Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Black-headed Gull - EW85348

If you've been following the blog for a while now, you might remember I reported a metal ringed Black-headed Gull which I saw at Castlewellan Lake back in January (see here).

I heard back from the BTO and it turns out that this bird was ringed in Glen Esk in Angus by a member of the Tay Ringing Group on 31 May 2011.

Red - Glen Esk, Angus
Blue - Castlewellan Lake, Co. Down
Personally, this is quite exciting for me as when I lived in Scotland, Glen Esk was one of my stomping grounds and as a ringer with Tay Ringing Group I helped Ben Herschell colour-ring Herring Gulls as part of the NE Scotland Project, which has eventually led to this project!

It's strange, as I was back in Scotland last weekend and spent a couple of hours with Ben looking for colour-ringed gulls in Arbroath and, for some reason, I was telling him about this exact bird!

According to the ringing report I received, this is a movement of 354km SW and the time between ringing and re-sighting was 595 days.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

A ton of re-sightings!

We reached another milestone this week, when Keith Stevens got in touch to report several sightings of colour-ringed birds, taking the number of re-sightings to over 100 - 109 to be exact!

Keith managed to get some photographs of the birds he saw, I particularly like this shot of 2ABL!

Photo by Keith Stevens

This photo of 2AAR is also worth checking out when you compare it to a photo I took of the same bird on 23 January.

Breeding plumage, March 2013
Photo by Keith Stevens

Winter plumage, Jan 2013

Many thanks to Keith for taking the time to report his sightings and for allowing us to use his photos.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Cheeky gull

A friend posted this photo on my Facebook page which I think answers the question a lot of people ask, "How do you manage to catch the gulls by hand?"

It's easy, they volunteer themselves!

Photo by Hayley Sherwin

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

That's why Mum goes to....

My ringing trainer, Neville, got in touch last week to say he'd been feeding the ducks with his grand-daughter, Lily and had seen some of "my" gulls.

You can clearly see the differences in the plumage and colour of the bill and legs between the adult, 2ABF and a juvenile 2AAF here:

Photo by Neville McKee

Photo by Neville McKee

The Polish-ringed bird, originally from Lithuania, T35J is also still around:

Photo by Neville McKee

The most exciting record which Neville got was a metal-ringed bird, on which he could make out the word, "Iceland".

Photo by Neville McKee

Unfortunately he was unable to get the ring number before the bird flew off - bloody birds!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Larne Lough - Annual gull influx and exodus

Neal Warnock was telling me recently that over the past couple of years, he has noticed an influx of gulls at the end of the winter coming into Larne Lough and bang on cue, over the past couple of weeks the number of gulls on the Lough has increased massively.

Neal has kindly written a short blog piece on what he has dubbed, the "Larne Lough influx and exodus"!


Every year from around the end of January through to the end of February 5,000 plus gulls arrive into Larne Lough.  These numbers are made up of approximately 3,000 Black-headed Gulls, 1,500 Common Gulls, an assortment of larger gulls and a few rarities.   The theory is that they time their arrival to coincide with low spring tides and an abundance of ragworms in the extensive mudflats of Larne Lough.  Many birds, particularly the Common Gulls spend a lot of their time when the tide is in feeding in inland fields where slurry has been spread, before heading back to the lough in the evenings to roost.   For a short window each year in early March (now!) many of these birds fly out of the lough past Sandy Bay to roost on the sea during the last hour of daylight.  On the few occasions when this happens, it is an absolutely spectacular sight.  From the second week of March many of these birds begin to settle down on the islands of Larne Lough or on the Isle of Muck, Islandmagee to breed.

Large flock of gulls on Larne Lough, from Glynn Station (19 Feb 2012)
Photo by Neal Warnock
I first noticed this phenomenon in early 2008 and have been looking out for it every year since.  On 31st January 2009 the north tip of Islandmagee was swarming with recently arrived gulls feeding in flooded fields, perhaps numbering 2,000 birds.  This included a 3rd winter Kumlien’s Gull, a 1st winter Iceland Gull and 2 Mediterranean Gulls!  Over the years I’ve seen several other scarce gull species which have been mixed up in this annual influx including Ring-billed, Little and Glaucous Gulls.

Glaucous Gull, Inver River (18 Feb 2008)
Photo by Neal Warnock
Ring-billed Gull amongst c.1000 Common Gull, Glynn
(18 Feb 2010)
Photo by Neal Warnock
To give you some idea of the numbers and species which are involved in what I call the “Larne Lough Exodus” here are the maximum counts recorded between 5th and 16th March 2012 passing Sandy Bay in the last hour or so of light to roost on the sea:

  • Eider 140
  • Black Guillemot 95
  • Iceland Gull 1 (1st year type)
  • Mediterranean Gull 2 (adults)
  • Little Gull 1 (adult)
  • Black-headed Gull 1,800
  • Common Gull 500
  • Large Gulls 250
It's not unusual to spot a Med Gull amongst its commoner
Photo by Neal Warnock
Many thanks to Neal for the information, taking the time to write this and the photos.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Belfast Lesser-black Backed Gull

It may not be a Black-headed Gull, but I had to share this fantastic photo taken by Ronald Surgenor in Belfast earlier this week.

It shows a Lesser Black-backed Gull with what's left of a Starling!

(c) Ronald Surgenor
You can see more of Ronald's superb work at

Thanks to Ronald for sharing and letting me post this photo.