Thursday, 15 October 2020


In last week's post, I gave off about another Northern Ireland ringer.  Having requested the metal numbers for a couple of birds which had been reported to me by a member of the public, the ringer concerned was not forthcoming.  I needed the metal numbers, so as I could submit the sightings along with the colour-codes to the BTO, on behalf of the observer concerned.  I was told, that all the ringing details, which included the metal numbers and colour-ring codes, had already been submitted to the BTO, and I was asked to inform the lady concerned, not to report any more sightings, they were not needed unless the birds concerned, were either deceased or injured.

Having not received the information requested, I went ahead and submitted the sightings made by the observer concerned.  I had my suspicions that the ringing details had not been submitted to the BTO, and this was confirmed, when the BTO sent out for the ringing details.  So, not only did I receive a blunt reply about the sightings reported to me, I was lied to as well.  This now leaves me wondering, just how many other birdwatchers, or members of the public, have received an un-satisfactory reply from the ringers themselves.

If ringers want to use colour-rings, then it is vital that they stay on top of the sightings being reported to them.  As I've said before, the whole idea of colour-ringing, is to generate sightings.  I'm both a 'Ringer' and 'Ring Reader'.  When I'm out 'Ring Reading', I'm really just another member of the public, trying to read rings belonging to other ringers.  As ring readers, we spend much time out in all weather's, and as such, we all need a result for our efforts.  For those ringers, who apparently cannot be bothered, they should have their colour-ringing endorsements suspended.  For some reason, they do not appear to comprehend what the whole idea of colour-ringing is all about.

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina - Monday 12th October 2020       
Due to the disappointment, of both my son's letting me down yesterday, I then decided to undertake my weekly visit to Antrim Marina today.  Together, we were to begin the process of ringing the six young cygnets.  I'm now beginning to panic to get this done as soon as possible, as there is now every chance that these youngsters will begin to disperse in the near future.  Another problem, is that there is a greater chance now, that our local Government, will re-impose a total lockdown.  At present, they are still advising against un-necessary travel, but as I go about my 'Ring Reading' on my own, this should not be too much of a problem for the moment.
After leaving my wife to her work, (in a nursing home), I arrived at Antrim Marina, at 9:15.  I reckoned the weather for 'Ring Reading', was perfect, as it was a fairly breezy morning, with frequent showers of heavy drizzle.  Around 100 Black-headed Gull's were already present, which was promising.  However, as the morning wore on, the weather conditions fared, and the gulls became scarcer and scarcer, and by 11:30, there were none at all.  At 12:15, there was still no sign that the gulls would return, so I called it a day, and returned home for a couple of hours 'kip' before starting work.
Of 21 colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls recorded so far this winter, just 10 rings were read today, with no new additions to the list.  There was no sign of the German metal-rung Black-headed Gull, which was spotted here last Monday.  As yet, I've heard nothing from either the ringer or the BTO, so for now, all I know, is that it was ringed in eastern Germany.
At 11:10 this morning, a juvenile Black-headed Gull landed in front of my car, bearing a tall metal-ring.  I reckoned, this bird was from one of the Scandinavian countries, or possibly, even from Iceland.  Sadly, as I began zooming into the young gull with my camera, a young woman arrived, along with her two small kids, to feed the ducks.  Of course, this had all the gulls flying about in a frenzy looking for their share of the bread being tossed out onto the water.  Watching my young gull flying around, it too landed on the water, where I lost track of it.  Once all had settled down again, I could not find the youngster.  All I can hope for now, is the possibility that this young bird has found a source for an easy meal, and will hang about in the area for a few weeks at least.
With just 10 colour-rings recorded, today's visit was yet another big disappointment.  Looking at my Antrim Marina spreadsheet, one of Adam's original gulls which was ringed here, is still absent.  This is   2AAP , which should have been recorded during the early weeks, of this winter's weekly visits.  It's now looking, like we have lost another gull.  Two of the other originally rung birds are now due to return.  One, is   2AAR , which we know breeds in Poland.  If all goes well, and the bird is still alive, it should return some time this week.    2ADV , is the second gull.  It has never been recorded anywhere, other than wintering at Antrim Marina, but I reckon, this is also another foreign breeding bird.  If   2ADV , does not arrive back this coming weekend, then it should return by the weekend after this.
Black-headed Gull -   2CSL , is a more recent bird to be ringed.  I caught and ringed this one, as an un-sexed adult, in December 2017.    2CSL , has also been spotted in the past, in Poland, but should have returned to Antrim Marina back in early August.  The return dates for the previous two years, was on the 20th August 2018, and on the 19th August 2019, so the signs are not promising for the return of this bird either.
Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina Today - 12th October 2020
 2BRA   2CTC   2CSR   2ABK   2ABN   2ACV   2AAA   2ABS   2CJT   2FDK 

Black-headed Gulls Recorded at Antrim Marina this Autum/Winter, but Absent Today
 2AAN   2AAK   2ABA   2AAV   2AAB   2ABL 
 2CSA   2CSB   2CSJ   2CSK   2CSX   

Note :-     2CSX , was last recorded at Antrim Marina, on the 20th September 2020, but was then spotted on the 28th September 2020, at the former Waterworks in Belfast.  Presumably,    2CSX  is still at the waterworks.
Other Birds at Antrim Marina
The Mute Swan family, with the six cygnets, were on the slipway when I arrived this morning.  It's really bugging me now, as when I look at them, they're still not ringed.  At 9:38, things got a little 'heated', when a second pair of Mute Swans, swam in from the direction of Lough Neagh, with three large cygnets between them.  This did not go down too well with the adult resident pair, who gave chase.  The resident birds avoided any contact with the cygnets, but went after their parents.  The whole family, hastily swam up river, followed by the resident pair.
The six resident cygnets, remained on their own, until their parents arrived back at 10:32.  At 11:10, a third pair arrived in from the Lough, and came ashore on the small sandy beach.  Looking at the female, she was the one with the 'lumpy' looking beak, so this was the same pair, who have visited the Marina on several occasions over the past few weeks.  Normally, the resident male, would chase these intruders as well, but today he simply ignored them.  Perhaps, he is getting used to their frequent visits.
Around 50 Mallards were present when I arrived, though numbers remained constant, until the weathered fared up.  Just like the Black-headed Gulls, numbers than began to decrease, with about 20 birds remaining when I departed.  Again, most legs were checked for rings.

Both the adult and juvenile Herring Gulls were present on my arrival, but both disappeared soon afterwards.  An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull arrived at 10:03, followed by an adult Common Gull at 10:11, but both birds departed again shortly afterwards.

Other species recorded today, were 2 male Pied Wagtails, 2 Magpies, 1 Rook, 1 Hooded Crow and four Jackdaws.  Also noted, was one Great Crested Grebe, and one juvenile Cormorant, who took advantage of the calmer conditions on the river, to feed.

      Saturday 10th October 2020       
As is usual on most Saturday's, it was a late start again.  I headed off to Carnlough, and from there moved southwards towards Glynn, on Larne Lough.  When I got to the coast, the tide was already on it's way in, with high tide forcasted just after 5:30pm.  I needed to be at Glynn in good time, so as I could observe the gulls there being gradually pushed towards me.
All along the coast from Carnlough, small numbers of gulls and waders were checked for rings, without any joy.  As I got to Larne, time was getting on, so I skipped Sandy Bay, but checked it out, after visiting Glynn.
At Glynn, I positioned myself on the railway platform, and began scoping through a couple of hundred gulls of several species, though Common Gulls were the most numerous.  Another birdwatcher was also on the platform and we began chatting, and I explained that I 'read rings'.  It was not until I got back home, did I realise, that we had not even exchanged our names - I do apologise.
After a while of scoping, I spotted a Common Gull that appeared to be carrying a yellow darvic.  I told my new friend on the platform, that I had spotted a colour-ring, and set my camera onto the tripod.  Zooming in, the darvic was actually white and not yellow (discolouration caused by strong sunlight), and I stated that I might just have a Norwegian bird here.  At first, I could only see the digits 334, but staying locked onto the bird, I eventually captured the code - (White) JE334.  The code starting with the letter 'J', confirmed to me, that this gull was indeed from Norway.
A short while later, and just before the appearance of another birdwatcher, I said that this could be a second sighting of a Common Gull spotted by Ric Else, on Ballycastle Beach last winter.  I had just re-called in my mind, that the code on that gull, also started as 'JE'.  On returning home, and running JE334 through my spreadsheet, I did not have a match, so this was a new sighting for me, and possibly for Northern Ireland.  Looking for Ric's bird, his was actually ringed - (White) JE540.
I entered my new sighting onto the 'Live' Norwegian Ringing Database, and soon gained the ringing and re-sighting history for the gull.  (White) JE334, had been ringed as a chick, on the 5th July 2017, in the Karmøy are, in Rogaland, Norway.  The only other sighting before mine, was made on the 11th May 2019, when the bird was spotted 12 kms / 7 miles (SW), of  Karmøy.  The distance from Norway to Glynn, was given as 835 kms / 518 miles (SW), and the duration since being ringed, is 3 years, 3 months and 5 days.
I showed the photo, I took of (White) JE334, to the first birdwatcher that was on the railway station platform, and he was really impressed that my camera had such a reach.  To any 'Ring Reader' I would recommend the 'Nikon P1000', with it's 125x optical zoom, which doubles to 250x in digital mode.  It takes a short while to get used to, but once you get the hang of it - 'you're flying'.  One point though to remember, and that is, if you spot a ring at long distances within a group of birds, try and pinpont visually the whereabouts of that particular bird before zooming in.  If you don't, it can easily be missed.  I would use rocks, branches, or the shape of the shoreline to gain a reference point in which to search.
Anyhow, a sighting of at least one ring, always makes the trip out worthwhile, but to gain a new sighting, is even better. 
Common Gull  -  Norway  (White)  JE334  -  Glynn, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim  (10 Oct 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 5th July 2017, at Norsk Hydro Austevik, Karmøy, Norway)
On several occasions, I spotted a Common Gull/Gulls, with Blue Darvics.  I knew these would be birds that I ringed as chicks on Rathlin Island, but I had a lot of difficulty in trying to capture the code/codes.  The bird or birds, had their legs hidden by seaweed, and most of the time, only the top edge of the ring could be seen.  Eventually, I did get a few photos of one gull, and this turned out to be my third sighting of   2BKX .

  2BKX , was ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2019, at Arkill Bay, on Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim.  My two previous sightings, were also recorded here at Glynn, on the 28th September 2019, and on the 26th September 2020.  The distance from Rathlin, is 56 kms / 34 miles (SSE), and the duration is now 1 year, 3 months and 16 days, since being ringed.  I would expect   2BKX , to return to Rathlin next summer to prospect for a nest site, as it will not be of breeding age, until the summer of 2022.

Common Gull  -    2BKX   -  Glynn, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim  (10 Oct 2020)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2019, at Arkill Bay, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim)

      Sunday 11th October 2020       
This morning, I was supposed to be going to Antrim Marina, to begin the process of metal ringing the six young cygnets.  Having sent a text to my younger son last night, I did not receive a reply.  The younger son had said he would give me a hand, but last week, did not appear, and the two weeks before that, had to stay at home to babysit, and then had a very sick dog.  However, last night, my older son, who still lives with us, said he'd go.  Having got up at 7:30 this morning, my elder son arrived downstairs soon after, to say he'd been up all night, sick.  I'm no further forward now, in trying to get these young swans ringed.

I headed out anyway, and decided to check the north shore of Belfast Lough.  I was making another attempt to re-sight a colour-ringed Bar-tailed Godwit from Holland.  Lot's of Bar-tailed's were checked, but the bird I was after was not amongst them.  The first colour-ring to be spotted, was on an Oystercatcher from a relatively new Northern Ireland project.  Although I scoped the code on the birds 'White Flag' as being - AXN, I did not submit the sighting, as I could not find the bird again, whilst trying to take a photo.  It did not really matter, as I have already recorded this bird twice here over recent weeks (30th August & 12th September).

I went on to scope hundreds and hundreds of pairs of legs on gulls and waders of varying species.  A nice flock of around 150 Knots, especially caught my attention, but having scoped through them loads and loads of times, not even one bird, had a metal ring.

It was a long time coming, and the tide was ever disappearing into the distance, when I eventually spotted a very distant colour-ringed Herring Gull.  Having to move closer to the bird, I captured the code   B21:W , with my camera.  As it turned out, this was now my second sighting of this gull, having initially spotted it on the 29th August 2020, on Kinnegar Beach, situated on the opposite southern shore here at Belfast Lough.

  B21:W , had been ringed as a breeding male, on the 23rd May 2019, on the rooftop of the Metro building, in the centre of the City of Belfast.  Just one previous sighting had been recorded on the 13th June 2019, whilst the gull was still attending it's nest on the Metro building.  The distance to the north shore of Belfast Lough, is 6 kms / 3 miles north of the Metro building, and the duration is 1 year, 4 months and 18 days.  The ringing information was supplied by Katherine Booth Jones, who actually ringed this bird, and works for the BTO, here in Northern Ireland.
Herring Gull  -    B21:W   -  Belfast Lough (North Shore), Belfast  (11 Oct 2020)
(Ringed as an Adult Breeding Male, on the 23rd May 2019, on the Metro Building, Belfast)
With the tide now so far out, I returned to my car, which was parked at Whitehouse Lagoon.  A quick scope of the birds there revealed no more rings, so I moved on to the nearby Dargan mudflats.  Arriving here, I was actually disappointed in the lack of gulls and waders present.  Scoping through the birds nearest to me, I made my second sighting this winter of a colour-ringed Redshank, though it was no stranger to me.

Ringed with a plain Orange ring on it's left tibia, and a coded (FV) Black ring on it's right tibia, I first recorded this bird on the Dargan mudflats, on the 8th September 2019.  In August (22nd), I spotted it for the second time.  O-N(FV), was ringed as an un-sexed 2nd Calendar year bird, on the 7th March 2019, at the Ynylas NNR, in Ceredigion, Wales.  All three re-sightings have now been recorded by me at Dargan, the distance being 264 kms / 164 miles (NNW).  The duration since being ringed, is 1 year, 7 months and 4 days.
Redshank  -  O-N(FV)  -  Dargan Mudflats, Dargan Industrial Estate, Belfast  (11 Oct 2020)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed 2nd Calendar Year Bird. on the 7th March 2019, at Ynylas NNR, Ceredigion, Wales)
It was now pointless staying on the coast, so I made my was to the Connswater mudflats, on the Belfast Industrial Estate.  Here I was once again on the lookout for a Black-headed Gull bearing a Yellow Darvic, which I spotted here a couple of weeks ago.  On that occasion, I could only see the top of the Darvic, but the bird simply floated off, on the incoming tide.  Not a single ring was spotted today, not even those of two Northern Ireland rung Black-headed Gulls, which have been recorded during my previous two visits.

This time, I carried on walking around the footpath, which leads to Belfast's Victoria Park.  People here were feeding the ducks and ferel pigeons, but the Black-headed Gulls on the small island, were not a bit interested.  Scoping through the gulls, the Dutch-rung Black-headed Gull - (White) EAK9, was spotted for the second week running.  On the 3rd October, I had recorded it's return to Northern Ireland once again, having seen it on the nearby Connswater mudflats.
(White) EAK9, had been ringed as an adult male, on the 13th June 2012, in the Zoetermeer area, in Holland.  It was first recorded in Northern Ireland, on the 10th January 2014, and has been recorded here every winter since, except 2017.  All sightings here, have been made at either, the Connswater Shopping Centre car park, Victoria Park, or on the Connswater mudflats.  All three sites are fairly close to each other.  The distance from Holland to Victoria Park, is 745 kms / 463 miles (WNW), and the duration is now 8 years, 3 months and 28 days.
Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  EAK9  -  Victoria Park, Belfast  (11 Oct 2020)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 13th June 2012, at Zoetermeer, Holland)
Having returned to my car, I wondered about where to go next.  The afternoon was still young, and I did not want to hang about anywhere to wait for an incoming tide.  What I really needed, was an inland site, and ruled out the idea of visiting the former Belfast Waterworks.  Being such a nice, sunny afternoon, there would be far too many people about, so instead, I decided to make the quite long drive to Lurgan Park and Kinnego Marina.

It had crossed my mind, that there were no recent sightings of the colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Kinnego, therefore it made sense to head up that way.  Visiting the lake at Luran Park first, a good 200 to 250 Black-headed Gulls were on the water, among lesser numbers of other gull species.  As with Victoria Park in Belfast, the gulls paid no interest in the bread that folk were feeding to the swans, ducks and Greylag Geese.

This left me with the target of finding a colour-ringed Mute Swan, which I had been informed about, a couple of weeks back.  The bird in question, had been spotted here, by a Russell Eastwood, on the 29th September 2020.  Having checked the swans which were out of the water, and resting on the greens first, I discovered -   CATL , swimming around, trying to get it's share of the bread being thrown out onto the water.

  CATL , is from a Mute Swan colour-ringing project, being carried out by my 'Ring Reading' counterpart in the Republic of Ireland - Graham Prole.  The bird was ringed as a juvenile, on the 20th August 2016, at Naas, in County Kildare.  Up until February 2017,   CATL    was recorded on numerous occasions at Naas, where it was last recorded, on the 18th.  The swan went missing for a while, until being re-sighted at Newbridge in County Kildare, roughly 9 kms (SW) from Naas, on the 29th October 2017.

This was the last time that   CATL   was seen in the Republic, until Russell came across the bird at Lurgan Park Lake.  The distance from Naas to Lurgan, is 141 kms / 87 miles (N), and the duration since being ringed, is now 4 years, 1 month and 21 days.  My thanks goes to Graham Prole, for providing the ringing and re-sighting history for this swan, which looks set to remain in County Armagh.
Mute Swan  -    CATL   -  Lurgan Park Lake, Lurgan, Co. Armagh  (11 Oct 2020)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 21st August 2016, at Naas, Co. Kildare, Republic of Ireland)
My final stop for the day, was at Kinnego Marina, just a short drive away from Lurgan Park.  At the Marina, I was on the lookout for four colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls from Adam's former Northern Ireland Study.  Three of these gulls, had not been recorded since March 2020, whilst the fourth was spotted last July.  I was also on the lookout for two metal-rung Black-headed Gulls, one which was last seen in March 2020, but the other, last recorded in 2018, may well have died since.

Arriving at the Marina, the whole area was 'packed out' with parked cars, and folk were everywhere.  Here, like several other places that I visited today, there was practically no 'social distancing'.  Being on my own, it was easy for me to steer clear of these people, but clearly, most were not thinking about what they were doing.  The worst case that I saw today, involved a group of 10 to 12 men jogging in a bunch along the footpath which runs along the north shore of Belfast Lough.  Just to think of their heavy breathing while jogging, they would be inhaling each other's breath, and the potential to share the Coronavirus was huge, should any one of them have it.

With so many people about, the gulls understandably, kept their distance.  Two groups of Black-headed Gulls were spotted.  One was on jetties in the distance, but the nearest scoping point was blocked by a moored motorboat.  The second group, was on the roof of the cafe, where I spotted   2BPS , which was my only ring sighting here today.

  2BPS , had last been recorded at Kinnego Marina, on the 17th March 2020, by Suzanne Belshaw.  The gull had been caught and ringed here at Kinnego, as an adult female, on the 31st October 2014.  My sighting today, is the 62nd record for the bird, with all sightings having been made here.  As in the case of all Adam's former study birds, each time I submit the latest sighting, I also submit one or two historical sightings as well.  This is the best way to submit a backlog of sightings, without overwhelming the BTO.  So far, for   2BPS , there is nothing spectacular about this gull, but a few more weeks have now been added to it's longevity, which is now 5 years, 11 months and 11 days, since being ringed.
Black-headed Gull  -    2BPS   -  Kinnego Marina, Lough Neagh, Co. Armagh  (11 Oct 2020)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 31st October 2014, at Kinnego Marina)

      From David Nixon       
Another email arrived with me on the 7th October 2020, from David Nixon.  Earlier that day, whilst David was checking out his local patch, at the Inner Bay of Dundrum in County Down, he spotted a colour-ringed Herring Gull.  Having successfully taken a few photos, he managed to capture the code - (White) 3W7:C.  David left it to me to report the bird, and going by the :C on the ring, I knew it was rung by the Clyde Ringing Group in Scotland, and duly sent an email to the ringing co-ordinator Iain Livinstone.
Having received no reply by the 14th October, I submitted David's sighting to the BTO, by the colour-code only, as I did not know the metal number for the bird.  Shortly afterwards, the BTO then sent out an email to Iain, requesting the gull's ringing data.  This suggets to me, that Iain has been trying to get in touch with the actual ringer concerned, but as yet, has received no reply.
I had checked my own spreadsheet for this code, but came up with a nothing.  Therefore, it seems as if the sighting of 3W7:C, may well be a first for Northern Ireland.  My thanks goes to David for his sighting report, along with the photo.  When I receive the ringing and re-sighting data (if any), I'll report on this in a future post.

Herring Gull  -  (White)  3W7:C  -  Dundrum Inner Bay, Dundrum, Co. Down  (07 Oct 2020)
(Waiting for Ringing Details)
(Photo Courtesy of David Nixon)

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