Friday, 6 September 2019

Back to Life...

Another late post, but it seems that it may well be wiser to publish on Friday's if possible, as it gives me time to gather in all of the info needed during the course of the week.

A few birds have been re-sighted for the first time since last winter, which goes towards my aim of adding to the longevity for as many ringed birds as can possibly be found.  A steady stream of chicks which hatched out this summer, and were 'colour-ringed', are being reported.  These will no doubt, please the ringers concerned, rewarding them for their efforts.

The winter is only beginning, but it will be interesting to see what turns up on our shores.  Some birds habits continue to surprise me.  When you think they may have perished, they pop up again, and the re-sightings of long distance travellers, makes 'Ring Reading' even more enjoyable, and well worth the effort.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 2nd September 2019       
Once again I opted for a Monday morning visit, which meant that I avoided the trainee canoeists yesterday, but more importantly, the forecast for Monday morning was not very good.  As previously mentioned, I reckoned that bad weather would force the gulls off the flat roof of the new 'Gateway Centre', which will rehouse the new cafe, and will also become the new home of the Lough Neagh Rescue Service.

As my regular readers will know, I have had serious problems whilst trying to read the rings on Black-headed Gulls, since the construction of the new building started.  Now nearing completion, the gulls are now resting on the flat roof, their legs totally out of sight.

Arriving at the Marina, at 08.55 this morning, it was raining quite heavily, and there was quite a strong westerly wind blowing in from the Lough.  Getting out of my car, to make my way through the barrier leading to the car park, about 30 to 40 Black-headed Gulls were spread out on the ground before me.  The weather was doing it's job, in keeping the gulls off the rooftops.

On positioning my car, just the one ringed gull was present, and that was   2ABK .  It was one of the 16 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, that have already been recorded on this, my 7th winter season of 'Ring Reading at Antrim Marina'.  The next ring to be read, was at 09.19, and this one came as quite of a surprise.

I had written off   2ABA , as dead, a long time ago.  I considered   2ABA   to be a winter visitor, as I have never recorded this gull at the Marina during the breeding season.  However, the gull was known to arrive back in mid to late July, and departing again in late February or at the start of March.  During the winter of 2017/2018, it's regular pattern of movements changed.  For a start,   2ABA   was very late returning, and did not appear back until the 25th September 2017.

It then disappeared from the Marina, with my last sighting, having been recorded on the 14th January 2018.  Last winter (2018/2019), I never saw the gull at all, which led me to believe the gull must have died, sometime around my last sighting in January 2018.  I received an email, in November 2018, from Graham McElwaine, who visited the Marina, on the 28th.  Whilst at the Marina, Graham recorded 6 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, which included   2ABA .

Of course, I was very sceptical about this sighting, as I was there week after week during the winter, and never saw   2ABA   at all.  I still entered Graham's sighting onto my 'Antrim Marina Spreadsheet', but placed question marks beside the record.

We all know, that most Black-headed Gulls tend to be habitual in their movements, but the question posed, what was   2ABA   up to.  The answer to this we'll never know, but I'm taking a guess here.  Could it have been possible that   2ABA , paired up to a bird, and followed that bird during it's own summer and winter movements, returning now that the pairing has broken up.  As I say, it's just a guess, but it will be interesting to see how often   2ABA , is recorded this winter.

From 09.45, until my departure just after midday, the number of Black-headed Gulls present, just topped the hundred mark, although birds were clearly coming and going, judging by the re-sightings of the ringed birds recorded throughout the morning.  A total of 19 'colour-rings' were read, which included the first re-sightings during this autumn/winter, of another six birds.  As well as   2ABA ,   2AAA ,   2AAV ,   2BRA ,   2CSA   and   2CSX , were the new birds recorded.

The standout sighting of the other five, is that of   2AAV .  This bird, if not recorded at the Marina, is often found at the Elim Church, in Antrim's Parkhall Housing Estate.  This gull is no way near shy, and comes readily to hand for bread handouts, but for some strange reason, I hadn't seen it since the 10th December 2018, at the Elim Church.  I had feared that this bird might have perished as well, but today's sighting, goes to show that anomalies in their routines, should be expected.

Today's visit to the Marina was very satisfactory, as the gulls were on the ground at all times, which just goes to show the difference the weather makes.  Although the rain had ceased by the time of my departure, not a single person arrived to feed the birds.  This meant that I had total peace and quite, barring the odd walker or two passing by.

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded Today - Monday 2nd September 2019
 2ABK   2ABA   2ABS   2AAN   2AAV   2BRA   2CSX   2AAB   2CJT   2AAK 
 2ACV   2AAA   2CTB   2CTC   2ABL   2CSR   2ABN   2CSA   2CSJ    

Black-headed Gulls Recorded This Winter, but not Present Today
 2CSB   2CSK   2CSL 

Below, are the six gulls recorded for the first time during this autumn/winter season, which includes   2AAA , the very first Black-headed Gull, to be ringed, in what is now Adam McClure's former Northern Ireland Project.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAA   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (02 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 12th November 2012, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 6 years, 9 months & 21 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABA   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (02 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 28th December 2012, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 6 years, 8 months & 5 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAV   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (02 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 28th December 2012, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 6 years, 8 months & 5 days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2BRA   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (02 Sep 2019)
Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 1st February 2015, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 4 years, 7 months and 1 day)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSA   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (02 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed 1st Winter Bird, on the 19th November 2017, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 1 year, 9 months & 14 Days)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSX   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (02 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed 1st Winter Bird, on the 3rd December 2018, at Antrim Marina)
(Duration as of today :- 0 years, 8 months & 30 days)


      Ringing Details Received       
I am still waiting on a couple of ringing recoveries from the BTO, and as yet, I've still had no word about the Scottish-rung Oystercatcher.  Although I know of it's ringing details, there is some re-sighting history that I know nothing about.

I emailed Tara Adcock, of 'Birdwatch Ireland', concerning the juvenile Common Tern -   37P , which I recorded at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, on the 24th August 2019.

Tara, was able to confirm that   37P , was ringed as a chick, as part of the Dublin Bay Birds Project.  It was ringed on the 4th July 2019, on a pontoon, at Dublin Docks.  It's appearance at the WoW Reserve, occurred 1 month and 20 days after being ringed, having flown 143 kms / 89 miles (N).  

An unusually late reply from Böddi in Iceland, has been received.  Attached to the email, was an updated PDF File, for the Oystercatcher OO-W(AA), who's return to Carnlough Bay, was recorded on the 25th August 2019.  My last sighting before the summer, was made on the 16th February 2019, but apparently OO-W(AA), was not recorded back in Iceland during the breeding season.

Böddi, is still receiving summer observations, so possible sightings my still arrive with him for OO-W(AA).  Ringed as a breeding adult in 2016, this is now the fourth winter, that I have recorded the bird at Carnlough Bay.  It's PDF File can be read (here).


      Sunday 1st September 2019       
I did not have time to get out yesterday, but made a fairly early start this morning, as high tide was forecast for 13:09.  I planned to start at Larne, making my way south towards Belfast, and finishing off at Kinnegar Beach, in time for the tide starting to recede.  My first port of call was at Sandy Bay in Larne, and I couldn't have got a better start to the day.

A 'colour-ringed' Mediterranean Gull was spotted, and the code was easily captured from the road overlooking the beach.  Reading   AY.CT , I knew this was a German-rung bird, and the code seemed to be familiar.  On returning home, I checked my spreadsheet, and this was my first sighting of a bird previously recorded here.

Ringed as a chick, in June 2017, at Löbnitz, near Leipzig, Germany,   AY.CT , was spotted on two occasions at Whitehead, County Antrim (2nd & 7th September 2017), by Cameron Moore (Photo).    AY.CT , was not seen again, until the 19th April 2019, when it re-surfaced at the RSPB's Leighton Moss Nature Reserve, in Lancashire, England, and was spotted by a David Cousins (Photo).

I emailed Andreas Zours in Germany, who replied, attaching an updated PDF File for   AY.CT .  9 days after   AY.CT , had been recorded at Leighton Moss, the gull had returned to it's natal colony in Germany.  Seemingly   AY.CT , was prospecting for a possible future breeding site, as not only was it recorded at it's own natal colony at the Löbnitz Gravel Pits, it apparently was seen with a female at the neighbouring Rehbach Gravel Pits.  A copy of the PDF file can be read here (here).

The photos linked above, were by courtesy of Cameron Moore and David Cousins.

Mediterranean Gull  -    AY.CT   -  Sandy Bay, Larne, Co. Antrim  (01 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2017, at the Löbnitz Gravel Pit, Leipzig, Germany)

My next stop was at Glynn, on Larne Lough.  I had hoped to re-sight the Icelandic Oystercatcher spotted last week, but there was no sign of the bird.  There was a large group of Oystercatchers resting on an extensive area of seaweed, but I was not going to wait for the incoming tide to dislodge them.

Moving on to Whitehead, very few birds were present.  One 'colour-ring' was spotted on a Sandwich Tern, reading   UVB .  At home, I checked my spreadsheet, but   UVB , was a new sighting.  I looked up the cr-birding website to see who the owner was, and duly sent an email to Chris Redfern.

Just 30 minutes later, came the reply from Chris.    UVB  , had been ringed as a chick, on the Coquet Islands, situated off the east coast of England, on the 12th June 2014.  My sighting of   UVB   today, is it's first record for Northern Ireland.  It's re-sighting history can be read (here).

Sandwich Tern  -    UVB   -  Whitehead, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (01 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 12th June 2014, on Coquet Island, Northumberland, England)

Also of interest at Whitehead, was an un-ringed juvenile Mediterranean Gull.  It was here that   AY.CT   (mentioned above), was recorded two years ago, and I wonder if any of the young Meds from Germany, will appear on our shores this winter.

Next stop was at the harbour in Carrickfergus, where I was hoping to record a couple of Adam McClure's Black-headed Gulls, especially   2ADD .  No sooner had I parked the car, and threw out bits of bread, when   2ADD   landed beside me.  We already know, that   2ADD   winters here in Carrickfergus, but we also know it breeds on Lough Neagh.

  2ADD , would normally appear at Antrim Marina, just prior to the commencement of the breeding season, where it most likely nests on the nearby 'Torpedo Platform'.  We also know, that   2ADD , stops by the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet for a week or two, before making it's way to the Marina, and after the breeding season ends, would do the reverse on it's way back to Carrickfergus.

My last sighting of   2ADD , was at the KFC outlet on the 18th February 2019, but this year it was not seen at Antrim Marina.  The construction work there, may have had a hand in this.  I never saw the gull at the KFC outlet after the breeding season, but this may have been due to the lack of regular visits.  Anyway, today's sighting of   2ADD , was pleasing, as I now know this bird is still doing well.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADD   -  Carrickfergus Harbour, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (01 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 29th November 2013, at Carrickfergus Harbour)

From the harbour, I drove up to the ponds at the Leisure Centre in Carrickfergus.  There were plenty of BHGs present here, including a surprisingly high number of juveniles.  I had my fourth sighting of   2CPS , which I first saw here, on the 11th August 2018.  Three earlier sightings on my spreadsheet, were made by Paul McCullough, on the 28th November & 9th December 2017, and by Suzanne Belshaw, on the 2nd January 2018.  All seven sightings of   2CPS , have been at the Leisure Centre.

  2CPS , was ringed as a chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Blue Circle Island, on Larne Lough.  The distance to the Leisure Centre, is a meagre 12 kms / 7 miles (S), the duration now being 2 years, 2 months and 16 days.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CPS   -  Carrickfergus Leisure Centre, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (01 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

Also at the Leisure Centre, was a very friendly Grey Heron.  This bird would walk straight up to me, and was only inches away from taking bread from my hand, which it inclined to do.  Dropping bread onto the ground, it would take it and walk away, before coming back for more.  This is very unusual for a Grey Heron, and I never even thought of taking a photo.

Leaving the Leisure Centre, I checked the shore at Rhanbouy Park in Carrickfergus.  By now, the tide was near fully in.  Throwing out bits of bread, I soon had the attention of a handful of Black-headed Gulls.  I was hoping to see the Norwegian   JJ02 , but there was no sign of it as yet.

Whitehouse Lagoon, on the edge of Belfast was my next stop.  The Lagoon, was about three quarters full, as the sea was still entering through the concrete pipes below the motorway.  A good number of gulls and waders, were slowly being pushed towards me.  Of special interest here, were around 200 Red Knots, and about 100 Black-tailed Godwits.  Surely, there was a ring or two among them, but sadly, not a ring was spotted on anything.

By now, I was waiting for the tide to recede at Kinnegar Beach, so in the meantime, I made my way to hide 2, at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve.  Plenty of waders, especially good numbers of Oystercatchers, Curlews and Black-tailed Godwits, were roosting, awaiting for the tide to go out.  There was very little movement among them, and even at that, most were standing on one leg.

Terns, were few and far between, landing on the planks in front of the hide.  Even the gravel covered nesting platform, was now deserted by the terns, though a few very still obviously tending chicks on the two main platforms.

Whilst in the hide, a gent appeared, who turned out to be Derek Polley.  We had never met before, and had corresponded via emails about ring sightings.  Derek would follow my blog, so it was great to meet up with him, and here is another - Hi - from me.

Knowing the tide would now be going out at Kinnegar, I made my way over, stopping firstly to check the pond, which is a high water roost.  On the beach, I spotted my third Mediterranean Gull of the day, which was an un-ringed adult.

Just the one ring was spotted though, and this was on a Herring Gull.  The bird was standing in the river, which flowed across the beach, and only the top of the 'Darvic' could be seen.  To be awkward, it flew off and headed towards to rocks at the other end of the beach.  Gathering my gear, I walked over and relocated it standing on a rock.  Capturing the code   0Y:W , I had a feeling that this was not the Herring Gull I recorded here a couple of weeks ago.

On returning home,   0Y:W   turned out to be a different bird, as it was   0L:W , that I recorded here on the 18th August 2019.    0Y:W  , was no stranger to me, as I had recorded the bird here at Kinnegar on two other occasions - 31st March 2018 & 10th November 2018.    0Y:W , was ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 23rd May 2014, on the Copeland Islands in County Down.

The only other record, that I have for this gull, was made on the 24th August 2015.  A Gerry O'Neill, spotted   0Y:W , at Rathcor Beach, in County Louth, which was 88 kms / 55 miles (S), from the Copelands.  Kinnegar is situated 21 kms / 13 miles (W), of Big Copeland Island.

Herring Gull  -    0Y:W   -  Kinnegar Shore, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (01 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 23rd May 2014, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)


      Other Ring Sightings Reported       
Richard Donaghey copied me into an email, concerning the sighting of a 'colour-ringed' juvenile Sandwich Tern.  A Lindsay Hodges spotted   KJP , on the shore of Kinnegar Beach, on the 25th August 2019.  With Richard's help, Tony Murray responded to the sighting, to say that   KJP , was ringed as a chick, on the 25th June 2019, at Lady's Island Lake, in County Wexford.

Interestingly, Lindsay's was the second sighting to have been reported since this young tern fledged.  On the 13th August 2019,   KJP   was spotted at Rhos Point, Colwyn Bay, Wales.  This means, this youngster has already crossed the Irish Sea on two occasions.

   KJP , is also the third youngster from Lady's Island Lake, to have been reported here in Northern Ireland recently.  On the 24th August   KVT , was spotted on the Bann Estuary, in County Londonderry, as was   KVH , on the 26th August.  The distance from Lady's Island Lake, to Kinnegar Beach, is roughly 272 kms / 169 miles (NNE).  I managed to find Lindsay's photo on Twitter, and edited it, which I hope she does not mind.

Sandwich Tern  -    KJP   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (25 Aug 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 25th June 2019, at Lady's Island Lake, Co. Wexford, R. of Ireland)
(Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Hodges)

Graham McElwaine, has been busy again, as he copied me in to an email to Mark Fitzpatrick, on the Isle of Man.  On the 1st September, Graham spotted two juvenile Great Black-backed Gulls at Ardglass harbour, rung   S93:M   &   M57:M .  Mark was quick to reply, to say that these were the first re-sightings for both youngsters.

  S93:M , was ringed as a chick, on the 22nd June 2019, on Kitterland Island, which is a small island which lies between the Isle of Man mainland, and the Calf of Man, where there is a Bird Observatory.    M57:M , was ringed as a chick, on the Calf of Man, on the 26th June 2019.  Ardglass Harbour, lies 57 kms / 35 miles (WNW), from the Isle of Man, which is an island in the Irish Sea, that lies between the British mainland and Ireland.

My thanks to Graham, for passing on his sightings, and to Mark for the ringing details.


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