Thursday, 1 November 2018

2ANS - Thoughts Correct...

Not a lot to report on this week, as commitments here at home, have taken priority.  Even so, a couple of re-sightings during my time out, provides some interesting news.  I have not had time, to explore the new camera, and all of it's features.  The said camera, has just spent a week in the boot of my car, being totally ignored.

It appears that winter is creeping in, with the return of chilly, often icy, days and nights.  The gulls, are becoming increasingly hungry, which should lead to new birds being caught and ringed.  A few weeks ago, I ordered two 'Spring Traps', which would make it easier to catch some gulls, with Common Gulls at Millisle, being my main target.

Some of these gulls, are in urgent need, of having their Darvic rings replaced, such is their condition, the codes are becoming totally illegible.  The only problem that I have concerning these new traps, is that I have to wait on other orders being taken by David Dutton, which would render the construction of the traps more cost effective.  The wait is hateful, as I really need them now.

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina - Monday 29th October 2018       
Due to a family crisis, I remained at home on Sunday, which meant my car was available, should my wife need lifts.  Therefore, my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, was undertaken the next day.

Monday morning, was very chilly.  After overnight frost, and on reaching Antrim Marina, the temperature had risen to just 4°C.  Arriving at 09.15, I had planned to depart at midday, and visit the other three sites around the town of Antrim.  My plans were scuppered, as shortly before 11am, the Black-headed Gulls started to appear in good numbers.

The morning was overcast, dry, but there was a chilly breeze coming from an easterly direction.  By the time of my departure, which was just before 1pm, the temperature had only risen to 8°C.  Black-headed Gull numbers, were fairly constant, numbering 40 to 60 birds, but by 12.15, around 120 to 130 birds were present.

Throughout the morning, I noticed that the gulls were particularly hungry and now approached very closely looking for the bread handouts.  At this rate, it should be quite easy to start catching birds to be ringed, in the near future.

With the return of   2AAR   and   2ADV , two weeks ago, this winter's total of 'colour-ring' sightings, had risen to 27.  Last week, I could have sworn that I had spotted   2ABA , a gull I'd previously written off as dead.  However, today, I noticed that   2ABF , has a black mark on part of it's 'colour-ring', which makes it look like   2ABA .  Could this have been what I saw last week?

In my previous post, I talked about   2ANS .  Caught and ringed, as a juvenile / 1st winter bird, in November 2015, I was open-minded about the demise of this gull.  Up until last week, it has not been spotted this winter, but I stated, that the older the gull had become, the less frequent were it's visits to the Marina.

At 11.57 this morning, my last sighting of the day, and the 24th 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull recorded altogether, was   2ANS .  I was so pleased to record it's return, which not only proves, it's alive and kicking, but just goes to show, how well I have got to know the habits of the ringed birds here.

Over the last few weeks, I have made mention of the return of   2AFD , from Latvia.  There was no sign of the gull today, so if I'm correct,   2AFD , should arrive back by next weekend.  With today's sighting of   2ANS , this winter's list, has now risen to 28 'colour-ringed' individuals.

I'm also hoping, the month of November, will see the return of three Black-headed Gulls, that I caught and ringed here last winter.  These are   2CSC ,   2CSF   and   2CSH , whom I am still building profiles on.    2CSF , was the only one of the three, to have been spotted away from the Marina this summer, when it was reported in northern Iceland, in July.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ANS   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (29 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as a Juvenile/1st Winter Bird, on the 12th November 2015, at Antrim Marina)

Last week, I mentioned the sighting of a 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull, which I thought was most likely to have been   2ABL .  This bird, somehow managed to discard it's 'colour-ring', a while back.  Despite that, it can still be recognised, as it has a raised central toe on it's left foot, which is especially noticed, when the gull is standing on a flat surface.

At 11.18 today, a 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull was spotted, which became my 22nd 'colour-ring' sighting of the day.  This time,  unlike last week, it did not fly off, and a few photos later, I could tell that it was indeed -   2ABL .  I also captured part of the number on it's metal ring, which read   EY373** .  It was all I needed to confirm that the bird was indeed   2ABL , as it's ring number is -   EY37326 , and it had that raised toe. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABL   (  EY37326 )  -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (29 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 22rd January 2013, at Antrim Marina)

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, on Monday 29th October 2018
 2CSJ   2BRA   2CSK   2AAK   2CJT   2AAR   2ABK   2AAP 
 2AAA   2AAN   2CSB   T35J   2CSA   2ABN   2ADJ   2CSS 
 2AAT   2ABF   2ABS   2CSR   2AAB   2ABL   2ACV   2ANS 

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

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Again, I'll start here with the Common Gulls.  Three adult Common Gulls, appeared around the main part of the Marina today.  The first, was the usual bird, with the yellow tip to it's beak, which arrived at 09.18.  The second adult, appeared at 10.31, followed by a huge looking male, minutes later.  A juvenile, which arrived at 09.35, flew around for a couple of minutes, before flying back out towards the Lough.

Every now and again, I would check the 'long jetty', which is totally obscured by the compound of the new building works, from where I now park my car.  Just after 11am, I noticed the small 'metal-rung' Common Gull, which appeared back here two weeks ago.  Believing it to be   EY64036 , all I could see on it's 'metal', were the 'ring butts'.  Today, I only fared slightly better, capturing -   EY6**** .  Even so, I'm now confident that this is   EY64036 .

Due to the gull, perching on the end of the jetty, it's impossible to take photos from a different angle.  As yet, she won't approach the main part of the Marina, especially the short 'concrete jetty', where photos from different angles could be obtained.  There's no doubt, that the gull, has not settled down to the 'goings on' around the area at present. 

Common Gull  -    EY64036   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (29 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 20th June 2013, at Hunterston, Ayrshire, Scotland)

The near adult Herring Gull, arrived at 10.28, but only remained for around 20 minutes, before flying towards Antrim town.

Mallard numbers, were on the low side again, with around 40 birds counted on my arrival.  By 12.30, the overall total, had risen to the 60'ish mark, but I'm still waiting to spot my first ring this winter.

The only Mute Swan to appear today, arrived from the Lough, at 11.35.  A nervous looking bird, it swan around, near to the slipway, but decided to head back out to the Lough shortly afterwards.  I could really do, with more swans visiting, which will help me to catch some Black-headed Gulls, stealing in for bread, which in turn can be caught and ringed.

2 Hooded Crows, a single Pied Wagtail, and just three Jackdaws, were the only other species noted today.  The lack of Jackdaws, at present, is really surprising.


      Saturday 27th October 2018       
Today, I drove back to County Down, this time to cover sites on the western side of Strangford Lough.  With a high tide forecast, for just after 1.30pm, I decided to drive straight to Ardglass, and then slowly make my way back up the shore towards Newtownards.  As usual, things did not go quite to plan, and I ended up covering fewer sites than intended.

Arriving at Ardglass harbour, I was bitterly disappointed at the number of gulls present.  Expecting to see a few hundred gulls of varying species, the total didn't exceed the hundred mark, with just a handful of waders about, mainly Oystercatchers.

Moving backwards and forwards, between the harbour and the shoreline of the bay, a 'colour-ring', was eventually spotted.  My new camera, had bother trying to focus in on the gull, presumably caused by the bright sunshine, bouncing off the sea.  The gull, was on a small rocky islet, out in the bay, but flew off, having just taken a few photos.  Retreating back to my car, I donned my glasses, and took a look at the photos taken.  They were not great, but the code   R62:M , was captured, the bird being a Herring Gull.

I knew in my own mind, that I had read that code in the past, but it wasn't until I returned home and checked my spreadsheet, that I discovered, there was a conflict in identification.  My previous sighting of this ring, was made on the 2nd June 2017, and I remembered, that I had checked the code on my spreadsheet, to discover, that it had been recorded on two previous occasions, having been identified as a Great Black-backed Gull.

All three records, were made at a time when the gull was in it's juvenile plumage, and my own personal sighting was at a distance.  It was first spotted at Ardglass harbour, on the 7th May 2016, by an unknown observer, before being recorded by Suzanne Belshaw, also at Ardglass, on the 24th August 2016.  Kevin Scott, the former ringing secretary for the Manx Ringing Group, sent Suzanne the following details:- 

Recapture History
Ring Age/ Capture
number Type Date Details
Great Black-backed Gull
R62:M      N 1 22/06/15 Calf of Man, Isle of Man
S 5 Sighted 07/05/16 Ardglass Harbour, Down (56 km, WNW, 320 days)
S 5 Sighted 24/08/16 Ardglass Harbour, Down (56 km, WNW, 1 yr 63days)

Having realised, the identification problem, I contacted the new ringing secretary of the Manx Ringing Group - Mark Fitzpatrick.  He was puzzled by the previous records, stating the   R62:M , had been ringed as a Herring Gull chick, on the 22nd June 2015.  He couldn't understand, how this gull became known as a Great Black-backed Gull, and he had no record of Suzanne's sighting.

Anyways, all is correct now, with all records and observers in place.  Notifying Suzanne, about the gull, I received a reply, stating, that it may have been her fault, concerning the species.  She admits to being no expert on juvenile gulls (me likewise, on larger juveniles), but thinks that her sighting, may have swayed the former ringing secretary, to concede that the gull was misidentified at the time of ringing, hence the ringing details being sent out as a GBB Gull.

Herring Gull  -    R62:M   -  Ardglass Harbour, Co. Down  (27 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 22nd June 2015, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man)

Remaining at Ardglass for a considerable amount of time, the tide began to recede, but after scoping everything in sight, no other rings were spotted.

I now decided to head to Millquarter Bay, which is a popular spot for many gulls.  Driving through Ballyhornan, I pulled into the car park, which overlooks a long sandy beach.  I have called by here a few times in the past, but gulls were always limited in number.  Scoping the few gulls from the hilltop overlooking the beach, I spotted a Common Gull, with one of those 'problematic' Darvic rings.  However, the ring on this one, seemed to be in excellent condition.

Returning to collect the camera from my car, a lady, who had returned to her car, having just come up from the beach, was on her way back down to the beach again.  As I was placing the camera onto the tripod, I saw the lady changing direction, and she walked towards my gull.  Horror - the gull, along with a few others, took flight and landed on the sea.

I thought it might be a while before the gulls returned, so I moved on to Millquarter Bay.  Here, as the tide was rapidly retreating, gulls were arriving in good numbers.  After a while, I had spotted, three 'metal's, which were of no use to me, due to the distance from the road.  These were on a Great Black-backed Gull, a Common Gull, and a Black-headed Gull.

With even more gulls arriving, I was hopeful of a 'colour-ring', then the inevitable happened.  All the gulls took to the air, the culprits being a young couple, with (you guessed it), a dog.  With the majority of the birds settling on the sea, I went back to Ballyhornan beach.

By now, Common and Black-headed Gulls, were present in mixed groups, along the long sandy shore.  Scoping them all, took a while, but that 'Blue Darvic', eluded me.  I returned to Millquarter Bay again, to find the gulls back on the shore, but after a long search, no more rings were located.

I had spent a long and cold afternoon, in this 'neck of the woods', with little to show for it.  By now, it wasn't long till it started to get dark, so I headed off towards Newtownards, checking small pockets of gulls and waders along the way.  No more rings were spotted, which ended a frustrating afternoon.


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