Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Birds Getting Hungrier...

Once again, my latest post is a little on the late side.  This is due to my inclusion of a run out on Monday and the decision to add the day to this article.  This is also the first post to be compiled on my new laptop, which I'm still getting to grips with.

Recently, I have been experiencing problems with my old computer, which is now showing it's age, hence an upgrade to something more modern.  Having transferred my main files and data via a memory-stick, it is taking me slightly longer to locate the desired information - I'm getting there though.  As with anything new, it takes a little time to get used to a new system.

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 25th September 2016)       
Today's visit to Antrim Marina, saw far calmer conditions, compared to yesterday's heavy rain and strong winds.  A good number of Black-headed Gulls were present on my arrival.  I set to work straight away looking for 'colour-ringed' birds and recorded 15 inside 30 minutes.  Around 09.30, I made a head-count of the gulls present - 153 Black-headed, 1 Common and 1 Herring Gull.

The BHG numbers peaked to around 200 birds by 10.15.  With plenty of early feeding by people giving food to the ducks, numbers started to decrease shortly afterwards.  The gulls are now becoming very hungry, so natural food must be harder to locate.  'One Leg', appeared at my car window, as soon as I had parked.  After having it's fill of bread, feeding from my hand, it soon disappeared, only to return at 11.00 for more.

My 20th and final 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull to be recorded, was   2ANS  at 11.15.  I had not seen this one since the 14th August.  There is still no sign of   2AAS , which by next Sunday, will be two months overdue - have we lost another bird?

Next Sunday also takes us into the month of October.  Three other BHGs are due to return for another winter at the Marina.  Going by previous records,   2ADV  should appear by the 2nd or 9th October, whilst   2AAR  and   2ACX  are expected between the 9th and 16th.    2ABP , which normally returns at the same time as   2AAR , never made it back last winter and I class this one as 'dead'.

Again, there is no sign of the young Black-headed Gull   2CJR , which first appeared here two weeks ago.  I wonder if this young gull has moved on.  It seems that youngsters tend to roam around for a while, before settling down in an area to see out the winter.

I now have the ringing details for   2CJR , from Adam.  It was ringed on the 3rd July 2016, at Blue Circle Island in Larne Lough, which is 32 kms / 20 miles to the north-east of Antrim Marina.  My sighting was the first one of this young bird since being ringed. 

Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina  (Sunday 25th September 2016)
 2ABK   2AAT   2AAH   2BRA   T35J   2AAD   2AAA   2AAN   2AAF   2ADJ 
 2ABN   2ABL   2AAP   2AAK   2AAC   2AAB   2ACV   2ABS   2ABF   2ANS 


The Absentees
 2ABA   2AAV   2ALH   2CJR 

Black-headed Gull  -    2ANS   -  Antrim Marina  (25 Sep 2016)

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Not a great day for spotting other birds, as there was so few to be seen.  An adult Common Gull and an immature Herring Gull (probably a 3rd winter bird), were present when I arrived and both remained throughout my visit.

Two Mute Swans, were later joined by a further three arrivals - appearing from up-river on their own in each case.  None of the first three were ringed and these are most likely to be the same three that are here on most weeks.  The two later arrivals were   Z91982  and   W34158 , both having returned to the Marina in recent weeks.

I noticed that one of the un-ringed swans, has a fish-hook embedded onto it's leg.  The hook also has a short length of fishing line attached to it.  Looking at the photo, the hook should be fairly easily dislodged, as it seems only to have a slight hold.
  
Mute Swan Leg with Fish-hook   -  Antrim Marina  (25 Sep 2016)

Around 50 Mallards, quickly increased in numbers to a peak of around 80 birds by 10.30.  Numbers dwindled after this time, as many of the ducks received a good feed of bread.  There is still no sign of any ringed Mallards.  

The only other birds noted during my visit, was a single Hooded Crow and a maximum of 9 Jackdaws.

Elim Church, Parkhall & Antrim KFC
Seeing as   2AAV  was not at Antrim Marina, I stopped by the Elim Church at Parkhall, it's favourite haunt.  There was far fewer Black-headed Gulls at the Church today, with only 15 birds present and no sign of   2AAV .

Driving on, to the car park of the KFC outlet nearby, there was no sign of the Norwegian Black-headed Gull -   JK35 , last seen here on the 11th September 2016.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Finnish BHG -   ST239.172 , that I spotted here last Sunday, is still present.  So far, no ringing details have arrived for this gull.

Black-headed Gull  -  Finland    ST239.172   -  KFC, Antrim Town  (25 Sep 2016)

*************************

      Ringing Details Received       
I have now received a reply concerning the Greylag Geese that I spotted at Inch Lake in County Donegal.  The details for these birds with Orange 'Neck-collars', will be sent in due course, going by the email.

No info has arrived for the Finnish Black-headed Gull that I first spotted on the 18th September 2016 and recorded again on Sunday 25th September (see above).

Adam has sent me the ringing details of the young Black-headed Gull   2CJR .  This is included in my latest visit to Antrim Marina article (also above).

*************************

      Saturday 24th September 2016       
An awful day weather-wise, with strong winds and heavy rain for most of the time.  A very late decision was made to go to the nearby coastal villages at Glenarm and Carnlough.  Knowing it would be nearly high tide, I thought any birds present would be easily scoped.

At both sites, hardly any birds were to be seen at all.  There was nothing at Glenarm and at Carnlough Bay, I discovered a group of 38 Ringed Plovers resting close to the small play park, situated on a pebbled area above the high-tide line.  Scoping these little birds, I did spot one with a 'metal-ring'.  Using the car as a hide, I positioned myself as close to the play park as I could get and zoomed in for photos.

As I had feared, the plover was just a little too far away, to get any details on the ring.  I would have had no problems, if it had been 'colour-ringed'.  Other than this, the outing today was a 'dead loss'.

'Metal-ringed' Ringed Plover  -  Carnlough Bay  -  (24 Sep 2016)

*************************

      Sunday 25th September 2016       
Upon completing my weekly visit to Antrim Marina, I travelled to the bottom end of Lough Neagh to Kinnego Marina.  Then, I checked out Lurgan Park nearby, before heading to Belfast and stopping by the Dargan Mudflats and finishing with a prolonged visit to Whitehouse Lagoon.

Kinnego Marina
I made a fairly quick stop at Kinnego.  Black-headed Gulls, were the only gull species to be seen, as well as a small number of Mallards.  A quick look of around 80 BHGs, produced three of Adam's Study birds,   2BPN ,   2BPS  and   2BPT .  I am especially keen to re-sight   2BPP  at this site, as we know it's from Latvia.

Adam caught and 'colour-ringed' this gull on the 29th October 2014, the first record of it in Northern Ireland.  The bird already being in possession of a Latvian 'metal-ring', was ringed as a chick in 2005.  My first sighting of this gull was on the 29th November, last autumn/winter, despite a few earlier visits to Kinnego.  Suzanne Belshaw is keeping an eye on this site as well and hopefully, we can obtain an earlier return date.

I also recorded a few 'metal-ringed' BHGs at Kinnego last winter and I'm hoping to re-sight these, especially one bird whose ring number I failed to complete -   EW3*806 .

Black-headed Gull  -    2BPT   -  Kinnego Marina  (25 Sep 2016)

Lurgan Park
Suzanne has also been keeping an eye out for ringed birds at Lurgan Park.  Just lately, she recorded an Icelandic-rung Black-headed Gull, failing to obtain the last digit of the number -   53794*  .  This is almost certain, to be the same bird that I recorded on a single occasion last winter, at Victoria Park in Belfast, on Christmas Day -   537949 .

One of Adam's 'colour-ringed' BHG chicks, has also been recorded by Suzanne at Lurgan Park on several occasions.    2CCH  was ringed on the 24th June 2016, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, in County Down, around 41 kms / miles to the east of Lurgan Park.

I stopped by Lurgan Park, after leaving Kinnego Marina.  I did not see   2CCH , but I did spot the Icelandic BHG.  Scoping the 'metal-ring', I could see Iceland, but the bird flew off before I could get photos.  The major problem with this site, is people throw bread directly onto the lake to feed the ducks and swans.  There is very little in the way of perches, making it very hard to read ring numbers.

Last winter, I recorded two 'metals' here on BHGs -   EW57424  and a partial   EN290**   EW57424  was ringed as a chick in 2008 at Kingsbury Waterpark, Warwickshire, England.  Both birds were spotted in late November 2015 and I'm hoping they will return this winter.

Dargan Mudflats
Arriving here at Dargan Bay, the incoming tide was well up, leaving very little of the mudflats exposed.  This was very helpful, as any remaining birds were well within scoping range.  One 'colour-ringed' Black-tailed Godwit was spotted on the waters edge.  This was a re-sighting of a bird that I first recorded here on the 31st July 2016 - Green over Green - Orange over Red Flag.  Read my post on the bird here (Sighting) and here (Ringing Report).

Black-tailed Godwit  -  GG-ORflag  -  Dargan Mudflats  (25 Sep 2016)
Whitehouse Lagoon
Plenty of the mudflats were still exposed at Whitehouse Lagoon.  The Lagoon fills by means of concrete pipes, which pass underneath the motorway connecting it to the waters of Belfast Lough.  The incoming tide, forces birds off the Lough and into the Lagoon, thus providing a little more feeding time or to roost.

No new rings were recorded, but I did re-sight four 'colour-ringed' birds.  Most note-able, was a Black-headed Gull from Adam's Study -   2ASF .  My only previous sighting of this bird was on the 19th March 2016, on one of the two nesting platforms at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, nearby.  Having been ringed as a chick at Blue Circle Island in Larne Lough in 2013, it probably bred at the reserve during the summer.

The three other birds were the Icelandic-rung Oystercatcher - GW-GfN, Polish-rung BHG - White T56W and Common Gull -   2AIN , from Shane Wolsey's Study on the Copeland Islands.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ASF   -  Whitehouse Lagoon  (25 Sep 2016)

*************************

      Monday 26th September 2016       
Returning to Glenarm and Carnlough, following Saturday's disastrous visit, I was a little more successful in recording 'ringed' birds.

Going to Carnlough Bay first, I re-sighted the Icelandic-rung Oystercatcher - Orange over Orange, White AA.  This is now my fourth sighting, having previously recorded it three times in August.  Plenty of other gulls and waders were also scoped, but no other rings were spotted.  I could not see the 'metal-ringed' Ringed Plover, that I recorded on Saturday either.
  
Oystercatcher  -  Orange over Orange, White AA  -  Carnlough Bay  (26 Sep 2016)

At Glenarm, I quickly re-sighted the Swedish 'metal-ringed' Black-headed Gull -   6431692 .  My first sighting was made on the 14th September 2016, here at the harbour.  I threw out some bread, to bring the gulls in closer to photograph the ring in order to confirm that it was the same bird, which it was.  The gull is less nervous now, than when I first spotted it.

Black-headed Gull  -  Sweden    6431692   -  Glenarm Harbour  (26 Sep 2016)

Scoping the remaining gulls on the shoreline, which were not attracted to my offering of bread, I spotted an 'Orange-Darvic' on a Black-headed Gull.  I guessed straight away, that this would be one of Adam's birds, probably a new sighting.  Having zoomed in to take photos, I obtained the code   2ALK , which surprised me.

This was the very same gull that I recorded twice on the same day (20th August 2016), first at Sandy Bay in Larne, then a short time later on the shoreline at Glynn.  It has now moved 18 kms / 11 miles up the Antrim Coast to get to Glenarm.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ALK   -  Glenarm Harbour  (26 Sep 2016)

Moving on from Glenarm, I visited Ballygalley Bay and Drains Bay, both just to the north of Larne.  At Ballygalley Bay, I scoped a number of gulls and waders, also a single adult Brent Goose with 5 youngsters, but no rings here.

At Drains Bay, no rings were seen on any of the gulls or waders.  Three 'metal-rings' were spotted on adult Shags on a rock just off the shoreline.  Seven Shags, along with two Cormorants, were drying out their wings on the rock.

Putting on a pair of 'wellies', I slowly walked out towards them, stopping every now and again to photograph the rings.   Getting closer, I made the birds very nervous and they eventually took off, landing on the sea.  Returning to the car, I looked through my pictures, but got nothing at all on the rings.

The Shags, were probably ringed as chicks on the 'Maidens', which is a small group of islands visible from Drains Bay.  Back at home, I checked the BTO's Online Ringing Report, to get an idea of the number of Shag chicks that have recently been ringed in County Antrim.  The report gives totals ringed from 2007 to 2015, which adds up to 327 chicks altogether (Table below).

Shag Chicks Ringed in County Antrim  (2007 - 2015)
 2007   2008   2009   2010   2011   2012   2013   2014   2015   Total 
14 0 53 57 37 85 81 0 0 327

I am presuming that these were all ringed on the Maidens.  I do not know who the ringer or ringers would have been, but it is a pity that these youngsters were not fitted with 'colour-rings' as well.  Given that the yearly total is not exceedingly high, the additional cost of adding 'colour-rings', would generate far more recoveries/sightings.  The three 'metal-ringed' birds that I observed today, had they been 'cr-ringed', would have easily been 'nailed'.

*************************