Friday, 7 December 2018

Disaster, Disaster, Disaster...

A very short post this week, mainly due to family commitments, I did not get out over the past weekend.  Even at that, the weather over the weekend, was not great.  I could have got out for a couple of hours, late on Sunday afternoon, but chose to remain at home.  At the time, it was heavily overcast, raining steadily and there was not much light.  With limited time available, and considering the conditions, it would probably have resulted in a waste of fuel.

Therefore, this week's post revolves around events at Antrim Marina.

      Antrim Marina       
Following on from my previous visit to Antrim Marina, on Monday 26th November, Graham McElwaine, called by on Wednesday the 28th.  Graham, who is the ringing coordinator, for the Irish Brent Goose Research Group, recorded 5 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, during his brief visit.

Four of these, are pretty much 'run of the mill' sightings, but the fifth bird, had me wondering!!  This concerned the gull -   2ABA .  A non resident,   2ABA , normally returns to the Marina, in mid to late July, each summer.

Having not recorded this gull, upon re-starting my weekly visits to the Marina, this autumn, I eventually wrote the bird off 'as dead'.  On Monday, the 22nd October 2018, I had a surprise, as I could have sworn, I'd just spotted   2ABA .  Returning to my car, to grab my camera, the gull flew off and I haven't seen it since.  The following week, I noticed that the ring of   2ABF , had some debris attached to it, which made it look like   2ABA .  Could this have been the problem?

Graham's reported sighting, now throws the whole question, 'back up in the air'.  Is   2ABA , still alive after all!

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, Spotted by Graham McElwaine, on Wednesday 28th November 2018
 2AAN   2CJT   2ABK   2ABS   2ABA 

I undertook my weekly visit, on Monday 3rd December 2018.  Arriving around 09.05, at flat-bed lorry, also appeared at the barrier which allows access to the main area of the Marina.  Two workmen, in their 'Hi-Vis', work clothes, unloaded security fencing, and started to erect it, cutting out another large part of my observable area.  The newly cordoned off area, is for access, of machinery, as the river that flows past the Marina, is to be dredged.

With the wooden compound, of the new building works, my clear viewing area, is now limited to the slipway, though I can still see through the fencing.  The presence of the workmen, was not to the liking of the gulls, so very few remained where I could easily look at them.  Most gulls, preferred to rest up on the rails of the long wooden jetty, having now got used to the building going on quite close to them.

The weather during my visit, was quite cold, but sunny, with just a hint of a slight breeze.  The temperature, on arrival, read 1.5°C, which increased to 6.5°C, by the time of my departure, which should have been at midday.  Just as I was about to leave, a gentleman appeared, and a lengthy conversation then started.  I was going to cover the three other Antrim sites, but had to postpone this, as I had to get back home, to grab a couple of hours sleep, before starting an evening shift at work.

At the maximum, Black-headed Gulls, probably did not exceed the 100 mark, with many birds electing to feed on the grass areas, towards the nearby caravan park.  Normally for this time of the year, BHG numbers, should be between the 150 and 250 mark each week.  With building work in progress, and all the other activities taking place, it's clear many gulls are avoiding the Marina.  Despite, what I'd call, a 'disaster of a visit', I still re-sighted 20, out of the 30, 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, so far recorded this winter.

There is still no sign of   2AFD , which should have returned from Latvia by now, or   2CSC , a gull that I ringed last winter, which would land on my hand.  Another gull, which only appears occasionally at this time of the year -   2BRC , has yet to be recorded as well.

During my latest visit, I made my first two captures, for this winter.  Both were juveniles, and they were ringed -   2CSV   &   2CSX .  I caught them by using a fisherman's landing net, which was fully extended, and propped up by my tripod.  Throwing, bits of bread, in front of the net, the gulls rushed in to feed.  A quick turn of the handle, and the birds were caught.

As they are so hungry now, a number of gulls, will hopefully be caught and ringed over the following weeks.  With the addition of these two newly rung birds, the overall total now increases to 32 'colour-ringed', gulls to watch out for on my next visit.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, Re-Sighted at Antrim Marina, on Monday 3rd December 2018
 2CJT   2AAN   2CSJ   2BRA   2ABF   2ABK   2AAR   2CSK   2AAP   2AAK 
 2ABN   2CSA   2AAT   2ADJ   2CSL   2AAA   2CSR   2CSF   2CSB   T35J 

Today's Absentees
 2ABS   2AAB   2ABL   2AAV   2ACV   2ADV   2BRD   2ANS   2CSH   2CSS 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Two adult Common Gulls, were already present on my arrival, but soon disappeared.  Throughout my visit, birds would come and go, but at 10.26, a visit high, of 4 adult Common Gulls were recorded.  Once again, there was no sign of the small 'metal-ringed' female from Scotland.  I'm still trying to confirm the number on her 'metal'.  I would have thought, that she would have got used to the activity around the Marina by now, and would be less reluctant to visit.

Talking of reluctance, my thoughts have been turning towards the Finnish 'metal-rung' Common Gull.  This bird, which was ringed as a juvenile in 1995, is due to return in January, but I'm now on the watch, just in case it makes a December appearance.   Should it make a return, having survived the summer, it will be over 23 years old.

The sub-adult Herring Gull, arrived at 09.45, and much the same as the other gulls, would come and go.

The adult Mute Swan -   W34158 , was present throughout my visit.  By 11am, a further 5 adults, all un-ringed, had arrived onto the slipway.  By that time, the newly erected security fencing was in place, so I had no idea, whether they came in from the Lough or from up-river.

Mallards, are always un-phased by the activity going on around them.  Around 30 birds at first, they increased in numbers to about 60 birds by 11am. Again, most were checked for rings, but I'm still waiting on a first for this winter.

Other species noted, was a single Hooded Crow, a pair of Pied Wagtails and 7 Jackdaws.

Suzanne Belshaw, who also does a bit of 'Ring Reading', joined me shortly after 11am.  Suzanne, remained at the Marina, for a short period after my departure, and spotted Black-headed Gull -   2ACV  , which was not on my re-sighting list today.

On Wednesday the 5th, I received another email from Graham McElwaine.  He popped in by the Marina, for a short time yesterday, and recorded 4 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, which also included   2CSX , which had been rung the day before.  Whilst there, Graham, also read the ring of Mute Swan -   W34158  .  As always, I enter these sightings onto my two spreadsheets.

Graham, also mentioned, major disturbance, from a large crane.  I presume, this now sits within the area cordoned off by the security fencing.  It seems, as if the dredging work had already started, which will lead to even more disastrous visits to the Marina.

Thanks to Suzanne and Graham, for informing me of their sightings.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, Spotted by Graham McElwaine, on Tuesday 4th December 2018
 2ABS   2CSX   2AAP   2ABK 


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