Friday, 20 May 2022

A Real Mix....

It has been a while since my last post, though I have been busy with a host of tasks.  The arduous task of restoring my main Ring Reading Spreadsheet has now been completed.  I had been editing locations that had two or three slight variations, so as they looked the same.  Whilst copying and pasting, for some reason the same location ended up being the same throughout most of the spreadsheet which had over 17,000 entries.  The spreadsheet is sorted in alphabetical order by species, and the errors occurred from half way through the Common Gulls, till half way through Oystercatchers.  Trawling through emails, checking saved PDF Files, and past blog posts, I eventually found everything that I needed.  Additional sightings were also found whilst checking the 'Live' Norwegian and Polish Ringing Databases.

At this time of the year, sightings of ringed birds are few and far between, which also gave me time to submit Black-headed Gull sightings from my study at Antrim Marina.  This has been done by submitting the last sighting of each gull for each month of the winter season.  Sending these off in batches of 15 sightings, the recoveries were then linked into my spreadsheet as hyperlinks, which enables me to see at a glance, all of the sightings that have been submitted.  It would be impractical to submit every weekly sighting for each bird, as the BTO would then be overwhelmed with sighting records.

I have now began visiting Rathlin Island to read rings on Common Gulls belonging to a project which I began in 2017.  Colour-ringing chicks, I am aiming to record how many surviving birds return to integrate into the overall breeding population which I have estimated to be at around 100 pairs.  This total far exceeds numbers given in the Northern Ireland Seabird Reports.

Despite, having tried through various sources, I have not been able to get permission to visit Big Copeland Island, to further Shane Wolsey's former Common Gull project there.  I need permission from Ryan McCulla, who has taken over from his father, as to who is allowed onto the island.  As things look, the 2022 breeding season there is going to be missed.  I know there are still several colour-ringed Common Gulls still breeding on the island, but visiting the breeding colonies is the only sure way of reading those colour-rings.  Over the previous two summers, a small number of these colour-ringed Common Gulls had first ever sightings, having been ringed between 2009 and 2014 by Shane.  The non visits will be a real shame, as I will be unable to add more time to longevities or colour-ring any of this summers chicks.  Again, if anyone can supply me with a phone number or an email address for Ryan, please email me -

Also included in this post, is a mixture of sightings both old and new, which have been reported to me since my last post.

Another slight distraction of late, is the purchase of my first ever drone.  I decided on the Mavic Air 2, a model that I have been watching for some time now.  I had set my sights on purchasing one next year, but a recent offer for the 'Combo Kit', with a saving of around £200, prompted me to buy.  The 'Combo' comes complete with extra batteries, props, camera filters and a smart carrying bag, etc.  Due to it's weight, I had to get an Operator ID, plus pass a Theory Test in order to legally fly.  I did the test earlier this week, and passed with 40/40.  Weather permitting, I will take my first real flight on Saturday.  Up until now, I have been flying low in my back garden.  As I live in a residential area, it is not legal to fly any closer than 150m from housing, hence keeping low.  Practise flights in my own back yard, has given me a feel for flying the drone, as well as checking out camera functions, downloading the latest 'Firmware', etc.  

      From Brian Henderson       
On Friday the 22nd April 2022, I received another email from Brian Henderson in Scotland.  Earlier that day Brian recorded one of my Common Gull's -  2BNF , at the East Pier in Stranraer.  The bird belongs to a study that I began on Rathlin Island in County Antrim in 2017.  Around 100 pairs of Common Gulls nest on the island, and I have been colour-ringing chicks every summer, with the ultimate aim to record surviving birds which will eventually integrate into the overall breeding population.

 2BNF , was ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2019, at the Arkill Bay colony on Rathlin Island, and this is now the gulls second re-sighting, as well as being the first of my study birds to be recorded in Scotland.  The previous re-sighting was made on the 23rd July 2021, when Tom Cooney spotted -  2BNF  at Dundalk Bay in County Louth, in the Republic of Ireland.

The distance from Rathlin Island to Stranraer in Scotland, is 85 kms / 52 miles (ESE), and the duration since being ringed, is now 2 years, 9 months and 29 days.

2019, saw the Common Gulls on Rathlin having an excellent breeding season, where a good number of chicks were colour-ringed.  This coming breeding season, I am expecting a fair few surviving chicks from 2019, to return to Rathlin to breed for the first time, as most will have matured.  Seeing as Stranraer is not that far from Rathlin,  2BNF  could easily make it's way back, so it is one to watch out for.

My thanks goes to Brian for his sighting report, along with the photo which just about captured the code on the ring.  Recently, Brian had been in touch concerning 2 Northern Ireland Black-headed Gulls, whose colour-rings were also read at the East Pier in Stranraer.  There has been no further updates on those two gulls at present. 

Common Gull  -   2BNF   -  Stranraer East Pier, Stranraer, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland  (22 Apr 2022)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2019, at Arkill Bay, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim)
(Photo Courtesy of Brian Henderson)


      From Suzanne Belshaw       
Suzanne Belshaw has been in touch again with another juvenile Black-headed Gull ring sighting.  This bird with a metal ring was spotted in the car park of the McDonalds Fast Food Outlet in Newtownards, County Down.  Suzanne photographed the young gull, and successfully captured the birds whole ring number -  5360010 , to discover that the gull was from Germany.  I reported Suzanne's sighting to a German website, as well as submitting the sighting through my BTO DemOn Ringing Account.

A few days passed, but it was the BTO who replied with the ringing details.   5360010 , had been ringed as a chick, on the 3rd June 2021, on Minsener Oog Island, which is one of the eastern islands belonging to the Frisian Island chain just off the north coast of Germany.  The distance to Newtownards, was a nice 897 kms / 557 miles (W), and the duration since being ringed, was 10 months and 20 days.

Suzanne thought that this was her first ever sighting of a German Black-headed Gull, but looking over my spreadsheet, this is actually her second bird.  On the 2nd January 2018, Suzanne spotted a well known bird at Carrickfergus Harbour in County Antrim.  The gull in question, was metal-ringed as an adult male in Germany, on the 14th May 2008.  It had been spotted on two occasions at Carrickfergus Harbour (November 2013 and December 2015), where the metal number was read.  On the 17th January 2016, Adam McClure managed to capture the gull and fitted it with an Orange Darvic -  2ANX .

 2ANX , was then spotted on numerous occasions, both in Poland and Germany during the breeding season, and back at Carrickfergus in the winter.  It's final sighting was made at Carrickfergus Harbour, on the 9th February 2018, when spotted by Paul McCullough.  With no further reports, it would be safe to assume that the gull has since died.

My thanks once again goes to Suzanne for the sighting report along with the photos.  The sighting at a McDonalds Outlet, once again demonstrates how easily juveniles are drawn to such places for an easy meal.

Black-headed Gull  -  Germany   5360010   -  McDonalds Fast Food Outlet, Newtownards, Co. Down  (23 Apr 2022)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd June 2021, on Minsener Oog Island, The Frisian Islands, Germany)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)


      From Paul McCullough       
It's been a while since I last heard from Paul McCullough, so I was delighted to receive an email with the re-sighting of a juvenile Black-headed Gull.  The gull, (White) 2503, was recorded by Brian on the 27th April 2022, at the Mill Ponds at Carrickfergus Leisure Centre, this being the birds fifth sighting since being ringed 

It was ringed as a chick, on the 17th June 2021, on Lough Ree, County Longford, in the Republic of Ireland.  The first re-sighting, was made by myself on the 28th August 2021, also at the Mill Ponds at Carrickfergus Leisure Centre (photo).  By the 20th October 2021, the juvenile had moved 66 kms / 41 miles (SW), where it was spotted at Dungannon Park Lake in County Tyrone, by David Morrow (photo).

At this point, Brian Burke who is the lead for the Lough Ree Gull Ringing Project, suggested that (White) 2503, could possibly moving back towards it's natal colony.  However, on the 18th November 2021, the young gull was back in Carrickfergus.  Cameron Moore photographed the bird on the sea wall at Rhanbouy Park on the southern outskirts of the town (photo).  On the 14th February 2022, Cameron recorded (White) 2503 for a second time, on the shore at Rhanbouy Park (photo).

Paul's latest sighting, take the duration since being ringed, to 10 months and 10 days, and the distance from Lough Ree to Carrickfergus, is 189 kms / 117 miles (NE).  My thanks goes to Paul for the sighting report, as well as the excellent photo.

Black-headed Gull  -  White  2503  -  Carrickfergus Leisure Centre, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (27 Apr 2022)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th June 2021, at Lough Ree, Co. Longford, Republic of Ireland)
(Photo Courtesy of Paul McCullough)


      First 2022 Visit to Rathlin Island - 1st May       
Today saw me making my first trip over to Rathlin Island to further my Common Gull project which I began here in 2017.  I have been colour-ringing chicks, in order to investigate survival rates, movements and to see how many birds return to integrate into the overall breeding population.  I estimate, that around 100 pairs of these Common Gulls nest in several sub-colonies.  At this time of the year, the first pairs are now on eggs, though others are still nest-building.  Whilst they are doing this, I'm trying to read the rings of the adult birds, and from mid June to early July, I will be colour-ringing this summers chicks.

Arkill Bay
Departing from the ferry at Rathlin Harbour, I made my way to the Arkill Bay colony, which is now the largest on the island.  Here the gulls nest on two sets of rocks, though pretty close to each other.  Plenty of Common Gulls were present, though many were still not incubating eggs.  My next visit will be on the 15th May, and I will try to undertake nest counts then, as most should be on eggs by that point.

Sitting high up on the hillside overlooking the Arkill Bay colonies, just two colour-ringed gulls were spotted - 2BKJ at the southern site, and - 2BBF at the nearby northern site.  The ringing and re-sighting histories for both birds and be read here - (2BKJ) & (2BBF).

Common Gull  -   2BKJ   -  Arkill Bay, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (01 May 2022)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2019, at Arkill Bay)

Common Gull  -   2BBF   -  Arkill Bay, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (01 May 2022)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Arkill Bay)

Towards the end of last summer, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, began the construction of a new walking trail, which happens to pass right above the southern Arkill Bay colony.  I could not believe how insensitive the RSPB were, as I knew that this new trail would cause problems for the breeding gulls.  Having had poor breeding seasons in both 2020 and 2021, I knew this trail is going to add unwanted disturbance for the birds.  In the past, this eastern side of Rathlin Island was pretty quite, with very few people ever venturing here.

Although, this was my first visit this summer, my fears about disturbance was quickly realised.  Sitting high up the hillside scoping the colony.  A man and his wife appeared, and walked straight down to the rocky shore right beside the colony.  Their presence had all of the gulls up in the air alarm calling, but these people were oblivious about what was happening.  About ten minutes later, the man climbed up onto the rocks where the gulls were nesting, and I had to intervene.  I explained to him about the nesting gulls and requested him to move away.  Back at my vantage point further up the hillside, he apologised, saying that he thought gulls only nested on cliffs.  They then walked away, better informed.

Man Intruding onto the Rocks Where the Common Gulls are Nesting

Whilst this couple were on the rocky shore, I spotted another man in the distance to the north of me.  This chap had also been drawn here by the new Craigmacagan Trail, but he had actually climbed over the fence to proceed onto private property despite signs stating not to cross the fence.  For my first visit, I had witnessed two unwanted intrusions, so goodness knows what happens here from day to day.

A Man Spotted Walking on Private Property

Whilst at the Arkill Bay colony, I turned my scope onto the distant headland at Doon Bay.  Every year, I metal-ring the chicks of a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls which nest on the headland.  As can be seen in my photo, the pair are back and a bird is clearly sitting on a nest.

Makin my way back along the Craigmacagan Trail towards the road which would lead me to my next stop at Lough Ushet, I passed another party of people.  I asked them to stay off the rocks, as gulls were nesting there.

After returning home on Sunday evening, I sent an email to Ric Else who works with the RSPB at the 'Visitor Centre' at the West Lighthouse.  Ric compiles the Rathlin Island Bird Report, so I sent him my 'Key Sightings' for the day, and also reported on what was going on, on the Craigmacagan Trail.  I'm hoping that something constructive can be done there.

Pair of Great Black-backed Gulls nesting on the Doon Bay Headland  (01 May 2022)

Ushet Lough
On reaching the Common Gull colony situated on a tiny rocky islet at the western edge of Ushet Lough, it looks as if all the pair's were sitting on their nests, and appear to be more advanced in their breeding season, compared to the coastal colonies.

Scoping the Greylag Geese on the Lough, I noticed two pairs with recently hatched broods of 6 and 8 goslings.  Having reported these to Ric, they were the first youngsters spotted on the island this summer, though he also recorded chicks the next day on Craigmacagan Lough.

Greylag Goose Pair with 8 Goslings  (01 May 2022)

Greylag Goose Pair with 6 Goslings  (01 May 2022)

From Ushet Lough, I made the short walk to the cliff top overlooking the Roonivoolin Common Gull colony, far below on the rocky shore.  As I approached the cliff top, a juvenile Raven was perched on a fence post.  At the cliff top, I could see the nest below with just a single chick in it.  Scanning with my binoculars, I located another three chicks making five in all.

Turning my attention on the Common Gulls, hardly any birds were to be seen, whereas in the past, this colony had around 20 pairs.  I have no idea as to why this colony has declined in numbers, and last summer I only colour-ringed three chicks here.

Remaining Raven Chick in the Roonivoolin Nest  (01 May 2022)

I now cut across the fields to re-join the road which would lead me to the Rue Point Common Gull colony.  There is an un-named lake very close to the road, which is entirely engulphed with reeds.  Beside it is the remains of a derelict house, and I could see a Common Gull sitting on a nest on the gable wall.  Climbing up, the nest contained one egg, and the female and her mate were un-ringed.

Rue Point
The Common Gull colony here at Rue Point, was by far the largest on Rathlin Island when I began my colour-ringing project back in 2017, but here too, the number of breeding pairs have been declining for some unknown reason.  Today, it was obvious, most pairs were still in the process of building nests with very few incubating eggs.

Scoping for rings, I spotted four of my project birds.  Today's sighting of -  2BPL , is my third record for this bird.   2BPL , was ringed at Rue Point as a chick, on the 26th June 2019.  My first two sightings were made on the 6th and 28th June 2021 here at Rue Point.  At that time, the bird was not fully mature, so I reckoned that it had returned to prospect a nest site for this summer.  Great to see it back.

Common Gull  -   2BPL   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (01 May 2022)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 26th June 2019, at Rue Point)

The sighting of Common Gull -  2BCL , for me was very rewarding, as this was the first time that I have seen the bird back on Rathlin Island.  I knew of it's return, as Ric Else reported seeing the gull at Rue Point on the 23rd April 2022, also the scene of today's sighting.  The return of -  2BCL , was first recorded on the 19th May 2020, when Ric recorded the gull at neighbouring Doon Bay on the island (photo).  That was the only sighting in 2020, despite several visits to the colonies by both Ric and myself, and worse still, the gull was not recorded at all in 2021.

 2BCL , was ringed as a chick, on the 18th June 2018, on Ushet Lough, 1 km north from Rue Point.  Up until today, my three sightings of the gull were made at widely varying locations within Northern Ireland.  The first was at the tiny coastal village of Cushendun in County Antrim, where, on the 19th August 2018, the then juvenile was seen feeding at the harbour (photo).  Cushendun, is 18 kms / 11 miles (SSE) from Rathlin, and the duration at that time, was 2 months and 1 day since being ringed.

Just over a year later, on the 15th September 2019, I made my second sighting of -  2BCL , where I photographed the gull on the beach (photo),  at Millisle in County Down - 86 kms 53 miles (SSE) from Rathlin.  By now, the duration since being ringed, was 1 year, 2 months and 28 days.  Almost two months later, on the 3rd November 2019,  2BCL  was then spotted on the Myroe Levels on Lough Foyle in County Londonderry (photo).  On this occasion, the bird was spotted a very long distance away from me, but my camera just about managed to capture the code on the ring.  The distance from Rathlin to the Myroe Levels, is 57 kms / 35 miles (WSW), and the duration had risen to 1 year, 4 months and 16 days.

As you can see, it was special for me to record the gull back on Rathlin, as it completes the circle of sightings since I ringed the gull as a chick.  The duration since ringing, is now 3 years, 10 months and 13 days (PDF).

Common Gull  -   2BCL   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (01 May 2022)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2018, at Ushet Lough, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim)

 2BAX , was ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Rathlin's Arkill Bay colony.  The gull has chosen the Rue Point colony in which to nest, and has gradually built up a nice list of re-sightings.  I also recorded -  2BAX  on my second visit to Rathlin (made on the 15th May 2022), (pdf). 

Common Gull  -   2BAX   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (01 May 2022)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Arkill Bay, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim)

Common Gull -  2APT , was among the first chick's to be colour-ringed, having been ringed here at Rue Point on the 17th June 2017.  This is another gull that is steadily building up a nice list of re-sightings, though it was not recorded on Rathlin in 2021.  Ric Else reported the bird's return to Rue Point on the 12th March 2022, so it was nice to see it again today (pdf).

Common Gull  -   2APT   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (01 May 2022)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th June 2017, at Rue Point)

At Rue Point, I was also keeping an eye out for a metal-rung Common Gull which I recorded breeding here last summer (6th June 2021).  Having photographed the ring, I successfully captured the number -  ES24963 , and duly reported the bird to the BTO.

Unfortunately, the BTO could not supply me with a recovery, as the ringing details had not been submitted, but what unfolded proved to be amazing.  It turns out, that the ringer concerned, had died before the details could be submitted, but he had been issued with 10 'E' sized rings -  ES24961  to  ES24970  ES24961  and  ES24962 , had been used on Rooks on the 17th December 1995 and on the 2nd March 1996 respectively.  Going by these dates, I would suspect that -  ES24963 , was likely used to ring my Common Gull as a chick in June 1996.  The amazing part of this story, is that the ringer lived in Co. Cork, which means this bird had travelled quite a distance to be found breeding here on Rathlin Island.  Even giving the bird a ringing date of the 30th June 1996, this would give me a duration of 24 years, 11 months and 7 days - nice!!

There was no sign of this gull today, but I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Common Gull  -  ES24963   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (06 Jun 2021)
(Ringed as a possible Chick, possibly in June 1996 in Co. Cork, Republic of Ireland)


      Second 2022 Visit to Rathlin Island - 15th May       
Today saw my undertaking my second visit to Rathlin Island this summer.  On departing from the ferry, I made my way over to the Arkill Bay Common Gull colony.  Unfortunately, there has been no change after I voiced my concerns about access to the RSPB's new Craigmacagan Trail, which overlooks the southern colony.  The northern colony is very close by, but a fence separates this colony and is on privately owned land, and therefore relatively safe from disturbance.  During my first visit to the southern colony on the 1st May, the first thing that I noticed, was that the Common Gull colony was not cordoned off, which would help to keep people away from the nesting gulls.  

Worse still, while I was scoping the gulls for colour-rings up on the hillside overlooking the colony, a man and his wife ventured onto the rocks where the gulls were nesting, oblivious to the alarm calls of the birds themselves.  I had to intervene and explain that the gulls had nests with eggs, and asked them to move away.  Back at home, I emailed Ric Else, who works with the RSPB on Rathlin.  Having submitted my 'key sightings' during that visit, for inclusion in the Rathlin Island Bird Report, I also stated about the disturbance of the gulls with people invading the nesting gulls.  Ric said he would mention the problem to those in charge.

On today's visit, there has been no change, and the colony has not been cordoned off.  The following two photos were taken last summer, as the new trail was still being created.  The first photo shows the noticeboard placed directly above the colony, whilst the second photo shows just how close the trail runs above the nesting gulls.  At the time, I voiced my concern over the future safety of the gulls, and even sent in a complaint to the local councils planning department.

Noticeboard above the Common Gull Colony (in Orange)  (11 Jul 2021)

Common Gull Colony on the Rocks Below  (11 Jul 2021)

Together, the two Arkill Bay colonies, now makes this site the main location for Common Gulls on Rathlin Island, overtaking Rue Point Lighthouse, which was the best site in 2017, though overall numbers there have fallen back in the years since.  I reckon the Craigmacagan Trail should be closed altogether from the beginning of May until the end of July, to give the gulls the peace and quiet they need.  The islands Common Gull population has suffered from two poor breeding seasons in 2020 and 2021, having had an excellent year in 2019.  The birds really do need all the help they can get.  A notion has been running through my head, that if things do not change, perhaps I should contact the Belfast Telegraph, and then we can highlight just insensitive the RSPB are.  Shaming them might be the only way forward.
Anyway, back to the gulls themselves.  It was quite clear, most of the colony have now settled down and are incubating eggs, and during today's visit, I aimed to count the Common Gulls at each of the colonies visited.  This would give me some insight into the size of the overall breeding population on the island, which I have always stated as being around 100 pairs.

Some of the nesting gulls had their partners beside them, though most gulls sitting on nests were on their own, presumably, their partners were away gathering food.  A small number of pairs were still nest building, or had not yet started to build.  As I was on my own, it was far easier to count the number of gulls, rather than to define nests or standing birds.  If I had someone with me, they could note 'nest' or 'standing' whilst I scoped through the colonies.

The north set of rocks at Arkill Bay, had 44 gulls, whilst the southern rocks had 59 gulls, making a total of 103 birds altogether and a possible 51 nesting pairs.  This total would be higher, should every bird's partners were also to be on site.  No colour-ringed gulls were seen at the north colony, though I did have - 2BBF here on my May 1st visit.  

Four colour-ringed gulls were seen on the southern site, but only the codes on two could be captured.  The first was -  2BKJ , which was also recorded here on the 1st May (pdf).  The second bird, which stood over a nest containing one egg, was the first sighting this summer of -  2BKL  2BKL , was ringed as a chick at this very same colony, on the 24th June 2019.  Two previous sightings were also made here last summer, as the then immature bird was likely prospecting a nest-site for this year (pdf).

Common Gull  -   2BKL   -  Arkill Bay, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (15 May 2022)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2019, at Arkill Bay)

One Common Gull bore a metal-ring, and is most likely to be the same bird seen here last summer.  On Rathlin, a total of 28 Common Gull chicks were ringed with metal's only, as they were too young to take a colour-ring.  After 2019, I stopped ringing chicks with metals only, as the chances of being able to read them are very small, so really not worth the effort.

Doon Bay
Moving on to the Doon Bay colony, this was my first visit to it this summer as I did not have time to get to it on the 1st May.  Two colour-ringed gulls were spotted, though the closest bird to me flew off before I could get my camera out of the bag.  A metal-rung bird was also spotted, again, likely to be the same bird seen here last summer.  Sitting well up on the hillside, I made several counts, with the highest being 36 Common Gulls altogether.  On spotting the second colour-ringed bird, most of the ring was hidden, as the leg was mostly submerged by the water whilst the bird was standing on a rock beside it's partner.  After a while, the bird took off and landed on a nest on the far side of the colony.

Despite the extreme distance, I zoomed in with my camera and took a few photos.  The bird was still clearly nest building, but on returning home and checking my photos the ring appeared to read either -  2BHJ  or  2BNJ .  On checking my spreadsheet for both rings, both birds have been spotted on Rathlin in the past.   2BHJ , was ringed as a chick in 2018, and has only been re-sighted on one occasion - 23rd May 2020 at Church Bay (Ric Else).

 2BNJ  however, was ringed as a chick in 2019, and was recorded on four occasions here at Doon Bay last summer.  At the time, this bird would also have been immature, so was likely prospecting a nest site.  Of the two birds, I would presume today's sighting was that of -  2BNJ  (pdf).  The late nest building probably shows that the pair are inexperienced  as breeders.

Perched on my lofty position on the hillside, a couple of people came into view and walked along the shore very close to the nesting gulls.  I could hardly believe my eyes, as this was the same couple that intruded into the Arkill Bay colony on the 1st May.  Having been spotted by the couple, they gave a wave and quickly moved on - a small world!!

Back on the 12th March 2022, Ric Else recorded -  2BBC  here at Doon Bay (pdf), but there was no sign of it today.  I know from last summer, this bird tends to nest in the centre of the colony.

Common Gull  -   2BNJ   -  Doon Bay, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (15 May 2022)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 26th June 2019, at Doon Bay)

Rue Point
Moving on to the Rue Point colony, I was hit by the full force of a very cold strong wind.  With such conditions, I made a quick attempt to read some rings and then to give the gulls some peace.  Four colour-rings were read, which included -  2BAX  (pdf) and -  2BPL  (pdf), having been read here on my previous visit on the 1st May.  Of the other two, that were scoped at the same time, I bird I recognised, but the sighting of -  2ASX  did not register with me.

This sighting of -  2ASX , was quite interesting, as this was it first record back on Rathlin Island.   2ASX , was among the first gulls to be ringed as chicks when I began my project in 2017.  It was ringed here at Rue Point as a chick, on the 17th June 2017.  The only previous re-sighting was made by Graham McElwaine, on the 4th January 2019 at Cloughey Bay in County Down.  The distance from Rathlin, was 103 kms / 64 miles (SSE), and it's duration at that time, was 1 year, 6 months and 18 days since being ringed.

The duration as of today's sighting, is now 4 years, 10 months and 28 days (pdf).  I wondered as to why the gull has not been recorded here earlier, and perhaps the condition of the gull's left wing might be the answer.  It appears that the bird has suffered some sort of injury in the past, as the wing is clearly hanging slightly, therefore taking some time to heal.  Anyway, with photos taken, the bird quickly returned to it's nest containing three eggs.  I'm not too keen on it's choice of nest-site, as it is placed right beside the concrete pathway which leads to the final few yards way from the lighthouse.

Common Gull  -   2ASX   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (15 May 2022)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th June 2017, at Rue Point)

Although I knew -  2BBK  was back at Rue Point, as Ric Else had recorded the gull on the 8th and 25th April, and on the 4th May 2022, here at Rue Point, this was my first sighting of the gull this summer.  Just to think I saved it's life last year, it was really nice to see it again on the island for myself.

On the 2nd May 2021, I spotted -  2BBK  snagged by fishing line that it had swallowed, with the remainder of the line entangled in a large lump of seaweed.  Having burnt the line close to it's beak, I never saw the gull on the island for the remainder of the summer.  On returning on the ferry from Rathlin to Ballycastle harbour on the 20th June 2021,  2BBK  was perched on the roof of the ferry terminal alive and well.  The duration since being ringed, is now 3 years, 10 months and 27 days (pdf).

Common Gull  -   2BBK   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (15 May 2022)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2018, at Rue Point)

The Rue Point colony is split into two sections by the path that leads towards the lighthouse.  Here, the gulls suffer from much disturbance, as people visiting the area go as far as to the lighthouse itself.  This is another site where the RSPB need to 'get their fingers out', along with the landowner to cordon off the area during the breeding season.  I have the sense to get in and out as quick as possible when it is cold and windy, such as it was today, but many folk are 'clueless'.  No overall count was made, but if weather conditions allow, I'll do this on my next visit on Sunday coming (22nd May).

Moving on from Rue Point, I walked along the clifftop to the Roonivoolin Common Gull colony, situated away down on the rocks below.  Hardly any Common Gulls were to be seen here on the 1st May, but today, I scoped five birds on nests, with two attending partners - seven birds in total.  Two nests were on the rocks which previously formed the bulk of the colony, which a few years ago had around 20 pairs.  The other three nests were situated on a tall rock islet, on which a pair of Herring Gulls nested on last summer.  It's hard to know why the population here has declined by so much, but I wonder if the Raven's which have nested directly above the colony has anything to do with it.  I only colour-ringed three chicks here last year.

Ushet Lough
On reaching Ushet Lough, I had visited all of my usual sites.  Two other sites at Portcastle and Portawillian are on private land, and I believe that permission to get to these might prove to be a bit of a problem.  On talking to one of the ferry crew, the landowner has had problems with the RSPB in the past, hence making the land a 'no go area'.  For me this is a pity, as each of the two colonies appear to hold 15 to 20 pairs of Common Gulls, and no doubt, some of my colour-ringed birds will be nesting there.  Last summer, I walked up the coast to the east lighthouse, and spotted -  2BKK  at the Portawillian colony.  Having noted the signs, I have not ventured there since.

On Ushet Lough, there is a small rocky islet towards the western shore.  On my previous visit on the 1st May, the gulls here were all sitting quite comfortably on nests, well ahead of the coastal nesting cousins.  A count of the Common Gulls on the islet, gave 29 birds, so there could be at least 14 nests.  Elsewhere, around Ushet Lough, a pair were nesting on the wall of a derelict building, a second pair on the shore below the derelict building, a third pair with three eggs on the southern shore, and a fourth pair nesting on the eastern shore, bringing the total number of gulls on the Lough to 37 birds.  No rings were spotted, though I had one colour-ringed gull on the rocky islet last summer.  That same bird could be sitting on a nest at present, and all will be revealed once the eggs hatch.

This finished today's visit to Rathlin, and it was also the first time that I had covered all five colonies on the same visit.  Barring, not getting a count at Rue Point, I counted 183 Common Gulls altogether, which at present, gives me around 90 pairs.  Taking into account, that counts have not been made at Rue Point, Portcastle and Portawillian, the overall population of Common Gulls far exceeds the totals presented in the Northern Ireland Seabird Reports, and would also exceed my own estimate of 100 pairs.

So far this summer, 14 colour-ringed Common Gulls have been recorded in total, but I am hoping for somewhere between thirty to forty birds.  2019, was a good breeding year for the Common Gulls, which saw 76 chicks being colour-ringed in total.  Those chicks, will now have reached maturity, so there should be a number of first re-sightings.  The weeks ahead should prove interesting, and from early to mid June, until early July, I will be ringing this summer's youngsters.

On walking back towards Rathlin harbour, I noticed a pair of Coot's with three chicks in the reeds on Ally Lough.  There may have been a fourth chick, but the reeds were too dense to take a photo.  I reported these to Ric Else, just in the event that these are the first Coot chicks to be recorded on the island this summer.


      From Mark Foster in England       
On Tuesday 17th May 2022, I received a Black-headed Gull sighting from a Mark Foster.  Earlier that day, Mark was at Belvide Reservoir in South Staffordshire, England, when he spotted one of my Antrim Marina Black-headed Gulls -  2FHF .  I study a wintering population of Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina, and -  2FHF , was the first of 15 birds to be colour-ringed during the past winter.  The bird was caught and ringed as a juvenile on the 6th September 2021, but was never seen again until now.  As I've mentioned in the past, possibly as many as two-thirds of juveniles will not survive their first winter, but some juveniles will tend to wander widely.

In my reply to Mark, I asked if he had taken a photo for blog purposes, and do Black-headed Gulls nest on the Belvide Reservoir?  There was no photos, but Mark stated that around 450 pairs of Black-headed Gulls do nest at the site.  Could it be possible, that -  2FHF , has returned to it's natal colony?  Only time, and further sightings may lead us to answer that question, and will the gull ever return to Antrim Marina?

The distance from Antrim Marina to the Belvide Reservoir, is 349 kms / 216 miles (SE), and the duration since being ringed, is now 8 months and 11 days.

My thanks goes to Mark for his sighting, and I hope he manages to obtain a photo.  I was really pleased with this sighting record.


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