Friday, 12 August 2016

First reports of ringed first-winter birds coming in

As juveniles disperse their natal colonies, we're starting to receive sightings of ringed first-winter birds away from the main study sites.

To date we have got word of two birds colour-ringed at Castle Espie, 2CCH and 2CBD, which have dispersed to Lurgan Park in Armagh and the RSPB reserve at Belfast Lough respectively.

2CCH at Lurgan Park, August 2016
Photo by Suzanne Belshaw

Green - Ringing location
Orange - Re-sighting locations

Gary also got our first record of a bird ringed at Inch this summer....almost!

He photographed the bird below at Portrush during the week which was fitted with a metal ring from the series we know we used at Inch in Co. Donegal this year.

Metal ringed first-winter Black-headed Gull at Portrush, August 2016
Photo by Gary Platt

It was, however, one of the 43 birds caught by Causeway Coast Ringing Group during the first visit to the colony, when only metal rings were used (see here). Unfortunately before Gary could read the end of the ring number the bird was scared off by walkers.

This highlights the benefits of colour-ringing as it would have taken only a couple of seconds for Gary to read the much more visible code on the plastic rings. We do like a challenge though and I'm sure the same guy will try again!!


Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Hopefully the first of many....

We received our first report of a "Northern Irish" colour-ringed Mediterranean Gull at the weekend when Neal Warnock photographed 2XJ9 at Glenarm, Co. Antrim. 

This was one of four Med Gull chicks ringed on Blue Circle Island back in June (see here) as part of an all-Ireland project co-ordinated by Sean Kingston in Dublin.

Photo by Neal Warnock

It may not have moved far, just over 20km, but hopefully this is only the first of many re-sightings. Re-sightings which will allow us to build up a picture of where young Mediterranean Gulls born in Ireland move off to once they leave their natal colony.

Many thanks to Neal for the report and photo.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

What's in a name?!

A recent question on a Facebook thread asking "Why are Black-headed Gulls are called Black-headed Gulls if they've got dark brown heads?" got me thinking....

The names attributed to birds are often fairly straight forward, for example Pied Wagtail. It's black and white (i.e. pied) and if often can be seen with its tail bobbing up and down (i.e. wagging). 

Others are named after their call (e.g. Chiffchaff or Curlew), behaviour (e.g. Turnstone or Treecreeper), preferred nesting locations (e.g. Sand Martin or House Sparrow) or the region in which they're found, such as Mediterranean Gull...but this species is no longer restricted to the Mediterranean regions, it can now be found as far north-west as Donegal. 

Also, when you consider the scientific name of this species Larus melanocephalus - this translates to "black-headed gull", which is fair enough as it does have a black-head but then there is Chroicocephalus ridibundus or Black-headed Gull...which has a brown head. 

A Mediterranean Gull in winter....without a black head!

The scientific name Chroicocephalus comes from the Greek meaning "colour-headed" and ridibundus from the Latin "ridere" to "laugh" so it should be called the Colour-headed Laughing Gull....but isn't there already a species called Laughing Gull? Yes!

Laughing Gulls are found in the Americas and the scientific name Leucophaeus atricilla is from the Greek "leukos" meaning "white" (as in the the term leucistic) and the Latin "ater" meaning "black" and "cilla" meaning "tail". However, Laughing Gulls do not have a black tail.

So hope it's all clear now after reading this...Mediterranean Gulls are actually black-headed gulls. Black-headed Gulls are actually colour-headed laughing gulls and Laughing Gulls are actually black-tailed gulls...even though they have a white tail.

Confusing, right?!

Monday, 18 July 2016

No(r) way!

Since we began colour-ringing Black-headed Gulls as part of our study at the end of 2012, we have had a number of birds turn up in Britain and further afield in continental Europe (see here, here, here and here for a few examples). 

Up to now, these have all been birds caught during the winter. Birds, presumably, which were born elsewhere and migrated to Northern Ireland to spend the winter before heading back to their breeding grounds in early spring.

Over the weekend I received an email from John Sandoy entitled "2ALP is in Oslo, Norway today". John had recorded the bird at Hovindammen in Oslo, also managing to get a photograph:


Photo by John Sandoy

While this was obviously another fantastic and exciting record of one of "our" colour-ringed birds elsewhere, I assumed it was most likely a Scandinavian bird which had been caught and ringed here during the winter. Until I checked the database....

Imagine my surprise when I inputted the record and generated a re-sighting report for it to tell me that 2ALP had, in fact, been ringed as a chick on Blue Circle Island in 2013 (see here)!


Blue - Ringing location
Yellow - Re-sighting location; Whitehouse Lagoon, Belfast Lough
Red - Re-sighting report; Hovindammen, Oslo

One of the main objectives of the study is to ascertain where our birds (i.e. birds born in Northern Ireland) disperse to and whether or not they return to their natal colonies to breed. This is superb record for the study and another example of new information we're learning from colour-ringing birds here.

There have been two previous sightings of 2ALP, both by Gary at Whitehouse Lagoon (see here).  In that post I commented "Wonder where it has been since, but I'm guessing it has traveled further than the 20km between Larne Lough and Whitehouse Lagoon!" Well, if this sighting is anything to go by, how right was I?!

Many thanks John for the report and the photo.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

2ANX - an update

We received a very interesting email from Lukasz Borek in Poland this evening. He had caught a Black-headed Gull with one of our rings at the weekend at the same location it had been seen in April (see here).


Photo by Lukasz Borek

Thanks to the email address also printed on the ring he was able to Google our project and find this blog, where he not only discovered the previous postings about 2ANX (see here and here), but also about a couple of birds he ringed which have then recorded in Northern Ireland (see here, here and here)!

It will be very interesting to see when / if 2ANX returns to Belfast Lough this winter.

Many thanks to Lukasz for getting in touch with the update and for the photo. We look forward to hopefully recording some more Polish ringed gulls here this winter.