Sunday, 22 March 2020

Forgotten Post...

It's now the Sunday evening of the 22nd March, and I've just realised, that this post has not been published.  I can remember now, that I was to run this article through a wordprossor to check for spelling mistakes before posting.  I've been so busy between one thing and another, it completly slipped my mind.  The reason for this lapse of memory, came to light, as I'm just about to set up the template for my next post.

The current virus circulating around the world, looks as if it could have an unwanted impact on this summer's 'Ring Reading' and 'Ringing Projects', but more of that in my next post.

Apologies for the delay in this post.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 16th March 2020       
Before going into detail about my weekly visit to Antrim Marina on Monday morning, I must make mention about an email I received later on Monday evening.  A Fulton Somerville reported seeing Black-headed Gull -   2CSL   at Antrim Marina on Friday the 13th March.    2CSL , is known to go to Poland for the summer, and this gull was my final sighting during last Monday's visit to Antrim Marina (9th March).  I had expected that sighting, along with that of   2AAR  (also Polish), to be the last for this winter, as both were due to depart.

  2CSL , had been caught and ringed at the Marina, on the 24th December 2017, and final re-sighting dates over the last two winter seasons, were recorded on the 19th March 2018, and on the 11th March 2019.  As both   2CSL , and   2AAR , were not recorded during today's visit to Antrim Marina, I'm pretty certain that they are on their way back home.  Hopefully, one or both will be spotted once they get back to Poland.

I arrived at Antrim Marina just on 8am, following a frosty night.  Initially quite cold, it soon warmed up a little, as a near perfect blue sky, allowed the sun to warm us all up.  On arrival, around 12 Black-headed Gulls were present, with numbers quickly building up to the 100 mark, which was then consistent throughout the remainder of my visit.  It was also evident, that judging by the colour-marked gulls, birds were coming and going quite rapidly.

I called it a day around 11:30, having just recorded 15 out of 37 colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls from my Antrim Study this winter.  The 15th bird was   2AAP , which was recorded at 10:40.  I reckon that many of the absent gulls, have moved on towards their breeding sites, whether these are local or far away.  The resident gulls will be recorded here at some point over the next couple of weeks, or during random summer visits.

Of today's 15 re-sightings, three were of special interest, no more so than my sixth sighting made at 8:20.  On the slipway was   2CSX , which was last seen by Suzanne Belshaw, at the former Belfast Waterworks on the 18th October 2019.    2CSX , had been caught and ringed at Antrim Marina, on the 3rd December 2018, and had been recorded on a fairly regular basis at the Marina, until the 11th March 2019.

Having begun my winter season of 2019/2020, back on the first weekend of August 2019,   2CSX   did not appear until the 2nd September.  My last sighting of the gull, was made on the 11th October, before it decided to move on to Belfast.  Being one of my study birds, I was well pleased to see it back today.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSX   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (16 Mar 2020)
(Ringed as a Juvenile/1st Winter bird, on the 3rd December 2018, at Antrim Marina)

  2CSS , was also recorded again today, appearing at 9:35.  Having not been seen here since the 25th March 2019,   2CSS   was finally recorded back at the Marina on the 3rd February 2020.  Ringed at the Marina, as a juvenile in January 2018, today's is the 5th sighting of late.  It makes me wonder, where has this gull been, was it always somewhere close by, or like   2CSX   mentioned above, disappeared to another location.  Oh!!, how we need more 'Ring Readers' in Northern Ireland.

  2AFD , was the third of today's sightings of interest.  A couple of weeks ago, I went looking for the gull in the middle of Antrim Town, hoping to record it for one final time before it heads off to Latvia.  I failed to find the gull, but it gave me a surprise last week, when it showed up here at the Marina for only the second time this winter.  To record this gull two weeks in a row, is a surprise.

Going by it's past record, the latest I've ever recorded   2AFD , was made on the 22nd March 2015.  This means, that there is a slight chance, that I might record   2AFD   on my next visit, but in reality, I think   2AFD   will not now be seen until next winter.  Hopefully, it will survive it's journey's and the tough breeding season ahead.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AFD   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (16 Mar 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 16th March 2020
 2CJT   2CTC   2BRA   2CSR   2ACV   2CSX   2AAB   2CSK 
 2AAA   2CSJ   2ABS   2CSS   2FDK   2AFD   2AAP   

Black-headed Gulls Re-sighted or Ringed at Antrim Marina this Winter, but Not Recorded Today
 2AAK   2ABN   2ABK   2ABA   2AAN   2ABL   2AAV   2AAR 
 2ADV   2BRD   2ANS   2CSA   2CSB   2CSH   2CSL   2CTA 
 2CTB   2CTR   2FBA   2FDJ   2FDL   2FDN     

Other Species at Antrim Marina
One of the first things that I noticed arriving at the Marina this morning, were the Herring Gulls.  The female, which arrived here last week along with a juvenile, was alongside the male, which has been here for most of this winter.  The juvenile appeared at 8:10, but was quickly chased off by the male.  After this, the juvenile kept it's distance, and all three birds were still present on my departure.

The pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, were also present throughout my visit.  I think the female of this pair, now realises that she is a Lesser Black-backed, and now reframes from trying to pair with the male Herring Gull, as witnessed a couple of weeks ago.  Anyhow, he's now more interested in the new arrival.

Not a single Common Gull was present on my arrival, but two juveniles arrived at 8:10 & 8:26.  A total of four adults, were recorded altogether.  The first arrived at 9:13, two were present at 9:27, three at 9:53, and four at 10:04.  There is now way of knowing whether these were the same birds throughtout my visit, and I can only judge by the number of individuals seen at any one time.  It has been several weeks now, since I recorded the small metal-rung Scottish female, so, perhaps she has moved back home.

There was no sign of the cygnet today, as just five adult Mute Swans were present.  A pair arrived from up-river at 8:50, but were quickly chased off towards the Lough.  This is I'm sure, the worst spring in my seven winters recording the swans here, as numbers have remained on the whole, consistently low.  There is still no sign of two metal-rung swans, which should have returned weeks ago.

Talking of consistently low,  Mallard numbers are practically non-existent.  Just two drakes on my arrival, grew to nine birds which included two females, before dropping down to four drakes by the time of my departure.

The only other species recorded, were a pair of Pied Wagtails, and just five Jackdaws.

I forgot to mention in my previous two posts, was the conversation I had with Mark, from the Lough Neagh Search and Rescue Team.  Mark informed me about the latest plans in the pipeline for Antrim Marina.  Now that the new 'Gateway Centre', has opened, which includes a resturant and cafe etc., the Marina is next to get a 'facelift'.

Apparently, new jetties and berthing bays are to be constrcted, beginning this summer, to update the facilities available to boat owners.  It is also reckoned, that the new cafe/resturant, will also attract more visitors by boat from other parts of Lough Neagh.  I'm now left wondering, how this will impact on the gulls, and whether the construction work will be completed in time for my 8th winter of 'Ring Watching at Antrim Marina'.

The Other Three Sites at Antrim Town
Having departed from the Marina slightly earlier than planned, I made my customery visits to the other three sites around Antrim Town.  Stopping first at the Elim Church, in the town's Parkhall Housing Estate, there was no sign of   2AAV , among just 12 Black-headed Gulls.

Moving on to the nearby KFC Car Park, not a single gull was to be seen.    2ADD , which winters at Carrickfergus, had moved here a few weeks ago, and I had expected to see it at Antrim Marina today.  Perhaps, it has already been to the Marina, and due to it's absence today,   2ADD   might now be on the former 'Torpedo Platform', where a large number of Black-headed Gulls could be seen today, looking across Lough Neagh, from the Marina.    2AAV   may also be there.  As both are summer residents, they will be recorded at the Marina, but I would like to record   2ADD   before my final winter visit, on the 29th March.

Around 100 Black-headed Gulls were on the 'greens' close to Antrim's Baptist Church.  Again, no sign of the Polish - White TY43, but I did see one bird with a metal.  All I could get with my camera, was the final two digits ' 19 '.  This is certain to be the Scottish bird   EW39319 , which has been recorded here for the third winter running.  I couldn't get peace to photograph the gulls here, as a man was busy cutting the grass with a motorised lawn-mower.


      Result of BTO Data Request       
In last week's post I reported on my sighting of Black-headed Gull -   2CHP , which was a first for this bird.  Having taken charge of Adam McClure's former project on this species, I realised that   2CHP   belonged to a 'data blackspot', as I had no record of this bird.

A couple of months ago, I attempted to account for all of the colour-rings used in Adam's project, from the   2A** ,   2B**   &   2C**   series, along with their relevant metal-ring numbers.  I discovered that a large block of the   2C**   series of rings were unaccounted for, and these were also missing from Adam's Black-headed Gull Database, from which he had sent me a copy.

Having reported my sighting of   2CHP   to the BTO, via the ringers DemOn ringing database, I also sent an email requesting a copy for the metal rings -   EZ66501   to   EZ66600 .  Many of the metals within this series had been used on the 25th June and on the 3rd July 2016, at the RSPB's Blue Circle Island Reserve, where I had no information as to the colour-rings used, and knew that the block of   2C**   colour-rings that were unaccounted for would have been used on those dates.

The BTO sent me the recovery details for -   2CHP , which showed it had been ringed with metal number -   EZ66566 , on the 25th June 2016, at Blue Circle Island, and therefore confirmed my suspicions.

Later this week, Bridget Griffin from the BTO, sent me an email concerning my data request about the metal rings used.  She had contacted Adam's Ringing trainer Neville McKee, and asked would he mind, if I could be allowed access to his DemOn account, to which he agreed.  Logging on to my DemOn account, I found that I was now an Associate to Neville's account, and found all of the missing data that I needed.  All of the missing block of   2C**   series of rings were there.

Thinking I had finally got everything I needed concerning the colour-rings used, I then discovered, that many mistakes had been made when the original ringing data was submitted to the BTO.  In some instances, the wrong ringing dates or sites were given, some colour-rings had been duplicated to different metal-ring numbers, and so on.

Even Wesley Smyth, who had initially taken charge of Adam's former project, had incorrectly submitted data, which included Adam's Orange Darvic's, having been used on Mediterranean Gulls, whereas these colour-rings had already been used on the Black-headed Gulls.

I've spent most of this week, cross checking between Neville's DemOn account, Adam's own database and even Adam's own blog, to identify all of the mistakes.  I can now see why Adam abandoned his former study.  It will take much time to correct everything, plus submit the hundreds, possibly a thousand or two re-sightings to the BTO, but I'm determined to bring the whole project up to date.

The future ringing of Black-headed Gulls will continue, but not to the depth as outlined by Adam when he began his study.  Many of the gulls may well outlive me, as I'm getting on in my years, but I do hope to have everything sorted and in place, should anything happen, whereby someone else can continue without complications, or even if Adam himself can find the time to resume his study.  Far too much information would be lost otherwise.


      Saturday 14th & Sunday 15th March 2020       
On Saturday, I could not leave home, until my wife finished work at 4pm.  Expecting a visit from our local Police, someone needed to be at home.  Last night (Friday), at about 7:30 in the early evening, a crowd of young children apparently went on the ramage in the local community.  Having damaged properties, which included some windows being broken, whilst my wife was taking a shower, these youngsters destroyed the fencing in my front garden.  I had started work at 7pm on Friday evening, and after finishing at 3am, I arrived home to find my fence missing.

With limited time to get out, I decided to make a 'flying visit' to the Myroe Levels.  Recently, up to 250 Whooper Swans, were reported feeding on the harvested potato fields.  When I arrived, just 40 or so birds remained.  Having checked the legs on most birds, between 15 to 20 of these took off, and I watched them flying off north into the distance (heading for Iceland?).

I then went looking for the Brent Geese, and found a flock of around 250 birds further north.  I hadn't parked for two minutes, when they too took flight, landing on the water's of Lough Foyle.  With the light beginning to fail, this visit had been a complete waste of time.

Sunday also saw a delayed start, as low tide was around 9am.  I needed the gulls and waders closer to me, so I waited until midday before heading off, firstly to Glynn on Larne Lough.  Only a small group of gulls were present, all being slowly pushed closer to me by the incoming tide.  Within the group, were a good number of Common Gulls, but the only ring to be spotted, was a metal on a Mediterranean Gull.  Only recently, I noted two other Med Gulls here, but neither of them were ringed.

I now proceeded on, as quickly as possible to Whitehouse Lagoon, on the outskirts of Belfast.  I arrived in good time, as around two-thirds of the lagoon was now flooded with the incoming tide.  A good 250 Knots and around 100 to 130 Dunlins caught my eye, along with smaller numbers of Black and Bar-tailed Godwits.  I believed, a few colour-rings would be found among that lot, and you can imagine my disappointment, with none being recorded, as the last few feet disappeared under water.

A quick stop at Belfast's Waste Transfer Station, revealed no rings on the 50 to 60 Black-headed Gulls resting on the roof, so it was on again, this time to Kinnegar Beach.  On arrival, little of the beach remained clear of water, so I parked along-side the pond, which is used as a high tide roost.  Just two rings were spotted here, both on Black-headed Gulls.

One was fitted with a tall metal-ring, and an inprint of a number could be seen on the top left.  Matching this up, with metals for other foreign Black-headed Gulls, I reckoned that this was a Swedish bird.  However, it was too far away, to make any further progress at capturing the whole number, and even at that, there was no way I could obtain photos from other angles.  I do wish, that both the ringers in Sweden, and those in Finland, would start colour-ringing their gulls.  Far too many gulls from these two countries, are being spotted, with very little chance to read the metal-rings.

The colour-ringed Black-headed Gull, was -   2CJF   the second of the two, and had been recently recorded on Kinnegar Beach (8th March 2020).  This is now my seventh sighting of this gull which was ringed as a chick in July 2016.  In March and April 2019, it was spotted on the nesting platform at the nearby RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, which I was heading to next.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CJF   -  Kinnegar Pond, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (15 Mar 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd July 2016, at the RSPB's Blue Circle Island Reserve, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

At the Window on Wildlife Reserve, I entered hide one, which overlooks nest platform two.  I re-sighted all three colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, which have recently been recorded on this same platform.  All three were in courtship display with their partners.  Three Mediterranean Gulls were also present, two of which were a pair.  No rings on any of these, and I wonder if we'll see the return of the metal-rung Dutch birds, or the colour-ringed French gull, which nested here last summer.

Going into the visitor centre, a number of Black-tailed Godwit's were feeding directly in front of the main window, which looks onto nest platform one.  I spent quite a bit of time scoping the Black-headed Gulls, hoping to see   2AFF , without luck.  There was another Orange-rung BHG on the far side of the reserve, but this one beat my camera.  In full digital zoom, the code on the ring was just a little too hazy.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ASF   -  Nest Platform Two, RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (15 Mar 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2013, at the RSPB Blue Circle Island Reserve, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

Black-headed Gull  -    2BAL   -  Nest Platform Two, RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (15 Mar 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 22nd June 2014, on The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Black-headed Gull  -    2BPX   -  Nest Platform Two, RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (15 Mar 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 1st July 2013, at the RSPB's Blue Circle Island Reserve, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)


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