Thursday, 12 December 2019

Icelandic Returnee...

Last weekend eventually saw me venturing out for the first time, since being struck down with a severe kidney infection the weekend before.  Although, still in a bit of pain, I returned to work on Monday evening, and the first hour or so nearly killed me.

Having to work with a fast moving product, my lower back felt the pressure, and it came as a relief when things became a lot more easier.  As I write this, it is now Thursday, and finally, I'm beginning to feel normal again.  With the rest of this post completed, this introductory, is the final piece of work, before checking for spelling mistakes, and coding errors which sometimes creep in.

Being off work for the week on the sick, although I could not move around too much without that 'stabbing' pain, I did however manage to carry out a lot more work on my main spreadsheet.  With the addition of data belonging to Adam's former Black-headed Gull project, the spreadsheet has now 'mushroomed' to over 10,800 entries.  Along with these, there are constant additions, not only with my ring sightings, but also ring sightings from other observers, which are becoming more frequent.

Once fully updated, with hyperlinks to recoveries, PDF Files, Photos and Blog entries etc., the spreadsheet should look like a 'work of art'.  Via the use of the BTO's new DemOn Ringing database, I have discovered that Adam had not submitted most of his Black-headed Gull sightings to the BTO, which I must add came from me.  I've now began the task of submitting the 'key' sightings for individual BHGs, as well as all Herring Gull  sightings, as Adam was also the ringing coordinator for the Copeland Herring Gull Project.

I became aware of this problem, as one of my contacts received an email from Lee Barber, to say that her Herring Gull, was a first ever re-sighting since being ringed.  My contact, as well as myself, knew differently, for that particular gull.  I am now systematically submitting all those sightings that I have on my spreadsheet.  I dread to think, just how much data is out there, being held by those running colour-ring projects, which has not been submitted to the BTO.

Finally, with the weekend approaching, I'm itching to get out and about again.  As we are now approaching mid-winter, there are still a lot of birds recorded last year, which are still to be re-located, adding to their longevity.  Records such as my Icelandic Black-headed Gull, ringed with a metal, having been recorded for the seventh winter running, are 'priceless'.  Reading colour-rings are fairly straight forward, but repeated sightings of metal-rung birds, are definitely the 'Crème De La Crème'.
      Antrim Marina       
My visit to Antrim Marina this week, was made on Sunday afternoon, which I think was the first time in seven seasons that I visited the Marina with such a late start.  Still feeling the effects of last weekends kidney infection, I headed off to Kinnegar Beach, to catch an out-going tide, before calling in to the Marina on my way home.

On driving into the car park at the Marina, at 12:45, I immediately spotted two colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, the first being   2CTR , which was the first sighting of this bird, since being caught and ringed here on the 18th November 2019.  The second gull was   2AAA , the first ever Black-headed Gull, to be ringed belonging to Adam McClure's former Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study.    2AAA , was ringed here at the Marina, on the 12th November 2012.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CTR   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (08 Dec 20190
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 18th November 2019, at Antrim Marina)

With two rings already recorded, I drove slowly towards my parking spot, when I the noticed a Black-headed Gull sporting a tall metal ring, which would be of a foreign bird.  I stopped the engine and scoped the ring, spotting the last four digits -   1487 .  Instantly, I knew this gull was the Icelandic -   571487 , and several photos were taken before the bird flew off.  I had captured the rest of the number, except for the final two digits -   87 .

I was, as to be expected, delighted to record the return of   571487 , for now, this, the seventh winter running.  My initial sighting of the gull was made at the end of the 2013/2014 winter, when I spotted it on the 23rd March 2014.  Ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2003, the duration, as of today's sighting, is now 16 years, 5 months and 19 days, making it (I believe), my second oldest BHG known to still be alive.

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    571487   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (08 Dec 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2003, just outside Reykjavik, Iceland)

As the Icelandic bird flew off, my attention once again turned onto the other gulls.  So far this winter, I have recorded 28 colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, plus, with the addition of five newly ringed birds, I was on the lookout for 33 birds altogether.  At no time did the overall numbers present exceed 80 gulls, but they were clearly coming and going quite rapidly.  By 2:30, the skies had darkened so much, it was actually beginning to become very difficult to scope rings in the poor light.  Also at this time, showers became more frequent and heavy, making it almost impossible to see anything at all.

I had recorded 20 colour-rings which also included my first re-sighting of   2FDK , which had also been ringed here on the 18th November.  This was one of four gulls that day, which were ringed with my own 'Blue Darvic's', in my attempt to carry on with the 'Antrim Marina Study', which I began  in support of Adam's former Northern Ireland Project.  With the conditions now so poor, I decided to call it a day.  On leaving, I was disappointed at not having recorded   2AFD   or   2CSF , which should have returned here a couple of weeks ago, from Latvia and Iceland.

Black-headed Gull  -    2FDK   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (08 Dec 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 18th November 2019, at Antrim Marina)

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina on Sunday 8th December 2019
 2CTR   2AAA   2BRA   2AAP   2CSA   2CSL   2AAR   2CSR   2FDK   2ABS 
 2CSJ   2ABN   2AAK   2CTC   2AAN   2CJT   2AAB   2ADV   2ABK   2ABA 

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded at Antrim Marina This Winter, but not Present Today
 2ABL   2AAV   2ACV   2ANS   2CSB   2CSH   2CSK 
 2CSX   2CTA   2CTB   2FBA   2FDJ   2FDL   

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
With the very poor weather conditions, there was little in the way of other species.  Even the river which flows through the Marina on its way to nearby Lough Neagh, was very choppy, and big waves could be seen on the Lough.  Not a single Mute Swan appeared, and Mallards numbered just 13 birds.

A single adult Common Gull and the resident adult Herring Gull, stayed throughout my visit, mingling in with the Black-headed Gulls which stood around the car park.

A high of 5 Jackdaws, were the only species recorded today.


      Ringing Details       
It has now been a couple of weeks since I reported my first ever colour-ringed Lapwing to Stefan Thyen in Germany.  As I write, there still has been no reply to my email, and it looks increasingly likely, that I'm not going to get anything back on this bird.  A reply either way, would have greatly received, whether the sighting could or could not be accepted.  It always saddens me, when those running colour-ringing projects do not reply.


      From Richard Else       
On Saturday the 7th December, I received an email from Richard (Ric) Else, who along with Hazel Watson, are the editors of the Rathlin Island Bird Report (see side bar for the reports).  Together, they undertake a lot of work for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserve at the islands Bull Point Lighthouse.

In their spare time, they carry out a lot of birdwatching around the rest of the island, where on Saturday, Ric spotted two juvenile colour-ringed Common Gulls, from the project I began on the island in the summer of 2017.  Ric, being based on the island, has been of great help, locating and reporting on gulls from my new venture.  I have been asked to supply an article for the next Rathlin Island Bird Report, but I had to decline, due to short notice, and the overload of other birdwatching data which I am still working on, especially on my main spreadsheet.

On receiving Ric's email, I was surprised to learn of any juveniles being on the island at all.  I had assumed, all of this year's youngsters would have vacated the island, moving into others areas around the Irish mainland.  Next summer, will be see a major landmark in my project, as the first of the 2017 birds will breed for the first time on the island.

During the past summer, a small number of these 2017 youngsters did reappear on the island for the first time.  As they were not quite full breeding age, I reckoned they had returned to prospect future nesting sites.  I expect a few more 2017 youngsters, which have still gone un-recorded, to return as well, plus the first of the 2018 rung birds, will also return to prospect nest sites.

The next couple of years will be exciting, with returning gulls integrating into the breeding population, where we can record the fortunes of these birds.  My overall hope, is to see most of the Common Gull population here on the island, sporting colour-rings.  

My continued thanks goes out to Ric and Hazel, for their help, and most importantly, their sightings.  Their involvement has certainly been an unexpected bonus since I began my new adventure, and it's a positive step having 'boots on the ground'.  I have promised an article for next years Rathlin Bird Report, which no doubt will have plenty to offer.

Juvenile Common Gull  -    2BKJ   -  Church Bay, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (07 Dec 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2019, at Arkill Bay, Rathlin Island)

Juvenile Common Gull  -    2BSC   -  Church Bay, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (07 Dec 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 29th June 2019, at Arkill Bay, Rathlin Island)


      Sunday 8th December 2019       
Still feeling the effects of my recent kidney infection, I stayed at home on Saturday, and decided on a visit to Kinnegar Beach on Sunday morning, to catch the out-going tide, followed by my weekly visit to Antrim Marina on my way back home.

Experiencing a good bit of pain in my lower back, the good thing about surveying Kinnegar Beach, is that it can be done from the comfort of my car.  Sunday was a fairly dark day, with strong winds and occasional showers, and though still quite ill, I was not going to expose myself to these conditions, but I really needed something for this weeks post.

Arriving just as the tide began to recede, I spent the best part of two hours scoping a multitude of gulls and waders, with just two colour-ringed birds being spotted, these being re-sightings of birds already recorded here this winter.  There was quite a good showing of both Common and Black-headed Gulls, and I was hugely disappointed that not a single colour-ring was spotted, nor any metal only birds.

Herring Gull  -    0L:W   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (08 Dec 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 22nd May 2014, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Oystercatcher  -  YL-W(UA)  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (08 Dec 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 23rd May 2018, in the Stokkseyri area of SW. Iceland)


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