend a few weeks at the KFC car park, before returning to Carrickfergus, for another winter.

However, not only, did I not record   2ADD , at the Marina, the gull never appeared at the KFC, in the weeks after this summer's breeding season.    2ADD , was recorded at the KFC car park, from the 29th January, until the 19th March 2018.  Did, he even breed on Lough Neagh, or did he choose a different site, this year?  At least, with today's re-sighting, I know   2ADD , is alive and well.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADD   -  Carrickfergus Harbour, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (18 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 29th November 2013, at Carrickfergus Harbour)

Moving on from the harbour, to the nearby Rhanbouy Park, I was hoping to spot the Norwegian BHG -   JJ02 , for the second time this winter.  No problems here - after throwing bits of bread over the sea wall onto the beach, I soon had an audience, which included my target.

This is the second winter running, that I have recorded   JJ02 , here at Rhanbouy Park.  During the winter of 2016/2017, I did spot a 'Green Darvic', fairly close to Rhanbouy Park, which may well have been   JJ02 , but the code was not read until last winter (14th Nov 2017).    JJ02 , was last seen on the 10th February 2018, and was then re-sighted in Oslo, on five occasions during April 2018.  My first sighting of   JJ02 , this winter, was on the 19th August.

Black-headed Gull  -    JJ02   -  Rhanbouy Park, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (18 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 12th June 2014, at Oslo, Norway)

Next stop, was the beach at Whiteabbey.  With plenty of gulls about, I was hoping to spot at least a few rings, but ended up with one re-sighting.  I paid especial attention to the Black-headed Gulls, as it was a year ago today, since I spotted one of Eoin McGreal's birds, from his former project, at Lough Mask, in the Republic of Ireland.  At the time, my sighting, was a first for the gull, which had been rung with a 'Yellow Darvic', in 2007.  No sign of it today, but hopefully it'll turn up soon.

The re-sighting, was that of Common Gull -   2AIP   2AIP , has now been recorded, once a month here since August 2018.  Ringed as a chick, in 2012, it went un-recorded until October 2015, when I first spotted the gull at Whiteabbey beach.  Since then,   2AIP , has been spotted at Whiteabbey, every winter.

As I wrote this, a thought came into my head.  How come, I record very few ringed birds at Whiteabbey, which is situated on the northern side of Belfast Lough, whereas, at Kinnegar beach, to the south, I always seem to record a far greater number of rings.  Kinnegar beach, is more extensive, and does attract a greater number of birds, but proportionally, Whiteabbey, should be producing a few more ringed birds then it actually does.

Common Gull  -    2AIP   -  Whiteabbey Shoreline, Whiteabbey, Co. Antrim  (18 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 11th June 2012, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Leaving Whiteabbey, a few minutes drive, took me to Whitehouse Lagoon.  There was far fewer gulls and waders present here than normal.  Just the one 'colour-ring', was spotted, and this was my third sighting this winter, of (White) T56W, a Black-headed Gull, from Poland.  Ringed in June 2012, it has been recorded at Whitehouse Lagoon, each winter, since it's initial sighting, during the 2014/15 season.  My first sighting this winter, was on the 26th August, here on the Lagoon.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  T56W  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (18 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed, 2nd Calendar Year Bird, on the 16th June 2012, at Bielinek, Poland)

A wealth of gulls and waders, were feeding on the mudflats at Dargan.  Scoping for what seemed like an eternity, I eventually spotted an Oystercather, with a combination of 'colour-rings'.  I could not make out the colour of the (presumably) two rings on the birds left leg, or the code on the single 'White Ring', on the right leg.  The Oystercatcher, was walking up to it's knees, in deep mud, which plastered all the rings.  I do know, this is an Icelandic bird, and may have been OR-W(NC), spotted here on the 20th October 2018. 

Plenty of gulls and waders, were scoped, and I was hopeful for another Oystercatcher, or even Black-tailed Godwit, as there were plenty of these birds about.  I then had a look at the ducks, as Dargan, always always attracts a number of Wigeon and Shelduck, along with the more common Mallards.

Just by luck, I spotted the tip of a 'Yellow Ring', poking out of the mud.  It was on a Shelduck, who was busy preening.  A long wait ensued, before the duck eventually straddled towards a pool of water.  As it walked, the ring kept disappearing into the mud.  Although, I could read the code -   CH , through the viewfinder of my camera, I kept missing the code when pressing the shutter.  With persistence, I captured the photo that I needed, for confirmation.

Returning home, I reported my sighting through the BTO's DemOn Database, and after checking the 'cr-birding database', sent an email to the Axe Estuary Ringing Group, in Devon, England.  On Tuesday, a Mike Tyler, replied to say that the Shelduck, had been ringed on the Seaton Marshes, in the south of the County.  Mike, stated that he would pass on my sighting, to their database manager, who would get back to me.

I haven't heard from him yet, but I have received the ringing details from the BTO.  My Shelduck, was ringed as a juvenile, on the 11th December 2011, on the Seaton Marshes.  6 years, 11 months and 3 days, have elapsed, since   CH , was ringed.  I then entered the duck's 'metal-number', onto the DemOn Database, and could see that it was re-sighted the day after being ringed, plus twice in January 2012, and once in February 2012.  Offhand, I guess those re-sightings were made on or around the ringing site.

  CH , is my first ever 'colour-ringed' Shelduck sighting, the bird having travelled 477 kms / 296 miles (NNW), to reach Dargan.  Now that I know of it's presence, I'll certainly keep an eye out for future re-sightings.

Shelduck  -    CH   -  Dargan Mudflats, Belfast  (18 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 11th December 2011, on the Seaton Marshes, South Devon, England) 

I was driving through the Belfast Harbour Estate, when I noticed a large group of gulls, on Connswater, situated alongside Belfast's Victoria Park.  Scoping the gulls at distance, I noticed a 'White Darvic'.  Leaving the car, I walked opposite to where the gulls were resting on the mud, and soon captured the code - (White) THR7.  I knew, by the letter 'T', that this was a Polish Black-headed Gull, and this was a another new sighting for me.

Having entered the code, onto the 'Live Polish Ringing Database', I received an email on Monday afternoon, informing me, that my sighting had been accepted, which allows me access to the ringing and re-sighting details.  My gull was a first re-sighting, since being ringed as a breeding male, on the 8th May 2018, in the Zawadka.  (White) THR7, has flown 1,765 kms / 1,096 miles (WNW), to reach Connswater - 6 months and 10 days, after ringing.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  THR7  -  Victoria Park, Belfast  (18 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Breeding Male, on the 8th May 2018, at Zawadka, in Southern Poland)

Finishing off the afternoon, with another visit to Kinnegar Beach, I spotted two 'colour-ringed' gulls, but more surprisingly, none of the ringed birds spotted here last week, were to be seen.  Again, Black-headed Gulls, far outnumbered any other species, but as yet, I've still to find a 'colour-ringed' bird amongst these.  Last week, not even a 'metal' was spotted, but today, one BHG did have a 'metal-ring', which going by it's size, is probably that of a British-rung bird.

The first of the two 'colour-rings' spotted, was a 'Green Darvic', on a Mediterranean Gull.  I had to walk out onto the beach, as the processor in my new camera, could not cope with the lighting conditions, caused by the near setting sun.  I held my breath, hoping the much nearer BHGs, would not take flight.  Moving slowly, and stopping every now and again, I got close enough to capture the code on the Med Gull.

Ringed -   AETC , this was a bird that I've known about, for a very long time, and this was my first sighting of it.    AETC , was captured and ringed, on the nest, whilst incubating 4 eggs, on the 24th May 2008, at Stade, in Germany.  It is no stranger to the shores of Northern Ireland though.

Oct 2008 - Carnlough Bay, Co. Antrim - Neal Warnock.
Feb 2010 - Whitehead, Co. Antrim - Cameron Moore.
Feb 2010 - Whitehead, Co. Antrim - George Gordon.
Oct 2016 - Whitehead, Co. Antrim - Cameron Moore.
Jan 2017 - Donaghadee, Co. Down - Stephen Foster.
Nov 2018 - Kinnegar Beach, Co. Down - my sighting today.

Prior to today's re-sighting, the last record of   AETC , was on the 26th March 2017, when the gull was spotted back home, in Stade.  The duration since being ringed, is now 10 years, 5 months and 25 days, having flown 1,011 kms / 628 miles, to reach Kinnegar.

Mediterranean Gull  -    AETC   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (18 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed, 3rd Calendar Year Bird, on the 24th May 2008, at Stade, Germany)

The second 'colour-ring' spotted, was one of those problematic 'Blue Darvic's', on a Common Gull.  Although the ring has deteriorated slightly, the code was captured, being -   2ACJ .

Ringed by Shane Wolsey, as part of his former study, between 2009 and 2014, the only person to have recorded this gull, is myself.  I first recorded   2ACJ , on this very same beach, on the 22nd December 2016, before spotting it twice, at the Community Centre car park, in Donaghadee, Co. Down (14th & 30th July 2017).

  2ACJ , was ringed as a breeding adult, on the nearby Copeland Islands, in May 2010.  The duration since ringing, is now 8 years, 6 months and 4 days.  Looking at the condition of the ring, it will not be too long, until reading the code, may present some problems.  At least for now, I've added more time to this gull's longevity record.

Common Gull  -    2ACJ   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (18 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 14th May 2010, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)


Thursday, 15 November 2018

Camera Power...

Again, a later than planned publication.  This was due to postponing my visit to Antrim Marina, and my wait on receiving ringing details.  As the title of this post implies, the performance of my new camera, is my main topic of conversation.  I've written an article, at the end of the post, which not only shows what the camera can do, but also answers, a question received in a recent email.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 12th November 2018       
Once again, I put off my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, going on Monday, instead of Sunday.  Arriving at 09.20, I planned to depart at Midday, to visit the other three sites around the town of Antrim.  With a large number of Black-headed Gulls appearing, I extended my visit at the Marina, and forsook the other sites.

The morning was dry and sunny, with a light breeze.  Although the temperature reached 10°C, a chill factor must have been in play, as at times, my finger tips were white with cold.

Unlike last weeks visit, Black-headed Gull numbers, always exceeded 100 birds, though many fed on the grass areas surrounding the Marina.  Even, as I drove down the avenue leading to the Marina, gulls could be seen feeding on the nearby playing fields.

So far this winter, 28 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, have been recorded, but, my predicted return of   2AFD , from Latvia, has fallen by the wayside.  The return dates on my spreadsheet, are, 16th Nov 2014, 1st Nov 2015, 13th Nov 2016 and the 5th November 2017.  Going by the dates, the return of   2AFD , is still imminent.

All was not lost today, as two returnees, were recorded.  Both were Black-headed Gulls, that I caught and ringed last winter.  As they are newly rung birds, I am still building up profiles for both.  My final, and 23rd, 'colour-ring' sighting of the day, was   2CSH .  This gull, was ringed on the 10th December 2017, here at the Marina, and was last seen, on the 19th March 2018.  It's absence, until now, makes it a suspect, as a breeder from the Continent, so we really need a summer re-sighting.

Another gull, last seen here on the 2nd April 2018, was   2CSF , which became my 5th re-sighting of the day, having been spotted at 09.27.  Any wonder, it was so easily caught and ringed on the 26th November 2017, as today, it kept alighting onto the bonnet of my car.  I was well pleased, to see the return of this bird, as it was spotted in northern Iceland (Akureyri), on the 12th July 2018.

Three of the gulls, that I caught and ringed last winter, are still outstanding.  One of these, is   2CSC , which would land on my hand to be fed.  I still strongly believe, this was the same bird, that carried out this habit, as a juvenile in 2016.  In November 2017, a 2nd winter bird, landed on my hand to be fed, hence my belief.    2CSC , is obviously of foreign origin, and if it has survived the summer, should arrive back here sometime soon.

The remaining two gulls, are   2CSD   &   2CST   2CSD , damaged it's tail, a couple of weeks after ringing, which made it's flight awkward looking.  I reckon this disability, would have made it an easy target for a predator, such as a Sparrowhawk, and the gull may well be dead.  It would be nice to be proved wrong, but time will tell.

  2CST , was never seen again at Antrim Marina, after being caught and ringed on the 7th January 2018.  However, I fell in with   2CST , at my local park in Ballymena, on the 13th February 2018.  I've undertaken a handful of visits to my local park, this winter, but as yet,   2CST , has not been seen.

With the two latest additions to this winter's list, the overall total, has increased to 30 individuals.  Another gull, which may re-appear at any time, is   2BRC .  This BHG, was caught and ringed, on the 1st February 2015.  It's re-sighting history at the Marina, is very patchy, but I do expect to see it at some point this winter.

By 11am, this morning, the overall total of BHGs, reached the 120 to 130 mark, hence my staying on, at the  Marina.  The gulls, were all over me, trying to feed from my hand.  It's now getting to a point, where new additions, will be easily caught and ringed.  I'm contemplating, taking on extra visits to the Marina, for the sole purpose of ringing.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSF   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (12 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed 2nd Winter Bird, on the 26th November 2017, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSH   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (12 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 10th December 2017, at Antrim Marina)

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded at Antrim Marina on Monday 12th November 2018
 2AAK   2ABS   2ADJ   2CJT   2AAA   2CSF   2CSR   2AAT 
 2CSJ   2AAR   2ABF   2CSA   2ABL   2BRA   2CSK   2ABN 
 2ACV   2AAP   T35J   2AAN   2ABK   2CSL   2CSH    

Today's Absentees
 2AAB   2AAV   2ADV   2BRD   2ANS   2CSB   2CSS 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
2 adult Common Gulls, present on my arrival, remained throughout my latest visit.  A third adult, arrived at 11.47, but the small Scottish-rung female, did not appear.  This is the second week running, when she has failed to turn up.  I've still not confirmed her 'metal' number yet.

The usual sub-adult Herring Gull, was also present throughout my visit.  A 3rd winter Herring Gull, arrived at 10.54, but was not too keen on the activity around the Marina, just staying for around 10 minutes.

Mallard numbers, are still on the low side.  23 birds were counted on my arrival, and a head count at 12.20, revealed 47 ducks.  Still no rings, though most birds were checked.

Mute Swan,   W34158 , but present throughout, and two juvenile Mute Swans, arrived at 10.17.  Leaving the river, both youngsters, waddled towards me to be fed bread.  I know by this habit, these were two of the five cygnets, which had been present with their parents, at the start of my 'Ring Reading' season, in August.  Clearly, the family has now broken up.

Other birds noted, were 2 Hooded Crows, 4 Jackdaws and a single Pied Wagtail.


      Ringing Details Received       
On Monday morning, 12th November, before I set off for Antrim Marina, I checked my emails, to find one from Andreas Zours, in Germany.  He must have been up very early in the morning, as the email was sent at 05.14.

The email concerned, the juvenile Mediterranean Gull -   AY.KA , which had been ringed as a chick, in June 2018, at Leipzig, Germany.  It's first re-sighting outside of Germany, came 1 month and 9 days, after being ringed.  Cameron Moore, spotted the young gull, at Whitehead, on the shores of Belfast Lough.

On the 1st September 2018,   AY.KA , was next recorded at the seaside town of Bray, when spotted by Brian Burke, in County Wicklow, Republic of Ireland.

Andreas, was informing me about the latest re-sighting of   AY.KA , on the 10th November 2018, and this bird is certainly clocking up the stamps in it's Passport.  Antonio Fontoira, reported it at the coastal town of O Grove, on the Spanish North-West coast.  Antonio's sighting, came 5 months and 2 days, since the gull was ringed.

The distance from Leipzig, to O Grove, is 1,876 kms / 1,165 miles, in a south-westerly direction.  This young gull, is certainly clocking up the mileage, taking into consideration, it's visit's to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as well.

My thanks to Andreas, for keeping me in the 'loop', concerning his Med Gulls.

Mediterranean Gull  (Juvenile)  -    AY.KA   -  Whitehead, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (17 Jul 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 8th June 2018, at the Rehbach Gravel Pits, Leipzig, Germany)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)

Adam McClure, has been in touch with me concerning the two gulls, from his Northern Ireland Study, these I spotted last weekend, at Millquarter Bay.  My hunch was correct, as   2ALC   &   2AXT , were indeed, first re-sightings for these two Black-headed Gulls, since they were ringed in 2015 and 2016.  My thanks to Adam, for the info.

Another Black-headed Gull, spotted at Millquarter Bay, last weekend, was   2BT3 .  Calum Campbell, of the Grampian Ringed Group, is currently in Saudi Arabia, and will send me the gulls full details, on his return to Scotland.


      Saturday 10th November 2018       
Today, I decided to have another go at reading rings, at Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, County Down.  Before that, as it was high tide, I stopped by the Belfast Waste Transfer Station,at Dargan, and visited the RSPB's WoW Nature Reserve.  Surprisingly few gulls, were Dargan, and the only ringed bird to be recorded was at the RSPB Reserve.

Black-tailed Godwit - GG-ORf, has a long history of re-sightings, around the Belfast area.  Ringed as a chick, in 2007, in Iceland, today's was my fourth sighting of this bird.  I first recorded it on the Dargan Mudflats, on the 31st July 2016, and re-sighted it there on September 25th 2016.  I failed to come across the bird again in 2017, although I knew it was seen in Belfast.

My third sighting, was on the 19th August 2018, when I spotted GG-ORf, at Whitehouse Lagoon.  Outside of the Belfast area, the only two records of GG-ORf, spotted wintering elsewhere, was back in 2007, when it was recorded on Strangford Lough.

Before leaving the Reserve, I scoped numerous other Godwits, Curlews, Lapwings and a small number of Oystercatchers, but no more rings were spotted.

Black-tailed Godwit  -  GG-ORf  -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast Harbour Estate  (10 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th July 2007, at Sydsti-mor, Northern Iceland)

Leaving the RSPB's Nature Reserve, I parked above the beach at Kinnegar, and waited on the tide to go out.  By the time of my departure, I had successfully captured the codes on several 'colour-ringed' birds.  Below the rings are dealt with in alphabetical and code order.

Kinnegar Beach, is very extensive, when the tide is fully out, but after scoping a distant Common Gull, with an 'Orange Darvic', my camera, once again proved it's worth, as the code was easily captured.  Without, going too far into digital mode (which can produce quite 'grainey' pictures, the gull was no stranger to me.

This was my second sighting of   2VDT , having spotted the gull earlier this year, here at Kinnegar, on the 18th February 2018.  At the time, my sighting of   2VDT , was a first ever re-sighting, the gull having been ringed the previous autumn, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

At present Calum Campbell, who is the ringing secretary, of the Grampian Ringing Group, is in Saudi Arabia, and will supply updates on his return.  

Common Gull  -    2VDT   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 26th August 2017, on the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)

A Common Gull, from Shane Wolsey's, former Northern Ireland Project, was especially pleasing to find.  Having taken over the project from Shane, last year, this was my first sighting of   2AAN .  These 'Yellow Darvic's', were quickly discontinued in their use, as many cracked easily when being applied, and more often then not, did not show up well, on the legs of the Common Gulls.

Ringed as an un-sexed breeding adult, in May 2009, it's only previous re-sighting, was made on the 27th July 2016, when spotted at nearby Whitehouse Lagoon, by Suzanne Belshaw.

The duration since being ringed, until my sighting today, is now 9 years, 5 months and 23 days, have travelled 21kms / 13 miles, from the ringing site, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down.  As can be seen, from the condition of the 'colour-ring', they are wearing well, unlike the 'Blue Darvic's', which replaced the 'Yellow Darvic's'.

Common Gull  -    2AAN   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 18th May 2009, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Juvenile Common Gull -   2J08 , is from a new ringing site, being used by the Clyde Ringing Group.  Iain Livingstone, the Group's Ringing Secretary, replied to say that this was the first re-sighting, of two juvenile Common Gulls, ringed at Blackness Castle, Falkirk, in Scotland.

Ringed as a juvenile, on the 16th September 2018,   2J08 , has flown 213 kms / 132 miles (SW), to reach Kinnegar Beach.  My thanks to Iain, for his super fast reply to my email (9 minutes).

Common Gull  -    2J08   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2018)
Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 16th September 2018, at Blackness Castle, Falkirk, Sterlingshire, Scotland)

Hot on the heals of a Herring Gull, with an Isle of Man, 'Black Darvic' - (  T7VN ), spotted by David Nixon, on the 2nd November 2018 (see last week's post), I recorded another one today on Kinnegar Beach -   T8ZY .  I have emailed Mark Fitzpatrick, the ringing secretary for the Manx Ringing Group, but as yet, no reply has been received.

Having reported the gull to Mark, I also reported it through my 'DemOn' account on the BTO's Ringing Database.  The ringing details, arrived with me later on Monday afternoon (12th November).  These details, also included the number of the 'metal-ring', used on this gull.  Entering the number onto the DemOn Ringing Database, I could see that there has been three previous re-sightings of   T8ZY .

Ringed as a juvenile, on the 30th July 2013, it has been spotted on the 3rd February 2014, 21st December 2014, and on the 17th October 2018.  With DemOn, the locations of the re-sightings are not given, so I'm hoping to be filled in with these, when Mark, eventually replies.

Herring Gull  -    T8ZY   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Juvenile, on the 30th July 2013, at Poyllvaaish, on the Isle of Man) 

Another Herring Gull -   OY:W , is from the fairly recently started project, on the Copeland Islands, in County Down.  Returning home, and checking my spreadsheet, this turned out to be my second re-sighting of   OY:W , here at Kinnegar.  I spotted it earlier this year, on the 31st March 2018.

I have reported my latest sighting to Adam McClure, who is the ringing coordinator, for the Copeland Project.  As far as I know, my two sightings, are the only records of   OY:W , since it was first re-sighted on the 24th August 2015.  On that occasion,   OY:W , was spotted by a Gerry O'Neill, at Rathcor Beach, Co. Louth, in the Republic of Ireland.  Rathcor Beach, is on the southern side of Carlingford Lough, which separates Northern Ireland, from the Republic.

I'll report on any further sighting's, once Adam, replies to my email.

Herring Gull  -    0Y:W   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down)
Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 23rd May 2014, on The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Spotting an Oystercatcher, with two 'Red Rings' on the same leg, I instantly knew, this was a new sighting for me (White on the other leg).  At the time, the tide was just starting to go out, but my Oystercatcher, was scared off by a walker (you guessed it), with his dog.

It was quite a long time, before I re-located this bird, the tide now well out, and several hundred Oystercatcher's feeding.  This time, a few photos were easily taken and the full 'colour-combination', was captured.

Knowing the bird was Icelandic in origin, the position of the rings, was different from the norm.  Usually, the two plain 'colour-rings', are fitted onto the left-leg, and the 'coded White Ring', is placed onto the right-leg.  On this bird, they were on the opposite legs.

Contacting Böddi, of the Icelandic Wader Group, he replied with the birds PDF File, attached.  RR-W(NC), was ringed as a breeding adult, on the 22nd May 2017.  My sighting, was the first record of the bird, outside of Iceland, where it had been re-sighted on the 19th March, and 4th April 2018. 

Oystercatcher  -  RR-W(NC)  -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 22nd May 2017, at Sandgerði, South-West Iceland)

A second 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher that I spotted, was a bird I first recorded back on the 26th August.  I've had to wait until now, for it's ringing details, as Böddi, did not have this summer's ringing reports, but did state the bird was ringed during the breeding season.

YL-W(UA), was ringed whilst incubating eggs, on the 23rd May 2018.  My sighting, in August, here at Kinnegar (on the pond), was the first record of the bird, since being ringed, at Stokkseyri, Southern Iceland.

Oystercatcher  -  YL-W(UA)  -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 23rd May 2018, at Stokkseyri, Southern Iceland)


      Sunday 11th November 2018       
After my marathon visit to Millquarter Bay, last Sunday, I postponed my proposed visit's to Castle Espie and Millisle.  To make full use of the day, I decided to put off my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, until tomorrow, and complete last week's plans.

On my way to Castle Espie, I stopped by Victoria Park, in Belfast, and Kiltonga Nature Reserve, at Newtownards.  The only ring spotted, was a 'metal', on a Black-headed Gull, at Victoria Park.  This bird remained on the branches of a tree, on the small island, so I had no chance of reading the ring.

I then proceeded to the Castle Espie Wetland Centre.  I timed my arrival there, to co-inside with high tide, hoping to record gulls and waders, on the tidal lagoon.

On reaching the wooden screen, close to the 'Brent Hide', I was hugely disappointed, as there were no waders, and only four Black-headed Gulls.  My disappointment, soon turned to glee.  Whilst scoping the gulls, the most distant bird, bore a 'Green Darvic'.  I knew straight away, this was most likely to a Norwegian bird, and once again, my new camera captured the code -   J08K .

Returning home, I entered my sighting, of what I initially thought, was a new sighting, onto the 'Live Norwegian Ringing Database'.  Having done that, I was presented with a page, showing some of the gull's history, with the option of selecting it's full history.

Of course, I selected the full history, and 'bang', I had spotted this bird last winter.  On Christmas Day, whilst everybody else, fills their bellies with Turkey, and other junk, I go to Belfast to 'Read Rings'.  Having the freedom (peace and quite), at the Connswater Shopping Centre car park, I look for one particular Norwegian Black-headed Gull - (White) J4TJ.

Not only did I record (White) J4TJ, for the third Xmas running, but this time, I also recorded another Norwegian BHG - (White) J2UP, and a Lithuanian BHG -   HA.33.604 .  Upon completion of my Connswater visit, I checked out other sites in Belfast, eventually falling in with today's bird -   J08K , at the Belfast Waste Transfer Station, at Dargan.

Since my sighting of   J08K , last Xmas day, the gull was reported back in Norway, on the 23rd and 26th April 2018.  Both sightings, were at Klepp, 16 kms north of the ringing site at Nærbø.  I have recently been looking for this bird, around Dargan, but it never even dawned on me, that today's sighting was of the same gull.  Normally, I would have expected to see the bird on the same wintering site.  Perhaps,   J08K , might venture northwards to Dargan, by Christmas Day.

Black-headed Gull  -    J08K   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (11 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 3rd April 2015, at Nærbø Park, Nærbø, Norway)

My next stop at Millisle, was just as disappointing, but not quite as bad as Castle Espie.  Only a handful of Common and Black-headed Gulls were found, but no rings.  Checking small groups of waders and gulls, northwards to Ballyholme, the only other two rings spotted today, were at Donaghadee.

Parking close to the Community Centre car park, I attracted the gulls towards my car with bread.  In no time, a BHG, with a 'metal', appeared.  I did not take long, to take enough photos, to complete the number on the ring -   EX97264 .

This was my seventh record of this bird at Donaghadee.  Ringed as a chick in 2013, my first encounter with   EX97264 , was made on the 5th March 2016, and I last recorded it here, on the 23rd December 2017.  That's another wintering bird 'chalked up'.

Black-headed Gull  -    EX97264   -  Donaghadee Community Centre, Donaghadee, Co. Down  (11 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2013, on Mew Island, The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Whilst concentrating on   EX97264 , another gull appeared with an 'Orange Darvic'.  Knowing it was one of Adam's Study birds, I immediately guessed that it was likely to be   2BAL .  Swinging the camera around, I soon confirmed the code, and it was   2BAL .

Last winter, I searched for this gull at Donaghadee, on several occasions, failing to record it.  However,   2BAL , turned up again on the 10th May 2018, when David Nixon, reported that it was breeding, at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, in Belfast.  I went along, on the 12th May, and also saw   2BAL , on one of the nesting platforms.

Having received an updated file from Adam McClure,   2BAL , was spotted in Donaghadee the previous winter (20th February 2018), by (SF), which meant it had wintered around the town.

As with   EX97264 ,   2BAL , was ringed on the Copeland Islands, which lie 5 kms / 3 miles (NE), from Donaghadee.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BAL   -  Donaghadee Community Centre, Donaghadee, Co. Down  (11 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 22nd June 2014, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)


      The Power of the Nikon P1000       
Recently, I purchased the new Nikon P1000 camera, which has now replaced my former Nikon P900.  I must say, that the P900, has served me well, since I purchased it two years ago.  Having taken over 11,000 photos, mostly of gulls and their rings, very few 'colour-rings' escaped the capture of it's 83x zoom, (166x in digital mode).

At some sites, where several hundred gulls and waders would gather, some 'rings', were so distant, that it was impossible to read codes.  Places such as Whitehouse Lagoon, Kinnegar Beach and Millquarter Bay, for example, were of little use when the tide was fully out.  Any attempt, to close the gap, would have resulted in nearer birds taking flight, whereby those in the distance, would follow likewise.

The P1000, is already paying for itself, as the recent results, have been, 'quite frankly', unbelievable.  At Millquarter Bay, last week, and at Kinnegar Beach, yesterday, not a single ring was missed, and I didn't even have to set foot on either shore.

Earlier in this post, I reported on the re-sighting of the Norwegian Black-headed Gull -   J08K .  It was the most distant, of a handful of gulls, on the tidal lagoon at Castle Espie.  Having initially scoped the gull, the camera was put to work, and the code was captured.

Below, are a series of photos, which shows how distant   J08K , was, and demonstrates the power of the P1000, with it's 125x zoom (250x in digital mode).  The first photo, shows   J08K , as a tiny speck, within the red box.

  J08K , is the Tiny Speck, Within the Red Box

Zooming in towards   J08K , the gull can now be seen in the distance, as the next photo shows.

  J08K , is the Furthest Gull in this Photo

With the next picture, we can now see   J08K , without zooming too far into digital mode.  Here, the code can be read, despite being on the feint side.

Photo Chosen for this Blog Post

After taking a few photos of the gull, the camera, was zoomed to it's 'max', to try and obtain a clearer image of the 'colour-ring'.  Again, after taking a few shots, the picture below, was chosen, where the ring, would be cropped and re-sized, and pasted onto the previous photo.

Photo Chosen to Crop and Re-size the Ring

The Darvic Showing   J08K 

I hope this demonstration of the Nikon P1000's ability, can be appreciated by all, especially to those, like myself, who are dedicated 'Ring Readers'.

As a footnote here, I received an email, from one of my correspondents, asking about the Nikon P1000, over it's predecessor,  the Nikon P900.  Before receiving that email, I had started this feature.  One thing I must mention - although both cameras feature a dedicated 'Birdwatching Mode', nearly all the photos that I took, with both cameras, were in 'Landscape Mode'.

In the UK, the listed price of the new Nikon P1000, is currently around the £1,000 mark.  I went onto Ebay, and purchased my Nikon P1000, for £843, which included packaging, postage and insurance.  My results over the last couple of weeks, proves the worth of the new camera, as seen in the photos.

Although photos at extreme long distances, are not always 100% sharp, but the main point, is to capture the ring codes or numbers.  Nothing like a photo, to confirm sightings.  I sincerely hope, this article, encourages serious 'Ring Readers', to purchase one or the other of these two cameras.

Take a look on You Tube, as several videos can be viewed, showing the power of the P1000.  Should Nikon, ever produce another upgrade, I would adivse against purchasing one, as distortion, due to distance, will be a limiting factor.