Thursday, 24 October 2019

He's Back...

Personally, I had very little to report on this weekend, but again, sightings from others has helped to 'bulk' up this post.  I didn't even notice till the other day, that I had surpassed the '250 mark' in posts overall, which is a rather good 'landmark'.

Despite a disappointing weekend, for a change, I had an excellent visit to Antrim Marina on Monday morning.  The construction work on the new cafe, is obviously coming close to completion, as the wooden hoardings have been taken down, and an extensive temporary wire fence has now been put in place.  Hopefully, all will be completed before the onset of the bad weather begins, which should entice more gulls to the Marina, and the last thing I need, are for them to be spooked all the time by the construction workers.  After Monday's visit, maybe things on the 'Ring Reading' front, could now be in my favour, at last.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 21st October 2019       
Electing for another Monday morning, to undertake my latest visit to Antrim Marina, I did not expect too much in the way of gulls, as it was a nice calm autumnal day, with little wind and hazy sunshine.  Pulling up to the barrier which allows me to take the car into the front car park beside the Marina, I could see plenty of Black-headed Gulls on the ground and around the jetties.

As I got out of the car, to raise the barrier via a key fob which the council supplied me with last year, some of the gulls began calling and flew in my direction.  Obviously, some must recognise me and my car, knowing a feed would be forthcoming.  Arriving just before 9:30am, and departing just after 12:30, todays' visit, was by far the best in a long time.

Around 60 to 80 BHGs at first, increased in numbers to around 150 when I decided to call it a day, and whats more, very few landed on the roof of the new 'Gateway Centre', which will house the new cafe.  From the off, colour-rings were read at a steady rate throughout my visit, with   2CSA   being the last of 20 colour-rings read at 11:57.  In my previous post, I had predicted the return of   2AAR   or   2ADV   this week, and possibly both birds.

You can imagine how jubilant I felt, as at 10:44, a Black-headed Gull which alighted onto a bollard quite close to my car, turned out to be   2AAR .  This bird which we know appears to breed in Poland, has made it back for another winter.  Having read rings here now, for this my seventh winter, I have become used to the schedules that some of these gulls keep.  It has been a while since I last included a table showing the arrival and departure dates for a particular bird, but the one for   2AAR   below, shows how precise the arrival and departure dates are for this bird.

  2AAR , was one of the earliest gulls to be ringed by Adam McClure, as part of his Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study.  Due to certain circumstances, Adam gave up on the project in June 2018, to which, I was an addicted contributor, having become a 'Ring Reader' because of the project.  My weekly winter visit to Antrim Marina, is a study, within a study, which I aim to continue for as long as I can.

With today's delightful sighting of   2AAR , the duration since being ringed is now 6 years and 10 months exactly.    2AAR   was already a full adult when rung, so the birds exact age is unknown, but hopefully we'll see this bird each winter for a few more years to come.  There was no sign of   2ADV , which I call my 'midday bird', as when it does come back each winter, it nearly always appears around midday.  Today, midday came and went, but no sign of   2ADV .  This means, that if it has survived through the summer, it should definitely be back by the time of my next visit.

  2AAR , was my twelfth ring sighting this morning, and shortly afterwards, my fourteenth sighting recorded at 10:54, gave me quite of a surprise -   2AAP   2AAP , is one of those 'in your face birds', which when present is recorded nearly every week, trying to get in on it's share of bread offerings.  In my previous post, I was practically writing this bird off as dead, due to it's non-show so far this winter.  Perhaps the continuing construction of the new cafe, may have a bearing on it's absence until now, so there is still hope yet of recording   2AAT ,   2ABF   and the Lithuanian (White) T35J.

Throughout the morning, I had gulls around me at all times, which made this an excellent visit.  I had gulls landing onto my car and feeding from my hand.  Throwing bread down between the legs of the swans, also saw gulls stealing in to grab a few bits.  I'm trying to gain their confidence, which will enable me to catch and ring a few new individuals later this winter, when these birds really do become extremely hungry.

Before today, I had recorded 22 individually colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls so far this winter, of which 18 were sighted today, and with the arrival of   2AAR   and   2AAP , that took the total to 20 altogether.  Among the four absentees was   2CSX .  However, there was an interesting sighting of   2CSX   three days earlier on the 18th October.  Suzanne Belshaw, had returned to the Belfast Waterworks, in a second attempt to find and read the ring of a Finnish Black-headed Gull, when she spotted   2CSX   on one of the raised concrete platforms (read below).

As already stated, today was an excellent visit, with plenty of interaction with the gulls.  With the addition of   2AAR   and   2AAP , my overall total of colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls recorded at Antrim Marina this winter rises to 24 individuals.  As the winter progresses, the overall total should steadily rise, and I'm hoping that an odd ringed bird or two, from other countries will turn up.  One Black-headed Gull I would dearly love to record again, is a Danish metal-rung bird, which appeared here last winter as a juvenile.  This youngster enjoyed it's feeds of bread, which no doubt helped it through it's first winter.  Will those memories entice it's return this winter?

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded at Antrim Marina, on Monday 21st October 2019
 2AAK   2ACV   2AAN   2CJT   2ABK   2CTB   2BRA   2ABL   2CTC   2AAB 
 2CSJ   2AAR   2CSK   2AAP   2CSR   2CSL   2AAA   2CSB   2ABN   2CSA 

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded this Winter, but not Present Today
 2ABS   2ABA   2AAV   2CSX 

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAR   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (21 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 21st December 2012, at Antrim Marina)

Ringing and Re-Sighting History of Black-headed Gull -  2AAR 
(Each Colour Band Represents First and Last Dates Recorded Each Winter)
Date Details Location
21 Dec 2012 Ringed as an Adult Male by Adam McClure Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
12 Mar 2013 Ring Read by Keith Stevens Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
05 Apr 2013 Ring Read by Artur Blad Pomorskie, Gdańsk-Kowale, Poland - 1592km.
11 Apr 2013 Ring Read by Michal Polakowski Podlaskie, Hryniewicze, Poland - 1919km.
20 Oct 2013 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
09 Mar 2014 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
17 Oct 2014 Ring Read by Adam McClure Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
15 Mar 2015 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
11 Oct 2015 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
06 Mar 2016 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
16 Oct 2016 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
12 Mar 2017 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
22 Oct 2017 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
12 Mar 2018 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
15 Oct 2018 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
11 Mar 2019 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.
21 Oct 2019 Ring Read by Gareth D.A. Platt Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Northern Ireland.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAP   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (21 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 21st December 2012, at Antrim Marina

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
One of the first things to grab my attention on my arrival at the Marina this morning, were the five cygnets gathered by the slipway.  In recent weeks, these cygnets have become independent of the care of their parents.  During last weeks visit, three of the cygnets arrived in from the Lough individually.  It was good to see all five back together again.  After a while, they departed together and swam upriver towards Antrim town.

I was engrossed with the Black-headed Gulls today, I never wrote down times for the movements of the swans.  Barring the five cygnets, two other swans present, are the two which I think are last years youngsters.  They were joined by an adult female, which swam in from the Lough shortly after my arrival.  Not long before my departure, two of the cygnets that had swam upriver, returned along with their parents, which triggered the aggressive behaviour of the male.

He attempted to chase away the three other swans, with the adult female, trying her luck at fighting back.  A ten to fifteen minute battle began, with both birds locking onto each other, swimming around in circles with a lot of heavy wing flapping.  As the time passed by, both birds were quickly tiring and the action slowed down.  Eventually, the adult female broke free and made a quick escape towards the Lough.  Whilst ongoing, this was quite a spectacular fight to witness.

Just the one male Mallard was present when I arrived.  Numbers slowly built up to around the forty mark by the time of my departure, which is still very low for this time of the year.  Again, most legs were checked for rings, but still no luck with these.

The adult Herring Gull, appeared shortly after my arrival, but only remained for about thirty minutes.  Just before my departure, two adult Common Gulls were spotted perching on the end of the long jetty, but neither were ringed.  At the beginning of last winter, a metal-ringed Common Gull appeared, but I was not able to capture the number on the ring.  With the construction of the new cafe having begun, followed later by the dredging operations, I never saw this gull again.  The bird was most likely to have been the Scottish-rung gull, which had first arrived here as a juvenile and recorded over several winters afterwards.  I would be delighted to record his one again.

Just the one Hooded Crow, a surprisingly low number of just four Jackdaws, and a single male Pied Wagtail, were the only other species noted at the Marina today.

As usual these days, I elected not to visit the other sites around the town of Antrim, but having noted the increasing number of Black-headed Gulls arriving into Northern Ireland, I will definitely have to start checking these sites again in the near future.


      From Suzanne Belshaw       
In last week's post I reported on the ring sightings supplied by Suzanne Belshaw.  Most of these, were Black-headed Gull sightings of bird which belonged to Adam McClure's former project.  Time and space, prevented the inclusion of these birds, so I wrote about her sightings of colour-ringed Mute Swans and Greylag Geese, plus the sighting of a metal-rung Finnish Black-headed Gull, where Suzanne was missing a single digit, from completing the whole number.

I went along to the Belfast Waterworks, to try and resolve the ownership of the colour-ringed birds, by obtaining their metal numbers and reporting these to the BTO.  Nothing has arrived back concerning these birds as yet, but while I was at the waterworks, I kept an eye out for Suzanne's Finnish Gull, plus a colour-ringed Norwegian Black-headed Gull which had been reported to me by Paul McCullough.  Neither bird appeared during my visit.

On the 18th October, Suzanne returned to the waterworks and discovered that her Finnish bird was present.  Previously, Suzanne had captured   ST2*2.880   on the ring, but thought the missing digit was a 'one'.  On her latest visit, Suzanne again took several photos, but this time confirmed the number as reading   ST212.880  , her persistence had paid off.  The bird has now been reported by Suzanne, and we now await it's ringing details.

I compared the number against others which are on my spreadsheet.  It seems, this gull might be quite old.  I have an   ST184.964 , which was ringed in May 1997, and was spotted in Coleraine in February 2018 (20y 8m 24d), and an   ST239.172 , ringed in July 2004, and spotted on four occasions in Antrim Town, between September and November 2016 (12y 3m 26d).  The gull recorded by Suzanne, would fall in between these numbers, therefore indicating it's possible age.

Black-headed Gull  -  Finland    ST212.880   -  Belfast Waterworks, Belfast  (18 Oct 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Whilst at the Waterworks, Suzanne spotted one of my Antrim Marina study birds -   2CSX .  This sighting came as a bit of a surprise.  It was last seen at Antrim Marina, on the 11th October, by Richard Else.  It will now be interesting to see whether   2CSX   remains in Belfast, or will return to Antrim Marina, where it will find easy meals.  Plenty of Belfast folk feed the swans at the waterworks as well, so perhaps   2CSX   will stay there for a while. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSX   -  Belfast Waterworks, Belfast  (18 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as a 1st Winter Bird, on the 3rd December 2018, at Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Another Black-headed Gull which had been mentioned in Suzanne's extensive list of re-sightings, was a partial reading of a ring at Lurgan Park Lake in County Armagh -   EZ02**1 .  We both knew, that the bird was likely to be   EZ02451 , which Suzanne had recorded at the park's lake during the winter of 2017/2018.    EZ02451 , was not recorded at all last winter 2018/2019.  Having read the partial number on the 2nd October 2019, Suzanne returned on the 11th, and this time was able to confirm that the bird was   EZ02451 .

  EZ02451 , had been ringed as a chick, on the 20th June 2017, at a colony in Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire in Scotland.  Suzanne recorded   EZ02451   as a juvenile at Lurgan Park, on six occasions between 7th September 2017, until the 17th January 2018.  The distance from Elvanfoot to Lurgan, is 202 kms / 125 miles (WSW), and the duration from ringing is now 2 years, 3 months and 21 days.

My thanks again goes to Suzanne for her sightings, and another wintering bird has been chalked up.  Every such sighting not only adds to the longevity of these birds, but also shows how faithful most are by returning to their favoured wintering sites.

Black-headed Gull  -    EZ02451   -  Lurgan Park Lake, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  (07 Sep 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 20th June 2017, at Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire, Scotland)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)


      From Paul McCullough       
On the 19th October, Paul McCullough contacted me again, concerning another one of Adam McClure's Black-headed Gulls.  This time, it was   2CPN , which was spotted at the Whiteabbey seafront.  Over recent weeks, I too was at Whiteabbey, hoping to record   2CPN , as well as Common Gull -   2AIP , which I did find.

  2CPN , was amongst the last chicks to be ringed by Adam, on the 16th June 2017, at Blue Circle Island, which lies 19 kms (NNW) from Whiteabbey.  It has wintered at Whiteabbey during the two winters since being ringed, and it was great to hear from Paul that the bird has returned again for the third winter running.  The duration since being ringed is now 2 years, 4 months and 3 days.

My thanks again to Paul for his latest sighting and excellent photograph.  I informed Paul about another Black-headed Gull, which I'm hoping will return to Whiteabbey.  This bird is carrying a Yellow Darvic, and was ringed as a chick in County Mayo in June 2007.  It has been recorded on three occasions at Whiteabbey (November 2017, and twice in January 2019), and should it return, will now be around twelve and a half years of age.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CPN   -  Whiteabbey Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (19 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)
(Photo Courtesy of Paul McCullough)


      From William (Billy) Barber       
Back on the 20th July 2019, I spotted a Scottish Black-headed Gull with a White Darvic reading 2BCX on the mudflats at Dargan in Belfast.  After emailing Tom Dougall about the sighting, a reply was received with the birds ringing and re-sighting history.  2BCX, had been ringed as a chick, on the 3rd June 2018, at Broad Law, in the Moorfoot Hills, which are situated in the Borders region of Scotland.

Post fledging, 2BCX was then spotted on the Scottish coast, in the Port Seton area, of County Lothian.  Billy Barber and Scott Black, were the observers concerned, having spotted the then juvenile, on the 28th September 2018 on Seton Sands.

On the 18th October 2019, I received another email from Tom Dougall, where I had been copied in to a reply, for Billy Barber.  Billy had re-sighted 2BCX, back at Port Seton on the 16th October.  After thanking Tom, for being informed of the re-sighting, Billy himself contacted me with a photo which he took of 2BCX, giving me permission to use it on my blog.

As always, it is great to hear of birds that I've previously re-sighted or recorded for others.  Learning how they fare and where they turn up adds so much more value to 'Ring Reading'.  It seems as if 2BCX came to Northern Ireland for a 'summer holiday' before returning home.  Many thanks goes to both Tom and Billy, for the updates.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  2BCX  -  Port Seton, Lothian, Scotland  (16 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd June 2018, at Broad Law, Moorfoot Hills, Borders, Scotland)
(Photo Courtesy of Billy Barber)


      Saturday 19th October 2019       
I did not have much time out this weekend, due to illness.  No, it was not me this time, it was my wife.  What we thought was a severe kidney infection, turned out to be a ripped muscle in the back, which had been diagnosed after a visit to A&E.  Having gone to her own doctor, he didn't even investigate the problem, and suggested she should go to the hospital.  These days, if you have to go to A&E, you'd be wiser taking a tent and some supplies, due to the length of the waiting times, to be seen.

By the time I did get away on Saturday, it was already quite late into the afternoon, plus it was high tide.  I didn't put too much effort into ring reading, but instead, I explored the shoreline between Whiteabbey and the Fort William Roundabout.  Sometimes whilst at Kinnegar Beach, on the south side of Belfast Lough, I would scope across to the northern shore, where I could see loads of gulls and Oystercatchers.

There is a public footpath which runs along the entire length of the northern shore, which I walked for the first time ever.  Despite the tide being in, I reckon my camera is powerful enough, to read rings along this section of coast at low tide.  As I said, I did not have much time out, but that walk certainly ate up a good bit of it.

As it was so late, on getting back to my car, I drove around to Kinnegar Beach for a quick visit before it started to get dark.  By now the tide had started to retreat, and just the one colour-ringed bird was spotted.  It was my second sighting of Herring Gull OL:W, this winter, and the sixth record overall for this bird.  My previous sighting was made on the 18th August 2019, and that was followed by a sighting made by Suzanne Belshaw on the 28th September 2019 - both here at Kinnegar.

0L:W, has never been recorded anywhere other than at Kinnegar Beach, with the three initial re-sightings being recorded in November 2015 by Derek Charles, October 2016 (myself) and in September 2018 (myself).

Herring Gull  -    0L:W   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (19 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 22nd May 2014, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)


      Sunday 20th October 2019       
Once again, it was another late start, but as the tides were not in my favour along the east and south coast of Northern Ireland, I decided to head north instead.  I started at Portrush, on the north coast of County Antrim, before visiting the Strand Road in Coleraine and then moving on to the Myroe Levels in County Londonderry.

Very few gulls were about in Portrush or Coleraine, with the Myroe Levels only being marginally better.  At Myroe, a couple of large flocks of gulls were resting in the fields, the majority of the being Common Gulls, with smaller numbers of Black-headed Gulls, and a 'splattering' of Mediterranean Gulls.  With thousands of Brent Geese, having already returned to Northern Ireland for the winter, I had hoped to record a few on the Levels, but not a single bird was spotted.

Of late, Whooper Swans have been reported returning, but two small flocks of these, were in fields far to far away from the road.  There was no point trying to reach these, as they're so nervous after their arrival, they would have flown off.  Earlier, on my way to Portrush, I spotted a flock of 17 Whooper Swans in a field, close to the roundabout which leads from Ballymoney to Portrush, but I could not see their legs due to the height of Barley stubble.

Now concentrating on the gull flocks, I did glimpse a Common Gull with a Blue Darvic, which undoubtedly, would have been one of my own project birds.  I could only see the top edge of the Darvic, before the gull decided to lie down.  A long wait then begun, hoping for the gull to stand again, but eventually something spooked all of the gulls into the air, and I never re-located my target bird.

I almost had some success with a Black-headed Gull bearing just a tall metal-ring.  I reckoned this was the same gull which I saw on my previous visit here, but this time I did manage to capture some details on the ring.  Anyone who knows the Myroe Levels, know that there is a rough track road which runs alongside the sea wall.  This track, is separated from the fields by a broad tidal channel.

From my car, I had to zoom across this channel and into the field where this gull was feeding quite close to a fence.  My problem here, was my camera kept trying to focus on the fence, and not on the gull on the other side.  This one also took to the air, at the same time as the other gulls, and I couldn't re-locate this one either.

After returning home, I had a look at my photos of the ring, and despite not capturing the full code, I reckoned that this was an Icelandic Black-headed Gull with the code starting as   585*** , which meant I was missing three digits.  The fourth digit looked as if it was a 'one', and I was also missing the word 'Iceland', which would read upwards at the 'ring butts'.  Aah, so close but yet so far in capturing another ring.  The fields here are so long, I would be extremely lucky, if I happened to fall in with this one again.

Foreign Ringed Black-headed Gull  -  Myroe Levels, Co. Londonderry  (20 Oct 2019)

Three Images of the Metal Ring


Friday, 18 October 2019

Not Issued...

This has been an interesting week, with numerous re-sightings of birds recorded in the past.  Of interest to me, are the latest sightings of Scandinavian Black-headed Gulls, which funny enough, has coincided with an increase in these birds in my home town of Ballymena.  During the week, whilst standing in my own front garden, I witnessed flocks of 12 to 50 BHGs flying from north to south.  A couple of weeks ago, I made mention of the lack of Black-headed Gulls, perhaps due to the fairly mild weather, but these gulls seem to be on the move now.

Saturday, saw me at Belfast Waterworks, to try and resolve Suzanne Belshaw's Mute Swan and Greylag Goose sightings.  Having had no reply from the BTO, I went along to read the metal numbers on these birds, which would mean the BTO has something more concrete to work on.  Submitting a Mute Swan metal on the DemOn Ringing Database, I was gobsmacked to learn the ring had not been issued, yet I clearly had a photo of the metal ring.  That is another aspect about 'Ring Reading', from time to time, you'll come across the unexpected.  This is one reason, I take photos of every ringed bird I come across.  If there are problems, photos easily back up my sightings.

      Antrim Marina       
Having had limited time to get out and about on Sunday, I decided to carry out my weekly visit to Antrim Marina on Monday morning.  On Saturday, I received an email from Richard Else, who had visited the Marina on Friday, and recorded 9 of the colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, listed below.

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded by Richard Else at Antrim Marina on Friday 11th October 2019
 2AAK   2ABK   2CTC   2ACV   2ABS   2CJT   2CSL   2CSR   2CSX 

I decided to combine Richard's sightings, along with my own, made on Monday morning, to give an overall total for the weekend.  I arrived at the Marina just before 09:15 on Monday morning and departed around midday.  It was cloudy, but dry, the temperature read 6.5°C, with just a slight westerly breeze.  Just before my departure, the temperature had risen to 10°C, and the first drops of rain had began to fall, with heavy rain forecast for this afternoon.

I thought that I was going to have a good visit today, as around 60 Black-headed Gulls were perched around the front car park, instead of the roof of the new cafe building.  From 09:15, until 10:25, I recorded 13 colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls.  Some of the earlier recorded gulls did not stay for long, whilst others clearly arrived later.  Initially, I had a good response feeding gulls with bread from my car, with several birds landing onto the roof and bonnet, whilst others readily took bread from my hand at the window of the car.

From around 10am, the gulls began to perch themselves onto the roof of the new building, and once again, most legs were out of sight.  Today's visit, would have been my 11th week of weekly visits so far this autumn, but I had missed out on two visits, the first was due to a golf tournament, where only permit holders were allowed down the avenue leading to the Marina, with the second visit being cancelled as I was not well.

Therefore, with nine visits made by myself, and two from other observers, my Antrim Marina spreadsheet is starting to take shape.  Four of the originally rung gulls from Adam McClure's former project, have yet to be recorded this winter.  These are the 'in your face' birds   2AAT   and   2AAP , as well as   2ABF   and   2ADJ .  When I last saw   2ADJ , during a random summer visit, the bird looked to be very unwell, and probably died soon afterwards.

The continued absence of the other three, looks as if they have had a similar fate.  Another gull, which should have returned to the Marina long before now, is the Lithuanian bred (White) T35J.  This gull was ringed as a chick in 2006, and was controlled by Polish ringers in 2011, where it was re-rung and fitted with the White Darvic.  It now looks increasingly likely, that we have now lost this bird as well.  My last sighting of it here, was on the 11th March 2019, it's duration at the time, being 12 years, 9 months and 8 days.  I checked the online 'live' Polish Ringing database, but T35J, has not been reported since my final sighting back in March.

The status of several of the gulls which I caught and ringed at Antrim Marina, are still unclear - not knowing whether they are residents or winter visitors.  Most of these are rung   2C** , but several of those are also unaccounted for so far this winter.  A few of them are probably migrants, so may well arrive back in the next few weeks.  One we do know about, is   2CSF , which was spotted in Iceland in July 2018, and returned to Antrim Marina, on the 12th November 2018.  As Adam, has not responded to emails since last year, if   2CSF   was re-sighted in Iceland this past summer, we'll probably never know.  My last sighting of this bird, was also on the 11th March 2019.

Two more of Adam's originally rung birds (  2A**   series of rings), are now due to return - these being   2AAR , which we know goes to Poland, and   2ADV , whose whereabouts in the summer months is unknown.  If both of these are still alive, I should record one or both on my next visit, as they are now due to return.

As stated, I recorded 13 Black-headed Gulls during my Monday visit, which included 7 of Richard's 9 sightings from Friday.  The two birds I did not see today, were   2CSX   and   2CSL , the latter of which, we know goes to Poland.  No new sightings were made between us, and of the overall total of 22 colour-ringed BHGs recorded so far this winter, 15 were recorded over the weekend.  My thanks goes to Richard Else for his sightings.

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls Spotted at Antrim Marina on Monday 13th October 2019
 2ABK   2CJT   2CSB   2AAK   2ABL   2AAB   2CSR 
 2BRA   2CTC   2ACV   2AAN   2CSA   2AAA    

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded this Winter, but not over this Weekend
 2ABN   2ABS   2ABA   2AAV   2CSJ   2CSK   2CTB 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
It is now clear that the Mute Swan family, of two adults and five cygnets, have broke apart.  Three of the cygnets arrived on their own from the direction of the Lough at 09:50, 09:55 and 10:17.  On my arrival today, two swans were on the slipway, which I think are two of last year's cygnets.  An adult pair, arrived from up-river at 10:05, and I'm fairly sure that these were not the parents of the cygnets.  Another adult, appeared from the Lough on it's own at 10:38, but none of today's swans bore rings.

Not a single Mallard was to be seen on my arrival, with a lone female appearing at 09:48.  A head count just before my departure gave a total of 31, which is not great for this time of the year.

A single adult Herring Gull, plus a single adult Common Gull, would come and go throughout my visit.  3 Hooded Crows, 11 Jackdaws and a single male Pied Wagtail, were the only other birds present at the Marina.


      From Suzanne Belshaw       
As mentioned in my previous post, Suzanne Belshaw had contacted me, presenting a list of Black-headed Gull, Greylag Goose and Mute Swan ring sightings.  The list was fairly extensive, covering quite a period of time, so to save time and space on this post, I'm dealing mostly with the Geese and Swans.

Among the list of Black-headed Gull re-sightings reported by Suzanne (which belonged to Adam McClure's former project), was a Black-headed Gull from Finland.  Unfortunately, having taken many photos of the birds metal ring, Suzanne missed out on completing the whole ring number, by one digit -   ST2*2.880 .  Suzanne had spotted the bird at Belfast Waterworks on the 8th October 2019, and I kept an eye out for it on Saturday 12th October at the Waterworks, whilst trying to sort out what was going on in relation to the colour-ringed Swans and Geese.

I had no luck in re-sighting this bird, nor that of a Norwegian Black-headed Gull reported to me by Paul McCullough.  As far as I know, all Finnish-rung Black-headed Gulls that we have recorded in Northern Ireland, have been ringed with metals only.  It appears to me, that the Finns do not use colour-rings, which, had they been used, would make life for us 'Ring Readers' here, a lot easier.  I have several records, where only partial numbers have been recorded in the past.

Black-headed Gull  -  Finland    ST2*2.880   -  Belfast Waterworks, Belfast  (08 Oct 2019)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

I went to Belfast Waterworks on Saturday morning, intrigued by Suzanne's sightings of colour-ringed Mute Swans and Greylag Geese.  Suzanne, identified the Mute Swans, as belonging to Debbie "Doolittle" Hanna, who looks after sick and injured animals and birds, and had reported her colour-ringed Mute Swans to the BTO, but had not received a reply.  Having obtained an email address for Debbie, I contacted her about the Mute Swans, but again a reply was not forthcoming.

As far as the Greylag Geese were concerned, I questioned the numbers on the Darvic's of the birds, as Suzanne had reported seeing 024, 025 & 026, on the 5th September 2019, plus 022 on the 8th October 2019.  On asking, should the numbers not read 204, etc., Suzanne's reply came back to state that the numbers, were as reported, and sent photos to prove the same.

I then contacted Kerry Leonard, who had started a project a few years back, concerning Greylags at Victoria Park, which centred on the geese being a threat to aircraft at the nearby City Airport.  The rings used by Kerry, were White and the three digits were in the 200's, example White 204.  When asked about the new White rings, Kerry knew nothing about them.  I also enquired about these in my email to Debbie, concerning the swans, but as stated before, I received no reply.

I knew, the only way that I was going to solve the ringing details of Suzanne's sightings, were to locate the birds concerned, and photograph their metals rings, so as I could report these to the BTO.  The BTO, can only act on sightings for some colour-ringed birds, if they know the metal numbers used.  On Saturday morning, I located all of Suzanne's Greylag sightings, plus found White 023, as well.  I successfully captured the metal numbers on all five geese and reported them to the BTO, through my DemOn account.

White 022 - metal reads 5215204
White 023 - metal reads 5215205
White 024 - metal reads 5215206
White 025 - metal reads 5215207
White 026 - metal reads 5215208

On inputting these numbers onto DemOn, there were no ringing details, which means that the ringer/s concerned have not submitted these details onto the BTO Database.  The BTO, will have to contact those concerned for the details.  For now, we will have to wait on the results.

Although, I could see several Mute Swans with Orange Darvics in the water, I ignored these, as I was wanting to record a metal number or two.  Eventually, one swan -   NLS , stood out where I could see and photograph it's metal -   Z78559 .  On entering it's number onto DemOn, and submitting the record, a very interesting message appeared - 'The ring had not been issued, and to contact the BTO directly'.  How come, a ring that had not been issued, was clearly photographed on this Mute Swan?  I sent an email to the BTO, with the two photos below, attached to it.  For now, it will be an interesting wait, to get to the bottom of Suzanne's sightings.  

Mute Swan  -    NLS      Z78559   -  Belfast Waterworks, Belfast  (12 Oct 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

My thanks to Suzanne, for her sightings and photos, sorry I cannot go into everything that was reported, but we'll try to resolve the Swan and Goose sightings at least.

Mute Swan  -    NLI   -  Belfast Waterworks, Belfast  (05 Sep 2019)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Mute Swan  -    NLU   -  Belfast Waterworks, Belfast  (05 Sep 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Greylag Goose  -  (White)  026  -  Belfast Waterworks, Belfast  (05 Sep 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Greylag Goose  -  (White)  025  -  Belfast Waterworks, Belfast  (05 Sep 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Greylag Goose  -  (White)  022  -  Belfast Waterworks, Belfast  (12 Oct 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

Greylag Goose  -  (White)  023  -  Belfast Waterworks, Belfast  (12 Oct 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

Greylag Goose  -  (White)  024  -  Belfast Waterworks, Belfast  (12 Oct 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)


      From Graham McElwaine       
On arriving home from work on Monday night / Tuesday morning, I checked for emails, which is the first thing I do, before settling for some down-time before going to bed.  One of two emails was from Graham McElwaine, who had copied me in to a message to Graham Prole in Dublin, who by then, had already replied to Graham.

During the day on Monday, Graham McElwaine, had re-sighted a Great Black-backed Gull, with a Blue Darvic -   1JN , at Mill Bay, on the County Down side of Carlingford Lough.  Graham McElwaine, knew from previous emails from me, that   1JN , was a bird from the Ireland's Eye colony in County Dublin, with Graham Prole now being the contact for Chris Honan's former ringing project.

Graham Prole, was delighted to hear that   1JN   was still on the go, having not been reported since my two sightings of the bird, at Portaferry Marina in 2016.    1JN   had been ringed as a chick, on the 25th June 2011, and had been recorded twice on the Isle of Man, in December 2011 & March 2012, with my own sightings and now Graham's completing it's re-sighting history.  Graham Prole, sent a PDF File for the ringing and re-sighting history of   1JN , which can be read here (PDF).

The duration since being ringed, is now 8 years, 3 months and 19 days, and the distance from Ireland's Eye, to Mill Bay on Carlingford Lough, is roughly 71 kms / 44 miles (N).  My thanks, to both Graham's for the re-sighting and history updates.  As I've failed so far in my attempts to persuade Graham McElwaine to 'arm' himself with a camera, I've added a photo which I took at Portaferry Marina, on the 3rd September 2016.

Great Black-backed Gull  -    1JN   -  Portaferry Marina, Co. Down  (03 Sep 2016)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 25th June 2011, on Ireland's Eye, Co. Dublin, Republic of Ireland)


      From Paul McCullough       
The next email that I looked at after returning home, was the second that I had received from Paul McCullough in recent days.  These concerned his sightings of three Black-headed Gulls, two of which were from Adam McClure's former Northern Ireland Study, and a bird from Norway.

As far as I know, Paul's sighting of Norwegian   J7L8 , is the first Black-headed Gull from that country, to be spotted in Northern Ireland this winter.  Having reported   J7L8 , on the 'Live' Norwegian Ringing Database, Paul's sighting of this bird was the first from outside of Norway, where the gull had been observed on a few occasions locally.

Having been rung as an adult male in 2017, it might be possible that   J7L8 , wintered in Northern Ireland unobserved during the past two winters.  It will be well worth keeping an eye out for this bird, just to see if it remains within the Belfast area, throughout this coming winter.  The distance from Engervannet Lake in Bærum, to Belfast Waterworks, is 1,147 kms / 712 miles (SW), the duration now being 2 years, 5 months and 29 days (PDF).

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    J7L8   -  Belfast Waterworks, Belfast  (11 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 12th April 2017, at Engervannet, Bærum, Norway)
(Photo Courtesy of Paul McCullough)

The two Black-headed Gulls -   2ADB   &   2ADD , were recorded by Paul, on the 7th & 14th October 2019 respectively, at Carrickfergus Harbour, which is the wintering site for both birds.  Each were caught and ringed at the harbour, on the 25th & 29th November 2013.    2ADD   is reckoned to breed on the 'Torpedo Platform', on Lough Neagh, quite close to Antrim Marina, where it can often be seen during the breeding season.    2ADD , is also known to stop at the KFC outlet in Antrim Town for a week or two, before and after the breeding season.

Where   2ADB   breeds is unknown, but a couple of summer sightings at Carrickfergus Harbour, leads me to suspect, that it breeds locally.  The nearest breeding colonies that I know of, from Carrickfergus, are at Blue Circle Island on Larne Lough, the RSPB Reserve on the Belfast Harbour Estate, and possibly at the Maidens, which are a couple of rock islands near the mouth of Belfast Lough.

These sites, are a fair distance from Carrickfergus, which is why I suspect that   2ADB   was a local breeder.  At the end of this past summer, I discovered a rooftop colony of Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the southern edge of Carrickfergus, which makes me think, that Black-headed Gulls may well be nesting there too.  This is something I will have to investigate, next year.

The durations for   2ADB   &   2ADD , are 5 years, 10 months and 12 days, and 5 years, 10 months and 15 days.  My thanks to Paul, for reporting his sightings and for the use of his photographs.  

Somehow, his email which contained the photo of   2ADB , vanished from my Yahoo Email Provider.  Strangely, this is the second time of late, that this has happened.  I had to ask Suzanne Belshaw to re-send an email, which had followed the same fate.  I hope this is not a developing problem, otherwise I'll have to change my provider altogether.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADD   -  Carrickfergus Harbour, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (14 Oct 2019)
Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 29th November 2013, at Carrickfergus Harbour)
(Photo Courtesy of Paul McCullough)


      Saturday 12th October 2019       
My day began with a visit to the Belfast Waterworks, to try and resolve the issue of colour-ringed Mute Swans, and Greylag Geese, which were spotted here by Suzanne Belshaw.  She had reported her swan sightings to the BTO, but had received no reply.  I suspected that the BTO, did not have the ringing details for the swans, so the only way to get things moving was to record the metal ring numbers, and the re-submit the sightings with, both the metal and colour-code.

I was only able to view one swan out of the water, and managed to photograph it's ring number.  The goose sightings by Suzanne, were not reported to the BTO, but I managed to obtain the metal numbers on five geese, and submitted them.  Now that the BTO, has the metal numbers, along with the coded rings, we should be able to find out who the birds belong to.  I spent quite a long time at the Waterworks, but eventually had to leave, as I knew the tide was going out down on Belfast Lough.

Leaving the waterworks, my first stop was at Whitehouse Lagoon.  The Lagoon, was fairly empty, which meant that I should really have been here sooner.  I had to scope the distant birds, eventually spotting a Black-headed Gull with a White Darvic.  I guessed that this was the Polish T56W, and a few photos later, the code was confirmed.  Today's was my second sighting of T56W this winter, having recorded it's return on the 3rd August 2019.

T56W, was ringed as a 2nd Calendar year bird in June 2012, and has been recorded at Whitehouse Lagoon, every year since initially being spotted here during the winter of 2014/2015.  The duration, is now 7 years, 3 months and 26 days since being ringed, and the distance from the Odra Reservoir, is 1,325 kms / 823 miles (WNW).  

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  T56W  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (12 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed 2nd Calendar Year Bird, on the 16th June 2012, on the Odra Reservoir, Bielinek, Poland)

Continuing to scope through the gulls and waders, I then spotted a very distant Great Black-backed Gull with a White Darvic.  Once again, my camera made short work of the distance, capturing  1L8:C.  Returning home on Saturday evening, I ran the code through my spreadsheet, to find my only previous sighting of this bird, was made last Christmas Day, at the nearby Waste Transfer Station on Dargan Industrial Estate.

1L8:C, had been ringed as a chick, on the 26th June 2017, on Horse Isle Nature Reserve in Ayrshire, Scotland, by the Clyde Ringing Group.  Whitehouse Lagoon is situated around 130 kms / 80 miles (SSW), of Horse Isle, and the duration is now 2 years, 3 months and 16 days.  There's a good chance, that this gull could be recorded around Belfast for year's to come.  I emailed Iain Livingstone about my latest sighting, but so far there has been no reply.

Great Black-backed Gull  -  (White)  1L8:C  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (12 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 26th June 2017, on Horse Isle Nature Reserve, Ayrshire, Scotland)

The best part of an hour was spent at Whitehouse Lagoon, where I had hoped for another sighting this winter of an Icelandic-rung Oystercatcher, but had no luck.  With the tide well out, the bird could have been feeding on the mudflats on Belfast Lough, just over the motorway from the Lagoon.

I drove on round to Kinnegar Beach, which is on the County Down side of Belfast Lough.  Whilst driving through the Belfast Harbour Estate, I could see a large flock of Black-headed Gulls on the mudflats of Connswater River, but decided to come back to them later.

On reaching Kinnegar Beach, the tideline was distant, but on scoping the gulls and waders from the car park, a colour-ringed Common Gull was eventually spotted.  Just a speck in the distance, my Nikon P1000, doesn't half save me a lot of footwork, as it again easily captured the code   2ACJ .  I knew that I had recorded this bird in the past, having been ringed by Shane Wolsey during his former project on the Copeland Islands, which I have now taken control of.

Returning home and checking my spreadsheet, today's is the sixth record of   2ACJ , since being ringed as a breeding adult, on the 14th May 2010.  Kinnegar Beach lies 22 kms / 13 miles (W), of Big Copeland Island, and the duration since ringing is now 9 years, 4 months and 28 days.  The re-sighting history of   2ACJ , can be read (here).

Common Gull  -    2ACJ   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (12 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 14th May 2010, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Although there were numerous gulls and waders on Kinnegar Beach and on the tidal pond just over the road from the car park, I was disappointed by finding no more rings, despite having scoped the birds for well over another hour.

As time was now getting on, I decided to check out the Black-headed Gulls spotted earlier on the Connswater mudflats.  Stopping on the roadside adjacent to the mudflats, I quickly scoped the gulls and spotted one with a White Darvic.  I knew that I was in for a longish walk from the nearest car park, but what I was about to spot was well worth it.

The first Darvic spotted, was on a Black-headed Gull, which was quite close to me, and bearing an Orange ring. I knew this was one of Adam's birds from his former project, but I wasn't sure whether I had recorded the code   2AKJ   before.  Back home, I consulted my spreadsheet, to discover that this was my third sighting of the bird.  It had been ringed as a chick, on the 23rd June 2015, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre in County Down.

Nobody else has ever recorded   2AKJ , as far as I know, but my first sighting was made on the 4th September 2016, at Victoria Park, which runs adjacent to the mudflats.  My second sighting, and I remember it well now, was made last Christmas Day, where I had lured this bird down into the same nearby car park, where I had just left the car.  The duration since ringing is now 4 years, 3 months and 19 days.  Castle Espie is situated 14 kms / 9 miles (ESE), from Connswater.  

I have studied the gulls breeding at Castle Espie, over the previous two summers, but   2AKJ , apparently, has not returned there to breed.  Still, it was good to re-sight another gull from the past, but better still was my next sighting.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AKJ   -  Connswater Mudflats, Belfast Harbour Estate  (12 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 23rd June 2015, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down)

The gull with the White Darvic, which I had scoped from the nearby road, was located, but I could not read it's ring, as it was plastered in mud.  I thought this could be my second sighting of a Polish-rung Black-headed Gull, which I recorded on these mudflats last winter.

With my target walking about probing the mud, it walked through a pool of water, which washed the Darvic.  I was thrilled when I read the code EAK9, a Dutch bird.  It was first recorded in Belfast, in January 2014, when spotted by Adam McClure at the Connswater Shopping Centre, which is not too far away from both Victoria Park, and here on the Connswater mudflats.  I usually record EAK9, at the shopping centre on Christmas Day each year, while trying to re-sight a colour-ringed Norwegian BHG.

Last Christmas Day, I spotted EAK9 twice - the first time at the shopping centre, and a short time later, at Victoria Park.  Barring Adam's sighting on the 10th January 2014, EAK9 had never been recorded through to the spring.  The reason for this, was answered on the 25th January 2019, when EAK9, next turned up at  Mesnil-Saint-Père in France.  I emailed Benny Middendorp, to report my latest sighting, but apparently, EAK9, had not been since January.

The duration since EAK9 was ringed as an adult male, was now 7 years, 3 months and 29 days.  The distance from Zoetermeer in Holland, is roughly 745 kms / 463 miles (WNW), to the Connswater mudflats.  This bird was indeed my sighting of the day, and it's re-sighting history can be read (here).

Black-headed Gull  -  Holland  (White)  EAK9  -  Connswater Mudflats, Belfast Harbour Estate  (12 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 13th June 2012, at Benthuizerplas, Zoetermeer, Holland)


      Sunday 13th October 2019       
Today, I only had a limited time to get out and about, but it would have been an ideal day to visit Antrim Marina, as it rained heavily until late in the afternoon.  I decided instead, to hit the coast shortly after midday, and work my way south from Sandy Bay in Larne, to the beach at Whiteabbey.  On the way, I was going to try and re-sight the Norwegian Black-headed Gull   JJ02 , at Rhanbouy Park.  On the 11th October, Paul McCullough, spotted the first Norwegian Black-headed Gull of this winter, at the Belfast waterworks.

My first two stops at Sandy Bay in Larne, and on the mudflats of Larne Lough at Glynn, saw disappointingly low numbers of gulls and waders.  At my next stop at Whitehead, I came across local birdwatcher Cameron Moore.  After a lengthy conversation, it turned out, that Cameron was 'sitting' on a whole list of ring sightings, which included those of many terns, a Mediterranean Gull and the bird I was after today -   JJ02    at Rhanbouy Park, with none of these having been reported.

Cameron said he would send me a list of these sightings, so that I could report the birds to their relevant owners.  This list, as yet, has not arrived, and this is a big disappointment, considering there are ringers out there, who took the trouble to ring these birds, and rely on sightings from other birdwatchers.  There's no doubting, that some good records are falling by the wayside.

Moving on to Rhanbouy Park, the tide was well out and most gulls were quite distant.  Having a loaf of bread is always handy, and soon I had loads of gulls around me, which indeed included   JJ02 .  This bird was ringed as an adult female in June 2014, in Oslo.  I first recorded it at Rhanbouy Park, on the 14th November 2017, but I'm pretty certain this was the same gull I had spotted the previous winter, but was unable to read the code on it's ring.  This is now the third winter in a row, which I have recorded   JJ02 , this one being the only ringed bird spotted today (PDF File).

Black-headed Gull  -  Norway    JJ02   -  Rhanbouy Park, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (13 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 12th June 2014, at St. Hanshaugen, Oslo, Norway)