Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Latvian Return...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina (Sunday 23rd October 2016)       
My latest weekly visit today, saw fairly mild weather conditions, but a brisk south-easterly wind was a wee bit on the chilly side.  With the return of both   2AAR  and   2ADV , recorded during last Sunday's visit, the overall total of 'Darvic-rung' Black-headed Gulls, increased to 26, so far this winter.

I recorded 19 of these today, but there was no sign of   2ACX , who was expected to return.  If it is not back by next week's visit, it will be running late.    2ACX  was caught and ringed by Adam at Antrim Marina on the 21st October 2013.  It's return dates for 2014 and 2015, were recorded on 2nd November and 11th October.  There was no sign of   2AFD  either, but I was not really expecting his return until next Sunday.

I found today's visit quite strange, as most of the 'colour-ringed' BHGs that I recorded, departed from the Marina, soon after getting their share of the bread being fed to the ducks.  I counted 49 BHGs on my arrival, with a peak number of 128 being recorded by 10.30.  Around 100 gulls were still present by the time I departed at 1pm, but only one of these were 'cr-ringed'.

I reckon there was a good turnover of gulls coming and going throughout the morning.  'One-leg', got her usual feed of bread, when she made her presence known at 10.10, and quickly departed afterwards. 

Black-headed Gulls Re-sighted on Today's Visit  (Sunday 23rd October 2016)
 2ABN   2ABK   2BRA   2AAF   T35J   2AAA   2AAH   2AAR   2ADJ   2AAD 
 2ABS   2AAN   2ADV   2ABL   2AAT   2ABA   2AAC   2AAK   2ABF    

Today's Absentees
 2AAP   2AAB   2AAV   2ACV   2ANS   2ALH   2CJR 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
Mallard numbers were low today, with 27 counted on my arrival, and around 60 were present by the time of my departure.

A single un-ringed Mute Swan was joined by 4 cygnets, which arrived from up-river at 10.23.  I reckoned these were the same youngsters, which I've been seeing over the last few weeks, minus their parents.  They readily exited the river to be hand fed with bread, so I knew these were the same birds.

Two more swans swam in from the Lough at 10.40, which included   W34158 .  Just after 12.00, saw the arrival of a further two swans, taking the total to 5 adults and 4 cygnets.  I did not see what direction they came from, but these turned out to be the parents of the cygnets, with the female being her usual aggressive self.

An adult Common Gull arrived at 09.17, only staying for about 15 minutes.  A  juvenile then appeared at 09.45, staying most of the morning.  If my mind serves me right, I think this is the first juvenile to be recorded since my winter visits started in early August.  Another adult appeared at 11.45, but looked like the same bird from earlier.

An adult Herring Gull was sighted at 11.48, soon followed by a juvenile at 11.51.  I could tell by the features on the adult, this was a completely new bird as compared to those previously sighted here.  Both birds were gone by 12.30.

A maximum 7 Jackdaws, 2 Hooded Crows, 1 Magpie and a single Pied Wagtail were the only other species noted during today's visit.

Elim Church, Parkhall  & KFC car park
Finishing at the Marina, I then checked the Elim Church at Parkhall, to see if   2AAV  was present.  Having discovered that   2AAV  can be found at the Church, my last sighting of it here was on the 18th September.  I personally have not seen this gull at Antrim Marina, since I began my winter visits there in early August, though Neville McKee spotted it there on the 3rd September 2016.    2AAV  was present today, in a group of 23 other BHGs and a juvenile Herring Gull.

Around 60 Black-headed Gulls were present at the KFC car park.  Neither of the two 'ringed' birds from Finland or Norway, that have been recorded this winter, were to be seen.  I had thought the Norwegian   JK35   was going to spend the winter here, but having returned and spending a month at KFC, it now looks as if this gull has moved on.  If this is the case, I should see it again in January, when it stops by again for a while on it's return journey to Norway.
Black-headed Gull  -    2AAV   -  Elim Church, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (23 Oct 2016)


      Wednesday 19th October 2016       
I decided to visit Whitehouse Lagoon today, but had to wait until late afternoon, for the tide to start going out.  The Lagoon was still flooded when I arrived, with very few birds about, as very little of the mudflats here were exposed.

I then drove over to the shore at Kinnego, situated on the County Down side of Belfast Lough.  Parking the car with a good view of the beach, I waited for the tide to recede.  Soon afterwards, the gulls and waders started arriving to feed on the shoreline.  Scoping lots of these birds, especially very good numbers of Black-headed Gulls, I spotted a 'colour-ring', albeit on a Herring Gull -   0L:W .  I also sighted an Oystercatcher with a 'metal', but had no hope of reading the number over such a distance.

Knowing the Herring Gull, would have come from a project based on the Copeland Islands in County Down, I reported the gull to Adam McClure, who is the ringing co-ordinator for the project.

  0L:W  was ringed as an adult, on the 22nd May 2014, on Big Copeland Island.  It's only previous sighting was on the 21st November 2015, also here at Kinnego, which is situated only a few miles away from the Copelands. 

Herring Gull  -    0L:W   -  Kinnegar Shoreline, Co. Down   (19 Oct 2016)

Driving back towards Whitehouse Lagoon, I stopped briefly by the mudflats at Dargan.  Scoping the birds here, I spotted an Oystercatcher with a 'Yellow-Darvic'.  It was well out on the mudflats, but I only just managed to get the code with my camera -   T64 .

Having just recently published a post on my Blog, concerning an Oystercatcher found by Suzanne Belshaw at Killough in County Down -   T96 , I knew my Oystercatcher would have been ringed by the Grampian Ringing Group in Scotland.  Adam McClure also posted Suzanne's sighting on his Blog, also making reference to his sighting of   T64  at Dargan last winter.

I have emailed Harry Scott about my sighting of   T64 , but you can read about it on Adam's Blog (here) and (here).
Oystercatcher  -    T64   -  Dargan Mudflats, Belfast  (19 Oct 2016)

Returning to Whitehouse Lagoon, plenty of gulls and waders were now present on the exposed mudflats.  I was especially on the look-out for a Norwegian Black-headed Gull with a 'Green-Darvic', spotted here in October last year.  After a pro-longed visit, the only 'colour-rings' spotted were two BHGs from Adam's Study -   2APT  and   2BNA , the latter being a new sighting for me.

Having received the file for   2BNA , from Adam, my sighting was a first for this gull which was ringed as a chick on the 1st July 2013, at Blue Circle Island in Larne Lough.  The distance between the two sites is only 20 kms / 12 miles, but it makes you wonder where this gull has been over the last three years.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BNA   -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (19 Oct 2016)

As for   2APT , today's sighting is my fourth record of this BHG.  Ringed as a chick in 2015, at Castle Espie in County Down, it's first ever sighting was made on the 20th August 2016, when I spotted it on the shoreline at nearby Whiteabbey. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2APT   -  Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast  (19 Oct 2016)


      Saturday 22nd October 2016       
I could not get away until late this afternoon and knowing the tides on the east coast would not be to my favour, I decided to go to County Donegal, then on my return, would check the mudflats at Ballykelly.

Inch Island Lake
The lake is now teeming with wildfowl, gulls and waders.  Due to the nature of the surrounding area, it is near impossible to get anyways close enough to scope legs for rings.  Canada Geese are here in larger numbers than in previous visits and good numbers of Whooper Swans have now arrived.

All geese and swans were scoped for 'neck-collars', with three being spotted on Greylags.  I managed to get the codes on two of these.  The first was   B|PH , a new sighting for me.  The sighting of   A|DC  is my second record of this goose, having initially recorded it on the 17th September 2016.  I have reported my latest sighting to the Irish Greylag Goose Study Group.

I am still waiting on the PDF Files for all of my Greylag sightings.  The Group seem to be disappointingly slow in sending these files, which in the long run, may put folk off from reporting their sightings.  Anyone or group, running 'colour-ring' projects, really need to be on the ball when it comes to replying about sightings reported to them.
Greylag Goose  -    B|PH   -  Inch Island Lake, Co. Donegal  (22 Oct 2016)

Greylag Goose  -    A|DC   -  Inch Island Lake, Co. Donegal  (22 Oct 2016)

I located a number of Whooper Swans feeding in the fields close to Inch Lake.  All the flocks found were in Barley fields, but no legs were visible due to the height of the stubble and many of the swans were settled well away from the road.  Judging by the number of juveniles present, it looks as if many of the swans had a good breeding season.  Hopefully, I can get to check for rings on a later visit.

On my way Ballykelly, I stopped by the New Foyle Bridge.  As the tide here was receding, quite a number of gulls were busy feeding on the edge of the Foyle River.  Scoping them, no rings were spotted.  As far as I know, there has been no reported sightings of any of the Black-headed Gull chicks that were 'colour-ringed' at Inch Island this summer.  I'm doing my best when I come up here, but even I'm drawing a blank.

At the mudflats at Ballykelly, only a handful of Brent Goose families were present.  Scoping them and a small number of gulls and waders close to me, no more rings were sighted.  There was a single Mediterranean Gull here, the first I've spotted in this area.


      Sunday 23rd October 2016       
After my latest visit to Antrim Marina, I drove down to Kinnego Marina, as it has been a few weeks since my last visit there.  With the recent flow of easterly winds, I had a hunch that I might find a Black-headed Gull of special interest.

I recorded three of Adam's 'colour-ringed' gulls here, which also included the bird I was hoping to see -   2BPP .  Adam caught this gull at Kinnego on the 29th October 2014 and found that it was carrying a Latvian ring -   T10932 .  Before releasing the gull, Adam added one of his own 'colour-rings'.

  2BPP  was subsequently re-sighted twice at Kinnego during the winter of 2014/15 and was next re-ported by Eddie Fritze, at a dump in the Latvian capital Riga, on the 12th April 2015.  My first ever sighting of   2BPP , was made on the 26th November 2015, confirming it's return at Kinnego for a second winter.

I am waiting on an updated file for   2BPP  from Adam, but at least it's back for the third winter running.  I have special interest in this gull, having been ringed as a chick on the 13th June 2005, at Masenu Lake, Riga, Latvia, it is the fourth oldest BHG on my records.  It is now 11 years, 4 months and 10 days, from being ringed to my sighting today.

The other two BHGs to be re-sighted are   2BPN  and   2BPV , both often recorded here and may well be all year residents in this area of Lough Neagh.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BPP   -  Kinnego Marina, Co. Armagh  (23 Oct 2016)

The Peoples Park, Ballymena
Returning home in Ballymena, I noticed there was a good number of Black-headed Gulls on the roof of the former 'Cottage Hospital' which overlooks the lake at The Peoples Park.  I was going to ignore the Park, but when I also spotted a fair number of gulls perched on the park's Pavilion roof, I changed my mind and called in.

It has been a long time, since I've mentioned my local park on the Blog.  It is not for the lack of visits, but is due to the lack of rings spotted here.  How glad was I for stopping by today!  With what little bread that remained from my visits to Antrim and Kinnego Marina's, I started to attract the gulls onto the small beach area.  The Peoples Park always looks like a nursery for young Black-headed Gulls, as they often number 60 to 80 percent of the gulls present at any time.

In no time at all, I spotted a young BHG with a 'Black-Darvic' -   2AXV .  I had no trouble getting photos of this one, as all the young gulls are now very hungry.  Returning home, I checked the cr-birding site, to see where the gull originated from.

It was ringed by the Brewood Ringing Group in the West Midlands of England.  I sent an email to Ben Dolan and received a reply shortly afterwards.    2AXV   was ringed on the 7th June 2016 at Marsh Lane Nature Reserve, Meridan, West Midlands, England.

This is my second record of a long distance youngster so far this winter, having flown 408 kms / 254 miles, north-west to get to Ballymena.  I wonder if these youngsters are getting caught up in Black-headed Gull flocks which have been taking advantage of the run of easterly winds which we have been experiencing in Northern Ireland.  If this is the case, perhaps a few more ringed youngsters remain to be discovered here.

My thanks go to Ben, for his speedy reply and the details of this young Black-headed Gull.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AXV   -  The People's Park, Ballymena, Co. Antrim  (23 Oct 2016)

Marsh Lane Nature Reserve, England  To  Ballymena, Northern Ireland