Friday, 29 March 2019

Portuguese Godwit...

      Antrim Marina - Monday 25th March 2019       
Today's visit to record 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, was another hugh disappointment.  Unlike my previous visit, where the gulls were arriving in numbers, but not landing, today saw very few birds at all.  Numbers, never exceeded 15 Black-headed Gulls at any one time, though these did land.

Arriving around 9.20am, I departed at 12.00 noon, having recorded just four 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.  It would seem, that many birds have departed for their home countries, and resident gulls, were seen in large numbers, over the 'torpedo platform', where they breed.

Of the four 'colour-ringed' birds recorded today, we know that   2ACV , has previously been recorded at the beginning of the breeding season, at Leighton Moss, in Lancashire, England - (24th April 2016).    2ACV , usually departs from the Marina, in Mid to late March, each spring.  The latest spring date, in which I've recorded   2ACV , before departure, was on the 2nd April 2015.  

I noticed one Black-headed Gull, in a very poor state of health, perched on the edge of the slipway.  It was so weak, that it did not move away from the Mute Swans, who trampled over it.  Taking pity, I lifted the gull, and placed it snugly into the boot of my car.

On departing from the Marina, I took a peek on it, to discover that it had died, still lying as snug as I had left it.  Poor bird, at least it had some peace and quite, during it's last breaths of life.  I placed the gull, into my compost recycling bin, once I returned home.

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, on Monday 25th March 2019
 2ACV   2CJT   2CSS   2CSR 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
The recently arrived pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, were present throughout my visit, and the adult Herring Gull, which has been here over recent weeks, now appears to have a partner.  Just one adult Common Gull, plus a juvenile, came and went throughout the morning.

My hopes of re-sighting the Finnish-rung Common Gull, have now faded.  Whether, it was due to the disturbance around the Marina this winter, or whether it has died, will never be known.  I can only but hope for an appearance next winter.  Had the bird returned, it would have been around twenty-three and a half years old.

Mallard numbers, never exceeded 14 birds, the worst total over the whole winter.

On my arrival today, it was the Mute Swans, which initially grabbed my attention, as there were very few other birds about.  14 adults, and a youngster from last summer were counted.  Within minutes, the number grew to 20 adults, as birds arrived in from both upriver and the Lough.

It was easy to tempt them all out of the water with bread, and three 'metal' rings were noted.  Two were quickly sorted, one being the 'one-eyed'   W34158 , and the other, the small Scottish-ringed female -   W32105 .  This left, a very large looking male, that turned out to be   W34156 .

I had expected to see the return of both   W34156   and   W34157 , well before now.  As yet, I'm still waiting on   W34157 .  Last Spring,   W34156 , returned on the 5th February 2018, and I last saw it on the 2nd April 2018.

  W34156 , was ringed by Ken Perry, on the 17th March 2014, at the Marina, whilst supervising trainee ringers.  I then recorded the bird for the first time 6 days later, on the 23rd March 2014.    W34156 , was not recorded here in either 2015, or 2017, but was spotted on five occasions between the 24th January 2016, and the 27th March 2016.  Although later than expected, it was good to record this bird again.

Mute Swan  -    W34156   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (25 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 17th March 2014, at Antrim Marina)

A male Pheasant, was a first ever sighting at the Marina, since I began coming here.  Although Pheasants, can often be heard in the woodland opposite the Marina, or seen on the nearby golf course, it is definitely unusual to see one strutting calmly past people here at the Marina.  After taking a quick sip of water, on the edge of the slipway, the bird took off towards the woodland.

Male Pheasant  -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (25 Mar 2019)

The other species recorded, were :- 3 Hooded Crows, 8 Jackdaws, 1 Rook, 1 Magpie, and the pair of Pied Wagtails.

On leaving the Marina, I just went home, as judging by my experiences here, it was probably pointless to visit the other three sites around the town of Antrim.


      Ringing Details Received       
At present, I am waiting on the ringing details for a few birds, especially for a number of Brent Geese.  I have now received all of the ringing data, for the nineteen 'colour-ringed' Barnacle Geese, which I recorded on my recent trip to the Isle of Islay, in Scotland.  A 20th, 'metal-rung' Barnacle Goose, that I recorded, with a 'dodgy' looking number that seemed to read -   120866 , eventually turned out to be an Icelandic-rung bird.  I do not have the time to include these sightings in this post, but intend to publish a separate post before my next weekly update.

The ringing details of the Danish Black-headed Gull - (White) 9MT, have arrived with me from Kjeld Pedersen.  Before these had arrived, I received an email from my 'Ring Reading' counterpart in Dublin - Graham Prole.  Graham, had also recorded 9MT, at Bray Harbour, in County Dublin, on the 3rd January 2019 (record not submitted).

9MT, is a relatively new bird, have been ringed as an adult male, on the outskirts of Copenhagan, on the 31st March 2018.  It spent the winter at Bray Harbour, having been initially spotted there, by Brian Burke, on the 31st July 2018.  The updated PDF File for 9MT, can be read (here), and my blog entry (here).


      From Fulton Somerville       
On Thursday the 21st March 2019, I received an email from Fulton Somerville, concerning a 'colour-ringed' Great Black-backed Gull, which he spotted on rocks, close to Greencastle harbour, in Co. Down.  Ringed -   2AT , I was asked to report his sighting to the relevant owner.

Having already recorded a couple of birds from this ring series, I forwarded Fulton's sighting to Graham Prole in Dublin.  Graham, is now the new contact, as he has taken over this ringing project from Chris Honan.  Graham, as always, 'was on the ball', and we soon had the ringing and re-sighting history of   2AT .

The gull was ringed as a chick, on the 14th June 2009, on Ireland's Eye, an island just to the north of Howth, Co. Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland.  Any early re-sighting history for   2AT , may have gone un-recorded or lost through Chris, but Graham first came across the gull on the 13th April 2014, at Howth harbour.  Graham, went on to record the gull twice more in April 2014, and once in June 2014, still at the harbour.

It was in June 2016, when the next sighting was made by Graham again, this time on Ireland's Eye, the site where   2AT   had grown up as a chick.  The following month (16th July),   2AT , was once again spotted back at Howth harbour.  The harbour at Howth, was the scene of   2AT 's final sighting in the Republic of Ireland, when it was recorded by K. Valinčienė, on the 16th March 2017.

It wasn't until the 16th February 2019, before   2AT   resurfaced again, but this time in Northern Ireland.  Jennifer Lynch, recorded   2AT , at Greencastle, in County Down, where the latest sighting was made by Fulton, on the 21st March.

Greencastle, is 71 kms / 44 miles (N), from Ireland's Eye, and the duration since ringing is 9 years, 9 months and 7 days.

My thanks goes to Fulton, for allowing me to report his sighting, along with the photo of   2AT .  Thanks, also goes to my 'Ring Reading' partner in Dublin, Graham Prole, for his speedy reply to Fulton's sighting.  Graham has his own blog, that can be read (here).

Footnote :-  On Thursday 28th March 2019, I received an email from Graham Prole.  He spotted   2AT   back at Howth Harbour, that morning.  Thanks Graham, for keeping us all informed.

Great Black-backed Gull  -    2AT   -  Greencastle, Co. Down  (21 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 14th June 2009, on Ireland's Eye, Co. Dublin, Republic of Ireland)
(Photo Courtesy of Fulton Somerville)


      Saturday 23rd March 2019       
It wasn't till mid afternoon, before I could get out today, so I decided to cover the east County Antrim coast, beginning at Carnlough Bay, and finishing at Glynn, on Larne Lough.

It's now that time of year, when many gulls and waders, have moved on towards their breeding sites.  This was evident, by the lack of birds to be seen, with the largest numbers being recorded at Glynn.  The only ringed bird spotted, was on a Brent Goose, on the mudflats at Glynn.

On arriving here, the tide was well out, and I scoped the birds from the railway platform.  My camera, zoomed out to the distant group of 8 Brent Geese, and the code on the ringed bird was easily captured, reading - Blue S, Yellow H.  Graham McElwaine, of the Irish Brent Goose Research Group, is currently in Australia, so I'll have to wait on his return, to receive the ringing details.

Brent Goose  -  Blue S - Yellow H  -  Glynn, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim  (23 Mar 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)


      Sunday 24th March 2019       
Making an early start today, I decided to make the long journey down to the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, before making my way to Portaferry, from where I would move northwards along the outer Ards peninsular.

As I was dropping downhill on the motorway towards Belfast, I decided to make an un-scheduled stop on the mudflats, at the Dargan Industrial Estate.  I knew the tide was incoming, so I thought I would take a look to see what was about.  The number of gulls and waders, were practically non existent, barring some 250 to 300 Black-tailed Godwits.  Scoping the Godwits, I thought there had to be a ring or two among them, and I was rewarded with a new sighting.

Ringed, Blue over Red, on the left leg, and White over a Green Flag, on the right leg, on returning home and checking my Godwit 'colour-ringing' guide (pdf), I discovered that my bird was from a Portuguese project.  I was well pleased with this sighting, as this was my first sighting of a Godwit, that had been ringed in Portugal, and I duly sent an email to José Alves.

José, replied confirming the bird was from his project, and had been ringed as an adult female, on the 4th October 2016, on the Tagus Estuary, close to Setúbal, in western Portugal.  Prior, to my sighting today, the Godwit, was re-sighted on the Tagus Estuary, on the 5th February 2018.

It is now 2 years, 5 months and 20 days, since BR-WGf, was ringed, and I calculate the distance from Portugal to Dargan, as being roughly 1,807 kms / 1,123 miles (NNE).  No doubt a bird on it's way back to Iceland for the summer.

Black-tailed Godwit  -  Blue/Red - White/Green Flag  -  Dargan Mudflats, Belfast Lough  (24 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 4th October 2016, on the Tagus Estuary, Setúbal, W. Portugal)

Arriving at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, I went straight to the 'Brent Hide', to see how the tide was progressing on Strangford Lough.  Unlike Belfast, where it was nearing high tide, it was still well out on the upper reaches of the Lough.

A quick scan of the few gulls and waders, provided another 'colour-ringed' Black-tailed Godwit, on which looking at the rings, I knew was another new sighting.  The 'colour-ring' on the right leg of this bird, was the first time I had come across such a ring.  It's a solid ring, with two black stripes.  As the ring, was pale blue, the coding for the ring would be 'PNPNP', with the 'P' standing for 'Pale Blue', and 'N' for Niger, standing for Black. 

Again, on checking my 'Godwit Guide', this bird belonged to Pete Potts.  I have emailed Pete, using both the address given in the guide, and another email address that I have for him, but as yet, have not had a reply.

This was already turning out to be a good day, with two new ring sightings - even better, as they were both Godwits.

Black-tailed Godwit  -  GR-PNPNP  -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (24 Mar 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

I now turned my attention, onto the tidal lagoon, on the north side of the 'Brent Hide', I spotted one of Adam McClure's Black-headed Gulls -   2BKL .

This bird, was ringed as a chick, here at Castle Espie, on the 19th June 2014.  I first encounted   2BKL , on the 2nd of June 2017, here at the Wetland Centre, which at that time, was it's first re-sighting since being ringed.  I then spotted   2BKL , breeding here last summer, on the 13th May 2018, this being the second sighting of the gull.  I also recorded it, on the 27th May and 24th June 2018.

During these series of visits, I recorded many of Adam's 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, most of which were first re-sightings.  I found this, slightly bemusing - what was going on here?  How come, the staff, charged to look after the wildfowl collection, failed to record and report the 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, nesting underneath their noses!!

Having discovered a wealth of Adam's gulls, I paid for full WWT membership, otherwise, I would have had to pay £9.00, for every visit.  Again, this is costing me money, helping out with Adam's project, which at present seems to have been 'abandoned', but I'm going to persist, as much re-sighting information can be recorded at Castle Espie, which I think, should still be documented.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BKL   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (24 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2014, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre)

Next, I focused my attention onto the breeding lake, on the south side of the 'Brent Hide'.  Scoping the small islets on the lake, I spotted one 'metal-rung', and two 'colour-ringed', Black-headed Gulls.  The two 'colour-ringed' birds were easily dealt with, being   2AHT   &   2AHB .  On returning home, and entering their codes onto my spreadsheet, I discovered that both birds, were first ever sightings for me.

As Adam, is not responding to emails, I have no idea if either of these gulls have ever been re-sighted.  I even came up with a blank, after entering the 'ring codes' onto Adam's own blog, which has not been updated for over a year now.

I reported   2AHT   and   2AHB , to the British Trust for Ornithology, through their DemOn Ringing Database, but seemingly, the ringing data, has not even been submitted to them either.  They sent an email to Adam, requesting the 'metal' numbers and ringing details for both birds.  Going by the codes on these rings, I suspect, that both birds were ringed at an early stage of Adam's project, perhaps in 2013 or 2014.  For now, I'll just have to wait for a reply.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AHT   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (24 Mar 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AHB   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (24 Mar 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

I was only able to get a 'partial' number, on the 'metal-rung' Black-headed Gull, which appears to read -  238 .  Perhaps I can obtain better images on a later visit, once the gulls really get down to the business of breeding.  I could get a little closer, by entering the closed off area, which prevents the public, from encroaching on the nesting birds.  I would need to get permission, from staff at the Centre, but I think they'll understand what I'm trying to achieve.

I conducted a search of   238 , on Black-headed Gulls, on my spreadsheet, but none of the 'metal' numbers contained this combination, but this was clearly a case of me clutching at 'straws'.

Over the breeding season, I will be recording the gulls here at Castle Espie on a regular basis.  The gulls, are exceedingly 'people tolerant', and nests can be approached quite closely.  During the following few months, I will be able to record many returning 'colour-ringed' birds, most of which, were ringed here as chicks.

Black-headed Gull  -    238  -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (24 Mar 2019)

Leaving Castle Espie, my next planned stop, was to Portaferry, from where I would travel up the coast of the outer Ards Peninsular.  Now moving south along the shore of Strangford Lough, just south of Newtownards, I spotted several small groups of Brent Geese.

Stopping every so often, I spotted one 'colour-ringed' Brent Goose, within one of these small groups.  Although, a long way off, my camera made short work of the distance capturing the code - Lime H, on the right leg, and Yellow 7, on the left leg.

I sent my sighting to Graham McElwaine, of the Irish Brent Goose Research Group.  As yet, I'm still waiting on a reply, but the last I heard of Graham, he was in Australia.

Brent Goose  -  Lime H - Yellow 7  -  Strangford Lough, Newtownards, Co. Down  (24 Mar 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

On reaching Portaferry, and moving up the east coast of the Ards Peninsular, no more rings were spotted until I reached the beach at Millisle.  One disappointment along the way, was not finding my oldest BTO-rung Black-headed Gull, at Ballywalter.

Ringed -   ET02500 , as a chick, on the 15th June 1998, when I last saw this bird, on the 13th October 2018, it had now reached the ripe age of 20 years, 3 months and 28 days.  Had I recorded the bird today, it would have been 20 years, 9 months and 9 days.  Just four Black-headed Gulls, were at Ballywalter, so it might be next autumn before I see   ET02500   again (should it survive the summer).

At Millisle, there were few gulls about, but Herring Gulls, especially immatures, and Common Gulls, were the most numerous about.  The only rings spotted were on the Common Gulls, with one 'colour-ringed', and three 'metal-rung' birds present.  The 'colour-ringed' bird was   2BBC , and one of the three 'metal-rung' birds, was   EX38230 , both recorded here on my previous visit, on the 3rd March 2019.    EX38230 , was easily distinguished, as it has a crippled left leg.

Of the other two 'metal-rung' birds, one was too distant to try and read it's ring, but I was successful with the second bird.  Having captured all of the number, excepting for the '  E ', with my camera, the full number read -   EX38015 .  On returning home, and entering the number onto my spreadsheet, I discovered that this bird was another new sighting.

As I'm now in poscession of all of the Common Gull ringing data, which was given to me by Shane Wolsey, after taking over from his study on this species, I found that   EX38015 , was ringed as a chick, on the 1st June 2010, on the nearby Copeland Islands.

Being 'metal-rung', I reckon, my sighting is the first ever confirmed report for this gull.  Even, entering the number onto the BTO's DemOn Ringing Database, there were no records, since the gull was ringed as a chick.  The duration since ringing, was now 8 years, 9 months and 23 days.

On leaving Millisle, I checked a few more sites before driving home, but no more rings were found. 

Common Gull  -    EX38015   -  Millisle Seafront, Millisle, Co. Down  (24 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 1st June 2010, on Big Copeland Island, The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)


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