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
Black-headed Gulls Re-Sighted or Ringed at Antrim Marina This Winter, but Not Recorded Today
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
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)