Wednesday, 21 March 2018


Another interesting week, with a couple of new ring sightings.  The most 'standout' of these, was an Oystercatcher, 'colour-ringed' in Iceland, 'metal-ringed' in Wales and spotted feeding at Kinnegar Beach.

My laptop, never recovered from the drink spill and I'm still having to use a wireless keyboard.  I've purchased a new laptop, which should arrive in the next day or two.  I'll will then transfer all my ringing data to the new laptop.

This process will be quite easy, as every 'ringed' bird that I record, spreadsheet data and so on, are saved in their own individual folders, all stashed inside a main folder, named 'In the Field'.  All I have to do, is copy the main folder onto a memory stick and then transfer it onto the new laptop.

This process, will save me hours of time, trying to transfer each individual folder.  Perhaps, some of my readers, might like to copy this idea, just in case of a later mishap on their machines.  Every so often, I back up my main file onto a memory stick, just in case something goes disastrously wrong.


      Antrim Marina - Monday 19th March 2018       
Today was my penultimate weekly visit of this, my fifth winter of 'Ring Watching' at Antrim Marina.  With parts of the British Mainland, again experiencing an icy blast, with snow in places, today in Northern Ireland, we enjoyed pretty clear skies, sunshine and a fairly bitter east wind.

With Saturday being a washout, with a lot of rain and strong winds, I remained at home and once again decided to postpone my visit to the Marina until today.  Black-headed Gull numbers, never surpassed the 80 mark, at any one time, though individuals were clearly coming and going.  Overall, I think visiting birds, probably were in the 120 to 130 range.

 2AAR  and  2ACV , were both absent today and looking at past records, both have probably departed now.  The Lithuanian (White) T35J, did appear, which equals the latest date, before it's departure for home.  The only gull, that I'm still waiting on to arrive -   2ADD , is still, well and truly 'parked' across town, at the KFC outlet.  It is now 8 weeks, since  2ADD , arrived at the outlet from his wintering quarters at Carrickfergus.

Another two gulls, that I consider to be, winter visitors -  2ABN  and  2AAK , were not present for the third and first weeks respectively.   2AAK , is the gull, that was really unwell at one point during the winter and a bird I made a point of hand feeding during each of my visits.  As it's health improved, becoming stronger on the wing, it's co-ordination, was at times well off, whilst trying to catch bread that I threw into the air for it.

It's flight, is still a bit 'flappy', which might make the bird a target for predators on it's journey to it's nesting area.  If  2AAK , has definitely gone, I hope it makes it back next winter.

This week, I was sorting through some of my sightings at the Marina, when I spotted something quite interesting.  On the 5th February 2018, I spotted a Black-headed Gull, with an upside-down 'metal-ring'.  Perched on the long jetty, I took photos of the ring and only obtained the five numbers, but not the two letters preceding the number.  As it was a BTO ring, the first missing letter, would be an ' E ', which would then have given me -  E*85673 .

On the 5th March 2017, a Black-headed Gull, was spotted on the long jetty, also with an upside-down 'metal-ring'.  On that occasion, I only managed to get the last two numbers ' 73 '.  This surely, has to be the same gull, which has passed through Antrim Marina, two years running.  Perhaps, with luck, I'll see this gull again next year, and 'nail' that missing letter.  

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls at Antrim Marina - Monday 19th March 2018
 2CJT   2CSF   2CSC   2ADJ   2CSJ   2AAB   2CSA   2AAP 
 2AAT   2BRA   2AAA   2CSK   2CSL   2CSS   2ABS   2AAN 
 2ANS   T35J   2CSR   2ABK   2CSH   2CSB       

Today's Absentees
 2AAK   2AAC   2ABN   2ABA   2AAF   2ABL   2ABF   2AAV 
 2AAR   2ACV   2ADV   2AFD   2BRC   2BRD   2CSD   2CST 

Other Birds at Antrim Marina
I must start with Common Gulls today, as to my delight, I got my (hoped for) third sighting this winter, of the Finnish bird -   ST177.028 .  It arrived at 11.10 and was still present when I departed from the Marina, around 12.30.  My previous two sightings, were made on the 14th January and 5th February 2018.

This is the third winter running that I have recorded  ST177.028 , at the Marina.  Ringed as a juvenile, on the 6th August 1995, the duration since ringing, is now 22 years, 7 months and 13 days.  Although I'd doubt, if this gull, will break the longevity record for a Common Gull, of 27 years and 10 months, I'd be delighted to spot it's return next winter.

Common Gull  -  Finland    ST177.028   -  Antrim Marina, Co. Antrim  (19 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 6th August 1995, Maaninka, Norway.)

Just one adult Common Gull, was present, when I arrived this morning, but by mid-morning, numbers increased to 8 adults and two juveniles.  I kept a keen eye out, for the small Scottish-rung female, but she never appeared.

The adult pair of Herring Gulls, were also present on my arrival and one of the pair, has injured it's foot, since I saw them last week.  A third adult and a juvenile, both arrived in quick succession, around 11.40.  Both birds only remained for around fifteen minutes.  The pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, which arrived a couple of weeks ago, appeared at 10.22 and also remained throughout the rest of my visit.

13 adult Mute Swans, plus three cygnets were already present on my arrival.  One of the cygnets however, was a new visitor, as it had very few brown feathers in it's plumage, as compared to the other three, present over the last couple of weeks.  A further seven adults, arrived in from the Lough in one's and two's, taking the total to 20 adults and 3 juveniles.  Two 'metal-rings' were read, these being -  W34156  and  W34158 .

Mallard numbers, are still on the low side, with 24 birds present on my arrival, increasing to 56, at the time of my departure.  Most legs, were checked throughout the morning, but still no more rings.

Other species recorded, were :- 2 Hooded Crows, 4 Jackdaws, 1 adult and 1 juvenile Moorhen, 2 male Chaffinches and a male Pied Wagtail.  Although never seen, a pair of Buzzards, were often heard calling in the woodland opposite the Marina.

Antrim's Elim Church, KFC and Baptist Church
There was no sign of   2AAV , at the Elim Church and no rings were spotted on any of the other gulls which arrived for my offering of bread (18 Black-headeds, 3 Lesser Black-backeds and a single Herring Gull).

At the KFC outlet, there were just over 50 Black-headed Gulls, along with 2 Herring, 2 Lesser Black-backed and a single Common Gull.  The larger gulls, along with a small number of Black-headeds, would not approach my car for bread.

No problem though for  2ADD , who promptly landed beside me.  This bird should have appeared at Antrim Marina by now - perhaps next week.  There was no sign of the Norwegian  JK35 , and on checking the final sighting dates for the last two winters - (13th March 2016 and 12th March 2017), I reckon that it is on the way back to Norway.

Around 70 Black-headed Gulls, were on the grass, in front of the Baptist Church, many bathing in the small pools of water.  Despite my attempts to lure them onto the Church roof, they were all disinterested.  The gate to the large front car park was locked, so I could not gain access.  If I could have got in, the gulls would certainly have come over.


      Ringing Details Received       
After publishing my last post, many readers might have wondered, what was so special, about my sighting, of one of Adam's Study birds  2ATJ .  Spotted on the beach at Kinnegar, in County Down, I knew that I had never seen this Black-headed Gull before, but in a way, I was right and wrong.

Having receieved it's file from Adam, this was a bird that I personally ringed, on the 31st May 2016, at Inch Island, in County Donegal.  In 2016, I joined members of the Causeway Coast Ringing Group, for three visits to the small island, at Inch Island Lake.  Adam, was unable to make it for the first of these three visits.

As part of my training, to regain my ringing permit, I 'metal-ringed' a small number of Black-headed Gull and Sandwich Tern chicks, under the guidance of Ken Perry.  Adam, joined us for the 2nd visit to Inch, on the 8th of June, to begin 'colour-ringing' Black-headed Gull youngsters.  One of these youngsters, was  EZ61019 , a bird that I had ringed on the 31st May.  'Colour-ring',  2ATJ , was added to it's left leg, and this was the bird that I spotted at Kinnegar beach.

 2ATJ , is the first of 124 young Black-headed Gulls to be re-sighted, having been 'colour-ringed' on visits two and three.  The only other BHG, to have been recorded from the three visits, was  EZ61022 , which I also ringed on the 31st May 2016, and one that I discovered at Coleraine's, McDonalds outlet, in October 2016 (2 sightings).

Personally, it felt great, to spot a gull, which I had my hands on as a chick.  Perhaps, with the sighting of  2ATJ , more of the 'colour-ringed' birds from Inch, might now start to turn up.  Inch, is situated, 112 kms / 70 miles, to the north-west, from Kinnegar Beach. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2ATJ   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (11 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 31st May 2016, at Inch Island Lake, Co. Donegal)


      Sunday 18th March 2018       
Having failed to get out on Saturday, due to poor weather, I decided to use Sunday to visit sites other than Antrim Marina.  I went to Kinnegar Beach again, as it has been producing a fair number of 'colour-ringed' birds.

What was meant to be a short visit, actually lasted for most of the afternoon, after which time, I drove round to the Dargan Mudflats, a short distance away.

My patience at Kinnegar, was rewarded, with 5 'colour-ring' sightings, two of which were new birds.  The first ring spotted, belonged to a Common Gull -  2H70 , which I was keen to re-sight, having been ringed by the Grampian Ringing Group in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Of late, I've recorded, three other Common Gulls at Kinnegar, that had been ringed by the Grampian Ringing Group -  2VDT  (a new bird, on the 18th February 2018),  2J52  (a new bird, on the 4th March 2018) and  2A06  (a re-sighting, also on the 4th March 2018).

 2H70 , was ringed as an unsexed adult, on the 26th August 2016, at the Ythan Estuary, in Aberdeenshire.  My only previous sighting of the gull, was made on the 12th February 2017, here at Kinnegar.  At least I've recorded  2H70 , for the second winter running.  I try to re-sight every ringed bird that I have recorded, at least once each year.

I reported my sighting of  2H70 , to Calum Campbell, who is the ringing secretary for the Grampian RG.  Calum, replied, and stated that  2H70 , has not been reported since I saw the gull last year.  My thanks to Calum, for the update.

Common Gull  -    2H70   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (18 Mar 2018)
Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 26th August 2016, at The Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)

The second 'colour-ring' bird to be recorded, was a new sighting.  I've been after a cr-ringed Oystercatcher for several weeks now, but I've failed to read the code on it's White Ring, the bird also had two orange rings on it's other leg.  No sign of that one, but today's Oystercatcher, was rung - Orange/Niger-White(JA), a bird I knew, would have been ringed in Iceland.

Having reported my sighting to the Icelandic Wader Group, Böddi, replied, with some interesting details.  ON-W(JA), was actually, a British-rung Oystercatcher -  FH14394 .  It was ringed by the Scan Ringing Group, on the 10th February 2008, at Penmon Quarry, Anglesey, in North Wales.

On the 7th May 2016, Veronica Mendez Aragon, discovered   FH14394 , on a nest, at Pétursey, in Southern Iceland and was able to read it's ring number.  Exactly one year later,  FH14394 , was again nesting in the Pétursey area, and this time Veronica managed to capture and 'colour-ring' the bird - ON-W(JA).

Could it be possible, that  FH14394 , has changed it's choice of wintering site or has it stopped via Kinnegar, en-route to Iceland, from Wales.  Only further re-sightings, during future winters will answer this question, but in the meantime, I got more info, than I expected after spotting this Oystercatcher.

Oystercatcher  - Orange/Niger-White(JA)  -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (18 Mar 2017)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 10th February 2008, at Penmon Quarry, Anglesey, Wales)

My third 'colour-ring' sighting, was Black-headed Gull -  2AJC , a bird that I've recorded on two previous occasions on the beach here at Kinnegar (27th December 2016 and 17th October 2017).    2AJC , has been spotted by other observers in, May 2015 and March 2016, at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, a short distance away from Kinnegar Beach.

It is strongly suspected, that  2AJC , actually breeds on one of the two nesting platforms situated on the Reserve's Lake.  So far, I've yet to spot  2AJC , on the Reserve, despite several visits during past breeding seasons.

 2AJC , is from Adam's Northern Ireland Study, and was ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2014, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, in County Down.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AJC  -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (18 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2014, at The Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down)

A Herring Gull, rung  2N:W , was the fourth 'colour-ring' sighting, and was another new bird for me.  Although, Adam McClure, is the ringing coordinator for Herring Gulls, ringed on the Copeland Islands, I actually have a copy of the ringing details for all of these gulls.

 2N:W , is from a relatively new project, which began in 2014, and was caught and ringed as an adult, on the 5th May 2015.  I have reported my sighting to Adam (no reply as yet), but I strongly suspect, that my sighting is a first for this gull.  The Copeland Islands, are situated 21 kms / 13 miles away from Kinnegar Beach.

Herring Gull  -    2N:W   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (18 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 5th May 2015, at The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

The fifth 'colour-ring' to be spotted, was that of a Norwegian Black-headed Gull -  J22Z , which I first recorded here on the 4th March 2018.  As these are recent sightings, not much can be read, as to whether this bird actually winters in the Kinnegar area.   J22Z , will soon be heading back to Norway, so will be one to watch out for next winter.

Black-headed Gull  -    J22Z   -  Kinnegar Beach, Holywood, Co. Down  (18 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as an Un-sexed Adult, on the 4th May 2016, at Lake Mosvatnet, Stavanger, Norway.)

After my prolonged visit to Kinnegar, I drove round to the mudflats at nearby Dargan.  On reaching here, the tide was now well out and several hundred gulls and waders were too distant to even bother scoping.  What birds, were close to me, were all unringed.  On my way home, I took a detour to view Whitehouse Lagoon.  Whilst passing by on the Motorway, I could see very few birds were present, so never bothered stopping in.


      Tuesday 20th March 2018       
As I'm off work this week, I decided to call into the RSPB's WoW Reserve in Belfast, before making another visit to Kinnegar Beach, which has produced a number of 'colour-ringed' birds lately.

At the Window on Wildlife Reserve, I called into 'Hide One', which overlooks one of the two nesting platforms, which initially was intended to attract Terns.  Black-headed Gulls, have taken to nesting on these platforms in large numbers. Mediterranean Gulls, have become the 'star' species here, and five pairs nested and fledged chicks in 2017.

Last summer, I recorded two of Adam's 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, nesting on the platform.  Today, I spotted both birds -  2ASF  and  2BHB , on the exact spots, where they had nested last summer.  Both gulls were in courtship display, with their respective partners and defending their niche on the platform.

I noticed in the photos, that I took of the birds, there is a 'metal-rung' Black-headed Gull, beside  2BHB .  I'm not sure, whether this is it's mate, but I'll try and check on that during my next visit.  If they are a pair, it will be interesting to see if they remain together during future breeding seasons.

Two pairs of Mediterranean Gulls have returned so far, none of which were ringed.  Last summer, I noticed that one of the Med Gulls which bred, had a tall 'metal-ring', meaning that it was a foreign rung bird.  Due to the distance, between the hide and the nesting platform, 'metals', cannot be read, but the codes on 'colour-rings', are just about in range.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BHB   -  RSPB WoW Reserve, Belfast  (20 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 2nd June 2014, at Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ASF   -  RSPB WoW Reserve, Belfast  (20 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2013, at Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

On reaching Kinnegar Beach, the tide was beginning to recede, which was an ideal time to watch for gulls and waders, arriving to feed.  No 'colour-rings' were spotted this time, but 'metals', were noted on three gulls.  The first of which, was a tall 'metal', on a juvenile/1st winter Black-headed Gull, which meant it was a foreign bird.

The other two 'metals', were BTO rings, on an adult Black-headed Gull and an adult Common Gull.  Had these three gulls, been 'colour-ringed', I'd have easily captured the codes.

After a while, a dog walker appeared, scaring all the birds to the now distant water's edge.  The lady concerned, passed by me at the car and saw that I was scoping the birds, but carried on to the beach anyway.  How come, so many dog walkers, appear to be 'brainless'?