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)


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