Thursday, 8 November 2018

Millquarter - Revisited...

Following on from my hugely disappointing visit to Millquarter Bay, last Saturday (27th October), I received two emails.  Graham McElwaine and David Nixon, visited Millquarter Bay, on the 1st & 2nd November, and between them, spotted a few 'colour-ringed' gulls.  Unfortunately, no photos were taken of these sightings.

I must admit, that I was 'green' with envy, and this prompted me to forsake my weekly Sunday visit to Antrim Marina.  With poor weather forecast for Monday, I thought it would perhaps be wiser to go to the Marina then.  This left Sunday clear, to revisit Millquarter Bay, locate and photograph, the gulls spotted by Graham & David.

What transpired, turned out to be a 'marathon' of a visit, which (not often happens), was largely unspoiled by walkers, especially those with dogs.  Only one of the gulls previously spotted, was re-sighted, but I ended up with an exceptional haul of 'colour-rings' being recorded.  I had planned to visit Castle Espie & Millisle, later on Sunday, but I just headed home thinking I was in '7th heaven', with what I had recorded today (read below).

      Antrim Marina - Monday 5th November 2018       
With poor weather forecast, I thought it would perhaps be wiser, to visit the Marina, on Monday, instead of Sunday.  My idea, was that the poorer conditions, would entice the gulls to look for bread handouts.  Arriving at the Marina, the early morning rain soon ceased, but it was very overcast and fairly dark.  The temperature was quite good, reading 10°C, which I later reasoned, was a factor in the lack of gulls which appeared.  Another reason, might have been due to the amount of rainfall.  Perhaps, the gulls were away feeding on grass areas, as worms may have been forced to the surface.

Arriving just before 9.30am, I departed at Midday, having re-sighted 19 of the 28 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, that have been recorded this winter.  There was no sign of   2AFD , which I had predicted would return this weekend.  This wasn't surprising, as the number of gulls present, never exceeded the 60 mark, at any time during my visit.

I had rings ready for the first time this winter, hoping to catch one or two new birds, but they were not hungry enough, to approach closely.  All in all, today's visit was very poor.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls Re-sighted on Monday 5th November 2018, at Antrim Marina
 2AAK   2AAR   2ABK   2CJT   2AAT   2ABN   2CSJ   2ABL   2ABF   T35J 
 2ADJ   2CSB   2ACV   2BRA   2AAA   2AAN   2CSR   2CSA   2ABS    

Today's Absentees
 2AAP   2AAB   2AAV   2ADV   2BRD   2ANS   2CSK   2CSL   2CSS 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
As with the Black-headed Gulls, Mallard numbers, were also on the low side.  Just 18 birds were counted on my arrival, but increased to about 60 ducks, by the time of my early departure.  About half, were checked for rings, but I'm still waiting on a first for this winter.

The only Mute Swan, to appear, was the 'one-eyed'   W34158 , who arrived in from the Lough at 10.18.  He stayed for around half an hour, before swimming back out onto the Lough.

Common Gull numbers, saw a slight increase this morning.  One was already present, on my arrival, and a second bird arrived at 10.39.  At 11.36, a further two adults arrived, taking the total to four.  All were un-ringed, and the small 'metal-rung' female, did not appear today.  The sub-adult Herring Gull, was present throughout my visit.

A Robin, and a male Pied Wagtail, took advantage of the work within the compound of the new building works.  They seemed to be finding food, courtesy of a digger, churning up the ground.  3 Hooded Crows, and 3 Jackdaws, were the only other species recorded.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC Car Park and Baptist Church
Having departed from the Marina at Midday, I had time to visit Antrim's Elim Church, KFC car park and the Baptist Church.

Only 18 Black-headed Gulls, were at the Elim Church, but no sign of   2AAV , or the 'metal-rung' Finnish Black-headed Gull, spotted here two weeks ago.

Around the same total of Black-headed Gulls, were present at the KFC car park, which also saw a very bold juvenile Common Gull.  There is still no sign of the Norwegian BHG -   JK35 .  I have now given up on this bird, and now presume it has died.  Last seen here on the 12th March 2018, I reckon, it met it's fate on the return journey to Norway.  It was not recorded there over the course of the summer.

Finishing at the Baptist Church, Black-headed Gull numbers were down to their usual total, of around 100 birds.  Most were lured into the car park of the Church, but no rings were spotted.  At this point I returned home, as I had to get ready for work.


      From Cameron Moore       
Cameron Moore, sent me an email, reporting on a 'colour-ringed' Common Gull, which he spotted on the seafront at Whitehead.  I contacted Iain Livingstone, of the Clyde Ringing Group in Scotland, who replied with the gull's history.

  2A88 , was ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2014, at Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire, Scotland.  The only previous sighting of   2A88 , occurred on the 12th March 2016, when Neal Warnock, spotted the gull at Glynn, on Larne Lough.  Glynn, is situated 10 kms / 6 miles (NW), from Whitehead.  The distance from Elvanfoot, to Whitehead, is 400 kms / 248 miles (SW).

Iain, went on to say, that   2A88 , was the only surviving Common Gull chick ringed at the Elvanfoot colony in 2014.  A couple of pairs of Common Gulls, had nested within a Black-headed Gull colony, which numbered around 500 pairs.  Just two Common Gull chicks were ringed, but the second bird was found dead, just outside of the colony, soon after fledging.

My thanks to Iain, for supplying the info, and to Cameron Moore, for sharing his sighting.

Common Gull  -    2A88   -  Whitehead, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (03 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2014, at Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire, Scotland)
(Photo Courtesy of Cameron Moore)


      Saturday 3rd November 2018       
Recently, I've read on the Northern Ireland Birdwatching Association website (link), about the large number of Whooper Swans, which have been gathering on the Myroe Levels, in County Londonderry.  With upwards of 1,000 swans, being reported at times, I thought I'd visit the levels today, and hopefully record a ring or two.

Yep, there were plenty of swans about.  Well spread out, over the levels and neighbouring farmland, many legs were not visible, as the birds were mostly feeding on barley stubble, which obscured most legs.  In one field, swans were feeding on the remnants of a potato crop, but the field was above the level of the road, preventing a clear view.  Any attempt to approach on foot, would have resulted in the birds taking off.

In one particular field of barley stubble, between 300 and 400 Common Gulls, were also feeding.  I found it really frustrating, that I could not see their legs, as a 'colour-ring' or two, may well have been among them.  A few hundred swans, were checked for rings, but no luck this time.

Of all the gulls, waders and swans, that were visibly checked for rings, just one was spotted during a near four hour visit to the area.  It was on an Oystercatcher, which I knew straight away, was of Icelandic origin.  It had un-coded 'colour-rings', on both legs, which I recognised as being from a ringing series, which has now ended.

Rung, Orange over Red, on its left leg, and a single White ring on it's right leg, I suspected that a 'colour-flag', was missing above the White Ring.  I emailed Böddi, in Iceland, reporting my sighting, and citing the missing flag.

Böddi, replied, attaching the birds file.  Ringed OR-GfW, as an un-sexed breeding adult, in June 2015, the Oystercatcher, had managed to loose it's 'Green Flag', by the time of it's first re-sighting, in April 2016.  Prior to my sighting today, which was the first record of this bird outside of Iceland, it had been recorded on numerous occasions, in 2016, 2017, and was last re-sighted  there on the 26th April 2018.

The previous 'colour-ring' series, was ended, as many of the 'flags' used, were often lost.  The new ring series, sees at present, a single 'White Darvic', inscribed with two letters, being fitted onto the right leg, of the Oystercatchers.

As always, my thanks to Böddi, for supplying the ringing information.

Oystercatcher  -  OR-GfW  -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  (03 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Breeding Adult, on the 16th June 2015, at Hróarslækur, Gunnarsholt, Southern Iceland)
(Green Flag has been lost)

Leaving Myroe, I drove to Coleraine Harbour, followed by visits to the East Strand car park, and Lansdowne Crescent, in Portrush, but no other rings were spotted.


      Millquarter Bay       
My previous visit to Millquarter Bay, on Saturday 27th October, was largely uneventful, with just three 'metals' having been spotted.  Next, came emails from Graham McElwaine and David Nixon, who spotted colour-ringed gulls, at Millquarter Bay, on the 1st and 2nd November.  Unfortunately, no photos were taken of their sightings.

I was 'green with envy', with their sightings, following on from my visit there previously.  On Sunday 4th November, I decided to revisit Millquarter Bay, to try and relocate the gulls concerned, and obtain some photos.  By the end of a very prolonged visit, I only re-sighted one of the three gulls, which were reported to me, but went on to record a further 8 'colour-ringed' gulls.

To spot 9 'colour-ringed' gulls on a single beach, was quite unbelievable.  A tenth ring escaped me, this one being a juvenile Common Gull, which bore a 'Blue Darvic'.  This youngster, scoped at distance, flew off the beach and over my head, as I was trying to cut down the distance, to take photos.  Having gone off, on it's own accord, I reckon it could have been one of the chicks that I ringed on Rathlin Island, in June.

One of the two gulls reported to me by Graham McElwaine, was not found during my visit.  Ringed -   X82N , this Black-headed Gull, is from Germany.  I have emailed Hendrik Trapp, but as I write, a reply has not arrived.    X82N , was also spotted the following day (2nd November), by David Nixon.  The other gull spotted by Graham, was -   PLY1 , which I did relocate (see below).

Also spotted by David, during his visit, was a Herring Gull, which bore a 'Black Darvic', with Yellow characters.  I reported -   T7VN , to Mark Fitzpatrick, the new ringing secretary of the Manx Ringing Group, on the Isle of Man.

Mark replied, to say that   T7VN , was a recently rung gull, having been ringed on the 17th August 2018, on the Calf of Man.  David's sighting at Millquarter Bay, was the first re-sighting, the gull having travelled 57 kms / 35 miles (WNW).  The Isle of Man, lies roughly half way between Northern Ireland and the British Mainland.  Unfortunately, there was no sign of   T7VN , during my visit.

As well as   T7VN , David spotted a Herring Gull, with a 'Yellow Darvic', and a Black-headed Gull, with a 'Green Darvic'.  He was not able to read the code on these rings, but I reckon the Herring Gull, is from the Copeland Island Project, here in Northern Ireland, and the Black-headed Gull, was from Norway.

The nine 'colour-ringed' gulls, which I recorded during my visit, are dealt with below in alphabetical and code order.

The first two, are Black-headed Gulls, which belong to Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Study.  Despite requesting information on both birds, via an email and text message, Adam has not replied.  In the event, this should happen, I also reported both gulls to the BTO, through my DemOn ringing account.  The ringing details, arrived the following day.  Offhand, I am presuming both gulls are first ever sightings since being ringed.

Black-headed Gull -   2ALC , was ringed as a chick, on the 15th June 2015, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre.  Millquarter Bay, is situated 27 kms / 16 miles (SSE), from Castle Espie. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2ALC   -  Millquarter Bay, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (04 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 15th June 2015, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down)

The second of Adam's, Black-headed Gulls, was rung -   2AXT .  Reading the ringing details of this bird, I was delighted to see, that it was one of the chicks, that Adam and I, ringed at Inch Island Lake, in County Donegal, in June 2016.  With, what has been, a one off visit to Inch Island Lake, thus far, a total of 122 Black-headed Gull chicks were ringed there, that year.

  2AXT , so far as I know, is only the second report of an Inch 'colour-ringed' BHG, that I know of.  On the 11th March 2018, I spotted   2ATJ , on Kinnegar Beach, at Holywood, Co. Down, which was the first Inch 'colour-ring' sighting.  A further two Black-headed Gulls, which were just 'metal-rung', were spotted in Portrush (partial number), Co. Antrim, and Coleraine, in County Londonderry.

For some strange reason, I have been the only person to re-sight any of these gulls, which were ringed at Inch.  The distance from Inch Island, to Millquarter Bay, is 150 kms / 93 miles (SE). 

Black-headed Gull  -    2AXT   -  Millquarter Bay, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (04 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 8th June 2016, at Inch Island Lake, Co. Donegal)

A third Black-headed Gull, rung -   2BT3 , was ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the Ythan Estuary, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  I reported the bird, through the BTO's Ringing Database, and also reported it to Calum Campbell, of the Grampian Ringing Group.

I have received the ringing details, from the BTO, but as yet, have not received a reply from Calum.  Ringed in August 2016, there is every possibility, that this gull, has been re-sighted elsewhere.  The distance from the Ythan Estuary, to Millquarter Bay, is 400 kms / 248 miles (SW).

Black-headed Gull  -    2BT3   -  Millquarter Bay, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (04 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed adult, on the 26th August 2016, on the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)

A Common Gull, with one of those dodgy 'Blue Darvic's', presented me with another headache.  I emailed photos, to Graham McElwaine, David Nixon, and my Dublin based 'Ring Reading' counterpart, Graham Prole.  No body agreed on the full code, but all agreed on the first three characters -   2AT?   I have my own idea on the final character, but have not reported this bird to the BTO, as the code cannot be proven.  Anyone, fancy a guess at this one?, email me.

Common Gull  -    2AT*   -  Millquater Bay, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (04 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 23rd June 2012, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)

The first of three Herring Gulls, spotted, was a bird from the Isle of Man -   Z15:M .  Mark Fitzpatrick, replied to my email, to say that this bird was ringed as a second calendar year, in June 2012, at Peel Bay.

It was re-sighted on three occasions on the Isle of Man, (July 2012, and twice in November 2012), and was not seen again, until the 30th October 2014, when it turned up at the West Pier, in Howth, Co. Dublin.  Since then, there have been no further sightings, until my sighting today, at Millquarter Bay.

Herring Gull  -    Z15:M   -  Millquarter Bay, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (04 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a 2nd Calendar Year Bird, on the 25th June 2012, at Peel Bay, Isle of Man)

The first of two juvenile Herring Gulls spotted, was   278:D , which I knew was from Dublin.  Graham Prole, replied to my email, with the ringing details.    278:D , was ringed as a chick, on the 22nd June 2018, on the roof of the Mater Hospital, in the City of Dublin.  My sighting, was the first record of the gull since fledging.  The distance from Dublin, to Millquarter Bay, is 116 kms / 72 miles (NNE).

This is my second sighting of a Herring Gull from Dublin, here at Millquarter Bay.  On the 29th July 2018, I spotted   005:D , which had been ringed as a chick, in June 2017, also in Dublin City.

Herring Gull  -    278:D   -  Millquarter Bay, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (04 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 22nd June 2018, on the Roof of the Mater Hospital, Dublin City, R. of Ireland)

The second juvenile Herring Gull, was ringed as a chick, on the 17th July 2018, on the Isle of Pladda.  This is a small islet, just off the southern coast, of the Isle of Arran, in Ayrshire, Scotland.  Iain Livingstone, secretary of the Clyde Ringing Group, stated that this was the first sighting, since the bird was ringed.  (White) 4K8:C, had flown 125 kms / 78 miles (SSW), to reach Millquarter Bay.

Herring Gull  -  (White)  4K8:C  -  Millquarter Bay, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (04 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th July 2018, on the Isle of Pladda, Isle of Arran, Ayrshire, Scotland)

The second, of two Mediterranean Gulls, recorded today, was the Polish -   PLY1 , which was first spotted here, by Graham McElwaine, on the 1st November.  I reported the gull on his behalf, through my account on the 'Live Polish Ringing Database'.  On Monday afternoon, I received confirmation, that the sighting had been confirmed, which allows me access to the gulls ringing and re-sighting history.

  PLY1 , was ringed as an adult female, on the 16th May 2011, at Rybical, in NE Poland, by Monika Zielińska & Piotr Zieliński.  There have been three previous re-sightings, before Graham spotted the gull at Millquarter Bay.  On the 24th September 2014,   PLY1 , was spotted on the Wyre Estuary, in Lancashire, England.  It was again re-sighted in Lancashire, on the 7th August 2016, this time, on the Brockholes Nature Reserve.  On the 2nd May 2018, the gull had returned to it's home area, at Rybical.

The distance from Rybical, to Millquarter Bay, is 1,751 kms / 1,088 miles (WNW), the duration being 7 years, 5 months and 19 days.

Mediterranean Gull  -    PLY1   -  Millquarter Bay, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (04 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 16th May 2011, at Rybical, Poland)

The following 'colour-ringed' gull, was actually the first of the nine, to be recorded, during my visit to Millquarter Bay.  Having just arrived, I spotted this Mediterranean Gull, bathing in the freshwater stream, which flows over the pebble shore.  I couldn't believe my luck, falling in with bird of 'interest', so quickly.  Med Gulls, are still a bit of a novelty among birdwatchers in Northern Ireland.  

They have only started to breed here, in recent years, but sightings of birds outside of the breeding season, appears to be increasing.  So far this autumn, Med Gulls have been sighted on numerous occasions, and several 'colour-ringed' birds from the Continent, have also been reported, which has included several juveniles.

The gull I had in front of me, gave me a 'headache', for a while.  Trying to capture the code, on it's 'White Darvic', all I kept getting, was 'NNT'.  I suspected, I was missing the full code, then the inevitable happened.  The gull lifted off, flying out onto the rocks, at the north end of the Bay.

I quickly drove and re-parked my car level with these rocks, but the legs of the gull, could not be seen.  After a while, all the gulls took flight, and I completely lost my bird.  It took around 15 minutes, to relocate my target again, but this time, I captured the full code, as it stood in a sandy area.

(White) - 3NNT, turned out to be a Med Gull, that had been ringed in Holland, as a chick.  Ringed in 2015, on De Kreupel Island, situated roughly 50 kms / 30 miles (NE), of Amsterdam, '3NNT', has only been recorded at two other locations.  Whilst a juvenile, it was spotted in December 2015, on the Hayle Estuary, in Cornwall, SW England.  In May 2016, it was recorded on four occasions, on the Wood Lane Nature Reserve, in Shropshire, England.

The distance from De Kreupel Island, to Millquarter Bay, is 731 kms / 454 miles (WNW), the duration, since being ringed, 3 years, 4 months and 15 days.

Mediterranean Gull  -  (White)  3NNT  -  Millquarter Bay, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (04 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 20th June 2015, at De Kreupel Island, Lake IJsselmeer, Holland)


No comments: