Friday, 27 September 2019

Mixed Bag...

Another weekend has passed, with another mixed 'bag' of results.  Saturday was a big let down, whereas on Sunday, my telescope was 'red hot' scoping through hundreds and hundreds of birds, well - at least 1500 of them.  Monday at Antrim Marina, saw another disappointing visit, but I suppose I have to take the good, along with the bad.

Some good news, was a partial result for a Common Tern spotted by Ian Enlander in August.  Although the bird couldn't be identified as an individual, we now know it was one of 15 likely suspects ringed in 2004.  I have not given up on this bird yet, as I'm hoping to find more about it through the internet.  What would we all do without today's technology!!

      Antrim Marina - Monday 23rd September 2019       
On checking the weather forecast for Sunday and Monday, it seemed like Monday morning would be the most suitable for my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, as the morning should start off as being wet.

On Monday morning, just before I departed from my home town of Ballymena, the last of the nights rainfall was just fizzling out and it had already begun to dry up.  On reaching Antrim Marina, the cloud cover was beginning to break up, allowing the sun to shine through.  The temperature was reading 11°C, and a very light breeze was blowing in from the Lough.

I arrived at the Marina, at 8:05, and not a single bird was to be seen.  Straight away, I knew this was going to be another poor visit, and I had to wait until 8:30, before the first birds appeared, which were three Mallards.  At 9:00, the first three Black-headed Gulls arrived, which took a bit of coaxing to make them land near my car.  Two of them were 'colour-ringed' -   2AAK   &   2CJT .

Slowly, over the next hour and a half, other BHGs trickled in, and a high count at 10:38 gave a grand total of 73 birds, which I could see.  Once again, gulls were landing on the roof of the new cafe which is under construction, with legs completely out of sight.  Just how many gulls were up there, was anybody's guess.  By now, I was bored 'out of my socks', and decided on an 11am departure time.    2ACV , was the eighth and final gull to be recorded during today's visit.

No other returning gulls were recorded today, so my total of 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, still stands at 22 individuals so far this winter.  For now, the weekly visits seem to be a waste of time, but I'll just have to persist.  Numbers will increase at some point, this I'm sure about.  Over past years, there were no obstacles here, which meant the gulls were easily recorded.  Although I cannot record the gulls on a regular basis now, all I can do, is to at least re-sight as many as possible over the winter months.

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina on Monday 23rd September 2019
 2AAK   2CJT   2CTC   2CSB   2ABS   2CSX   2AAN   2ACV 

Black-headed Gulls Recorded this Autumn/Winter, but not Seen Today
 2AAA   2ABN   2ABK   2ABA   2AAB   2ABL   2AAV 
 2BRA   2CSA   2CSJ   2CSK   2CSL   2CSR   2CTB 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Despite a hugely boring visit to Antrim Marina today, the antic's of the Mute Swans helped me to pass the time.  Shortly after my arrival, a pair along with four cygnets arrived from upriver.  I soon identified them, as the pair which have been here since the summer, but they were missing a cygnet, as there should be five.  Has something happened to the missing youngster, or has it wondered off on it's own??

This family group, had just headed back up the river, when a second pair of Mute Swans, along with three cygnets swam in from the Lough.  I tried to lure them in to the slipway with bread, but they ignored my efforts and continued up the river.  I knew they were going to run into problems, and soon afterwards, the family was being chased back down past the Marina, by the original male.  This second pair along with their three youngsters, just hung about the breakwater, and whenever possible tried to make their way back in again.

Around 9:40, two more pairs of swans arrived in from the Lough.  One, was an an adult pair, which I think were they mature pair which arrived in last week, the male of which was more dominate than the male trying to hold the Marina as its territory.  The residing male trying to be the boss, soon got chased for his efforts.

The other pair which flew in from the Lough, were the two young birds, which I strongly believe, were two of last years chicks.  They were tolerated, by the territorial male, and these two came readily to my hand to be fed with bread.  At the same time as I was feeding them, I was able to stroke both birds, just as I had done last year.

After the original pair with their now four cygnets, had once again swam up-river, the pair with the three cygnets, finally made it to the slipway.  Both adults came ashore, though their youngsters were too wary to come in too close.  Eventually, all had been checked for rings, but none today.

By the time of my departure, between 40 and 50 Mallards had arrived, but still no rings on these.

The usual Common Gull recorded each week, appeared very late on.  I was about to depart at 11am, when I began chatting to a lady along with her son.  During the conversation about the birds at the Marina, I then spotted the Common Gull standing on a metal-pole.  The adult Herring Gull never appeared today, and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull, made a brief appearance at 9:16.

A single Hooded Crow, and just three Jackdaws, were the only other species recorded here.  At around 10:15, four groups of Greylag Geese flew high over the Marina, heading north-west, possibly on their way to County Donegal.  I was alerted to them, by their 'honking' calls, with 34 birds being counted.

As usual, I did not venture to the other sites around the town of Antrim, and returned home for a couple of hours 'kip' before preparing for work at 6pm.


      Ringing Details Received       
Over the past several weeks, I have been waiting on ringing recovery details from the British Trust for Ornithology.  This winter, I'm making a point of reporting all ring sightings made, whether these were recorded by me, or by other observers.  Using the BTO's DemOn Ringing Database, I have found it to be so much easier to use, than the former IPMR system.

In the past, I did not submit all sightings, one reason being to save time, the other, I had decided that reporting one or two sightings of each ringed bird would suffice.  Except for the Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, all other sightings will now be submitted, as for most birds these would be few and far between.  Those at the Marina, will be submitted after a reasonable gap of weeks, and at the very least, the final sightings of all 'colour-ringed' gulls, will be reported after my final weekly visit at the end of March.

Another feature I aim to correct, with the use of DemOn, are historical sightings.  I've have learnt, not only as a ringer myself, but as an avid 'Ring Reader', some project organisers do not submit sightings that are reported to them.  Surely, the ommisions of such records, are bound to have a significant impact, as to longevity and mortality rates, that the BTO tries to estimate through ringing recoveries.

This week, the BTO has sent me a pile of recovery data, with the links to these being added to my spreadsheet, which includes the official distances, direction, grid references and latitude & longitude.

As well as these recoveries, the BTO also sent me a separate email concerning a 'colour-ringed' Common Tern, which was reported to me by Ian Enlander, on the 12th August 2019.  It appears, that the individual bird concerned could not be identified, but would have been likely, to have been one of 15 chicks ringed in June 2004, at Little Marlow Gravel Pit, in Buckinghamshire, England.

It could be possible that the ringer concerned, no longer practises as a ringer, or could not be reached for whatever reason.  In an effort to try and track down more info on this particular Common Tern, I have emailed the 'County Recorder', of the Buckinghamshire Bird Club, to see if he can supply any information.  I noticed, on the Club's Web page, that Common Tern chicks were ringed at the Little Marlow Gravel Pit this past summer, which indicates that the project is still ongoing.

For now, I have given Ian's Common Tern, a ringing date of the 30th June 2004, which gives the duration on the 12th August 2019, as being 15 years, 1 month and 13 days.  The distance from Little Marlow, to Whitehead, is roughly 483 kms / 300 miles (NW).  

There is no doubt in my mind, that this Tern has been spotted elsewhere in the past by 'Ring Readers' somewhere.  Anyone recognising this bird, please do send me an email, as this tern must have some sort of re-sighting history.  When time allows, I'll try and find out more on the internet.

Common Tern  -  Blue,Yellow  -  Whitehead, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (12 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, in June 2004, at Little Marlow Gravel Pit, Buckinghamshire, England)
(Photo Courtesy of Ian Enlander)


      Saturday 21st & Sunday 22nd September 2019       
On Saturday, I decided to work the north Antrim coast, beginning at Waterfoot and making my way anti-clockwise to Portrush, before returning home via the County Londonderry town of Coleraine.  A hugely disappointing afternoon was in store for me, as surprisingly few gulls were seen anywhere and not a single ring was recorded.  Even at the Strand Road Jetty in Coleraine, hardly any Black-headed Gulls were present, although numbers are normally much higher.

On Sunday, I had planned to visit sites along the inside of Strangford Lough in County Down, but never even left Belfast Lough.  I called by Whitehouse Lagoon, and the Dargan Mudflats, with Kinnegar Beach, being my final destination, electing to remain there.

Recording no rings at Whitehouse Lagoon, or at Dargan, after arriving at Kinnegar Beach, I ended up staying for the whole afternoon.  The number of birds present was quite staggering for this time of the year, and I thought I was in for a good haul of ring sightings.  For a change, I had very little problems with folk arriving to walk along the beach, and even a couple of dog walkers, had the sense to keep their pets away from the birds.

Oystercatchers were present in very good numbers, but I didn't even re-sight the couple of 'colour-ringed' Icelandic birds recorded of late.  Two Oystercatchers were spotted with metals, as were 2 Common Gulls, 1 Black-headed Gull, and one Lesser Black-backed Gull, the latter which nearly walked into the range of my camera, whilst being hassled by a very hungry juvenile.

Along with Black-tailed Godwits, Bar-tailed Godwit numbers had increased from previous visits, and I'm hopeful of re-sighting a Dutch rung bird this winter.  With the tide creeping in, I estimated that there were between 1,500 and 1,700 birds altogether of varying species, bolstered by the arrival of around 200 Red Knots late into the afternoon.

By the time of my departure, which was caused by two men walking their dogs, scaring the birds away, I had recorded the return of a 'colour-ringed' Mediterranean Gull and six 'colour-ringed' Sandwich Terns, which were new sightings.

The re-sighting of the Mediterranean Gull -   AETC , was my second for this bird, having recorded it here on this same beach, on the 18th November 2018.    AETC , is however, no stranger to Northern Ireland, having been ringed in Germany as a chick in May 2008.  It was first spotted at Carnlough Bay, County Antrim by Neal Warnock, in October 2008.

Over the years, it has been recorded on numerous occasions around the east coast of Northern Ireland.  I reported my latest sighting to Andreas Zours in Germany, and received a reply on Wednesday morning, along with an updated PDF File.  It turned out, that today's sighting was the first, since I last recorded the gull here last year.  The duration since being ringed, is now 11 years, 3 months and 29 days, the distance being 1,014 kms / 630 miles (W).  My thanks as always goes to Andreas for supplying the update, and the PDF File can be read (here).

As can be seen in my photo,   AETC , has a serious problem with it's left foot.  It appears that a hardened ball of debris has built up around it's centre toe.  I'm wondering if this has been caused by being entangled with fishing line.  Whatever the reason, I hope this will fall off at some point, as if that ball continues to accumulate debris it's going to hamper the birds flight and feeding.

Mediterranean Gull  -    AETC   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (22 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th May 2008, near Stade, N. Germany) 

Checking the cr-birding site, for the origin of my six Sandwich Tern sightings, three belonged to Chris Redfern, two were Tony Murray's birds, and one registered to Jez Blackburn.  In the case of Jez, the project details stated that the birds were ringed in north-east Scotland, and that the first letter is always a 'E' (read).

The Sandwich Tern -   KLB , came from the only project listed with Dark Blue rings beginning with the letter 'K', but my bird was not   KE* , which had me a trifle puzzled.  As the bird was supposed to have been from NE Scotland, I also copied in Ewan Weston, into the email that I sent to Jez.

By the time I had arrived back home from my visit to Antrim Marina on Monday morning, three emails were waiting for me covering all six Sandwich Terns.  It was Ewan, not Jez, who got back to me first concerning   KLB , and suggested that Mark Collier, would know something about this bird.  I have no idea from where Mark operates, but I received an email from him on Tuesday.

It turned out, that   KLB , was just 'metal-rung', as an un-sexed adult, on the 23rd July 2012, at Ynylas in Wales.  On the 30th May 2018, this bird was caught at a breeding site, at Scolt Head, in Norfolk, England, where it had the 'colour-ring' fitted.  Since receiving it's 'colour-ring',   KLB , was recorded on two occasions in August 2019, at Port Seton in Lothian, Scotland.

It was good to obtain a result for   KLB , thanks to Mark and least of all Ewan, who is forever helpful concerning the origins of terns, and was also instrumental in tracking down the owner of last week's Sandwich Tern, from Germany.

Sandwich Tern  -    KLB   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (22 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 23rd July 2012, at Ynylas NNR, Ceredgion, Wales)

The next two Sandwich Terns, belonged to a long running ringing project at Lady's Island Lake, County Wexford, in the Republic of Ireland.  Tony Murray, who is the contact addressee, sent the details for both birds.

  KHL , is a relatively young bird, having been ringed as a chick at Lady's Island Lake, on the 21st June 2017.  It's first two re-sightings occurred in April 2019 (15th & 18th), when it was spotted at the Mile 4 Saltworks in Namibia, on the west coast of Africa.  Prior to my sighting today,   KHL   was recorded twice at Port Seton in Lothian, Scotland, on the 11th & 12th September 2019.  The distance from Lady's Island Lake, to Kinnegar Beach, is 273 kms / 169 miles (N).

Sandwich Tern  -    KHL   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (22 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 21st June 2017, at Inish Island, Lady's Island Lake, Co. Wexford, R. of Ireland)

  KNZ , was ringed as a chick, on the 26th June 2019, at Lady's Island Lake.  My sighting at Kinnegar, is the first record of this youngster since being ringed, the duration being 2 months and 27 days.  As with   KHL , it has travelled 273 kms / 169 miles (N).  I wondered if   KHL   and   KNZ   were related, as parent and chick, but on checking my photos the two birds were never together at any point.  My thanks goes to Tony for supplying the info for both birds.

Tony went on to say in his email, that this year has been their best ever for re-sightings of this summers chicks, since dispersing from the breeding colonies on the lake.

Sandwich Tern  -    KNZ   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (22 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 22nd June 2019, at Sgarbheen Island, Lady's Island Lake, Co. Wexford, R. of Ireland)

The final three Sandwich Terns, all hailed from Northumberland in England, and Chris Redfern, supplied their details.  The first bird, rung   UCA , was ringed as a chick, on the 22nd June 2014, at Inner Farne Island.  Since 2017, when it was first re-sighted at Coquet Island, 32 kms / 20 miles (SSE) of the Farne Islands, through to May & June of 2019, there have been numerous sightings, indicating that this bird now breeds on Coquet Island.

Away from Northumberland, until my record today,   UCA   had only been spotted on a single occasion, which was on the 27th August 2017, at Dawlish Warren NNR, in South Devon, England.  The distance from the Farne Islands, to Kinnegar Beach, is 288 kms / 178 miles (WSW), and the duration is 5 years and 3 months.

Sandwich Tern  -    UCA   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (22 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 22nd June 2014, on Inner Farne Island, The Farne Islands, Northumbria, England)

The second bird, rung (White) UDH, was ringed as a chick, on the 19th July 2015, on Coquet Island.  Before today's sighting at Kinnegar Beach, UDH, has been recorded on four other occasions - (June 2016) at Coquet Island, (August 2017) at Peterhead Bay, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, (August 2017), Coquet Island, and (August 2018) at Doonfoot, South Ayrshire, Scotland.

The distance from Coquet Island to Kinnegar Beach, is 286 kms / 177 miles (WSW), the duration being 4 years, 2 months and 3 days.

Sandwich Tern  -  (White)  UDH  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (22 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th July 2015, on Coquet Island, Northumberland, England)

  UTL , is another bird rung in 2015, on Coquet Island, albeit slightly earlier than (White) UDH above.  Ringed as a chick, on the 14th June, it's only re-sightings until today, both occurred at Port Seton in Lothian, Scotland - (May & August 2019).

My thanks to Chris for supplying the info.  With all of today's Sandwich Terns being relatively young, there is every chance, that these birds will be re-sighted here in future years.

Sandwich Tern  -    UTL   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (22 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 14th June 2015, on Coquet Island, Northumberland, England)

Despite the number of birds present on Kinnegar Beach today, I was slightly disappointed at not having recorded more 'colour-rings' on other species.  Kinnegar though, must rank as the Northern Ireland 'hotspot' for ring sightings, and will no doubt see the return of previous sightings, as well as new birds as the winter draws in.  As can be judged, through my recent posts, other sites are being neglected, as I cannot find the time to visit everywhere I would like to be.


Friday, 20 September 2019

German Sandwich...

As stated in last week's post, I would undertake more of an effort to get out and about, following a lax birthday weekend, which saw very little birding.  On Saturday, I did work the County Down coast, and on Sunday re-visited the previous day's sites, plus the addition of a couple of others.

A couple of new ring sightings were recorded, including that of a 'metal-rung' Sandwich Tern from Germany, a first for Northern Ireland???  The two days also saw the re-sightings of a number of birds, which adds to their longevity, a feature of my 'Ring Reading', where I try and re-sight each individual at least once every year.  Sadly, I think I've lost my oldest British-rung Black-headed Gull, not that it has died, but I think it's 'metal-ring' has now fallen off.

One of the main aspects of 'Ring Reading', is that every ring tells a story.  You get to know the origins of the bird concerned and the re-sighting history, if any.  To me, this is very rewarding, considering the effort needed to find and read those rings in the first place.  I still cannot comprehend the enjoyment that 'Twitchers', appear to get, spotting birds generally.  We may have an idea from where they came from, but an un-ringed bird provides no information of it's origin or where it's been - that we can only guess.

The use of a good camera provides concrete evidence for all ring sightings, and I advocate the use of one by all budding 'Ring Readers'.  Far too often, I read about the sightings of scarce or rarely sighted species, but more often than not, there are no photos to back up these sightings.  With today's technology, there should be no excuses with backing up whats being reported.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 17th September 2019       
Once again I chose a Monday for my latest weekly visit to Antrim Marina, but firstly, I must add the sightings made by Graham McElwaine.  Graham, was up in my neck of the woods, on Tuesday 10th September, the day after my last visit.  Having had to attend a meeting in Toomebridge, Graham called into the Marina, and recorded 9 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.

Five of these -   2AAK ,   2ABS ,   2AAB ,   2BRA   &   2CSL , were not recorded by me the previous day, but all were among the 22 'colour-ringed' recorded so far this winter.

In my reply to Graham, I also made a confession.  This was concerning   2ABA , which I had considered as dead.  During one of Graham's previous visit to the Marina, on the 28th November 2018, he recorded   2ABA , who at that time I suspected as having died.  This was further strengthened, as I never recorded the bird once during my weekly visits during the winter of 2018/2019.

You can imagine my surprise, when   2ABA , 'returned from the dead', when I recorded it on the 2nd September 2019, complete with a photo taken.  Black-headed Gulls tend to be habitual in their movements, but what   2ABA   had been up to, or where it had been will remain a mystery.  Anyhow, I had to own up, and do a bit of 'grovelling'.

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gull Recorded by Graham McElwaine, on Tuesday 10th September 2019
 2AAA   2AAB   2AAK   2ABK   2ABS   2BRA   2CJT   2CSL   2CSR 

My latest visit to Antrim Marina, was another disappointment, probably in part, by good weather.  Arriving at 8am, it was very calm and dry, the temperature reading 11.5°C, although at the time, there was a 100% cloud cover.  This changed very quickly, as the sun broke through, and the temperature increased to 14.5°C.

Parking close to the slipway, not a single bird was present, but at the same time, a few gulls were just appearing from the direction of the Lough.  By 08.10, I recorded three 'colour-ringed' BHGs, but further sightings were few and far between.

By 09.45, a high, of 60 to 70 BHGs were present, but once again, many chose to perch on the flat roof of the new cafe, which is still under construction.  It was extremely hard trying to entice the birds down with bread, which proved that they were not particularly hungry.  By 10.30, I had had enough, and decided to call it a day.

Just 9 'colour-rings' were noted, but they were among the 22 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, which have been recorded so far this winter.  Some BHGs, such as the Lithuanian bred - White T35J, and Adam's birds,   2AAT ,   2AAP   &   2ABF , would normally have been recorded by now during previous winters.  T35J, which was last seen on the 11th March 2019, would be the oldest known bird of these gulls, having been ringed as a chick in June 2006 - the duration being 12 years, 9 months and 8 days, when last seen.

As daylight hours decrease, and with the winter slowly creeping in, I really need poor weather - wet and windy conditions at the Marina, which would certainly see an increase in the number of gulls looking for an easy feed.

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded Today, Monday 16th September 2019
 2ABK   2CJT   2CSA   2ABN   2ACV   2CSB   2ABL   2AAB   2CTC 

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded This Winter, But Not Recorded Today
 2AAK   2AAA   2ABS   2ABA   2AAN   2AAV   2BRA 
 2CSJ   2CSK   2CSL   2CSR   2CSX   2CTB    

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
As already mentioned, not a single bird was present at the Marina, on my arrival today, not even a duck, where normally a few of these would be seen.  It was not until 08.50, that seven Mallards arrived.  Gradually, numbers increased to just over 40 birds by the time of my departure at 10.30.

At 08.31, a pair of Mute Swans appeared from upriver, which I believe are the parents of the five cygnets, which did not appear today.  A second pair of Mute Swans flew in from the Lough, landing close to the slipway, and were spotted by the first pair, which had just begun to swim upriver back towards Antrim Town.  I managed to feed the new arrivals with a few bits of bread, before the male of the first pair gave chase.

The new arrivals, were young birds, having very small knobs on their beaks.  Although they were now in their full white plumage, I had a feeling that both were chicks from last year, as both came easily to hand for a feed.  Although they were chased off, they hung around the breakwater, and tried on several occasions to make their way back towards the slipway.

A third, and fully mature pair of Swans arrived in from the Lough, just after 10am.  They took no nonsense from the resident pair, and successfully made their way onto the slipway.  However, no rings were spotted on any of the birds.

Just the one adult Common Gull appeared just before 9am, and remained throughout my visit.  This is likely to be the same bird which appears here during my previous visits, as did the adult Herring Gull, which arrived at 09.55. A pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, who arrived at 10.09, may also be the same pair seen here over recent weeks.

Just one Hooded Crow, and 5 Jackdaws, were the only other species recorded at the Marina today.


      Ringing Details Received       
On Tuesday 17th September, I received a reply from Paddy Jenks, concerning my first ever sighting of a 'colour-ringed' Redshank (see previous post).  Unable to find the appropriate 'colour-ringing' scheme, on the cr-birding site, I contacted Richard du Feu, who in turn copied Paddy into the reply.

Paddy has told me that my Redshank, looks likely to be O-FV, and not O-1V, as I had suggested (plain orange ring on left leg - inscribed black ring on right leg).  The 'Black Darvic', was admittedly a bit on the dirty side, which certainly did not help in trying to read the code.  Ringers themselves would know the codes used, and can therefore eliminate erroneous readings.  Although Paddy, was the contact addressee, he said that the Redshank would have been ringed by Tony Cross, in Cerdigion in West Wales.

My previous dealings with Tony Cross, concerned sightings of 'colour-ringed' Sandwich Terns, ringed in his area, but often, it takes a while for Tony to reply to emails.  For now, I know where my Redshank came from, but will have to wait for the ringing date and any previous re-sighting history.  My thanks anyway goes to Paddy for getting in touch.


      Saturday 14th September 2019       
As mentioned in my previous post, I would endeavour to make much more of an effort this weekend, with County Down being my target.  Saturday's usually mean a late start is in order, as I work on an evening shift the night before.  The start time is often governed by the time of the tides, with me preferring to be at my first site two hours after high tide.

As County Down was my target, and high tide forecast for around 12:15pm, I decided to start at what is now my favourite site for reading rings - Kinnegar Beach, situated on the County Down side of Belfast Lough.

Arriving at 14:15, the tide was beginning to recede, with gulls and waders arriving at a steady pace.  I felt like shooting one young man, aged in his early 20's, as on passing close by me, and seeing that I was using a telescope to view the birds, he deliberately walked out and scared everything off.

I waited until he moved off to the southern end of the beach, before walking out and throwing a large amount of bread onto the shore, to entice the gulls back in.  This worked a treat, and in no time, the birds arrived back in good numbers once again.  A 'colour-ringed' Oystercatcher, which I realised was another returning bird from Iceland was spotted.  I easily captured a few photos, then that young man once again walked towards the birds.  He knew what he was doing, as every now and again, he glanced back towards me.  At that point, I had had enough of him and departed.

The Oystercather, rung YL-W(UA), was ringed as a breeding adult in May 2018, and I recorded it wintering on Kinnegar Beach on three occasions between August 2018 and January 2019.  Having reported my sighting to Böddi in Iceland, I received an updated PDF File, which showed that YL-W(UA), was spotted back in Iceland, on two occasions during this past summer.  My thanks to Boddi for the update.  It was good to record another returning bird, and the PDF File can be read (here).

Oystercatcher  -  YL-W(UA)  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (14 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 23rd May 2018, at Ísólfsskáli, Southern Iceland)

On leaving Kinnegar, I drove straight on to Millisle, to see if I could record any ringed Common Gulls.  With having my own project on this species, and having taken over Shane Wolsey's former project on Common Gulls, I'm always eager to record new rings or re-sight some of the previous gulls, to add to their longevity records.

Arriving at Millisle, I stopped by the north beach first.  With the tide now well out, plenty of gulls of various species were present.  Scoping through them, the first 'colour-ring' to be spotted, was on a lone Mediterranean Gull.  It was too far away, for the code to be read through the telescope, but my camera made short work of the distance.  Having scoped through the other gulls, a couple of 'metal-rung' Common Gulls were spotted, but there was no chance to read those rings.

Returning to my car, I checked through my photos of the Med Gull, which bore a 'Yellow Darvic', and had me thinking it was a German bird.  Due to the distance, I had a fuzzy image of the code, which appeared to read -   2XT6 .  As the code started with the number 2, this would have been a bird ringed in the British Isles, but I did not recognise the code.  I knew this one would be bettered viewed at home, once downloaded onto my laptop.

I then proceeded towards the south beach at Millisle, which is usually the best spot to read Common Gull rings.  As I was driving towards the village, I noticed a Herring Gull standing on the sea wall beside the road.  As I passed it, I saw that it was 'colour-ringed', so I had to turn off and drive back towards it.  Parking a short distance away, so as not to spook it, I easily captured it's code -   1E:W .  Once again, I recognised the code, as a bird that I've previously recorded.

Knowing it was ringed as part of a project on the nearby Copeland Islands, on returning home I checked for it on my spreadsheet.  Today's, was my third record of the gull here at Millisle, having first recorded it on the 12th March 2016, and again on the 16th June 2018.  Between these sightings, I have a record of the gull being spotted at Donaghadee (a couple of kms north), by Marc Ruddock, who spotted it on the 28th February 2017.

Adam McClure, was formerly the ringing coordinator for the Copeland Project, but I've no idea if anyone has taken over this role.  The duration since being ringed is now 4 years, 4 months and 8 days, the distance from Big Copeland Island, being 8 kms / 5 miles (S).

Herring Gull  -    1E:W   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (14 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 6th May 2015, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Continuing on to the south beach at Millisle, I at first parked alongside the beach, though there were loads of gulls in the nearby main car park, which were obviously being fed by a family, with two young children.  Scoping the gulls on the beach, no rings were spotted among these, but rings were spotted on a small group of Sandwich Terns at the water's edge.  As they were fairly close to the car park, I drove over, firstly checking the gulls being fed.

A Black-headed Gull with a 'metal ring' was spotted, and another Med Gull with a 'Yellow Darvic', was also present.  I thought 'happy day's - two 'colour-ringed' Med's in one day.  Dismissing the Black-headed Gull till later, I needed to focus on the Med Gull and Sandwich Terns, before anybody came along to disturb them.  Zooming in, to take a photo of the Med Gull, it was actually the same bird that I had spotted a short time ago on the north beach.  The code read   2XT6 , and I couldn't have got better photos.

On returning home, I firstly consulted my spreadsheet, which had no records of   2XT6 , so this was a first record for me.  I then checked out the cr-birding site, to discover this bird was from an Irish Project, based at Sandy Cove, in County Dublin.  The contact, was Sean Kingston, who has yet to reply to my email.

Mediterranean Gull  -    2XT6   -  Millisle Beach, Drumfad Bay, Co. Down  (14 Sep 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

Parking along the seawall to look at the Sandwich Terns, the Med Gull   2XT6   then landed on the beach, so I took the photo added above.

Now checking the Sandwich Terns for 'colour-rings', 10 adults plus two juveniles were present.  Both juveniles had BTO rings fitted, as did one adult.  Another adult, had a tall 'metal-ring', which intrigued me, but there were no 'colour-ringed' birds.  By chance, the bird with the unusual ring was closest to me, and I decided to try my luck at capturing something on the ring, which might help to tie down where it came from.

Having taken numerous photos, I took a look to see what I had, to find the code read upwards in two columns, but I did not capture any form of an address, from where the tern may have originated from.  Checking my best photos, I was still unsure of the code, so had a better look on returning home and downloading the photos.

The inscription on the ring appeared to read   6A025A , so I sent an email to my 'Ring Reading' counterpart in Dublin - Graham Prole (Graham's Blog), to see if he had any idea where this ring would have originated.  An hour later, Graham replied, and thought this was an interesting one.  He named a couple of suggestions, as who to contact, which included Frank Majoor, in Holland.

In Frank's reply, he thought the bird was from either Denmark or Germany.  They used such rings as did the Dutch, but the Dutch rings would have the letters NL, included in the code.  Frank, also thought the code for my tern, would actually read   6A0254   and not   6A025A .

Among others, who I emailed, I had included Ewan Weston, a tern enthusiast in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  He reckoned a Matthias Haupt in Germany would know, and copied him into the email.  On Sunday morning I received a reply from Matthias, confirming that   6A0254 , belonged to him, and requested the sighting details from me.

I sent these along, before heading out on Sunday, but on returning home, the ringing info had arrived back.    6A0254 , had been ringed as a chick, on the 22nd June 2012, on Norderoog Island, part of the Frisian Islands, in Northern Germany.  My sighting of   6A0254 , was the first record of the bird since being ringed (PDF).  The duration was now 7 years, 2 months and 23 days, the distance being 904 kms / 561 miles (WSW).

What a superb sighting this turned out to be, and I thank all those who helped me out on this record, especially to Ewan, for pointing me in the right direction, and also to a delighted Matthias, who supplied the information.  Matthias, also included a very handy guide, concerning these upward reading rings, which I suggest all 'Ring Readers' should download a copy (Guide).  One question remains - is this the first ever German bred Sandwich Tern, to be recorded anywhere in Ireland?

Sandwich Tern  -  Germany    6A0254   -  Millisle, Drumfad Bay, Co. Down  (14 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 22nd June 2012, on Norderoog Island, The Frisian Islands, Germany)

Now that I had sorted out the Med Gull and Sandwich Terns, my attention returned to the Black-headed Gull.  Waiting until the area was clear of people, I began throwing bits of bread out onto the car park.  Quickly, the gulls arrived as did the BHG that I was after.  Easily taking a few pictures of it's 'metal-ring', I had captured -   EW48510 .

Checking my spreadsheet at home, today's was my third record of   EW48510 , here at Millisle.  The gull had been ringed, as an un-sexed adult, on the 14th August 2017, by the Belfast & Down Ringing Group, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, also in County Down.  Millisle is situated 14 kms / 8 miles (ENE), from Castle Espie.

I made a number of visits to Castle Espie, during the breeding season this summer, so perhaps this gull does not breed there.  My two previous sightings at Millisle, were made on the 23rd December 2017, and on the 3rd March 2019.  At least another bird has been re-sighted which adds to it's longevity since being ringed, which is now 2 years and 1 month.

Black-headed Gull  -    EW48510   -  Millisle, Drumfad Bay, Co. Down  (14 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 14th August 2017, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down)

Leaving Millisle, I drove south to the village of Ballywalter, where I was hoping to re-sight my oldest British-rung Black-headed Gull -   ET02500 .  Ringed as a chick, in June 1998, all 6 of the 7 previous sightings of this bird, were made at Ballywalter Harbour.  My first record for   ET02500 , was made on the 16th July 2016, but on the 9th June 2019, I came across it at Millisle, in full breeding plumage.

This was my last sighting of   ET02500 , who's duration was then 20 years, 11 months and 25 days.  When I last saw the gull, I noticed that a significant gap had opened up in it's ring, which meant there was a good possibility that the ring might fall off.  By the time I reached Ballywalter, the tide was fully out, and not a single gull was to be found around the harbour.

Moving over to the extensive beach, I began scoping the hundreds of gulls spread along it's length.  One 'colour-ringed' Common Gull was spotted, this bearing a 'Blue Darvic', which would have been from my own project.  The gull was a long way off, so I exchanged my telescope for the camera on my tripod.  I found it very difficult to relocate that gull, but when I did find it, it was walking towards the freshwater river which flowed across the beach.

Wading into the river, the gull just sat down and remained there.  Waiting for it to make a move, the usual happened, the gulls were scared off by a walker out with their dogs.  Calling it a day, I decided that I would return tomorrow, and re-visit this stretch of the County Down coast.


      Sunday 15th September 2019       
Returning to County Down, high tide along the coast was forecast for around 1pm, pending on the sites visited.  I started at Kinnegar Beach, where the tide was on it's way in.  Arriving just after 9am, I spent ages scoping for rings, but nothing was spotted.  I then moved on to the nearby Victoria Park, but on arrival there, the car park was for some reason or other, bunged with parked cars.  I couldn't find enough space to attract the Black-headed Gulls with bread, so quickly departed.

Groomsport, was my next stop, arriving there at around 11:30am.  With the tide now well in, there were many groups of gulls roosting on rocky outcrops and on the shore around the harbour.  Lots of Herring Gulls were perched on Cockle Island, but everything that I scoped, not even a 'metal' was spotted.

Walking around the shore of the harbour, there was a large mixed group of Common and Black-headed Gulls, plus a couple of Sandwich Terns.  Many legs were hidden by thick wads of seaweed, but I constantly scoped for rings, as many gulls would frequently move about.  A couple of Common Gulls, were spotted with 'metals', but I had no chance of reading these, as I could not get the angles needed to take photos.

Eventually, I spotted the tip of an 'Orange Darvic', on a Black-headed Gull.  I had to wait for this bird to move, and quite soon afterwards it obliged.  Capturing the code -   2CNB , I thought that I had my first ever re-sighting, of one of Adam McClure's gulls from his former Northern Ireland Project.

On checking my spreadsheet once back home, I was in for quite a surprise.    2CNB , was no stranger to me, as this was my fourth sighting of this gull.  My last sighting was made on the 7th April 2019, on the beach at Ballycastle, on the north coast of County Antrim.  Possibly not of full breeding age, I thought it might attempt to breed or go through the motions on nearby Rathlin Island.

  2CNB , was ringed as a chick, on the 16th June 2017, on Blue Circle Island, on Larne Lough in County Antrim.  I first came upon   2CNB , as a juvenile, on the 23rd November 2017, at Sandy Bay in Larne, which is quite close to Blue Circle Island.  The only other two sightings of   2CNB , were made at Ballyholme, on the north coast of County Down, where Suzanne Belshaw recorded it, on the 19th May 2018, followed by my sighting on the 17th February 2019.  

Black-headed Gull  -    2CNB   -  Groomsport Harbour, Co. Down  (15 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2017, on Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

Continuing to Millisle, I was gobsmacked, by the number of gulls present on the beach, at the northern end of the village.  It was approaching high tide, but there were a couple of hundred gulls in a feeding frenzy along the shore line.  As well as these, numerous gulls had also parked themselves on rocky outcrops to roost.  The way they were all feeding, it seemed as if there was a vast number of flies around the rotting seaweed, which was causing all of the commotion.

I had a field day scoping through everything for rings, but to my disappointment, only a couple of 'metal-rung' Common Gulls were spotted.  The sighting of a Mediterranean Gull, had me thinking that it was a re-sighting of yesterday's bird, but when I eventually got to view it's legs, it was not ringed at all.

Moving on to the main beach at Millisle, again, there were a large number of gulls busy feeding.  Scoping from my car, more 'metal-rung' Common Gulls were spotted.  Trying to lure them towards me, I had no luck, though one bird came out of the surf just briefly enough, that I could see a tall 'metal-ring', on it's left leg.  Despite being quite close to me, it remained on the water.

I wondered if this could be the Norwegian bird, which I had recorded at Millisle on four occasions between 2017 and 2018, but on checking photos back at home, that gull was ringed on the right leg, not on the left.  This means, I have a new sighting, and I am hoping it will stay around long enough to have another go at reading the ring.

After a while, two 'colour-ringed' Common Gulls were recorded.  The first of these was   2ADX , which is a regular at Millisle, and was ringed as a chick, on the nearby Copeland Islands, on the 1st June 2010.

The second bird, rung   2BCL , was one of my project birds, that was ringed on Rathlin Island, County Antrim.  Returning home, and checking it's details, I had already recorded this one at Cushendun Harbour in County Antrim, on the 19th August 2018.    2BCL , was ringed as a chick, on the 18th June 2018, at Ushet Lough, on Rathlin Island.

I was well pleased to re-sight one of my own project birds.  Cushendun, is 18 kms / 11 miles (SSE), of Rathlin, while Millisle is 86 kms / 53 miles (SSE).  The duration since ringing, is now 1 year, 2 months and 28 days.

Common Gull  -    2BCL   -  Millisle, Drumfad Bay, Co. Down  (15 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2018, on Ushet Lough, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim)

Common Gull  -    2BCL   -  Cushendun Harbour, Co. Antrim  (19 Aug 2018)

Next stop was at Ballywalter Harbour, where I tried again to locate my oldest British-rung Black-headed Gull.  Although the tide, was now on the turn, a number of BHGs were present at the car park beside the harbour.  Throwing out bits of bread, a small number of gulls landed beside my car.  Among them, was a very 'bossy' Black-headed Gull, which would chase away the other gulls.

The behaviour was exactly the same as   ET02500 , but this bird had no ring.  It may be possible, that this is indeed the same gull, but has now lost it's ring.  When I last saw   ET02500   back in June, a large gap had opened up between the ring butts.  I'll keep trying, just in case today's gull is a different bird, but the signs does not look good.

Moving down to the footpath overlooking the beach, gulls of various species were beginning to arrive to feed.  Although I was plagued by both walkers, and others with their dogs, one 'colour-ringed' Herring Gull was spotted.  Rung   4H:W , I did not recognise the code, but on returning home and consulting my spreadsheet, I had recorded this gull here on the same beach, on the 29th October 2016.  As far as I'm aware, these are the only sightings of this gull, since it was ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 6th May 2015.

As Adam McClure, was the former coordinator for the ringing Project on the Copeland Islands, any others sightings have not been submitted to the BTO, not even my 2016 sighting.  The duration since ringing, is now 4 years, 4 months and 9 days, and the distance from the Copeland Islands, to Ballywalter is 14 kms / 9 miles (SSE).

Herring Gull  -    4H:W   -  Ballywalter Beach, Co. Down  (15 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 6th May 2015, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

My final 'port' of call for the day, was at Portavogie Harbour (forgive the pun).  Lots of Herring Gulls, surprisingly mostly adults, and a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls, were resting on the rooftops around the harbour.  To get them on the move, I walked a short distance away from my car, and crumbled half a loaf of bread onto the road.

This did the trick, as this stirred most of the birds from the resting spots.  Searching through the gulls on the roof and those that landed on the road, not a single ring was spotted.  With this, I called it a day and headed back home.  It had been a long day out, with just three re-sightings and no new birds.


      From Tom Cooney       
In last weeks post I reported on a Common Gull sighting, which was made by Tom Cooney, in the Republic of Ireland.  The bird concerned, was   2AHV , from Shane Wolsey's former Common Gull Project on the Copeland Islands of County Down, which I have now taken control of.

Tom's sighting of   2AHV , on the 10th September 2019, on the shore in the Rockmarshall area of Dundalk Bay, of County Louth, was a first re-sighting of this gull since being ringed as a chick, in June of 2014.

On Sunday the 15th September, I received another email from Tom.  He had recorded   2AHV   again on the following day (11th September), but on the 14th, Tom also recorded another Common Gull, this one being   2AVA .  On checking my spreadsheet,   2AVA   was not entered.  When I began my own project in June 2017, I had used the last of the   2A**   series of rings, and all of the gulls which I ring are entered onto the spreadsheet.

Being in control of Shane's former project, all re-sightings of his Common Gulls are entered onto my spreadsheet, so with no record of   2AVA , this one also had to be a first re-sighting.  On checking Shane's ringing records,   2AVA   had been ringed as a chick, on the 23rd June 2012, on Big Copeland Island in County Down.  Tom's sighting of   2AVA , was recorded on the same stretch of beach, as that of   2AHV .

Once again, these latest sightings by Tom, reinforces my latest comments on how elusive these 'colour-ringed' Common Gulls are.  I had firmly believed, that there are still many birds from Shane's former project, which have yet to be spotted.  These latest sightings by Tom, confirms my beliefs, and indeed, I have numerous young Common Gulls from my own project, out there waiting on their first re-sightings.

Tom's sighting of   2AVA , came after 7 years, 2 months and 22 days, after being ringed, the distance being roughly 89 kms / 57 miles (SW), from Big Copeland Island.  I thank Tom for another superb sighting.  Could Dundalk Bay, be a hotspot for our Common Gulls from Northern Ireland?  Time will tell, but it appears we have a good pair of eyes on the lookout.