Friday, 21 February 2020

Another Storm...

With the arrival of the second storm in successive weekends, I stayed at home on both Saturday and Sunday, and began work on the Black-headed Gull re-sighting database, which Adam McClure sent to me concerning his former project.  Trawling through the sightings, there are several thousand which have not been submitted to the BTO.  On top of all that, I have several hundred re-sightings on my own spreadsheet, which do not appear in Adam's database.

I pondered for quite a while, as how to work with all the data, and I came to the conclusion, that the best course of action, would be to exchange everything between the two.  I altered Adam's original database slightly, to include sightings reported by me via the BTO's new DemOn database.  Adam on his database, had a tick column, where he reported sightings via the old IPMR system.  I can now submit all key re-sighting details, to bring Adam's former project up to date.  As I'm exchanging data both ways, should Adam decide to return to his former project, I can then return an updated copy of his original database.

The whole task will take months to complete, but at least all of the information will not be lost.  I must be a 'glutten' for punishment, but it just goes to show how dedicated I am.  Looking at the weather on Saturday and Sunday through my window, I was nice and cosy in the house.  Another weekend, has been lost 'Ring Reading', but my weekly visit to Antrim Marina went ahead on Monday morning.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 17th February 2020       
Having spent Saturday and Sunday at home, avoiding the stormy weather conditions, I spent much of my time working on the database which I recently received fro Adam, concerning his form Black-headed Gull Project.  I therefore decided to undertake my weekly visit to Antrim Marina on Monday morning.

Although the weekends 'Storm Dennis' had passed, there was still gale force winds blowing in from the Lough during today's visit to the Marina.  Around 60 Black-headed Gulls were already present on my arrival at 08:20, and by 08:35, I had recorded 12 colour-ringed gulls.  The total number of gulls either re-sighted or ringed at the Marina this winter, stood at 37 birds altogether.  By the time of my departure around midday, my 23rd and last sighting was that of   2ABA , at 11:22.    2ABA , has been a rare visitor this winter, so I was well pleased for another re-sighting today.

The visit, would have been fairly average, except for the sighting of a Black-headed Gull with a tall metal.  Straight away, I thought this was the Icelandic -   571487 , who's return I recorded on the 8th December 2019.  Zooming in with my camera, I could see the word 'holm' on the address line, and immediately knew this was a Swedish bird.  I walked around in wide circles, snapping pictures from different angles, hoping the gull would not fly off.  After a large number of pictures, I was fairly sure that the whole number had been captured.

Returning to my car, and on checking through my photos, I did have the complete number -   6453864 .  When I got back home, I sent an email to Sweden, before grabbing a couple of hours sleep, which would set me up for the night at work.  The ringing details arrived back on Tuesday afternoon.

  6453864 , had been ringed as a chick, on the 29th June 2018, in the Täfteä area, well up the eastern coast of Sweden.  The distance to Antrim Marina, was given as 1,801 kms / 1,119 miles (WSW), and the duration from ringing was 1 year, 7 months and 19 days.  Although no other details were given, I would guess, as this gull was ringed with a metal only, my sighting may well be a first of the bird.

With this being the seventh winter since I took up 'Ring Reading', today's Black-headed Gull, is only the third that I've recorded from Sweden.  The first one was also recorded here at Antrim Marina, when it arrived as a juvenile in the winter of 2014/15, the winter when I began my new hobby.  That same juvenile, arrived back again in the winter of 2015/16, but my last record of it, was on the 27th March 2016.

Black-headed Gull  -  Sweden    6453864   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (17 Feb 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 29th June 2018, at Kankhällögern, Täfteä, Västerbotten, Sweden)

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded at Antrim Marina on Monday 17th February 2020
 2CJT   2AAB   2AAP   2CSR   2BRA   2AAN   2CSJ   2ABL 
 2AAR   2CSB   2ABN   2CTC   2ABK   2FDK   2ACV   2CSA 
 2AAK   2AAA   2ABS   2CTA   2CSK   2FDJ   2ABA   

Black-headed Gulls Re-Sighted or Ringed at Antrim Marina This Winter, but Not Recorded Today
 2AAV   2ADV   2AFD   2BRD   2ANS   2CSH   2CSL 
 2CSS   2CSX   2CTB   2CTR   2FBA   2FDL   2FDN 

On returning home from work in the early hours of Thursday morning, I checked my emails to find that Graham McElwaine had visited Antrim Marina on Wednesday 19th February.  Graham, who is the ringing coordinator for the Irish Brent Goose Research Group, had called by the Marina for around 10 minutes, and recorded a 'quick -fire' 13 colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls from my study there, which is a study within Adam McClure's former Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study.

Of the 13 birds recorded, two -   2CSL   &   2CSS , were not recorded during my visit to Antrim Marina, two days earlier on Monday.    2CSS , was the stand out bird, as it has only recently re-appeared (3rd February 2020), having not been seen here since the 25th March 2019.    2CSS , had been ringed as a juvenile at the Marina, on the 7th January 2018, and was often re-sighted until October 2018, the time when construction on the new restaurant/cafe had begun.  To get a second re-sighting from Graham, was especially pleasing, and my thanks goes to Graham for these, along with a photo of each bird.

As I record the gulls at the Marina on a weekly basis, I re-frame from submitting all sightings regularly, as not to overwhelm the BTO all of the time.  On obtaining sightings from other observers, presents me with the opportunity to update each bird involved on the BTO DemOn Database.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSS   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (19 Feb 2020)
(Ringed as a Juvenile/1st Winter Bird, on the 7th January 2018, at Antrim Marina)
(Photo Courtesy of Graham McElwaine)

Black-headed Gulls Recorded by Graham McElwaine on Wednesday 19th February 2020
 2AAN   2AAP   2AAR   2ABK   2BRA   2CJT   2CSJ 
 2CSK   2CSL   2CSS   2CSR   2CTC   2FDJ   

Other Species at Antrim Marina
On arrival at the Marina, 5 Mute Swans and a cygnet were present on the slipway.  I called by the cafe to see if Tom Gourley was about, as he emailed me on Monday last week to ask who he should contact concerning an injured Mute Swan.  I emailed Tom, with the mobile number of Debbie 'Doolittle' Hanna, who runs a wildlife rescue centre.  Tom was not present at the cafe, and a lady in charge knew about the swan, but had no idea what happened to it.

At 10:16, a pair of Mute Swans arrived from up-river, the male of which was very aggressive to the other adult swans, but not to the juvenile.  This behaviour resembled that of the pair which was present here from the summer until early winter, that had five cygnets in tow.  None of the swans were ringed, and two birds with metals, that would normally have arrived back by now, are well overdue.

Mallard numbers, were once again, on the poor side, with just 8 birds on my arrival, increasing to 15 birds at 11am.  After this time, numbers began to decrease, with just 7 present at the time of my departure.

Not a single Common Gull was recorded during my visit last week.  Today, just two adults appeared, the first at 09:35, and the second at 09:44, with both birds remaining until my departure.  My hopes of re-sighting the Finnish metal-rung bird, have now ended.  I reckon this gull has died since I last recorded it here on the 19th March 2018, aged 22 years, 7 months and 13 days.  The small Scottish metal-rung female, was last seen here on the 12th January 2020.

The usual adult Herring Gull appeared at 08:34, landing very close to my car.  This bird knows, that if it stays close to me, I will throw it large lumps of bread.  A 3rd calendar year Herring Gull, arrived at 09:35, landing on the slipway for a drink of water.  The gull looked like the bird which appeared here for the first time last week.  Also, in the case of last week, the adult bird did not hesitate in chasing the younger gull away.

The stormy conditions, no doubt persuaded many birds to stay away from the Marina, with just 8 Jackdaws and an immature Moorhen being the only other species recorded.

Moving on from Antrim Marina, I checked out the other sites around the town of Antrim.  Last week, I threatened to make a visit later in the week, but in the end I did not have time.  I stated, that the Black-headed Gull   2ADD , should now have returned to the car park at Antrim's KFC outlet.  With this in mind, I made sure to check out these other sites today.

On my way to the KFC outlet, I pass the Elim Church at Antrim's Parkhall Estate.  Having not recorded   2AAV , at Antrim Marina since the 24th December 2019, I was keen to see if the gull was at the Church, which is it's favoured wintering site.  Around 30 to 40 Black-headed Gulls were present in the area of the Church, along with a couple of Common and Herring Gulls.  Throwing out bits of bread from my car, the only ringed gull to appear was   2AAV .

Moving on to the KFC outlet, a surprising number of Black-headed Gulls were present.  Among the sixty or so birds, was   2ADD .  This gull which winters around Carrickfergus Harbour, was caught and ringed there in November 2013.    2ADD , is well known for moving to the KFC outlet, just prior to the onset of the breeding season, where he finally arrives at Antrim Marina for the summer, where he no doubt, breeds on the nearby former 'Torpedo Platform'.  Also of note at the KFC car park, was a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Of late, I've began seeing more and more of these gulls, no doubt arriving back from the wintering grounds in southern Europe and north Africa.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADD   -  Antrim KFC, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (17 Feb 2020)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 29th November 2013, at Carrickfergus Harbour, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim)

My final stop of the day before returning home, was at Antrim's Baptist Church.  Parking in the car park, I avoided at least sixty Black-headed Gulls dotted around the car park.  Scanning through them all with my binoculars, just one metal-rung bird was spotted, which I belived would be   EW39319 .  Although, well away from my car, my camera just managed to capture the digits, which confirmed my belief.

Today's, was my second sighting of the gull this winter, but this has been due to the lack of visits.  This is the third winter running, that I have recorded   EW39319 , wintering here.  Ringed as a chick in 2009, the bird went un-recorded until I first discovered it wintering at the Baptist Church, on the 24 December 2017.  This winter, I recorded it's return on the 25th November 2019, which at that point, was my fifth record for the gull at the Church.  The duration since being ringed, is now 10 years, 8 months and 4 days.  The distance from the Sound of Jura in Scotland, is 157 kms / 97 miles (SSW).

Another gull I was hoping to record, was the Polish Black-headed Gull - (White) TY43.  TY43, has been recorded for the third wintering running at the Baptist Church, having been ringed in Poland in February 2012.  Prior to my sightings at the Baptist Church, the only previous sighting in Northern Ireland, was recorded by Adam McClure, on the 29th October 2013, when he recorded the gull at Antrim Marina.  However, since I last checked the 'Live' Polish Ringing Database, I see another entry has been made, by a Rodney Monteith, who also recorded TY43 at Antrim Marina, on the 30th January 2018.  As yet, I've never seen TY43 at Antrim Marina.

Black-headed Gull  -    EW39319   -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (17 Feb 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 13th June 2009, at Black Rock, Sound of Jura, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)


      Ringing Recoveries Received       
Earlier this week, the ringing recovery for last week's mystery Great Black-backed Gull -   1TE , arrived from the BTO.    1TE , belonged to a former project run by Chris Honan, which my 'Ring Reading' counterpart in Dublin - Graham Prole, now looks after.  The mystery arose, as Graham had no record of the gull on his database, and as far as he was concerned, the colour-coded ring had never been used.  However, on the database, the code fell between other Great Black-backed Gulls, which had been ringed as chicks, on the island of Ireland's Eye in County Dublin, in 2012.

Graham, went on to say he was 99% sure, that the gull had been ringed on the 14th July 2012, and it's metal number may have been   MA29180 .  It was decided between us, that I should submit my sighting by the colour-code only, and see what kind of a return that I would receive from the BTO.

The ringing recovery confirmed Graham's suspicions, regarding both the ringing date and the metal number.  Now that our mystery gull, is no longer a mystery, it still beggers the question - how a large gull such as this, has managed to wander about all these years previously un-recorded.  The distance from Ireland's Eye, to Ardglass Harbour, where I recorded   1TE , on the 9th February 2020, is 102 kms / 63 miles (ENE).  The duration from ringing, up until the 9th February, was 7 years, 6 months and 26 days.  My thanks goes to Graham for his input, and the result is something which we both appreciate.


      From Suzanne Belshaw       
A recent email from Suzanne Belshaw, contained a number of colour-ring re-sightings, which helps to increase each birds longevity.  Suzanne, has also encountered a metal-rung Blackbird from Norway.

The first of these birds, is Black-headed Gull   2ACP .  This gull from Adam's former project, was ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 9th February 2013, at the Sprucefield Shopping Centre at Lisburn, County Antrim.  The bird was spotted by Suzanne near her own home in Lisburn on the 12th January 2020, having moved 2 kms / 1 mile (N).  The duration, is now 6 years, 11 months and 3 days, since being ringed.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ACP   -  Lisburn, Co. Antrim  (12 Jan 2020)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 9th February 2013, at the Sprucefield Shopping Centre, Lisburn, Co. Antrim)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Visiting the lake at Lurgan Park on the 29th January 2020, two ringed Black-headed Gulls were re-sighted.  The Polish rung   T58T , was recorded the day earlier, from a reported sighting from Melvin Percy.  Having been ringed as an un-sexed adult in July 2016,   T58T   has been recorded wintering for the fourth winter running at the park.  It was first recorded here on the 15th December 2016, and this winter, Suzanne recorded the birds return, on the 27th December 2019.    T58T , has also been recorded back in Poland, during the summers of 2017, 2018 and 2019.  The distance from Świnoujście in northern Poland, to Lurgan Park, is 1,334 kms / 828 miles (WNW), and the duration as of the 30th January 2020, is 3 years, 6 months and 14 days.

Black-headed Gull  -  Poland    T58T   -  Lurgan Park Lake, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  (29 Jan 2020)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 16th July 2016, at Świnoujście, Poland)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

A metal-rung Black-headed Gull -   EZ02451 , is now the 8th record for the bird on my spreadsheet, with all eight sightings having been recorded by Suzanne.  The gull was ringed as a chick, on the 20th June 2017, at the Elvanfoot colony, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Having turned up at Lurgan Park as a juvenile in September 2017, it was recorded on a total of six occasions up to the 17th January 2018.  For some reason, the bird was not recorded back at Lurgan Park during the winter of 2018/2019, but reappeared this winter on the 11th October 2019.  This latest sighting, takes the duration to 2 years, 7 months and 9 days, the distance from Elvanfoot being 202 kms / 125 miles (WSW).

Black-headed Gull  -    EZ02451   -  Lurgan Park Lake, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  (29 Jan 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 20th June 2017, at Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire, Scotland)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

On the 2nd February 2020, Suzanne recorded the juvenile Herring Gull -   T9VF , for the third time this winter, near her home in Lisburn.  Ringed as a chick, on the 3rd July 2019, on the Isle of Man, it was first spotted on the 3rd November 2019.  With all three sightings having been made at the same location, the duration is now 6 months and 30 days, the distance being 96 kms / 59 miles (WNW).  No photo was taken this time.

An interesting sighting, is that of a Norwegian Blackbird.  Suzanne is still in pursuit of this bird, as she believes she is just one digit short of completing it's ring number.  So far, she has tried to photograph the ring on a couple of occasions, which would be quite difficult for such a small bird.  I hope that Suzanne manages to capture the whole number, as it will be quite rewarding for the effort that she has gone to.

Norwegian Rung Blackbird - Ring Number Incomplete - Lisburn, Co. Antrim
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

My thanks goes to Suzanne, for her sightings and photos.


      From David Nixon       
A Icelandic-rung Whooper Swan was reported to me by David Nixon, who had spotted the bird in a field near Seaforde in County Down.  Originally colour-ringed -   H35 , as an adult male, on the 12th August 2005, the bird was recaptured (controlled) in Iceland in July 2016, where it was fitted with the replacement colour-ring -   XAY .

Since originally being ringed, over the years the swan has had numerous re-sightings in both England and Iceland, however, with David's sighting, this is the birds first recorded sighting in Northern Ireland.  The duration as of David's sighting, was now 14 years, 5 months and 30 days.  I have no offical distance as yet, as I'm waiting for the recovery details from the BTO.    XAY , is by far the oldest Whooper Swan which has now been entered onto my spreadsheet, and I thank David for sharing his sighting and photo.  The re-sighting history can be read (here).

Whooper Swan  -  Iceland    XAY   -  near Seaforde, Co. Down  (11 Feb 2020)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 12th August 2005, at Vatnshlid, Vatnsskard, Iceland)
(Photo Courtesy of David Nixon)


Saturday, 15 February 2020

Mystery GBB Gull...

Just like last weekend, another storm has arrived, this one being named as 'Dennis'.  I knew conditions for today (Saturday 15th February), would not be ideal to go out anywhere, so I had held back on publishing this post yesterday.  The reason being, I was hoping to receive an eagerly awaited recovery for a mystery colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gull.  As I prepared to go to work, I was still waiting, and on returning home, no recoveries had arrived.

Having got up just before midday today, I went down town to buy a couple of odds and ends, also calling into my local park, which was just about deserted as far as gulls are concerned.  A metal-rung Lesser Black-backed Gull is due back at the park again.  I've being keeping an eye out on the park's pavilion whilst driving by, but there is no sign of the gull yet.  There has been a lot of rain today, and it's quite dark, though not too windy.

The forecast for Sunday is not good either, with storm force winds lasting for most of the day.  By the looks of things, this will be a wasted weekend, though conditions will improve by Monday, which will see me complete my next weekly visit to Antrim Marina.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 10th February 2020       
With storm Ciara having passed yesterday, my visit to Antrim Marina this morning, was still a very stormy affair.  Gale force winds, blowing in from Lough Neagh, still rocked my car, which was parked beside the short concrete jetty.  Every so often, showers of heavy rain fell as well.  Listening to the car radio, snow on some of the highest hills in County Antrim, was causing problems for a few motorists.  It was one of those days, where you're better off lying snug at home, other than being out trying to read rings.

Arriving at the Marina shortly after 9am, having battled my way through the school traffic, only 29 Black-headed Gulls were present.  Slowly, numbers built up to around 80 gulls, with this figure more or less, remaining constant throughout the remainder of my visit.  Again, having said that, judging by colour-ringed birds, many gulls were clearly coming and going.

By 11:45am, conditions were so bad, having read just 14 of the 37 colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls recorded this winter, I called it a day and returned home.  I was going to check out the car park at Antrim's KFC outlet, as   2ADD   is now due to appear there, having spent the winter at Carrickfergus.

  2ADD  is known to stop by the fast food outlet for a couple of weeks, before moving on to Antrim Marina, where he no doubts breeds on the nearby former 'Torpedo Platform'.  Perhaps, I'll find time later this week to visit the other sites around the town of Antrim, by which time, the weather should be a little milder.

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded at Antrim Marina on Monday 10th February 2020
 2FDK   2ABK   2ACV   2CSR   2AAR   2BRA   2AAK 
 2CTC   2CJT   2CSL   2AAB   2AAA   2CSB   2CSJ 

Black-headed Gulls Re-Sighted or Ringed This Winter, but Not Recorded Today
 2AAP   2ABN   2ABS   2ABA   2AAN   2ABL   2AAV   2ADV 
 2AFD   2BRD   2ANS   2CSA   2CSH   2CSK   2CSS   2CSX 
 2CTA   2CTB   2CTR   2FBA   2FDJ   2FDL   2FDN   

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
On my arrival, as with the low number of Black-headed Gulls, just 29 Mallards were counted on the slipway, along with three adult Mute Swans and a cygnet.  As I parked my car, another pair of Mute Swans, were making their way in from the very choppy looking Lough Neagh.

No further Mute Swans appeared by the time of my departure, and another count of the Mallards before I left, saw the numbers decrease by two birds, to 17.

Not a single Common Gull appeared during my visit, but a third calendar year Herring Gull arrived at 09:18.  It remained until the arrival of the adult Herring Gull, which has been present here for most of this winter.  It quickly chased the newcomer away.

10 Jackdaws, were the only other species of bird to be seen at the Marina today.

I returned home, and grabbed a couple of hours sleep, which would set me up for work this evening.  Having, got up again at 4:30, I sat down with a cup of coffee to check on any emails.  There was one in, from a Tom Gourley, who has his own cafe within the premises of the new 'Gateway Centre'.  Apparently, one of the Mute Swans was found injured, and was found lying beside the former cafe, but Tom had no idea on whom to contact.

I wondered to myself, was this actually the sixth adult, which has normally been recorded over recent weeks.  As there were only five adults present on the slipway today, I've probably missed seeing this bird.  I knew the best person to contact, would be Debbie 'Doolittle' Hanna, who operates a wildlife rescue centre.  I was able to find her mobile number, which I passed on to Tom.  I'll try to find out the outcome of this situation in time for my next post.


      Sunday 9th February 2020       
With storm Ciara, due to pass over us this weekend, I remained at home on Saturday (8th) to finish off last weeks post.  Getting up at 7am on Sunday morning, conditions outside were not great, but I decided to head off to County Down anyway.  As I progressed, there was large gaps of blue sky, with a few showers, but it was still very windy.  On my way, I stopped by the high tide roost, on the pond just above the beach at Kinnegar, on the south side of Belfast Lough.

The two small islands, where many waders and some gulls would roost on, were completely submerged, forcing the birds onto the main shore.  At least 200 Knots were of interest, but they were so tightly packed together, no rings were spotted.  I then drove straight to the harbour at Ardglass.  At one point along the way, as I drove beside Strangford Lough, the waves were flowing across the road, but I managed to drive through.

Arriving at Ardglass, the two islands, in the inlet next to the harbour, had disappeared under the tidal surge.  Normally, both would be visible at high tide.  Having reached Ardglass, my first priority was to get fuel for my car as I was running low, and really needed a fill, just in case there was a power cut.  Calling into the only filling station, I nearly 'died', to find they had no diesel.  My choice then, was to either drive on to Dundrum or Downpatrick.

I chose Dundrum, which would take me through the village of Killough.  On approaching the village, the road was closed, as water from Strangford Lough, had flooded the whole of the main street.  I now had to change course again for Downpatrick, where I did manage to get a fill of diesel.

Returning to Ardglass Harbour, the tide was beginning to recede, and as the islands re-appeared, gulls began to arrive.  I stayed put, and eventually recorded five colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gulls, which after returning home, presented some interesting records for three of these birds.

Four of the gulls, belonged to the Isle of Man, but the one that really caught my eye, was a bird with a Blue Darvic from the Republic of Ireland.  Despite, all five gulls being distant from me, I was able to capture the codes on all five rings, and I was really pleased to capture the blue coded ring -   1TE .

I immediately knew, this bird was a first sighting for me, and it would have belonged to a former project belonging to Chris Honan.  It was likely that the gull was ringed as a chick, on the island of Ireland's Eye, just off the coast in County Dublin.  Previous Great Black-backed Gulls which I have recorded with similar rings, were all from the same island.

I emailed my 'Ring Reading' counterpart in Dublin - Graham Prole, who has some knowledge of Chris's former project.  Apparently, the code   1TE , on Graham's database, was not highlighted, therefore he had presumed the ring had never been used.  My sighting seems to have taken Graham by surprise as well.  By comparing other ringing on the database,   1TE   may have been colour-ringed in 2012, and the metal number may possibly be   MA29180 .  It was decided between us, that I would go ahead and report my sighting to the BTO, via the gull's code number only, just to see if they could identify the bird, supplying it's metal number.

Many birdwatchers, especially in County Dublin, would know to contact Graham, concerning these Blue Darvic rung Great Black-backed Gulls, but this seems to be yet another case, where such large gulls as these, manage to go about undetected.  As I'm about to publish this post, details are still awaited on from the BTO.

Great Black-backed Gull  -    1TE   -  Ardglass Harbour, Ardglass, Co. Down  (09 Feb 2020)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

Great Black-backed Gull -   T7VZ , is a bird which I looked for on a few occasions this winter, without success, at Portavogie Harbour.  The gull was ringed as a chick in July 2013, and it's first re-sighting occurred here at Ardglass Harbour in March 2014.  It's next sighting was made on the 13th February 2016, when I first recorded the bird at Portavogie Harbour.

After this, I went on to record   T7VZ , on a further five occasions at Portavogie Harbour, (27th February 2016, 30th July 2017, 23rd December 2017, 28th January 2018 and 22nd December 2018).  Having not seen the gull for quite some time, I thought it may have returned to the Isle of Man.  I was pleased to re-sight the gull again, which adds to it's longevity, which is now 6 years, 6 months and 23 days.  The distance from the Point of Ayre Gravel Pits, where the gull had been ringed as a chick, is 81 kms / 50 miles (W), to Ardglass.

Great Black-backed Gull  -    T7VZ   -  Ardglass Harbour, Ardglass, Co. Down  (09 Feb 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th July 2013, at the Point of Ayre Gravel Pits, Isle of Man)

  S20:M , was not a code which I recognised, but on returning home and running the code through my spreadsheet, this one turned out to be another new sighting.  Having reported the bird to Mark Fitzpatrick, who is the ringing coordinator for the Isle of Man, I soon had a reply.

My sighting, was the first from outside of the Isle of Man, but more interesting, is that the bird instantly became the oldest Great Black-backed Gull on my records.  It had been ringed as a chick, on the 20th June 2001, with a metal-ring only.  The gull then went un-recorded over the years, until the 19th May 2017, when it was captured by a ringer on the Calf of Man, and was fitted with the colour-coded ring -   S20:M .

Now being easier to identify, the gull was recorded on four occasions on the Calf of Man, (July 2017, March 2018, April 2019 and September 2019), before my sighting today.  The duration from it's original ringing date, is 18 years, 7 months and 20 days.  The distance from the Calf of Man to Ardglass Harbour, is 57 kms / 35 miles (WNW).

Great Black-backed Gull  -    S20:M   -  Ardglass Harbour, Ardglass, Co. Down  (09 Feb 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 20th June 2001, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man)

Today's sighting of   S26:M , was of a bird which I did recognise from the past, and this was now the seventh record on my spreadsheet.  Ringed as a chick (8th July 2017), on Kitterland Island, a small islet between mainland Isle of Man and the island of the Calf of Man, all re-sightings have been recorded here at Ardglass Harbour - 20th June 2018 by Declan Clarke, 2nd July 2018 (Unknown), 29th July 2018, by myself, 29th May 2019 by Graham McElwaine, 9th June 2019 by myself and 13th June 2019 by Declan Clarke.

Again, I was well pleased to record the gull again, adding to it's longevity which is now 2 years, 7 months and 1 day, the distance from the Isle of Man, being 57 kms / 35 miles (WNW).

Great Black-backed Gull  -    S26:M   -  Ardglass Harbour, Ardglass, Co. Down  (09 Feb 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 8th July 2017, on Kitterland Island, Isle of Man)

My sighting of   M52:M , is the second record of this juvenile since being ringed as a chick, on the 18th July 2019, on the Calf of Man.  I first recorded the youngster on the 29th September 2019, here at Ardglass Harbour.  The duration, has now increased to 6 months and 22 days, the distance being 57 kms / 35 miles (WNW).

Juvenile/1st Winter Great Black-backed Gull  -    M52:M   -  Ardglass Harbour, Ardglass, Co. Down  (09 Feb 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th July 2019, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man)

Over the last couple of months, there have been several reports of colour-ringed Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls here at Ardglass Harbour, most of which have been reported by Declan Clarke.  Although, there were very few large gulls present at Ardglass Harbour today, the five Great Black-backed's which I recorded, were an interesting group in one way or another.

Leaving Ardglass, I checked several locations looking at gulls, waders and even a few small groups of Brent Geese, but of these, only a metal-rung Dunlin was spotted at Millquarter Bay.  One thing I did notice during these stormy conditions, was the number of gulls flying inland against the wind, especially larger gulls.  This was constant throughout the afternoon, but goodness knows, where they were heading.


Saturday, 8 February 2020

Common Gulls to the Fore...

Here we are again, with another overdue post.  As can be seen, reading through it this week, Common Gull sightings have taken 'centre stage', mainly being birds from my own project, which I began in the summer of 2017.  With another new Common Gull sighting having been reported to me on Thursday, and the eagerly awaited reply from Iceland on Friday, I did not have time to add them to the post, hence the delay.

As I'm about to publish this online, it is the middle of Saturday afternoon, a time which I should be out in the field somewhere.  Having finished work at 3am this morning, and after getting up, I had a few chores to do in the town.  I knew the weather would not be good this weekend, as storm Ciara, was forecast to hit us on Saturday afternoon, and I knew I could finally finish the post then.  As I write this, the wind has grown to quite a strength, and there is extremely heavy rain on the way, which will lead to flooding in several parts of Northern Ireland.

The outlook, does not look good either, with the storm continuing tomorrow (Sunday), and snow forecast for Monday.  I had planned to visit County Down tomorrow, but this may be doubtful now, and my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, was to be on Monday morning.  Whatever happens, I'll still undertake my visit to the Marina, but there could be precious little to report on otherwise.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 3rd February 2020       
Trying to make the most of my weekend, my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, was put off until Monday morning.  As it was quite a cloudy dark start to the day, I did not arrive until just before 9:30, which meant I missed the build up of traffic, with people going to work, plus the school runs.

So far this winter, I have recorded 36 colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, 6 of which, were caught and ringed in the months of November and December.  An estimated 80 Black-headed Gulls were spread out along the length of the Marina on my arrival, with   2AAK ,   2CSK  and   2CJT , being the first three to be re-sighted at 9:28.

Overall numbers were slow to build up during the visit, reaching a high of around 100 birds shortly before my departure.  Judging by the colour-ringed gulls present, there was obviously a steady turnover of birds coming and going.  My overall total of colour-ring sightings today was 25.

My 13th sighting of the morning, was the surprise return of   2CSS  .  Having not seen this particular bird since the 25th March 2019, I had listed this bird with the new 'Amber' colour on my Antrim Marina Spreadsheet, indicating that such gulls could be either a gull passing through, or a regular that is now possibly dead.

  2CSS , was caught and ringed as a juvenile/1st winter bird (photo), on the 7th January 2018, here at the Marina.  Over the following weeks, it was recorded seven times, with the last date occurring on the 2nd April 2018, the date I ended my weekly winter visits for another season.    2CSS , was recorded on one of my random summer visits on the 14th July 2018.

Having resumed my weekly visits in August 2018,   2CSS   was once again recorded on the 13th.  Throughout the remainder of the winter, re-sightings of this gull were few and far between, mainly as my 'Ring Reading' was hampered by the construction of the new cafe building (The Gateway Centre), and dredging operations of the river and the entrance to Lough Neagh.    2CSS , was recorded on a further five occasions, between the 13th August 2018 and the 29th March 2019.

As far as I'm aware,   2CSS   has not been sighted anywhere else since March 2019, but today's sighting was a welcomed bonus.  The duration, since   2CSS   was ringed, is now 2 years and 27 days.  It just goes to show, how some gulls move about without being seen.  Today's sighting, now takes my overall total this winter, to 37 colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSS   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (03 Feb 2020)
(Ringed as a Juvenile/1st Winter bird, on the 7th January 2018, at Antrm Marina)

At 11:47, my 22nd colour-ring sighting of the day, came as another surprise, with the arrival of   2AFD   2AFD , likely breeds in Latvia, having been spotted there in April 2015.  Having been caught and ringed at Antrim Marina in February 2014, it had been a fairly regular winter visitor, until the construction of the new Gateway Centre, as mentioned above.

Having last recorded   2AFD   at Antrim Marina, on the 19th February 2018, today is the first time, that I've spotted the gull here since.  Having, in the past, being able to predict the very week of it's return from Latvia, when the gull failed to reappear here last winter, I eventually fell in with it, in the centre of Antrim town, on the 10th March 2019.

This winter, as   2AFD   failed to re-appear at the Marina in late November, I went looking for it on the 15th December, and found it in the same spot where I found it, in March 2019.  As   2AFD , is one of the 'Star' birds at the Marina, it was good to record it's return one way or another, but as I say, it was especially pleasing to record this gull back at the Marina again.  Since being ringed, the duration is now 5 years, 11 months and 22 days.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AFD   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (03 Feb 2020)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 12th February 2014, at Antrim Marina)

Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded at Antrim Marina on Monday 3rd February 2020
 2AAK   2CSK   2CJT   2CTB   2AAR   2FDK   2BRA   2ABL   2CSJ 
 2ACV   2ABK   2AAP   2CSS   2AAA   2CSR   2CTC   2CSH   2CSL 
 2ABN   2AAB   2ABS   2AFD   2AAN   2CSB   2FDJ     

Black-headed Gulls Re-Sighted or Ringed This Winter, but Not Recorded Today
 2ABA   2AAV   2ADV   2BRD   2ANS   2CSA 
 2CSX   2CTA   2CTR   2FBA   2FDL   2FDN 

Other Species Recorded During my Visit
6 adult Mute Swans, and the large headed cygnet, were already on the slipway when I arrived this morning, along with 26 Mallards.  A second cygnet arrived from up-river at 12:28, but no other adults appeared.  There is still no sign of two metal-rung Mute Swans returning, both having been recorded in the month of January in past years, though February seems to be their favoured month.  

Once the swan numbers begin to build up, I'll try to organise a meeting with Debbie Hanna and Aiden Crean, to see if we can get a colour-ringing project started here.  With the new cafe/restaurant now open, we could have a chat over a coffee.  A count of the Mallards prior to my departure, gave a total of 43 birds.

Common Gull numbers have fallen back now.  The first two, of 6 adults arrived at 9:54, followed by two at 10:56, and the final two at 12:03.  The small Scottish-rung female, has not been seen since the 12th January, and there is still no sign of the Finnish-rung bird either.  The adult Herring Gull, was present throughout my visit.

Jackdaws, visited in good numbers again, reaching a total of 16 birds at one point.  A record number of 18 birds was recorded here on my previous visit.  No Hooded Crows appeared, though they could be heard calling a short distance away.

An adult Moorhen, presumably the same bird spotted on my previous visit arrived at 11:19, and the only other species recorded, was a pair of Pied Wagtails.


      From Ric Else       
On Friday 31st January 2020, I received an email from Ric Else in the early afternoon, to state that he had had a first re-sighting of another one of my Common Gulls, and that he would send photos later in the day.  These never came through by the time I departed for work, so I was keen to check on them, when I returned home in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The email had arrived, and as it turns out, Ric had quite a productive day, as he recorded four colour-ringed gulls on the beach at Ballycastle, three of these being Common Gulls, plus a Mediterranean Gull.  My thanks goes to Ric for reporting these, and allowing me to use his photos.

The new sighting of one of my project gulls, was that of   2BJK .  It was ringed as a chick, on the 18th June 2019, at Rue Point Lighthouse on Rathlin Island, which can be seen across Rathlin Sound, from Ballycastle Beach.  This bird, adds to the collection of 2019 youngsters, having been recorded over recent weeks, with most having been spotted on Rathlin Island.  I had always presumed, that Rathlin chicks would disperse further away, but Ric's recent sightings have proved, that some birds remain on the north coast area.

It seems, that there has been better coverage on Rathlin this winter, as compared to the two previous winters, which is also helped, as Ric is living on the island.  The duration since   2BJK , was ringed, is now 7 months and 13 days.

Juvenile/1st Winter Common Gull  -    2BJK   -  Ballycastle Beach, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim  (31 Jan 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2019, at Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim)
(Photo Courtesy of Ric Else)

A second Common Gull from my project, rung   2BSH , was also present on Ballycastle Beach.  Ringed as a chick, on the 29th June 2019, at the Arkill Bay colony on Rathlin Island, it's first re-sighting occurred on the 4th January 2020, when spotted by Ric, at the island's Church Bay.  Today's second sighting, now takes the duration to 7 months and 2 days since being ringed.

Juvenile/1st Winter Common Gull  -    2BSH   -  Ballycastle Beach, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim  (31 Jan 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 29th June 2019, at Arkill Bay, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim)
(Photo Courtesy of Ric Else)

A Common Gull from Norway, was also recorded on Ballycastle Beach.  Ringed - (White) JE540, Ric reported the gull via the 'Live Norwegian Online Ringing Database'.  Having entered all of the relevant details, Ric was then able to gain access to the gull's ringing and re-sighting history.  The bird was ringed as an adult female, on the 9th June 2018, at Trondheim along the west coast of Norway.  A first re-sighting since being ringed, the gull has travelled 947 kms / 588 miles (SW), to reach Northern Ireland, and the duration was 1 year, 7 months and 22 days.

Common Gull  -  (White)  JE540  -  Ballycastle Beach, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim  (31 Jan 2020)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 9th June 2018, at Trondheim, Norway)
(Photo Courtesy of Ric Else)

Although the Common Gull sightings were invaluable to me, due to my own Common Gull project, the best of the four to me, was the sighting of a juvenile / 1st Winter Mediterranean Gull, which as it turned out, had been ringed in Belgium.  Ringed - (White 3TJ5), as a chick on the 16th June 2019, on the Zwin Nature Reserve, situated just on the Belgian/Dutch border, Ric's sighting was a first since the bird had been rung.  In fact, Ric is now fairly sure, that he also spotted the very same bird on the nearby Rathlin Island, back on the 8th December 2019.

This bird also happens to be the first Belgium rung Mediterranean Gull, which has now been entered onto my spreadsheet.  Ric reported his sighting to Camille Duponcheel, who responded with a PDF File (here), whilst I reported the sighting to the BTO.  On Thursday morning, the BTO sent us the recovery details, which gave the distance as 767 kms / 476 miles (NW).  The duration, as of Ric's sighting on the 31st January 2020, was 7 months and 15 days.

Mediterranean Gull  -  (White)  3TJ5  -  Ballycastle Beach, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim  (31 Jan 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2019, at Zwin, Knokke-Heist, Belgium)
(Photo Courtesy of Ric Else)


      It's Offical       
An email arrived on Friday 31st January 2020, from Sabine, who is with the ringing department, of the British Trust for Ornithology.  After considering the details of several emails and phone calls, the BTO were happy that I should become the new contactee, for Adam McClure's former Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study.

Adam began the study in the winter of 2012, to try and find out what had caused the decline of the Northern Ireland breeding population of Black-headed Gulls.  Our population of this 'Amber Listed' species had dropped from an estimated 38,000 pairs, to around 10,000 pairs.  As part of his study, Adam began a colour-ringing project, which he had hoped, would shed some 'light', as to what was happening here in Northern Ireland.  The very first Black-headed Gull to be rung regarding the new venture, was   2AAA   at Antrim Marina, which is still alive, and recorded for the 'um-teenth' time, this week.

Unfortunately, Adam had to give up on the project in June 2018, due to work and family commitments, and since then the project had gone into limbo, as the 'reigns' had not been passed onto anyone else.  Over the past couple of months, Kendrew Colhoun, Wesley Smyth and myself, have worked together on Adam's former project, to try and bring it up to date.  Until recently, no new contact had been appointed, which meant that reports by email, would have gone to Adam, and being un-answered since June 2018.

Wesley, took on temporarily the role of contactee, but everyone agreed, that I should take over, as I have several thousand re-sighting records of Adams gulls on my own spreadsheet, and therefore I would be better equipped in responding to sightings.

Not only that, it was also in my own interests to take over, as I too had colour-ringed many gulls, using Adam's colour-rings, but my own metal rings.  Sightings for these birds, via their colour marks, would have been reported to Adam, but from now on, they will come direct to me.

I do not plan, to further Adam's former project as such.  My own study at Antrim Marina, which is a personal study, began when I found out about Adam's project, and was started in order to assist him with my own observations.  Regardless, whether Adam ever restarts his project or not, my study at Antrim Marina will continue.  It surely has to be one, if not, the most keenly observed sites in the whole of the British Isles, regarding Black-headed Gulls.

I will still colour-ring Black-headed Gulls at Inch Island in County Donegal, by invitation of the Causeway Coast Ringing Group.  As for the rest of Adam gulls, I'm now in a position to respond to sightings, up to the point when all of the gulls perish.

On Saturday 1st February 2020, Adam sent me a copy of his ringing and re-sighting database, which I was thrilled to receive.  It will enable me to update, and submit sightings which have not been submitted to the BTO, and I can supply more detailed responses to future sightings.

I very much indebted to all those concerned who have made this all possible, and in one way or another, I will make sure that all of the data that I now hold, is not lost forever.  Should Adam, ever find the time to resume his project, I'll only be too happy to supply all future data.  My main focus, will remain on my own Common Gull project, which I began in 2017.


      Saturday 1st February 2020       
Having finished work in the early hours of Saturday morning, returning home, and having some time to 'wind down' and grab a few hours sleep, I did not have too much time to get out and about.  With the tides this weekend, not being particularly useful, I decided to cover the north coast, beginning at Portrush and ending at Carnlough.

Saturday, was quite a cold and windy day on the coast, and very few gulls were to be found.  During my journey, a few large flocks of gulls were spotted in fields, which was of absolutely no use to me as a 'Ring Reader'.  Two of those large flocks, consisted of hundreds of gulls, one being largely Herring Gulls, and the other of Common Gulls only.

By the time that I reached Carnlough, just one metal-rung Common Gull was spotted, this being on the beach at Ballycastle, quite close to the harbour, and where the Glenshesk River flows into the sea.  Although the gull was quite distant, having set my camera onto the tripod, it just about had enough reach, to record details on the ring.  Having taken a few pictures of the bird itself, I then concentrated on the metal ring.  My first few photos captured the last two digits on an upside-down ring.

I now needed the gull to move about every now and again, to increase my chances of reading the rest of the number.  But, as usual, the inevitable happened - a dog walker approached the flock of gulls, sending them all off towards the sea, where they settled.  I was by this time, far too cold to wait for their return, so moved on.  The ring appeared to be a BTO type ring, so the number I had would have read something like   E****48 .  Although the gull itself was quite distinctive, with a very dark streaked head, I doubt whether I'll ever see this one here again.  There was no sign of the four colour-ringed gulls which Ric Else had spotted on Ballycastle Beach yesterday (read above).

Common Gull  -    E****48   -  Ballycastle Beach, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim  (01 Feb 2020)


      Sunday 2nd February 2020       
Today, I started from where I had finished yesterday, and that was at Carnlough Bay.  I aimed to travel down the coast, finishing at Kinnegar Beach, on the County Down side of Belfast Lough.  Low tide had occurred early on Sunday morning, so as I travelled southwards, I was competing with an incoming tide.

At Carnlough Bay, a group of thirty Brent Geese were spotted from the main road.  Scoping through these, I spotted one bird, which was colour-ringed, just as it was entering the sea.  I managed to read the colour-ring on it's left leg, which read   F .  On the right leg, the goose had just a metal ring, but should have had another colour-coded ring, which has obviously fallen off at some point.  This would make it almost impossible to identify the bird as an individual, but the presence of a metal-ring, means the goose would have been ringed in Iceland.  As I write this now, it reminds me that I have yet to report the bird to Graham McElwaine from the Irish Brent Goose Research Group.

With no other ringed Brents present, I moved across the beach to scope a group of gulls.  A mixture of Great Black-backed, Herring, Black-headed and Common Gulls were present, and one Common Gull was spotted bearing a tall metal ring on it's left leg.  Although, too far away to read, I reckon that this was either a Norwegian or Finnish rung bird.  I was hoping to obtain another sighting of an Icelandic rung Oystercatcher, but there was no sign of it.

Moving on, and checking on small groups of gulls and waders, I eventually reached Glynn, on Larne Lough.  A good mixture of gulls and waders were present, but I focused on a fairly good number of Common Gulls.  Scoping from the railway platform at Glynn, two other birdwatchers were also present, with one of these being Garry Armstrong, who is one of the editors of the NIBA website.  Over the last couple of years, I've been in contact with Garry on numerous occasions, but it was good to finally put a face to the name.

Garry, along with fellow birdwatcher Philip West, was surprised by my comment, that my camera could capture a code on a colour-ring from the platform, especially as all birds were small dots in the distance.  Just a pity, they hadn't stayed for a little longer, as I spotted one of my own Common Gulls - rung   2BBT .

On returning home, and running the code through my spreadsheet, it turns out that this was a first re-sighting.    2BBT , was ringed as a chick, on the 18th June 2018, at Rue Point on Rathlin Island.  The distance from Rathlin to Glynn, is 54 kms / 33 miles (SSE), and the duration was 1 year, 7 months and 15 days.  This sighting of   2BBT , now begs the question, will the gull appear on Rathlin Island this summer.  I reckon, it will return to prospect a nest site, with the view that it will nest on the island in 2021.

Common Gull  -    2BBT   -  Glynn, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim  (02 Feb 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2018, at Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim)

A Mediterranean Gull, which was also spotted at Glynn, ate a large proportion of time.  The bird was lying, dozing on seaweed, and I daren't leave it just in case it was ringed.  Eventually the incoming tide shifted the gull, but no ring (raging).  Now moving on, I had to skip Whitehead, Rhanbouy Park in Carrickfergus and the beach at Whiteabbey, as the tide was near fully in.  I stopped at Whitehouse Lagoon, which was still filling up.

A Black-headed Gull spotted in the distance, bore a White Darvic, which I thought could be the Polish T56W.  Zooming in with my camera, I was well into digital mode, but the reflected sunlight blanked out the code, but I suspected it was not T56W.  After a while, what I believe was the same gull, landed beside the fresh water river which flows across the Lagoon.  This time, I had no trouble in capturing the code - (White) 2BDN.  I instantly knew that this would be one of Tom Dougall's birds from Scotland.

Back at home, I emailed Tom, and also submitted my sighting to the BTO.  Whilst on the BTO's DemOn Database, I did not notice that 2BDN, had been re-sighted in the past.  It was not long before I received a reply from Tom, to say that 2BDN, had been ringed as a chick, on the 3rd June 2018, at the Broad Law colony, in the Moorfoot Hills area, in the Borders Region of Scotland.  According to Tom, mine was a first ever sighting.

When the recovery came back from the BTO, I then entered the gull onto my spreadsheet.  Whilst typing in the code 2BDN, the predictive text showed that the code was already entered.  On looking for that entry, I discovered that 2BDN, had been spotted on the 23rd July 2019, by Suzanne Belshaw, at the car park of the Sprucefield Shopping Centre, and the bird was then still showing signs of it's juvenile plumage (Read Blog Entry Here).

Sprucefield lies 20 kms / 12 miles (SW), from Whitehouse Lagoon, whilst the Lagoon, is situated 220 kms / 136 miles (WSW), from the ringing site at Broad Law.  The duration, was now 1 year, 7 months and 30 days.  I contacted Tom again, to inform him of the previous sighting, and an apology arrived, to state that Suzanne's sighting had been overlooked.

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  2BDN  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (02 Feb 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd June 2018, at Broad Law, The Moorfoot Hills, Borders, Scotland)

On resuming scoping for other rings, I was hoping for a further sighting of T56W, as mentioned above, and also a colour-ringed Oystercatcher from Iceland, which I have already recorded here this winter, but neither bird was spotted.  Metals only, were spotted on two Black-headed Gulls, both of which appeared to be BTO rung.  One Oystercatcher, a Common Gull and a Herring Gull, were also spotted bearing BTO metals.

Along the distant waters edge, good numbers of Dunlin, along with a smaller number of Red Knots and Bar-tailed Godwits were busy feeding.  As the incoming tide, pushed these birds towards me, I then spotted a colour-ringed Bar-tailed Godwit.  A waiting game was then pursued, as I had trouble trying to see all of the birds two legs in the water.  Eventually, I captured the photo I needed, and I instantly knew, that I had re-sighted a Dutch rung bird.

The bird, rung White over Blue on the left leg, was missing a 'Red Flag', between the two Yellow rings on it's right leg, which was documented by me during previous sightings.  Ringed as an adult male, on the 3rd September 2008, my first ever sighting of WB-YRfY, was made on the 4th March 2018, at Kinnegar Beach, situated on the southern shore of Belfast Lough.  Whitehouse Lagoon is situated just over the Motorway from the northern shore of Belfast Lough, where I recorded the bird on the 27th October 2019.

I have a further three sightings of WB-YRfY, which all occurred on Kinnegar Beach - 25th December 2018, 26th January 2019, and on the 17th February 2019.  The duration from ringing, is now 11 years, 4 months and 30 days, at the distance from the ringing site at Terschelling in Holland, is 744 kms / 462 miles (WNW).

As the incoming tide, had nearly filled the Lagoon, all of the waders departed in the direction of Kinnegar, where I suspected they would roost on the high tide pond there, and this would be my final stop for the day.

Bar-tailed Godwit  -  WB-YRfY  -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (02 Feb 2020)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 3rd September 2008, at Terschelling, Strieper Polder, Holland)

On reaching the pond at Kinnegar, it was packed with roosting waders and gulls, which included a tightly bunched group of Bar-taileds.  Some of the Red Knots were probing for food, and I spotted a colour-ringed bird among them.  Taking photos, I realised that I had just re-sighted a bird from last winter - Orange (8X) over a Pale Blue Ring, on the left leg, and just a metal ring on the right leg.

O(8X)P, had been ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 22nd September 2017, on Merseyside, England.  My two previous sightings were made on the 19th December 2018, and on the 26th January 2019, both here on Kinnegar Beach.  The distance to Kinnegar, is 219 kms / 136 miles (NW), and the duration was now 2 years, 4 months and 11 days since being ringed.

I sent an email to Jim Wilson, reporting my latest sighting, but as yet, I've received no reply.  The photos I took today, were very poor, due to reflected sunlight, so I have added a previous photo.

Knot  -  O(X8)P  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (19 Dec 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 22nd September 2017, at Altcar, Merseyside, England)


      From Jan Rod       
An email arrived on Thursday afternoon of the 6th February 2020, from Jan Rod, who resides in County Dublin.  Earlier that morning, Jan spotted one of my Common Gulls, beside the Causeway, which links Bull Island to the Irish Mainland.  The Juvenile/1st Winter bird -   2BIC , was ringed as a chick, on the 16th June 2019, at Arkill Bay on Rathlin Island, County Antrim.  Jan's sighting was a first for this young gull, and was also the first of the 2019 rung Rathlin chicks, to have been spotted outside of County Antrim.

As you can imagine, I was well pleased to receive this sighting, and my thanks goes to Jan for reporting the young gull, along with the photo taken with his iPhone.  I submitted the sighting to the BTO before I went to work, and received the recovery details late on Friday morning.  The distance from Rathlin to Bull Island in County Dublin, was 213 kms / 132 miles (S), and the duration from ringing, is now 7 months and 21 days.

Juvenile/1st Winter Common Gull  -    2BIC   -  Bull Island Causeway, Co. Dublin, R. of Ireland  (06 Feb 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2019, at Arkill Bay, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim)


      From Hill Dick and John Clarke       
Back on the 29th January 2020, I received an email from my 'Ringing Trainer' John Clarke.  He thought that I'd be interested in a metal-rung Common Gull, which had been spotted at the East Strand car park, in Portrush, County Antrim, by Hill Dick.  The photos which were supposed to have been attached, were non existent, and on replying to John, he stated he was having problems with his laptop, and would contact Hill, to contact me direct.  John suspected that the Common Gull was from Iceland.

Hill Dick, responded later in the afternoon, with the photos attached.  On checking them out, the gull was indeed from Iceland, but the ring number was missing the final of six digits, and read -   53180* .  The next day, I thought I'd try my luck, and report the gull to Iceland, with the view, had several chicks been ringed on the same date, and at the same location, then perhaps a recovery could still be generated.  By past experience, I know our own British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), have been able to generate similar recoveries for me.

On Friday morning, the eagerly awaited reply arrived.    53180* , was one of five possibilities, rung   531805   to   531809 , which were ringed as chicks, on the 6th July 2010, in the Krossanesborgir area, just to the north-west of the town of Akureyri, on the northern coast of Iceland.  As the full ring number was not ascertained, the sighting would not be submitted onto the Icelandic Database.

This left me with the problem of trying to work out the distance between the ringing and re-sighting locations.  Having not found Krossanesborgir on Google Maps, Wikipedia or a map that I have at home, I eventually found it on the online StreetMap.  There are two very large lakes in the district, so I centered the distance from the larger of the two, and came up with a distance of 1,322 kms / 821 miles (SE).  The duration from ringing, was 9 years, 6 months and 7 days.

Also of note, was that   53180* , has an injured left leg, and John suspected that this gull has been at the East Strand in the past.  Over the last couple of years, I too have noted a couple of Common Gulls with leg problems and even had one bird, whose left foot was missing entirely.  None of those birds were ringed however.

I must thank Hill Dick for reporting the gull, and I'm sure he'll be pleased that we have something back for his efforts.  I replied to thank the Icelandic authorities, copying in the BTO.  I have a feeling that this could be the first Icelandic rung Common Gull, ever to be recorded in Northern Ireland, but we'll see!! 

Common Gull  -    53180*   -  East Strand Car Park, Portrush, Co. Antrim  (23 Jan 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 6th July 2010, at Krossanesborgir, Akureyri, North Iceland)
(Photo Courtesy of Hill Dick)