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 26th August 2019
 2CSK   2AAK   2CJT   2CSB   2ACV   2AAN 

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.


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