Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Win Some, Loose Some...

Once again, I did not get out on Saturday.  Perhaps it was just as well, as it rained for most of the afternoon, and the available light was very poor.  Instead, I did some work on my spreadsheet, and then settled down to watch my favourite football team - Chelsea, who managed to beat Manchester City, a result, which I think, would have surprised many.

Sunday, was a brilliant day, with plenty of sunshine, albeit, slightly on the chilly side.  My plan, was to visit sites around Belfast, before moving on to Castle Espie and Millisle, in County Down.

County Down, 'flew out of the window', upon reaching the beach at Kinnegar.  Two birds especially caught my attention, but after a prolonged visit, I failed to capture the ring details for both birds.  Before Kinnegar, I had recorded a few new ring sightings, but barring a Cormorant, the others were no strangers to Northern Ireland.

Despite, the pluses and minuses, my visit around Belfast Lough, was quite rewarding.  I'll try County Down next Saturday, if possible.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 10th December 2018       
Judging by the report from Graham McElwaine, via his last email, I was not looking forwards to today's visit to Antrim Marina.  Arriving, just before 09.20, it was an overcast morning, with practically no wind, and the temperature read 3°C.  Pulling up at the barrier, which allows access to the Marina, I could see that the workmen very already busy, with their dredging operations.

Two barges, were in operation, moving out and back, from a digger, which sat on a pontoon, close to the breakwater, which separates Lough Neagh, from the river which flows past the Marina.  The barges, would moor alongside the low wooden jetty, and the silt would be unloaded by another digger, onto a lorry.

As can be seen in my photos, my working area to observe the birds at the Marina, is now seriously hampered, and all of the disturbance from this, and the works on building the new cafe, is having a detrimental effect on the birdlife.

The Dredging Operations in Progress

The number of Black-headed Gulls, which did visit the Marina, varied between, 60 to 80 birds at max.  Judging by the ring numbers that were recorded, some gulls were quickly coming and going.

Having caught and ringed, two juvenile Black-headed Gulls, a week ago, I was on the lookout for 32 'colour-ringed' birds altogether today.  By 10.24, I had re-sighted 18 of these, which also included the two youngsters   2CSV   &   2CSX , ringed last Monday.

1st Winter Black-headed Gulls  -    2CSV   &    2CSX   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (10 Dec 2018)
(Both Ringed last Monday, 3rd December 2018, at Antrim Marina)

From 10.45, until 12.00, not a single gull remained at the Marina, so I called it a day and moved on.  Two of the absentees, were spotted, afterwards, at other sites around Antrim Town.  All of this disturbance is causing me serious problems, whilst trying to study the gulls here.

I'm currently waiting on the re-sightings of three other Black-headed Gulls, at present, but I don't stand a chance now.  It would have been far wiser, if the building and dredging operations, had been undertaken during the summer months, whilst the birds were away breeding, and not at this time of the year, when the birds are looking for easy meals.

This coming weekend, I will undertake my weekly visit on Sunday.  Perhaps, I'll have better luck, as the workmen will be off for the weekend.

Despite the lack of gulls, I did manage to catch and ring another Black-headed Gull.  This second winter bird, has been fitted with   2CTA , which means the winter total, now rises to 33 'colour-ringed' BHGs.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, at Antrim Marina, on Monday 10th December 2018
 2AAK   2AAT   2ADJ   2CSK   2CSA   2ABK   2CSJ   2CJT   2BRA 
 2CSX   2AAP   2CSV   2CSF   2AAR   T35J   2CSR   2ABN   2AAN 

Today's Absentees
 2AAA   2ABS   2AAB   2ABL   2ABF   2AAV   2ACV 
 2ADV   2BRD   2ANS   2CSB   2CSH   2CSL   2CSS 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Other birds, were practically non existent today.  Even the normally tolerant Mallards, appear to be put off with all of the activity.  29 ducks counted on my arrival, increased in numbers, by just 4 birds, by the time I gave up at noon.  Looking at the water on the slipway, there is a slight film of diesel oil, which no doubt, is being leaked from the machinery being used.

The Mute Swan,   W34158 , was present throughout my visit and not one other swan was spotted, even out on the Lough.

Two adult Common Gulls, and the sub-adult Herring Gull, made brief appearances.  They too, were put off by all of the activity.

The only other species noted, were a single Hooded Crow and a male Pied Wagtail.  For the first time ever, not a single Jackdaw, was to be seen.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC Outlet & Baptist Church
Leaving the Marina, I had a look at the other three sites, around Antrim Town.  Stopping first at the Elim Church, around 20 BHGs, were attracted to my offering of bread.  One of these was   2AAV , who did not appear at the Marina today.  There was no sign of the Finnish BHG, which bears a 'metal-ring'.

Moving on to the car park of the nearby KFC outlet, just 6 Black-headed Gulls were present, but no rings here.

Finishing off my visit to Antrim, another two rings were spotted at the Baptist Church.  One of these, was   2AAB , who wasn't at the Marina today.  The other, a 'metal-rung' bird, quickly flew off, before I could get close ups of the ring.  On the one photo I did take, I could see, that the number began with the letters '  EW '.

I reckon, this is   EW39319 , a bird I recorded here on three occasions last winter.  Ringed as a chick in 2009, in Scotland, hopefully I'll confirm the number on a later date.

Black-headed Gull  -    EW*****   -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (10 Dec 2018)


      Ringing Details Received       
Calum Campbell, of the Grampian Ringing Group, in Scotland, has contacted me recently.  Offering his apologies, he has been working out in Saudi Arabia.  Calum, gave me updates, on two of the Group's gulls, which I have recorded this winter.

Common Gull -   2VDT , was ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 26th August 2017, on the Ythan Estuary, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  On February 18th, this year, I made the first re-sighting, when I spotted the gull, on Kinnegar Beach, County Down.  I recorded the gull again at Kinnegar Beach, on the 10th November 2018, which is now it's second re-sighting.

Black-headed Gull -   2BT3 , was among the 'monster' haul of rings, that I recorded, on the 4th November 2018, at Millquarter Bay, on Strangford Lough.  It happens, that   2BT3 , is no stranger to Millquarter Bay, as David Nixon, also recorded the gull there, on the 23rd November 2016.

Ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 26th August 2016, on the Ythan Estuary, in Aberdeenshire, it was re-sighted twice this summer (July & August 2018), back on the Ythan Estuary.  These four records, completes   2BT3 's re-sighting history.

My thanks to Calum, for getting back to me as promised.


      Sunday 9th December 2018       
My plan today, was to visit sites around Belfast Lough, before moving on to Castle Espie and Millisle, in County Down.  As things panned out, I never left Belfast Lough, having recorded several rings.

My first stop of the day, was at Whiteabbey.  Parking in the car park, I did what I would always do when I arrive here.  I scope the remnants, of the Old Whiteabbey Pier, a favourite resting spot for Cormorants.  Back in November 2015, I spotted a Scottish-rung Cormorant - (White) JJZ, on this very same pier.

Today, I struck lucky once again, as I could see a 'White Darvic'.  Zooming in with my camera, I quickly captured the code - (White) B7J.  Checking up the bird, on the 'cr-birding site', this Cormorant, is from the Republic of Ireland.  I have emailed Tom Kealy, and now await on his reply.

Cormorant  -  (White)  B7J  -  The Old Whiteabbey Pier, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (09 Dec 2018)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)

With it being almost high tide, I walked along the footpath towards the Loughshore Park, at Jordanstown.  Here, I encountered three groups of Dunlins, resting at the base of the sea wall and rocky shoreline.  Peering at these through my binoculars, many were standing on the one leg, but a few of them bore tall 'metal-rings', which meant that they were probably foreign.

I eventually fell in with one Dunlin, that was 'colour-ringed', - (White) RJ9.  Just last week, Suzanne Belshaw, made reference to her Dunlin sighting at Whiteabbey, when we met each other at Antrim Marina.

Returning home on Saturday evening, I checked my spreadsheet, and RJ9, was the very same bird spotted by Suzanne, here, on the 24th January 2018.  I reported my sighting, onto the live 'Polish Ringing Databse', and received a reply on Tuesday afternoon.

Ringed as an un-sexed 2nd year bird, just east of Gdańsk, in Poland, our sightings, are the only reports that have been recorded so far.  Ringed on the 13th July 2016, RJ9, has travelled 1,594 kms / 990 miles (W), to reach Whiteabbey.  This Dunlin, was also my first recording of a ringed bird, of this species.

Dunlin  -  (White)  RJ9  -  Whiteabbey Shoreline, Whiteabbey, Belfast Lough  (09 Dec 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed 2nd Calendar Year Bird, on the 13th July 2016, near Gdańsk, Poland)

Leaving Whiteabbey, I made a quick stop to Whitehouse Lagoon.  The Lagoon, by now was fairly full, due to the incoming tide, but very few gulls or waders were present.

I then made my way to the Industrial Estate at Dargan.  A large number of gulls, were resting on a section of barren land, on this former wastefill site.  The Belfast Waste Transfer Station, is situated close by, the roof of which, is a favourite resting place for the gulls.  However, a couple of men, were carrying out work on the roof, which would explain why so many gulls were resting here.

Scoping through the gulls, which were a good distance away, I spotted a 'Green Darvic', on a Black-headed Gull.  Camera out, I quickly captured the code -   J08K .  This is my second sighting of the Norwegian   J08K , this winter, having spotted it at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre in County Down (11th Nov).

I first fell in with this gull last winter, having discovered it in the grounds of the Waste Transfer Station, here at Dargan.  In my blog entry in November, I asked the question - would it return to Dargan by Christmas, and today's sighting has answered that.

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    J08K   -  Dargan Industrial Estate, Belfast  (09 Dec 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 3rd April 2015, at Nærbøparken, Hå, Rogaland, Norway) 

I continued to scope through the gulls, then noticed another Black-headed Gull, this time with an 'Orange Darvic'.  Knowing this was one of Adam's Study birds, it laid down, as I was zooming in with the camera.  I then continued scoping through the gulls, and next spotted a 'White Darvic', on a third Black-headed Gull.

Ringed - (White) E6HA, this bird was another new sighting for me.  Returning home, I looked up the code, on the cr-birding site, to find that this gull was from Holland, and this became my second ever sighting of a Dutch BHG.  I emailed Frank Majoor, who replied later in the evening, attaching the gull's re-sighting history.

As it turns out, (White) E6HA, was no stranger to Dargan.  On the 17th September 2014, Adam McClure, recorded the gull here (read), which happened to be it's last re-sighting until today.  Has this bird, slipped 'under the radar', every winter, around Belfast?

(White) E6HA, was ringed as an adult male, on the 1st July 2010, at Harlingen, in (NW) Holland.  It was subsequently spotted twice in that same month, and the only other sightings since, have been made by Adam, and now myself.

Black-headed Gull  -  Holland  (White)  E6HA  -  Dargan Industrial Estate, Belfast  (09 Dec 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 1st July 2010, at Harlingen, Friesland, Holland)

With two Black-headed Gulls sorted, I now waited on Adam's gull to get back onto it's feet.  I didn't have too long to wait, and then captured the code   2AJF .  At the time, I thought that this was another new sighting, as I couldn't place the code.

On checking my spreadsheet, back at home, I had recorded this bird, on one other occasion.  Ringed as a chick, in June 2014, the first ever re-sighting, was recorded by me, on the 12th May 2018.  Having been ringed at Castle Espie, in County Down, I discovered it breeding, on one of nesting platforms, at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, a short distance away, from where I got the gull today.

As Adam, is still not responding to emails, I can only assume, that today's sighting, is the bird's second record.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AJF   -  Dargan Industrial Estate, Belfast  (09 Dec 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2014, at The Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down)

My final confirmed ring sighting of the day, was at Kinnegar Beach, on the County Down side of Belfast Lough.  Having spent more time here than I had planned, three other 'ringed' birds, had eluded me (read below), before I spotted another one of Adam's study birds.

I recognised the code on this Black-headed Gull -   2ASA , but could not place it.  Again, checking my spreadsheet, I had recorded   2ASA , twice in May 2018, breeding at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, in County Down.

  2ASA , had been ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2013, on Mew Island, one of the Copeland Islands, also in County Down.  After fledging,   2ASA , was spotted by Cameron Moore, in July 2013, at Whitehead, in County Antrim.  The gull re-surfaced a year later (July 2014), when it was first seen at the Castle Espie, followed by a second sighting there in September 2014.

Those sightings, were made, before   2ASA , had reached breeding age, but obviously,   2ASA , had chosen Castle Espie, for it's future breeding site.  Having reached breeding age, it was spotted in April 2016, and April 2017, at the Wetland Centre.  The only other 'winter record', of   2ASA , before today, was made in February 2018, when it was seen at the Billy Neill Soccer Centre, not too far from Castle Espie.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ASA   -  Kinnegar Beach, Co. Down  (09 Dec 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2013, on Mew Island, The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Three that got Away...
Also at Kinnegar, three 'colour-ringed' birds, eluded me.  The first of these, was a Bar-tailed Godwit.  I spent an eternity, trying to catch the ring combination of this one, which I suspected was a bird, that I spotted in the area earlier this year, having been ringed in Holland.

Roosting, with other Godwits and Oystercatchers, on Kinnegar Pond, they have a hateful habit of standing on one leg.  The Pond is situated, just across the private road, from Kinnegar Beach, where they were waiting for the tide to go out.

Although, it was fairly far from me, my camera easily captured Yellow over Yellow, below the knee joint, and the 'metal-ring', just above the knee, on the birds right leg.  I now needed the Godwit, to show it's left leg, which never happened.  Every now and again, it did move, but just hopped along on the one leg.

The wait was very frustrating, and having spent a good hour and a half waiting, I lost the Godwit completely, among all the other birds present.  With the tide starting to recede, I gave up all hope and headed towards the shore.

On returning home, I checked up on the Godwit, I had recorded here, earlier this year.  That particular bird, was rung White over Blue, on the left leg, and Yellow, over a Red Flag, over Yellow, on the right leg.  However, the Red Flag, was barely visible between the two Yellow rings, as it had broke.

I strongly believe, that today's sighting, was of the same bird, and the remnants of the Red Flag, has now completely fallen off.  Hopefully, this Godwit, will remain in the area, and I can try again on another day.

Bar-tailed Godwit  -  Kinnegar Pond, Co. Down  (09 Dec 2018) and on Kinnegr Beach  (04 Mar 2018)

Also on Kinnegar Pond, I spotted an Oystercatcher, which also stood on the one leg.  Ringed - White(NC), on it's left leg, this one, was most likely to be Red/Red-White(NC), which was a new sighting for me, when I spotted it on Kinnegar Beach, on the 10th November 2018.  If it is the same bird, it was ringed in May 2017, as a breeding adult in south-west Iceland.

Oystercatcher  -  ??-W(NC)  -  Kinnegar Pond, Kinnegar Beach, Co. Down  (09 Dec 2018)

The third bird to elude me, was a Common Gull, spotted on Kinnegar Beach, whilst the tide was well on it's way out.  There were a good number of Common's arriving, and several, were spotted with just 'metals'.  One bird caught my eye, which was standing on it's left leg, which also bore a 'metal-ring'.  I was suspicious about this bird, and had a feeling that it was a foreign gull.

Having a good rest, with it's head, tucked into it's back, I locked my telescope onto the gull and waited.  Eventually, it started to preen itself, but continued to stand on the one leg.  Thinking it would soon drop the right leg, I zoomed in with my camera.  It lowered the right leg slightly, revealing a 'White Darvic', then retracted the leg and went into another snooze.

I reckoned, that this was a Norwegian bird, so I was very keen on trying to ascertain the code on the ring.  With my telescope still locked onto the gull, I scanned through the other gulls with my binoculars, eventually spotting one of Adam's Black-headed Gulls -   2ASA .

A good 20 to 30 minutes passed by, and my Common Gull hadn't budged.  The inevitable then happened.  A women came along the beach, with her two dogs, scaring all the gulls away into the distance.  To my dismay, I couldn't relocate the gull again.

Common Gull  -  White ????  -  Kinnegar Beach, Co. Down  (09 Dec 2018)


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