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)


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