Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Hard Work...

This post, is exceedingly late, but has this has allowed for Suzanne's sightings, to get a little more viewing time.  This past week has been hectic, as we had a tragic death in the family, though nothing to do with the pandemic.
Emails have also been flying backwards and forwards which needed answering, plus I had promised to undertake work for a neighbour, who's garden needed some neccessary seeing too.

I'm still finding the new Google interface extremely hard to work with, and I now know, it is the tables that are causing the problem.  Once these have been inserted, for subject headings and the Antrim Marina sightings table, trying to write the post becomes extremely difficult.  It's now Tuesday, and this post should have been published on Friday.  As I'm about to post this now, I've already gathered more than enough for my next post, which I will have to begin straight away.  A number of new, as well as re-sightings have been made, and information on these, have already been returned from the various observers concerned and the BTO.

All this, is with the exception of one ringer.  During a heated exchange over the telephone on Wednesday evening, I was asked not to submit that particular ringers sightings.  As it turns out, some of the birds concerned were ringed last winter, but as yet, the ringing details have not been submitted to the BTO, even by request from them to do so.  I had a chat with my own ringing trainer, to whom I'm responsible for my own ringing, and he says I should still go ahead and submit all sightings which belongs to the particular ringer concerned.

This is what colour-ringing is all about, and that is to generate re-sightings.  My trainer, says that the ringer concerned, needs to be more responsible for his actions, and should not be ringing if he cannot keep up with his own projects.  During the phone conversation, even my wife was in stitches listening to the rambling on.  Although she is no birdwatcher, she knew by what he was saying, he answered his own problems during the ranting, and that he is clearly in way over his head.  I on my part, ate my dinner and read the latest news online, while this was taking place.  Whats even worse, is that the ringer is also funded to carry out some of the colour-ringing projects.
I undertook my weekly visit to Antrim Marina on Sunday 6th September, to record colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, this being my 6th visit of this autumn and winter season.  As of last week's visit, a total of 19 birds had been recorded, and I'm hoping between 30 to 40 marked gulls will make it back.  On Thursday the 3rd September, I received an email from Kate McAllister, who makes random visits to the Marina.  Kate had recorded one colour-ringed Black-headed Gull, this being the first re-sighting of the season of - 2ABA, which now took the overall total to 20 birds.
During my visit, I also recorded   2ABA , which happened to be the 16th of 17 colour-rings read.  Having made a later than normal start, the first ring to be read, was   2AAA  at 9:46am, and   2FDK   was the final ring read at 12:57, just minutes before my departure.
  2ABA , is considered to be a non-resident to the Antrim area, though not necessarily a winter visitor to Northern Ireland.  I base this idea, on the early return dates, where   2ABA , has been recorded back as early as the 11th July.  It may well be possible, that it breeds somewhere within the country, hence the early re-appearance.  Unless the gull is spotted at a breeding colony, we can only speculate on the idea.
  2ABA , was ringed as an adult male, on the 28th December 2012, and it's final re-sighting at the Marina during the 2012/2013 winter, was made on the 28th March 2013.  Below are the re-sighting return dates and final sighting date before departure :-
Return - 30th July 2013, Departure after - 9th March 2014.
Return - 11th July 2014, Departure after - 1st March 2015.
Return - 2nd August 2015, Departure after - 6th March 2016.
Return - 15th July 2016, Departure after - 19th February 2017.
Return - 16th July 2017, Departure after - 24th January 2018.
Return - 28th November 2018 (Only sighting during the 2018/2019 winter).
Return - 2nd September 2019, Departure after - 2nd March 2020.
Return - 3rd September 2020.

Over the last couple of years, overall sightings of   2ABA , have dropped off considerably, and several weeks into the autumn of 2018, I had presumed that the gull had died, due to it's non-appearance.  That was until I received an email from Graham McElwaine on the 28th November 2018, reporting five colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, which included   2ABA .  For some unknown reason, that was the only sighting during the whole of the 2018/2019 winter.
Although I had resumed my autumn/winter visits at the start of August 2019,   2ABA , was not recorded until the 2nd September.  Following that, there was one sighting in November, one sighting in each of December and then February, with   2ABA , departing after the 2nd March 2020.  The construction work of the new Gateway Centre, may well have contributed to the lack of re-sightings, so it will be interesting to see what happens this winter. 
Black-headed Gull  -    2ABA   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (06 Sep 2020)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 28th December 2012, at Antrim Marina)
Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina on Sunday 6th September 2020
 2AAA   2ABK   2ACV   2ABL   2AAK   2ABN   2CSR   2CJT   2AAV 
 2CTC   2CSX   2CSJ   2ABS   2AAN   2BRA   2ABA   2FDK   

Black-headed Gulls Recorded so far this Autumn/Winter, but not Present Today
 2AAB   2CSA   2CSB 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
As mentioned above, I arrived a little later than normal, the reason being that I would depart around 1pm, and get to Belfast, to catch the out-going tide.  Arriving at 9:40, the weather was nice and calm, though it was quite cloudy.  There were pleny of birds about, so I made some rough counts, which included an estimated 80 Mallard and around 70 Black-headed Gulls.  Black-headed Gull numbers increased to around the 120 to 130 mark by midday, but by then Mallard numbers had decreased to around 60 birds.

An adult Common Gull present on my arrival, was likely to be the same bird which came and went throughout the visit.  A juvenile Herring Gull, was clearly the same bird which has been here over several visits, and is now quite confident to come close to people feeding the ducks.  Around 10:20, just as it began to drizzle, a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls arrived, again, these are likely to be the same birds seen here over recent weeks.

The family of Mute Swans, with their six cygnets, were present throughout my visit, but things kicked off somewhat, just after 10:30, when a second pair of swans swam in from the direction of Lough Neagh.  The resident male, did not take too kindly to the intuders, and kept trying to single out the other male.  Eventually, a fight did break out on the river, with both males coming ashore onto the slipway.  Despite the intuder taking a battering, I decided enough, was enough, and broke up the fight, ushering the resident male away back onto the river.  Onlookers were obviously taken by surprise with my actions, but I doubt, not too many people would get in the way of flapping wings.  With the female joining up with her mate, they soon headed back out towards the Lough.
A juvenile Common Gull appeared briefly at 11:35, and a juvenile Moorhen which arrived at 12:42, surprised me, as it was'nt a bit shy of all the people on the slipway.  I've never seen this happen before here, although, at my local park in Ballymena, I've had both juvenile Moorhens and Coots feeding from my hand.
2 Hooded Crows, 5 Jackdaws 2 Magpies, and a pair of Grey Watails, were the only other species seen at the Marina.  Around 11am, a pair of Sparrowhawks were seen wheeling around high above the Marina.  These had obviously been seen by the Black-headed Gulls, as it was them looking skywards, which brought my attention to the hawks.
Other Sites Around the Town of Antrim
Despite 2AAV, having been recorded at Antrim Marina, I still checked out the Black-headed Gulls in the vicinity of Antrim's Elim Church.  Around a dozen birds were present, but no rings.
Next stop, was the nearby KFC car park.  Here, there were around 25 Black-headed Gulls, but still no rings.  In the past, I've recorded a couple of metal-rung Icelandic BHGs, at these two sites.
Moving on to my final stop - Antrim's Baptist Church, at least 120 Black-headed Gulls were either perched on the Church roof, lampposts or on the greens.  Parking behind the Church, I lured as many as possible with bread.  I had hoped to record   2AAB  here, seeing as the gull was not at the Marina, but I did record the Polish Black-headed Gull - (White) TY43, and the surprise re-sighting was that of   2ANB .  There was no sign of the metal-rung Black-headed Gull from Scotland.
I've established (White) TY43, as being a regular winter visitor here, and during my previous, on the 16th August 2020, I recorded it's return once more.  Ringed in February 2012, the duration since ringing is now 8 years, 6 months and 28 days.  The distance from Olsztyn in Poland, to the Baptist Church, is 1,725 kms / 1,071 miles (W).
Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  TY43  -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (06 Sep 2020)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed 2nd Calendar Year Bird, on the 9th February 2012, at Olsztyn, Poland)
As I say,   2ANB , was a surprise, but this is now my 5th record for the gull.  When I last saw this bird on the 2nd March 2020, at Antrim's KFC car park, I was even surprised to have recorded it then.  The reason being, my first three sightings of   2ANB , were made at Whitehouse Lagoon, on the northern outskirts of Belfast - (4th September 2016, 11th September 2016, and on the 30th September 2018).  Does this mean, that   2ANB , is now deciding to winter in the Antrim area?  The gull was ringed as a chick, on the 15th July 2015, on the RSPB's Blue Circle Island Reserve, on Larne Lough, Co. Antrim.  The distance to the Baptist Church, is 28 kms / 17 miles (WSW), and the duration since being ringed, is now 5 years, 1 month and 22 days.
Black-headed Gull  -    2ANB   -  Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (06 Sep 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 15th July 2015, at the RSPB Blue Circle Island Reserve, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)
      Saturday 5th September 2020       
Today, I worked the coast from Sandy Bay in Larne to Whitehouse Lagoon, rushing against an incoming tide, with high tide forecasted to be around 2pm.  I then stayed in Belfast, and parked at Kinnegar Beach, waiting for the tide to recede, and later I returned to Whitehouse Lagoon, before heading for home.
To cut a long story short, only two rings were read, two others - metals on a Common Gull and a Lesser Black-backed Gull, were too far away even to try.
The first ring read, was a metal on a juvenile Black-headed Gull at Whitehead.  As I presumed that no Black-headed Gulls were ringed this summer in Northern Ireland, I suspected this bird had come from the British mainland.  Having just about managed to capture the ring number -   EX50405 , it turned out, that it was ringed as a chick, on the 7th June 2020, at Whitaside Tarn (Lake/Pond), on the south-eastern edge of the North York Hills, in England.  The distance to Whitehead, was 238 kms / 147 miles (WNW), and the duration since ringing, is 2 months and 29 days.
Juvenile Black-headed Gull  -    EX50405   -  Whitehead Beach, Co. Antrim  (05 Sep 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 7th June 2020, at Whitaside Tarn, North York Hills, England)
The second ring to be read, was at Whitehouse Lagoon, where I have been trying to re-sight a colour-ringed Polish Black-headed Gull, that is now well overdue.  The bird I spotted, belonged to Adam's former Northern Ireland Project, and this bird is slowly building up quite a number of re-sightings.
  2ASF , was ringed as a chick, on the 18th June 2013, at the RSPB's Blue Circle Island Reserve, on Larne Lough, Co. Antrim.  It's first two re-sightings were made here at the Lagoon, in August and October 2015.  The next sighting, made in March 2016, was at the RSPB's WoW Reserve, on the Belfast Harbour Estate, where it likely bred for the first time.    2ASF , has been recorded at the WoW Reserve during every breeding season since, including the 15th March 2020, before our lockdown this summer commenced.  The distance from Blue Circle to Whitehouse Lagoon, is 20 kms / 12 miles (SSW), and the duration since ringing is now 7 years, 2 months and 18 days.
Black-headed Gull  -    2ASF   -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (05 Sep 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2013, at the RSPB's Blue Circle Island Reserve, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

      Sunday 6th September 2020       
I did not have too much time out today, so I once again concentrated my efforts around the Belfast area.  Just one colour-ring was recorded despite checking out hundreds and hundreds of pair of legs at several sites.  Herring Gull -   B17:W , I knew was a first re-sighting for me personally.  Having corresponded with Katherine Booth Jones recently about   B21:W , and having also mentioned   B24:W , these had been the only two from this ring series that I'd previously recorded.

Katherine was quick to reply, to say that   B17:W  had been ringed as a breeding male, on the 15th May 2019, on the rooftop of the Royal Mail building in Belfast.  Three of four previous re-sightings were made on the Obel Tower, close to the Royal Mail building - (13th June 2019, 20th August 2019, and on the 14th April 2020), and it was also spotted on the 23rd November 2019, at Harland & Wolff (Shipyard), also in Belfast.  The distance to Whitehouse Lagoom, is just 6 kms / 3 miles (N), and the duration since ringing, is now 1 year, 3 months and 22 days.  My thanks to Katherine for supplying the ringing and re-sighting history for   B17:W .

Herring Gull  -    B17:W   -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast Lough, Co. Antrim  (06 Sep 2020) 
(Ringed as a Breeding Male, on the 15th May 2019, on the Royal Mail Building, Belfast)
      From Jan Rod and Vittorio Caschera       
Two Common Gulls belonging to Shane Wolsey's former project on the Copeland Islands, have been reported to me recently.  Shane's project commenced in 2009 and ended in 2014, but I now take care of all re-sightings.  The first of these, came from Jan Rod, to say that he had re-sighted   2AVJ , on the 3rd September 2020, at Bettystown Beach, in County Meath, Republic of Ireland.

Having been ringed as a chick, on the 23rd June 2012, the first ever re-sighting was also made by Jan, when he spotted   2AVJ , on 21st August 2019, at Mosney Beach, in County Dublin.  The re-sighting details for   2AVJ , can be read (Here).
Common Gull  -    2AVJ   -  Bettystown Beach, Co. Meath, Republic of Ireland  (03 Sep 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 23rd June 2012, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)
(Photo Courtesy of Jan Rod)
Vittorio Caschera emailed me to say he spotted   2ACV  on the 5th September 2020, at Broadmeadows Estuary, Swords, in County Dublin.    2ACV  over the years, has been recorded wintering in that very same area.  The gull was ringed as a chick, on the 28th May 2010, on Big Copeland Island.  Despite the lack of visits to Big Copeland, this bird has not been proven to breed there, although it has been recorded at nearby Millisle directly after it's breeding has season ended.  Over the years   2ACV , has slowly build up a good re-sighting history, which can be read (Here).
Common Gull  -    2ACV   -  Broadmeadows Estuary, Swords, Co. Dublin, Republic of Ireland  (05 Sep 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 28th May 2010, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)
(Photo Courtesy of Vittorio Caschera)
My thanks goes to both Jan and Vittorio for their re-sightings, and I must commend the both of them for managing to read these rings.  It is well known now, that these Blue Darvics, deteriorate very quickly and not so long ago, I discovered that the colour-ring on Common Gull -   2ACA , had fallen off completely.
      From David Nixon and Suzanne Belshaw       
Over recent weeks, a number of Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, have been reported to me, with the birds concerned having been ringed either on the Isle of Man, or in the County Dublin area.  Graham McElwaine, has contributed to most of these sightings, but usually I do not post these if there are no photos to go along with the sightings.  However, David Nixon and Suzanne Belshaw, have between them, reported three gulls, complete with photos.
As it happend, all three were spotted on the 9th September 2020.  Great Black-backed Gull -   M91:M , was spotted by David Nixon, at Dundrum Inner Bay, in County Down.  As it happened, Graham also reported the same bird at the same location and date, independently from David.  These were the first re-sightings for this gull, which was only ringed in July 2020.    M91:M , was ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 3rd July 2020, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man.  The duration since ringing, is just 2 months and 6 days.  The distance to Dundrum, is 71 kms / 44 miles (WNW).  My thanks to David and Graham for their sightings, and to David for the photo.
Great Black-backed Gull  -    M91:M   -  Dundrum Inner Bay, Dundrum, Co. Down  (09 Sep 2020)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 3rd July 2020, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man)
(Photo Courtesy of David Nixon)
The next two birds were recorded by Suzanne Belshaw, at Tyrella Beach in County Down.  The first of these two -   298:D , is getting around a bit.    298:D , was ringed as a chick, on the 22nd June 2018, on the roof of the Mater Hospital, in the City of Dublin, Republic of Ireland.  It's first re-sighting, happened to be made by Suzanne, on the 4th April 2019, when she recorded the bird, on the Dargan mudflats in Belfast.  The gull was still in Belfast, on the 23rd November 2019, when I recorded the bird at Whitehouse Lagoon, which is a fairly short distance away from Dargan.

  298:D , had since, moved south, with two sightings having been made on the same day in County Down.  On the 13th July 2020, Nigel Ireland spotted the gull at Cloughey Bay, and then Graham McElwaine reported it, at Millquarter Bay.  Suzanne's sighting on the 9th September, takes the duration to 2 years, 2 months and 18 days, and the distance from Dublin to Tyrella Beach, is 105 kms / 65 miles (NNE).
Immature Herring Gull  -    298:D   -  Tyrella Beach, Co. Down  (09 Sep 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 22nd June 2018, at the Mater Hospital (roof), Dublin, Republic of Ireland)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)
The second of Suzanne's sighting at Tyrella Beach, was that of a juvenile Herring Gull -   T7VE .  This is the third sighting for this young bird, which had been ringed as a chick, on the 3rd July 2019, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man.  It was first spotted by Declan Clarke, on the 20th January 2020, at Ardglass Harbour, in County Down.  The next sighting, on the 21st July 2020, was at the Inner Bay at Dundrum, also in County Down.  It seems like   T7VE , is moving up and down the coast of County Down.  Tyrella Beach is 64 kms / 39 miles (WNW), from the Calf of Man, and it is now 1 year, 2 months and 6 days, since being ringed.

Again, my thanks goes to Suzanne for the gull sightings, along with the photos.
Juvenile Herring Gull  -    T7VE   -  Tyrella Beach, Co. Down  (09 Sep 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd July 2019, on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)
      From Arfon Williams       
An email from Wales, sent by Arfon Williams, also on the 9th September, really delighted me.  Earlier that day, Richard Donaghey and I, had exchanged emails, concerning Sandwich Terns and Black-headed Gulls, which we had colour-ringed, at Inch Island in County Donegal.  I had colour-ringed 50 young Black-headed Gulls at Inch in 2019, but was unable to visit this summer because of the lockdown measures.  Of the 50 - 2019 youngsters, one had died before fledging, but just one other bird had been reported otherwise.  This was   2FCV , which was reported by Brian Power, who reported the young gull in the City of Cork, on the 1st & 2nd December 2019.
Arfon's bird, was   2FCK , which he had spotted earlier on the 9th September, at Llanon, in Ceredigion, Wales.  Having submitted Arfon's sighting to the BTO, the recovery details arrived back, giving a distance of 376 kms / 233 miles (SE), from Inch Island in County Donegal.  The duration since being ringed, was now 1 year, 2 months and 21 days.
My thanks to Arfon, for taking the time out, to report this one.

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