Monday, 18 December 2017

Black-headed Gull - Yellow 2H31

Scanning through a large flock of roosting Herring and Black-headed Gulls at the former landfill site at Dargan on the shores of Belfast Lough last week, I noticed a Black-headed Gull with a yellow ring.

It took a bit of time to get the code as the wind kept blowing the telescope about, but eventually I managed to read it as 2H31 and then got a couple of dodgy digi-scoped record shots of the bird on my phone.

Checking the fantastic, website, I reported the sighting to Paul Roper of North Thames Gull Group who got back to tell me that it had been caught and ringed as an adult at Pitsea Landfill Site in Essex in March this year.

Yellow - Pitsea Landfill Site
Red - Dargan, Belfast Lough

This is the first sighting since.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Black-headed Gull - Black 2AXV

In October last year, Gary recorded a colour-ringed first-winter bird at Peoples Park, Ballymena (see here).

2AXV at Peoples Park, October 2016
Photo by Gary Platt

Gary heard back that the bird had been ringed as a chick by Brewood Ringing Group at Marsh Lane Nature Reserve in the West Midlands in June 2016.

Black - Marsh Lane Nature Reserve
Orange - Peoples Park, Ballymena

The bird was recorded at Peoples Park throughout the winter, with the last sighting being on 11th March 2017.

2AXV at Peoples Park in November 2016 (top), December 2016 (middle) and February 2017 (bottom)
Photos by Gary Platt

In yet another example of a wintering Black-headed Gull showing strong site fidelity, 2ANX has returned to Peoples Park for a second winter having been recorded on 1st September 2017.

2AXV at Peoples Park in September 2017 (top) and December 2017 (bottom)
Photos by Gary Platt

Many thanks to Gary for the information and all the photos which give us an insight to the changing plumage of 2AXV as it ages.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Common Gull - Orange 2A06

Paul McCullough recently sent through a photo of a colour-ringed Common Gull roosting at Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim.

Photo by Paul McCullough

This bird, originally ringed by Grampian Ringing Group as a breeding adult in July 2015 and was subsequently recorded at Carrickfergus in December 2015 by Gary (see here). 

2A06 at Carrick, December 2015
Photo by Gary Platt

It was recorded later that winter by Cameron Moore, in February 2016. 

It went undetected for 18 months, before being seen at Pow Burn, Prestwick in Ayrshire in September this year and then Paul's sighting of the bird back at Carrick.

Many thanks to Paul for the report and to Gary and Calum at GRG for the information.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Black-headed Gull - Yellow T58T

Suzanne reported that T58T was seen briefly at Lurgan Park on Friday 1st December.

T58T at Lurgan Park, December 2017
Photo by Suzanne Belshaw

T58T was caught and ringed in Poland as an adult in July 2016 by Lukasz Borek, the same ringer who has recorded one of "our" birds in Poland a couple of times (see here). I say "our" because it only spends the winter here, it was most likely born in NE Germany or NW Poland.

It was first recorded at Lurgan Park in December 2016 and was regular sighting there throughout last winter, last being seen on 19th February.

The bird was photographed back in Poland in July this year and has now returned to Co. Armagh for another winter. 

In all likelihood, this bird had been wintering at Lurgan during previous years but went unnoticed until it was ringed by Lukasz. 

This is one of several Polish colour-ringed birds we have recorded here in winter which we've also been lucky enough to have recorded back on their breeding grounds. 

All of this information provides us with an insight to the seasonal movements of these overlooked long-distance migrants.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Dispersal of 2017 chicks

Back in the summer, we managed to visit two of our study colonies to ring young Black-headed Gulls. A total of 79 young birds were colour-ringed at WWT Castle Espie on Strangford Lough in Co. Down and RSPB Blue Circle Island, on Larne Lough in Co. Antrim.

Blue - RSPB Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough
Green - WWT Castle Espie, Strangford Lough

Since ringing, we have received re-sighting reports of four of the 2017 birds.

All four originated from Blue Circle Island and all the sightings have been from the east Antrim coast. One bird has moved slightly north, and three have moved south to various sites along the north shore of Belfast Lough.

Orange - Re-sighting locations of 2017 birds ringed on Blue Circle Island (Blue marker)
2CLV at Whitehead, August 2017
Photo by Cameron Moore
2CPN at Whiteabbey, September 2017
Photo by Gary Platt
2CNB at Sandy Bay, November 2017
Photo by Gary Platt
2CPS at Carrickfergus, November 2017
Photo by Paul McCullough
Many thanks to everyone who continues to report colour-ringed birds to us. All reports are greatly appreciated.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

2ANX - what we know so far

In January 2016, we caught and colour-ringed a bird which was already sporting a German metal ring. 

The same bird had been recorded at Carrickfergus, Belfast Lough during previous winters but by adding the colour-ring we were hopeful it would increase the number of re-sightings of the bird.

In the 22 months since we colour-ringed 2ANX, we've had some excellent results.

I've set out below what we know of 2ANX:

May 2008
Ringed as an adult at Bohmke, Germany

November 2013 
Recorded at Carrickfergus Harbour - metal ring read

January 2016
Caught and colour-ring 2ANX added (see here)

February 2016
Re-sighted at Carrickfegus

March 2016
Re-sighted at Swinoujscie, NW Poland (see here)

July 2016
Caught by ringer at Swinoujscie, NW Poland as by catch - he was actually trying to catch a crow! (see here)

Photo by Lucasz Borek

December 2016
Re-sighted back at Carrickfergus, where it was recorded again in January and February 2017

May 2017
Photographed at breeding colony at Bohmke, the colony where it was originally ringed, at a nest with 2 young.
2ANX at breeding site at Bohmke, NE Germany
Photo by Simon Piro

June 2017
Photographed back at Swinoujscie, NW by same ringer who had recorded it at same site in 2016.
2ANX in flight behind Lukasz's son
Photo by Lukasz Borek

November 2017
Re-sighted back at Carrickfergus for another winter.

The map shows known wintering location of 2ANX at Carrickfergus, Bohmke in NE Germany where it breeds and the site it visits at Swinoujscie just over the border in NW Poland.

Many thanks everyone who has reported this bird and if you happen to visit the car park by Carrick Castle, please keep an eye out for our colour-ringed birds and let us know via

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

First birds of the winter caught and ringed

Gary was successful at the weekend catching and ringing the first birds this winter.

Two first winters and a second winter bird became the latest additions to our study cohort. 

While we do not know where these birds have come from (we know from previously recorded ringed birds that they might have fledged from a colony a few miles away or Eastern Europe), we do have the advantage of being able to age them.

If you record any colour-ringed birds which you think might be from our study, even if it's a bird previously reported, you can get in touch via

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Back online!

Once again, the blog has been neglected over past months. A perfect storm of fieldwork, expanding family, computer problems and other commitments has meant it has taken a hit and not been maintained.

All back online now and hopefully normal service will resume.

An update will be posted in coming days, especially since we have recently seen the 5th anniversary of the project starting. In the meantime rest assured that although things have been quiet, there has been plenty going on in the background with re-sightings from near and far and a cohort of 2017 chicks colour-ringed at two of our study sites.

More soon....

Friday, 17 March 2017

Where have you been?

In the last post I touched on how some birds, despite being colour-ringed, can go long periods undetected.

Well, Suzanne got another example last weekend...

During another visit to Lurgan Park she photographed another colour-ringed Black-headed Gull 290P

Photo by Suzanne Belshaw

We knew from previous sightings that this was likely a bird from Lough Mask in Mayo, so she reported her sighting to Chris Benson and Eoin McGreal.

Chris replied, informing us that 290P had indeed been ringed at Lough Mask, as a chick back in June 2007. This was the first re-sighting of it in the 10 years since!

This is similar to one of Gary's sightings from last spring, when he spotted a different Lough Mask bird at Glynn, Larne Lough which had also been ringed in 2007 (see here). This too, was the first re-sighting.

Many thanks to Suzanne for her sightings and Chris for the ringing information.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Black-headed Gull - Blue 2F05

Suzanne recently photographed a Black-headed Gull with a blue colour-ring at Lurgan Park, Armagh.

Photo by Suzanne Belshaw

She reported her sighting to the BTO and heard back that it had been ringed as a first-winter in December 2012 at Preston Docks in Lancashire. 

Blue - Preston Docks, Lancashire
Yellow - Lurgan Park, Armagh

We don't know if the bird has been recorded between these sightings and although you might not think it, it's amazing how long some birds can go undetected....more to follow on this soon!

Monday, 13 March 2017

Black-headed Gull - Yellow 2BT3

David Nixon reported a sighting of 2BT3 at Mill Quarter Bay, Strangford Lough back in November 2016.

We heard back in January from Grampian Ringing Group that it had been ringed as an adult during a night-time mist-netting session on the Ythan Estuary in August 2016.

Yellow - Ythan, Aberdeenshire
Blue - Mill Quarter Bay, Down

Grampian Ringing Group have been colour-ringing Sandwich Terns at the Ythan since 2010 (see here) and we have had a number of their birds recorded in NI (see here and here).

As part of their study, they catch birds at night in mist nets and they sometimes catch other species which they also ring, including Black-headed Gulls. This is the second colour-ringed Black-headed Gull from Grampian we have reported from NI (see here).

Many thanks to David for his report and Calum for the life-history.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Black-headed Gull - White 2APK

Despite not blogging for a couple of months, recording of colour-ringed birds has been ongoing and we have a number of reports of birds ringed outside Northern Ireland recorded here since the start of January. 

I will try to get reports of them up on the blog over the next couple of weeks.

James O'Neill recorded 2APK at the lake in Castlewellan Forest Park back at the start of January. This is the same site where we recorded a Scottish-ringed bird in January 2013 (see here) and Lithuanian colour-ringed bird in December 2013 (see here). 

We reported this latest sighting to Tom Dougall in Scotland and he confirmed that 2APK had been ringed as a chick at a colony at Moorfoot Hills, Scottish Borders in June 2015. 

Red - Moorfoot Hills, ringing site
Blue - Castlewellan, re-sighting location

Tom reported that this was the first re-sighting of this bird away from the natal colony and one of the few sightings of the 2015 cohort, which was small in size and had a poor fledging success which was attributed to poor weather around the time of hatching.

This is not the first bird from Moorfoot Hills we've recorded in NI (see here).

2APT at Antrim, February 2015
Photo by Gary Platt

Many thanks to James for his report and to Tom for his reply.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

2ABT returns to breeding site

Many thanks to Stephen Foster for sending through this photo of 2ABT at Sandy Bay, Larne Lough. 

This bird was ringed by Kerry Leonard at Ballyholme in January 2013 and, thanks to the colour-ring, we have established it breeds at Larne Lough and returns to Ballyholme each winter.

Photo by Stephen Foster

Monday, 6 March 2017

Black-headed Gull - Green JZ20

Robin Vage got in touch last month with reports of large numbers of gulls at Corbet Lough, Co. Down.

This site normally has a small wintering flock of 20-30 birds, but numbers had swollen to a couple of thousand at the start of February and it seemed inevitable that something interesting was going to turn up.

As well as a returning Lesser Black-backed and a Mediterranean Gull, two birds with NI colour-rings were recorded. In addition, Robin recorded a Black-headed Gull with a green colour-ring and another with a white colour-ring.

Colour-ringed BHG at centre of shot
Photo by Robin Vage

Robin reported his sightings and heard back that the green ringed bird, JZ20, had been ringed as an adult female in April 2016 at Engervannet, Sandvika in Norway.

Green - Engervannet, Norway
Blue - Corbet, Co. Down

It was re-sighted nearby the following day, but this was the first report since.

Great work by Robin and many thanks to him for passing on the information.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

NI Seabird Report 2016 - Full report

Kerry Leonard, BTO NI Seabird Coordinator, has kindly sent me a link to the full report which is now available via the BTO website.

Full list of papers included in the report:

  • Breeding Seabirds in Northern Ireland in 2016 (Kerry Leonard)
  • The East Coast (Northern Ireland) Marine SPA (Neil McCulloch)
  • 2016 - Record Year for Larne Lough Islands (Matthew Tickner & Shane Wolsey)
  • Establishing a Puffin Colony on the Copeland Islands (Shane Wolsey & Wesley Smyth)
  • Lower Lough Erne Islands RSPB Nature Reserve Seabird Resport 2016 (Brad Robson)
  • Monitoring Gulls and Terns on Lough Neagh (Bob Davidson & Stephen Foster)

You can get a copy of the report by clinking HERE.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Northern Ireland Seabird Report 2016

Well, it has happened again....another unforeseen break from blogging! I've managed to get back earlier than last year and will post some updates soon.

In the meantime, I recently got my hands on a copy of the latest BTO Northern Ireland Seabird Report. The report contains some very useful articles, in particular I was very interested in a paper by Matthew Tickner and Shane Wolsey, "2016 is a Record Year for Larne Lough Islands".

The RSPB-managed Blue Circle Island in Larne Lough is one of our study colonies and I was delighted to read that BCI is now the largest individual Black-headed Gull colony in Ireland with 3,050 AON* in 2016. The total for Larne Lough as a whole was 3,201 AON.

One of our other study colonies, Lough Swilly, was also in the top 5 sites in Ireland (see below) and of course, the colony at WWT Castle Espie falls under Strangford Lough.

It is very interesting and useful for anyone with an interest in ecology and other papers include an overview of breeding seabirds in Northern Ireland in 2016; information on the new East Coast (NI) Marine SPA; establishing a Puffin colony on the Copelands; and updates on monitoring at Lower Lough Erne and Lough Neagh.

Well done to those involved in putting it together!

AON in 2016
Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland
5,798 (over 8 colonies)
Larne Lough, Antrim
Lady's Island, Wexford
Lough Swilly, Donegal
Strangford Lough, Down
Lower Lough Erne, Fermanagh

Cover of 2016 Northern Ireland Seabird Report featuring a fantastic Shag photo taken
by Ronald Surgenor.

*AON - Apparently Occupied Nests