Saturday, 3 August 2019

Triple Scotch...

As I publish this post, we are now into the month of August, where the breeding season has all but ended, and birds begin to relocate to their wintering grounds.  I've received reports, on gulls which have already arrived at their wintering sites, and others on the move.

This weekend, also sees the beginning of my 7th season of 'Ring Watching At Antrim Marina'.  Normally, I would have completed a number of random summer visits to the Marina, but very few were undertaken, due to the continuing construction of the new cafe complex.  I have not even started, but I'm dreading the thoughts of standing about for fours hours once a week, just to record a handful of the 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.

Even, on my last visit to the Marina, the few gulls that were present, rested on the roof of the cafe, their legs out of view.  This will cause me great problems, trying to record the gulls.  The cafe is due to open it's doors to the public, this month, and it has dawned on me, that I will be presented with another problem.

This will be the demolition of the existing cafe and public toilets, which will mean continued disturbance for another time.  What I saw, as a good study, on the comings and goings of the BHGs at the Marina, has now been destroyed, but I will have to do the best I can.

As regular readers will know, I had problems with my previous spreadsheet provider.  After an automatic 2019 upgrade, many hyperlinks, especially to PDF Files, failed to work.  So began my task, of transferring nearly 7,500 lines of information onto a new Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet.  Over the last few weeks, I've continually worked on this, with very little birding being undertaken.

All of the main data, has now been copied over, but I still have a lot of work to do, with the hyperlinks, especially those linking sightings to photos, blog entries, maps, etc.  It has taken six years, to reach the point where I'm at, so you can understand the work which still has to be done.

At least, I can now cross-reference previous sightings, and I have even copied over my Antrim Marina Spreadsheet, as a separate tab onto my new Ring Sightings Spreadsheet.  All this done, just in time for this coming winter, and all of the sightings which will come with it.

I am open to include ring sightings from all birdwatchers in Northern Ireland.  Contact me, if you wish your sightings to be included on my blog, and I will even track down the origin of your sightings if needed.  There will be plenty of ringed birds to find, and my blog will act as a hard copy for your sightings and photos, which will enhance our knowledge of our feathered friends.

      Saturday 20th & Sunday 21st July 2019       
Taking a break, from copying data over from one spreadsheet to another, I took a few hours out on both Saturday and Sunday, to see if I could find a a few of ringed birds.

On the Saturday, I spent a long time at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, before calling by the mudflats at Dargan, on my way home.  Sitting in hide 2, overlooking the wooden planks, I constantly scoped through the Arctic and Common Terns.  A number of these birds had 'metal' rings only, so I experimented, to see if I could capture any details on them.  The results were very 'iffy'.  I'm hoping for better luck, when the Roseate Terns from Rockabill or Lady's Island Lake, begin to turn up.

These terns, are ringed with two 'metals', one of which is unique to both colonies.  These rings are taller than the BTO rings, and the code reads upwards, which is repeated around the ring.  My hope, is that the rings should be a little easier to read and capture on camera.  Over the next few weeks, I shall be going back to the reserve, and perhaps record my first ever ringed Roseate.

A brave length of time had passed, when I struck 'gold', and spotted a 'colour-ringed' tern on the reserve, a first for this site.  Ringed -   PEU , it was only my second Common Tern, that I've recorded with a colour-ring.  Checking the cr-birding site, I discovered that it was from the Dublin Bay Birds Project, and duly reported it by email.

A reply came, on the Monday, to say that   PEU , had been ringed as an adult, on the 25th August 2015, at Sandymount Strand, in Dublin Bay.  It's only previous sighting, was made on the 7th August 2018, at Loch Ryan, Dumfries & Galloway, in Scotland.  The distance from Sandymount to the Window on Wildlife Reserve, is 148 kms / 91 miles (N).

My thanks goes to Tara Adcock (Birdwatch Ireland), for supplying me with the ringing and re-sighting history of   PEU .  

Common Tern  -    PEU   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (20 Jul 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 25th August 2015, at Sandymount Strand, Co. Dublin, R. of Ireland)

Stopping at the mudflats at Dargan, before heading home, I couldn't have arrived at a better time.  The tide was beginning to recede, so I positioned myself as close to the shore as possible.  Once settled, there is a lesser degree of disturbing the birds, which as time went by, saw the arrival of a couple of hundred Black-tailed Godwits and equal numbers of Black-headed Gulls, plus smaller numbers of other wader and gull species.

I knew, I had to get a ring or two amongst that lot, and was duly rewarded with a Black-headed Gull - rung (White) 2BCX.  Although, I did recognise the ring series, as belonging to the Lothian Ringing Group in Scotland, I made a quick check just to be sure, before sending an email to Tom Dougall, the ringing secretary.

Tom replied, confirming that (White) 2BCX, was theirs, and had been ringed as a chick, on the 3rd June 2018, at Broad Law, in the Moorfoot Hills, on the Scottish Borders.  One previous sighting, was made on the 28th September 2018, when the then fledged juvenile, appeared on Seton Sands, at Longniddry, in Lothian, just 24 kms / 15 miles (NE), from the nesting colony.

The distance from Broad Law, to Dargan, is 221 kms / 137 miles (WSW).  My thanks goes to Tom, for the info.  Although unknown to me at the time, this bird was to be the first of three gulls from the same colony, to be spotted over the next few days.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  2BCX  -  Dargan Bay Mudflats, Dargan, Belfast  (20 Jul 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd June 2018, at Broad Law, Moorfoot Hills, Borders Region, Scotland)

On the Sunday, I had planned to visit the shore at Kinnegar, on the southern side of Belfast Lough, before moving on to Millisle, in County Down.  By the time, I departed from home, I only had time to visit Kinnegar Beach.

There wasn't a powerful lot of gulls or waders present, but I did spot one 'colour-ring', which was from Adam's former study -   2CJF .  I first recorded this gull, here at Kinnegar Beach, on the 26th August 2018, which as far as I know, was a first sighting, since being ringed an unfledged juvenile, at Blue Circle Island, on Larne Lough, Co. Antrim.

I then spotted   2CJF , on the 30th March & 13th April 2019, on breeding platform 2, at the nearby RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve.  Subsequently,   2CJF   was not seen again until today, and may have just been prospecting a nesting site, as it may not have reached maturity, during the past breeding season.

Blue Circle Island, is situated 22 kms / 13 miles (NNE), from both Kinnegar Beach, and the nearby WoW Reserve.  

Black-headed Gull  -    2CJF   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (21 Jul 2019)
(Ringed as an Unfledged Juvenile, on the 3rd July 2016, on Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)


      From Suzanne Belshaw       
Suzanne, has been in touch again, informing me of her latest three colour-ring re-sightings.  The best of the three surely has to be the oldest, which in this case, is a Black-headed Gull rung   250B , from Eoin McGreal's former project, at Lough Mask, in County Mayo.

This is the seventh autumn in a row, where Suzanne has spotted   250B , at the Sprucefield Shopping Centre, at Lisburn, Co. Antrim.  I say autumn, and not winter, as looking at the re-sighting history on my spreadsheet, the gull uses Sprucefield, as a stopover en-route to it's wintering grounds, wherever that may be.

  250B , has been recorded at Sprucefield in the months of July, and/or August, during each of the last seven years, but has not been recorded anywhere prior to the breeding season, except for February 2016.  In that month, Suzanne recorded   250B , on three occasions at Sprucefield, obviously stopping over again on it's return to County Mayo.

  250B , was ringed as a chick, on Lough Mask, in June 2008, and was reported there in June 2009, and June 2010, prior to reaching maturity.  From then, it was not seen in County Mayo again, until June 2017, where it was spotted at Cong, just to the south-east of Lough Mask.

Chris Benson, who now takes care of Eoin's former project, stated in an email to Suzanne, that   250B , was reported close to it's natal colony, on two occasions this past summer.  This would confirm, that this gull, definitely breeds in County Mayo.

Suzanne, recorded   250B , on both the 11th and 16th July 2019, the latter date, taking the duration to 11 years, 1 month and 10 days.  The only piece missing now, is where exactly does this bird, winter at.  The distance from Lough Mask, to Sprucefield, is 233 kms / 144 miles (ENE).

Black-headed Gull  -    250B   -  Sprucefield Shopping Centre, Co. Antrim  (11 Jul 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 6th June 2008, at Lough Mask, Co. Mayo, Republic of Ireland)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

The next colour-ring to be spotted by Suzanne, was a Black-headed Gull from Adam McClure's former Northern Ireland Study.  On a recent boat trip to Ailsa Craig, in Scotland, I happened to meet up with a Kendrew Colhoun, who I received confirmation from, that Adam has given up on the project.  Kendrew, is trying to obtain the relevant ringing data from Adam, so perhaps in the future, we may once again receive some sort of reply to re-sightings.

Anyway, the gull Suzanne spotted, was   2ADB , at Carrickfergus Harbour, on the 21st July 2019.    2ADB , has a long list of re-sightings in Carrickfergus, where it winters.  I have one breeding season record on my spreadsheet, where the gull was recorded in Carrickfergus in May 2017.

The question was, did it's breeding attempt that year fail, hence an early return, or is there an unknown breeding site near to Carrickfergus?  Just recently, that question may just have been answered.  I happened to be in Carrickfergus recently, when I noted that gulls (Lesser Black-backed's), seem to be nesting on the roof of a derelict building, behind the town's Lidl Store.  It's a bit late in the year now to investigate, but will be worth a look next year.  Perhaps, Black-headed Gulls, breed on that rooftop as well.

  2ADB , was ringed as an adult male, on the 25th November 2013, at Carrickfergus Harbour, which takes the duration to 5 years, 7 months and 26 days.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADB   -  Carrickfergus Harbour, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (21 Jul 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 25th November 2013, at Carrickfergus Harbour)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

The third of Suzanne's sightings, was that of a Scottish-rung bird, which was the second of three Black-headed Gulls, inside of a week, to be recorded in Northern Ireland, having been ringed as chicks at the same Scottish colony.

Ringed - (White) 2BDN, on the 3rd June 2018, Suzanne's sighting was the first record of the gull since being rung.  The colony, is situated at Broad Law, on the Moorfoot Hills, in the Borders Region of Scotland.  The distance to Sprucefield, County Antrim, is 239 kms / 148 miles (SW).

Many thanks, once again, goes to Suzanne, for sharing her sightings and photos.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  2BDN  -  Sprucefield, Lisburn, Co. Antrim  (23 Jul 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd June 2018, at Broad Law, Moorfoot Hills, Borders Region, Scotland)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)


      Sunday 28th July 2019       
Due to heavy and persistent rain, I was not going to go out at all today.  But, after a very pro-longed session of copying over info between my two spreadsheets, I just had to take a break.

I decided to try my luck at Whitehead, where I thought, I might get some protection from the rain, by remaining in the car.  On my arrival, I parked on top of the pier beside the boat club, where I could get a good view of gulls and terns, with the tide due to go out.  I was very wrong, about being protected from the rain.  Needing to have the window down to see anything, I slowly became wetter and wetter.

Within minutes, I was in business, as a few terns arrived onto the rocks where a handful of un-rung gulls were already perched.  Among the five birds, two bore colour-rings.  The first, which was the only Common Tern present, was   PFV , which was no stranger to me.

Now my second sighting of this bird, I first recorded it, on the 10th July 2016, at Glynn, on Larne Lough, County Antrim, where I reckoned it was breeding on the nearby Blue Circle Island, which is an RSPB Reserve.  On the 2nd August 2017, Cameron Moore, also recorded   PFV , here at Whitehead.  Then in August 2018, I received an email from Jan Rod, to say he had spotted   PFV , on the 23rd, at the Skerries, in County Dublin.

  PFV , was caught and ringed as an adult, on the 26th August 2015, at Sandymount Bay, in County Dublin.  Now 3 years, 11 months and 2 days, since being ringed, the distance from Sandymount Bay to Whitehead, is 163 kms / 101 miles (NNE).  It's great to record this bird again, as my target, is to record every ringed bird, at least once each year.  Not always possible, but when these are re-sighted, they add to the birds longevity record.

Common Tern  -    PFV   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (28 Jul 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 26th August 2015, at Sandymount Strand, Co. Dublin, R. of Ireland)

The second bird was a Sandwich Tern, rung   ULF .  On returning home and checking my spreadsheets, I had no previous records for this bird, so I thought that this could be it's first sighting in Northern Ireland.  Going onto web, I checked out the cr-birding site, to see who owned that ring series (see here).  The obvious choice, was the top one on the list, so I sent an email to Chris Redfern.

Chris replied, to say   ULF , was one of their birds, and had been ringed as a chick, on the 23rd June 2014, on Coquet Island, which lies just off the coast of Northumberland, England.  One previous sighting, was reported on the 25th July 2018, at Colwyn Bay, in Wales, therefore confirming my suspicion, that this was a first report from Northern Ireland.

The distance from Coquet Island, to Whitehead, is 273 kms / 169 miles (WSW), in a direct line.  As Sandwich Terns, are largely sea-going birds, it would be very unlikely, that such a distance was travelled over land.

My thanks to Chris for the info, and this bird will be another one to watch for in the future.

 Sandwich Tern  -    ULF   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (28 Jul 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 23rd June 2014, on the Coquet Islands, Northumberland, England)

With the tide well out, many terns started to appear on more distant rocks, which became exposed.  Having to leave my car, I began searching through these birds with my camera at near full focal length, resting it on the seafront wall, despite the rain, which by now, had begun to fall even heavier.

I spotted two rings, one of which was another sighting of   ULF , and the other, a Sandwich Tern, with a 'Red Darvic'.  Taking a few quick photos, I had to re-treat back to my car, before my camera became too wet.

After drying the camera off, I took a look at my photos, and just was about able to read the code on the 'Red Darvic', as being -   KDJ , a code which I recognised.  Returning home and checking my spreadsheet, I had recorded   KDJ , on two occasions last summer - 19th August 2018, at Rhanbouy Park in Carrickfergus, and on the 26th August 2018, on Kinnegar Beach, situated on the southern shore of Belfast Lough, from Rhanbouy Park.

On the spreadsheet, I had one other sighting of   KDJ , and this was made by Cameron Moore, at Whitehead, on the 5th September 2017.  I emailed Tony Cross, about my latest sighting, but have not received a reply as yet, which I must say, is nothing new.

  KDJ , was ringed as a fledged juvenile, on the 15th September 2015, at Ynyslas, in Wales, the distance to Whitehead being 273 kms / 169 miles (NNW), across the Irish Sea.

Sandwich Tern  -    KDJ   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim  (28 Jul 2019)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 15th September 2015, at Ynylas, Wales)


      From Jan Rod       
An email arrived with me, on the evening of the 30th July, from Jan Rod, who earlier that day, recorded the return of Common Gull   2ACV , to it's wintering quarters, at Broadmeadows, Swords, County Dublin.

Ringed as a chick, in May 2010, on the Copeland Islands in County Down, sightings of this gull have become more frequent in the last couple of years.  There is no doubting, that   2ACV , appears to go directly back to the Copelands to breed each summer, as there are no sightings prior to the beginning of the breeding season.

Sightings of   2ACV , at Millisle, which are 8 kms south of the Copelands, are recorded from mid June to late July, which seems to indicate, that the gull has completed it's nesting attempts, before moving south to County Dublin.

Broadmeadows, is 141 kms / 87 miles (SSW), from Big Copeland Island, and the duration since being rung, is now 9 years, 2 months and 2 days.  The re-sighting history of   2ACV , can be read (here).

My thanks goes to Jan, for his latest report, and for the inclusion of his photos.  

Common Gull  -    2ACV   -  Broadmeadows, Swords, Co. Dublin, R. of Ireland  (30 Jul 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 28th May 2010, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)
(Photo Courtesy of Jan Rod)


      Other Ring Sightings       
Graham McElwaine, has been in touch with me, concerning the sightings of three colour-ringed gulls, two from Dublin, and the third from Scotland.

The two Dublin birds, were a Great Black-backed Gull -   323:D , and a juvenile Herring Gull -   746:D .  Graham Prole, who is the ringing coordinator, for the Irish Midlands Ringing Group, is waiting on the details for the Herring Gull to be submitted, but was able to provide the details for the Great Black-backed.

  323:D , was ringed as a chick (1st July 2017), on Ireland's Eye, which is an island situated just off the coast of Howth in County Dublin.  The only previous sighting of   323:D , was made on the 15th November 2018, when it was spotted at The Skerries, in County Dublin, roughly 20 kms / 12 miles (N), from Ireland's Eye.

Graham McElwaine's, sighting on the 27th July 2019, was made at Mill Bay, on the County Down shore of Carlingford Lough, a distance of 72 kms / 44 miles (N), the duration now being 2 years, and 26 days, since being ringed.

On the 25th July, Graham McElwaine, also recorded a Scottish rung Black-headed Gull, which was the third bird to be reported here in Northern Ireland this week, having come from the same breeding colony in the Moorfoot Hills, on the Scottish Borders.

Unlike, the other two birds, (White) 2APK, had some previous history.  Ringed as a chick, in June 2015, it's first re-sighting was at Castlewellan Forest Park, in County Down, on the 2nd January 2017, where Graham also recorded the gull last year (30th September 2018), and just recently on the 25th July.

Interestingly, Suzanne Belshaw, spotted (White) 2APK, on the 26th June 2017, at Lurgan Park Lake, in County Armagh.  Tom Dougall, who is the ringing secretary for the Borders Ringing Group, reckons (White) 2APK, could have settled in Northern Ireland, to breed here.  The distance from the breeding colony on Broad Law in the Moorfoot Hills, to Castlewellan, is 251 kms / 155 miles (SW), the duration being 4 years, 1 month and 11 days.

Unfortunately, Graham does not take photos, so I've added Suzanne's photo, which she took at Lurgan Park.  My thanks goes to Graham for reporting (White) 2APK and Suzanne for the use of her photo.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  2APK  -  Lisburn Park Lake, Lisburn, Co. Armagh  (26 Jun 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 14th June 2015, at Broad Law, Moorfoot Hills, Borders Region, Scotland)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Declan Clarke, copied me into an email, sent to Mark Fitzpatrick, who is the ringing secretary for the Isle of Man.  On the 27th July 2019, Declan recorded his first sighting of Herring Gull   R62:M , at Ardglass Harbour.  This now becomes the fifth sighting of the gull at Ardglass, where I've previously recorded the bird, on the 2nd June 2017, and on the 27th October 2018.

It was first recorded at the harbour, on the 7th May 2016, having been ringed as a chick, on the Calf of Man, almost a year before (22nd June 2015).  On the 24th August 2016, Suzanne Belshaw, also recorded   R62:M .  The Calf of Man, lies off the southern tip, of the Isle of Man, roughly halfway between Northern Ireland and the British Mainland.  The distance, is 57 kms / 35 miles (WNW), the duration now 4 years, 1 month and 5 days.

My thanks goes to Declan, for my inclusion into the latest sighting,
and I've added a long range photo, which I took in October 2018.

Herring Gull  -    R62:M   -  Ardglass Harbour, Co. Down  (27 Oct 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 22nd June 2015, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man)


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