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.


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