Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Finnish 2nd-winter BHG at Ballyronan, Lough Neagh

Last week I made my first visit to a site I've been meaning to get to for some time, Ballyronan Marina. Ballyronan is on the north-western shores of Lough Neagh near Toome (red on the map below) and I'd been told there was a sizable flock of overwintering Black-headed Gulls, so I called in for my lunch and to check for ringed birds.

Red - Ballyronan
Blue - Antrim
Green - Kinnego

Upon arrival there was a flock of around 100 Black-headed Gulls roosting on the shore and a nice flock of 32 Whooper Swans out on the water, my first of the winter.

Unfortunately, most of the birds were in the shallow water and I couldn't check their legs for colour-rings, so using a loaf of Spar's finest white pan, I brought the birds to me.

The birds weren't as approachable as at Antrim or Kinnego and didn't see any colour-rings. I did, however, notice two birds sporting metal rings and although the adult eluded me, I was able to read the number on a 2nd-winter bird (bird at front-right below).

We reported the bird and it was confirmed that it had been ringed as a youngster at a colony at Kokkola, Finland in June 2014. 

Black-headed Gulls aren't difficult to age with only three age groups; first winter, second winter and adult. You can clearly see the difference in leg colour of the second winter bird on the right and the dark red legs of the adult on the left in the photo above.

Although it can be frustrating when you see a metal ringed gull which can't be read as easily as a colour-ring, it does give immense satisfaction when you take the time and manage to piece together the small numbers. This is yet another example of a continental bird wintering in NI.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Portuguese ringed LBBG at Belfast Lough

Lesser Black-backed Gulls are primarily a summer visitor to Northern Ireland, with our breeding birds spending the winter in Iberia and north Africa. Although a small number of birds can be found overwintering here, especially around Lough Neagh, these are thought to be from the Icelandic population.

Gareth was out along the shores along Belfast Lough earlier this month when he photographed a Lesser Black-backed Gull with a colour-ring.

Photo by Gareth Platt

Reporting his sighting, he heard back that F461 had been ringed in southern Portugal in November 2014. Interestingly, this bird was rehabilitated at RIAS, a wild animal rehabilitation and investigation centre. It doesn't seem to have suffered any lasting effects from its time in rehab, travelling over 1,900 km (at least!). 

Gareth's re-sighting is the first since ringing.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Oystercatcher - Yellow T64

As mentioned in the post earlier in the week, while out conducting my WeBS count at the weekend, I saw several colour-ringed birds, including an Oystercatcher fitted with a yellow ring. 

You'll have to excuse my digi-scoping skills, but you can make out the yellow ring on the left leg.

The Dargan area where I conduct my WeBS count regularly holds a large Oystercatcher roost of over 1000 birds (1,280 this month). I always take time to check legs in the hope of spotting a colour-ringed bird, in particular hoping for one of the Dublin Bay birds (see here) passing through.

I'm delighted that one has finally turned up, but I knew it wasn't a Dublin bird! Having recently seen a photograph of a bird with a similar ring on Copeland Bird Observatory's Facebook page (see here), I went on to check and thanks to Barry O'Mahony in Cork, got the name and email address of the person to report it to.

Sending an email off, I heard back from Harry Scott of Grampian Ringing Group that T64 had been ringed as an adult in March 2014 at Ballater sewage works in an effort to ascertain where their spring roost birds were breeding.

It had been sighted at the roost sight several times in March 2014, before disappearing and returning to the same site in March this year. It was last seen at the roost on 3 April, before being spotted in one of the local glens on 18 April. It hasn't been seen again until my record at Belfast Lough this week.

Many thanks to Harry for the photo of T64 on the
River Dee in Spring 2015
This is the third colour-ringed Oystercatcher from Grampian to turn up in Northern Ireland this year, after Chris' photo of T89 which appeared on the CBO Facebook page and Richard Donaghey's record of T65 at the Bann Estuary in March (see here). 

Red - Ringing site
Green - Bann Estuary
Yellow - Dargan, Belfast Lough
Blue - Groomsport, Belfast Lough

Make sure you check those Oystercatchers and if you record a colour-ringed bird, make sure you report your sightings!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

T56W back for another winter at Whitehouse Lagoon

As part of my section of Belfast Lough which I monitor for the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS), I am lucky enough to get to count at Whitehouse Lagoon and Dargan Bay. As I've touched on before, these areas can attract large numbers of birds and colour-ringed birds regularly turn up here.

This weekend, while out conducting my October WeBS count, in addition to counting several thousand birds, I managed to record two colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls, a colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit and a colour-ringed Oystercatcher.

One of the Black-headed Gulls was a bird I had ringed as a chick on Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough in 2014 and hadn't been seen again, until Suzanne Belshaw reported it at Whitehouse in August this year.

The second bird was a Polish ringed bird, which I've reported on here before, T56W (see here).

Having been ringed as an adult at a breeding colony in western Poland in 2012, it hadn't been re-sighted until Stuarty McKee photographed it at Whitehouse Lagoon in January this year.

Photo by Stuarty McKee
Suzanne then recorded the bird back at Whitehouse in August, after it presumably returned to Poland for the breeding season and, more recently, Gareth saw it last week, before my sighting this week. It certainly looks to have settled in this area for the winter.

I will upload posts on the godwit and Oystercatcher in the next few days.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Common Gull - Yellow 2A64

Earlier this month, Cameron Moore photographed a juvenile Common Gull on rocks at Whitehead, Belfast Lough with a yellow colour-ring.

Photo by Cameron Moore

Gareth reported the sighting to Iain Livingstone from Clyde Ringing Group and we have heard back from Iain confirming that this bird had been ringed at a colony in South Lanarkshire in July this year. This is the first re-sighting since ringing.

Red - Ringing location (08 July 2015)
Yellow - Re-sighting location (07 October 2015)

Many thanks to Cameron for reporting his sighting and to Gareth and Iain for passing on the information.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Wanderers return....

We've blogged before how predictable some of our study birds are becoming in terms of their departure / return dates. Today, as expected, 2AAR turned up back at Antrim for the winter. 

2AAR at Antrim, 11 Oct 2015 Photo by Gareth Platt

This bird was ringed at Antrim in 2012 and subsequently seen on breeding grounds in Poland (see here). 

Below is a list of this particular birds return dates to Antrim:

2013 - 20th October
2014 - 17th October
2015 - 11th October

2ACX, which was last seen on the same date in March as 2AAR, also returned this week, suggesting it too breeds on the continent. 

Photo by Gareth Platt

It will be interested to see when / if the two birds recorded in Lithuania earlier this year turn up back on Lough Neagh in coming weeks.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Black-headed Gull - EL72723

Last Sunday morning, Gareth recorded a ringed juvenile Black-headed Gull at Antrim during his weekly colour-ring reading visit. 

Unfortunately, the bird was only fitted with a standard metal BTO ring, so it took a bit more effort to get the details, but Gareth's determination and dedication was rewarded with all the numbers.

Photo by Gareth Platt

He sent the details off to the BTO and heard back that it had been ringed by Ken Perry at Inch in Co. Donegal this summer.

Many thanks to Gareth for passing on his report, and I must speak to Ken about getting some colour-rings!