Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Where are the Gulls...

      Black-headed Gulls At Antrim Marina - Sunday 13th August       
Today, saw my second visit to Antrim Marina - the 5th winter season of 'Ring Watching' here.  Arriving as usual, just after 9am, I departed an hour earlier than normal, leaving just after 12.00.  My reason being, my frustration waiting for gulls to appear.  Around 30 to 40 Black-headed Gulls, were present up to 11am, then the trainee canoeists arrived, after which time, gulls only appeared occasionally.

It was a nice, calm and sunny day, which may have accounted for the lack of gulls,  but I often wonder, where do these birds go to.  Those present today, were mostly juvenile BHG's.  I only recorded three of Adam's Study birds -   2AAC  at 09.10,   2ABK  at 10.06 and   2AAF  at 10.35.

Glancing at my spreadsheet, for the corressponding dates for previous seasons, there would have been more 'colour-ringed' birds present.  The lack of BHG's, was also the case, on visiting Antrim KFC, Kinnego Marina and Lurgan Park, after departing from the Marina.  Even in my home town of Ballymena, there has been few Black-headed Gull's at The Peoples Park, where normally, there would be 100 to 150 birds at this time of the year.

The table's below, show the Black-headed Gulls recorded from the start of the 2017/18 winter season, whether present or absent.  The number of 'colour-ringed' birds will increase as the winter progresses.

Black-headed Gulls Recorded at Antrim Marina  -  Sunday 13th August 2017
 2AAC   2ABK   2AAF 

Black-headed Gulls Absent at Antrim Marina  -  Sunday 13th August 2017
 2AAT   2BRA   2ABF 

There was just the one Juvenile Herring Gull today, which as I suspected last week, belonged to an adult, which would appear from time to time.  The second juvenile that was here last Sunday, must have been independant of it's parents.  A single Lesser Black-backed Gull, arrived at 10.30, only remaining for around 10 minutes.

Adult Herring Gull Flying Away, having just fed it's youngster
Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (13 Aug 2017)

The pair of Mute Swans, along with their 5 cygnets, were the only swans present.  A man approached me at one stage, asking if I knew the reason for the lack of swans.  I have no idea, as to why they vanish, as numbers in May and June, were in the region of 20 to 30 birds and at that time of year, were presumably non-breeders.  This disappearance of the swans has happened before and even Ruth Wilson from the local Council, had enquired about it.

Mallard numbers, were quite good throughout my visit, with totals increasing to around 60 to 70 birds.  Still no rings to be spotted on any of them.

On the whole, it was a fairly quite morning birdwise, with 3 Hooded Crows, 15 Jackdaws and 4 Grey Wagtails, being the only other species noted.

Antrim's Elim Church and KFC
Leaving the Marina, I drove across town to check the Elim Church at the Parkhall Housing Estate and Antrim's Kentucky Fried Chicken Outlet.  At the Church, two un-ringed adult Black-headed Gulls were perched on the roof.

At the KFC outlet, there was no sign of the Norwegian   JK35 , which was recorded back here last Sunday.  There was just three juvenile Black-headed Gulls in the car park, one of which was very brown, meaning it was not that long ago, since it fledged.

Kinnego Marina
Moving on from the KFC Outlet, I drove down to Kinnego Marina, at the southern end of Lough Neagh.  As seems to be the norm at present, very few Black-headed Gulls were present.  23 were counted, with around two-thirds of these being this summer's youngsters.  A single 'colour-ringed' bird from Adam's Study, was spotted on one of the jetties, being   2BPT .

Black-headed Gull  -    2BPT   -  Kinnego Marina, Co. Armagh  (13 Aug 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 31st October 2014, at Kinnego Marina)

Lurgan Park Lake
My visit to Lurgan Park, lasted all of 15 minutes.  Very few Black-headed Gulls were present.  In fact, there were greater numbers of larger gulls, these being Herring and Lesser Black-backed's.  Although, there were a good number of folk feeding the ducks and swans with bread, the gulls were largly dis-interested, so it wasn't worth hanging around.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

Green JK35 Returns...

This is a very late post, but I just did not have the time during the week to work on it.  I'll now have time to get out and about again and will endeavour to try and publish posts earlier in the week.  Although, I'm still waiting on an operation, which will halt my activities for a while, I am wanting to re-sight as many ringed birds as possible, which I've recorded during the past two winters.


     Antrim Marina - Sunday 6th August 2017       
Today saw the start of my 5th winter of weekly visits to Antrim Marina.  The aim of these visits, are to record 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls from a Study being conducted by Adam McClure, as well as watching out for other 'ringed' birds.

Arriving just after 9am, leaving just after 1pm, what a miserable day it was.  Rain, often persistent, fell for most of my visit and the lack of gulls did not help.  Although, Black-headed Gulls were present throughout my stay, these never numbered any higher than around 50 birds.  Two thirds of them, were this summers youngsters, who have quickly learned to get their share of bread being fed to the ducks.

Only four of Adam's birds were spotted at the Marina, with another two birds found feeding on the grass behind the small cafe.  On leaving and driving along the avenue leading to the main road, I spotted a flock of around 150 BHGs, resting on the playing fields close to the Antrim Forum.  They were not there, when I arrived this morning.

I am hoping to re-sight 28 of Adam's Study birds over the coming weeks, along with White T35J from Lithuania.  There will be a couple of 'metal-ringed' gulls, that I hope to re-sight, especially an Icelandic BHG, that was ringed as a chick in 2003.  On top of these, there will be the new-sightings of ringed birds.  The six gulls recorded today, are all known to be residents.
Two Herring Gull chicks, were present throughout my visit, but only one seemed to belong to an adult, which would put in an appearence every now and again.  Only one Lesser Black-backed Gull was recorded, unlike recent visits, where several birds were present.  Surprisingly, no Common Gulls arrived, despite birds having been sighted on all three of my recent visits.

The only swans, were the pair with the five cygnets, that I first saw here back on the 8th June.  All five are doing really well and readily leave the water to be hand fed with bread.  Mallards, numbered around 50 birds, but none had rings.

Three young Hooded Crows, were always on the watch for bread, as were 13 Jackdaws, that included a few juveniles.  A single Rook and a juvenile Grey Wagtail, were the only other species noted. 

Black-headed Gulls present on Sunday 6th August

Black-headed Gull  -    2AAC   -  Antrim Marina, County Antrim  (06 Aug 2017)
(Ringed as an un-sexed Adult, on the 11th December 2012, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2BRA   -  Antrim Marina, County Antrim  (06 Aug 2017)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 1st February 2015, at Antrim Marina)

Antrim's Elim Church and KFC Outlet
After leaving Antrim Marina, I drove across the town of Antrim, to the Elim Church and Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet.  After each of my previous three visits to the Marina, I called by the KFC, to see if the Black-headed Gull   2ADD , was present.    2ADD , is known to stop at the oulet, in the weeks running up to the breeding season and again before moving on to the coastal town of Carrickfergus for the winter.  On all three occasions, not a single gull was to be seen here or at the nearby Elim Church.

It was all change today, as 12 Black-headed Gulls were feeding on the grass beside the KFC outlet.  Throwing bread out of the car window, the gulls flew over to me.  Straight away, I noticed a Green Darvic and knew this would be the Norwegian   JK35   JK35   was re-sighted back in Norway, twice in the summer (Blog & ), having left Antrim KFC, after my last sighting on the 12th March 2017.

This will be   JK35's   third season wintering at Antrim KFC.  Last year, I recorded it's return on the 7th August.  Previously, a very wary gull,   JK35   seems to remember the feeding routine that I use and readily approached my car this time.

There were no gulls at the Elim Church, although   2AAV  is known to spend a lot of time in the area of the Church, during the winter months.

Black-headed Gull  -    JK35   -  KFC, Antrim Town, County Antrim  (06 Aug 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2014, at Torvmyra, Stavanger, Norway)


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Oldies, got Older...

      Latest At Antrim Marina - Sunday 30th July 2017       
My main plan today, was to go back to County Down and hopefully read some more 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls.  On route, I visited Antrim Marina briefly to record any of Adam's 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.

The overall numbers of BHG's present were still quite small, though there is a large increase in the number of this summers fledged youngsters.  I spent a while, enticing these youngsters with brown bread.  My plan is to gain their confidence, which should help towards their capture for ringing at a later date.

During my visit, I recorded five 'colour-ringed' BHG's, all of which are residents in the area of the Marina.  Next Sunday, I will be beginning my 5th winter of weekly visits, where I will be watching out for gulls returning for another winter.  Hopefully, there will be a few new sightings here as well.

Black-headed Gulls sighted on Sunday 30th July 2017
 2ABK   2AAT   2AAF   2AAB   2BRA 

A few Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, were also present, again in larger numbers than normal.  I kept an eye out for the 'colour-ringed' LBB Gull from Norway -   J638Z , but had no luck.  On Monday (31st July), I received an email from a John Parkinson.  He was at Antrim Marina on Saturday 29th July and took photos of   J638Z .  At least we now know, that it is still 'hanging out' in the vicinity.  My thanks to John for the sighting and photos.

Lesser Black-backed Gull  -  Norway    J368Z   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (29 Jul 2017)
(Photo Courtesy of John Parkinson)


      Another Visit to County Down - Sunday 30th July 2017       

An hour long visit to the harbour at Groomsport, produced no ring sightings.  Using bread to lure the gulls towards me, I had a larger than normal number of gulls around me, which included two Common Gulls, that readily took bread from my hand at the car window.  This was a first, as I've never previously experienced this from Common Gulls.

Parking in the large car park by the Community Centre, fewer gulls appeared for the offering of bread.  A single 'ringed' gull arrived, which was   2ACJ , a Common Gull that I spotted here on my last visit.

As usual, a few Rooks and Jackdaws arrived for a share of the bread.  These included a shy Jackdaw bearing a 'metal-ring'.  It stood well away from the car, but the camera just managed to capture the details on the ring.  Checking the photos, I had clearly caught -   EX99*66 , but the middle number was not that clear, though it looked like a '  4 '.

Before reporting the Jackdaw to the British Trust for Ornithology, I sent an email to fellow 'Ring Reader' Graham Prole in Dublin.  He agreed the number was a '  4 ', so I have now reported the bird to the BTO.  My thanks go to Graham - it's good to have a second opinion, when dubious numbers are encountered.

Jackdaw  -    EX99466   -  Donaghadee, Co. Down  (30 Jul 2017)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)

Around the area of the beach at Millisle, the number of gulls was greatly reduced from that of my previous visit.  The Common Gulls here, which was my main target for rings, only numbered around 30 birds.  One 'colour-ringed' Common Gull, was quickly sorted, being   2BBC .  Four other gulls had 'metal-rings' and I picked out one of these and concentrated on it, successfully capturing the number -   ET03580 .

Returning home and checking my sightings spreadsheet, this was my fourth sighting of the gull, which is the oldest British-rung Common Gull on my records.    ET03580 , was ringed as a chick, on the 17th June 2000, on the nearby Copeland Islands.  It is now 17 years, 1 month and 13 days, since it was ringed.

Common Gull  -    ET03580   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (30 Jul 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th June 2000, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

There was too much movement with the three other 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls, so I had to be content with the one I had got.  A 'metal-ringed' Herring Gull, was another sighting of the ever present -   GA00153 , also recorded on my last visit.

Moving on to the southern car park on the Millisle seafront, around 30 Black-headed and 4 Common Gulls, were standing about.  Looking through these with my binoculars, I spotted 1 Common and then 1 Black-headed Gull, with 'metal-rings'.  My interest swung towards the Black-headed Gull, as it is rare to find 'ringed' birds of this species here.

Again, using bread to lure the gulls towards me, I soon had enough photos to piece the ring number of the BHG together.  Reading -   EG55708 , this was a new sighting for me and could well be an oldish gull.  I reported it to the BTO and await it's ringing details.

Black-headed Gull  -    EG55708   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (30 Jul 2017)
(Waiting on Ringing Details)

With one gull sorted, my attention now focused on the Common Gull.  Bearing an 'Upside-down' ring, it did not take long to obtain it's ring number -   EW51730 .  Returning home and checking my spreadsheet, this was another new sighting.  As I now have a copy of all Shane Wolsey's, Common Gull ringing records, I soon established that   EW51730 , was ringed as a chick, on the 23rd June 2009.

Again, ringed on the nearby Copeland Islands, I feel that it is important, to read as many 'metals' as possible in the Millisle area.  Despite such birds being fairly local and of no great significance where movements are concerned, it is still important to confirm that these 'metal-rung' birds are still alive.

The duration for   EW51730 , is 8 years, 1 month and 7 days and the Copelands are situated 8 kms / 5 miles, to the north from Millisle.

Common Gull  -    EW51730   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (30 Jul 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 23rd June 2009, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

When I arrived at the harbour in Ballywalter, a fair number of Black-headed Gulls, along with a few Herring Gulls, could be seen standing around a parked car.  They were obviously enjoying a few 'tit-bits', being threw out by the occupants.

Taking advantage, I parked close by and scanned the gulls with my binoculars, spotting a BHG with a 'metal-ring'.  I  thought to myself, that this would likely be   ET02500 , and a number of photos later, the number was confirmed.

  ET02500 , is the oldest Black-headed Gull on my records, having been ringed as a chick, on the 15th June 1998.  It is now 19 years, 1 month and 15 days, since   ET02500  was ringed on the Copeland Islands.  Today's, was my fourth record for the gull and I'm well pleased to record both my oldest BHG and Common Gull on the same outing.  It's great to see that both are going strong.

Black-headed Gull  -    ET02500   -  Ballywalter Harbour, Co. Down  (30 Jul 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 15th June 1998, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

While I was checking my photos, a wild commotion broke out further along the harbour.  A large number of Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls had gathered and were fighting for something lying on the roadway.

When I arrived at Ballywalter, most of these large gulls were resting on rocky islets well offshore, due to the high tide.  Driving slowly past the gulls, I parked and could see what was causing such a fuss.  Someone, had left a full 'uncut' loaf of bread lying and the 'battle was on', to see who could grab a piece.

I was now in a great position to view legs for rings and then spotted a Great Black-backed Gull with a 'Blue Darvic'.  After taking a few photos, this turned out to be my second sighting of 3cv.  I first spotted   3CV , on the beach at Ballywalter Harbour on the 12th March 2016 (Blog).  David Nixon, then sighted   3CV   on the 26th September 2016, on the Strangford Narrows, not too far away from Ballywalter.

Checking with Graham Prole, these are the only three records of   3CV , which was ringed as a chick, on the 6th July 2013, at Ireland's Eye, an island just off the coast from Howth in the Republic of Ireland.

Great Black-backed Gull  -    3CV   -  Ballywalter Harbour, Co. Down  (30 Jul 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 6th July 2013, on Ireland's Eye, Co. Dublin, R. of Ireland)

My final stop of the afternoon, was at the fishing village of Portavogie.  The harbour here, fairly attracts the gulls and seals, in their wait for offal to be discarded from the fishing boats.

The first 'ring' spotted was 'metal', on a Herring Gull, perched on the rooftop of a warehouse.  It soon flew off and I could not re-locate it.  Driving around the harbour, I then spotted a Great Black-backed Gull with a 'Black Darvic'.  This one turned out to be my third sighting of   T7VZ , a bird that was ringed as a chick, on the 17th July 2013, on the Isle of Man.

My previous two sightings of   T7VZ , were made in early 2016, when I recorded it, on the 13th and 27th February, here at Portavogie Harbour.  As far as I know, the only other sighting of   T7VZ , was at Ardglass Harbour, on the 3rd March 2014.

I did not expect to re-sight two 'colour-ringed' Great Black-backed Gulls in a row, but with 'Ring Reading', you never know what will crop up next.

Great Black-backed Gull  -    T7VZ   -  Portavogie Harbour, Co. Down  (30 Jul 2017)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th July 2013, on the Isle of Man)