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)


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