Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Grounded Again...

There's very little to report on in this post.  Due to what I'd call a 'frozen neck', I remained at home over the past weekend, so no birding was undertaken.  My problems began on Monday the 4th February.  I woke up, with a slightly sore sensation, and I reckoned that this was caused by a chill while out the previous day.  By late on Tuesday night, whilst at work, I mentioned to my team boss, that my neck was becoming very sore.

On wakening up on Wednesday morning, I could hardly move my head, then by, 1 or 2pm, I was in serious pain.  It was unrelenting and persisted through to 11am on Thursday morning.  A diet of painkillers, during that period, was of little effect and I can only emphasise with anyone who has ever suffered whiplash in a car accident.  By Friday evening, I once again began to get some movement in my neck, though still painful.

I decided to stay in the warmth of my home over the weekend, and decided to conduct my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, on Monday morning.  This was probably the right decision, as the weekend was largely wet and windy.  I returned to work, on Monday evening, having missed the last three days of the previous week.  As I write this, it is now Tuesday afternoon, and I've almost reached full recovery, though this post will likely to be posted tomorrow.  If all goes well, I'll be back on the road this coming weekend.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 11th February 2019       
I arrived at the Marina, just before 9.30am this morning, remaining until 12.30pm.  It was a calm, sunny morning, with a light breeze and plenty of blue sky.  The temperature read 1.5 C, which climbed to 5 C, by the time of my departure.

As far as birds were concerned, the whole area of the Marina, was practically deserted.  12 Black-headed Gulls, were perched on the steel framework of the new cafe.  As always, when perched up there, its rare to read any 'colour-rings', as their legs are often completely out of sight.

Over the next three hours, more gulls would come and go, but overall numbers, never exceeded the 70 to 80 mark, at max.  Despite the workmen toiling away, the gulls kept on perching on the upper steelwork.  If they had been working higher up, instead of ground level, it would have displaced the birds, which never happened.

Only on a couple of occasions, was I, or anyone else stopping by, able to persuade any of the gulls to fly down to car park with an offering of bread.  Although I was on the lookout for 36 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, only 11 of these were recorded, plus another sighting of the Danish 'metal-rung' -   VA4235 .  This young gull, was the highlight of today's visit, closely followed by   2CSS , which was last spotted here, back on the 29th October 2018.

  2CSS , was caught and ringed here, on the 7th January 2018, as a juvenile / 1st winter bird.  My final sighting of the gull at the end of last winter, was made on the 2nd April 2018.  After beginning my sixth winter of 'Ring Watching at Antrim Marina', during the first weekend of August 2018, I then recorded   2CSS   again on the 13th.  I had pondered on the idea, that something amiss had happened to the gull of late, but with today's sighting, I was pleased to see that   2CSS   is still alive and well.

As I've stated over the past weeks, 'Ring Reading', at Antrim Marina, has become a complete nightmare, and once again today was no exception.  'Colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, were clearly seen on the steel framework of the new cafe, but only the top of the rings were in sight, which was of no use to me.

Other than the Danish youngster, two other Black-headed Gulls were spotted with just 'metal rings'.  One of these, which was seen at an early stage of my visit, had the slightly raised middle toe on it's left foot, which I knew was   2ABL , a gull which managed to loose it's 'colour-ring' some time ago.

Not that long before my departure, a second 'metal-ringed' bird landed on the rails of the short concrete jetty.  Grabbing my camera, I walked towards the jetty, but the gull, on seeing my approach, quickly took flight.  This was unlikely to be   2ABL   again, as   2ABL   wouldn't scare easily.  I was sure that this was another bird, and it may well have been a gull, which has appeared here on two previous occasions at this very same time of the year.

Ringed with an upside-down 'metal-ring', I'm missing the second letter of the complete ring number.  My first record of this gull, was on the 5th March 2017, when I only read   E****73 .  On the 5th February 2018, the gull arrived again, and this time, I captured   E*85673 .  The timing of this gull's visit today, leads me to suspect, that this is the same bird.  Hopefully, I'll get another crack at this one, over the next couple of weeks.

I was informed by a member of the public, that a gull was lying dead, just behind the hoardings that surround the building site.  I walked out along the 'Long Jetty', and looked back to the small sandy beach.  Sure enough, there was a gull lying face down.  I climbed over the rails of the jetty, to reach a wire fence, which closes the beach off from the building works.  I used a long stick to reach the gull and turn it over.

With it's all yellow beak and black legs, this was an adult Kittiwake.  How it died, is not known, as there were no signs of injury.  This was my third record of Kittiwake's here, at least the other two were alive when I recorded them.

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls, Spotted at Antrim Marina, on Monday 11th February 2019
 2CJT   2CTC   2ABL   T35J   2CSS   2AAT   2AAK   2AAA   2AAB   2CSL   2CSA 

Black-headed Gull (1st Winter)  -  Denmark    VA4235   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (11 Feb 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 28th May 2018, at Hirsholm, NE Denmark)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSS   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (11 Feb 2019)
(Ringed as a Juvenile / 1st Winter Bird, on the 7th January 2018, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAB   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (11 Feb 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 11th December 2012, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAT   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (11 Feb 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 21st December 2012, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  T35J  -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (11 Feb 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd June 2006, on Lake Kretuonas, Lithuania)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
As mentioned at the start of this post, very few birds were present on my arrival at the Marina this morning.  Apart from the 12 Black-headed Gulls, just three Mallards and a pair of Mute Swans, were on site.  Slowly, Mallard numbers increased to a high of 48 birds at 11.35.  Again, most legs were checked, but no rings.

The pair of Swans, remained for about an hour before swimming out towards the Lough.  Before this, three other adults, which appeared from the Lough, were quickly chased back out again by the male of the pair.  At 11.48, a pair of Mute's, came in from the Lough, but I couldn't be sure if they were the original pair, which were present when I arrived.  None of these were ringed, and it was surprising not to see the ever present -   W34158 .

As my regular readers will be aware, it is time for the re-appearance of a Finnish 'metal-rung' Common Gull.  Just two adult Common Gulls, were seen this morning.  Frequently coming and going, I reckoned it was the same two birds on each occasion, but these weren't ringed.  A juvenile, would also appear now and again.  It preferred to perch along with the Black-headed Gulls, on the framework of the cafe.  I was able to view it's legs though.

The only other species noted, were a pair of Hooded Crows, 4 Jackdaws and the pair of Pied Wagtails.  A Blue Tit, was present for a few minutes, and it seemed to be looking for a nest hole on the Crack Willow tree, which looks over the low wooden jetty.

An Otter, presented good views, while it fished close to the low wooden jetty.  Although, I'm well aware of a pair of Otters, often seen just upriver from the Marina, this is only the second time, that I've seen one here in front of me.

Otter at Antrim Marina  (11 Feb 2019)


On leaving Antrim Marina, I visited the other three sites around Antrim Town, looking for ringed Black-headed Gulls.  At the Elim Church, just 17 birds were present, but no rings.

At the KFC car park, I was expecting to see   2ADD , who should normally have made it's way back here by now.  I did see   2ADD  last week, at it's wintering quarters in Carrickfergus.  There was just four BHGs at the car park, along with a single adult Common Gull.

Finishing off at Antrim's Baptist Church, around 80 Black-headed Gulls were seen on the roof.  A quick scan, produced no rings.  I wonder if the Polish-rung (White) TY43, has left for home.  My final sighting of this gull last winter, was made on the 25th February 2018.  I know it's slightly early, but the fairly mild winter that we have experienced, may persuade some gulls to make an early return home.


      Ringing Details Received       
In my previous post, I spotted what I thought was a juvenile Herring Gull, rung   S65:M , at Ardglass Harbour, in County Down.  I sent an email to Mark Fitzpatrick, who is the new ringing secretary, for the Manx Ringing Group, on the Isle of Man.  Mark has recently replied, with apologies for the delay in getting back to me.

  S65:M , was ringed as a Great Black-backed Gull chick, on the 3rd July 2018, on the Calf of Man, a small island off the southern tip, of the Isle of Man.  My sighting of   S65:M , is the first record of the gull since being ringed.  My thanks to Mark, for supplying the ringing info.


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