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.


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