Friday, 30 August 2019

Failed Roseate's...

I could have had this post published early this week, but held off hoping to receive ringing recoveries from the BTO, regarding two Common Terns,   37P , listed below, and that of a bird spotted by Ian Enlander, at Whitehead, a couple of weeks ago.  These have not arrived, and looking at the DemOn Ringing Database, both birds are listed as BTO Queried, which probably means, that they have contacted the ringers concerned, for the required ringing data.  Also, I was hoping for an updated PDF File, from Böddi in Iceland, concerning my re-sighting of an Oystercatcher at Carnlough Bay.

Richard Donaghey, has also been sending emails, concerning Sandwich Terns.  I have not had time to go through these properly, but they concern birds spotted on the Bann Estuary, on the north coast of County Londonderry.  As well as those, the first ever Sandwich Tern chicks, to be colour-ringed at Inch Island Lake, in County Donegal, have also been reported.

Sandwich Tern chicks have been rung with 'metals' only for over thirty years by Ken Perry at Inch, but this year, a small number were ringed with 'colour-rings'.  Whilst they were working with the Sandwich Terns, I 'colour-ringed' a number of Black-headed Gull chicks, but I'm still waiting for my first sighting of this summers youngsters.

My latest visit to Antrim Marina on Monday morning, was another huge disappointment.  It seems, at least for the next few weeks, my visits will either be a hit or miss affair, which is really frustrating.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 26th August 2019       
Again, due to limited time out on both Saturday and Sunday, I opted for another Monday morning visit to Antrim Marina.  Today, was week four, on this, my seventh winter of weekly visits to the site, in order to record colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls.  After a quite satisfactory visit last Monday, the overall total of gulls recorded so far, increased to sixteen individuals.

This morning, I arrived at the Marina at 8am, remaining until 11.30am.  Unlike last Monday, most of the gulls chose to rest on the roof of the new cafe, which is under construction.  Just six colour-ringed birds were recorded, with no new additions being added to the list.

When I arrived, the temperature was already reading 14°C, which increased to 15.5°C, by the time I departed.  Occasionally, when the gulls on the roof took flight, I was able to obtain a rough count of the number of BHGs present.  With an estimated 20 to 30 gulls present on my arrival, a high estimate around 10.45, gave a total of about 70.

Even when folk arrived to feed the ducks, the gulls on the whole, were not interested in coming down for a bite.  This was a very poor visit, not only in the number of rings recorded, but also in the number of gulls present overall.

My main aim, as in the past, was record the ringed gulls on a weekly basis, which is now nigh on impossible.  It seems that all I can do now, is try to record the birds as best as possible, and work towards a high overall total, of the number of surviving individuals from last winter.  Already, I'm concerned about the non appearance of some of the original gulls ringed at the beginning of Adam McClure's Project.

Birds, such as   2AAT ,   2AAP ,   2ADJ   and   2BRA , who would be ever present, have not as yet appeared.  Another one would be   2AAA , which was the very first gull to be ringed at the Marina, in November 2012.    2ADJ , as mentioned above, may already be dead, as when I last saw this bird on 17th June 2019, it was looking very ill.

It may well be a couple of months, before I can record the gulls here in higher numbers.  By then, natural food will be on the decrease, and stormier winds, would then force the gulls off the cafe roof and down onto the car park, where they can be easier viewed.  For now, I'm not looking forwards to the boring weekly visits, but, I can only try my best. 

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina on Monday 24th August 2019
 2CSK   2AAK   2CJT   2CSB   2ACV   2CSB 

Gulls Recorded This Winter, which were Not Spotted Today
 2ABN   2ABK   2ABS   2AAB   2ABL   2CSJ   2CSL   2CSR   2CTB   2CTC 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
One of the first things that I noticed on my arrival at the Marina, was a pair of Mute Swans on the slipway, and no sign of cygnets.  This had me wondering - were these a new pair visiting, or were they the existing pair, without their youngsters.  The question was answered at 08.50, when the five cygnets arrived from up-river.  This was the first time, that I've seen these youngsters away from their parents.  So far, no other swans can get near the marina, as this pair is very dominate, and chase off all other swans which come anywhere near to the slipway.

Mallard numbers, were already around 40 to 50, when I arrived.  By 11.00am, I was thinking about departing, so another count, took the total of ducks present, to the 100+ mark, but could of been as high as 110 to 120 birds.  There was certainly a lot of birds present, but by this time, a number of people had arrived to feed them, so there was much movement, which made counting so much more difficult.

Either way, it's been a long time, since numbers last reached today's totals.  Most were checked for rings, but still none to be seen.  Perhaps, the gun clubs in County Monaghan, have stopped ringing chicks, before they are released into the wild.  It has been a good while now, since I last recorded any of their Mallards.

3 adult Common Gulls, were perched on the railing of the short concrete jetty when I arrived.  None were ringed, but it was not long after, when they also removed themselves onto the roof of the cafe.  At 09.25, a juvenile Common Gull, arrived at the car park.  It remained throughout the remainder of my visit, staying amongst the few Black-headed Gulls, which did stay beside the slipway.

An adult Herring Gull, presumably the same bird recorded in recent visits, would every now and again, come down from the roof of the new cafe, to steal bread being fed to the ducks.  A single Lesser Black-backed Gull, was present all morning, and remained perched on one of the navigation poles on the river.  On a couple of occasions, other Lesser Black-backed's would arrive, but none stayed for very long.

Other species recorded, were, 2 Hooded Crows, 11 Jackdaws, 1 Pied Wagtail and 1 Grey Wagtail.  A Great Crested Grebe, came quite close to the slipway, but soon moved back out towards the Lough, when a number of people arrived.

Again, non of the other sites around the town of Antrim, were checked, as I had to return home for a feed and a couple of hours sleep, which sets me up for the night shift at work.


      Ringing Details Received       
I'm still waiting to hear from Simon Fosters, concerning the Oystercatcher -    Y1 -   , (FP48164) , which I recorded on the beach at Kinnegar, on the 11th August 2019.  I know, having entered it's metal number onto the DemOn Ringing Database, this bird does have some past history, having been ringed in 1996.

If anyone knows Simon, or anybody from the Highland Ringing Group, in Scotland, reading this, could they please get in touch with me.


      Saturday 24th August 2019       
Today, I did not leave home until late in the afternoon.  Having returned home from work in the early hours of Saturday morning, I had a look at the NIBA Website, and noticed that Roseate Terns, had appeared in good numbers at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, on Friday evening.  Checking on the tides, high tide in Belfast was around 6pm, which would be an ideal time to visit Kinnegar Beach around 4pm, then moving on to the WoW Reserve.

Being a Chelsea fan for my sins, I watched their game against Norwich on tv, before setting off to Kinnegar.  Arriving at 3.45pm, my timing was perfect, as the gulls and waders were slowly being pushed towards me with the rising tide.  Scoping the birds, not a single ring was spotted.  More distant Oystercatchers, which were perched on rocks, flew directly towards Kinnegar Pond, which is a high tide roost, just over the private road, from the beach.

With the birds on the beach getting closer and closer, the inevitable happened, as a dog walker appeared, which frightened off the remaining birds.  I then moved over to scope the birds on the pond, and then spotted an Icelandic rung Oystercatcher, which has returned for another winter.

Ringed with colour-rings, on opposite legs to those normally rung by Icelandic ringers - W(NC)-RR, was first recorded by me on the 10th November 2018.  At the time, this was the first record of the bird in Northern Ireland, but a somewhat belated report was submitted by Brian Henderson, who recorded W(NC)-RR, at the nearby Dargan Mudflats, on the 23rd August 2018.

I recorded W(NC)-RR, for a second time, here at Kinnegar, on the 3rd February 2019.  The bird was spotted back in Iceland, on a single occasion this past summer, where it was seen by Pedro Rodrigues (Spanish ???), at, Sandgerði, where it was ringed as an un-sexed breeding adult, on the 22nd May 2017.  The full ringing and re-sighting history for W(NC)-RR, can be read (here). 

Oystercatcher -  White(NC)-Red,Red  -  Kinnegar Pond, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (24 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 22nd May 2017, at Sandgerði, SW Iceland)

It was now a good time, to visit the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, where I was hoping to record my first ringed Roseate Tern.  With my more powerful Nikon P1000, I thought that I might have a chance of reading the codes on the special metal-rings, that are used on the Roseate's, along with their normal BTO ring, which I knew would be impossible to read.

These special rings are slightly taller, than the standard BTO ring, and are used on Roseate's ring on either Rockabill, Co. Dublin, or Lady's Island Lake, in County Wexford.  Having arrived at the Reserve, not a single Roseate was to be seen.  However, as the evening wore on, the Roseate's started to arrive.  No sooner had they started to arrive, there was enough metal on show, to start a scrapyard.

I started taking photos with my camera, and soon came to a somewhat disappointing conclusion - these special rings, were also just too far off to read, but not by far.  From hide 2, three sets of planked areas lie in front of the hide.  The furthest of the three stretch right across from left to right.  A shorter second set, lie towards the middle left, whilst the shortest of all, are closest to the right (see photo).

I now realised, if I had any chance at all of capturing the code on these special rings, I needed a Roseate, to alight onto the closest planks.  I waited and waited, but I was not so fortunate.

Common, Arctic & Roseate Terns, on the Planks in Front of Hide 2

Roseate Tern, along with it's youngster

It now appears, that if I'm going to get a result for the Roseate Terns, I would need them to be ringed with the more conventional 'colour-rings'.  A 'colour-ringed' Tern was spotted towards the left hand edge of the middle set of planks.  The code on this ring was easily captured by my camera, which proves my point about the use of colour-rings on the Roseate's.

The code read   37P , on a juvenile tern, but I was not totally sure of what species.  I sent a copy of the photo to Ewan Weston in Scotland, who replied saying 'not to take his word as gospel', but he reckoned that it was a Common Tern.  I have reported   37P , to the BTO, as a Common Tern, and will await to see what happens next.

Common Tern (?)  -    37P   -  RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (24 Aug 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

By 7.30pm, the light was beginning to fade, and even my camera, was having problems focusing in the dwindling light.  It was time to go home.


      Sunday 25th February 2019       
It was an early start for me this morning, as I wanted to be on the coast, two hours after high tide, which was listed as 06:12.  I went to Carnlough Bay first, and slowly worked my way southwards towards Belfast.  Arriving at Carnlough at 8am, there was a small number of gulls, along with Turnstones and Ringed Plovers.  Scoping through the gulls, I spotted a young Common Gull, that bore a 'Blue Darvic', which meant that this bird was one of my youngsters ringed in June, on Rathlin Island.

Only the top of the ring was showing, and to make matters worse, an adult walked directly in front of the juvenile, and I could not see the ring at all.  After a while, a small group of gulls took off, and this included my bird.  They flew along the length of the bay, and then seemed to turn inland.  With no other rings present on the other gulls and waders, I made my way to the far end of the beach, were Oystercatchers had begun to feed.

Here, I was hoping to record an Icelandic Oystercatcher, ringed as Orange, Orange - White (AA), for the fourth winter running.  Ringed as an un-sexed breeding adult, in May 2016, I first recorded this bird at Carnlough Bay, on the 10th August 2016.  Around 20 Oystercatchers were feeding along the surf line, and OO-W(AA), was spotted having a wee rest.  I reported my latest sighting to Böddi in Iceland, but as of this morning (Friday), I have not received a reply.

Oystercatcher  -  OO-W(AA)  -  Carnlough Beach, Carnlough Bay, Co. Antrim  (25 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 10th May 2016, at Brautarholt, in SW Iceland)

Leaving Carnlough Bay, I made my way southwards, checking small groups of gulls and waders for rings.  The next ring to be spotted, was on another Oystercatcher, which was seen on Larne Lough, whilst I scoped from the railway station at Glynn.  

Although it was a long way away, due to the tide being well out by now, under normal circumstances, my camera should easily capture the colour-rings.  However, the more I zoomed out, the worse the heat haze appeared to be.  When I returned to my car, the temperature was reading 25.5°C, no wonder the haze was so bad.

I reckoned the Oystercatcher, was Lime,White-White(EA), which was recorded winter here last year, and also during the winter of 2017/2018.  I cannot report this bird yet, as I need to be 100% sure, that it is indeed LW-W(EA).

Oystercatcher on Larne Lough, the Colour-rings Obscured by a Heat Haze

Leaving Glynn, I checked the gulls at Whitehead, and Rhanbouy Park, at Carrickfergus, without any success.  By the time that I reached the shore at Whiteabbey, the tide was as far out as it could be.  With the temperature now reading 26.5°C, there was no point in stopping to look at the now distant birds.  I called it a day, and returned home to do some more work in the garden.


Friday, 23 August 2019

Winter is Coming...

Once again, another late post.  This was due to my limited time for one reason or another, plus sightings arrived in to me during the week, from John Clarke, Jan Rod and Graham McElwaine.  I really needed to include their sightings in this weeks post, as I might receive other sightings next week.  In really need to find the time to keep on top of these, but to me, the most important thing, is we have a 'hard copy' of these reports.

Though pushed for available time out last weekend, I still managed to get out and undertake a little bit of 'Ring Reading', with the added bonus of a reasonably good visit to Antrim Marina on Monday morning.  The winter is on it's way, but already the ring sightings are coming in.  No doubt, there should be one or two, of what I call 'Gems', to be found out there somewhere this winter.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 19th August 2019       
Last weekend, I was forced to abandon my weekly winter visit to Antrim Marina, due to a Golf Tournament, being held on the course adjacent to the Marina.  After six winters, this was the first time, that visit had been missed.  This weekend, I chose a Monday, instead of a Sunday visit, which meant that I would not have had the additional problem of trying to read rings, whilst the trainee canoeists were about.

Pulling up to the barrier which allows me access to the front car park, beside the slipway, I could not believe what I was seeing.  For the first time in ages, there were gulls at rest on the car park and on the low wooden jetty.  This is exactly where I needed the birds to be, and throughout the morning, they remained here for most of the time.

As regular readers will know, the building of the new cafe, has presented me with all sorts of problems, whilst trying to read rings.  The gulls initially began to alight on the steel framework, and as building progressed, they then started to perch on the flat roof, with legs being completely out of sight.

Today, seemed like 'old times', and rings were easily read.  Just 36 Black-headed Gulls, were present when I arrived, but a high count at 10.45, gave a total of 91 birds present.  A fortnight ago, when I began this - my 7th winter of weekly winter visits, just four rings were read, but today I managed a total of 15.  Interestingly, some of those gulls which would normally be under your nose all of the time, did not show.  These being birds, such as,   2AAA ,   2AAP ,   2AAT   and   2BRA .  I had hoped to see the Lithuanian bird (White) T35J, which on some past winters, would have returned by now.

Three of the gulls recorded two weeks, were spotted again today, the exception being   2CSR .  Among today's 15 birds, two were recorded, that we know may well breed a long way away from Antrim.    2ACV , was the first of them, having been recorded in the past possibly breeding at the RSPB's Leighton Moss Reserve, in Lancashire, England.

The second gull -   2CSL , which I caught and ringed here in December 2017, was spotted in Olsztyn, Poland, on the 29th March 2018.  Whether, it bred in Poland, or was passing through to another country, is open to speculation, but it returned to the Marina, on the 20th August 2018.  Before today, my last sighting of   2CSL , was on the 11th March 2019.  If   2CSL , was reported back in Poland during the past summer, I'll probably never know, as the sighting will have been reported directly to Adam, via it's 'colour-ring', although it's metal ring belongs to me.

All in all, with all the problems that I've had to put up with due to the building of the new cafe, this was quite a saticfactory visit.  Normally, I would present my sightings via a 'table', but this time, I decided to include a photo of each bird, along with the duration since they were caught and ringed here.  Not only can we keep track of these birds at their chosen wintering site, but each sighting adds to their longevity.  The bonus comes when they are spotted elsewhere - far, far, away.

Today, I also fed quite a few juveniles beside my car with bread.  Many were eager to get a bite, so I'm hopeful if this continues over forthcoming visits, a few of these can be caught and ringed.  December would probably be a good time for this, as juveniles which have come from abroad, will also be at the Marina.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAB   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 11th December 2012, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 6 years, 8 months and 8 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAK   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 21st December 2012, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 6 years, 7 months and 29 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAN   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 21st December 2012, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 6 years, 7 months and 29 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABK   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 23rd January 2013, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 6 years, 6 months and 27 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABL   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 23rd January 2013, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 6 years, 6 months and 27 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABN   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 23rd January 2013, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 6 years, 6 months and 27 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABS   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 23rd January 2013, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 6 years, 6 months and 27 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ACV   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed First Winter Bird, on the 21st October 2013, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 5 years, 9 months and 29 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CJT   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed First Winter Bird, on the 4th December 2016, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 2 years, 8 months and 15 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSB   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed First Winter Bird, on the 19th November 2017, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 1 year, 9 months, 0 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSJ   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed 2nd Winter Bird, on the 17th December 2017, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 1 year, 8 months and 2 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSK   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 17th December 2017, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 1 year, 8 months and 2 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSL   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 24th December 2017, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 1 year, 7 months and 26 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CTB   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 24th December 2018, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 0 years, 7 months and 26 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CTC   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed First Winter Bird, on the 24th December 2018, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 0 years, 7 months and 26 days)

The photo below, shows the Black-headed Gulls at rest on the car park and short jetty.  The slipway, is hidden by the wing mirror of my car.  This is exactly where I need the gulls, not only to read rings, but by throwing out bits of bread, I can gain their confidence, which will enable me to catch a few over the winter, to be ringed.  Without overdoing it, ten or a dozen new birds rung will be ideal.

Any that are ringed this winter, will have the blue 'colour-rings' fitted, which should prove quite interesting.  Previous birds ringed here, were ringed using Adam McClure's 'Orange Darvics'.  What always amazed me, was the fact that when people fed the birds, they never notice the 'Orange Darvics' on the gulls.  It will be interesting to see if they spot the gulls with my 'Blue Darvics'.

Originally, my idea was to ring gulls solely around my home town of Ballymena, with these 'Blue Darvics', but seeing as Adam, has now given up his project using 'Orange Darvics', just for continuity, I'll now ring Black-headed Gulls wherever I can catch them.  The rings used are from the   2F**  series, which I transferred over from being originally registered for use on Common Gulls.  This summer, I used the first of the   2F**   series, to ring Black-headed Gull chicks, at Inch Island Lake, in County Donegal.

Black-headed Gulls at Rest Beside my Car  - Antrim Marina

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Two adult Common Gulls, were present on my arrival at the Marina.  They both remained for the best part of an hour, before flying off, and did not return.  An adult Herring Gull, appeared at 9.17, but came and went throughout the morning.  A Lesser Black-backed Gull, arrived at 10.46, and was still present on my departure, shortly after 12.30.

The pair of Mute Swans, along with their five cygnets, were on the slipway when I arrived.  On a couple of occasions, the family party would swim up-river, but would return a short time afterwards.  Mallard numbers, were pretty good.  Between 30 and 40 birds at first, increased in numbers throughout the morning, with between 80 to 90 being counted around midday.

The only other species recorded, were all from the crow family - 2 Hooded Crow's, 12 Jackdaws and a single Rook.

Having stayed a little longer than I had planned, I avoided the other sites around Antrim Town, and headed home, to grab a couple of hours sleep, before starting work on the nightshift.


      From John Clarke       
I received an email on Tuesday afternoon (20th August), from my ringing trainer, John Clarke, who lives in Coleraine, in County Londonderry.  John stated that there were several hundred Black-headed Gulls around the town, and one returning 'colour-ringed' bird was spotted amongst them.  The Norwegian -   J47T , has re-appeared for the second autumn running.

On August 9th 2018, John made his initial sighting of   J47T , at the jetty beside Coleraine's Strand Road, and recorded the gull there for a second time, on the 21st September 2018.  I reported the gull, on John's behalf, onto the 'live' Norwegian Ringing Database.  Once the details were added, the gulls full ringing and re-sighting history is then revealed.

What I found very interesting, is that   J47T , winter's in Spain, having initially turned up there, as a first winter bird in January 2016, and recorded there again in January 2018.  Knowing this, John and I wondered, whether   J47T , was making a 'dog-leg' return to Spain via Coleraine.  Our suspicions turned out to be correct, as   J47T , was then spotted by Ernesto Villodas, on the 6th January 2019, at Limpias, on the Spanish north coast.

I only rechecked the Norwegian Database, on one occasion this past summer, to check up on Black-headed Gulls, having returned to their own country.  While entering John's latest sighting, I discovered that   J47T , was recorded by in Norway on two occasions - 12th May 2019, and on the 3rd July 2019.  With   J47T , back in Coleraine now, it seems as if this gull is making that very same 'dog-leg' return to winter in Spain.

My thanks to John for his sighting and photo.  The full re-sighting ringing and re-sighting history of this Norwegian bird -   J47T , can be read (here).

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    J47T   -  Strand Road (Jetty), Coleraine, Co. Londonderry  (20 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2015, at Boganesholmane, Stavanger, Rogaland, Norway)
(Photo Courtesy of John Clarke)


      From Jan Rod & Graham McElwaine       
I arrived home from work, in the early hours of Thursday morning, and once settled, checked for emails, as usual.  Among the odds and ends, I had one from Jan Rod, and another from Graham McElwaine, both of whom had read rings on Wednesday 21st August.

Jan's was particularly interesting, as this involved a Common Gull, rung -   2AVJ .  Jan had come across several hundred Common Gulls at Mosney Beach, in the Gormanstown area of County Dublin, and thought there was a good possibilty that one or two of my birds were amongst them.

Looking at the attached photo, the ring of   2AVJ , looked to be in a fairly good state, so I presumed that this gull, was one of my Rathlin Island chicks, ringed in June 2017.  Having entered on my spreadsheet, all of the Common Gull ringing that I have undertaken since I began my new project in 2017, on searching for   2AVJ , there was no record of the code.  Having been given all of the blue colour-rings from Shane Wolsey, from his former project on the Copeland Islands, I had used the remaining rings from the   2A**   series, and have since used rings from the   2B**   series.

As   2AVJ , was not on my spreadsheet, this meant that there were no re-sighting records of the gull in either of mine or Shane's projects.  I then proceeded to check Shane's Wolsey's ringing data, and found that   2AVJ , had been ringed as a chick, on the 23rd June 2012, on Big Copeland Island, County Down.  Jan's sighting was a first, which came after 7 years, 1 month and 29 days, since being ringed.

In my previous post, I stated just how elusive these colour-ringed Common Gulls, appear to be, as Graham McElwaine, had just reported the second re-sighting of   2HPP , which also had been ringed as a chick in 2012.  There are many birds from Shane's former project which have yet to be spotted.  Although, quite a number would have died by now, Shane rung enough, which would  mean, there are still quite a few out there still to be found.

I have also previously stated, that I would be fairly confident, some of these Common Gulls from Shane's former project, will be found nesting on Big Copeland Island, but I cannot track down a boat owner, who will undertake trips out to the island.

As you can imagine, I was well pleased with Jan's sighting.  Mosney Beach, is roughly 120 kms / 75 miles (SW), from Big Copeland Island.  My thanks to Jan for his sighting, and the photo, which was taken through his telescope.  

Common Gull  -    2AVJ   -  Mosney Beach, Gormanstown, Co. Dublin, Republic of Ireland  (21 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 23rd June 2012, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down, Northern Ireland)
(Photo Courtesy of Jan Rod)

The second email, from Graham McElwaine, gave details for two colour-ringed birds, also recorded on Wednesday 21st August.  The first of these, was an immature Herring Gull rung -   092:D , spotted at Millquarter Bay, in County Down.  I was there on Sunday past, and having scoped most of the birds present, I did not see this gull.  Graham, is getting the 'hang', of who owns what, and reported his sighting to Graham Prole, in Dublin.

Graham, replied to say that   092:D , was ringed as a chick, on the 1st July 2017, on an island known as Ireland's Eye, in County Dublin.  The only previous sighting of   092:D , was made by Jan Rod, who spotted the gull on the 22nd August 2018, on the Skerries Beach, County Dublin, around 20 kms / 12 miles (N).  The distance from Ireland's Eye, to Millquarter Bay, is around 107 kms / 66 miles (NE), and the duration since ringing, is 2 years, 1 month and 20 days.

The second bird reported by Graham, was of a Sandwich Tern, rung - (White) KSL, spotted among 160 'Sannie Terns', at Kilclief Bay, on Strangford Lough, Co. Down.  Several other terns were also 'colour-ringed', but Graham was unable to read the codes on those.  This was similar to my experience, on Sunday past, where several colour-ringed terns were spotted at the neighbouring Millquarter Bay.

(White) KSL, was already on my spreadsheet, as this bird had been spotted by Cameron Moore, at Whitehead, in County Antrim, on the 6th September 2017.  Indeed, this had been the last sighting of (White) KSL, until now.  KSL, was ringed as a chick, on the island of Sgarbheen, at Lady's Island Lake in County Wexford, on the 23rd June 2015.  It's only previous sighting, before those of Cameron, and now Graham, was made on the 8th July 2016, when the bird was recorded in Namibia, in South Africa.

The duration since being ringed, is now 4 years, 1 month and 29 days, and the distance from Lady's Island Lake, to Kilclief Bay, is roughly 242 kms / 150 miles (NNE).

Again, my thanks to Graham for reporting these sightings.  How, I do wish, that Graham would use a camera, as part of his kit. 


      Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th August 2019       
I did not think that I'd get out on Saturday at all, but ended up finding a couple of spare hours, late into the afternoon.  I headed straight down to the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, before making a quick visit to Kinnegar Beach, the returned home.

The best part of two hours was spent in hide 2, at the WoW Reserve, hoping to spot a ringed Roseate Tern, or two.  Only, a few 'metal-rung' Common Terns, and a single 'metal-rung' Arctic Tern, were spotted.  These were too far away, to capture the numbers with my camera, and not a single Roseate appeared.

The quick visit to Kinnegar Beach, resulted in another re-sighting of Black-headed Gull -   2CJF .  I first recorded   2CJF , on this very same beach in August last year.  In March and April 2019, I recorded it on the nesting platform, at the WoW Reserve, and since the end of the breeding season, spotted it again on Kinnegar Beach, on the 21st July.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CJF   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (17 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as Unfledged Juvenile, on the 3rd July 2016, on Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

On Sunday, I ended up with more time out than expected, and therefore headed off again to the RSPB WoW Reserve, before undertaking a quick check of Kinnegar Beach, the proceeding to check out a number of other sites in County Down.

Try as I might, I still cannot get a Roseate Tern, never mind a 'ringed' one.  A 'colour-ringed' Black-tailed Godwit was spotted on it's arrival at the WoW Reserve, with these birds coming in to roost, as it was nearing high tide.  To my frustration, the bird quickly went up onto the grass verge, and I just could not get the 'colour-ring' sequence on both legs.

I did notice a long white ring on the birds right tibia, which had two 'bars' across it.  Returning home, and checking my Godwit 'Colour-ringing Guide', it appears as if this bird, was from a ringing scheme based in Cork Harbour, in the Republic of Ireland.

Moving on to Kinnegar Beach, I had two re-sightings, one, a Black-headed Gull, and the other a Herring Gull.  The Black-headed Gull, rung   2ATJ , was particularly pleasing, as I had ringed this bird as a chick, on the 31st May 2016, at Inch Island Lake, in County Donegal.  On a second visit to the lake, on the 8th June 2016, I was accompianied by Adam McClure, who fitted the gull with it's 'Darvic Ring'.

  2ATJ , was not heard of, until I came across it here on Kinnegar Beach, on the 11th March 2018.  Earlier this year (20th April), I again recorded   2ATJ , this time on nesting platform 2, at the RSPB's WoW Reserve, quite close to Kinnegar.  I'm not totally sure whether   2ATJ , nested on the platform, as I did not see the bird on subsequent visits.

Wherever it nested, it's good to see that   2ATJ , is still alive and well.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ATJ   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (18 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 31st May 2016, at Inch Island Lake, Co. Donegal, Republic of Ireland)

The Herring Gull, was my third sighting of   0L:W , here on Kinnegar Beach, the previous two sightings having been made on the 19th October 2016, and on the 2nd September 2018.  I have one other record of 0L:W, which was made by Derek Charles, on the 21st November 2015.

  0L:W , was ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 22nd May 2014, on the Copeland Islands, 21 kms / 13 miles, east of Kinnegar.  It was from a new project which began that year on the islands, and Adam McClure, was the former ringing coordinator.  I entered the gulls 'metal-number' onto the BTO's DemOn Ringing Database, to discover, that none of our previous re-sightings had been submitted.  I therefore reported all four re-sightings in one go.

Herring Gull  -    0L:W   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (18 Aug 2019)
Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 22nd May 2014, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Despite visiting several sites throughout County Down, I only recorded two other ringed birds, these being Herring Gulls, at Millquarter Bay.  Both had 'Black Darvic's', which were inscibed with yellow characters.  I knew instantly, the they were from the Isle of Man.

The first, an adult, was busy bathing and then flew off before I could capture the code on it's ring.  Luckily, I re-located the bird a while later on nearby rocks, but before that I spotted a juvenile, rung - T7VC.

Juvenile Herring Gull  -    T7VC   -  Millquarter Bay, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (18 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd July 2019, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man)

On re-locating the adult, I managed to capture it's code -   T7UL .  I reported both birds to Mark Fitzpatrick, and quickly received a reply.  The juvenile -   T7VC , had been ringed as a chick, 1 month and 15 days earlier (3rd July 2019), on the Calf of Man,  and this was it's first re-sighting since being ringed.

  T7UL , was not on my spreadsheet, so I presumed that this may well have been it's first sighting here in Northern Ireland, which was confirmed, having received it's history from Mark.  It was ringed as a chick, on the 7th July 2012, the duration now being 7 years, 1 month and 11 days.  In all those years, it was only recorded on two other occasion.  On the 2nd November 2018, it was spotted at The Skerries, in County Dublin, and on the 25th June 2019, was spotted on the Calf of Man, where it had been originally ringed.

My thanks goes to Mark, for his quick reply and the ringing and re-sighting histories for both gulls.   

Herring Gull  -    T7UL   -  Millquarter Bay, Strangford Lough, Co. Down  (18 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 7th July 2012, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man)


Friday, 16 August 2019

Old'ish Oyk...

Another later than anticipated post, but I was hoping for details for a couple of birds, which have not been forthcoming.  Last Saturday to Monday, was not particularly good for me, for one reason or another, and I was beginning to feel, that I would have very little to report.

However, emails from Graham McElwaine and Ian Enlander, reporting their ring sightings, gave me something to work on.  I'm always happy and pleased to report on ring sightings from other people, as not only only does my blog act as a hard copy for their efforts at recording rings, but I can also make sure, those sightings do reach the BTO.

The weather for this weekend, appears to be a bit 'iffy', and already it appears that my available time to get out and about, could be a trifle limited.  I'll do my best, as I need as much as possible to report on, and hopefully I'll do better at Antrim Marina, which offhand seems to be another Monday morning visit.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 12th August 2019       
It eventually had to happen.  As I did not get out on Saturday, I decided to use the little time that I had on Sunday, to go 'Ring Reading', around Belfast.  In doing so, I decided to carry out my weekly visit to Antrim Marina - today, Monday 12th August.

Having planned on an early start, I was going to conduct a four hour visit, beginning at 8am, finishing at midday.  This meant that I could return home, to grab a couple of hours sleep, which would set me up for work on the night shift, beginning at 6pm, until 02.00am.

Arriving at the long avenue, which leads down to the Marina, I duly found it cordoned off, and only residents which live along the avenue, and pass-holders, were the only people which were allowed down the avenue.  Apparently, there was a golf tournament being held, on the course adjacent to the Marina.

As there were no parking areas anywhere close to the start of the avenue, this would have meant a long walk carrying all of my equipment, which was something that I was not willing to do.  I therefore returned home, to do some painting around my garden, which led to me missing my first ever weekly 'winter' visit to Antrim Marina, after six years.

With the continuing construction work on the new cafe, beside the Marina, I probably wouldn't have recorded much anyway.  Hopefully, I can get to the Marina next weekend.


      Sunday 11th August 2019       
Due to unforeseen family circumstances, I could not leave home yesterday, which resulted in, an eight hour stint of power hosing, around my home.  I have a large slabbed back garden, whereby moss and algae build up, which has to be cleared a few times each year, along with the paths at the side and front of the house.  By the time, that I had completed my marathon clean up, my back was near to breaking point, and my right hand was numb, with 'handle-grip'.

Even today, Sunday, I had limited time to get out, so I postponed my visit to Antrim Marina until tomorrow, and made a late start, heading off to Belfast.

My first stop, was at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, where I hoped to record 'metal-rung' Roseate Terns, from either the Rockabill or Lady's Island Lake colonies in the Republic of Ireland.  These Terns, carry two 'metals', one of which is unique to either colony.  These unique rings are taller than the other BTO 'metal', and I'm hoping to catch the code on these with my camera.

Since my last visit here, on the 4th August, I have seen photos on the NIBA website, where these special Roseate Terns, have been appearing on the Reserve.  Even, on Tuesday 13th August, another such tern appeared.

Having spent the best part of two hours, looking at terns from 'hide 2', only a few 'metal-rung' Common and Arctic Terns were spotted, these being too far away to read the 'metals'.  One Roseate Tern, was spotted on the tern nesting platform, but this bird bore no rings at all.

Knowing the tide, had already began to recede at nearby Kinnegar Beach, it was time to go, and park the car there.  On arrival, the beach was already covered in a mass of gulls and waders, numbers of which I have not seen here since last winter.

Having constantly scoped through everything time after time, only one 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher was spotted.  It had a 'coded' red ring on it's right leg, the likes of which I've never seen before.  To get closer to this bird, I had to drive along the private road, which leads to an army camp.  Although there are CCTV cameras along the road, I knew I'd be watched, so I quickly took a number of photos of the Oystercatcher, so as not to push my luck.

Being in the car, is just like being in a hide, and I was able to get close enough, not only to capture the code on the 'Red Darvic', but also managed a number of photos of the 'metal' ring as well.  Returning to the car park, I checked through my photos.  The 'Red Darvic', on the birds right leg was inscribed with the code '  Y1 ', whilst a plain 'red coloured ring', was fitted above the 'metal ring', which read -   FP48164 .

It's not very often, where a 'metal' on an Oystercatcher can be read.  Despite having recorded many 'metal' rung Oystercatchers in the past, I had only successfully read a 'metal' on two previous occasions - at Sandy Bay, Larne, and on the Copeland Islands.

On returning home and checking for my bird on the cr-birding site, and I found the project concerned -  I sent an email to Simon Fosters, but as yet, there has been no reply.  I also reported the bird via my DemOn account, to the BTO, including both the 'metal' and 'colour marks'.

Having entered the 'metal' number onto DemOn, I was able to see the dates for this birds ringing and re-sighting history, the downside, is that the locations are not given as well.    FP48164 , was actually a replacement ring, which had been fitted, on the 17th March 2018, which means the Oystercatcher had been caught (controlled) by another ringer.  This was also the last time that this Oystercatcher, had been seen until today.

  FP48164 , was originally ringed as   FA73649 , on the 29th March 1996, as an un-sexed adult.  After ringing, it was recorded on four occasions - 18th March 2002, 14th March 2003, 20th March 2006, and on the 4th April 2015.  Unfortunately, I've no idea when the 'colour-rings' were fitted, whether, when originally caught in 1996, or when controlled in 2018.  I really need a reply from Simon, for all to be revealed.

However, the ringing recovery details, have arrived from the BTO.    FP48164 , originally rung   FA73649 , was ringed on the River Spey, Newtonmore, in the Highlands Region of Scotland.  The distance from Newtonmore to Kinnegar Beach, is 292 kms / 181 miles (SSW).  It is now 23 years, 4 months and 13 days, since the bird was ringed, easily making it the oldest Oystercatcher, that I have yet recorded.  It might seem to be quite old, but it is a long way off from the BTO's longevity record for this species, being 41 years, 1 month and 5 days.

Oystercatcher  -  FP48164  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (11 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 29th March 1996, on the River Spey, Newtonmore, Highlands, Scotland)

With no further rings spotted, I returned home.  However, the result for my Oystercatcher, was still well worth the afternoons trip out.  Hopefully, Simon will reply at some point, supplying me with the birds full history.  Perhaps, some of my Scottish readers know Simon, and could get him to contact me.


      From Graham McElwaine       
Whilst I was busy in Belfast, Graham McElwaine had better luck on Sunday, at Kilclief Bay, on Strangford Lough, in County Down.  Here, he recorded five 'colour-ringed' birds, which included two Common Gulls, one from my own project, and one from Shane Wolsey's former project, which I now take care of.

Common Gull - Blue 2HPP
This bird certainly had Graham 'on the ropes'.  The 'Blue Darvic', was in very poor condition, and though Graham could make out the number   2 , and the letters   PP , but he was not so sure whether the first letter read as an ' A ' or a ' H '.  I was able to sort out his dilemma, as checking through my records, I had actually used the last of the   2A**   series of rings, in 2017, whilst ringing Common Gull chicks on Rathlin Island.  These last rings, just happened to include   2APP , which meant that ring would be in good condition, unlike that one recorded by Graham.

This could only mean, that his sighting was that of   2HPP , which, with one previous sighting, was no stranger to Strangford Lough.    2HPP , was ringed as a chick, on the 11th June 2012, on the Copeland Islands, in County Down.  The single sighting since being ringed, until today, occurred on the 9th June 2014, when Kerry Mackie, reported the gull as breeding at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, a little further up the shore of Strangford Lough,
from Graham's sighting at Kilclief Bay.

I would very much doubt, if   2HPP , was actually breeding in 2014, as at that time, it would not have been anywhere near to being mature enough.  The distance from the Copelands to Kilclief, is just 38 kms / 23 miles (S), and the duration is now 7 years, and 2 months since being ringed.  As I have discovered, since taking over Shane's former Common Gull Project, as well as beginning my own, our 'colour-ringed' birds do appear very elusive.  Sightings are few and far between, and   2HPP , is another example of an elusive bird.

Common Gull - Blue 2BBX
  2BBX , is from my own 'colour-ringing' project which began in the summer of 2017, and this gull was ringed as a chick, on the 18th June 2018, at Rue Point on Rathlin Island.  The only previous sighting of   2BBX , before being reported by Graham, was on the 12th July 2018, when Richard Else reported the young gull, as having fledged.

The duration since fledging is now 1 year, 1 month and 24 days, and the distance from Rathlin Island to Kilclief Bay, is 112 kms / 69 miles (SSE).  I fully expect, that if   2BBX   survives through this coming winter, it should return to Rathlin next summer to prospect a potential breeding site for 2021.

Mediterranean Gull - Red PPN5
Today's sighting of the Polish-rung Mediterranean Gull, is the second record of this bird having being spotted in Northern Ireland.  It was also Graham, who first recorded   PPN5 , at Millquarter Bay, on the 18th July 2018.  Millquarter Bay, is just down the road from today's sighting in Kilclief Bay.

I reported the latest sighting onto the live 'Polish Ringing Database', and at the same time, checked for updates on the re-sighting history of   PPN5 .  The gull has not been reported anywhere since the previous sighting made by Graham.  Ringed as a chick, on the 20th May 2014, at Wejdyki, in Poland, it's full re-sighting history can be read (here).

Herring Gull - Black T2WF
A juvenile Herring Gull, rung   T2WF , was ringed as a chick, on the 30th June 2019, on the Calf of Man, just off the southern coast of the Isle of Man.  Graham's sighting was the first record of the youngster, 1 month and 12 days after being ringed.  Kilclief Bay, is situated 58 kms / 34 miles (NW), from the Calf of Man.  My thanks goes to Mark Fitzpatrick, for supplying the information.

Sandwich Tern - White KBK
(White) KBK, was ringed as a chick, on the 16th June 2015, on the island of Inish, at Lady's Island Lake, County Wexford, in the Republic of Ireland.  After ringing, it was spotted twice on the island in the following 10 days.  It's next two re-sightings, were recorded at the Mile 4 Saltworks, in Namibia, Africa, on the 18th March 2017, and on the 6th April 2018.

Graham's record of (White) KBK, today at Kilclief Bay, completes the re-sighting history of this bird.  The distance from Lady's Island Lake, to Kilclief, is 244 kms / 151 miles (NNE), the duration now - 4 years, 1 month and 26 days since being rung.  My thanks goes to Tony Murray, for supplying the ringing and re-sighting history.

Unfortunately, Graham does not take photos, which is a real shame.  As he is the ringing coordinator for the Irish Brent Goose Research Group, Graham also spends a lot of time out 'Ring Reading', especially for Brent Geese.  Not only do photos confirm sightings, they act as a 'hard copy', for the same.  Graham, knows only too well, that this is how I go about recording 'colour-ringed' Brent Geese.  Perhaps, someday, Graham will be persuaded to use a camera.  It would certainly be super to add photos of his sightings onto my blog.


      From Ian Enlander       
On Monday 12th August, I received an email from Ian Enlander, reporting two ringed birds which he spotted at Whitehead, on the County Antrim coast.  The first, a Herring Gull, rung -   0X:W , was easily sorted out, as I had a copy the ringing data, for these birds which were ringed on the Copeland Islands.  As mentioned frequently, Adam McClure, used to be the ringing coordinator for these Copeland birds, but these days, we cannot get any response.

On checking my spreadsheet,   0X:W , was ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 23rd May 2014, as part of a new project.  I've no idea, as to who has taken over the project, but according to what information that I have on my spreadsheet, it appears that Ian's sighting of   0X:W , is the first record of the gull since being ringed.

I reported Ian's sighting to the BTO, through my DemOn account, and discovered that there have been no previous sightings reported directly to the BTO.  As with my sighting of   0E:W , at Bangor in County Down, on the 25th May 2019, there are still many Herring Gulls from this project, awaiting their first sightings.  This is quite amazing, for such a large species of gull.

Ian's sighting of   0X:W , was made 5 years, 2 months and 20 days, since ringing, and the distance from Big Copeland Island to Whitehead, is 14 kms / 8 miles (NW).

Herring Gull  -    0X:W   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (12 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 23rd May 2014, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)
(Photo Courtesy of Ian Enlander)

A Common Tern, was the second bird spotted by Ian, bearing two plain coloured rings on the birds left leg.  Ian believes that he has tracked down the owner of the bird, but has received no reply as yet.  I also reported the tern to the BTO, citing it's 'colour-marks', but at present, the sighting is on hold as 'BTO Queried'.  This probably means, that the BTO does not have the relevant ringing data, and may have contacted the owner of the project.  Should we get a result, I will publish the details on a later post.

My thanks goes to Ian, for reporting his sightings, at least these are on the system now.  It's so wasteful, if sightings go unofficially reported.  

Common Tern  -  Blue/Yellow  -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (12 Aug 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)
(Photo Courtesy of Ian Enlander)