Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Polish First...

      Antrim Marina - Monday 28th January 2019       
I wasn't free to undertake any birdwatching yesterday, so once again, my weekly visit to Antrim Marina took place today.  Arriving just after 9.20am, I was horrified to see a lorry parked close to the low wooden jetty.  Two men, were busy power hosing, both the low wooden jetty and long wooden jetty.  Due to the noise, no gulls were anywhere close.

About forty minutes later, both men took a break for a few minutes, which gave me a chance to have a chat with them.  They reckoned, that they would be on site for at least a couple of hours, which of course, was entirely of no use to me.  I tried to lure gulls towards me, by re-parking my car towards the caravan park.  I managed to read nine 'colour-rings', altogether, but the gulls quickly cleared off again.

Realising, I was going to have an 'uphill battle', I eventually decided to abandon my visit.  I contemplated a return visit on Tuesday or Wednesday, but I don't really have the time for this.  With just 9 BHG rings read today, I cannot really count this as a proper visit, but at least I tried.  Three Mute Swans, were undeterred by all of the noise, and the included   W34158 , who is always undaunted, no matter what goes on here.

Leaving Antrim Marina, I now had ample time, before returning home and preparing myself for work.  I then visited the three other sites around Antrim Town, where gulls often gather, and on returning to Ballymena, I called into my local park.  The results can be read below, under Monday's heading.

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, Monday 28th January 2019
 2CJT   2AAA   2CSR   2CTC   2BRA   2CSV   2AAK   T35J   2CTB 

Black-headed Gull  -    2CTB   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (28 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 24th December 2018, at Antrim Marina)


      Ringing Details Received       
It had to happen!!  I had held off from publishing my last post, in the hope the ringing details of a young Russian Black-headed Gull, would arrive back to Suzanne Belshaw.  No sooner, had I the post published, when Suzanne, received her reply.

The young gull, rung -   PS23287 , was ringed as a chick, on the 6th June 2018, just to the east of Novgrod, which is situated 225 kms / 140 miles, to the east of the border, with Estonia.  The distance to Lurgan Park Lake, where Suzanne had recorded the gull, on the 17th January 2019, is a mouthwatering 2,317 kms / 1, 439 miles (W).    PS23287 , is the first ever Russian Black-headed Gull, ever to be recorded, in the whole of Ireland, North or South.

The story doesn't end there, as   PS23287 , just happened to be spotted on the 23rd December 2018.  A Brad Robson, recorded the young gull at the Round 'O', in the town of Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, which is even further west in Northern Ireland.  The distance, an even more mouthwatering 2,406 kms / 1,495 miles (W).

My thanks goes to Suzanne for sharing her sighting, of this wonderful record holder.  Brad, if you read this, please contact me -

On Sunday morning (27th January), I discovered an unexpected email from Frank Majoor.  It happened to be about Black-headed Gull - White EAK9, which I re-sighted twice on Christmas Day (25th December 2018).

Frank, was letting me know about the latest sighting of EAK9, reported to him on the 25th January 2019.  One month to the day, from my last sighting, EAK9, was spotted on Lake Oriel, in France, by a Fabrice Croset.  This is a move of 998 kms / 620 miles (SE), from Belfast, and I must admit, it was quite a jump, well before the commencement of the forthcoming breeding season.  My thanks goes to Frank, for keeping me informed of this latest movement.


      Saturday 26th January 2019       
I was on the verge of remaining at home today, as it was raining quite steadily and it was fairly dark, due to the thick cloud cover.  However, shortly after lunch-time, the rain eased off and the sun tried to shine through blue patches.  A quick look at the tide tables, saw an approaching high tide, so I made the decision to head off towards Belfast Lough, with Kinnegar being the chosen site.

Even before I got to Belfast, a few torrential downpours, made me wonder, had I made the right choice.  Arriving at Kinnegar, the tide was well up, and the nearby tidal pond, was also filling fast.  Here, loads of waders were jostling for position, anywhere they could find some space.  I parked close to the crash barrier overlooking the pond, and after a while, recorded four 'colour-ringed' birds, all of which were re-sightings.

Among these, were 2 Knots and a Bar-tailed Godwit, which not so long ago, presented me with much effort trying to capture their 'colour-ring' combinations.  Today, they practically offered themselves on a plate - so easy was it to take photos of them.  A 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher among them, was always an easy bird to photograph.

The Bar-tailed Godwit, is a Dutch bird, ringed as an adult male, in September 2008.  Today's sighting, is my third record of the bird, having recorded it, on the 4th March 2018, and on the 25th December 2018.  It's now 10 years, 4 months and 23 days, since it was ringed, and the distance from Terschelling, in the Wadden Sea, to Kinnegar, is 742 kms / 461 miles (WNW).  The Godwit, was ringed with a 'Red Flag', between the two 'Yellow Rings', but it has now disintegrated completely.

Bar-tailed Godwit  -  W,B-Y(Rf)Y  -  Kinnegar Pond, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (26 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 3rd September 2008, at Terschelling, Holland)

The Oystercatcher, rung Yellow over Lime on it's left leg, and White (UA), on the right leg, was recorded for the third time this winter.  Ringed as an un-sexed breeding adult in May 2018, my two previous sightings, were made on the 26th August and 10th November 2018.  The distance from the Stokkseyri area of Southern Iceland to Kinnegar, is 1,330 kms / 827 miles (SE), and the duration up to today's sighting, is now 8 months and 3 days.

Oystercatcher  -  YL-W(UA)  -  Kinnegar Pond, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (26 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 23rd May 2018, at Stokkseyri, Southern Iceland)

I was just lucky enough to take a photo of a 'colour-ringed' Knot, before it took flight and wasn't seen again.  Looking at the photo, it was the same bird, which I first recorded on the nearby beach on the 19th December 2018.  Rung on the left leg, with an 'Orange Flag', inscribed with the code 'X8', over a 'Pale Blue' ring, this bird was ringed (metal on right-leg), on the 22nd September 2017, at Altcar, on Merseyside, England.

Before it arrived into Northern Ireland, Of(X8),P, was spotted twice on Merseyside - 11th August 2018 (Seaforth), and on the 10th September 2018 (Ainsdale Beach).  The distance from Altcar to Kinnegar, is 219 kms / 136 miles (NW), and the duration is now - 1 year, 4 months and 4 days.

Knot  -  Of(X8),P  -  Kinnegar Pond, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (26 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 22nd September 2017, at Altcar, Merseyside, England)

The second 'colour-ringed' Knot spotted on the pond, was also a bird I first spotted on the 19th December 2018, on the nearby beach.  All of the rings on this Knot, are fitted onto it's right-leg.  A single 'Yellow Ring', placed above the knee, was followed with a 'Yellow Flag', inscribed with '17N', above a 'metal-ring', fitted below the knee.

Y,Yf(17N), was ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 22nd May 2017, at Straumfjördur, in western Iceland.  Just one previous sighting, was made on the 20th May 2018, at Skogarnes, also in western Iceland.  The distance from the ringing site to Kinnegar, is 1,426 kms / 886 miles (SE), the duration now being - 1 year, 8 months and 4 days.

Knot  -  Y,Yf(17N)  -  Kinnegar Pond, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (26 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 22nd May 2017, at Straumfjördur, W. Iceland)

As can be seen in the above photo, there was a third Knot present that was ringed, with just a 'metal'.  As well as the 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher previously mentioned, two others were present, which were ringed with 'metals' only.  One was ringed on the right-leg, the other ringed on the left-leg.  All through my visit to both Kinnegar Pond and the nearby beach, many showers of rain passed by.

As time was getting on, I decided to make a quick dash for the Industrial Estate at Dargan.  On my arrival, the sky was rapidly darkening down again, with drizzle, quickly turning into heavy rain.  Before the downpour started in earnest, I had about 10 to 15 minutes to check on the gulls, perched on the rooftop, of the Waste Transfer Station.  A Common Gull, was seen lifting into the sky, which appeared to be rung with what I thought, was an 'Orange Darvic'.

Continuing to check the gulls through my binoculars, I was panicking to find this bird again, and it eventually landed briefly on the far edge of the roof.  Quickly zooming in, I had little faith, as to whether the code could be captured, but capture it, I did.

The gull flew off again, before I could obtain closer images, but on checking what I did have, this was actually a 'Red Darvic', with the code 'TM45', in White.  I couldn't believe my luck, did the 'T', really mean, I had a Polish Common Gull here!!  The downpour then began, so it was time to head home.

On returning home, I firstly downloaded my photos onto the laptop, before checking the Common Gull on the cr-birding site.    TM45 , was indeed from Poland, and was my first Common Gull sighting from that country.  I then checked out the BTO's 'Online Ringing Database', to find that this was also a first for Northern Ireland.  I also checked on the results for the Republic of Ireland, to find that there was a single record, made back in 2007.

I then reported   TM45 , on the 'Live' Polish Ringing Database, and on Monday afternoon, received an email, stating my sighting had been accepted.  This in return, allowed me access to the gull's ringing and re-sighting history.

  TM45 , was caught and ringed as a juvenile, on the 7th September 2017, at  Gdynia, on the north coast of Poland.  Two day's later (9th), it was re-sighted at  Dębki, which is a further 49 kms / 30 miles (NW).  This was the last report of   TM45 , until I spotted the gull today.  The distance from Gdynia, to Dargan, is 1,569 kms / 974 miles (W), and the duration from ringing is - 1 year, 4 months and 19 days.

Common Gull  -    TM45   -  Belfast Waste Transfer Station, Dargan Industrial Estate  (26 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 7th September 2017, at Gdynia, Northern Poland)


      Monday 28th January 2019       
As mentioned earlier in this post, I had to abandon my latest visit to Antrim Marina, which in turn, gave me ample time to cover the other three sites around the town of Antrim, as well as my local park in Ballymena.

My first stop, was at Antrim's Elim Church, situated on the Parkhall Housing Estate.  Here, I was hoping to record Black-headed Gull -   2AAV , from Adam's Northern Ireland Study, and hopefully get another stab at reading the full number of a Finnish BHG, which appeared here a few weeks ago.

Throwing out bits of bread, I soon spotted an 'Orange Darvic', soon followed by a gull, with just a tall 'metal-ring'.  Judging by the behaviour of both gulls, I quickly realised, they were not the gulls I was hoping to see.  The gull with the 'Darvic', did not come close to me, but preferred to remain on the grass, whereas,   2AAV , would always come right up to my car.

After a minute or two, this shy gull, came close enough, where I was able to get a couple of photos, realising it was   2CTD .  I caught and ringed this gull at Antrim Marina, on the 24th December 2018, and hadn't seen the gull at the Marina since being ringed.  Perhaps, due to all of the recent disturbance at the Marina,   2CTD   prefers to 'hang out' around Parkhall. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2CTD   -  Elim Church, Parkhall, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (28 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed 2nd Winter Bird, on the 24th December 2018, at Antrim Marina)

The second Black-headed Gull, with the tall 'metal', did approach my car, which unlike the Finnish BHG, seen here a few weeks ago, would not come off the roof of the Church.  Following the gull backwards and forwards with my camera, throwing down bits of bread at the same time, I soon wondered, was this a re-sighting an Icelandic bird.

Enough photos taken, I checked through them, to find I had successfully captured the ring number -   571487 .  I first recorded this gull, as a 'fledgling ring reader', on the 23rd March 2014, at Antrim Marina.  This is now the sixth winter running, that I've recorded   571487 , wintering around the town of Antrim.  Today's sighting, is my 22nd reading of the ring, which is not bad for a 'metal'.

  571487 , was ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2003, just outside of the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik.  This is one of the oldest Black-headed Gulls, on my spreadsheet, the duration now being 15 years, 7 months and 9 days.  The distance to the Elim Church, is 1,369 kms / 848 miles (SE).  As you can imagine, I was well pleased to record this bird once again.

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    571487   -  Elim Church, Parkhall, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim (28 Jan 2019).
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2003, just outside of Reykjavik, Iceland)

Moving on to the nearby car park at Antrim's KFC outlet, only a few BHG's were present, but no rings.  Another of Adam's Black-headed Gulls -   2ADD , is due to return here.    2ADD , winters at Carrickfergus, on the east coast of County Antrim, but usually stops at the KFC car park for a few weeks, before moving on to Antrim Marina, where it presumably breeds on the nearby 'Torpedo Platform'.

My final stop in Antrim, was at the car park of the Baptist Church.  Here, I was looking for two BHGs in particular - (White) TY43, from Poland, and a 'metal-ringed' bird, hailing from Scotland.  Around 80 BHGs were lured to the car park with bread, but the only ring spotted, was that of TY43.

(White) TY43, was first recorded in Northern Ireland, on the 29th October 2013, when spotted at Antrim Marina, by Adam McClure.  The gull then went un-recorded here, until the 16th October 2017, when I first spotted here at the Baptist Church.  I have now established that TY43, is a winter resident, in the area of the Church, having now recorded the gull here on numerous occasions.  My first sighting of TY43, here this winter, was made on the 5th August 2018.

TY43, was ringed as an un-sexed 2nd Calendar year bird, on the 9th February 2012, at Olsztyn, in Northern Poland.  The duration since ringing, is now 6 years, 11 months and 19 days, the distance to the Baptist Church, being 1,725 kms / 1,071 miles (W).

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  TY43  -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim (28 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Calendar Bird, on the 9th February 2012, at Olsztyn, Northern Poland)

Having finished at Antrim, I drove back to my home town of Ballymena, calling into my local park, known as The Peoples Park.  I must admit, although the park is situated within minutes from my house, very few visits have been made there this winter.

Within seconds of throwing down bits of bread onto the small stony shore of the park's lake, a Black-headed Gull, with a 'Green Darvic' appeared.  Seconds later, photos were taken, and the code on the ring was captured -   J2E1 .  I knew straight away by the letter 'J', this was a Norwegian bird.

On returning home, and entering the code onto the 'Live' Norwegian Ringing Database, I was able to access the birds ringing and re-sighting history.    J2E1 , was ringed as an un-sexed adult last summer - 14th June 2018, in Oslo, Norway.  My sighting at The Peoples Park, was the bird's first record since being ringed.  This has left me wondering.  Has this bird wintered here in the past, when not ringed?  Only time and future winter sightings, will confirm this thought.

The distance from Oslo, to The Peoples Park, is 1,161 kms / 721 miles (WNW).

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    J2E1   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  (28 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 14th June 2018, at Oslo, Norway)

After feeding the gulls for around 10 minutes, another 'Darvic' appeared, this one being   2AXV , which is spending it's third winter running at the park.    2AXV , first appeared here on the 23rd October 2016, as a juvenile, and remained at the park until the 11th March 2017.  It re-appeared for it's second winter, on the 1st September 2017, remaining until the 25th February 2018.

This winter, I first recorded it on the 14th October 2018, which was the only sighting until today.  Only the lack of further visits, has prevented further re-sightings this winter.  At least, I now know it is still here.

  2AXV , was ringed as a chick, on the 7th June 2016, at Marsh Lane Nature Reserve, near Coventry, in England.  The distance to The Peoples Park, is 408 kms / 254 miles (NW), the duration now being 2 years, 7 months and 21 days.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AXV   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  (28 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 7th June 2016, at Marsh Lane NR, near Coventry, England)


Saturday, 26 January 2019

Russian Invader...

As my car had failed it's MOT Test, I was off the road for a while.  I had to wait for a week, after the failure, before my mechanic could take the car to begin the four minor problems, the main one, being power steering fluid leaking, in the steering rack.  I collected the car, on Tuesday the 22nd, and was lucky enough to book a retest, for 1.35pm, on Wednesday the 23rd.  This time, the car passed with flying colours.

Having not been able to get out and about, I've nothing new to report, but David Nixon and Suzanne Belshaw, have saved the day, by reporting a couple of their ring sightings.  Suzanne, also graciously covered for my absence at Antrim Marina, by visiting the Marina on Monday 21st January, which meant, the continuation of weekly visits, continues to be 100 per cent.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 21st January 2019       
As mentioned in my introduction, I was not able to visit Antrim Marina, so Suzanne Belshaw, took up this weekly challenge.  Arriving at 11.30am, Suzanne departed at 1.15pm.  With 36 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls recorded this winter at the Marina, Suzanne recorded 25 of these during her visit.

At their maximum, around 100 BHGs, were present, but with birds coming and going, I'd suggest, at least 150 individuals were visiting.  Usually, when Suzanne covers for me, she'd often fall in with something interesting, but no luck there today.  Suzanne, also kept an eye out for birds with 'metals' only, but none turned up, which included the Danish juvenile, recorded here during my two previous visits.  The ringing details of this youngster, have now arrived with me (read below).

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, on Monday 21st January 2019
 T35J   2AAA   2AAB   2AAK   2AAN   2AAP   2AAR   2AAT   2ABK 
 2ABN   2ABS   2ACV   2ADJ   2BRA   2CJT   2CSA   2CSB   2CSF 
 2CSJ   2CSK   2CSL   2CSR   2CSV   2CTB   2CTC     

Today's Absentees
 2ABL   2ABF   2AAV   2ADV   2BRD   2ANS 
 2CSH   2CSS   2CSX   2CTA   2CTD   

While at the Marina, Suzanne photographed 16 of the 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, but submitted three along with her email.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSK   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (21 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 17th December 2017, at Antrim Marina)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CTC   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (21 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as a 1st Winter Bird, on the 24th December 2018, at Antrim Marina)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Black-headed Gull  -  White T35J  -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (21 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd June 2006, at Lake Kretuonas, Lithuania)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
No mention was made, about the number of Mute Swans present, but the 'metal-ringed'   W34158 , did not escape Suzanne's attention.  A special watch was made concerning the Common Gulls, as Suzanne knew, I was looking for a 'metal-rung' Finnish bird.  Four, possibly five individuals, were visiting the Marina, but none were carrying rings.


      Ringing Details Received       
I have now received the ringing details for the young Danish Black-headed Gull, which I recently spotted at Antrim Marina.  Bearing, one of the new style 'metals',   VA4235 , was ringed as a chick, on the 28th May 2018, on Hirsholm, an island just off the north-east coast of Denmark.  The distance to Antrim Marina, was given as 1,088 kms / 676 miles (WSW), the duration to my first sighting - 7 months and 10 days.  Check on my two previous posts, about this young gull at Antrim Marina.


      From Suzanne Belshaw       
Returning home from work, in the early hours of the 18th January, I checked my emails, to find one from Suzanne Belshaw, which to say the least, was quite extraordinary.

Visiting the lake, at Lurgan Park, on the 17th January, Suzanne managed to capture the 'metal ring' number -   PS23287 , on a juvenile Black-headed Gull.  Reading the inscription 'MOSKVA', on the ring, this youngster was from Russia.  Now, I've been involved with Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study, long enough, to know, a Russian BHG, had not as yet been recorded.  Even more, the 'alarm bells' were ringing in my head, was this a first for Northern Ireland?

Later, I logged on to the British Trust for Ornithology's 'Online Ringing Report', to discover, that not only was this a first for Northern Ireland, but, it was a first, for the whole island of Ireland.  I deliberately held off from publishing this post, in hope that the ringing details would arrive back to Suzanne.

Personally, as a 'Ring Reader', I'm a 'tad' envious of Suzanne's sighting.  As I've said before, reading rings is quite rewarding, and from time to time, a 'gem', will turn up.  My congratulations, goes out to Suzanne, and I'm so glad that she caught all the details.  I'll post the ringing results, as soon as they arrive.

Juvenile Black-headed Gull  -  Russia    PS23287   -  Lurgan Park Lake, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  (17 Jan 2019)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Also, in Suzanne's email, was a Mallard sighting.  Again, Suzanne managed to capture the whole 'metal-number', this bird having been ringed in County Monaghan, in the Irish Republic.  I contacted Dan Curly, who is the Secretary of the 16 Gun Clubs in the County.  Dan was quick to reply, to say that   1MN 3272 , had been ringed before release, at Doohat Lough, around mid June 2012.  Suzanne's sighting was a first, since the bird had been released.  The distance from Doohat, to Wallace Park in Lisburn, Co. Antrim, is 82 kms / 51 miles (NE), and the duration, was now 6 years, 6 months and 30 days.

Each year, the gun clubs in County Monaghan, purchase a number of Mallard chicks, bred on a duck farm.  Before they are given their freedom, they are ringed with special 'metals', belonging to the gun clubs.  The idea, is to replace birds shot in the wild, but also the whereabouts of their ducks, can be reported after being shot, or spotted by birdwatchers.

I've personally recorded a few of these at Antrim Marina, but funny enough, none this winter.  My thanks to Dan, for his speedy reply, but also to Suzanne, for sharing her two sightings.

Mallard (Drake)  -    1MN 3272   -  Wallace Park, Lisburn, Co. Antrim  (14 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 15th June 2012, at Doohat Lough, Co. Monaghan, R. of Ireland)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)


      From David Nixon       
On the 15th January, I received an email from David Nixon, reporting a 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull, which he spotted at Ballydugan Lake, just south of Downpatrick, in County Down.  Rung   T1XL , David asked me, if I could track down the relevant project.

Knowing by the letter 'T', this was a Polish bird, I entered David's sighting onto the live 'Polish Ringing Database'.  The following day, I received an email, confirming the record, which then allowed me access to the ringing and re-sighting history of the gull.

  T1XL , was caught and ringed as a breeding adult, on the 28th May 2018, at Lubczyna, in north-west Poland.  David's sighting, was the first report since the gull was ringed.  The distance was given as 1,336 kms / 830 (WNW), and the duration - 7 months and 18 days.

Unfortunately, David was not able to supply a photo, but at least we have another Polish bird on record.  My thanks to David, for sharing his sighting.


Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Normality Resumed...

      Antrim Marina - Monday 14th January 2019       
Having not got out on Saturday, I decided to use Sunday, to cover the coast from Larne, finishing off at Portrush.  This meant, my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, was undertaken today.

Pulling up to the barrier, leading to the front car park at the Marina, it was so refreshing to see the gulls sitting about the area of the low wooden jetty.  The dredging company which were here for several weeks, had now gone, their next destination I understand, is Boston in Lincolnshire, England.

I knew from a conversation with one of the employees, that the area would be completely cleared of their equipment by Friday past.  Whilst they were working here, plus the construction of the new cafe, it had been frustratingly awkward to try and read rings on the gulls.  With half of the Marina available again, the gulls were now enjoying some normality, and so was I.

Arriving at 9.15am, it was quite chilly in the light breeze, with the temperature reading 6°C, only rising by half of a degree, just before my departure at 12.15.  The sun tried to shine through a fairly cloudy sky, with pockets of blue showing.

I reckoned that a maximum number of around 200 Black-headed Gulls, were present around 11am, and I had a fairly good session of 'Ring Reading'.  It's still early yet, as the gulls have had just a couple of days to get used to having their Marina back, but I reckon numbers will increase further, now that we have peace and quite, albeit from the occasional loud bang from the construction site.

I was on the lookout for 36 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, 30 of which were ringed over past winters, and 6 birds caught and ringed this winter.  I had considered trying to catch one or two new birds today, but chose not to, just to let them resettle and get used to being around people again.

By the time of my departure, I had re-sighted 27 'colour-rings', with 9 absentees.  Even at their maximum numbers, I was quite confident, the majority of legs were checked.  Gulls, were still clearly arriving, at the same time, when I was considering to call it a day.

One gull, which I had been especially watching for all morning, was the juvenile Danish bird spotted last week -   VA4235 .  I was delighted to record it at midday, though it was not as hungry, as when I saw it last week.  It did however, get a share of the bread which I threw out.  I'm hoping it will settle down here for the next couple of weeks, as I'd love to 'colour-ring' it if I can catch it.

My final two sightings of the day was   2CSF , at 12.05 and   2AAN , at 12.10.    2CSF , was ringed here last winter, and was spotted in Northern Iceland, on the 12th July 2018.  I consider   2ANN , as being a non-resident, which arrives back to the Marina, in mid to late July each year.

I keep a separate spreadsheet solely for my BHG sightings at Antrim Marina, and having a look at it, I've noticed that one gull which I ringed here last winter, has not been seen since the 29th October 2018.    2CSS , was recorded on five occasions this winter,  the first sighting being on the 13th August, but I make it eleven weeks now, since it's last appearance.  Hopefully, it will turn up again soon.

Three other Black-headed Gulls, should have returned weeks ago, but I have yet to record them, due to the building and dredging work.  These are   2AFD , which should have returned in late October, or early November,   2CSC , which was ringed here last winter, and I guessed would return in November, and   2BRC , an occasional winter visitor, ringed here in January 2015.    2AFD , has been sighted in the past in Latvia, so likely breeds there.  With normality resumed, hopefully I will record these birds over the next couple of weeks.

Another Black-headed Gull, this one bearing an upside-down 'metal-ring', is also due to appear.  I had failed to read the whole ring number, on the two previous occasions when it has appeared here.  On the 5th March 2017, I read   E****73 , and on the 5th February 2018, I read   E*85673 .  All I need, is that 2nd letter, to confirm the whole number, so here's hoping.  I reckon, this gull just passes through the Marina en-route to it's breeding site.

It does not make things easier, each time   2ABL   appears.    2ABL , managed to loose it's 'colour-ring' some time ago, so on each occasion when a 'metal' is spotted, I'm chasing after the ring number.  A 'metal', was spotted at 11.45 this morning, but having read the full 'metal' number through my telescope -   EY37326 , this was indeed   2ABL .

Below, are the first photos of   2CTB   and   2CTC , since they were caught and ringed on Christmas Eve 2018.  I've also added another photo,taken today, of the Danish juvenile, which was first spotted here last week.

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, on Monday 14th January 2019
 2ABK   2AAR   2CTB   2CSX   2ABS   2CTC   2BRA   2AAT   2CSA 
 2AAK   2CSJ   2CJT   T35J   2CSR   2CSB   2AAB   2CSK   2CSL 
 2AAP   2AAA   2ABN   2CSH   2ACV   2ADV   2ABL   2CSF   2AAN 

Today's Absentees
 2ADJ   2ABF   2AAV   2BRD   2ANS   2CSS   2CSV   2CTA   2CTD 

Black-headed Gull  -    2CTB   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (14 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 24th December 2018, at Antrim Marina)

Juvenile Black-headed Gull  -    2CTC   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (14 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as a 1st Winter Bird, on the 24th December 2018, at Antrim Marina)

Juvenile Black-headed Gull  -  Denmark    VA4235   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (14 Jan 2019)
(Still Waiting on the Ringing Details)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Barring the gulls, the first of the other birds to be noted each week, are the swans.  Just three adult Mute Swans were present on my arrival, one of these being   W34158 .  Another pair of birds, arrived from the Lough, at 10.28, without incident, but the pair which also came in from the Lough, at 11.32, were quickly chased back out again.

Mallard numbers, are still on the low side, with just two birds present on my arrival.  Numbers, increased slowly, until a high of 49 birds were counted at 11am.  After this time, numbers started to drop of again.

I'm especially watching out for Common Gulls now, in the hope that the Finnish bird appears.  The first two Common Gulls, arrived together at 09.38 - an adult, and a juvenile.  At 09.50, a second adult, along with a second juvenile appeared.  Both juveniles, remained at the Marina throughout my visit, and quite often came close to my car looking for a share of the bread.

A third adult, arrived in at 10.32, and I believe these were the same three birds, which would come and go, until I departed.  Hopefully, now that some peace and quiet has been restored here, more Common Gulls will visit, including the 'metal-rung', Finnish and Scottish birds.

The usual sub-adult Herring Gull, arrived at 9.45, remaining throughout my stay.

Other species recorded were :- 3 Hooded Crows, 8 Jackdaws and the pair of Pied Wagtails.


      Sunday 13th January 2019       
Having not got out yesterday, I decided to make a day of it today, starting at Glynn, just south of Larne, and moving up around the County Antrim coast, with a proposed finish at Portrush.  However, as time wore on, the weather conditions deteriorated very badly, and I had to call it a day, once I reached Waterfoot.

By this time, the wind was blowing a gale, along with heavy squally showers.  Later on, on the Northern Ireland News, they reported that two men were killed in the Mourne Mountains in County Down, both apparently blown off crags.  A third man, was rescued with a broken ankle, which just highlights, how severe conditions had become.

Just two rings were spotted, before I had to give up for the day, both being re-sightings of birds recorded previously.  The first, was an Oystercatcher at Glynn, on Larne Lough.  Ringed Lime over White, on the left leg, and White (EA), on the right leg, I first recorded this bird just recently, on the 31st December 2018 (PDF).  Re-sightings, are important, so as to establish, whether birds are winter residents to a particular site, or just perhaps passing through.

The shoreline here at Glynn, is often a good site, for feeding gulls and waders, but today, only a handful of birds were on the mudflats.    

Oystercatcher  -  LW-W(EA)  -  Glynn, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim  (13 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as a Breeding Adult, on the 19th May 2017, at  Auðsholt, Southern Iceland)

Moving on to Sandy Bay, in Larne, there were around 50 Black-headed Gulls present.  Among these, was   2ABH , from Adam's NI BHG Study.  This gull was caught and ringed here, on the 21st January 2013, as an adult male.  It has a long list of winter re-sightings at Sandy Bay, but where it breeds at, is not known.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABH   -  Sandy Bay, Larne, Co. Antrim  (13 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 21st January 2013, at Sandy Bay)


Saturday, 12 January 2019

Limited Time...

A very late post this week, mainly due to the volume of emails that I have received, many of which also required a reply.  On top of that, a large number of ringing recoveries arrived from the BTO.  To keep on top of these, the recoveries had to be labelled and downloaded onto my laptop, and links created for my spreadsheet.

All of this had to be undertaken, during my free time.  As well as all the 'birdie' stuff, I had to prepare my car for it's MOT, on Friday, and it failed.  Apparently, I have a fluid leak in the steering rack, which was considered as a major problem.  Two minors, was a headlight bulb, who's beam pointed in the wrong direction and a rear seat belt holder, not locking.

Normally, for a Saturday, I'd be due to head out somewhere at this time, but I concentrated on finishing this post, plus I've a few chores to do around the house and garden.

Although, slightly late to be posted, there is still plenty of content to keep readers occupied.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 7th January 2019       
Having last visited Antrim Marina, on Sunday week ago, most of the visiting Black-headed Gulls, chose to land on the steel framework of the new cafe.  Due to this, it was virtually impossible to read the rings, as they were mostly out of sight, with the gulls standing on the broad beams.  I therefore decided to visit the Marina today, knowing there was less chance of the gulls alighting onto the framing, as the workmen would be back.

When I arrived at 09.20 this morning, it was quite dark, due to heavy cloud and falling drizzle.  There was a fairly strong westerly wind, but the temperature was quite good, reading 8°C.  The dredging operation was ongoing, and all the activity was on the river, right in front of the Marina.  I enquired as to when, the dredging will cease, to learn that they will be finished and the area cleared by Friday coming.  This was 'news to my ears', and means a large section of the Marina, will be available to the gulls once again, and rings should be readily read once more.

I also learnt from 'Freddie', who works for the Council, in their caravan park office, that the new cafe, once completed, will have a flat roof.  This to me, wasn't such good news, if the gulls rest there in any large numbers, they will be completely out of sight.  Not only that, I can envisage the Council having problems, with the gulls 'fouling' on the roof.  At least a pitched roof, would get washed down by the rain.

At most times, until 11am, Black-headed Gulls numbered in the region of 100 birds, and 'Ring Reading', was hard work, due to all of the activity going on.  With the gulls, repeatedly coming and going, there may well have been more than 150 individuals altogether.  With 'colour-ringed' gulls re-sighted this winter, plus the new birds caught and ringed, I was on the lookout for 36 birds altogether.  By 11.04, I had re-sighted 19 of these, and after that, until I departed at midday, not a single gull was present.

Hopefully, from next weekend, till the end of March, ring reading will become a bit easier again.  I'm still missing a few birds, which should have returned a long time back, and another couple of gulls are at present, due to be re-sighted again.

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, on Monday 7th January 2019
 2CJT   2BRA   2AAR   2ABL   2CSF   2CSX   2CSA   2AAB   2CSR   2ADJ 
 2CSV   2CSB   T35J   2ABS   2AAN   2ACV   2AAT   2AAP   2ABK    

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls, Not Recorded Today at Antrim Marina
 2AAK   2AAA   2ABN   2ABF   2AAV   2ADV   2BRD   2ANS   2CSH 
 2CSJ   2CSK   2CSL   2CSS   2CTA   2CTB   2CTC   2CTD    

As mentioned in my recent posts, 'Ring Reading' at Antrim Marina, has been very frustrating, due to the building of the new cafe, and the ongoing dredging operations.  During today's visit, I spotted a juvenile BHG, with a tall metal ring, so I knew straight away, that this bird was foreign.  You can image how I felt, when the gulls took off.

My ring reading was abandoned temporarily, as I had to relocate this juvenile and take photos of the ring.  Moving away from the area of the slipway, I re-parked my car in a large clear area towards the caravan park.  Throwing out bits of bread, I soon had a number of gulls around me, which included the foreigner.  It was eager to come close to grab some of the bread, and in no time at all, I had enough photos and the ring was read.  I even came just centimetres away from capturing this hungry 'little fella'.  Had I caught it, the gull would have received a nice new 'Darvic' ring for it's other leg.

Anyway, my new sighting was from Denmark, the ring reading   VA4235 .  This was one of the new style rings, that Graham Prole, from Dublin, had informed me about in an email.  The number reads up the way in two rows (  VA4   &   235 ), and is repeated twice around the metal.  Graham, having already experienced one of these rings, stated how easy they were to read, and I must admit, he's 100% correct.

Juvenile Black-headed Gull  -    VA4235   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (07 Jan 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
At present, much of my attention focuses on any Common Gulls, each time birds appear.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed, for the return of a Finnish bird, which is now due to appear.  If it has survived it's return journey to Finland, the gull will be approaching twenty-three and a half years of age.

Just three adult Commons Gulls were recorded today.  Coming and going on a frequent basis, I was pretty sure, that these were the same birds on each visit.  There is still no sign of the Scottish 'metal-ringed' female, which was spotted on three visits in October.  I've yet to confirm the whole ring number, though I was 100% sure, my sightings was of the same bird.

With the dredging project, now complete, half of the Marina, will be completely clear, which will mean less disturbance and a greater chance for the gull to be confirmed.  A juvenile Common Gull, made a brief appearance, at 9.54am.

The sub-adult Herring Gull, arrived at 9.35am, and like the Common Gulls, made repeated visits.

Just 4 Mallards, were present on my arrival, slowly increasing in numbers, to a high count of 32 birds, at 11.35.  This is easily the worst winter for this species at the Marina.  Numbers at this time of the year, would normally approach the 100 mark, if not greater.  I reckon, the dredging operations, has also discouraged people to feed the ducks, resulting in them looking for food elsewhere.

5 adult Mute Swans, plus a juvenile, were also present on my arrival at 9.20.  Among the adults, was the ever present   W34158 .  The juvenile, would not feed from my hand, which indicated to me, it is not used to the presence of people.  Another two adults, arrived from the Lough, just before my departure.  All legs were checked, but no other rings were present.  I'm also hoping to see the return of   W34156   &   W34157 , who are known to appear here in the latter stages of the winter and early spring.

Other species recorded today, were :- 3 Hooded Crows, 5 Jackdaws, 1 Magpie, 2 female Chaffinches (first this winter) and the pair of Pied Wagtails.  


      Ringing Details Received       
Happy days!!  I have now received a reply from Kjeld Tommy Pedersen, concerning the Danish Black-headed Gull - (White) VX18, spotted in Belfast's Harbour Estate, on Christmas Day.  Attached, was a PDF File, showing the ringing and re-sighting history of (White) VX18.  The gull was ringed as a chick, on the 13th June 2013, and my re-sighting on the 25th December 2018 (blog entry), was the gull's second record since being ringed.

Ringed on Hirsholm Island, situated just off the north-east coast of Denmark, VX18, was spotted 78 days later, at the Connswater Shopping Centre, here in Belfast.  The observer, Aaron Devlin, set off 'bells', in my head - so I checked out Adam McClure's blog, which is primarily based on his Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study.  Entering the gull's 'ring code', there it was, an article by Adam, concerning VX18 (read here).

With a gap of five years, between our two sightings, it seems as if VX18, does visit Belfast, each winter, but just, hasn't been spotted.  It may well be possible, that VX18, favours the Harbour Estate, so future sightings might well be a possibility here.  The distance from Hirsholm, was given as 1,073 kms / 666 miles (WSW), the duration now being, 5 years, 6 months and 12 days.


      From Fulton Somerville       
On the 1st January 2019, I received an email from the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers' Association, concerning a 'colour-ringed' Great Black-backed Gull, spotted by Fulton Somerville.  Ringed -   S39:M , I was asked if I could track down the relevant project.  Knowing, that the 'colon M', represented gulls ringed on the Isle of Man, I sent an email to Mark Fitzpatrick, the Ringing Secretary.

A couple of days later, I received a reply from Mark.    S39:M , is a fairly recently rung bird, having been ringed, on the Calf of Man, on the 22nd May 2018.  The Calf of Man, is a small island, which lies just off the southern tip, of the Isle of Man, situated in the Irish Sea, between Northern Ireland and the British Mainland.  The distance to Ardglass, is 57 kms / 35 miles (WNW).

I contacted Fulton, and was given permission to enter his sighting onto my blog along with the photo he took.  My thanks to Fulton and the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers' Association.

Great Black-backed Gull  -    S39:M   -  Ardglass Harbour, Ardglass, Co. Down  (31 Dec 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 22nd May 2018, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man)
(Photo Courtesy of Fulton Somerville)


      Common Gull Sightings       
I've recently received two emails, concerning Common Gull sightings.  Having taken over Shane Wolsey's, former study, on this species, I'm always keen to hear about the gulls that he ringed between 2009 and 2014, and since the summer of 2017, I have continued the project.

The first email, was from Graham McElwaine, Ringing Secretary for the Irish Brent Goose Research Group.  Whilst out searching for ringed Brents, on the 4th January 2019, Graham recorded two 'colour-ringed' Common Gulls.  One of these -   2ASX , was a bird that I ringed as a chick, on the 17th June 2017, at Rue Point, on Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim.

It was spotted on Cloghey Beach, in County Down.  I've calculated the distance, being 103 kms / 64 miles (SSE), the duration, 1 year, 6 months and 18 days.  I've had very little return so far, on the chicks ringed over the last two summers, but it's nice to hear of one that's still alive and well.

The second Common Gull, was   2A60 , which Graham spotted on the seafront at Millisle.  This is the second sighting of the bird this winter, as I recorded it at Millisle, on the 22nd December 2018.    2A60 , was ringed as a chick, on the 7th July 2013, at Hunterston, in Ayrshire, Scotland.  This is the fourth winter running, that   2A60 , has been recorded at least once at Millisle.  The duration, is now 5 years, 5 months and 28 days, the distance being 131 kms / 81 miles (SSW), from Hunterston.

My thanks goes to Graham, for letting me know of these two birds.

The second email, came from Tony Murray, in the Republic of Ireland.  On the 9th January, Tony re-sighted Common Gull -   2HVP , on Duncannon Strand, in County Wexford.    2HVP , was ringed as a chick, by Shane Wolsey, on the 11th June 2012, on Big Copeland Island, County Down.

Interestingly,   2HVP , has not been recorded, since Tony spotted it on the same beach, two day's running in January 2013, as a first winter bird.  I checked the 'metal' number -   EX38468 , on the BTO's DemOn Database, and discovered, no sightings had been submitted.  I have now entered the two historical sightings, as well as Tony's latest sighting onto DemOn.

I've mentioned this in the past, but I reckon many 'colour-ringed' Common Gulls, are being overlooked.  There are plenty of birdwatchers in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, though it could be a case, that ring's are spotted, but the observers themselves, are not equipped to read the codes.

The distance from Big Copeland Island to Duncannon Strand, is 288 kms / 179 miles (SSW), the duration is now 6 years, 6 months and 29 days, since being ringed.  My thanks to Tony, for reporting his latest sighting.


      Saturday 5th January 2019       
As often happens on a Saturday, I couldn't get away until the early afternoon.  With the tide due to start receding, just before 1pm, I decided to head to Whiteabbey.  I had two targets in mind at Whiteabbey - the high tide roosting Dunlins, where I was hoping to re-sight the Polish-rung (White) RJ9, as well as any new ringed Dunlins.  The second bird of interest, which I've been on the lookout for this winter, was a Black-headed Gull from the Republic of Ireland -   214H .

Arriving at Whiteabbey, I located the Dunlins roosting, at the Loughshore Park, at Jordanstown.  Perhaps, as many as 200 Dunlins were present, and I scoped one with a 'White Darvic', which may well have been RJ9, and a couple of 'metals'.  With persistence disturbance from dog walkers and other members of the public, walking the shoreline, I could not get any photos.  The tide was retreating fast, and the Dunlins started feeding.  Not for the lack of trying, I just couldn't get a photo of the 'colour-ringed bird.

I made my back towards the beach at Whiteabbey, which by now, was being quickly exposed.  It did not take long to spot, a Common Gull, with a 'Blue Darvic'.  I suspected that it was   2AIP , and a couple of photos later, the code was confirmed.  Ringed on Big Copeland Island, in County Down (11th June 2012),   2AIP , has been recorded here on a regular basis, each winter, since October 2015.

A small number of Brent Geese, had caught my eye, and scoping these, one bird was 'colour-ringed'.  With 'Lime K' on the right leg, and 'Yellow 3', on the left leg, I immediately suspected, that this was the same goose, that I spotted here in the past.  Returning home and checking my spreadsheet, 'LKY3', was indeed spotted by me, on the 29th November 2017.  'LKY3', was ringed as an adult male, on the 20th October 2010, on Strangford Lough, in County Down.

I must admit, when it comes to Brent Geese, a lot of work still needs doing on my spreadsheet, but the duration since being ringed, is 8 years, 2 months and 16 days.  I've added the PDF file, sent by Graham McElwaine, from the Irish Brent Goose Research Group (PDF File).  With recent sightings still to be added, the file shows the re-sighting history of 'LKY3'.

Brent Goose  -  L(ime)K / Y(ellow)3  -  Whiteabbey Shore, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (05 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 20th October 2010, on Strangford Lough, Co. Down)

Now using my binoculars, I then spotted a 'Yellow Darvic', on a Black-headed Gull.  I thought to myself, 'there you are'.  Was this the gull I was looking for?  Zooming in with my camera, the code read   214H , the very bird.  I first read the code on this gull last winter, and presumed, this was the same gull which had eluded me, during the previous two winters.

My initial reading, was made on the 18th November 2017, and I knew the gull would be, from the Lough Mask Project, in County Mayo, in the Republic of Ireland.  On reporting   214H , to the project organiser Eoin McGreal, it turned out, that my sighting was a first, since the gull had been ringed as a chick, on the 4th June 2007.

Eoin, has contacted me, to say, that my sighting of   214H   today, is the second record for this gull.  The duration, is now 11 years, 7 months and 1 day, and the distance from Lough Mask, to Whiteabbey, is 251 kms / 155 miles (ENE).  I was delighted with this one, as it continues my quest, to record ringed birds at least once a year.

Black-headed Gull  -    214H   -  Whiteabbey Shore, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (05 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 4th June 2007, at Lough Mask, Co. Mayo, Republic of Ireland)

After scoping loads of gulls and waders, no more rings were spotted, so I drove on to the nearby Whitehouse Lagoon.  Two 'colour-rings' were spotted, the first of which, I thought was a new Common Gull sighting.  Despite being a long way off, due to the receding tide, my camera made short work of the distance, capturing the code 2J08, on this juvenile.

Returning home and entering the code onto my spreadsheet, it turns out, that I first spotted this young gull last November (10th).  I had come across it on the beach at Kinnegar, on the southern shore of Belfast Lough, whereas, Whitehouse Lagoon, is on the northern shore.  It seems as if the juvenile, appears to be content to see out the winter here, and may well be return to the area for years to come.

Juvenile Common Gull  -    2J08   -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (05 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 16th September 2018, at Blackness Castle, Stirlingshire, Scotland)

The second 'colour-ring', belonged to an Icelandic Oystercatcher.  Ringed as a breeding adult in June 2015, GW-GfN, is now wintering at Whitehouse Lagoon, for the fourth time in a row.  The bird had most likely wintered at the Lagoon for years, but the addition of the rings, has made it easily observable.

The current ringing project started in 2013, but the ringing team soon realised, that there was a problem with the 'Flag's, fitted as part of the 'colour-ring' combination - they kept falling off.  These days, their Oystercatchers, are fitted with two 'colour-rings' on one leg and a single 'coded ring' on the other leg.

This Oystercatcher at Whitehouse Lagoon, lost it flag in April 2016, and today, I noticed another problem.  The 'Green' ring, which should be sitting above the 'White' ring, has now slipped underneath the 'White' ring.  Despite these problems, it will still be easy to record this bird in the future.

Today's sighting of GW-GfN, was my third record of the bird this winter.  Despite several visits to the Lagoon, I did not realise, that I hadn't seen the bird since August 2018, when I spotted it on two occasions (19th & 26th).   I've attached a copy of the PDF File (read here), showing the full ringing and re-sighting history of GW-GfN.

Oystercatcher  -  GW-GfN  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (05 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 5th June 2015, in Southern Iceland) 


      Sunday 6th January 2019       
Following up on my visit to the Bann Estuary, on Saturday week ago (29th December), I decided to return today.  I had to get up very early this morning, so I could be in place for the tide to start going out.  Although a hide is available, it is nowhere near enough to an area of mud, much favoured by waders to feed on.

On arriving, I made my way on foot, upstream, on the bank of the River Bann, to where I ideally needed to be.  Finding a small niche, on a slightly raised slope, surrounded by Gorse bushes, I had a clear view on the area of interest.  Soon afterwards, the tide begun to retreat and the waders started to arrive.

I scoped several hundred waders over the next hour and a half, having to cope with drizzle and light rain showers at the same time.  To my dismay, not a single 'colour-ringed' bird was spotted.

Lapwings and the later arriving Golden Plovers, were the most numerous species, each with between 500 and 700 individuals.  Dunlins, came third, with between 300 and 400 birds.  Also present, were smaller numbers of Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew and Sanderling.  Gulls were particularly non existent, compared to the numbers seen here on my previous visit.

From where I sat, I had scoped at least half of the overall numbers for each species, without joy.  My biggest surprise, was the non appearance of any Black-tailed Godwits.  With the tide well out, I walked back down river towards the mouth of the Estuary.

Here, I encountered more gulls, though not present in any significant numbers.  Scoping these, I spotted a 'colour-ringed' Herring Gull.  On trying to get closer, the nearer birds, did not appreciate my presence and started to fly off.  I took no chances, so zoomed in with my camera, to take photos of my gull.  The processor in my camera, tried hard to focus in the poor light, due to the drizzle, but I eventually captured the code as (White) 4A9:C.

I knew by the 'colon C', that this Herring Gull, had been ringed by the Clyde Ringing Group, in Scotland.  Thinking I had recorded a new sighting, I emailed Iain Livingstone, Secretary of the Clyde RG, on returning home.  After a while, it dawned on me, that I may have recorded (White) 4A9:C, some time ago, at Portrush, in County Antrim.

Checking my spreadsheet, I had in fact recorded this bird, on the 29th December 2016, at Ramore Head, in Portrush.  (White) 4A9:C, was caught and ringed as a breeding female, in May 2014, on the island of Islay, in Scotland.  Entering the gull's 'metal-number' on the DemOn Ringing Database, the Portrush sighting, was the first record of the gull after being ringed.

The next sighting, was in May 2017, though the database, does not show the location, and now today's record completes the gull's re-sighting history.  When I emailed Iain for a second time, I enquired where the 2017 sighting took place, but have not received a reply as yet.  I have a sneaky suspicious, due to the month (May), it may well have been spotted back breeding on Islay.

The distance from Islay, to the Bann Estuary, is 73 kms / 45 miles (SSW) and the duration since ringing, is now 4 years, 7 months and 10 days.

Herring Gull  -  (White)  4A9:C  -  Bann Estuary, Co. Londonderry  (06 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as a Breeding Female, on the 27th May 2014, at Coul Point, Islay, Scotland)

The weather by now, was deteriorating fast, with more frequent showers of drizzle and at times, heavier showers of rain.  I had intended to visit Coleraine and the north Antrim coast, but changed my mind, and headed off to the much closer Myroe Levels.

On reaching the levels, not many gulls or waders were present - not surprising, as the tide on Lough Foyle, was fully out.  I did however, spot a 'colour-ringed' Curlew, which flew off, even before I had reached for the camera.  This may well have been the same bird, that I spotted here on the 25th November 2018.

A nice group of around 150 Common Gulls, were resting on a sand-bar, near the mouth of the River Roe.  Although many were lying down, I still managed to scope a lot of legs from a distance.  I was trying not to spook the birds, but eventually they took off, having decided they'd seen enough of me.

The only other rings spotted, were in a small group of around 50 Brent Geese on the Levels.  Scoping these through heavy drizzle, six ringed birds were spotted and photographed.  Reporting them by email to Graham McElwaine, I received a reply with a PDF file for each bird, minus any recent re-sightings.

Click onto the colour-ring code below each photo, to view the PDF File for each bird concerned :-

Brent Goose  -  W(hite)6 / W(hite)K  -  Myroe Levels, Lough Foyle, Co. Londonderry  (06 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 15th May 2018, at Laekur, Grunnafjörður, W. Iceland)
Brent Goose  -  W(hite)6 / W(hite)S  -  Myroe Levels, Lough Foyle, Co. Londonderry  (06 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 15th May 2018, at Laekur, Grunnafjörður, W. Iceland)

Brent Goose  -  R(ed)B / Y(ellow)T  -  Myroe Levels, Lough Foyle, Co. Londonderry  (06 Jan 2019)
(Missing Colour-Ring RB, on Right Leg)
(Ringed  as an Adult Male, on the 25th May 2007, at Stekkur, Álftanes, SW Iceland)
Brent Goose  -  R(ed)U / Y(ellow)X  -  Myroe Levels, Lough Foyle, Co. Londonderry  (06 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as 2nd Year Male, on the 29th April 2009, in South West Iceland)

Brent Goose  -  W(hite)9 / B(lue)D  -  Myroe Levels, Lough Foyle, Co. Londonderry  (06 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 12th April 2018, on the Myroe Levels)

Brent Goose  -  W(hite)V / W(hite)K  -  Myroe Levels, Lough Foyle, Co. Londonderry  (06 Jan 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 16th January 2007, on Strangford Lough, Co. Down)