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)


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