Thursday, 28 November 2019

Unconfirmed Lapwing...

There's not too much to report on this week, barring a couple of birds which have been spotted in the past.  A couple of new sightings were recorded, which includes an unconfirmed sighting of a colour-ringed Lapwing from Germany, that may well be a first for Northern Ireland.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 25th November 2019       
Having had a few excellent weekly visits to Antrim Marina recently, I was really looking forwards to today's visit, which ended very disappointingly.  Last Monday, having arrived after a quite frosty night, the gulls were very hungry, and greedily took the bread on offer.  So hungry were they, I even managed to catch and colour-ring five Black-headed Gulls, the first so far this winter.

This morning, in contrast to last Monday, was very mild and not in the least bit cold.  In anticipation of ringing a few more individuals, I set my ringing gear on the floor of the foot-well, but as things turned out, it was a waste of time.  Driving on into the car park beside the slipway, not a single gull was present.  The tarmacking operations of last Monday had been completed, and the area was fairly quite, with few workmen about.

Arriving at 8:15am, it was not until 9:25, when the first Black-headed Gulls began to appear.  At no time during my visit, did numbers exceed the forty mark, which led to a fairly disappointing visit.  By 11am, having recorded just 12 colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, I lost patience, and decided to move on, and cover the other three sites around the town of Antrim.  I've been threatening to visit these sites for weeks,  but today seemed to be the ideal time to go.

Two Black-headed Gulls, not recorded at the Marina today, were spotted at two of those other sites.

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded at Antrim Marina on Monday 25th November 2019
 2AAR   2ABK   2ABL   2AAK   2CSA   2AAA 
 2CJT   2ABN   2ACV   2AAN   2CSR   2CSJ 

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls Spotted or Ringed at the Marina This Winter, but Not Present Today
 2AAP   2ABS   2ABA   2AAB   2AAV   2ADV   2BRA 
 2ANS   2CSB   2CSH   2CSK   2CSL   2CSX   2CTA 
 2CTB   2CTC   2CTR   2FBA   2FDJ   2FDK   2FDL 

Other Species at Antrim Marina
Being so quite around the Marina today, saw the return of several other species, which included pairs of Pied and Grey Wagtails, a male Chaffinch, a single Rook, 3 Hooded Crows and 8 Jackdaws.

The adult Herring Gull arrived at 09:51, but did not stay for long, as did a single adult Common Gull, which appeared at 10:07.

Mallard numbers, are still very much on the low side, with 6 birds counted on my arrival, and a high count of just 26 was made at 10:45, just before I departed.

6 adult Mute Swans were present throughout my visit, and the large headed cygnet was present throughout as well.  This cygnet, which first appeared here a few weeks ago, finally took bread from my hand for the first time.  In previous weeks, if I went anywhere near the youngster, it would have hissed at me.  There has been no sign of late, of any of the other five cygnets, which grew up at the Marina over the summer months.

Other Sites Around the Town of Antrim
On leaving the Marina at 11am, I visited the other three sites around the town of Antrim, beginning at the Elim Church, on the Parkhall Housing Estate.  Luring the gulls to my car with bread, around two dozen Black-headed Gulls, along with one juvenile Herring Gull, and an adult Common Gull arrived.  Among these was   2AAV , who was not at the Marina today.  If not present at the Marina,   2AAV   can be found here at the Church in most cases.

Moving on to the nearby car park at the town's KFC outlet, not a single gull was present, so I headed off to the Baptist Church.  Driving along the link road towards the Baptist Church, Black-headed Gulls were present in fairly good numbers, numbering between 80 and a 100 birds.  Parking, in the car park of the Church, I began throwing out bits of bread.

By the end of my visit, four ringed Black-headed Gulls were recorded.  The first of these, making his presence known, was   2AAB , who is another of my study birds from Antrim Marina.  It hovered beside my car, waiting for me to throw a few bits of bread towards him.  As he was getting his bread, another Black-headed Gull with a White Darvic appeared, which I knew would be the Polish rung (White) TY43.

This was just my second sighting of TY43 this winter, having recorded it's return, on the 4th August 2019.  Come to think of it, was it that long ago, since my last visit to the Baptist Church!!  This is the 3rd winter in a row that TY43 has been recorded at the Church.  I first found the gull wintering here, on the 16th October 2017, although it was no stranger to the town of Antrim.

Back in October 2013, Adam McClure spotted TY43 at Antrim Marina, which was it's first sighting outside of Poland.  There is no doubting, that TY43, has wintered here every year since, and went undiscovered until I found it at the Baptist Church.  Ringed as a second calendar year bird, on the 9th February 2012, the duration is now 7 years, 9 months and 16 days, since being ringed, having travelled 1,725 kms / 1,071 miles (W), from Olsztyn in Poland.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  TY43  -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (25 Nov 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Calendar Year Bird, on the 9th February 2012, at Olsztyn, Poland)

Having sorted out the two colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, I started to look for a Scottish metal-ringed bird, which I first recorded here, on the 24th December 2017.  No sooner had I started to look, when I spotted a metal-rung bird.  Standing well away from my car, it displayed the habits of a wary gull, which told me, that this was the one I was looking for.

Camera out, I began the process of taking photos of the metal, and continually threw bits of bread in several directions in order to make the gull move about.  Having taken a couple of dozen pictures, I viewed them to find that I had captured the whole number -   EW39319 , the very bird I was hoping to find.

This was my fifth confirmed sighting for this bird, therefore making this the third winter in a row, that I've recorded it wintering at the Church.  I last saw it here, on the 18th February 2019.  I again, have no doubts, that this gull has wintered here every winter since being ringed as a chick in Scotland, in June 2009.  The duration since being ringed, is now 10 years, 5 months and 12 days, having travelled 157 kms / 97 miles (SSW), from Crinan, in the Argyll & Bute Region of Scotland.

Black-headed Gull  -    EW39319   -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (25 Nov 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 13th June 2009, at Black Rock, Crinan, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)

Having now sorted out three ringed birds, I used my binoculars to scan through the other Black-headed Gulls present, when I then spotted a juvenile bearing a metal ring.  This bird was easily one of the smallest Black-headed Gulls that I have ever seen, and quickly approached for a few bits of bread that I began throwing out.  It was an easy process of photographing it's ring, and I soon had the number -   EA18078 .

On returning home, I ran the number through my spreadsheet, as I knew Richard Donaghey had supervised some trainees, metal ringing some chicks at Inch Island in County Donegal, back in June.  As there were no matches, I reported the youngster to the BTO, via my DemOn Ringing account, and a few hours later, the recovery details arrived by email.

  EA18078 , had been ringed as a chick, on the 11th June 2019, at Rye Meads in Hertfordshire, England.  The duration as of today, was 5 months and 14 days, having flown 526 kms / 326 miles (NW), to reach Antrim.  The distance, is fairly good for a British-rung Black-headed Gull.

Juvenile Black-headed Gull  -    EA18078   -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (25 Nov 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 11th June 2019, at Rye Meads, Hertfordshire, England)


      Saturday 23rd November 2019       
With a number of chores to do on Saturday morning, it wasn't until midday before I could head off out.  This was not ideal, as I knew the tide would be well out before I could hit the coast.  I decided to go to Belfast, to check out the beach at Whiteabbey, Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast Waterworks, Victoria Park, and if time allowed, the beach at Kinnegar.

A colour-ringed Lapwing spotted at Whitehouse Lagoon, turned into a bit of a marathon, and I eventually had no time to fulfil my full agenda.  Stopping by Whiteabbey Beach first, I was hoping once again to re-sight a colour-ringed Black-headed Gull from County Mayo, bearing a Yellow Darvic, but not a single ringed bird was spotted.

Moving on to the nearby Whitehouse Lagoon, the tide was well out, and not that many birds were present.  I soon had my second sighting this winter of an Icelandic colour-ringed Oystercatcher.  Ringed Green/White-Green flag/Black,  I last recorded this bird on the 3rd August despite several other visits to the Lagoon since.  The bird, only has two visible rings remaining now, as the 'Green flag' fell off some time ago, and the plain 'Green Ring', had slipped inside the 'White Ring'.  First recorded here in September 2015, this is the fifth winter running that GW-GfN, has been recorded at Whitehouse Lagoon.

Oystercatcher  -  GW-GfN  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (23 Nov 2019)
(Ringed as a Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 5th June 2015, in Southern Iceland)

Scoping through the larger gulls in the distance, I then spotted an immature Herring Gull with a Red Darvic, which may well have been the same bird I saw here a couple of weeks ago, but it flew off before I grabbed my camera.  Zooming in, the code   298:D   was easily captured.  With the ':D' in the code, I knew this bird was from a Dublin based project.

On returning home, and running the code through my spreadsheet, I found a match.    298:D , was ringed as a chick, on the 22nd June 2018, on the roof of the Mater Hospital, in the City of Dublin.  It's first re-sighting occurred on the 4th April 2019, when it was spotted on the Dargan Mudflats, by Suzanne Belshaw.  These mudflats are situated just across the motorway from Whitehouse Lagoon.

I emailed my 'Ring Reading' counterpart in Dublin, Graham Prole, who is also the ringing coordinator for the Dublin based 'Urban Large Gulls' project.  Graham replied to confirm, that my sighting was now the second sighting, and attached an updated PDF File.  I also reported the sighting to the BTO, and the official distance from Dublin, is 145 kms / 90 miles (N), the duration now being 1 year, 5 months and 1 day, since being ringed.  My thanks to Graham for the updated info.

Immature Herring Gull  -    298:D   -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (23 Nov 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 22nd June 2018, at the Mater Hospital (Roof), Dublin, Republic of Ireland)

A flock of around 100 plus Lapwings, was very distant, with most of the birds actually standing in the water.  Scoping these, I then spotted the top of a yellow ring on one bird's left tibia.  The sighting of this bird started a 'marathon' of a wait.  I had yet, to confirm my first ever colour-ringed Lapwing, although I spotted one on the Bann Estuary near Castlerock last winter.  I had scoped that particular bird which was a good quarter of a mile away, and therefore, it was impossible to read the rings accurately.

Every now and again, today's Lapwing would move slightly, giving me a chance to see and photograph more colour-rings.  Unfortunately for me, this bird would not leave the water completely, but I eventually managed to record three colour rings in total.  As well as the yellow ring on the left tibia, the bird had a pale blue ring on the left tarsus, and a red ring on the right tibia.  I wondered if it also had another ring on the right tarsus, but never saw one.

I stayed for so long with this bird, the afternoon vanished, and as it started to darken down with heavy cloud, I decided to call it a day.  Having returned home, I looked through and edited my photos, sending copies to Richard du Feu, who is quite an expert on wader ringing projects.  Richard re-directed my email to Stefan Thyen in Germany, but I'm still waiting for a reply.  If confirmed, this would be quite an amazing sighting of a German Lapwing, being spotted in Northern Ireland.

Colour-Ringed Lapwing  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (23 Nov 2019)
(Waiting for Confirmation from Stefan Thyen in Germany)


      Sunday 24th November 2019       
This morning, I was out early in order to catch the receding tide, and started off my day at Carnlough Beach.  Throughout the day, I slowly worked my way southwards along the coast, until I reached Whitehouse Lagoon, where I tried to re-sight yesterday's colour-ringed Lapwing.  By the end of the afternoon, not a single colour-ringed bird was spotted, though I did note metals on an Oystercatcher, Herring Gull and a Common Gull.

What struck me most today, was the lack of gulls along the entire coast, except for Rhanbouy Park in Carrickfergus, and on the beach at Whiteabbey.  However, there were loads of Oystercatchers along the entire stretch, where I had hoped to find a new colour-ringed bird or two.  By the end of the afternoon, I wished I had gone to Antrim Marina instead, which would have spared me another Monday morning visit.


Friday, 22 November 2019

Poor Weekend...

Last weekend was a poor one, on the ring reading front.  I did not get out at all on Saturday, and on Sunday the tides were not in my favour, with high tide occurring in the early afternoon, and just one ring was read.  My weekly visit to Antrim Marina, was also put off until Monday morning.

I have now incorporated all of the known ringing and colour ringing data for Adam McClure's former Black-headed Gull project into my main spreadsheet, which has now mushroomed to over 10,600 entries in total, for all species encountered.  These entries, include all of the ringing and re-sighting histories of metal and colour-ringed birds that I have recorded, plus a small number from other ring readers.

In the last couple of days, I have received the full details for my Barnacle Goose sightings on the Isle of Islay in Scotland, during a visit made there on the 8th November.  My thanks goes to Steve Percival, who supplied the info, which included the birds metal numbers, and I can now submit my sightings to the BTO, via the DemOn Ringing Database.  I'll trawl through these histories, and will add the best birds to my next post, plus the ringing details of a Whooper Swan, that arrived by email on Thursday morning.

Antrim Marina, dominates in this week's post, as I received a number of re-sightings from Graham McElwaine, who happened to record another returning Black-headed Gull, which has arrived back for another winter.  During the hectic visit on Monday morning, I also caught and ringed five Black-headed Gulls.  I'm planning to ring about twenty birds, to add to my study, which was a study within a study, as part of Adam McClure's former BHG Project.  I've been led to believe, that Adam may well recommence the project at a later time, so my continued participation will of course be invaluable.

      Antrim Marina       
On Thursday last week, I received an email from Graham McElwaine, who recorded 12 colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, on Wednesday 13th November, two days after my previous weekly visit.  Among these 12 sightings, was a gull which according to my records, should have returned a couple of weeks ago, this one being   2ADV .

As previously mentioned,   2ADV , once it has returned to the Marina, has a habit of appearing around midday, during most of my weekly visits.  The only problem was, that I had departed either before, or around midday during my last couple of visits, so if   2ADV   had returned, I was not around to see it.  Just for curiosity, I looked at the date stamp on Graham's photo, to discover he had spotted   2ADV   at 4:48pm, late into the afternoon.

I was of course, delighted to learn of the gull's return, which became the 28th colour-ringed BHG to be recorded this winter.  My thanks goes to Graham, informing me of his 12 sightings.  I have no doubt, that   2ADV   is of foreign origin, but so far, we've no idea from which country it belongs to.  

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADV   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (13 Nov 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 15th December 2013, at Antrim Marina)
(Photo Courtesy of Graham McElwaine)

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gull Spotted by Graham McElwaine on Wednesday 13th November 2019
 2AAP   2AAK   2AAA   2ABK   2ABS   2AAB 
 2AAR   2ADV   2BRA   2CJT   2CSA   2CSR 

Monday 18th November 2019
As seems usual this days, I again made my weekly visit on Monday morning.  Last week's visit was cut short by an hour, due to the arrival of a digger and a couple of dumper trucks.  The wooden hoardings which surrounded the work site of the new cafe, were about to be dismantled, so that tarmacking operations could begin.  This was a sure sign, that work on the 'Gateway Centre', was nearing completion.  At that time, the gulls did not take too kindly to the sudden activity, hence my early departure.

Having departed early, I couldn't confirm whether my 'midday gull' -   2ADV , had returned or not, but it's was confirmed by Graham McElwaine.  With the arrival of   2ADV , my winter total of colour ring sightings had risen to 28 individuals, and on my arrival at the Marina this morning, I was mortified by the number of vans and lorries, parked inside the front car park.  This area, is normally closed off by a barrier, to prevent the public from access to this car park.  I have a key fob, from the local council which allows me to access the car park, to help me with my study.

After a severe frost the night before, I thought that I would have a good visit to the Marina, as the gulls would no doubt be very hungry.  No sooner had I arrived to find all of the vehicles present, fog flowed in from the Lough, which would have made the viewing of gulls so much harder, especially on the long wooden jetty, which was even further away from scoping range, due to the new temporary wire fencing.  The reason for so many vehicles, was the tarmacking around the new cafe complex, was just beginning.

The new cafe in the background is virtually unseen due to the fog, and all of the vehicles involved in the tarmacking operations are parked in the middle of my study area.  My car is situated to the extreme right in front of the van, and a small number of Black-headed Gulls can be seen perched on the bollards and railing below the Crack Willow tree.

Initially, I thought that, with all of the activity, today's visit was going to be a disaster.  How wrong I was, as having recently had three excellent weekly visits, today's was just as good.  Arriving at 8:10am, I had planned to depart at midday, to visit the other three sites around the town of Antrim, but I dropped this idea, and remained until 1pm.

I recorded 22 of the 28 colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, which have been recorded so far this winter.  Shortly after my arrival, an increase in the number of gulls present, took the total to over one hundred birds, which remained constant, despite all of the activity going on.  At 11:56, I had my first sighting this winter of my 'midday gull' -   2ADV , which was my 21st sighting of the day.  Two other gulls   2ADF   from Latvia, and   2CSF   from Iceland, are imminent to return, but neither were spotted, and were the reason for staying an extra hour.

There was no sign of the metal-rung Black-headed Gull -   EW85673 , which put in an appearance last week, or   2ANS , which was the 27th colour-ringed BHG, recorded this winter.  At present, there are still a couple of gulls ringed with the   2C**   Series of colour-rings, which have not re-appeared, having been ringed here at the Marina.  Could they have been birds passing through at the time of ringing?, or are they foreign birds, which are yet to return?

With 14 weekly visits having been carried out so far this winter, my Antrim Marina spreadsheet is starting to take shape, and four gulls of early ringing origin remain absent.  The most noticeable of these is the Lithuanian-rung (White) T35J.  Ringed as a chick in 2006, my final record of it at the Marina, was made on the 11th March 2019.  It's now looking, as if T35J, has since perished.  It was the sighting of T35J, on the 21st September 2013, which 'triggered' my passion for 'Ring Reading'.

  2ADJ , which was a resident, has also been absent so far, but when I last saw it on the 17th June 2019, it looked very unwell, and has likely died since.   2AAT   and   2ABF , appear to suffered the same fate, having not been seen since last spring.  I reckon   2AAT , was a non resident, but it would appear back at the Marina in late June, so it may have bred at some colony not so far away from the Marina, though I would doubt if it actually nested on the nearby 'Torpedo Platform'.    2ABF , was in my opinion a resident and local breeder, with several breeding season sightings having been made.

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded on Monday 18th November 2019 at Antrim Marina
 2CJT   2AAK   2CSA   2AAR   2AAA   2ACV   2CSR   2AAP 
 2BRA   2ABK   2AAB   2AAN   2CTB   2CSH   2CSJ   2CTC 
 2ABS   2CTA   2ABL   2CSL   2ADV   2ABN       

My Sighting of   2ADV   at Antrim Marina on Monday 18th November 2019

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded This Winter at Antrim Marina, but not Present Today
 2ABA   2AAV   2ANS   2CSB   2CSK   2CSX 

Despite all of the activity around the Marina during my visit, the gulls were extremely tolerant, probably driven by their hunger.  With 8 swans present on the slipway, I took the opportunity to catch and colour-ring five new Black-headed Gulls, to add to my study.  On hand feeding the swans in a group (crouching amongst them), I would drop small amounts of bread around their feet.  As the gulls tried to 'steal in' to grab a few bits of bread, I would grab the gulls.

The first two colour-rings used, had been retrieved from dead chicks, whilst on my second visit to Inch Island in County Donegal during the summer.  The first to be used was my final Orange Darvic, belonging to Adam's Northern Ireland Project.  As Adam was not responding to emails, I transferred my 'Blue 2F** Series' of rings, which were meant to be used on Common Gulls, to be used on Black-headed Gulls instead.  I needed to have some sort of continuation as regards to Adam's former project, and my study here at Antrim Marina.

The five new birds are an adult   2CTR , a first winter bird   2FBA , a second winter bird   2FDJ , followed by another two adults   2FDK   and   2FDL

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls Ringed at Antrim Marina During Today's Visit
 2CTR   2FBA   2FDJ   2FDK   2FDL 

When newly rung, it can be quite comical watching the gulls trying to peck at their newly acquired leg ware, but it does not take too long for them to get used to it.

Second Winter Black-headed Gull  -    2FDJ   -  Ringed at Antrim Marina on Today's Visit.

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
None of the four pairs of Mute Swans, or the large headed cygnet were ringed.  The cygnet, which only appeared here recently, seems to be getting used to folk, and now ventures a little closer hoping to get a feed, but it still 'hisses' if approached.  I've no idea whether any of the four pairs, were the parents of the five cygnets, which have not been seen of late, but all of the adult birds are tolerant to each other, which helps me when catching gulls.

With all of the tarmacking activity today, I was surprised to see any Common Gulls at all, but two adults were present for most of the time, and even the Scottish-rung   EY64036 , decided to put in a second appearance this winter.  I only saw this bird on the one occasion last winter, when it appeared on the long wooden jetty, but I was not able to confirm it's full ring number.  It's re-appearance this winter, was on the 28th October, so it was good to see it again today. 

Common Gull  -    EY64036   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, County Antrim  (18 Nov 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 20th June 2013, at Hunterston, Ayrshire, Scotland)

There was no sign of the adult Herring Gull today, or any Hooded Crows.  Mallard numbers are still very much on the low side, although I did not make a count today.  Seven Jackdaws, were the only other species recorded today.


      Sunday 17th November 2019       
As mentioned in my introductory, I did not get out yesterday, and the tides were not in my favour today.  I decided to cover the coast beginning at Larne, and finishing at Kinnegar Beach, on the southern side of Belfast Lough.  The only confirmed ring sighting of the day, was at my first stop, at Sandy Bay in Larne, which was a metal-rung Oystercatcher.

As the tide was quite well up, the Oystercatchers were busy running along and feeding on the water-line.  I positioned myself on the grass verge overlooking the beach, with my camera fixed onto the tripod.  I began taking lots of photos of the metal, which was not helped by the bright sunshine shining onto the ring.  Having decided, I had enough photos to complete the number, I did not check these until I returned home.

I had completed the whole number -   FH84092 , and on checking my spreadsheet, this was my third record for this bird.    FH84092 , was ringed as a chick, on the 14th June 2014, on North Ronaldsay in the Orkney Islands of Scotland.  My previous two sightings, were made here at Sandy Bay in the winter of 2015/2016, when the bird was recorded on the 27th December, and again on the 4th February.

Since then, I have seen a metal-rung Oystercatcher at Sandy Bay, but I've not been in a position where I could take photos of the ring.  Still, it was good to confirm another returnee, even if it was nearly four years ago since I first recorded the bird here.  The duration since being ringed, is now 5 years, 5 months and 3 days, and the distance from Twinyess on North Ronaldsay, is 540 kms / 335 miles (SSW).

Oystercatcher  -    FH84092   -  Sandy Bay, Larne, Co. Antrim  (17 Nov 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 14th June 2014, at Twinyess, North Ronaldsay, Orkney Islands, Scotland)

During my travels on Sunday, I called into the seaside village of Whitehead, to see if a colour-ringed Danish Black-headed Gull, had returned for the fourth winter running.  Ringed (White) 5HA, it was first recorded here on the 26th November 2016, by local man Cameron Moore.  I recorded it's return for a second winter, on the 14th November 2017, and for the third time, on the 18th November 2018.  Although I lured around two dozen BHGs with bread, there was no sign of 5HA.

The only other ringed bird spotted on Sunday, was a Knot at Whitehouse Lagoon.  At least two hundred birds of this species were present, along with 100+ Dunlin, 100+ Black-tailed Godwits, a few dozen Bar-tailed Godwits and a multitude of gulls.  I had a field day scoping through everything, but my colour-ringed Knot, slipped into the waters of the rising tide, and I couldn't relocate it again.  The bird appeared to be carrying a 'Pale Blue Flag', above another colour-ring, but I did not have a chance to get a good look at the bird's legs.  With so many birds present, I was a tad disappointed, at not finding any more rings.


Thursday, 14 November 2019

Old, Became Older...

The weekend for me began early this week, as on Friday I booked the day off work, to take a day trip to the island of Islay in Scotland, the trip having been organised by one of our Northern Ireland Politicians - Jim Wells.  This was my second chance to find and read colour-rings on Barnacle Geese, having previously visited the island last March.  This time, I broke away from the rest of the 'trippers' and worked away on my own for the whole day, covering the same stretch of ground, moving forwards and backwards.  A nice total of 21 colour-ringed 'Barnnies' were spotted, and I also recorded my first ever 'colour-marked' Greenland White-fronted Geese, with six birds having 'neck-collars'.

Saturday was wasted, as it rained quite heavily for the whole day, so I spent my time at home, editing the photos I took on Islay the day before, and catching up on some spreadsheet and folder work.  Sunday, was a good day weather wise, so I headed off to County Down, where I had initially planned to go last week.  My two main targets, were to read some rings on Common Gulls at Millisle, and make my second attempt this winter, to try and find my oldest BTO rung Black-headed Gull - mixed results on these targets.

This meant, that my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, was again put off until Monday morning, which wasn't a bad idea, as one new Black-headed Gull, and another returning bird, were recorded.

Emails have still been flying forwards and backwards all week, concerning Adam's former Black-headed Gull Project.  I'm still willing to take over the registration of the colour-rings in use, but as yet, I have not received any confirmation, concerning my take-over.  The sooner this happens, the better.  There's bound to be colour-ring sightings being reported, but I'd be fairly sure, no one is getting any type of response.

It has been a quite week concerning other ring readers, with the cold and wet weather possible influencing their outings.  So far this winter, we have been 'chugging' along quite nicely, with a number of last winter's ringed birds, having already been recorded.  There is still a long winter ahead, and hopefully many more returnees will be added to the list.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 11th November 2019       
With not getting out on Saturday, due to heavy rainfall and then spending Sunday in County Down, my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, was again undertaken on Monday morning.  With a forecast for strong winds and showers on Monday, this would also suit me, as I'd be sure of the gulls coming down into the car park.

Arriving just after 8am, around 60 Black-headed Gulls were to be found in the car park next to the slipway.  Numbers quickly gathered momentum, reaching a high of 150 to 170 birds soon afterwards.  These numbers remained constant throughout the remainder of my visit, which was eventually cut short by an hour.

I had planned on leaving around midday, but at 11am, several dumper trucks and a digger arrived on site.  The workmen were about to dismantle the hoardings which run alongside the long wooden jetty, which begins beside the short concrete jetty.  The area just inside the compound is now being readied for tarmacking operations to begin, which is a sure sign, that works on the new 'Gateway Centre', which will house the new cafe, are nearing completion.

Also around 11am, the sky darkened and seriously heavy rain began to fall, which meant I once again postponed visits to other sites around the town of Antrim.  As far as the gulls go, I had another excellent visit, with plenty of interaction with them, with the view of catching and ringing new individuals over the coming week.

With the arrival of   2CSH , during last week's visit, my total for colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls recorded at Antrim Marina this winter, had risen to 26 individuals.  By the time of my departure, I had recorded 22 of those 26 gulls, but today also saw the arrival of two other ringed birds.

The first of these, was a Black-headed Gull, which only had a metal ring.  Just prior to spotting this gull landing on the low wooden jetty, I had just checked on another metal only gull, which was   2ABL , who had somehow managed to loose it's colour-ring a long time ago.  On seeing the new bird, I looked around for   2ABL , to find it was still standing where I had last seen it.  Grabbing my camera, I took a number of photos of the new gull and it's ring, and soon afterwards, I had captured the code -   EW85673 .

On returning home, I ran the number through my spreadsheet, to find that this bird was a new sighting for me, as I'd never recorded it before, anywhere in Northern Ireland.  On reporting the gull to the BTO, through my DemOn account, I could see that it was ringed as a chick on the 2nd June 2013, but DemOn does not disclose the location.  Arriving home from work in the early hours of Wednesday morning, I checked my emails, to find the ringing details had arrived back.

  EW85673 , was ringed at a small lake, in a place called Glenarm, in Glen Cova, Angus, Scotland.  My sighting was the first since the gull was ringed, which is quite understandable for a metal rung bird.  The duration since being ringed, was 6 years, 5 months and 9 days, and the distance to Antrim Marina, was given as 304 kms / 188 miles (SW).

Black-headed Gull  -    EW85673   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (11 Nov 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 2nd June 2013, at Glenarm, Glen Cova, Angus, Scotland)

The second new sighting of the day, was another one of my own study birds at the Marina -   2ANS .  Only last week, I had mentioned   2ANS , as being one of three gulls that might put in an appearance over the next coming weeks.    2ANS , was caught and ringed at Antrim Marina, as a first winter bird, on the 12th November 2015.  In it's young days at the Marina, it was regularly recorded during weekly visits, but as the gull has become older, the bird is now an in-frequent visitor.

Last winter, I recorded   2ANS , on only two occasions - 29th October 2018 and on the 26th November 2018, having last recorded the gull on the 19th March 2018.  I was so pleased to see the return of yet another one of my study birds.  Today's re-sighting, comes just one day short of the fourth anniversary of the ringing of   2ANS , who now becomes my 27th colour-ringed Black-headed Gull, to be recorded at Antrim Marina this winter.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ANS   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (11 Nov 2019)
(Ringed as a 1st Winter Bird, on the 12th November 2015, at Antrim Marina)

There was still no sign of   2ADV , which should have arrived back by now.  Normally, once this gull does return, it does not appear until around midday, but I have not remained here long enough over recent visits, to even have a chance to record this bird.  Two other gulls which are now due to return -   2AFD   and   2CFS , were not seen today, but according to my records should return any time soon.

Last winter,   2CFS   announced it's return, by landing on the bonnet of my car.  This gull is known to go to Iceland, while   2AFD   is known to go to Latvia.  Hopefully all three, which includes   2AFD   will make it back.  There are also a couple of other gulls, which I have ringed, using the   2C**   series of colour-rings, which I know very little about due to the lack of re-sightings.  Having been caught and ringed at the Marina, there's every chance that some of them will also reappear at some point.

All in all, this was another very good visit, which makes it the third in a row.  Things are certainly going in the right direction, now that the cafe complex is nearing completion.  Whilst at the Marina today, two other birdwatchers appeared, and seemed to be reading rings as well.  Going over to them to have a chat, it turned out, that one of them was Steven Fyffe, who has contributed his own sightings at Antrim Marina in the past.  Having only known Steven via emails, it was good to put a face to the name.  If you should read the Steven, hi again, and it was good to meet you. 

Colour-Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded at Antrim Marina, on Monday 11th November 2019
 2CSJ   2CJT   2ABA   2ABK   2AAR   2CSB   2ABS   2BRA 
 2ABN   2CSR   2CTC   2AAK   2AAP   2CSK   2ABL   2AAA 
 2CSH   2CTB   2ACV   2CSA   2CSL   2AAN   2ANS 

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

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Now that work on the cafe is nearing completion, and having seen the Black-headed Gulls once again returning onto the front car park, I'm am also witnessing an increase in the number of Common Gulls visiting.  Although this species is never recorded in large numbers, normally these would peak at around a dozen birds at most, but I'm still glad to see them, as the are my favourite gull.

Today saw four adults, which were present for most of the time, this number being a high so far this winter.  Perhaps, once everything begins to return to normal around the Marina, more of these gulls will once again become regular visitors.  There was no sign today, of the small Scottish metal-rung bird, that re-appeared a couple of weeks ago.

This week, also saw the adult Herring Gull again, who did not appear last week.  I know this one well, as it readily walks to within a few feet of my car.

On my arrival today, three pairs of adult Mute Swans and a single cygnet, were all on the slipway.  The cygnet, was the same bird that I reported about last week, having that massively large head.  Just to be sure, I walked over to it, and it began to hiss.  None of the five young cygnets that had been here since the summer would have done that, as they would readily take bread from my hand.  As was the case last week, there was no show by any of those youngsters.  A fourth pair of adult Mute Swans, arrived in from a very 'choppy' looking Lough at 8:50, but none of today's birds were ringed.

A head count of 22 Mallards on my arrival, actually saw numbers decreasing during my visit.  When I departed around 11am, only 13 birds remained.  I have no idea, what could be the cause of such low numbers of late.  Normally, I'd expect numbers to be between 50 to 100+ birds at this time of year.

2 Hooded Crows, 7 Jackdaws, a pair of Pied and a pair of Grey Wagtails, were the only other species to be recorded at the Marina, although a juvenile Cormorant spent quite a long time fishing along the river which flows past the Marina.


      A Visit to the Isle of Islay       
In March 2019, I made my first ever trip to the island of Islay in Scotland, to have a go at reading rings on the thousands of Barnacle Geese that over-winter on the island, which also made for a change of scenery.  Having read around 20 colour-rings & 1 metal, it was a successful outing, and the chance to go again, was arranged for Friday 1st November, but this was postponed until the 8th, due to bad weather.  During the summer, several visits were also made to see a pair of nesting Golden Eagles on Islay, as well as two pairs of nesting White-tailed Sea Eagles on the neighbouring island of Jura.

During my latest visit to the Isle of Islay, on the 8th, I recorded 21 colour-ringed Barnacle Geese, of which, two were re-sightings of birds that I recorded last March, these being (White) ZZL & (White) ZZV.

The other 19 colour-rings read were (all White Darvic's) :- 6NH, 6UJ, D(bar)B, EUP, EUZ, EZA, EZB, XVN, YDY, YIA, YJS, YNL, YTN, YVZ, YYD, YYL, ZAX, ZID and ZIX.  I reported all of my sightings to Steve Percival, who is the ringing coordinator for the 'Barnnies'.  Although Steve has acknowledged my email, I'm still waiting on the ringing details for these birds.  Of this list, I'm intrigued to see where D(bar)B, was ringed at, as the code is clearly different from the others, which were probably all ringed on Islay.

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  EUZ  -  Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (08 Nov 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

Another species has been added to the colour-ringed birds that I record, these being Greenland White-fronted Geese.  A total of six, of these birds were recorded, all with orange-coded 'Neck Collars' -   AAV ,   AAY ,   AAZ ,   ACC ,   ACD   and   V6C .  On returning home, I checked out the cr-birding website, and duly sent an email to Anthony (Tony) David Fox.

I did not have to wait long before Tony replied, with details for all six birds.  With the exception of   V6C  , the other five were caught in the Loch Gruinart area of the island, in February of 2017, and had been re-sighted on the island over the past two winters 2017/18 & 2018/19.  My sightings today of all six birds, were their first records for this winter.

According to the info on   V6C , this goose has seemingly made it's first appearance on Islay.  Ringed as a first winter female, on the 1st April 2009, on Loch Ken in Dumfries & Galloway, (also in Scotland), it had been recorded there every winter since being ringed.  The only sighting of this bird outside of Scotland, occurred in the spring of 2010, when it was spotted in southern Iceland.

My thanks goes to Tony for the information supplied.    V6C , was photographed at a distance, just as it was getting dark, so the picture is not great.

Greenland White-fronted Goose  -    V6C   -  Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (08 Nov 2019)
(Ringed & Collarded, on the 1st April 2009, at Loch Ken, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland)

At one point, whilst scoping through the geese for rings, I had three eagles high in the air above my head.  Initially, I thought all three were Golden Eagles. until I got back home and downloaded my photos.  I have an eyesight problem, where anything that's close up to me is totally blurred,  I find this being a problem when using my camera.  Although it has an electronic viewfinder focusing feature, it still does not meet my specific needs to see a perfect picture.  What I thought was a female goldie, actually turned out to be a White-tailed Sea Eagle, which was being harassed by a pair of Golden Eagles - a nice sighting.

Golden Eagle Harassing a White-tailed Sea Eagle  -  Isle of Islay, Scotland  (08 Nov 2019)


      Sunday 10th November 2019       
Having postponed my planned visit to County Down last weekend, in favour of looking for ringed Whooper Swans on the Myroe Levels, I decided to go to County Down this weekend instead.  Saturday was a washout, with heavy rain falling for most of the day, so I set out on Sunday to visit sites in Down.  My two main objectives, were to read Common Gull rings at Millisle, and to make my second attempt this winter, to record my oldest British rung Black-headed Gull at Ballywalter.

All along the sea coast of the Ards Peninsular, there was a distinct lack of gulls, although I had noticed many large flocks, on inland farmland.  By the time that I had reached Portaferry, it was close to dark, and the scene of my fourth ring sighting for the whole day.

My first two ring sightings were at Millisle, where I had been hoping to read rings on several Common Gulls, as this is a well known 'hotspot' for the species.  You can imagine how disappointed I was, when only a single un-ringed bird appeared.

Having thrown bread out onto the car park to attract the gulls, a colour-ringed Herring Gull, and a metal-rung Black-headed Gull appeared.  As the Herring Gull, was the quickest to sort out, a few photos captured the code   4M:W .  Checking my spreadsheet on returning home, today's sighting happened to be my tenth record of the gull, with all previous sightings having been made at Millisle.

  4M:W , was ringed as an adult, on the 6th May 2015, on the nearby Copeland Islands.  I first recorded   4M:W , on the 3rd January 2016, which happened to be it's first re-sighting.  Other than my sightings, David Nixon, has also recorded the gull on two occasions at Millisle - on the 10th February 2016, and again on the 23rd November 2017.  Until today, my last sighting was recorded on the 25th May 2019.

Herring Gull  -    4M:W   -  Millisle, Drumfad Bay, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2019)
(Ringed an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 6th May 2015, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Having quickly sorted out my Herring Gull, I then concentrated on the metal-rung Black-headed Gull.  Having taken loads of photos, I donned my glasses and found that I had captured the whole number -   EW48510 .

On checking my spreadsheet, today's was my fourth record for this bird, all of which have been recorded here in the same car park.    EW48510 , had been ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 14th August 2017, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre in County Down.  My three previous sightings were made in December 2017, March 2017, and during September 2019.  Millisle is 14 kms / 8 miles (ENE), from Castle Espie, and the duration is now 2 years, 2 months and 27 days.

Black-headed Gull  -    EW48510   -  Millisle, Drumfad Bay, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 14th August 2017, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down)

No more rings were spotted until I reached the harbour at Ballywalter.  Once again, throwing out bits of bread soon attracted a number of gulls which also included a very 'bossy' Black-headed Gull with a metal-ring.  I knew straight away from it's behaviour, this was my oldest BHG.  A few photos later, the number was confirmed as being   ET02500 .

  ET02500 , was ringed as a chick, on the 15th June 1998, on the Copeland Islands, 14 kms / 8 miles (NNW), of Ballywalter, where I first fell in with the gull, on the 16th July 2016.  At that time, it's duration was 18 years, 1 month and 1 day since being ringed, and my sighting had been the first record since ringing.  Today's sighting, is my 8th overall for the gull having recorded it every winter since 2016.

On the 9th June 2019, I happened to stumble across   ET02500   for the first time, away from Ballywalter, when I saw it in full adult plumage in the seafront car park at Millisle.  I noticed that a very large gap had opened up between the ring butts, which meant there was a good chance for the ring to fall off.  It was therefore especially pleasing to find my oldest BHG, has got older, and the ring remains in place.  The duration now stands at 21 years, 4 months and 26 days.  Hopefully, I'll record this one on another couple of occasions before the end of the winter.

Black-headed Gull  -    ET02500   -  Ballywalter Harbour, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 15th June 1998, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

On reaching Portavogie harbour, I thought I would at least have a chance of scoping a number of large gulls, as normally, with this being a main fishing port, large numbers can build up here.  I was in for a shock, as driving around the harbour, less than a dozen birds were present.

With the skies beginning to darken, and the afternoon quickly drawing to an end, I made for Portaferry as quickly as I could.  Here, I fell in with another Black-headed Gull, which just had a metal-ring.  Despite my best efforts, the gulls would not 'play ball' with me, and wouldn't perch for any more than a few seconds.  I did manage a few photos of the gull and it's ring, but only captured a partial number -   EW***03 .  I have seen two metal-rung BHGs here in the past, one of which had a tall metal, and therefore was a foreign bird.

Perhaps on a later date, I could complete this birds ring number.  By now, it was becoming darker and darker, so it was time for home.  As I approached my home town of Ballymena, the heavy rain again returned, which I hoped would last until the following day, for my next weekly visit to Antrim Marina.

Black-headed Gull  -    EW***03   -  Portaferry Marina, Co. Down  (10 Nov 2019)