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.


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