Friday, 13 September 2019


Not much was done this past weekend, as it was my birthday on Saturday (my 59th), and Sunday saw me popping out just for a few hours.  This meant my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, again took place on Monday morning.

Therefore, I spotted very little to report on, but ring sightings reported to me by others, have helped to 'beef up' this post.  For me personally, my highlights were, my first ever sighting of a 'colour-ringed' Redshank, plus a first re-sighting, by Tom Cooney, of a 'colour-ringed' Common Gull from Shane Wolsey's former project, which I have now taken over.

Next weekend, I will endeavour to make it a busy weekend.  It has been a while, since I checked out the Common Gulls at Millisle, and I fancy checking up on my oldest Black-headed Gull at Ballywalter.  Brent Geese, have now started to arrive back in good numbers, so maybe a ring or two could also be recorded at the same time.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 9th September 2019       
As I departed from home on my way to Antrim Marina, the last of the early morning drizzle was clearing.  When I arrived at the Marina, the rain had stopped, although still cloudy and a slight westerly breeze, the temperature was reading 11°C, which crept up to 14.5°C, by my departure at 11am.  Arriving at 08:15, only 6 Mallards were present, and not another bird in sight.

Around 08:30, the first Black-headed Gulls began to trickle in, with   2CJT   being the first 'colour-ringed' bird to be recorded.  By 08:50, a head count totalled 34 BHGs, with three rings recorded.  Throughout the morning, the gulls would arrive and depart on a regular basis, but never more than 60 BHGs were present at any one time.

Due to the calm conditions, gulls were again resting on the roof of the new 'Gateway Centre', which is still under construction.  Originally scheduled to open in August, a sign had been put up to say it would open in the Autumn.  Even that sign has now been removed, which probably means it will be a few weeks yet before the Centre opens.

At times, a good number of gulls would land in the car park, where their legs could be checked for rings, though these were few and far between.  By 09:29, 9 'colour-rings' were recorded, with the 10th and final ring being spotted at 10:27.  By now, very few gulls would venture into the car park, so I called it a day at 11am.

This is my seventh autumn/winter season of 'Ring Watching' at Antrim Marina.  Since the beginning of August, 22 individuals have been recorded, but there were no new sightings today.  Once again, this was not a very satisfactory visit, and again proves that I need poor weather conditions.  Only then, will gulls arrive in numbers, and most importantly, land in the car park.  Legs cannot be viewed if the gulls choose the flat roof on which to rest.

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded Today - Monday 9th September 2019
 2CJT   2CSA   2ABK   2CSX   2CSB   2ACV   2AAA   2ABL   2ABN   2CSR 

Gulls Recorded so far This Winter, but not Recorded Today
 2AAK   2ABS   2ABA   2AAB   2AAN   2AAV 
 2BRA   2CSJ   2CSK   2CSL   2CTB   2CTC 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Last week, I forgot to mention the other birds at the Marina, but most noticeable, was the absence of the Mute Swans.  This was the same on my arrival today, but the family group, with their five cygnets arrived at 09:16, from up-river.  They remained throughout the rest of my visit.

Talking to one of the workmen, at the new cafe, he had noticed the size of the cygnets since he first saw them back in May.  He also commented on how aggressive the parents were, chasing off any other visiting swans.  This likely explains why the normally ever present   W34158 , has not been seen since last spring.

Mallard numbers were poor, unlike a couple of weeks ago, where the total easily topped the 100 mark.  Just six birds at first, increased to a total of around 40, by the time of my departure.  It's been a very long time now, since I last recorded one with a ring here.

I was pretty sure, that an adult Common Gull which arrived at 09:07, was the same bird, which constantly came and went throughout the morning.  A Lesser Black-backed Gull, appeared at 08:40 and remained throughout.  A second bird arrived at 09:50, and it too remained.  The adult Herring Gull, appeared at 10:18, but chose to remain on the roof of the new cafe.

Other species, were 2 Hooded Crows, 7 Jackdaws and a single male Grey Wagtail.

Departing the Marina, I returned home, to undertake some chores in my garden, before grabbing a couple of hours sleep, to set me up for the evening shift at work.


      Sunday 8th September 2019       
As mentioned at the start of this post, I did not go out birding on Saturday as it was my birthday.  I was however in the town of Larne, and whilst there popped by Sandy Bay, for a quick check on the birds.  I did spot a Black-headed Gull from Adam McClure's former project, rung   2ABH .

  2ABH , was caught and ringed by Adam, on the 21st January 2013, as an adult male, at Sandy Bay.  Since then, it has a long list of re-sightings at Sandy Bay, occurring during the autumn and winter months each year.  Just one sighting away from Sandy Bay, was recorded by Adam, when he spotted   2ABH   at Antrim Marina, on the 30th September 2013.

Personally, I'd be very sceptical about this sighting, as I've never recorded the gull there in my time, and why would the bird make a one off visit so far from Sandy Bay.  The duration since being ringed, is now 6 years, 7 months and 17 days.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABH   -  Sandy Bay, Larne, Co. Antrim  (07 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 21st January 2013, at Sandy Bay)

On Sunday 8th September, my first stop was at Glynn, on Larne Lough.  Here, I wanted to 'nail' that Icelandic-rung Oystercatcher, which I saw on the 25th August.  Having suspected the return of LW-W(EA) for the third winter running, my camera failed to capture the rings due to a severe heat haze.

With the tide on its way out, there were even more Oystercatchers present than on my previous visit.  Painstakingly scoping these for over half an hour from the railway platform of Glynn station, I couldn't find my target.  I then heard the calls from a flock of around 14 birds, which arrived from the Larne direction.  Landing at the water's edge, these birds were quite far off, but included LW-W(EA), my camera making short work of the distance.

LW-W(EA), was ringed as a breeding adult, on the 19th May 2017, in Southern Iceland.  It's first re-sighting occurred during the 2017/2018 winter, when Neal Warnock, spotted it at Glynn, on the 27th January 2018.  My first sighting of this bird was made in December 2018, after it had been recorded back in Iceland on six occasions during the summer.

I also recorded LW-W(EA), on the 31st January and on the 5th March 2019, and it appears that I forgot to report those sightings to Böddi, having received an updated file from Böddi for today's sighting.  Last summer, the bird was reported on one occasion back in Iceland, but not all of the data may have reached Böddi as yet.  I've have now submitted my other sightings, which will be added to the birds history, but here is the PDF that I currently hold (Read).

Oystercatcher  -  LW-W(EA)  -  Glynn, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim  (08 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 19th May 2017, at Auðsholt, S. Iceland)

Scoping through the other gulls and waders at Glynn, no more rings were spotted, so I drove on to Whitehead, and then to Rhanbouy Park in Carrickfergus, but again no rings.

The shore at Whiteabbey, was my next stop, where I re-sighted the Common Gull -   2AIP , which is a regular winter visitor there.    2AIP   is from Shane Wolsey's former project, and was ringed on the Copeland Islands in County Down, as a chick in June 2012.  It's full re-sighting history can be seen (here), which is not spectacular, but the latest sighting does add to the gull's longevity record.

Common Gull  -    2AIP   -  Whiteabbey Shoreline, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (08 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 11th June 2012, on Big Copeland Island, The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Unfortunately for me, I couldn't have arrived at Whiteabbey at a worse time.  Many of the gulls were floating out on the sea, having been disturbed by a man walking along the beach.  Scoping the more distant gulls along the shore revealed no more rings, so I went to the nearby Whitehouse Lagoon.

No rings were spotted here either, but most birds had by now departed for the mudflats on Belfast Lough, due to the low tide.  I met another birdwatcher, who was here from Sheffield.  He had spotted the Lagoon, whilst passing by on the train.  Having got off at the next station, he walked back to the Lagoon, which took him about 25 minutes.  We had a brief chat, and I allowed him to use my telescope.  I didn't ask his name, but gave him one of my cards for this blog.  Should he read this, it's a big 'Hi' from me.

My final stop of the day, was at the Dargan Mudflats, just a short distance away from Whitehouse Lagoon.  As usual, there were plenty of gulls and waders busy feeding, but I was surprised by the low numbers of Black-headed Gulls.  However, scoping through the birds present, especially the high number of Black-tailed Godwits, one ringed bird was spotted, this being my first ever 'colour-ringed' Redshank.

Despite being a long was off, my camera once again did it's job, and a number of photos were taken.  Having spotted no other rings, I returned to my car, to check what I had captured on the Redshank.  It had a plain Orange Ring on it's left tibia, and a coded Black ring on the right tibia, plus a normal metal ring was fitted on the right tarsus.  The coded ring appeared to read   1V , but looking through all of the photos, I was not 100% convinced.

I knew the ringer concerned, would have a better idea about the codes used, so on returning home I checked out the cr-birding site to find the project from where it came.  Unable to find a match I sent an email to Brian Burke, and Tara Adcock, asking if the bird belonged to the Dublin Bay Birds Project, possibly using a combination not registered as yet.  I received a reply from Brian, who stated the Redshank definitely did not belong to that project.

Having drawn a blank here, I emailed Richard du Feu, who, in the past, has been very helpful with 'colour-ringed' wader sightings.  Having sent the email at 12:19, on September the 9th, a reply was received at 12:27 (hows that for speed).  The Redshank belonged to a Paddy Jenks.  Although Richard copied Paddy in, to my reply, as I write, I'm still waiting for Paddy to contact me.

Since these emails, I checked the International Wader Study Group's Website (Site), and came across a spreadsheet, with all of the wader projects involving 'colour-rings'.  I downloaded a copy, which was updated in August 2019.  Although a trifle 'heavy' to work through, once I got the 'gist' of how to find a relevant project, this spreadsheet will prove to be an invaluable tool regards 'Ring Reading'.

Redshank  -  O-  1V   -  Dargan Mudflats, Belfast Lough  (08 Sep 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)


      Ring Sightings Reported to Me       
One feature of this blog, is to include other ring sightings of birds belonging to Northern Ireland, whether ringed here or spotted here.  This past week, has seen a number of emails arriving with me.  My favourite, has to be a Common Gull spotted by a Tom Cooney.  Having taken over Shane Wolsey's former project on the Copelands, I continued with the start of my own project in the summer of 2017.  Therefore, any sightings of our Common Gulls are especially pleasing.

Tom Cooney's sighting of   2AHV , on the Rockmarshall Shore, of Dundalk Bay in County Louth, proves my recent comments, on how elusive our 'colour-ringed' Common Gulls are.    2AHV , was ringed as a chick by Shane Wolsey, on the 27th June 2014, on Big Copeland Island in County Down.  Tom's sighting, on the 10th September 2019, is a first, with the gull having been ringed - 5 years, 2 months and 14 days earlier.  The distance, from the Copelands, is roughly 89 kms / 55 miles (SW).

In his email, Tom went on to say, that he's spotted a couple of 'Blue Ringed' Common Gulls in Dundalk Bay over the last year, but could not close enough to read the rings.  A camera such as my Nikon P1000, would certainly help over these long distances.  My special thanks goes to Tom, and I sincerely hope he can capture the codes on a few more of those Common Gulls in Dundalk Bay.

Talking of elusive gulls, Graham McElwaine and Suzanne Belshaw, have reported a Great Black-backed and Herring Gull.  On the 6th September, Graham spotted an adult Great Black-backed Gull, at Millquarter Bay in County Down.  He reported the sighting to Graham Prole, who now takes care of the former ringing project which belonged to Chris Honan.

  2CL , was ringed as a chick, on the 27th June 2009, on Ireland's Eye, an island just off the County Dublin coast.  It was spotted at nearby Howth harbour in May 2014, and again in July 2015.  These were the only sightings until spotted by Graham.  Even for a gull the size of a Great Black-backed, it is surprising how they go around unnoticed.  Graham Prole supplied a PDF File, which can be read (here).  My thanks goes to Graham McElwaine for his sighting and to Graham Prole for supplying the history of   2CL .

The Herring Gull -   T3UH , spotted by Suzanne Belshaw, on the 11th September, was the other elusive bird.  Ringed as a chick, on the 30th June 2012, on the Calf of Man, Suzanne's sighting was the first, after a duration of 7 years, 2 months and 12 days.  With so many birdwatchers around the British Isles, it is surprising just how these big gulls go about their business and not be seen by anyone.  The distance from the Calf of Man, to Tyrella beach is roughly 64 kms / 39 miles (NW).

Herring Gull  -    T3UH   -  Tyrella Beach, Co. Down  (11 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 30th June 2012, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Whilst on Tyrella beach, Suzanne also spotted an Icelandic-rung Oystercatcher, the code reading YG-W(NC).  Böddi, sent the PDF for this bird on Thursday morning - 12th September.  YG-W(NC), had been ringed as an un-sexed breeding adult, in May of 2017.  Suzanne's sighting was the first record of the bird outside of Iceland.  The PDF File, can be read (here).  My thanks to Suzanne for reporting her sightings, complete with photos, and to Böddi for the info.

Oystercatcher  -  YG-W(NC)  -  Tyrella Beach, Co. Down  (11 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 17th May 2017, at Lambastaðir, in SW Iceland)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Another Icelandic-rung Oystercatcher, was reported to me by Michael Jackson.  On the 8th September 2019, he spotted OO-W(AA), on the beach at Carnlough.  This was the same bird, I recorded on the 25th August 2019, having returned to Carnlough Bay for the fourth winter running (Blog).  My thanks goes to Michael for his report and photo.  Hopefully, now that Michael has made contact, a few more ring sightings will be reported by him in the future.

Oystercatcher  -  OO-W(AA)  -  Carnlough Beach, Carnlough, Co. Antrim  (08 Sep 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 22nd May 2017, at Sandgerði, SW Iceland)
(Photo Courtesy of Michael Jackson)

An email also arrived from Andreas Zours, which I had been copied into.  It concerned the German-rung Mediterranean Gull, whose re-sighting, I reported on, in my previous post (Blog).  Having spotted   AY.CT , on the1st September 2019, at Sandy Bay in Larne, the gull was seen again on the 6th September 2019, just a couple of kilometres to the north at Drains Bay.  I contacted the finder - John Spottiswood, who kindly agreed to his sighting being reported on.  Andreas supplied an updated PDF for John's sighting (PDF), and I thank John for his permission and to Andreas, for keeping me in the loop.


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