Wednesday, 20 March 2019

First Visit to Islay...

I couldn't get away on Saturday, which was probably, just as well as it rained for most of the day.  This meant, I had to pack in as much as I could do on Sunday, because I was joining an organised trip to the Isle of Islay, in Scotland, on Monday.  All this, and I still had to undertake my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, as well.

In a way, this could well have been a blessing.  With what I recorded on both Sunday and Monday, had I recorded several ringed birds on Saturday as well, I would have been facing an information overload.  Having recorded 19 'colour-ringed' Barnacle Geese on Islay, this in itself, poses a daunting task, in which to edit photos, add entries to my spreadsheet, and create individual files for each bird.

Sometimes, I wish I could be paid for 'Ring Reading'.  With an income coming in, I could spend more time in the field recording rings and find more time for my blog.  Having a regular job away from 'Ring Reading', certainly does eat up the hours, where I could be channelling my efforts otherwise.

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 17th March 2019       
I finally arrived at Antrim Marina, just after 3.00pm, this afternoon.  After my last reasonably successful 'Ring Reading' session, here at the Marina, I was looking forwards to today's visit.

Over the next two hours, what unfolded, was my worst weekly visit of the winter so far, with just the one 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull being recorded -   2ABK .  During most of the two hours, no gulls were present at all.  Now and again, flocks of up to 100 gulls would appear, but they just flew around, and few landed.

Plenty of people, came and went, each feeding the ducks and swans.  There was so much bread floating on the water, when the gulls did arrive, they just dipped in for their share of the spoils.

There was no sign of the adult Herring Gull, which has been present over recent weeks, and the recently arrived Lesser Black-backed Gull pair, made a couple of quick visits. A single adult Common Gull, arrived, but was gone again two minutes later.

14 adult Mute Swans, along with the recently arrived cygnet, were present, but the only ring recorded on these, was the ever present   W34158 .

Mallards, numbered just 23 birds, and I've yet to record a ring on any of these this winter.

Other species, included 3 Hooded Crows, 9 Jackdaws, 1 Rook, 1 Magpie, and the pair of Pied Wagtails.

After two hours, I gave up, and proceeded to the Elim Church at Parkhall, and the car park of the KFC outlet.  There was still no sign of   2AAV , at Elim Church, and no sign of   2ADD , at the KFC car park.  I'm seriously thinking, that we've lost   2AAV , and I'm wondering if   2ADD , has already moved on to the 'Torpedo Platform' on Lough Neagh, where he presumably breeds.


      Sunday 17th March 2019       
Today, I really needed to visit Antrim Marina, as I was going on an organised trip to the Isle of Islay, in Scotland, to carry out a bit of 'Ring Reading', on Barnacle Geese.  Instead of an early morning visit to the Marina, I decided to leave it till later in the afternoon.  With the tide due to start going out, around 9.30am, I decided to start my day off at Glynn, on Larne Lough and then proceed towards Belfast.  Before going to Antrim Marina, I also wanted to visit Lurgan Park and Kinnego Marina.  I would cover as many sites as possible, in the time I had available to me.

At Glynn, there was not as many gulls about, as I had hoped for.  Common Gulls were present in fairly good numbers.  The only ring spotted, was on an immature Great Black-backed Gull.  Bearing a 'Yellow Darvic', I knew straight away this was a new sighting for me.  Once again, despite the distance from the railway platform, that I was scoping from, my camera made short work of it, capturing the code -   X:065 , which seemed familiar.

Later, on returning home, I checked the code on my ringing spreadsheet, and the ring had been recorded before.    X:065 , had been ringed as a chick, on the 13th June 2017, on the Isle of May, in Fife, Scotland.  The only previous sighting of this gull, prior to my sighting today, was made by David Nixon.  David recorded the bird on the 15th November 2017, at Millquarter Bay, in County Down.

The duration since ringing, is now 1 year, 9 months and 4 days.  The distance from the Isle of May to Glynn, is 253 kms / 157 miles (SW).

Great Black-backed Gull  -    X:065   -  Glynn, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim  (17 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 13th June 2017, on the Isle of May, Fife, Scotland)

My next stop was at the small town of Whitehead, where I was hoping to see the Danish Black-headed Gull (White) 5HA, possibly for the final time this winter.  I recorded the return of 5HA, for the third winter running, on the 18th November 2018.  It has been recorded on a few occasions this winter, not only by myself, but also by Cameron Moore and Ian Enlander.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  5HA  -  Whitehead, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (17 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a 3rd Calendar Year Male, on the 28th March 2015, at Gentofte, Copenhagan, Denmark)

Looking at all of the birds on the beach, along the seafront at Whitehead, I spotted a Herring Gull, bearing a 'metal-ring'.  From the comfort of my car, the camera, again easily zoomed in to capture the digits on the ring.  Having sorted through several photos taken, I did not have one that clearly showed the '  G ', at the start of the sequence -   GK57597 .

Initially, I thought this might have been the same Herring Gull, with a 'metal', that Cameron Moore, had recorded here.  At home, after checking my spreadsheet, this was an entirely new sighting.  I entered the ring number, on the BTO's DemOn Ringing Database, but the ringing details have not been submitted to them as yet, as there is no record of the gull.  No doubt, the BTO, will have to contact the ringer concerned for the details.

Herring Gull  -    GK57597   -  Whitehead, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (17 Mar 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

My next stop, was at Carrickfergus Harbour, where I tried again to spot a German-rung Black-headed Gull.  On the 17th January 2016, Adam caught this gull and fitted it with a 'Darvic', which read -   2ANX .  It had been 'metal-ringed', as an adult male in Germany, in 2008.  There was no sign of this bird, which was last seen at the harbour, on the 3rd January 2018.

I then went to Rhanbouy Park, just a short distance to the south of Carrickfergus harbour.  Peering over the seawall with my telescope, I could see another gull I was hoping to re-sight before it leaves for Norway.  This was the second winter running, that I've recorded   JJ02   here.

Black-headed Gull  -    JJ02   -  Rhanbouy Park, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (17 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 12th June 2014, at St. Hanshaugen, Oslo, Norway)

Time was already pushing on, so I made quick stops at Whitehouse Lagoon and the Dargan Industrial Estate and Mudflats.  No further rings were spotted here, so I drove on to Lurgan.

At Lurgan Park, I was hoping to re-sight two foreign 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.  The first of these, was the Polish   T58T .  Suzanne Belshaw, recorded the return of   T58T , for a third winter running, on the 13th December 2018.  This had been the only record of the gull this winter.  I fear I may have missed this one, as last spring, it was seen back in Poland on the 23rd March 2018.

As I write, I did a quick check on the 'Live' Polish Ringing Database, and   T58T , has yet to be recorded back in Poland.  I also noted, that Suzanne, has not submitted her sighting of the bird on the 13th December (an oversight I hope!!).

The second foreign rung Black-headed Gull, I was looking for, was the Norwegian - (White) J4P4.  Despite a few visits this winter to Lurgan Park, by Suzanne and myself, J4P4, has yet to be seen.

A Black-headed Gull, with a 'White-Darvic', did land a short distance away from me, but flew off before I had a chance to switch my camera on.  Whilst trying to relocate this bird, I then spotted two of Adam McClure's Study birds -   2BRD   &   2CNH   2BRD , is a gull which I would record infrequently during the winter at Antrim Marina, but always returns to Lurgan Park, prior to the oncoming breeding season.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BRD   -  Lurgan Park Lake, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  (17 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 1st February 2015, at Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim)

  2CNH , had 'bells' ringing in my head.  I knew it seemed very familiar, but at the time I could not place it.  It wasn't until I returned home and checked my spreadsheet, that the 'penny' dropped.  In my previous post, I had written an article about   2CNH , the gull having been spotted on the Tolka Estuary, in Co. Dublin, by Jan Rod.

Jan, recorded   2CNH , on the 9th March 2019, and here it was eight days later at Lurgan Park, in County Armagh.    2CNH , was ringed as a chick, on Blue Circle Island, on Larne Lough, on the 16th June 2017.  The only previous record of the gull, prior to Jan's sighting, was made on the 14th July 2018, when I recorded it at Whitehouse Lagoon, on the northern fringes of Belfast.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CNH   -  Lurgan Park Lake, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  (17 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2017, on Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

Eventually, the gull with the 'White Darvic', did appear again, but it wasn't the Norwegian - J4P4.  This one was a new sighting, rung - (White) 9MT.  I knew straight away, that this was another Danish bird, as it's ring is similar to that of (White) 5HA, which had been re-sighted again earlier at Whitehead.  I have sent an email to Kjeld Pedersen, but as yet, I'm still waiting on a reply.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  9MT  -  Lurgan Park Lake, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  (17 Dec 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

Having had a nice haul of three rings at Lurgan Park, I drove on to the nearby Kinnego Marina, where I recorded another three rings, all of which are regularly recorded here.

The first of these, was   2BPV , who has a re-sighting history at Kinnego Marina, as long as your arm, as does   2BPS , which was spotted next.  Both of these gulls, belong to Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Study.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BPV   -  Kinnego Marina, Lough Neagh, Co. Armagh  (17 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 31st October 2014, at Kinnego Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2BPS   -  Kinnego Marina, Lough Neagh, Co. Armagh  (17 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 31st October 2014, at Kinnego Marina)

The third Black-headed Gull, bore a 'metal-ring', which I suspected would be   EN52966 .  Even so, I still had to take a number of photos, to confirm it's ring number, and the gull didn't help me, as it remained perched on the part of a nearby jetty, which non boat owners, had no access to.  My camera, still managed to 'bridge' the gap between us, and the number was confirmed -   EN52966 .

  EN52966 , was ringed as a chick, on the 3rd June 2009, at the nearby Blacker's Rock, in County Tyrone - 17 kms / 10 miles (NW).  My first, of the now numerous re-sightings of this bird, here at Kinnego Marina, was made on the 31st October 2015.  The duration since ringing is 9 years, 9 months and 14 days.

Black-headed Gull  -    EN52966   -  Kinnego Marina, Lough Neagh, Co. Armagh  (17 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd June 2009, at Blacker's Rock, Lough Neagh, Co. Tyrone)


      Monday 18th March 2019       
Today, I joined a planned trip to the island of Islay, in Scotland, to participate in some 'Ring Reading' of Barnacle Geese.  Islay lies directly to the north of our own Rathlin Island, and the trip was organised by Jim Wells.  This was my first ever visit to the island, and though I've seen Barnacle Geese, in Northern Ireland, and in County Donegal, in the Republic of Ireland, I hadn't recorded any rings on those birds.

Leaving Ballycastle harbour shortly after 8.00am, we arrived at Port Ellen, just before 10.00am.  The party of 8 birdwatchers, which included three 'Ring Readers', then travelled by two hire cars, to the Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve, on the north coast of the island.  The reserve is owned and managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

We finished off the afternoon, by visiting the shoreline of Loch Indall, checking out the geese as they came in to roost, between Bowmore and BridgendOne of the eight birdwatchers, included David Nixon.  Many emails, have passed between us over the last couple of years, but we had never met until today.  It was great to place a face to the name - hi David, it was good to finally meet you.

We departed on our return journey, around 4.30pm, and arrived back into Ballycastle harbour just before 6.00.  Back home, I quickly made a strong cup of coffee, and settled down to sort through my photos.  Picking those that I needed and labelling them, I had recorded 19 'Clour-Ringed' Barnacle Geese, and had a 'dodgy' partial 'metal-ring' number, on another goose, which may have lost it's 'colour-ring'.  The number for this goose appeared to read   120866 , and I reckoned that I was missing the first digit.

I might still be able to get a result for this bird, if the project organiser can match the sequence to any of the birds that he has rung so far.  I will publish a separate post at a later date, once I receive all of the data for my sightings.  For now, I've added a couple of photos just for interest.

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  6TF  -  Bowmore/Bridgend, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  ZTZ  -  Bowmore/Bridgend, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2018)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)


      Common Gull Sighting from Jan Road       
After checking through my Barnacle Goose photos, I then proceeded to check on any emails received.  I had two emails - one was from Suzanne Belshaw, who congratulated me on my bit of detective work, concerning the Black-headed Gull, which she spotted at the former Belfast Waterworks.  Having obtained a 'partial' number on a 'metal ring' -   EW518** , I managed to identify the site and date, when the gull was ringed (see previous post).  I did not contact Suzanne about my find, as I wanted it to come as a surprise, once she read my blog.  A surprise it was, and due thanks were gratefully received.

My second email, was from Jan Rod, from the Republic of Ireland.  He began, by thanking me for the latest update on the whereabouts of Black-headed Gull -   2CNH .  I spotted this gull, at Lurgan Park Lake, on the 17th March, just eight days (9th March) after Jan, had recorded the bird on the Tolka Estuary, Clontarf, Co. Dublin (read about it above).

Whilst I was looking for ringed birds on the 17th March, Jan was out and about, in his part of the world, and spotted one of my Common Gulls -   2BAJ .  I ringed   2BAJ , as a chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim.  The summer of 2017, saw the start of my own ringing project of Common Gulls, here in Northern Ireland.

Jan's sighting of   2BAJ , at Laytown, in County Meath, was the first sighting of this gull since it was ringed.  The duration, as of the 17th March, is now 1 year, 8 months and 21 days, having travelled 176 kms / 109 miles (S).  My thanks goes to Jan, for his report and photo.

So far, I have had little in the way of reports, for the Common Gulls, that I have ringed in 2017 and 2018, but Jan's sighting goes to show that these birds are out there somewhere, just waiting for their rings to be read by someone.

Common Gull  -    2BAJ   -  Laytown, Co. Meath, Republic of Ireland  (17 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim)
(Photo Courtesy of Jan Rod)


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