Saturday, 1 August 2020

Lost Ring...

At last, I have now completed another post.  As mentioned last time, things have been a bit hectic around home, and on top of this, having my nephew staying with us, has meant less time for blogging.

It is now Saturday afternoon, and I'm 'baby-sitting' the house, so cannot get out.  With the post completed, I've decided to just go ahead and post it without reading it over.  It will be a quite weekend, as I'm required to work an extra shift tomorrow night.

In the meantime, I will make the first of my weekly visits to Antrim Marina tomorrow morning, before returning home to grab a couple of hours sleep before the start of the evening shift.  From now on, my post will be published weekly and hopefully from next weekend onwards, I'll be out looking for more rings.

Being an avid Chelsea fan, I'm about to settle down for the FA cup final, so I'll read through and check for spelling mistakes later on.

      From Derek Polley       
On the 2nd July 2020, I received an email from Derek Polley, concerning the sighting of a colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit, which he spotted at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, in Belfast's Harbour Estate.  Derek is a volunteer at the reserves visitor centre, although at present it remains closed, but the two hides are accessible.

Tasked with finding the owner of the Godwit, I emailed Pete Potts, as I believed the bird hailed from the Republic of Ireland.  Pete in turn, relayed my email to a Barry O'Mahony, who replied with the ringing history for the bird.

Colour-ringed - Orange over Blue on the right tibia, along with a 'White Bar', with two Black Stripes on the left tibia, this bird was ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 2nd September 2014, at Cork Harbour, County Cork, in the Republic of Ireland.

Since being ringed, the Godwit had been re-sighted on a small number of occasions, around the Cork Harbour area, in 2015, 2016 and 2017.  Since then, it hadn't been recorded anywhere until Derek spotted the bird in Belfast.

Having submitted Derek's sighting to the BTO, the offical distance from Cork Harbour to the Belfast Reserve, was given as 325 kms / 201 miles (NNE).  The duration from being ringed, was  5 years, 10 months.

My thanks to Derek for his sighting along with the photo, which he would have had to be taken through the perspex window of the hide, and also to Pete and Barry for supplying the ringing details.

Black-tailed Godwit  -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (02 Jul 2020)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 2nd September 2014, at Cork Harbour, Republic of Ireland)
(Photo Courtesy of Derek Polley)


      From Suzanne Belshaw       
The latest email from Suzanne Belshaw, contained four ring sightings, which she has made over the last couple of weeks.

On a visit to Antrim Marina, on the 30th June, just the one ringed Black-headed Gull was recorded.  Only capturing -   3732 , on it's metal ring, this gull was undoubtedly -   EY37326 , which managed to loose it's Orange Darvic -   2ABL , back on the 2nd January 2017.

  2ABL , had been ringed at Antrim Marina, as an adult female, on the 23rd January 2013.  Since being ringed, all 211 re-sightings have been made here at the Marina, which includes today's sighting by Suzanne.    2ABL , was last recorded on the 9th March 2020, before the start of the breeding season.  In the past,   2ABL   has been recorded in the summer months of May and June, and I'm fairly sure, this bird is a year round resident.  The duration since   2ABL   was ringed, is now 7 years, 5 months and 7 days.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ABL   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (30 Jun 2020)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 23rd January 2013, at Antrim Marina)

On the 6th July, while in the Wallace Park area of Lisburn, in County Antrim, Suzanne spotted a metal-rung Herring Gull on a roof.  Zooming in with her camera, Suzanne captured all of the metal number barring the first letter, which with BTO rings, starts with the letter 'G'.

Ringed -   GR11431 , I checked the number against my spreadsheet and on the BTO's DemOn Ringing Database, before submitting the sighting to the BTO.  On my spreadsheet, I had a   GR11428   and   GR11443 , which were ringed as chicks on the Copeland Islands, on the 28th June 2011.  On DemOn, the ringing date for   GR11431   was the same, and when the ringing recovery arrived from the BTO, it was confirmed that this bird was ringed on Lighthouse Island.  Lighthouse Island, is the second largest of the three islands, which make up the Copeland Islands, and it is also the site of the Copeland Bird Observatory.

Suzanne's sighting, was a first for this gull, the duration being 9 years and 8 days, since being ringed.  The Wallace Park area in Lisburn, is around 38 kms / 23 miles (WSW), from the Copelands.

Herring Gull  -    GR11431   -  Wallace Park area, of Lisburn, Co. Antrim  (06 Jul 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 28th June 2011, on Lighthouse Island, The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

A County Mayo rung Black-headed Gull, which is well known to Suzanne, has been re-sighted twice of late.    250B , was spotted at the Sprucefield Shopping Centre, in the Lisburn area of County Antrim, on the 7th and 21st July 2020.  Ringed as a chick, on the 6th June 2008, at Lough Mask, County Mayo in the Republic of Ireland,   250B   has passed through Sprucefield every year, since first being recorded there by Adam McClure, on the 1st July 2013.

Since then, this gull has been recorded by Suzanne each year, visiting Sprucefield in July and August, no doubt on passage to it's wintering site, which is as yet unknown.  A run of four spring sightings made by Suzanne in February and March 2016, are the only records of   250B , probably making the return journey to Lough Mask, where it likely breeds.  I have three records of   250B  , being at Lough Mask, these being in June of 2009, 2010 and 2017, which indicates it's return to it's natal colony.

Good to see that   250B , is going strong, and is another brilliant record from Suzanne.  The duration since being ringed, is now 12 years, 1 month and 15 days, and the distance from Lough Mask, is 232 kms / 144 miles (ENE).  All that is missing for this gull, is it's actual wintering site.  Going by the direction of which this bird travels - ENE, it could be possible that it winters on the west coast of Scotland - perhaps in Dumfries & Galloway.  This flight-line would take the gull over the east coast, here in County Antrim, but if it had wintered on this stretch,   250B   would have been recorded here long ago.

Black-headed Gull  -    250B   -  Sprucefield Shopping Centre, Lisburn, Co. Antrim  (21 Jul 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 6th June 2008, at Lough Mask, Co. Mayo, Republic of Ireland)

A Common Gull sighting from my own new project on Rathlin Island, was very much appreciated.    2AJT , was ringed as a chick, on the 17th June 2017, at Rathlin's Rue Point lighthouse, this being the first year for my project.

It's first re-sighting occurred almost a year later, when David Nixon, spotted the then immature bird, on the 22nd May 2018, at the Inner Bay, at Dundrum, County Down - 115 kms / 71 miles (S).  Richard Else, was next to re-sight   2AJT , when he recorded the gull back at it's natal colony, in both May & June 2019, where I suspected it was prospecting for a nest site, as it still had not reached full breeding age.  I also recorded   2AJT , on the 18th June 2019, at Rue Point.

The 2019/2020 winter passed, with no re-sightings, but on the 8th April 2020, Ric Else reported the return of   2AJT , at Rue Point.  Now, having reached breeding age,   2AJT   likely nested at Rue Point, and this was further backed up, by another sighting made by Ric, on the 2nd May 2020.  According to Ric, the Common Gulls on Rathlin seemed to have experienced a poor breeding season, plus, with the 'Coronavirus Lockdown', I could not get over to the island until early July, by which time, most of the gulls had already departed from the nest sites.

With Suzanne's sighting of   2AJT , on the seafront of Killyleagh on Strangford Lough, it now seems, that this bird may well winter in County Down.  Only a mid-winter sighting, would confirm this.  Killyleagh, lies 103 kms / 64 miles (SSE), of Rathlin, and the duration since being ringed is 3 years, 1 month and 1 day.

My thanks as always, goes to Suzanne, not only to inform me of her sightings, but also for the photographs.  Suzanne, was with my party on Rathlin, when I ringed my first project chicks, so she may possibly have had   2AJT   in her hands.

Common Gull  -    2AJT   -  Cuan Beach, Killyleagh, Co. Down  (18 Jul 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th June 2017, at Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim)


      From Linda Thompson       
Only recently, Linda Thompson, reported a few ring sightings to me, concerning Common Gulls from my new Rathlin Island project, and a Black-headed Gull, from Adam McClure's former Northern Ireland study.  Linda, was in touch again, about three colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, which she recorded at Antrim Marina, on the 25th July 2020.

Antrim Marina, is my main Black-headed Gull study area, whilst I was helping Adam with his 'NI Study'.  Although Adam, was unable to continue the project, I have continued with my study at the Marina, and now respond to sightings of Adam's colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls.

The three gulls recorded by Linda, were   2AAK ,   2ABS   and   2CJT .  I had hoped to publish a review of the Antrim Marina Black-headed Gulls, but as always, spare time is hard to come by.

  2AAK , is considered by me, to be a non-resident, as I have no April, May or June records for this bird.  It usually departs from the Marina in late February or early March - 25th February (earliest), 12th March (latest), returning in July or August - 16th July (earliest), 21st August (latest), though I have one September return, but I suspect it went un-recorded that year, until 5th September 2013.

Ringed as an adult male, on the 21st December 2012, I now have a total of 219 sightings of   2AAK   at the Marina.  It has never been recorded away from the Marina, so it's breeding site is as yet unknown.  During one winter in the past, this bird was very ill, but survived.  Around that time, though obviously weak, especially when in flight, I made sure it was fed bread from my hand, in order to help in it's recovery.  Good to know, it has returned to the Marina once again.  With Linda's latest sighting, it is now 7 years, 7 months and 4 day's, since   2AAK   was ringed.

As with   2AAK ,   2ABS , was among the earliest of the Black-headed Gulls to be colour-ringed, when Adam began his Northern Ireland Study.  Ringed on the 23rd January 2013 at the Marina,   2ABS   is known to be a resident to the area, with many breeding season sightings.  Linda's sighting, is the 231st report of the gull at the Marina, the duration now being 7 years, 6 months and 2 days.

  2CJT , was caught and ringed as a first winter bird, at the Marina, on the 4th December 2016.  Despite very few summer visits to the Marina in 2019, due to the construction of the new 'Gateway Centre' - (Cafe / Restaurant), and the 'Coronavirus Lockdown', this summer, it appears that   2CJT , is also a resident to the area.  A total of 131 re-sighting records have been made here, and the duration since being ringed, is now 3 years, 7 months and 21 days.

My sincere thanks goes to Linda, for her sightings, along with the photos.  Linda, is among an ever growing band of female birdwatchers, who are reporting their ring sightings to me.  Except for a well known number of male's who regularly report sightings, there are far more male birdwatchers out there, who seem to overlook ringed birds.

Black-headed Gulls  -    2AAK  ,    2ABS    &    2CJT   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (25 Jul 2020)
(Photo Courtesy of Linda Thompson)


      Saturday 25th July 2020       
A late start today, having worked to the early hours of this morning, I decided just to work the County Antrim coast, beginning at Glynn on Larne Lough, and finishing at Whitehouse Lagoon, on the northern outskirts of Belfast.  As the tide was already well on it's way in, not too many birds were to be found on the shorelines.

The only place where a good number of waders and gulls were seen, was at Whitehouse Lagoon, which was still filling up, when I along with my nephew Francis, arrived.

The only two rings recorded all afternoon, was those of two Black-headed Gulls, which are regular winter visitors at Carrickfergus Harbour.

The first of these, was   2ADB , which I'd suspected, as being an all year round resident to Carrickfergus, and possibly nesting on derelict buildings behind Carrick's Lidl Shopping Centre.  I had wanted to check out the site this summer, but due to the travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, the breeding season had pretty much ended by the time restrictions were eased.

  2ADB , was ringed as an adult male, at Carrickfergus Harbour, on the 25th November 2013.  Today's sighting is the 55th record of the bird on my spreadsheet since ringing, with sightings having been reported by several observers.  The duration, as of my latest sighting, is 6 years and 8 months.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADB   -  Carrickfergus Harbour, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (25 Jul 2020)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 25th November 2013, at Carrickfergus Harbour)

The second Black-headed Gull, was   2ADD , who was last spotted by me on the 29th June 2020, at the KFC car park, at Antrim Town in County Antrim.    2ADD , breeds on Lough Neagh, and is well known to visit Antrim Marina during the breeding season, no doubt nesting on the nearby former 'Torpedo Platform'.  Prior to the onset of the breeding season, and immediately afterwards,   2ADD  frequents Antrim's KFC outlet, and would spend the winter around Carrickfergus Harbour.

My sighting today of   2ADD , saw it's earliest ever return to the harbour.  Ringed as an adult male, here at the harbour, on the 29th November 2013, the duration is now, 6 years, 7 months and 26 days.

A small number of Black-headed Gulls were originally colour-ringed around Carrickfergus, but it now appears, that   2ADB   and   2ADD , are the only ones that are still alive.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ADD   -  Carrickfergus Harbour, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (25 Jul 2020)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 29th November 2013, at Carrickfergus Harbour)


      Sunday 26th July 2020       
A later than planned day out, was delayed by rain this morning, albeit a heavy drizzle.  In such conditions, it is far harder to take long distance photos of 'ringed' birds.  About midday, it began to fair up, and I made my way to Belfast, beginning there and then making my way along the County Down coast, with Millisle being my main target for Common Gulls.

Quick stops, at the RSPB Reserve on Belfast's Harbour Estate, and to the nearby Kinnegar Beach, saw precious few birds and no rings.  Again, with a rising tide, I then proceeded to Millisle.

Stopping by the north beach at Millisle, a small number of gulls, were mainly lying down, enjoying the bright sunshine and warm temperatures which now prevailed.  In order to get the birds moving, I walked onto the beach, crumbling up slices of bread as I walked backwards.  This did the trick, and soon afterwards, a large number of gulls were flying overhead.  Returning to my car, I began looking at the birds through my binoculars, spotting one Herring Gull, with a 'Yellow Darvic'.

Zooming into the pack of gulls with my camera, I couldn't find my target, and in no time, the bread disappeared and the gulls began to disperse.  I then resorted to use my telescope, and found my Herring Gull, settled down a fair distance from me.  Again, zooming in with my camera, I captured a hazy photo of the ring, which read -   1E:W .

This was my fourth sighting of   1E:W , here at Millisle, and my 5th record for the bird overall.  Ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 6th May 2015, on Big Copeland Island, I was the first to re-sight the gull, on the 12th March 2016.  The next sighting, almost a year later, was made by Marc Ruddock, on the 28th February 2017, at Donaghadee Harbour, which is situated a couple of kilometres north from Millisle.

The final two sightings before today, were made on the 16th June 2018, and on the 14th September 2019, here at Millisle.  Although my photo was not perfect, due to the distance, I was still well pleased to have recorded this one again.  It's in keeping with my efforts to try and record every ringed bird, at least once a year.

The duration since ringing, is now 5 years, 2 months and 20 days, and the north beach at Millisle, is 6 kms / 3 miles (S), of Big Copeland Island.

Herring Gull  -    1E:W   -  Millisle (north beach), Drumfad Bay, Co. Down  (26 Jul 2020)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 6th May 2015, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)

Next stop, was at the main seafront of Millisle, where Common Gulls are very people friendly, but on my arrival, the beach, along with the main car park, were packed with folk enjoying the afternoon sunshine.  In fact, there was so many people, that the gulls simply avoided the area.  I then had a look at the smaller southern car park, to find a small group of gulls, mostly Black-headed's, along with a couple of Common Gulls.

Just the one ring was spotted, with this being a metal, on a Common Gull.  Grabbing the camera, I began taking photos of the ring, whilst my nephew threw out bits of bread in order to keep the gulls occupied.  Having taken a lot of photos, I checked to see if I had the complete number, which I did -   EX38005 .  The number did not 'ring any bells' with me, so I had to check it out against my spreadsheet when I returned home.

On returning home, I entered the number, only to discover that this bird was no stranger to me, being -   2ACA .  The colour-ring on this gull, was in such poor condition, that I thought the ring would have broken off long before now.  Below is a picture of the ring, taken on the 8th March 2020, and the colour-ring was still present, the last time that I recorded the gull here, on the 15th June 2020.

The Colour-Ring of 2ACA  -  Millisle, Co. Down  (08 Mar 2020)

In mid June, I made my first ever visit to Big Copeland Island, as I was quite certain, there would be many colour-ringed Common Gulls from Shane's former study, which would still be alive, but had never been recorded away from the island.  I had originally planned on three visits during the month of May, whilst the gulls would be on eggs, but was prevented, due to 'lockdown' travel restrictions.

However, when on the island, there were many Common Gulls present, which were rung with 'metals' only.  I now wonder, just how many of them, could have been ringed with colour-rings, which have since deteriorated and fallen off.

From now on, I can only record   2ACA  by it's metal ring, unless I can re-capture the bird sometime in the future and fit it with a new colour-ring.  Today's sighting, is my 24th record of   2ACA , with all sightings, bar one, having been made along the Millisle seafront.  This one exception, was a sighting of   2ACA , on the 29th June 2018 along the Donaghadee seafront, a couple of kilometres north of Millisle.

 2ACA , was ringed as a breeding adult, on the 14th May 2010, and the duration now, since being ringed, is 10 years, 2 months and 12 days.  Millisle lies 8 kms / 5 miles (S), of Big Copeland Island.

Common Gull  -    EX38005     2ACA   -  Millisle, Drumfad Bay, Co. Down  (26 Jul 2020)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 14th May 2010, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)

As with Millisle, folk were to be found all along the seafront on the outer Ards Peninsular, and with the high tide, very few gulls were to be seen.

Having reached Ballywalter, I was on the lookout for my oldest Northern Irish Black-headed Gull -   ET02500 , which winters along the seafront of this coastal town.  When last recorded here on the 10th November 2019, it had been 21 years, 4 months and 26 days, since it had been ringed as a chick on the Copeland Islands, back on the 15th June 1998.

As with everywhere else, people were my problem along the seafront.  When I had a chance, I began throwing out bits of bread, which did attract a number of Black-headed and Herring Gulls, but moments later, every time that I attempted this, someone would come along and the gulls would fly off.

At one point, a Black-headed Gull with a metal ring did land briefly, but after being disturbed, it never came back.  I couldn't be sure whether this was the bird that I was after, but this sighting is an encouraging sign, for another day.

Very few gulls were seen, after leaving Ballywalter, until we arrived at Portavogie Harbour.  During my last visit here, on the 29th June 2020, I did something that I'd never done before, and that was to sit down by the harbour wall, and feed the gulls with bread by hand.  This turned out to be very enjoyable, as the gulls, which consisted of mainly immature Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, swarmed around me.  Several, even took bread directly from my hand.

With my nephew by me, I gave him the task of throwing at bits of bread, whilst I checked for colour-rings.  This turned out to be a very successful visit, as I photographed four yearling Herring Gulls, all from the Isle of Man.  I emailed Mark Fitzpatrick, who is the ringing co-ordinator for these 'Manx Island' birds, along with a copy of my photos.

Mark, as always, was super quick with a reply.  The first gull to be recorded -   T1VL , was ringed as a chick, on the 26th June 2019, and this was it's first re-sighting, 1 year and 1 month, since being ringed.

Herring Gull  -    T1VL   -  Portavogie Harbour, Portavogie, Co. Down  (26 Jul 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 26th June 2019, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man)

The second bird -   T3VB , has had one very interesting re-sighting, before I recorded it today.  Having been ringed as a chick, on the 3rd July 2019, it was first spotted on the 26th February 2020, on the Hayle Estuary, in County Cornwall, situated in the south-west corner of southern England.  With today's sighting, the duration since ringing, is now 1 year and 23 days.

Herring Gull  -    T3VB   -  Portavogie Harbour, Portavogie, Co. Down  (26 Jul 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd July 2019, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man)

My third Herring Gull, was also a first ever re-sighting.    T3YD , was ringed as a chick, on the 12th July 2019, the duration being, 1 year and 14 days.

Herring Gull  -    T3YD   -  Portavogie Harbour, Portavogie, Co. Down  (26 Jul 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 12th July 2019, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man)

The fourth Herring Gull -   T3WE , was the same bird which I spotted here recently, on the 29th June 2020.  Ringed as a chick, on the 23rd June 2019, it's first re-sighting, was on a fishing boat, some 12 kms / 7 miles (E), of Strangford Lough.  Today's sighting is the 3rd re-sighting altogether, coming 1 year, 1 month and 3 days, since being ringed.

Herring Gull  -    T6WE   -  Portavogie Harbour, Portavogie, Co. Down  (26 Jul 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 23rd June 2019, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man)

All four birds had been ringed on the Calf of Man, a small island just off the southern coast of the Isle of Man.  The distance to Portavogie Harbour, is around 60 kms / 37 miles (NW), from the 'Calf'.

My thanks to Mark for supplying the ringing and re-sighting details for these birds.  Mark has been in touch with me on several occasions recently, as there has been several colour-ringed Isle of Man gulls, both Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, having been spotted by Graham McElwaine and Declan Clark.  Mark, tasks me with the job of submitting these sightings through my BTO DemOn Ringing account, and I would have included these in my blog, had there been photos to go along with them. 


      From Jan Rod       
Another very welcomed email arrived with me, on the 29th July, concerning another re-sighting of one of Shane Wolsey's Common Gulls.  Ringed as a chick, on the 4th July 2009, it was among the first of the Copeland Island Common Gulls, to be colour-ringed during Shane's former project, which he ran from 2009 to 2014.

The gull concerned -   2BB6 , went un-recorded until the 17th July 2018, when Jan Rod, spotted it, on the Rogerstown Estuary in Portrane, Co. Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland.  Rod recorded   2BB6 , just over a year later, where this time, the gull was spotted on the 5th August 2019, at Rogerstown Harbour.

I had planned to make three visits to Big Copeland Island, in May of this year, with the aim of recording the likes of   2BB6 , back on the island as breeding birds.  Due to the 'lockdown', I was unable to get onto the island, for my first ever visit, until the 16th June, by which time, it was evident, that many of the Common Gulls failed in their breeding attempts.

By then, Jan had already reported   2BB6 , back on the Rogerstown Estuary on the 1st June 2020, which signalled an early return to it's wintering site, if it had indeed bred on Big Copeland Island.  This latest sighting of   2BB6 , is now the fourth re-sighting since it was originally ringed, the duration now, 11 years and 25 days.  Rogerstown is 135 kms / 83 miles (SSW), from the Copelands.

My thanks goes to Jan for his latest sighting, and the photo which was taken using his phone.

Common Gull  -    2BB6   -  Rogerstown Estuary, Portrane, Co. Dublin, Republic of Ireland  (29 Jul 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 4th July 2009, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)
(Photo Courtesy of Jan Rod)


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