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)


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