Another late post this week, is partly due to a flurry of emails concerning my recent Godwit sightings. I have received details for three of my six sightings, but these fall way below the standard for normal ringing recoveries. This does not surprise me, as the three birds listed, were definitely ringed by a ringer with whom I've had dealings with before. He is well funded to undertake ringing projects, but clearly cannot understand the consequences of such activities. Colour-ring sightings are being reported, and it seems that the administration side for these projects are just about non existent. Two weeks ago, I spent the guts of two cold hours trying to photograph the Godwits and their rings, and what for!!! Worse still, is that those rings are registered to another ringer, who has taken 'flak', as he put it, by the International Wader Study Group. I've learnt in the past, this ringer does what he wants, when he wants, regardless of correct procedures.
This weeks, weekly visit to Antrim Marina, will be made tomorrow morning (Sunday), instead of my now customary Monday morning visits. One of my Scottish contacts is in Northern Ireland for a couple of days, and he will come to meet me at the Marina. Back in February, he recorded - 2CJT , at Lochwinnock in Renfrewshire. 2CJT , is a Black-headed Gull, which I consider to be a year round resident at the Marina, so goodness knows why it took off to Scotland, unless dragged across by returning birds from mainland Europe. Preferring to be called by his initials 'GB', he is hoping to see - 2CJT on it's home ground. 2CJT , is normally one of the first to be sighted each week, but last Monday, the gull was late arriving, being the 15th of the 21 birds recorded. I'm looking forwards to putting another face to a name.
|Antrim Marina - Monday 13th September 2021|
When I arrived at Antrim Marina this morning, just 7 Black-headed Gulls were present, all perched on the end of the long wooden jetty. As I was lifting my telescope from the boot of my car, more gulls flew in, and in no time at all, numbers had risen to around 60 birds. On today's visit, I was on the lookout for 30 colour-ringed individuals, having recorded another returnee last week, as well as catching and ringing another three Black-headed Gulls - 1 adult, and 2 juveniles.
Overall numbers slowly increased to around 100 birds by 10:30, after which time, the total began to decrease. No new returnees were recorded today, which was not helped, as many of the birds consistently perched on the roof of the gateway centre. By the time of my departure at midday, 21 colour-rings had been read, with 9 birds previously recorded, being absent today.
It was a fairly mild morning, and though some gulls were 'biting', I could not catch any more to add to my total. Most of these were juveniles which were obviously hungry, with older birds keeping their distance. One Black-headed Gull, was clearly a new visitor here, having a badly twisted left leg. This adult did not shy away, and confidently nibbled away at the bread that I was holding in my hand. I was tempted to catch it, and fit a colour-ring only, but changed my mind as it has enough to worry about.
Of the three birds caught and ringed last week, juvenile 2FHJ & adult 2FHH , were recorded today. The third, juvenile 2FHF did not appear, but hopefully it will be recorded over the next few weeks. Six of the 18 gulls which I caught and ringed last winter, were never seen again after being ringed, and have not been reported elsewhere. Two of those were adults, which may well have been passing through when caught, and it will be interesting to see if they put in an appearance this winter. The other four were juvenile birds. Juveniles are known to wander widely, so it is possible that they too were just passing through, though some may have died, as around two-thirds do not survive their first winter in life.
Three others that were ringed last winter, were recorded on either side of the second 'Covid Lockdown', but have not been recorded so far this winter. The remaining 9 birds are being recorded on a regular basis so far.
Below is a today's photo of - 2FHH , which was ringed here last week.
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 6th September 2021, at Antrim Marina)
Colour Ringed Black-headed Gulls Recorded at Antrim Marina on Moday 13th September 2021
Black-headed Gulls Recorded This Autumn/Winter but Absent Today
During today's visit, I noticed a sign that I had not seen before - Please Do Not Feed The Gulls. The sign says it affects their health and encourages them to nest away from their natural habitat. Health wise, bread certainly helps to keep them alive during the winter, especially when natural food is hard to come by, though this is not the point which the local council are trying to put across.
The second point, is the choice of nesting site made by the gulls. Whether they are, or not fed, Black-headed Gulls will always be present at Antrim Marina, and this statement made by the council has left me wondering - did a few pairs nest on the roof of the 'Gateway Centre' during the summer? Going back to when the 'Gateway Centre' was under construction, I stated in my blog, that the flat roof could be a big mistake. Locally, the Black-headed Gulls nest on the nearby 'former' Torpedo Platform, a site used to test out Torpedo's during World War 2. The flat roof of the 'Gateway Centre' presents an ideal nesting site, high enough and safe enough from predators. Elsewhere around Antrim, gulls are already roof-nesting at the Tesco Warehouse on the Kilbegs Industrial Estate, and on a derelict building behind the town's Aldi Supermarket.
A pitched roof would have been a far better idea, and for me, it would have made 'Ring Reading' slightly easier too. I also need to feed the gulls in order to catch and ring individuals to add to my project. Even at times, when I cannot catch them, by feeding the gulls I can keep them 'sweet' and gain their confidence to approach closely.
On Thursday 16th September 2021, I received an email from Kate McAllister, who would visit Antrim Marina from time to time. Earlier in the day, Kate recorded six colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, two of which were absent during my visit three days earlier - 2AAA & 2FFP . Kate's sightings of - 2FFP , as well as - 2FFL , were firsts for her personally. My thanks goes to Kate for these. Random visits like this are good, as an observer could record a ringed bird which could be passing through between my weekly visits, and would otherwise be missed.
Sightings made by Kate McAllister on Thursday 16th September 2021
(Both Ringed as Adults, on the 12th November 2012, and on the 21st December 2020, at Antrim Marina)
(Photo Courtesy of Kate McAllister)
Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Having been informed of a pair of Mute Swans that had two cygnets, I recorded them for the first time on my previous visit, and today they were on the slipway when I arrived. At 9:50, the other family, which normally sees six cygnets along with their mother, swam in from the Lough. The first pair along with their two youngsters made a hasty retreat up-river.
With all six cygnets on the slipway, I used them as decoys to try and catch a couple of Black-headed Gulls, but had no luck. At 11:15, the family headed back out onto the Lough. The pair along with their two cygnets came back down-river at 11:40.
Just two Mallards were present when I arrived this morning, with numbers quickly increasing to around 80 birds. As usual, most were checked for rings.
Interestingly, no other species of gull appeared today, and the only other species to be recorded were 8 Jackdaws, a pair of Magpies and a adult Hooded Crow.
|Saturday 11th September 2021|
With another late start today, I headed off to Belfast, visiting Whitehouse Lagoon (twice), Kinnegar Beach and the Dargan mudflats. Despite viewing hundreds of legs, only two colour-ringed birds were spotted.
The first one was a juvenile Sandwich Tern. Having scoped the distant bird, I had difficulties trying to photograph the ring. The youngster was in the centre of a pack which constantly moved about, and I kept losing the bird. Resorting to using my telescope on numerous occasions, I finally got a clear view to take a picture of the ring. Looking at the few photos taken, I had captured the code - (White) J2.V.
On returning home, I went onto the cr-birding website, to find the project concerned. I was delighted to discover that my juvenile 'Sannie' had been ringed in the Netherlands. Not only that, the code which I had recorded, was shown as an example in the project description - https://cr-birding.org/node/2210.
I sent an email to the address given, but did not receive a reply. Later during the week, I decided to submit my sighting through the BTO, and they subsequently contacted Ruben Fijn, who quickly replied to supply the ringing details. (White) J2.V, was ringed as a chick, on the 10th June 2021, at Slijkplaat Island, which is situated just to the south-west of Rotterdam. After being ringed, it was recorded locally on four occasions up to the 16th July 2021, before appearing here on Kinnegar Beach.
I am waiting on an offical recovery from the BTO, but I estimate the distance as being around 736 kms / 457 miles (NW), from Slijkplaat in a straight line, though it is highly unlikely that the bird has flown over the British Mainland. The duration since being ringed, was 3 months and 1 day. A nice sighting, and well worth the effort put in trying to obtain the ring code.
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 10th June 2021, at Slijkplaat in the Netherlands)
My second ring sighting, was now the third Northern Ireland record of a Scottish-rung Black-headed Gull - (White) 2BDN. (White) 2BDN, was ringed as a chick, on the 3rd June 2018, at the Broad Law colony situated in the Moorfoot Hills, in the Borders Region of Scotland.
The first sighting of - (White) 2BDN, was made by Suzanne Belshaw, on the 23rd July 2019, at the Sprucefield Shopping Centre car park just outside of Lisburn in County Antrim. The photo taken by Suzanne, clearly shows the remaining juvenile feathers on the gull.
The second sighting was made by me, on the 2nd February 2020, when I came across the bird at Whitehouse Lagoon, which is only a short distance away from my sighting today on the mudflats at Dargan.
The gull was then reported back in Scotland on the 16th July 2021, when a William Barber spotted the bird at Seton Burn in East Lothian.
Today's sighting is the fourth record overall, and the distance from Broad Law, is 221 kms / 137 miles (WSW), with the duration since ringing, being 3 years, 3 months and 8 days.
On Sunday 12th September, I covered the coast from Larne to Carrickfergus. Though I checked a good number of gulls and waders, especially at Glynn, not a single ring was recorded.
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd June 2018, at Broad Law, Moorfoot Hills, Borders Region, Scotland)
|From David Nixon|
David Nixon has been in touch concerning two Herring Gull sightings which he made on the 11th September 2021. The first bird was a juvenile rung - K09:M . Mark Fitzpatrick, who is the ringing co-ordinator for the Isle of Man birds, replied with the details for both gulls.
K09:M , was ringed as a chick, on the 3rd July 2021, on the Calf of Man. David's sighting was a first since being ringed, with the duration being, 2 months and 8 days. The BTO gave the distance as being 71 kms / 44 miles (WNW). Unfortunately, David was unable to get a photo, as the bird decided to lay down.
No photographic problems with the second Herring Gull, rung - T7UH . The gull was ringed as a chick, on the 1st July 2012, on the Calf of Man. The three previous re-sightings, had all been made on the Calf, in July 2017, July 2018, and on the 26th May 2019. The duration since being ringed, is now 9 years, 2 months and 10 days, with the distance being the same as that of K09:M above.
My thanks, as always goes to David, for these sighting reports, along with the photo.
(Ringed as a )
(Photo Courtesy of David Nixon)