Friday, 16 March 2018

2nd CR-Norge Mew Gull...

Another late post, this time caused by one of our two pet cats.  On Tuesday evening, 'Fat Cat', jumped up, knocking over a drink, which partly spilled onto the keyboard of my Laptop.  Having sorted and labelled my photos, I attempted to start on this post, to find some of the 'keys' were not working.

On Thursday morning, I linked another 'wireless' keyboard to my laptop, which then enabled me to gain access and make a start on the post.  During the last two days, I've also had to reply to several emails, another hold back, while trying to finish and publish the post.

Adam McClure, has also replied, concerning my sighting of one of his 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls -   2ATJ  (read below).  This one, turns out to be a bit special, but I'll tell the full story, in my next post.

      Antrim Marina - Monday 12th March 2018       
I had intended to visit Antrim Marina, on Sunday, as normal.  As I did not venture away from home on Saturday, due to heavy rain and strong winds, I decided to go elsewhere on Sunday and visit the Marina today, instead.

On my arrival at the Marina, this morning, it was overcast, with practically no wind and the temperature read 6°C.  As the morning wore on, the sun broke through the cloud and with the rising heat, the flies came out supplying a feast for many of the gulls.

At no time, during my visit, did the number of Black-headed Gulls, exceed the 80 mark.  With many, coming and going, individuals may have exceeded the 120 mark.  I had hoped to record my final arrival for this winter, being  2ADD .  I had predicted, his return today, but he is still, well and truly 'parked' at the KFC outlet, across Antrim Town.

 2AAR , is now due to leave for Poland, and the Lithuanian (White) T35J, is still here as well.  Normally, T35J, would have already departed, by now.    2ACV , was also spotted today, having missed being recorded for the first time this winter, on my previous visit, last Monday.  Usually,  2ACV , would have departed by now as well.

I wonder, if these birds can sense a change in the weather conditions, which might explain why they are still here.  The forecast, gives for snow over Britain and parts of Europe, this coming weekend.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've written about  2CSS , which was caught and ringed at the Marina, on the 4th January 2018.  Having been absent for several weeks, after being ringed, it has reappeared of late.  My only problem, was trying to get a decent photo of the gull.  Today, it was the 20th of my 21 'colour-ring' re-sightings and this time, I did manage to obtain a decent picture.

Several of the Black-headed Gulls, have now gone into full courtship display and very quite boisterous.  I took a look at the nearby 'Torpedo Platform', where the gulls breed, to find a couple of hundred birds, are obviously jostling for nest sites.  The breeding season is quickly approaching and my fifth winter of 'Ring Watching at Antrim Marina', will soon be at an end.

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina on Monday 12th March 2018
 2AAT   2AAK   2CSF   2ABK   2ABL   2CSA   2CSR 
 2CSC   2CJT   2ACV   2CSJ   2AAR   2AAC   2BRA 
 2ABS   2AAA   2CSB   2AAP   T35J   2CSS   2ABF 

Today's Absentees
 2ABN   2ADJ   2ABA   2AAB   2AAF   2AAN   2AAV   2ADV   2AFD 
 2BRC   2BRD   2ANS   2CSD   2CSH   2CSK   2CSL   2CST    

Black-headed Gull  -  (White)  T35J  -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (12 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd June 2006, at Lake Kretuonas, Lithuania)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSS  -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (12 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Juvenile / 1st Winter, on the 4th January 2018, at Antrim Marina)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
8 Mute Swans and 3 cygnets, were present on my arrival at the Marina this morning.  One of these, was  W34158 , easily recognised, as it is blind in the right eye.  Over the course of my visit, a further 7 adult swans arrived, taking the total to 17.  I was able to view all legs, with no further rings being spotted.

Mallard numbers, continue to be on the low side, with around 18 birds at first, increasing to around 40 birds, by the time of my departure.  A few of the females, were persistently chased by drakes.  Nearly all were checked for rings, but so far, I have only the one sighting this winter.

A single adult Common Gull at first, was joined by 5 others during the morning, plus a single juvenile.  At 11.58, one bird landed on the rail of the concrete jetty, which bore a 'Blue Darvic'.  It took off again, two or three seconds later and landed again at the end of the long wooded jetty.  I returned to my car, to grab the camera, but my gull flew off again towards the Lough and did not return.

My thoughts, was that the gull was  2AJP , which has appeared here over the previous two summers.  If it is  2AJP , then it has arrived back exceptionally early.  This gull, has only been recorded here, during the months of June and July.  Hopefully, this bird will reappear on my next visit.

There was no sign of the two 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls, from Scotland and Finland.  I had hoped to see the Finnish bird, at least one more time, before it departed, but the chances of that now, are slim.

The pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls which arrived recently, were present throughout my visit.  The pair of Herring Gulls, arrived at 9.40 and also remained at the Marina.

Other species recorded during my visit, were, 2 Hooded Crows, 6 Jackdaws, 2 Moorhens, a pair of Pied Wagtails and 2 female and a single male Chaffinch.

Antrim's Elim Church
As  2AAV , never appeared at the Marina, I called by Antrim's Elim Church.  Only a couple of Black-headed Gulls were present there, but  2AAV , was not among them.

Antrim's KFC Outlet
At Antrim's Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, just over 30 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Common Gulls and a pair of Lesser Black-backeds were present.  Throwing out bread from my car window,  2ADD  was first to land in front of me.  Normally,  2ADD , would have made it's way to Antrim Marina, so I was surprised to still find it here.

The Norwegian BHG,  rung  JK35 , was also present.  Having been recorded for the third winter running here, this may well be my last sighting of it this winter.  My final records of it during the previous two winters, were recorded on the 13th March 2016 and the 12th March 2017.

Last Monday, I spotted  2CSL  here.  This Black-headed gull, had been recorded at Antrim Marina, a short time previously that day.  It was also present at the KFC car park today, but kept it's distance from my car.  Ringed at the Marina, on the 24th December 2017, it was not spotted there today and I'm now wondering, if it has developed a taste for chicken and chips, hence it's presence at KFC.

Antrim's Baptist Church
Very few Black-headed Gulls were in the area of the Baptist Church, with most gulls spotted flying high in the sky, catching flies.  The temperature had now risen to 9°C, which had obviously encouraged the aerial 'suppers'.  Among the few BHGs, that did land on the Church roof, was one with a BTO 'metal'.  I was not able to read any details on the ring, but the bird was probably the same one recently recorded here.  There was again, no sign of the Finnish 'metal-rung' BHG, which has in all likelihood moved on. 

      Ringing Details Received       
Yesterday morning (Thursday 15th March 2018), I received an email from, Job ten Horn, concerning my sighting of a Bar-tailed Godwit, at Kinnegar Beach, on the 4th March.  It was caught and ringed, as an adult male, on the 3rd September 2008, at Terschelling, in northern Holland.

There have been few re-sightings, but mine in Northern Ireland, is it's first recorded sighting within the British Isles.  Three other sightings were on the 24th September 2008 - Wad ten zuiden van Griend, Holland, 11th May 2011 - Ameland, Holland, and on the 8th December 2015 - Banc d'Arguin, in north west Mauritania.

The Godwit, should have displayed a 'Red Flag', among it's colour-rings, but this has clearly broken off.  My thanks to Job ten Horn, for sending me the ringing information and re-sighting history.  A profile of Job and his research can be viewed (Here).

Bar-tailed Godwit  -  Kinnegar Beach, Co. Down  (04 Mar 2018)
(Ringed on the 3rd September 2008, at Terschelling, Holland)


      From John Clarke       
Recently, I received an email from my ringing trainer, John Clarke.  On a recent visit, to the Strand Road Jetty, in Coleraine, John spotted a juvenile/1st winter Black-headed Gull, and successfully took a few photos of the bird and it's 'metal-ring'.  With the complete ring number captured on the photographs -  589599 , John was unable to make out the address for this foreign rung gull, and asked for my assistance.

My suspicion was raised, that the bird could be of Icelandic origin, as John mentioned that something was written before the actual ring number.  I compared some of my photos of my Icelandic ring sightings, with those sent by John, and these matched.

John, reported his sighting and duly received a reply, confirming that the bird was indeed from Iceland.    589599 , was ringed as a chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Brekka, which is situated to the south-west of the Icelandic Capital of Reykjavik.  The distance, between the two sites, was given as, 1,311 kms / 814 miles (SE) and the duration as, 8 months and 20 days.

My thanks to John for sharing his sighting and supplying the ringing info.  Hopefully, we'll see this bird again in the future.

Black-headed Gull  -  Iceland    589599   -  Strand Road, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry  (08 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 16th June 2017, at Brekka, Ălftanes, Iceland)
(Photo Courtesy of John Clarke)


      Sunday 11th March 2018       
I did not go out on Saturday, due to heavy rain and a strong wind.  Sunday, was a far milder day, so I decided to leave my visit to Antrim Marina, till the following day and ventured to Belfast and County Down instead.

My first stop, was at the Kinnegar Beach, where over a thousand gulls and waders, were noted last Sunday, with several 'colour-ringed' birds being spotted.  What a difference, a week makes, with just 300 to 400 birds present today.

Scoping just about every gull and wader, none of last Sunday's ring finds were present, but I did spot another new 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull.  Rung -  2ATJ , this bird belongs to Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Study.

I reported my sighting to Adam, but he has not replied as yet.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ATJ   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (11 Mar 2018)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)

My next stop, was at Ward Park, in Bangor, County Down, to see if I could find  2ALH , another of Adam's Study birds.    2ALH , was the gull that bred on Lough Neagh, during 2016, and recorded at Antrim Marina on numerous occasions that summer.

I had expected  2ALH , to return to Antrim Marina, last summer, but she never arrived back.  Fearing that something may have happened to her, I went looking for her at Ward Park, were she can be found during the winter and duly found her on the 23rd December 2017.  Today's sighting of her, just confirms that she is still here.  I wonder, if she'll breed at Antrim this year.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ALH   -  Ward Park, Bangor, Co. Down  (11 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2013, on Mew Island, Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Moving on from Ward Park, my next stop was at Ballyholme Beach, in Bangor.  With the tide on it's way out, around 100 gulls, a few waders and a couple of parties of Brent Geese, attempted to come ashore.  I waited for a while, but the birds were constantly being frightened away by dog walkers and joggers.

My next stop, was at Groomsport, where hardly any gulls were present at the harbour.  The few Black-headed and Herring Gulls, were quickly checked for rings, but no joy.  I did notice that the pair of Carrion x Hooded Crow's, are still together, and were busy building their latest nest in the same set of trees where they have nested, over the last two years.

Just to the north of Donaghadee, I noticed two large groups of gulls, on the rocks.  The flocks, were made up of mostly Common Gulls, with a small number of Black-headeds.  Scoping through these, I spotted a Common Gull, with a badly worn 'Blue Darvic'.  This may well be the same bird that I have spotted on previous occasions, along this stretch, but, have yet to 'nail' the code.

I then tried to tie down the gull's exact location, with my binoculars, which would then help me to zoom in with my camera.  No sooner, had I spotted it, the gull then flew off to the other side of the rocks, out of view.

I now focused on the other group of gulls, resting on another set of rocks close by.  This time, I spotted a Common Gull, with a 'White Darvic'.  Although, a fair distance away from me, my camera captured the code - (White) JA9M.  I was immediately delighted, as I knew this bird was from Norway, as their codes begin with the letter 'J'.

Returning home and entering the code onto the 'Live' Norwegian Ringing Database, I was presented with the gull's ringing and re-sighting history.  Ringed as an adult, in 2012, it has been re-sighted on numerous occasions, but my sighting is the first outside of Norway.

It was rung on Lake Tveitevannet, at Bergen, which is 907 kms / 563 miles, to the north-east of Donaghadee, and the duration is now 5 years, 10 months and 23 days.  (White) JA9M, is only my second 'colour-ringed' Norwegian Common Gull.  Last winter, I recorded   JA19 , at Whitehouse Lagoon, in Belfast.  Spotted on the 12th February 2017,  JA19 , has not been sighted since.

Common Gull  -  Norway  (White)  JA9M  -  Donaghadee, Co. Down  (11 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 16th April 2012, Lake Tveitevannet, Bergen, Norway)

After checking another couple of sites at Donaghadee, I then travelled the short distance to Millisle.  Normally, a hotbed for Common Gulls, only a small number of this species were present and no rings were spotted.

On the northern shore at Millisle, I did re-sight a Herring Gull -  1L:W .  I've only recorded this gull once before and that was on the 3rd September 2016, just a little further to the north from where I spotted it today.   1L:W , was ringed as an adult, on the nearby Copeland Islands, in May 2015.

Herring Gull  -    1L:W   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (11 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 6th May 2017, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)

Leaving Millisle, I cut across country to Newtownards and then checked small groups of gulls along the western shore of Strangford Lough.

The first ring to be spotted was on a Common Gull.  It was with a small number of other Common Gulls and a large number of Black-headed Gulls, in a small tidal bay, just to the north of Strangford village.  With my camera, I zoomed in, but the gull was just out of reach, to capture the code on it's 'Orange Darvic'.

Common Gull  -  Ring Code Un-decisive  -  Strangford, Co. Down  (11 Mar 2018)

Checking small groups of gulls and Brent Geese, the final ring of the day was spotted at the fishing village of Ardglass.  A juvenile Great Black-backed Gull - rung  X:139 , was already known to me, though this was my first sighting of it.

 X:139 , was ringed as a chick, on the 17th June 2017, on the Isle of May, Firth of Fourth, in Scotland.  It was spotted at Ardglass Harbour, on the 23rd October 2017, where a local fisherman, captured a photo of it's ring, with his camera.

Unfortunately, the fisherman, did not take a photo of the gull itself and the ring was reported as  X139 , which belonged to a German Herring Gull.  It became clear later, that the colon was not included when the ring was reported and  X:139 , actually belonged to a Scottish Great Black-backed Gull.  There was no doubting the bird, or it's ring, in the photo that I took today.  

Great-Black-backed Gull (Juvenile / 1st Winter  -    X:139   -  Ardglass, Co. Down  (11 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th June 2017, on the Isle of May, Scotland)