Monday, 29 April 2019

Bits & Pieces...

Not too much to report about at the minute.  I've just completed my first week off work this year, and had all the intentions of getting out and about every day.  Perhaps, it was just as well, that I had planned this break, as I had a 'stinker' of a time in mid-week, after my visit to Inch Island, in County Donegal.

Now into my fourth week, I cannot shake off this bout of the cold or flu, which took a turn for the worse, whilst I was actually at Inch.  Despite it being a very warm sunny day, though a little too windy, I took one of the worst headaches, that I've ever had in my life.  I began to shiver, despite wearing a chill suit, and a coat, I took coughing fits, and my nose ran so much, I could have filled the lake twice over.

Yes, I'm exaggerating a wee bit here, but the following couple of days, were non too pleasant.  By Saturday, I had improved, but had to remain at home, as Storm Hannah, swept across the country.  I had hoped to get to Rathlin Island, to scope the Common Gulls there, to see how their nesting season is progressing.  I've been keeping a check on a couple of Black-headed Gull colonies, but more on that shortly.

For now, this post contains a few bits and pieces, that have been reported to me, as well as a couple of ringed birds which I have also spotted.  I have also looked at the 'Live' Polish and Norwegian Ringing Databases, and a handful of our wintering gulls, have been recorded back home.  More on these, will also be posted next time.

      Mediterranean Gulls       
Recently, I received another email from Andreas Zours, concerning German Bred Mediterranean Gulls, which have been recorded in Northern Ireland.  Andreas, has graciously kept me informed about such birds, and the latest concerns -   AY.CT .

Ringed as a chick on the Löbnitz Gravel Pits, near Leipzig, in June 2017, Cameron Moore, was the first to re-sight the young bird, when he spotted it at Whitehead, in County Antrim, on two separate dates in September 2017.  Since then, the gull has gone un-recorded until the 19th April 2019.  A David Cousins, spotted the Med, now in it's adult plumage, within a colony of Black-headed Gulls, at the RSPB's Leighton Moss Reserve, in Lancashire, England, (PDF File).

My thanks to Andreas for the update, and to Cameron and David, for the inclusion of their photos.

Mediterranean Gull  -    AY.CT   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim (2017)  and Leighton Moss, Lancashire (2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2017, at Löbnitz Gravel Pits, near Leipzig, Germany)
(Photos Courtesy of Cameron Moore and David Cousins)

I too, have been busy watching Mediterranean Gulls.  In my previous post, I reported on a 3rd 'metal-ringed' Med Gull, which has been recorded on the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, in Belfast.  Having recorded a 'patial number' -  *.**2.4** , on the 13th April, I returned on the 20th & 22nd, in an attempt to complete the full number.  Having taken a 'bucket full' of photos, on both days, I'm not really any further forward.  I have definitely recorded a '  3 ' at the start of the sequence, and what appears to be another '  3 ', at the end of the sequence.

If correct, I now have -  3.**2.4*3 .  Many of the photos taken, very absolutely useless, as details were obliterated, by the sun shining off the ring.  This bird also has a partner, but they do not appear to have a visible nest.  The un-ringed female, can often be seen sitting, but if there is a nest, there's very little in the way of material.

Both of the other 'metal-ringed' birds, have seemingly moved on.    3.735.920 , which I recorded on the 23rd February, has not been seen since.  This one was standing in the exact position, where it had nested in the previous two summers.  I have a feeling, it was waiting on it's partner, which may have failed to return.

The second 'metal-rung' bird -   3.738.593 , was also present on the 23rd February, though at the time, I only managed a 'partial' number on it's ring.  On that occasion, it too, was on it's own, but on the 13th April, I completed the whole ring number, and it now had a partner.  Since then, there has been no sign of this pair.

As well as these three 'metal-rung' Meds, a 'colour-ringed' bird, ringed as a chick in France, has been observed on the same nest platform.  It was first recorded on the 6th April, by a Derek Charles, and then spotted by Suzanne Belshaw, on the 12th April.  I have since recorded the gull, on all three of my visits, on the 13th, 20th and 22nd April.    RJ9H , also has a partner, and I'm pretty sure they have a nest, which seems to be behind a block of timber, and therefore not visible.  When sitting, the top of their heads can be seen from time to time.

Mediterranean Gull  -    RJ9H   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (20 Apr 2019)

Mediterranean Gull  -    RJ9H   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (22 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 2nd July 2016, at Polder de Sebastopol NR, Barbâtre, Vendèe, France)

As well as the two pairs, with ringed individuals, there are also two pairs of un-rung birds.  One of these, again appears to have no nest, though an adult clearly appears to be sitting at all times.  The other pair, had one egg viewable on the 20th April, but by the 22nd, the nest had been added to, therefore obscuring the contents.

Un-Ringed Pair of Mediterranean Gulls with One Egg  -  RSPB WoW Reserve, Belfast  (20 Apr 2019)


      Marsh Harrier       
A text message from Jim Wells, alerted me about the presence of a Marsh Harrier, at Whitehead, and this bird had 'Green - Wing Tags'.  Local birdwatcher and 'Ring Reader', Cameron Moore, had spotted it, hunting in an area, just on the edge of the village.  Jim asked me if I had any idea, where this tagged bird came from.  Having a sneaky suspicion that the bird was from the East Anglia District of England, a quick check online, and I soon proved this to be the case.

On replying to Jim, to state where the bird was from, I also informed him, that the 'Wing Tags', should have a two-character code.  No doubting, that message was passed on to Cameron, as he spent two days pursuing the Harrier, to try and photograph the bird, as well as capturing the code.  Later, a photo appeared on the NIBA website, showing the Harrier.  I downloaded and studied the photo, and the code appeared to read -   4X .  I sent an email to report Cameron's sighting, along with an edited photo, to see what could be made of it.

On the 24th April, I received a reply from Phil (surname not given), to say that he would bet on the bird being -    4X .  It had been processed as a chick, on the 13th June 2018, along with four other siblings, on the Holkham Estate, in Norfolk, England.  Adding 'fuel' to the sighting, was that   4X , had already been reported in Ireland, when it was seen at Barranny, in County Galway, on the 18th November 2018.

Marsh Harriers do not breed in Northern Ireland, or if they do, it's being kept quite.  However, birds do frequently turn up at the RSPB's Portmore Lough Reserve in County Antrim, and less so at sites in County Down, especially at Quoile.  I remember reading a few years back, of two juveniles, having been spotted after the breeding season, in County Down.  With an increasing breeding population, on the British Mainland, perhaps, breeding here is not too far away in the future.

However, a good sighting by Cameron, was well backed up with photos showing the code on the 'Wing Tag'.  My thanks to Phil & Jim Wells, and also to Cameron, for sharing his sighting and photos.

Marsh Harrier  -    4X   -  Whitehead, County Antrim  (15 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 13th June 2018, at Holkham Estate, Norfolk, England)


      Black-tailed Godwits       
In an email from David Nixon on the 19th April, I was requested to track down the owner of a Black-tailed Godwit, spotted by David, on the 18th.  The bird, seen on the high tide roost, of the Inner Bay at Dundrum, appeared to be ringed - Red, Green, Blue, on the left leg, and Red, Black (Niger), Red, on the right leg.  On checking my handy guide to 'colour-ringed' Black-tailed Godwits, an email was dispatched to Peter (Pete) Potts, in England.

A reply arrived from Pete the next day, along with a lengthy ringing and re-sighting history.  RGB-RNR, had been ringed as an adult, on the 29th September 2012, on The Swale, in Kent, England, which forms part of the Thames Estuary.  Prior to David's recent sighting at Dundrum, this Godwit, had been reported ten days earlier at Pagham Harbour, on the south coast of England.

I had to copy the bird's full re-sighting history from the email, paste it onto a page on my Word Processor, and then create a PDF File, which can be read (here).  My thanks to David, for sharing his sighting and the photograph.

Black-tailed Godwit  -  RGB-RNR  -  Dundrum Inner Bay, Dundrum, Co. Down  (18 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult, on the 29th September 2012, at Harty, on The Swale, Kent, England)
(Photo Courtesy of David Nixon)

On the 22nd April, I was at Castle Espie Wetland Centre, to see how the Black-headed Gulls were progressing with their nests.  Whilst checking the birds on the tidal lagoon, a flock of up to 100 Black-tailed Godwits were roosting.  Scoping through these, I noticed a leg bearing a 'metal-ring'.  The bird concerned, was at the back of the flock, and hidden from view.

I patiently waited for the birds to move, and eventually my target bird came into view.  As often happens with resting waders, it was standing on one leg, in this case, it's right leg.  The 'metal', was visible just above it's ankle, and two 'colour-rings', red over white, were fitted above the knee joint.

The wait now continued, hoping to get a view of the birds left leg.  I hoped nothing would come along and spook the birds, but shortly afterwards, the bird had a good stretch, stood on both legs, and again tucked it's head into it's back.  The left leg, revealed another red ring, over a 'Black Flag'.

On returning home, and checking my Godwit 'colour-ringing' Guide, I then sent an email to David Turner, of the Humber Wader Ringing Group.  David, replied to say that he had now retired, and copied in Ian Nicholson, the new ringing secretary.

A reply arrived from Ian, the following day.  RNf-RW, was ringed as an adult female, on the 3rd February 2018, at Welwick Pond, on the Humber Estuary, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England.  My sighting was the first, since the bird was ringed, the distance being 386 kms / 239 miles (WNW).

My thanks goes to David and Ian, for their quick replies.

Black-tailed Godwit  -  RNf-RW  -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (22 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 3rd February 2018, at Welwick Pond, East Riding of Yorkshire, England)

During correspondence via email, with David Nixon, concerning the two aforementioned Godwits, David informed me about his visit to Inch Island Lake, on the 22nd April.  Whilst he was there, he spotted a few hundred Black-tailed Godwits, but unfortunately, did not have his telescope with him.

To me, this was like being offered sweeties or a carrot on a stick.  The number was tantalisingly high, which therefore offered a good chance for spotting one or two 'colour-rings'.  The next day, off I headed to County Donegal, despite coming down with another dose of the cold, which I cannot seem to shake off.  I reckon, this is going into the fourth week, and having booked this week off from work, I've been fit to do practically nothing at all.

Arriving at the lake at Inch Island, the Godwits were there, numbering some three to four hundred birds in total.  Many were roosting, way out on the edge of the small island, which was a hive of activity, with nesting Black-headed Gulls and a small number of Mute Swans.  Numerous Sandwich, and lesser number of Common Terns were present, with these birds having just arrived back prior to nesting.  A single Black Swan, was also present.  Last year, I took a photo of a Black Swan on it's nest, on this very same island.

Several hours, was spent scoping the birds for rings.  At first, I spotted one Godwit, standing on one leg in the water.  The top of a red 'colour-ring', could just be seen poking above the water, so I knew I had at least one marked bird.  Scoping the terns, several Sandwich Terns had 'metal-rings', and two ringed Black-headed Gulls were also seen.  One of these bore a 'metal', whilst the other, had an 'Orange Darvic'.

The bird with the 'Darvic', was from Adam McClure's Project, and would have been ringed on the island here, as a chick, in June 2016.  This was the only time, Black-headed Gull chicks were ringed at Inch, though at the time, Adam was hoping to ring here on a yearly basis.  Even with my camera at full 'digital zoom' (3000mm), the code could not be read.

After a couple of hours, many of the Godwits began feeding.  Many flew towards the shore of the lake, quite near to the car park.  It was here, that I managed to get photos, of the bird with the red ring.  It was showing well, and a few photos were easily taken.  The ring read - red over white(8), on the left leg, and red over yellow, on the right leg.  Seeing the white(8), immediately made me suspicious - Do I Know You??  By the time of my departure, most, if not all of the Godwits had been checked, and only this single 'colour-ringed' bird was among them.

Returning home, I checked my spreadsheet, and I did know this bird.  I first recorded it, on the Dargan Mudflats in Belfast, on the 24th July 2016, which going by memory, was my first ever sighting of a 'colour-ringed' Black-tailed Godwit.  My next, and last sighting of this bird until today, was on the 7th April 2018, when I came across it at Whitehouse Lagoon, on the northern outskirts of Belfast.

I reported my latest sighting to Böddi in Iceland, whom sent me an updated file on it's ringing and re-sighting history (pdf).  Since I last recorded RW(8)-RY, at Whitehouse Lagoon, it had been spotted in February 2019, in County Waterford, and March 2019, in County Louth.  I had hoped for a new sighting here at Inch, but to fall in with an 'old friend', was just as good.

Black-tailed Godwit  -  RW(8)-RY  -  Inch Island Lake, Co. Donegal, Republic of Ireland  (24 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 7th July 2010, at Lambadalseyri, Dyrafjordur, NW Iceland)


      Norwegian Common Gull       
On the 22nd April, I checked out Kinnegar Beach, having completed a visit to the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve nearby.  With the tide on it's way in, a nice gathering of 100+ Common Gulls could be seen in the distance.  Scoping through these from the car park overlooking the beach, I spotted three birds with 'colour-rings' - two 'White', and one 'Green'.

The gulls, were in a nice long line, although fairly bunched in places.  I grabbed my camera, and walked partly out towards them.  I reckoned, that all three birds were of Norwegian origin, and this would be quite something, if I could read all the codes.  The first to come into clear view, was the 'Green' bird.  Zooming in with my camera, I captured the code -   J76R .

I began scoping through the gulls again, looking for the other two, but minutes later, a women, along with her two dogs, appeared from my right scattering all of the birds on the shoreline.  Most of the gulls, flew towards the direction of the RSPB Reserve.  Just what is it with some folk, a whole beach available to walk on, but they for some reason have to disturb the birds!!

Returning home later that day, I entered my sighting onto the 'Live' Norwegian Ringing Database.  My sighting of   J76R , was the first record of the gull since it had been ringed as a chick, in June 2016.

Common Gull  -    J76R   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (22 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2016, on Slottholmen Island, in the County of Aust-Adger, SE. Norway)


Sunday, 21 April 2019

Multi Meds...

      From Suzanne Belshaw       
On Friday 12th April, Suzanne Belshaw sent an email concerning the first ever 'colour-ringed' Mediterranean Gull, recorded in Northern Ireland, that was ringed in France.

Suzanne, was visiting the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve in Belfast, when she spotted the gull on nesting platform 2.  The RSPB, have a camera on this platform, which can be operated from the visitor centre.  A member of staff, was able to find the gull, and Suzanne took a few photos, via the monitor, showing the birds ring number -   RJ9H .  Checking the cr-birding site, Suzanne reported her sighting to the contact's email address.

Early on Saturday morning, came the reply from Camille Duponcheel.  It turns out, that Suzanne's sighting, was the second report of the gull in six days.  On the 6th April, a Derek Charles, had also reported this bird, presumably here on the reserve.  These were the first reports of the bird, since it was ringed as a chick, on the 2nd July 2016, at the Polder de Sebastopol Nature Reserve, on the west coast of France.

I checked the BTO's Online Ringing Report, which confirmed, that this was indeed the first ringed French Med Gull, to be recorded here.  I personally, had intended to go to Belfast last weekend, but remained at home dying with a cold, and planned to go this weekend, which I did.

There had been reports, of good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits, where I had hoped to spot a ring or two.  With no rings recorded, I then called into the Window on Wildlife Reserve.  The Mediterranean Gulls, are of interest to me, having recently recorded two 'metal-rung' birds.  Both gulls, were of Dutch origin, and having completed the number for one bird, I was still hoping to complete the second, for which, I only had a partial number.

On arriving at Hide One, which overlooks nesting platform 2, two 'metal-rung' Med Gulls were present, along with the newly recorded -   RJ9H   RJ9H , was on the far edge of the platform, and I could only capture the last three digits of the ring.  This bird has a mate, so it will be interesting to see if they remain to breed here.

Mediterranean Gull  -    RJ9H   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (12 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 2nd July 2016, at Polder de Sebastopol, Barbâtre, Vendée, France)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Mediterranean Gull  -    RJ9H   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (13 Apr 2019)

As stated above, I had recently recorded two Dutch Mediterranean Gulls, both fitted with 'metal-rings.  During my visit, on the 23rd February 2019, I completed the number, on one of these two birds, which was located just to the left of centre on the nesting platform.  This bird, rung -   3.375.920 , stood in the exact spot, where it had nested successfully, during the summer's of 2017 and 2018.

I only managed a partial number for the second Med Gull, recorded here on the 23rd February.  Initially thinking it could have been a British-rung bird, a closer examination of all the photos taken, with a bit of editing, made me think that this second bird was also Dutch - with the full number likely to read -   3.739.*** .  On the 23rd February, it was positioned on the front right corner of the nesting platform, the very same spot, as one of the two 'metal-rung' birds spotted today.

Concentrating my camera on this bird in the corner, I took lots of photos of it's 'metal-ring', and as can be seen, in the picture below, it has a partner.  On returning home, it took ages to sift through these photos, but in the end, I had managed to complete the number -   3.738.593 .  Comparing the number, with that on the 23rd February (photo), the digits did not line up for the two birds.  Having, only captured a 'partial' number, I then realised the sequence was wrong.  Instead of reading -   3.739.*** , the details should have actually have read -   3.7**.59* , which would then give an exact match for today's sighting.  What had appeared to be a ' 3 ' before the ' 9 ', on the photo taken in February, has turned out to be a ' 5 '.

Satisfied, that I had now completed the partial number, recorded for the bird recorded on the 23rd February, I proceeded to enter this gull onto my spreadsheet, and the predictive text, showed the number was already entered.  Looking up the records concerned, I was in for quite of a surprise.

I had recorded -   3.738.593 , on two occasions in the past.  Ringed as a chick, in Holland, in June 2015, I first came across it, on the 28th November 2016, when I recorded it at Glenarm, County Antrim - (photo)-(blog)-(BTO Details).  Almost a year later (23rd November 2017), I fell in with   3.738.593   -  again, at Sandy Bay, Larne, in County Antrim (photo) - (blog).

On the 27th January 2019, Paul McCullough reported a metal-rung Med Gull, to the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Association website (photo).  Just the day before (26th), Neal Warnock, had reported a 'Dutch-ringed' Med Gull (photo), at Drains Bay, situated slightly north from Paul's sighting at Sandy Bay, in Larne, the following day.  I sent an email to Neal, for confirmation of the gulls ring number, but never received a reply.  However, both of these sightings may have been -   3.738.593 .

It's fascinating to think, that these foreign gulls may nest here, so far from their own countries of origin.  If these 'metals' had not been read, we wouldn't have known anything about these birds.

Mediterranean Gull  -    3.738.593   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (13 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 20th June 2015, at De Kreupel Island, Lake IJsselmeer, Holland)

The second 'metal-rung' Med Gull today, turned out to be another new sighting, which makes this the third altogether that are ringed with 'metals' only.  I had only taken a few photos of this bird, before it flew off, and did not return.  With only a couple of these photos readable, the ring on this one, is of another Dutch bird, and appears to read -   *.**2.4** .

  *.**2.4** , seems to have an un-ringed partner, and were positioned on the front left hand edge, of the final third of the platform.  Although   *.**2.4** , flew off, it's presumed partner remained throughout my visit.

As can be seen in the photo below, the country 'Holland' can just about be read, with the dot in ' *2.4* ', situated underneath the letter '  o '.  The metals on the other two Dutch birds, reads -   3.735.920   and   3.738.593 , thus clearly showing that '  *2.4* ', is definitely of a new bird.

Mediterranean Gull  -    *.**2.4**   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (13 Apr 2019)

For comparison, I've also added the 'stitched' photo of   3.738.593 , which clearly shows the position of all the characters of a 'Dutch-metal', including the dots, underneath the address.

Ring of Med Gull  -    3.738.593   -  taken at Glenarm, County Antrim, on the 28th November 2016.

The Mediterranean Gulls here at the reserve, are going to give me a 'headache'.  It is hard enough, to photograph the 'metal-rings', due to the distance between 'Hide 1', and 'Nesting Platform 2', but to have three 'metal-rung' Med Gulls, plus the 'colour-ringed' bird, is going to present me with quite a challenge, following the fortunes of all four birds this summer.  I also have the added problem, of completing the number of the my new sighting.


      From Ric Else       
On the 13th & 15th April, I received emails from Richard Else, who is based on Rathlin Island.  Ric, is well aware of my Common Gull Project, which commenced in the summer of 2017, when I 'colour-ringed' chicks in County Antrim, and especially on Rathlin.  Having used 'Blue Darvic's', with a white alpha/numeric code, Ric has been keeping an eye out, as some of the 2017 youngsters may return to possibly breed this summer.

On the 29th March 2019, Ric spotted   2BHL , at Doon Bay, which had been ringed as a chick, on the 26th June 2018, just north at Arkill Bay - both sites are on the east coast of Rathlin.  I was not expecting to see the return of immatures so soon.

On the 13th April, Ric spotted   2APT , and then on the 15th, recorded   2BAX , with both birds being present at Rue Point, which holds the main breeding colony on the island.    2APT , was ringed as a chick at Rue Point, on the 17th June 2017, and   2BAX , was ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Arkill Bay.  Having gone un-recorded since being ringed, these two might breed here this summer.

I thought there was a chance, that one or two, 2017 bred birds would return this summer.  As they are still under two years of age, I am expecting to see a number of returnees, from next year onwards.  For now, its a good start, and hopefully more will follow.

My thanks to Ric, and his birding partner Hazel, for keeping a look out for my birds.

Common Gull  -    2APT   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (13 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th June 2017, at Rue Point)
(Photo Courtesy of Richard Else)

Common Gull  -    2BAX   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (15 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Arkill Bay, Rathlin Island)
(Photo Courtesy of Richard Else)


      From Paul McCullough       
On the 14th April, I received an email from Paul McCullough, concerning a 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull -   2J03 , which he spotted two days earlier, at the Leisure Centre, in Carrickfergus.  I immediately recognised the ring series, as those being used by the partnership of Christmas & Christmas, though the ring series is registered to Kane Brides.

Having no email address for the partnership, I contacted Kane, though I did not expect a quick reply.  In Kane's line of work, the Internet is not always readily available to him.  As luck would have it, a reply did come sooner than expected.

Kane supplied the life history of   2J03 , and the first thing that I noticed, was that   2J03 , was no stranger to Carrickfergus.  Ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 26th February 2014, at Carnforth, Lancashire, England, it's first re-sighting was given as the 21st April 2014, at Carrickfergus.  Seeing this, prompted me to check for the gull on Adam McClure's blog, and sure enough, there was a post (read).    2J03 , had been recorded by Paul, though he's obviously forgotten about it.

  2J03 , was still in Carrickfergus, on the 26th May 2014, and had not been recorded again in Northern Ireland until now.  Between these visits to Northern Ireland,   2J03 , has been recorded on four occasions.  The first and fourth of these, was back at the original ringing site at Carnforth, on the 25th December 2016, and on the 13th March 2019.  The second and third sightings, were at the RSPB Hodbarrow Reserve, in Cumbria, England, on the 1st August 2017, and on the 26th March 2018.

My thanks to Paul, for sharing his sighting, plus the photo.  I'm sure he was surprised having realised he had recorded this bird in the past.  My thanks, also to Kane for his speedy reply.

Black-headed Gull  -    2J03   -  Carrickfergus Leisure Centre, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (12 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 26th February 2014, at Pine Lake, Carnforth, Lancashire, England)
(Photo Courtesy of Paul McCullough)


      Out and About       
Since the end of March, I have not been out and about too often, mainly due to catching the cold.  I cannot seem to shake it off, as it has run into a third week.  Maybe, due to my age, I seem to catch the cold quite often now, and always have trouble trying to get rid of it.  I also work in a cold environment, where temperatures are often kept at or below freezing point, which does not help.

With the winter season over, and the nesting season beginning to ramp up, I've been taking things easy at home, and have caught up on some badly needed work in the garden, and adding more information to my 'ringing spreadsheet'.  Having added extra features to the spreadsheet, such as links to photos, blog entries, ringing locations, via Google Maps, I have given myself a lot more work to do.  I'm trying to add all entries from whenever I started my blog.

As I've gained more experience blogging, I want to re-visit my early posts, and give these a facelift.  In those early times, I did not have a decent photo editor, but in time, everything will be re-worked.

On Sunday, the 7th April, I headed off to the coast of County Antrim, to take a first pre-season check on the Common Gull colonies at Ballintoy, Torr Head and Waterfoot.  As per usual, plans are not always fulfilled, and I never got to the latter two sites.

I spent ages at Ballintoy Harbour, which has a loose colony of Common Gulls spread over a large area of the shore.  Scoping these for rings, especially the blue 'colour-rings', that I've used on chicks at Rathlin Island, only a single 'metal' was spotted.  This bird was on the same rock islet, as a bird seen here last summer, although not in the same spot.  The gulls were collecting nest material, and I might have a fair chance of reading the 'metal' with my new camera on a later date.

Despite being very cold in the strong easterly wind, I spent a good couple of hours here.  Head counts were made on several occasions, with over thirty birds present on each count.  Although nest building is not in full swing, there could be over 20 pairs altogether.

Last summer, the Common Gulls had a poor breeding season here.  As Ballintoy Harbour, is a major location in the series 'Game of Thrones', the area was overrun by tourists on a daily basis.  Many folk would clamour over the rocks where the gulls were nesting, and it wouldn't surprise me, if eggs were accidentally stood on, or deliberately broken.

Moving on towards Torr Head, I stopped by Ballycastle Harbour, to check on the gulls on the beach there.  To my delight, somewhere between 50 to 70 Common Gulls, were present, bathing at the point where the Glenshesk River, enters the sea.  Just as many Black-headed Gulls, along with smaller numbers of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, were also present.

Here, I thought, I was bound to fall in with one of my 'colour-ringed' Common Gulls, but the only 'colour-ring' spotted was on a Black-headed Gull.  Bearing an 'Orange Darvic', I knew this was one of Adam McClure's birds.  I've never recorded any of Adam's birds at Ballycastle before, so I thought this was likely to be a new sighting.

Having scoped the bird at distance, I walked closer to capture it with my camera.  At the same time, a women with two kids, walked down onto the beach, and proceeded in the direction of all the gulls.  They were too far ahead of me, and then the gulls took flight and settled onto the sea.  Once the beach was clear of people, some of the gulls returned, but no sign of the 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull.

I waited for a really long time, and was frozen to the bone.  I then headed towards the shops to buy a loaf.  Throwing full slices of bread onto the beach did the trick, and the gull I was after re-appeared.  Camera out, I took a few photos, and captured the code   2CNB .  By now, the weather conditions seemed to worsen, and the sky became really dark, so I ended my afternoon here.

On returning home, I entered   2CNB , onto my spreadsheet, only to discover that this was not a new sighting.  With three past records, two of these were made by me.    2CNB , was ringed as a chick, on the 16th June 2017, on Blue Circle Island, on Larne Lough, Co. Antrim.  It's first re-sighting was on the 23rd November 2017, when I spotted it at Sandy Bay, in Larne, just to the north of Blue Circle Island.

On the 19th May 2018, Suzanne Belshaw, recorded   2CNB , at Ballyholme, on the north coast of County Down, which was 19 kms / 12 miles (SSE), from Blue Circle Island.  I also recorded    2CNB  , at Ballyholme, on the 17th February 2019.  This was the last record until today.

The big surprise here, was why had   2CNB , moved so far north.  It has passed all the major breeding sites along the way, and the nearest breeding colony to Ballycastle, is on Rathlin Island.  A little bit of luck is needed over the next month or two, to establish where exactly   2CNB , decides to nest.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CNB   -  Ballycastle Beach, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim  (07 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2017, on Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

On Saturday 13th April, I visited to RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve in Belfast.  I've already mentioned the Mediterranean Gulls, but I also recorded a few 'ringed' Black-headed Gulls.  These are listed in 'colour-ring' and then 'metal' order, as the birds were recorded on both nest platforms and on the grass directly in front of the visitor centre.

First up, is   2AFF , a bird that I first personally recorded on the 17th February 2019, although I was already aware of it's past history.    2AFF , was ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2013, on Mew Island, part of the Copeland Islands, which lie just off the north coast of County Down.

It's first re-sighting, was made on the 5th May 2014, when Stuarty McKee recorded it at Whitehouse Lagoon, on the northern edge of Belfast.  Adam McClure, was next to record   2AFF , also at Whitehouse Lagoon, on the 14th September 2015.  It was not spotted again, until the 10th November 2018, when Cameron Moore, saw it on the beach at Whitehead, even further up the County Antrim coast.

My first sighting, was on the 17th February 2019, on Ballyholme Beach, on the north County Down coast, which was the last record until today.  I spotted   2AFF , on nesting platform 1, which lies directly in front of the visitor centre.  This is the first of any of Adam's gulls, which I have recorded on this particular platform.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAF   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (13 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2013, on Mew Island, The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

My sighting of   2AJF   today, on nesting platform 2, is the fourth record of the gull here, since the 2nd March 2019, (also 9th & 30th March).    2AJF , was ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2014, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, in County Down.  The gull went un-recorded, until the 12th May 2018, when I first came across it, on this very same platform.

The only sighting of   2AJF , outside of the breeding season, was on the 9th December 2018, when I recorded it on the former Dargan Landfill site nearby.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AJF   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (13 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2014, at The Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down)

Another returning Black-headed Gull, onto platform 2, was   2BAL    2BAL , is another Copeland bred bird, having been ringed there as a chick, on the 22nd June 2014.  It has been recorded wintering at Donaghadee, in County Down, every winter since August 2015, when Suzanne Belshaw made the first ever re-sighting.

I came across   2BAL , on the 11th November 2018, at the Community Centre in Donaghadee, this being the last record of the gull until today.  Last year,   2BAL , was recorded nesting on platform 2, on the 10th & 12th May, by David Nixon and then myself, these being the first records of   2BAL , nesting anywhere.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BAL   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (13 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 22nd June 2014, on The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

  2CJF , is a relatively new bird to me.  Having recorded it for the first time on the nearby Kinnegar Beach, on the 26th August 2018, I then spotted it on nesting platform 2, here at the WoW Reserve, on the 30th March 2019.  Today's sighting, is now my third record of the gull, which seems set to nest here.    2CJF , was ringed as a juvenile, on the 3rd July 2016, on Blue Circle Island, on Larne Lough, Co. Antrim.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CJF   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (13 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd July 2016, on Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

Two 'metal-rung' Black-headed Gulls, were present on the grass fronting the visitor centre.  Despite both birds, being within easy range of my camera, I found it very difficult to try and capture details on their rings.  The camera's processor, couldn't cope with the glass window, and appeared to be confused whether to focus on the window or the gulls outside.

Unfortunately, I could not open any of the windows, as quite a number of Black-tailed Godwits were feeding on the grass, just a few feet away.  They posed as a great attraction to those visiting the centre, and I'd probably have got 'shot in the head', had I scared them off.

I did manage to get some details on both rings, and hopefully, I can complete both numbers on my next visit.

Black-headed Gull  -    EZ331**   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (13 Apr 2019)

Black-headed Gull  -    EX9**05   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (13 Apr 2019)


Friday, 5 April 2019

May The Games Begin...

Unlike 'Game of Thrones', where the winter is coming, for me the winter has ended - though, with our current weather, it does not seem like it.  Talking of Game of Thrones, I along with many of you, cannot wait for the final episodes to unfurl.  Over these last few weeks, I have been watching the seven previous seasons, after returning home from work at night.  Who will win the throne?

No matter who survives until the end, I must comment on an excellent production by HBO, and certainly to all the actors who took part, well done to you all.

It's now that time of the year, when many of our wintering birds, will be well on their way home, to breed for the summer.  This is also the time, when my blog winds down.  Instead of 'Reading Rings', I will be out and about looking for our own nesting birds, with the view of ringing their chicks.

Posts, will most likely be made on an infrequent basis, pending on what information I receive.  'Ring Reading', does not stop entirely, as from time to time, I will be out looking for our 'ringed' breeders.  Every so often, I will check into the 'Live' Norwegian and Polish Ringing Databases, to see if there are any latest reports, of birds recorded here this winter, and those which have gone unrecorded from earlier years.

Despite extensive searching, some gulls recorded last winter, were not recorded this winter.  They could have died, or simply slipped by un-noticed, but I will keep checking for them.

As can be read below, I cancelled, what was to be my final weekly visit to Antrim Marina.  This past winter there, has been a nightmare and frankly, I cannot see things improving next winter.

Other than that, this winter has been excellent, with many old and new ring sightings having been recorded.  I cannot wait for next winter to arrive, so I can begin the whole process of recording our returnees.

As I say, my blog will now take a 'back seat', but I hope my readers have enjoyed my efforts to record ringed birds.  I also must thank all of the other observers who have submitted their ring sightings for inclusion in my blog.  Not only do their records add to our knowledge of wintering birds, but the blog produces a hard copy of their efforts - THANK YOU All.

      Antrim Marina       
Sunday, the 31st March, or Monday, the first of April, was supposed to be my last weekly visit to Antrim Marina this winter.  I decided to cancel the visit, owing to the number of disastrous visits over recent months.

Now that the breeding season is almost upon us, many of the gulls have now moved on towards their breeding sites.  Throughout the summer, I will conduct random visits to the Marina, to record the resident Black-headed Gulls, especially any of those that I have caught and ringed, over these past two winters.

The construction work, of the new cafe, will continue over the summer, which will not help in recording 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.  Work is to be completed by August 2018, the planned month for the cafe to open.  August, is also the month, when I begin my 7th winter of 'Ring Watching at Antrim Marina'.  

Hopefully, next winter does not see the disturbance, that the gulls had to experience, over these last few months.  Somehow, I doubt it, and a good wintering site, has now been destroyed.  A good study, has become a poor study, but I will have to persist no matter what.


      Ringing Details Received       
Graham McElwaine, who is the ringing coordinator for the Irish Brent Goose Research Group, has now returned home from his visit to Australia.  Graham, is now playing 'catch-up', responding to all of the Brent Goose sightings, which have been reported to him.

Among these, are three of several Brent Geese, which I have reported over the last few weeks.  Graham has included temporary PDF files for each of these three birds, which are updated at a later time.

Brent Goose - Yellow I / Yellow 3
I recorded this bird, on the 2nd & 30th March 2019, at Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down.  It was ringed as an adult female, on the 12th May 2007, at Jörfi, Álftanes, in SW. Iceland.  The duration since being ringed, is now 11 years, 10 months and 18 days.  Still to be fully updated, it's re-sighting history can be read (here).

Brent Goose - Black H / White P
I recorded this bird, on the 2nd & 3rd March 2019, at Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down.  It was ringed as an adult male, on the 9th February 2018, at Dundrum, County Down, here in Northern Ireland.  The duration since being ringed, is now 1 year, and 22 days.  Still to be fully updated, it's re-sighting history can be read (here).

Brent Goose - White V / White J
This goose was spotted walking on the road, beside the play park on the seafront at Millisle, County Down, on the 3rd March 2018.  It was ringed as an adult female, on the 16th January 2007, on Strangford Lough, in County Down.  The duration since being ringed, is now 12 years, 1 month and 15 days.  Still to be fully updated, it's re-sighting history can be read (here).


On the 24th March 2019, I spotted a 'colour-ringed' Black-tailed Godwit (GR-PNPNP), during a visit to the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, in County Down (blog).  Being a new sighting, I reported the bird to the registered contact, given in the 'Guide to Colour-Ringed Black-tailed Godwits (PDF).  Having waited for a while, and receiving no reply, I reported the bird to the BTO, through their 'Online Ringing Database'.

On Thursday, the 4th April, I received a reply from the BTO, with the ringing details attached.  My Godwit, was ringed as a juvenile, on the 20th December 2009, at Mahee Island, which is situated 6 kms to the south-east of Castle Espie.  No great distance here, but the duration since ringing, was 9 years, 3 months and 4 days.

As the ringing details, also included the Godwit's 'metal-number', I entered this onto the 'DemOn Database', to discover that this was the first official reporting for the bird.  It is possible that the bird has been re-sighted in the past, but I have learnt, that many project organisers fail to submit those sightings to the BTO.


      From Richard Else       
I received an email from Richard Else, on the Friday 29th March 2019, concerning a Common Gull, from my own 'Colour-Ringing' Project.    2BHL , was spotted by Ric, at Doon Bay, on Rathlin Island, earlier that day.    2BHL , was ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2018, at Arkill Bay, on Rathlin Island, which is about 2kms to the north of Doon Bay.  The duration since being ringed, was 9 months, and 5 days.

Ric, and his birdwatching partner Hazel Watson, have been watching the Common Gulls on Rathlin, as many are now returning, prior to the oncoming breeding season.  Both, are aware of my ringing project, which began during the summer of 2017, and some of those surviving youngsters from that year, may attempt to breed this summer.

In 2018, I ringed 69 Common Gull chicks on the southern arm of Rathlin Island, 53 of which, were large enough to be fitted with a 'Blue Colour-Ring'.  Of those 53, which were 'colour-ringed', Ric's sighting today, is only the second of those chicks to have been recorded over this past autumn/ winter season.  On the 19th August 2018, I spotted   2BCL , at Cushendun Harbour, further south along the east coast of County Antrim.

My thanks to Ric & Hazel, for reporting their sighting, and hopefully, there are more to come.  Ric & Hazel, have compiled the Rathlin Island Bird Report, copies of which can be found on the side-bar of my blog.

Common Gull  -    2BHL   -  Doon Bay, Rathlin Island, County Antrim  (29 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2018, at Arkill Bay, Rathlin Island, County Antrim)
(Photo Courtesy of Ric Else)


      Saturday 30th March 2019       
Another late start for a Saturday, I decided to check out the gulls at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve in Belfast.  Having already had one Dutch-rung Mediterranean Gull, confirmed recently, I am still hoping to complete the 'metal' number for a second Dutch Med Gull.

Watching the nest platform, from hide one, a pair of Med Gulls, were present, but neither were ringed.  I remained at the hide for a considerable amount of time, in the hope, that one or both of the 'metal-rung' Dutch Med's would appear.  They never did, but I recorded two 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, from Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Study.

The first of these, was   2AJF , this being my sixth sighting of the gull, and the fourth record for 2019.    2AJF , was ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2014, but it's first re-sighting happened to be here at the RSPB Reserve, on the 12th May 2018, when I recorded the gull breeding on the nesting platform (PDF).

My second sighting of   2AJF , was made on the 9th December 2018, when I recorded it wintering on the nearby Dargan Industrial Estate.  Kinnegar Beach, also close to the reserve, was the site of my first sighting of   2AJF , in 2019 (17th February).

Prior to today's sighting, I have recorded   2AJF , on this same nesting platform, on the 2nd & 9th March 2019.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AJF   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (30 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2014, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, County Down)

The second Black-headed Gull, was   2CJF , this being only my second sighting of this bird.  I first recorded it, on the 26th August 2018, at nearby Kinnegar Beach.  Ringed as a juvenile, on the 3rd July 2016, at Blue Circle Island, on Larne Lough, it appears that   2CJF , is attempting to breed for the first time, here at the Reserve.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CJF   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (30 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 3rd July 2016, at Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

Leaving the RSPB Reserve, I drove the short distance to the beach at Kinnegar.  Knowing the tide was due to come back in, I positioned my car overlooking the beach.  As I arrived, a couple had just got out of their car, and walked down onto the beach, carrying a garden fork and a bucket.  To my dismay, they proceeded towards a large flock of Common Gulls, numbering somewhere near to the 100 mark.

Stopping just shy of the gulls, they began to dig into the sand.  The gulls were wary, with some walking away, but in the most part, others stood their ground.  I began scoping through them and spotted one bird, with a green 'colour-ring'.  The bird, was probably from Norway, but was quickly obscured by other gulls.  At this point, I grabbed my gear and walked out towards the couple that were digging.

Scoping through the gulls again, I could not re-locate the bird I was after, and soon afterwards, they all took to the air, as the couple approached even closer.  Sugar!!, I thought to myself, there's one that got away.

Oystercatchers, were by far the most numerous species on the beach, numbering over 150 birds.  Looking through these, I saw one 'metal-ringed' bird, but no sign of the two Icelandic 'colour-ringed' birds, that I recorded on many occasions this winter.  Perhaps, they too, are on their way back home.

A group of 45 to 50 Brent Geese, attracted special attention from me, as I noticed that a few were carrying 'colour-rings'.  As the tide pushed the birds ever closer, I recorded 5 ringed birds, two of which were recent re-sightings, 2 new birds, and 1 that I recorded back in April 2018.

This bird was Blue 2 / Blue K, which I spotted at Glynn, on Larne Lough, on the 15th April 2018.  Graham McElwaine, will send me an updated PDF File in due course, but for now, I've added my old one showing the movements of Blue 2 / Blue K, up until my sighting at Glynn (read).

Brent Goose  -  Blue 2 / Blue K  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (30 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 7th February 2012, at Sandyford, Co. Dublin, Republic of Ireland)

One of the new Brent sightings, was White L / Blue S.  I've reported the bird to Graham, and he will get back to me at a later date, with it's ringing and re-sighting history.

Brent Goose  -  White L / Blue S  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (30 Mar 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

My latest sighting of Red H / Red J, is my fourth record for 2019, having noted it's return to Kinnegar Beach, initially on the 17th February.  I first recorded Red H / Red J, last year, here at Kinnegar Beach.  Just the single sighting, on the 4th March 2018, it was partnered to a male - Red H / Red H, which sadly, failed to return after the summer.  Again, Graham, will forward an updated PDF File at a later date.  In the meantime, I've added the file, which Graham sent to me last year (read).

Brent Goose  -  Red H / Red J  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (30 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 22nd November 2013, at Portmarnock, Co. Dublin, R. of Ireland)

Blue B / Blue C, was my second new Brent Goose sighting today at Kinnegar Beach.  Currently, I'm waiting on the ringing and re-sighting history for this bird, to be forwarded by Graham.

Brent Goose  -  Blue B / Blue C  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (30 Mar 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

The fifth Brent Goose, was Yellow I / Yellow 3.  Today's sighting, was my second record for this bird, with my first sighting, having been made on the 2nd March 2019.  In my blog entry, I recorded the bird as Yellow 1 / Yellow 3, but will have to correct that.

Graham, has sent me a copy of the birds PDF File, which has yet to be updated, but it contains a substantial record of re-sightings, since the bird was ringed in Iceland, in 2007 (read).

Brent Goose  - Yellow I / Yellow 3  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (30 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 12th May 2007, at Jörfi, Álftanes, SW Iceland)


      From Suzanne Belshaw       
On returning home from work on Thursday night, I checked my emails, to find one from Suzanne Belshaw.  Earlier that day, Suzanne spotted a 'colour-ringed' Herring Gull, on the mudflats at Dargan, in Belfast.

Although, Suzanne already knew, the bird was from the Dublin Project, I was asked to report the bird to my 'Ring Reading' counterpart - Graham Prole.  On Friday morning, Graham - on the ball, as always, replied to Suzanne.

  298:D , was ringed as a chick, on the 26th June 2018, on the roof of Dublin City's Mater Hospital.  Suzanne's sighting at Dargan, was the first record of the gull, since being ringed (PDF).

My thanks goes to Suzanne, for sharing her sighting, and to Graham, for his quick reply.

Juvenile Herring Gull  -    298:D   -  Dargan Mudflats, Belfast Lough  (04 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 26th June 2018, at the Mater Hospital (roof), Dublin City, Republic of Ireland)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)