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)


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