Thursday, 10 October 2019

Data Sorted...

Having gone through most of last weekend not feeling too well, this weekend, especially on Sunday, saw me having to cope with tiredness.  Unlike, in the mid 80's, when I could sleep on one night in two over the summer, these days in my older age, I really do need a good night's kip.

With a serious argument having broke out in the early hours of Saturday night / Sunday morning, at a neighbours house, I was forced to change my plans for the day.  Having recorded practically nothing at all during the day on Saturday, I had been determined to record at least something for this week's post on Sunday.

Between one thing and another, this weeks post turned out not to be so bad after all.  Many positives have occurred over recent days, which have certainly helped.  On top of this, Suzanne Belshaw has waded in with a number of interesting sightings, which hopefully I can report on in my next post.  Of most interest to me, are a couple of new, or could it be, revived colour-ringing projects concerning Mute Swans and Greylag Geese.  I've a few emails to send out, but the colour-ringing of Mute Swans, could be my answer to starting my own project at Antrim Marina, by sharing these rings.

I have also had a request from Wesley Smyth, to see if I would be interested in helping out on the Copeland Islands next summer.  The Observatory crew are planning a complete gull nest census on both Lighthouse and Mew Islands, which may also see a new gull colour-ringing project being started whilst ringing chicks.

This comes on top of a request by Kendrew Colhoun, who I met for the first time, during a trip to Ailsa Craig in Scotland, in July.  Kendrew needs good observers to help out with some census work on some of the Scottish Islands next summer, which I must say is also very appealing.  I have not committed myself to either project as yet, as I will still be heavily involved with my own Common Gull project on Rathlin Island.  Even so, I find both requests quite 'mouth watering'.

      Antrim Marina - Sunday 6th October 2019       
I had intended to undertake this weeks weekly visit to Antrim Marina tomorrow morning (Monday), but after a serious disturbance at a neighbouring house in the early hours of this morning (Saturday/Sunday), I ended up changing my plans completely.  The argument nearby, had woken everyone in the neighbourhood, but things slowly quietened down again.

Having dozed back to sleep, we were wakened up again around 4:20, and shortly afterwards the police arrived.  By now, I was well and truly wide awake, and having had little sleep, decided to head off to Belfast, to catch the early out going tide.  My plans for the day, had changed, with Belfast and Antrim Marina now on my agenda, instead of visiting County Down, via County Armagh.

With the tide well on it's way out, I departed from Belfast, arriving at Antrim Marina just before 10:30.  Even now, I was beginning to feel tired, after last nights antics.  On pulling up to the barrier which lets me have access to the front car park, my heart 'sank a mile', when I spotted the large number of canoeists there.  I've never seen this group before.  The trainee canoeists, which are present here on Sunday's throughout the summer, finish their activities here once the kids return to school.

As in Belfast, I thought the blustery wind, would have kept the gulls off the roof of the new cafe, which is still far off completion.  This was not the case, as the wind was not so strong here, and you've guessed it, the gulls were on the roof.

On arrival, and before the canoeists began to move their crafts, I began throwing out bits of bread, and minutes later, a couple of families arrived to feed the ducks.  From 10:28 till 10:40, I recorded 11 colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, but I to wait until 11:34, before recording my 12th and final bird of the day.

The number of gulls present, never exceeded the 50 mark, although birds were obviously coming and going.  Once the canoeists started to paddle around the Marina, hardly a gull ventured down off the rooftops.  With no hope of recording any more rings, I departed at 1pm, and headed off into Antrim Town.

Today's 12 birds, were all re-sightings of gulls already recorded so far this winter, out of a total of 22.  There is still no sign of the Lithuanian-rung (White) T35J, or two of the regulars   2AAT   &   2AAP .  I still cannot discount these birds, as it is extremely difficult to record the colour-ringed BHGs here these days.  Trying to record anything at the Marina is an uphill battle.

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, on Sunday 6th October 2019
 2AAN   2AAA   2CTC   2CSX   2CSJ   2ABL   2CJT   2BRA   2ACV   2ABN   2CSA   2ABK 

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded this Winter, but not Seen Today
 2AAK   2ABS   2ABA   2AAB   2AAV   2CSB   2CSK   2CSL   2CSR   2CTB 

Other Birds Around Antrim Marina
The missing cygnet from my previous visit, has now rejoined it's four siblings and parents.  A second pair of Mute Swans, appear to be the same birds, where the male is more dominate, than the male belonging to the family group.  Although he tries to chase the second pair away, he is no match for them.

Mallard numbers were static throughout my visit, with around 40 birds present.  As usual, most were checked for rings.

No Common Gulls or Lesser Black-back's appeared today, but the adult Herring Gull was present throughout my visit, though he remained on the roof of the cafe.

An interesting increase of Hooded Crows, which totalled 7 birds altogether, saw two which were very much on the aggressive side.  Its not often that I see such bullying by the crows, but these two certainly made their presence obvious, not only to the other crows, but to the gulls and Jackdaws (8 birds) alike.  A pair of Grey Wagtails, were recorded here as well.

Antrim Town
Leaving the Marina, I checked out the town's Elim Church, KFC outlet and Baptist Church.  Very few Black-headed Gulls were present at any of those sites, and definitely no ringed birds.  As mentioned last week, where have our BHGs gone to this winter.  There ought to be thousands more around the country at this time of the year.


      Ringing Details Received       
Recently, there has been excellent news concerning Adam McClure's former Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study.  Kendrew Colhoun, acquired a copy of Adam's ringing, and some gulls whose ringing details had not been submitted to the BTO, have now been sorted out.  I now have the ringing dates and locations for some of my own personal sightings, especially for some Black-headed Gulls recorded at Castle Espie during this past summer.

Both Wesley Smyth and myself, are working with copies of this newly acquired data, to help bring Adam's project up to date.  Time does not allow me to report on my previous sightings, but a recent sighting made by Graham McElwaine, has been included within this post (read below).

Ewan Weston, from the Grampian Ringing Group in Scotland, has also been in touch with me.  Ewan has furnished me with a table which outlines the use of plain coloured rings used on Sandwich Terns, at Forvie National Nature Reserve.  Two plain colour-rings were fitted to chicks, with the same two colours signifying the year of ringing, and not each bird as an individual.  Over the years, one or both colour rings have fallen off, from some of these terns, and in most cases the actual year of ringing will be unknown.

Recently, Suzanne Belshaw recorded a Sandwich Tern on Kinnegar Beach, which had a single plain Red ring on it's right leg.  Consulting the table provided by Ewan, Suzanne's tern was ringed in either 2000, 2008 or 2009.  The coding used on the right leg in those years were :-

Green over Red in 2000
Lime over Red in 2008
Red over Lime in 2009

In 2018, I recorded a Sandwich Tern at Sandy Bay in Larne, this bird having had a single plain Green ring on it's left leg.  I now know this tern was ringed either in 2001 or 2002.

Red over Green in 2001
Lime over Green in 2002

These are the closest we'll ever get, to knowing in which year our sightings were ringed.  The only way for sure, is to read the metal rings, which in the majority of cases will never happen.  For now, some info is slightly better than nothing at all.  My thanks goes to Ewan for taking the time to produce the table that he sent to me.  No doubting, I'll have to refer to it again sometime in the future, but as it stands, the year of ringing for the odd tern or two, can still be identified, even if one ring is missing.  The trick now, will be, to spot those particular birds.


      Saturday 5th October 2019       
The tides were not favourable this weekend, as high tide was extremely early, and having been at work last night, I decided to head north for my first visit this winter to the Myroe Levels, near Limavady, situated on the north coast of County Londonderry.  With the Brent Geese having already arrived back into Northern Ireland, the first reports of Whooper Swans have been coming in.

Saturday afternoon at Myroe, was extremely blustery, with intermittent showers of rain or drizzle.  Driving along the track which runs parallel to the sea wall, hardly any birds were to be seen, which surprised me, as up here it was high tide.  Looking out onto Lough Foyle, there were large rafts of Common Gulls, but very little else.  On a distant spit of land, several hundred Oystercatcher's could be seen roosting, waiting for the tide to recede.  There's no possible way of getting anywhere close to those birds, as they would spot you coming from 'a week away'.

Barring a few small flocks of Curlews, the only birds found in any sort of numbers, were on a piece of land managed for growing greens which can be cut and sold in strips.  The bare patches of ground, along with small pools of water, slowly attracted fairly good numbers of Common Gulls and Oystercatchers, especially as the afternoon wore on.

I remained here, parked opposite these birds all afternoon, watching them come and go.  At times, Common Gull numbers exceeded the 100 mark, and I had hoped to spot at least one of my own project birds.  By 5pm, the rain was falling heavily and it became so dark, that it was time to leave.  A very disappointing afternoon, and the only ring to be spotted, was a 'tall' metal on one of the few Black-headed Gulls which appeared.

Although a long way off, I took a couple of photos, to see if I could get anything on the ring, which might prove where this gull came from.  All I did capture, were the ring butts, but I reckon this one was a Scandinavian bird, possibly from Finland.  A second year Mediterranean Gull, was the only other bird of note, but unfortunately it was not ringed.

Foreign Ringed Black-headed Gull  -  Myroe Levels, Lough Foyle, Co. Londonderry  (05 Oct 2019)


      Sunday 6th October 2019       
As previously mentioned above, I was wakened twice by the commotion at a neighbour's house.  With the police on the scene, I ended up, getting up and having a coffee, whilst I did some work on my spreadsheet (still catching up on a lot of hyperlinks).  Now wide awake, I knew I was going to have to change my plans for today.  Checking on the tides, I decided to head off to Belfast by daybreak, which would co-inside with the tide receding.

Arriving at Kinnegar Beach, just before 7am, it was still fairly dark, but the were already lots of gulls and waders on the shore in front of me.  For the next hour, I busily scoped for rings, but barring 'metals', on a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Common Gull, just the one colour-ringed bird was spotted.  This was on an Oystercatcher, which was my second sighting of the bird this winter. I have not as yet received an updated PDF File from Böddi in Iceland, but I have attached a copy of the previous file (PDF).

Oystercatcher  -  YL-W(UA)  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (06 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 23rd May 2018, at Stokkseyri, Iceland)

Having found no more rings at Kinnegar, I rushed over to the other side of Belfast Lough, to get to Whitehouse Lagoon, before it emptied out too much.  On arrival, I discovered that I really needed to have been here a little sooner, as most gulls and waders were by now quite distant.  Everything had to be scoped, and I then found my first colour ring, which was one of Adam's Black-headed Gulls.

Grabbing my camera, I zoomed into the bird, just as another Black-headed Gull moved in front of my target.  Staying locked on to the pair, minutes later a train passed by, which sent everything into the sky, and I never re-located the bird I was after.

In a way, the train was probably a good thing, as once the birds re-settled, I began scoping again, and then I could have 'dropped through the floor of my car', having spotted a Lesser Black-backed Gull with a dark colour-ring.  Could this possibly be   F461 , from Portugal?

Zooming in with my camera, to my sheer delight, this was indeed my 5th sighting of this   F461   F461 , was ringed by RIAS, which is a centre where sick and injured birds and animals are cared for and then released back into the wild.  Having recuperated from whatever   F461   had suffered, the bird was fitted with it's Darvic ring before it's release on the 18th November 2014, at the Quinta de Marim Nature Reserve, at Olhäo.

After this, the gull was re-sighted locally on several occasions throughout January and February 2015, before turning up at Whiteabbey Beach on the 10th October 2015 - my first sighting of this gull.  My second and third sightings of   F461 , were again at Whiteabbey Beach, in August and October 2016, and despite several attempts to record the bird in 2017, I had no results.  Just over a year ago, I recorded   F461   on the 30th September 2018, here at Whitehouse Lagoon, the site of today's re-sighting.

At no time, since I have recorded   F461 , has this bird been reported from anywhere else.  I have sent an email to RIAS, hoping to receive an updated file for this gull.  Until this arrives, I'll have no idea whether   F461   has been spotted elsewhere since September 2018.  For now, here is the PDF File (PDF), for last year's sighting, which gives Whiteabbey as the location, but I've pointed out to them in my email, the location was actually Whitehouse Lagoon.

The duration since ringing, is now 4 years, 10 months and 18 days, which is not bad for a bird which was in bad need of tender loving care.  The distance from Olhäo, to Whitehouse Lagoon is 1,965 kms / 1,220 miles (N).

Since I began 'Ring Reading', I've only recorded a handful of colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls, so the re-sighting of this one was especially pleasing.

Lesser Black-backed Gull  -    F461   -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (06 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 18th November 2014, at Quinta de Marim, Olhäo, Portugal)

With no more rings to be seen at Whitehouse Lagoon, I drove round to the nearby mudflats beside the Dargan Industrial Estate.  Here, I was completely exposed to a very strong wind, and my telescope was getting pushed around like a piece of paper.  Just the one colour-ring was spotted here, on a Black-headed Gull, and I had an awful job trying to keep my camera still enough to grab some photos.

Retreating to my car, many photos were useless, as the camera was not still enough, and much blurring had occurred.  However, one or two pictures did capture the code, though still not my idea of a half decent photo, especially as that gull was not too far away.  The code read -   2S28 , which I recognised as belonging to Kane Brides.

I reported my sighting to Kane, and also copied in Scott Petrek, who had been included with previous sightings of this ring series.  Both Scott and Kane, replied separately with the gulls details.  As it turns out,   2S28   is a recently rung bird, having been ringed on the 21st June 2019, at Bowness, situated in the Lake District of Cumbria in northern England.

Today's, is the first re-sighting of   2S28   since being ringed, 3 months and 15 days ago, the distance being 196 kms / 121 miles (WNW).  Many thanks to both Scott and Kane for their speedy replies.

Black-headed Gull  -    2S28   -  Dargan Mudflats, Dargan Industrial Estate, Belfast  (06 Oct 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 21st June 2019, at Bowness, Cumbria, England)

With the extremely windy conditions at Dargan, I quickly gave up scoping for any more rings, although there were plenty of birds about.  I had contemplated on visiting Victoria Park and the former Belfast Waterworks, but by now I was really beginning to feel tired.  Instead, I headed off to Antrim Marina, to get this weeks weekly visit out of the way, before returning home to grab a couple of hours kip.


      From Graham McElwaine       
On the 1st October 2019, I received an email from Graham McElwaine, concerning the sighting of one of Adam McClure's Black-headed Gulls -   2BFL , at the Inner Bay, of Dundrum in County Down.  On checking my spreadsheet, I had no record of   2BFL , so duly reported Graham's sighting to the BTO, via my DemOn account.

Unfortunately, the BTO could not process the sighting, as they had no ringing data for the bird.  At this point, we had hit 'a brick wall'.  Nothing more could be done, until recently, when Kendrew Colhoun was able to acquire Adam's ringing records (read above notes).  Now that we had this data, I was able to furnish Graham with the details for his bird.

  2BFL , was ringed as a chick, on the 2nd June 2014, at the RSPB's Blue Circle Island Nature Reserve, on Larne Lough, Co. Antrim.  The duration since being ringed, was now 5 years, 3 months and 29 days.  The distance from Blue Circle Island to Dundrum, is roughly 63 kms / 40 miles (SSW).

Whether there have been previous re-sightings of   2BFL , is unknown to me as yet.  I do know that Wesley Smyth, is working hard behind the scenes, submitting ringing and re-sighting data to the BTO, which should bring Adam's former project up to date.  I too, have now obtained missing data for some of my previous sightings, but I have a sneaky feeling, that Graham's sighting of   2BFL , may well be a first since being ringed.

My thanks to Graham for reporting this gull to me, and to both Wes and Kendrew, for allowing me access to Adam's ringing data.  I'm still trying my best for Graham to 'arm' himself with a camera.


No comments: