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This post represents some of the latest news and sightings, but would be too extensive to list everything that I have done of late.  As you'll read through it, I have had a major setback, with my spreadsheet provider, and have recorded a real 'Cracker', Common Gull sighting.  To try and catch up, I have forgone most of this weekend, to write the post and get it published.

With the majority of my ringing for this summer, now out of the way, it's almost time to get back to some serious 'Ring Reading'.  It will not be too long now, until this years juveniles begin to be spotted around the country, and the foreign invasion begins as well.

Jim Wells, is about to organise another boat trip to Ailsa Craig, in Scotland, where I hope to read a few more rings, including that fairly old Common Gull, that I recorded last July.  I know, the Clyde Ringing Group, lays claim to the ringing rights on the island, but I'm going to take a couple of my rings along, just in case I fall in with the chicks of the Common Gull.

From the beginning of August, my blog should return to a weekly update, so plenty to look forwards too.  I'm dying to get started, recording this winter's ringed birds.  Surely, another 'Gem' or two, like the bird written about in this post, will turn up.  Oh, the joys of 'Ring Reading', you just can't beat the challenge ahead.

      2019 Common Gull Ringing       
I began my own project of 'colour-ringing' Common Gull chicks in 2017, with Rathlin Island, in County Antrim, being my main ringing site.  Back in early May, of 2019, I checked out the colonies on Rathlin, which are spread thinly along the east coast, between the East Lighthouse and the Rue Point Lighthouse.  I noticed, that the number of breeding pairs, were reduced at some sub-sites, and this, coupled with the fairly wet summer that we have experienced, led me to believe, that the ringing totals would not be good this year.

During five visits in the second half of June, I surpassed my expectations, as a total of 82 chicks were ringed - 76 with 'colour-rings', and 6 with 'metals' only.  The number of chicks ringed at the main sub-site, at Rue Point, was well down compared to the previous two summers, whilst the Roonivoolin colony, had just three chicks, one of which hid so well, I could not find it to be ringed.  The two very close colonies at Arkill Bay, produced the greatest number of chicks, despite having a pair of nesting Great Black-backed Gulls nesting in the vicinity.

Last year, I ringed 69 chicks on Rathlin - 53 with 'colour-rings', and 16 with 'metals' only.  A further two Common Gull chicks, were ringed this summer at Waterfoot, and though there were chicks at the Ballintoy colony, these were on rocky islets, cut off by the sea.

According to the 2018 Rathlin Bird Report, Liam McFaul, recorded 62 pairs of Common Gulls nesting on the Rathlin coastline, though I have continually estimated that 80 to 100+ pairs are nesting.  Either way, I was well satisfied with this summer's total, especially as the coastline here has an extensive rocky shoreline, where many chicks still went undetected.

During the summer, 10 of the 36 'colour-ringed' Common Gulls, that were ringed as chicks on Rathlin, in 2017, have been recorded back on the island.  There's no doubt, these birds are 'prospecting', as they should integrate into the breeding population in 2020.  I have stated before, that roughly two thirds of chicks, would not survive through their first winter.  The 10 birds that have been recorded back so far, are nearly a third of that overall total of 36, and these have now survived through two winters.

As for the 53 'colour-ringed' chicks that were ringed last summer (2018), on Rathlin, just one appeared this summer.  I fully expect, that at least 15 of these 2018 rung chicks, will arrive back during the summer of 2020, to begin the process of prospecting the island, and then breed in 2021.

Over the following few years, as these 'colour-ringed' birds enter the breeding population, it will be interesting to follow their fortunes.  What I really need now, is more winter sightings, to see just where many of the Rathlin birds go to.

At the beginning of the summer, I handed Richard Donaghey, a box of 'colour-rings', and asked if he could get them to the Copeland Bird Observatory, to be used on Common Gulls there.  Richard, contacted me recently, to say two chicks were 'colour-ringed' on the island, with details to follow.  I am assuming these were ringed on Lighthouse Island, where the Observatory itself is sited.

The main breeding colonies of Common Gulls, on the Copeland Islands, are situated on Big Copeland Island.  There is no direct, or regular access to this island, but I would dearly love to make a few visits there each summer.  I reckon that there are quite a number of 'colour-ringed' Common Gulls, from Shane's former project, nesting on the island.  Scoping these birds, I'd probably find a number that have still gone un-recorded since being ringed.

Should any of my readers, know of a way, or someone willing to take me out to Big Copeland, I'd be much obliged.  With several hundred pairs nesting, there would also be the opportunity to 'colour-ring' more chicks, as well.


      Spreadsheet Problems       
As my regular readers will be aware, I often refer to my spreadsheet, having spotted a certain ring or trying to make a possible match of a partial number - hoping to narrow the number down to a particular ring series.

However, just recently, the spreadsheet program which I have used for several years now, had an automatic update to the 2019 version.  To my horror, many of the hyperlinks, especially to PDF Files, no longer work.  I waited for a few weeks, to see if the problem would be resolved by the provider, but it still exists.

With over 7,500 entries on the spreadsheet, I have now decided to copy all of the data, across to the Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet Program.  This is going to be a mammoth task, not only by re-writing all of the ring-data, but all hyperlinks to PDF's & BTO Recoveries, will have to be edited, copied, and re-entered onto the Excel Spreadsheet.  The other links to photos and blog entries, will have to be added at a later date, once all the existing data is copied across.

Having amounted so much info, since becoming a 'Ring Reader', I'd be lost without a fully functioning spreadsheet.  At the moment, all new ringing data - new sightings and re-sightings, are being entered directly onto Excel.  In the case of re-sightings, all previous data from the old spreadsheet is copied over at the same time, in order to keep all of the records together.  With the winter fast approaching, I really need to copy over as much as I can - come the winter, comes many more sightings and re-sightings, and a lot more work.  A real 'pain in the neck', but it has to be done.


      From Suzanne Belshaw       
Suzanne Belshaw, has been in touch again, concerning the sighting of two 'metal-ringed' Common Gulls, which she recorded beside Ballyholme Yacht Club, on the north coast of County Down.

I always find it to be a great 'buzz', when completing the numbers on 'metal-rings', so I was dead chuffed at Suzanne's birds.  I've stated before, that we have an army of birdwatchers in Northern Ireland, but many seem to miss colour-ringed birds, never mind in succeeding to record metals.  Suzanne, has successfully completed 'metals' on several birds, the best, being the Russian juvenile Black-headed Gull, which she recorded at Lurgan Park, last January.

The two latest 'metals', were from the ' EG ' series, which immediately told me, that they were fairly old birds.  Suzanne, managed to complete the number for one bird -   EG55781 , but alas, only had a 'partial', on the other -   EG5**88 .  I was able to check the BTO's Demon Ringing Database, for the ringing details of   EG55781 , which provided me with the date and age of the bird at ringing, but not the ringing site.

So as not to spoil the date of ringing, for Suzanne, I kept it to myself, so that she could enjoy receiving the details from the BTO.  The bird was ringed as a chick, on the 10th June 2006, and I suspected that it was ringed on the nearby Copeland Islands.  This was confirmed by Suzanne, when she supplied me with the link, to the BTO recovery.  The duration at the time of Suzanne's sighting, was 13 years and 19 days, and it was also the first re-sighting since being ringed.

A good record, and it's just a pity, that the second gull slipped through the 'net', but should be of similar age.  Again, my thanks to Suzanne, for sharing her sightings.

Common Gull  -    EG55781   -  Ballyholme, Co. Down (29 Jun 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 10th June 2006, on Big Copeland Island, The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)
(Pre Edited Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Common Gull  -    EG5**88   -  Ballyholme, Co. Down  (29 Jun 2019)
(Pre Edited Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)


      Antrim Town       
A couple of visits have been made to Antrim Marina, in order to record 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.  Unfortunately, very few gulls have even appeared, never mind the birds I was hoping to record.

I was also hoping to re-sight a 'colour-ringed' Common Gull, which over the past three summer's, appeared in the months of June and July.  A bird from Shane Wolsey's former project on the Copeland Islands, it has not been seen so far.

Also, over past years, many juvenile Black-headed Gulls, would have been present at the Marina, having been raised on the nearby 'Torpedo Platform'.  So far on my recent visits, just one youngster appeared, and even this one, just conducted a 'fly by'.

The continuing construction work on the new cafe, seems to be having a detrimental effect on the number of gulls appearing.  The cafe is nearing completion, and is scheduled to be opened next month - August.  A major problem for me, when trying to read rings, is the fact that many gulls when they do appear, are settling onto the flat roof of the cafe, therefore their legs are hidden.

I am due to begin my seventh winter of weekly visits to record the ringed gulls here, but with what I've seen lately, I am not looking forwards to the task.  Another point of interest, was the large 'green', behind the existing cafe.  Upon completion of the breeding season, many adult Black-headed Gulls, would rest there, as they went into their full moult, but a new play park for children, was built on the site, which has forced the gulls to go elsewhere.

During my most recent visit to the Marina (7th July), only three 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls were recorded.  No more than thirty-ish, birds were present at one time, and four un-ringed Common Gulls, also put in an appearance.  Over recent weeks, not a single Mute Swan, was recorded, but today, a pair with five cygnets arrived in.  The female was un-ringed, but I was unable to see the legs on the male.   

Black-headed Gull  -    2BRA   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (07 Jul 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 1st February 2015, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CJT   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (07 Jul 2019)
(Ringed as a First Winter Bird, on the 4th December 2016, at Antrim Marina)

Black-headed Gull  -    2CSJ   -  Antrim Marina, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (07 Jul 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed 2nd Winter Bird, on the 17th December 2017, at Antrim Marina)

Tesco Warehouse, Kilbegs Industrial Estate, Antrim Town
On my way to Antrim Marina, on the 7th July, I stopped by the Tesco Warehouse, at the Kilbegs Industrial Estate, situated on the outskirts of Antrim Town.  The first thing I did, was to scope the roof from the main road.  Over the previous three summers, I have recorded a mixed pair of Mediterranean x Common Gull, nesting here.  This summer a nest was built on the exact same spot, as in the previous years, but this time involved a pair of Common Gulls.  I was hopeful the Med would be there somewhere, but there is still no sign of it.

Driving round to the employee car park, I was also hoping to re-sight a 'metal-ringed' Common Gull, which I recorded on the roof of the warehouse last year.  On that occasion, I was only able to record a partial number -   ES66*** .  I reckoned, with my new Nikon P1000, the number would easily be completed this time, should that same gull was on site.

No sooner, had I parked my car and began scanning the small Common Gull colony, when a Tesco Security Guard, walked over and asked me to leave the site.  I explained that I was there in a 'Ring Reading' capacity, and that last year, security allowed me to view the gulls unheeded.  The guard explained that there had been issues, and birdwatchers were now unwelcome around the area.

I knew exactly what the issue was about, which has led to this situation.  Once the gulls arrived back to begin this summer's breeding season, Tesco employed a 'Falconer', to try and prevent the birds from nesting on the roof of the Warehouse.  I've no idea, whether a licence was applied for, but there are 'Schedual One' species, such as the Mediterranean Gulls and 'Amber Listed' Black-headed Gulls nesting on the roof.  I have also recorded Common Terns nesting here in the past, these preferring to nest along side the BHGs.

Whether Tesco, has been approached by the authorities or not, I know nothing about, but the gulls have created a 'thorny' problem.  I can understand to a certain degree, where they are coming from, as a colony of 100+ pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, nest on these rooftops, and along with the other nesting species, and there would be a great problem with 'fouling'.  Last year, the security guard told me about the mess, the employees had to put up with, returning to their cars, covered in poo.

With Tesco, now preventing birdwatchers from approaching the site, makes me think, they have taken the 'hump'.  It is a pity, that they've taken this view, but where birds nest, you'll always have birdwatchers about, to record breeding numbers, etc.  This is 'part and parcel', of what we do.  The only way that Tesco, should solve their problems, is to net the entire roof, outside of the breeding season.  Birds and their eggs are protected by law, and at the end of the day, falcons will have little effect when it comes down to the larger gulls attempting to nest.  


      Poisoned Peregrine Chicks       
As well as being busy ringing gull chicks over recent weeks, I've also been out and about checking some raptor nest sites.  At one particular Peregrine Falcon site, I discovered two fully feathered chicks lying dead in the nest.  As both youngsters were lying with their legs behind them, I reckoned that they had died of poisoning, and were not victims of a shooting.

I reported my find to the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group, who in turn contacted the Police.  The two chicks were removed from the nest by the Police Mountain Rescue Team, and at present, we are waiting to hear the results of x-rays and toxicology tests.

Its such a shame, that the two chicks were dead, but at least both the adults, were alive and well.  I reckon, a bird baited with poison, was tethered, for the falcons to find it.  With the chicks being so large, the prey may have been flown in directly to them, to work on it themselves.  It takes longer to replace an adult, as Peregrine chicks takes a couple of years to mature.  At least for now, the adult pair are healthy and will try again next year.

Dead Peregrine Falcon Chicks  -  Site Confidential  (23 Jun 2019)

A Buzzard nest in trees quite close to the Peregrine nest site, escaped the possible poisoning episode, as both adults and at least one chick, appeared to be doing fine.

Buzzard Nest With at Least One Chick, Close to the Peregrine Nest Site  (23 Jun 2019)


      Castle Espie & Millisle       
Over the last couple of weeks, I have re-visited Castle Espie for Black-headed Gull on one occasion, and have been to Millisle twice in search of Common Gulls.  Firstly, I have to report on 'Another Gem' - this being a 'metal-rung' Common Gull at Millisle.  Metals, are difficult to read at the best of times, but at Millisle, I always have the problem of 'passers by', frightening the gulls away, as I'm trying to photograph the metal rings.

Using my car as a 'hide', I'd throw out bits of bread to lure the gulls towards me.  Any 'colour-ringed' birds, are normally quickly sorted with a photo or two.  'Metal-rings', often require numerous photos, to try and capture the full ring number.

On the 7th July, I had the good fortune, of five 'metal-rung' Common Gulls, and the misfortune of trying to photograph their rings, barring one particular bird.  Every time, I focused my attention onto one gull, somebody would pass by, and the bird was gone.  This went on time after time, to my frustration.  One Common Gull, which stood it's ground on the beach, close to the waters edge, did stay put long enough, even though the others flew off.

Was, what happened next, a little bit of fate?  I began to photograph the 'metal', and saw the letters '  ER '.  I immediately knew that I might have something special here, as I've never recorded an '  ER ' ring on any species before on an 'E' sized ring.  Now matter how close, both people and even a couple of dogs, got to the gull, it stayed put!!

I couldn't believe my luck, and many, many, photos later, I checked to see what I had.  To my delight, I had captured the full number -   ER33481 .  On returning home, I entered the number onto the BTO's DemOn Ringing Database, and nearly had a 'heart attack'.  My bird, was ringed as an adult, on the 20th June 1992.  When the recovery details arrived from the BTO, it had been ringed on the nearby Copeland Islands.

I made a check on the dates, using the online 'Date..
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At present, my blog is being somewhat neglected.  This is a busy time of the year for me, as whenever possible, I'm out checking raptor nests, and ringing seabird chicks.  More about these in my next post, but the highlight of recent activities, was to re-visit the two eagle nests in Scotland.

      Saturday 15th June 2019       
Today I did both, a bit of 'Ring Reading' and checked on a couple of Peregrine Falcon nests.  First stop, was at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve in Belfast, before making my way up the County Antrim coast, to finish the afternoon at Carnlough Bay.

At the WoW Reserve, I had hoped to record some of Adam McClure's Black-headed Gulls, with the 'Orange Darvics' and have another go at completing the 'metal number' on a Mediterranean Gull.  Since my previous visit, the Tern nesting platform has been floated out into position, this being located at a totally ridiculous area of the lagoon, where viewing is practically a non starter.

Last summer, three Tern platforms were put out, two of which gave reasonably good views of these birds nesting.  This year, I think the management has been poorly thought out.  The single extended platform, was in my opinion, far too late, in being positioned.  

Another bit of poor planning, was the siting of the new nestboxes, on the ground at the far side of the lagoon.  With all of the rain that we have experienced over the past number of weeks, some of the nestboxes were clearly flooded, which would have resulted in some clutches of eggs being lost.  I reckon the RSPB, will have to totally rethink their plans for next year.

As for the two main nesting platforms, which were initially intended for the Terns, they are always hijacked each year by the earlier nesting Black-headed Gulls.  Today, both platforms were crowded by fully feathered BHG chicks, plus there were plenty of fledged youngsters either dotted around the shoreline, or floating on the lagoon itself.  Both platforms, are also heavily overgrown with vegetation, thus making 'Ring Reading' near impossible.

Of the five pairs of Med Gulls which nested on platform 2, the earliest breeding pair have gone.  When I last saw them, they had a single quite well feathered chick, which I would assume did fledge successfully.  Just the one Med Gull chick was seen during my visit belonging to a pair which nested close to the pair mentioned above.

The French 'colour-ringed' Med Gull is still present, courtesy of a recent email from James McDowell & Hill Dick, but it is nesting at the far back of the platform, and is totally hidden by vegetation.  The other two pairs of Med Gulls, though nesting towards the front of the platform, are still present but are also near totally hidden by plant growth.  This would include the 'metal-rung' bird, who's complete number, has yet to be completed.

Having come up blank at platform 2, I then went to the visitor centre to view platform 1.  Again, the platform was covered in tall vegetation, therefore many legs were hidden from view.  This platform was also heavily populated with fully feathered Black-headed Gull chicks.

On the grass in front of the visitor centre, a Tern was sitting on a nest in the middle of a small circle of stones.  Earlier in the summer (20th April), a 'metal-rung' Black-headed Gull -   EZ33143 , had built a nest on this very same spot.  This gull, which was ringed as a chick, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, was not even two years old, therefore it went through the motions of breeding, but disappeared soon afterwards.

Watching this nesting Tern, it's partner arrived and this bird was fitted with a 'metal-ring'.  I thought great, as they were near enough, that I might be able to catch the number with my camera.  To my amusement, when the pair swapped over nest duties, it turned out that both birds are ringed with 'metals'.  The birds can be individually identified, as one has a darker tip to it's beak, so the challenge at some point, is to try and capture the number for both birds.  This should be easier, once the eggs hatch.

Common Tern on it's Nest  -  RSPB WoW Reserve, Belfast  (15 Jun 2019)

A 'metal-rung' Black-headed Gull landed briefly in front of me.  I'm glad I zoomed in for the 'metal' before taking a photo of the bird itself, as it took off and was not seen again.  At home, I checked the partial number -   EZ281** , against my spreadsheet, to find I had a match to the ring series.  On the 18th December 2017, I recorded   EZ28165 , a bird which was ringed as a chick, in June 2015, in Flintshire, Wales.  Without the full number of today's sighting, it could possibly be that very same gull, or perhaps another one from Wales.  The December sighting, was at the former Belfast Waterworks.

Black-headed Gull  -    EZ281**   -  RSPB WoW Reserve, Belfast  (15 Jun 2019)

On leaving the RSPB WoW Reserve, I checked several small flocks of gulls on the coast for rings without joy.  Once I reached the small town of Whitehead, I checked out the Peregrine site at the Blagh Hole, which is probably Northern Irelands best known pair.  On my last visit here, the female was sitting on eggs.  Today, three fledged chicks were seen together at the cliff top.  The site is well watched by folk out for a stroll, passing by the nest-site on a constant basis.

Three Fledged Peregrine Falcon Chicks  (15 Jun 2019)

The second Peregrine site that I called by, was the same one that was featured in my previous post.  Having sent Jim Wells photos, showing the location of the nest ledge, he visited the site four days later (12th June), and eventually made a head count of three very large youngsters.

I spent a good hour here today, but there was very little activity on the ledge, with just two chicks being counted.  It was getting so late in the day, the young were probably well fed and just lazing about.  The photo shows a chick on the left which was stretching, hence the fanned tail, with the second bird immediately beside it, to the right.  All three should take flight at some point over the next few days.

Two of Three Peregrine Chicks Which Were Visible  (15 Jun 2019)

Continuing to check small flocks of gulls for rings, I reached Glenarm Harbour, where my focus changed to Black Guillemots.  In the past, I have recorded a 'colour-ringed' bird here, but failed to re-sight it last summer, having recorded it, during the three previous summers.

There was not a lot of activity among the Guillemots, where many pairs nest in holes in the harbour wall.  There will still be plenty of time to check these birds, as they should have small chicks, and July will be time enough to have another go, to see if I can re-sight -   FT .

Finishing off the afternoon at Carnlough Bay, there was a good gathering of Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls.  Scoping through these, I finally got my first confirmed ring sighting of the day.  This belonged to an immature Great Black-backed Gull, and I immediately recognised the code -   X:065 .  My first sighting of this bird, was made earlier this year (17th March 2019), at Glynn, on Larne Lough, which is a few miles south from Carnlough.

Ringed as a chick, in June 2017, in the Isle of May, Scotland, it's only other sighting prior to those I made, came way back in November 2017.  On the 15th November, David Nixon, spotted the bird at Millquarter Bay, in County Down.  The distance from the Isle of May (Rona), to Carnlough, is 253 kms / 157 miles (WSW).

Great Black-backed Gull  -    X:065   -  Carnlough Beach, Co. Antrim  (15 Jun 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 13th June 2017, on the Isle of May, Fife, Scotland)


      Rathlin Island - 16th and 18th June 2019       
This week saw the start of several visits to Rathlin Island, to 'ring' or 'colour-ring' Common Gull chicks, for my own project, which began in the summer of 2017.  My aim is to 'colour-ring' chicks in County Antrim, with the main emphasis being placed on the small breeding population on Rathlin.

Prior to the start of my project, 4 Common Gull chicks were 'metal' rung in 2016 - 2 on Rathlin and 2 at Waterfoot.  In 2017, 36 chicks were 'colour-ringed' on Rathlin, plus 2 more at Waterfoot.  In addition to these, 4 chicks on Rathlin, were ringed with 'metals' only.

Last year - 2018, 53 chicks were 'colour-ringed' on Rathlin, plus 1 at Ballintoy, and 1 at Waterfoot.  On Rathlin, a further 16 chicks, were ringed with 'metals' only.

With the addition of a couple of first re-sightings on my recent visits to Rathlin Island, a total of 10, of the 2017 'colour-ringed' gulls have been recorded back on Rathlin this summer.  This total comes near to a third of the 'colour-ringed' birds that were ringed in 2017, a total which I guess would be the survival rate of youngsters, getting through their first winter alive.  I reckon this is a good 'omen', as there will be others from the 2017 cohort, which are still to make an appearance.

Just one of the 53 'colour-ringed' youngsters from 2018, on Rathlin, has been spotted so far, but this is not unexpected.  At present, I think many of the 2017 rung birds are just prospecting, as they are approaching breeding age now.  Next summer, will see these birds nesting for the first time, whilst the 2018 youngsters will return to prospect future nesting areas.

Looking further ahead, it will be great to record these gulls integrating into the breeding population for years to come.  What I need now, are winter sightings, to learn where our Rathlin birds go to.  Somewhere at present, there are as many as 18 surving immatures from 2018, dotted around our coasts somewhere, just waiting for someone to spot them.

So far this season is looking very bleak for the Common Gulls.  Back in early May, I visited the island, to access the breeding population, and noted a decrease in the number of pairs, in all of the colonies, perhaps excepting Ushet Lough.

My visits on the 16th & 18th June, saw very few chicks being 'colour-ringed'.  On the 16th, just 7 chicks were large enough to take a 'colour-ring', whilst 3 others were ringed with 'metals' only.  Nothing was ringed on Ushet Lough or Roonivoolin.  However, the small island on Ushet, did have 4 chicks, 2 of which were nearly fully feathered.

On the 18th, 3 were 'colour-ringed' at Doon Bay, and a further 8 were 'colour-ringed' at Rue Point.  At Rue Point, another 2 chicks, were ringed with 'metals' only.

At all sites, there were a small number of chicks, that were too young to be rung at all, and hopefully they will survive until my next visits on the 24th & 26th June.  A handful of nests were found containing eggs, but I think for these to get as far as fledging may seem unlikely as it is beginning to get so late into the season.  Overall, I reckon the weather has played a big part in this less than saticfactory season.  The amount of rain that we have had over several weeks, has no doubt killed many of the chicks.

As well as looking for chicks to ring, I scanned all the gulls for 'colour-rings'.  On the 16th, I recorded the first re-sighting of   2AVT , at Arkill Bay, and then spotted the same bird on the 17th, this time at Rue Point.  No doubt, this gull is checking out the island.

Common Gull  -    2AVT   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island  (18 Jun 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th June 2017, at Rue Point)

Another first re-sighting, among the five 'colour-ringed' gulls that I recorded on the 18th, was   2ATV .  It was at Rue Point, no doubt prospecting for next year.

Common Gull  -    2ATV   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island  (18 Jun 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th June 2017, at Rue Point)

The next two gulls, were   2AJT   &   2APT , which had already been recorded more than once by Richard Else, who is working with the RSPB, on the island.  These were my first sightings, since I ringed them as chicks, and all sightings were made at Rue Point.

Common Gull  -    2AJT   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island  (18 Jun 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th June 2017, at Rue Point)

Common Gull  -    2APT   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island  (18 Jun 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th June 2017, at Rue Point)

I spotted   2BAJ , at Doon Bay.  This was the bird, whose photo appeared on the NIBA website, and I had to track down the photographer, and where the photo had been taken.  The photographer was Kevin Kirkham-Brown, and the site was Ushet Lough, situated just over the cliff-top, from where I saw the gull today.  Just great to know, I had these birds in my hands as chicks.

Common Gull  -    2BAJ   -  Doon Bay, Rathlin Island  (18 Jun 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Rue Point, Rathlin Island)

Common Gull Nest with Eggs  -  Ushet Lough, Rathlin Island  (16 Jun 2019)

Common Gull Nest with Chicks  -  Ushet Lough, Rathlin Island  (16 Jun 2019)

Black-headed Gulls
This summer, Black-headed Gulls have nested on Ushet Lough and at Rue Point.  This seemingly follows the collapse of the only known breeding colony at Kebble Lough, situated at the far western end of Rathlin Island.  Richard Else, cannot find the cause of the collapse, but there's no doubting that some of these birds have now re-located.

At both sites, there are nests containing either one or two eggs, and at Ushet Lough, four newly hatched chicks were also seen.  Empty nests, were also present at both sites.  If the birds are about to lay eggs, I do not have much hope in their survival, being so late into the season.  Even those that have eggs and chicks now, will do well if they can raise young to the fledging stage.

Black-headed Gull Nest and Eggs  -  Ushet Lough, Rathlin Island  (16th June 2019)

Great Black-backed Gull
On a reconnaissance visit to Rathlin in early May, to determine the number of nesting gulls, I located the nest of the Great Black-backed Gulls, on the headland, at the northern end of Doon Bay.  No Great Black-backed's were seen at Arkill Bay, although I suspected they were nesting, but the nest would have been out of sight.  On that particular visit, colonies were viewed from a distance, to try and keep disturbance to a minimum.

On Sunday 16th June, I located a single chick at Arkill Bay, which was just about old enough to take a ring.  No such problem, during my visit to Doon Bay, on Tuesday 18th.  Here, I found three larger youngsters, which were all ringed.  As they were a bit 'flighty', I placed all three onto their backs, while I made my departure.  Being on a headland, I did not want them running off, and possibly falling over the edge.  Placing them onto their backs together, helps to keep them calm.  Eventually, they will sort themselves out, by which time, I'm long gone.

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Another lengthy post, but it has took a while to gather enough info for it.  The weather over the last couple of weeks, has not been great, preventing me from going out when I had some free time.

The publication of this post, could not have come at a better time, as I'll be busy over the next couple of weeks, ringing gull chicks and hopefully some raptor chicks.  Over the next few months, ringed chicks will start to disperse, and it will not be long before the first re-sightings begin to trickle in.  With autumn coming, the earliest of the Continental birds will start arriving back for another winter, where the serious business of 'Ring Reading' will start once again.  Plenty to do, and plenty to look forwards to.

      Saturday 1st June 2019       
I did not have a lot of available time free for birdwatching today, but on a 'whim', I decided to make the long drive from Ballymena, to Millisle, with Common Gulls being the target species.  The trip down was well worth the effort, as I recorded two 'colour-ringed' gulls, which I last saw nearly a year ago, plus, I recorded a third 'colour-ringed' Common Gull, which was a new sighting for me.

A further four Common Gulls were present, which bore 'metal' rings, but due to the amount of disturbance by passers by, I had no hope of reading their ring numbers.  I still find it bewildering, that folk see you taking photos, but still persist in walking between me and the birds.  Did these people really get their lack of intelligence, out of a 'Lucky Bag'!!

My new sighting -   2AHX , was ringed as a chick, by Shane Wolsey, on the 23rd June 2012, on the nearby Copeland Islands.  The only previous sighting before today, was made by Jennifer Lynch, on the 13th October 2015.  Jen, recorded   2AHX , at Omeath, in County Louth, situated on the southern side of Carlingford Lough, which separates Northern Ireland, from the Republic of Ireland, a distance of around 80 kms / 49 miles (SW), from Big Copeland Island.

  2AHX , is another example, of birds from Shane Wolsey's former study, that are alive and well, and not being spotted by birdwatchers either in the north or south of Ireland.  I was well pleased with this sighting, which just so happened, solved another matter.

Common Gull  -    2AHX   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (01 Jun 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 23rd June 2012, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

As well as spotting a Common Gull, which was new to me, I unwittingly solved a bit of a problem in the process.  Having received all of the ringing data, from Shane's former project, the 'colour-ring' -   2AHX , had been assigned to two different 'metal' numbers -   EX38531   &   EX38548 , but at the time of today's sighting, I did not know, that the problematic 'metal', belonged to this particular gull.

On checking my spreadsheet, I realised, that this was the very bird in question, so I began checking through all of the photos that I took of   2AXH .  Although the 'metal' ring carried a bit of dirt, the all important final three digits were clearly seen to be -   ****531 .

This now raises another problem, was   EX38548 , issued with a different 'Blue Darvic', or was it ringed with a 'metal' only.  Wouldn't it be great to solve this one as well!!  Having trawled through Shane's ringing records,   2AHX , was not the only 'colour-ring', which was assigned to two different 'metal' numbers. 

Metal Ring Showing -   ****531 

Common Gulls,   2ABF   &   2ANA , were last recorded nearly a year ago, when I spotted both birds at Millisle, on the 29th June 2018.    2ABF , is of unknown age, as it was caught and ringed as a breeding adult in 2010, whilst   2ANA , was ringed as a chick, in 2014.  Sightings of both birds are few, and have occurred during the summer months.

Unlike many of the 'colour-rings' in use, the codes for both birds are still quite legible, and it would be great to receive winter sightings.  I would hazard a guess, that both birds winter somewhere in the Republic of Ireland.

The re-sighting histories for both   2ABF   &   2ANA , can be read here (2ABF) and here (2ANA).

Common Gull  -    2ABF   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (01 Jun 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 14th May 2010, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

Common Gull  -    2ANA   -  Millisle, Co. Down  (01 Jun 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 27th June 2014, on the Copeland Islands, Co. Down)


      From Richard Else       
Staying on the subject of Common Gulls, another one of my chicks that was ringed in 2017, has now been spotted back home, on Rathlin Island.  On the 4th June 2019, Richard Else, spotted   2APC  , at Rue Point, situated on the southern end of the island.    2APC , was ringed on the 17th June 2017, in this same spot, and Ric's sighting was a first for the gull.

Despite, Ric, stating that he was fairly sure of the code, I know he is a very competent birdwatcher, so I have excepted his sighting.    2APC , is another example, of an immature having survived two winters, without being spotted anywhere.  Out there, at the minute, are many 2018 rung chicks, which are going unrecorded.  During the summer months, many small groups of immatures, will be gathered together around the coast of Ireland, just 'begging' to be spotted by someone.

As well as   2APC   (PDF), Richard, also supplied updates for   2AJT   (PDF) and   2APT   (PDF), which also returned to Rathlin Island, this summer.  My thanks goes to Ric, for his latest sightings.

As I write this, it is almost time for me to visit Rathlin, to begin ringing this year's crop of youngsters.  On an exploratory visit a few weeks ago, I reckoned that the number of breeding Common Gulls, was lower this summer.  As most of May, and the beginning of June, has been largely wet and windy, at present, I do not have high hopes for a great number of chicks, being available to ring.


      Awful Weather       
As I've just mentioned, the weather over this past month has been quite awful, with plenty of rain and a couple of storms, having passed through Northern Ireland.  In my available free time, I had hoped to carry out some Raptor Surveying, but this has practically been a non starter due to the poor conditions.

My local pair of Peregrine Falcons are not breeding this year, as there is only a single bird on the site - a female.  On receiving an email from Jim Wells, I recently checked out another site on the County Antrim coast, where Jim had failed to locate the Peregrines there.

All was ok, as not only did I locate the female, but I also found the nest ledge, which was white with droppings.  I set up my telescope, hoping to see the chicks moving, so as I could obtain a head count.  Eventually, the inevitable happened - heavy rain began to fall.  With no sign of it abating, I ended up leaving, but will have another go soon.

The photos below, shows the nest cliff, with the nest ledge 'arrowed' on the left and the female resting on another ledge to the right.  This photo was taken partially zoomed in from the road, and the following two photos were taken fully zoomed in to the nest ledge and the female.  Hopefully, I can obtain a count on my next visit, someday next week.

Peregrine nest cliff - Red Arrows Pointing to the Nest on the Left, and the Female on the Right

Zoomed into the Nest-Ledge

Zoomed into the Female

Talking of Raptors, Jim has 'penned' in a return date to the islands of Islay & Jura, in Scotland.  On the trip organised on the 22nd May, we visited a Sea Eagle nest on Jura, which had at least one chick and then stopped by a Golden Eagle nest on Islay, which may, or may not have had chicks.  We will return on Wednesday 26th June, where we hope to record the exact number of chicks in both nests.  Everyone from the earlier trip, has been invited back, so this will be something to look forwards to, by all. 


      Inch Island, County Donegal       
On Tuesday morning, 4th June, I made my way to Inch Island, in County Donegal.  I had been invited, by Ken Perry, of the Causeway Coast Ringing Group, to come along to ring Black-headed Gull chicks, whilst the others concentrated on ringing the chicks of Sandwich Terns.

Ken Perry, Richard Donaghey and James McDowell, as well as myself, formed the ringing party.  Lee McDaid, and Martin Burke, Rangers from the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service, were our hosts, supplying the boat, so we could get onto the island.

One hour was permitted for the visit, as many of the gulls and terns, were still on eggs or small chicks, therefore, we could not let these chill.  Our visit, for a change, was undertaken in calm, sunny conditions, which by the time of our departure, had begun to cloud over, with rain expected in the afternoon.

I worked away on my own, ringing Black-headed Gull chicks, being selective, and choosing only the largest, which were big enough for a 'colour-ring'.  I could have ringed loads with just 'metals', but these have a very poor return.  By the end of the hour, I had only managed to 'colour-ring', 28 chicks.  I used up the last of Adam McClure's 'Orange Darvics', that I was holding, and then began to use the 'Blue Darvics', that I had transferred from use on Common Gulls, these being from the   2F**   series.  Hopefully, we'll get a better return on these 'Blue Darvics', than we did with the previous rings used here in 2016.

Ken Perry, who has ringed Sandwich Tern chicks here for over thirty years, today, along with Richard and James, managed to ring 193 youngsters.  For the first time ever at this site, some of the Sandwich Tern chicks, were being ringed with 'colour-rings'.  However, only 8 chicks received a 'colour-ring', and no doubt, many were too small for one to be fitted.

A return visit is planned for the week beginning on Monday 17th June, where lots of the youngsters should be big enough to be either 'colour-ringed', or just 'metal-rung'.

My thanks goes to Ken, for the invite, and also to Lee & Martin, for providing an excellent service.


      Saturday 9th June 2019       
Today, saw the latest visit to the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, where I have been searching for nesting Black-headed Gulls, bearing 'Orange Darvics' from Adam McClure's project.  After Castle Espie, I visited Swan Island, at Strangford village, and then planned for a high tide visit to Millisle, in search of 'ringed' Common Gulls.  Having got to Strangford earlier than expected, I continued down the western side of Strangford Lough.

Situated near Castle Espie, I made my first ever visit to Reagh and Mahee Islands, both attached to the mainland, by a car carrying causeway.  I was curious to see what these areas would offer in terms of sighting wintering birds.  As the tide was out, the mudflats on view seemed to be very promising and will be worth a check next winter, especially on a receding tide.

With time still available before high tide, I continued down to Millquarter Bay and Ardglass Harbour.  After Ardglass, I made the long drive back around Strangford Lough, where I finished off the afternoon at Millisle.

Castle Espie Wetland Centre
Black-headed Gull numbers at Castle Espie, have gone from 'bad, to worse'.  Nesting numbers have decreased from last summer, and many of what I had guessed, was a large number of non breeding gulls have now gone.  After a prolonged visit, only two 'colour-ringed' gulls were spotted, plus another two Black-headed Gulls, bearing 'metals' only.

Many gulls are still sitting on eggs or small chicks, with very few larger youngsters having been recorded, which bears a resemblance to last weeks visit to Inch Island, in County Donegal.  Although, I have not re-visited the RSPB's WoW Reserve, in Belfast of late, I know the gulls there are around three weeks in advance with their breeding season.

Last summer, I recorded loads of 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, so where have they gone?  The first of the two 'colour-ringed' birds to be spotted, was my second sighting this summer of   2ASA .  Having spotted   2ASA , during my previous visit, on the 25th May, the gull did not appear to be breeding.  Today, it was in full courtship display, and a short time later, began sitting on an empty nest.  More, can be read about   2ASA , in my previous post (here).

Black-headed Gull  -    2ASA   -  The Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (09 Jun 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2013, on Mew Island, The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

The second 'colour-ringed' bird, was my fourth sighting this summer of   2CAN , which I can confirm, is definitely breeding.  Again, more can be read about   2CAN , in my previous post (here).

Black-headed Gull  -    2CAN   -  The Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (09 Jun 2019)
(Ringed as an Unfledged Juvenile, on the 24th June 2016, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre)

A Black-headed Gull with a 'metal-ring' turned out to be a new sighting.  It stayed perched on a fence long enough, that I took many photos of it's upside-down ring, which immediately led me to believe, that this was a Copeland bird.

On returning home, having successfully captured the number -   EX97267 , I found no entries on my spreadsheet.  I then proceeded to check Copeland Ringing Data for Black-headed Gulls, which I received a while back from Richard Donaghey.  On this, I did find a match -   EX97267 , was ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2013.  I reported the gull through the BTO's DemOn Ringing Database, and unsurprisingly, this appears to be a first re-sighting.  It's always good to 'bag', a bird with a metal ring.

The Copeland Islands, are situated 22 kms / 13 miles (NNE), of Castle Espie, and the duration since ringing, is now 5 years, 11 months and 21 days.

Black-headed Gull  -    EX97267   -  The Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (09 Jun 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2013, on Mew Island, The Copeland Islands, Co. Down)

The second 'metal' ring, was spotted on a Black-headed Gull, on one of the small islands, on the main breeding lake.  In fact, it was the same island, where I had recorded a 'metal-rung' bird, on the 24th March 2019.  On that occasion, I only managed to capture '  238 ', with my camera, before the gull flew off.  Today, I captured '  EY68 ', but after a lengthy wait for the gull to move position, it once again flew away.

I'm fairly certain, that both sightings belong to the same bird, but on this occasion, I cannot report it without being 100% sure of the number - perhaps better luck next time.

If this did happen to be the same gull, then the ring would read -   EY68238 .  I entered '  EY6823 ' onto my spreadsheet, deliberately omitting the final digit, to see what results I would get.

The number -   EY68238 , fell in between two 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, which I have previously recorded here at Castle Espie.  These are :-   EY68231   (  2BKP ) and   EY68245   (  2BLK ).  If -   EY68238 , is correct, then all three of these gulls were ringed as chicks, at Castle Espie, on the 19th June 2014 - Hercule Poirot, "eat your heart out".

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This post covers the main events as far as ring reading is concerned, since my previous post.  I've held off from publishing the post earlier this week, as I was awaiting a few recoveries from the BTO.  These have not arrived, so they'll be added on my nest post.  Over the next month, I will be quite busy, not only 'Ring Reading', but this year's Common Gull chicks, should be ready for ringing in mid June.

To help me, I have already booked six days off work, which along with Saturday's and Sunday's, gives a total of ten days to ring, but good weather conditions have to be taken into consideration as well.  News came in from Jim Wells, last night.  On Wednesday 26th June, we will be returning to the islands of Islay & Jura, in Scotland, to obtain head counts of the eagle chicks, in the two nests observed recently (report below).

Also of late, I have been working on, and updating my spreadsheet.  I am still working slowly, but surely, through data from Shane Wolsey's former Common Gull project on the Copeland Islands.  None of his re-sightings, were ever submitted to the BTO, which I'm now trying to correct.  Some folk, will get an unexpected, and much delayed, recovery report from the BTO, as I report these birds.

Whilst sifting through Shane's ringing records, comparing them to the BTO Ringing Totals (by year and county), for some reason, I discovered that birds that I had ringed personally, were not included.  I have had to spend time, checking all of my ringing data, and submitting the details through DemOn.

As we slowly approach my seventh winter of 'Ring Reading', the data that I've collected, leads to a near full time job trying to keep up to date.  I have received plaudits, concerning my efforts, as several hundred of our 'Ringed' visitors, would otherwise, have gone un-recorded.  Also, I'm slowly gathering an army of other birdwatchers, who are sending me their ring sightings for inclusion on my blog.  I'm happy to oblige, as these present a 'hard copy', of their records, and greatly enhances our knowledge of birds here in Northern Ireland.

I often wish, that there was some kind of funding available for what I do.  Not only could I spend more time in the field, I would have more time for blogging as well, with expenses being covered in the process.  All in all, I reckon the results, have been well worth the effort, and yet, there is still lots more to come.


      From Suzanne Belshaw       
A rather belated email arrived from Suzanne Belshaw, who spotted Common Gull -   2ACJ , on the 22nd April 2019, at Donaghadee, in County Down.  This is only the 5th sighting of    2ACJ , since it was ringed as a breeding adult, in May 2010.  It was ringed by Shane Wolsey, who began a Common Gull ringing project in 2009, but gave it up in 2014.  I took over the project, in April 2017.

The first re-sighting of   2ACJ , since it was ringed, occurred in December 2016, when I recorded it on Kinnegar Beach, on the southern shore of Belfast Lough.  The only other 'winter record' of   2ACJ , was again at Kinnegar Beach, in November 2018.  At present, it seems as if   2ACJ , remains locally in County Down, during the winter months.

As well as Suzanne's recent re-sighting at Donaghadee, I also recorded the gull twice here in 2017 (14th & 30th July).  It's good to see that this gull is alive and well, and it will be nine years next month since   2ACJ , was ringed.

My thanks goes to Suzanne for her latest report, and the photo provided.  A copy of the ringing and re-sighting history of   2ACJ , can be read (here).

Common Gull  -    2ACJ   -  Donaghadee, Co. Down  (22 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Breeding Adult, on the 14th May 2010, on Big Copeland Island, Co. Down)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)


      From Kevin Kirkham-Brown       
Nearly every evening I check out the NIBA website, for local birdwatching news and sightings.  On one such evening, I discovered a photo of one of my 'colour-ringed' Common Gulls, which was submitted by Kevin Kirkham-Brown.  The caption gave -   2BAJ , but no details of where the gull had been spotted.  I sent an email to the lads at the NIBA, requesting Kevin's email address, or ask Kevin to contact me, as this was another of my Rathlin Island Common Gulls.

Kevin, kindly replied, to say that he had spotted   2BAJ , at Ushet Lough, on Rathlin, on the 21st May 2019.  Kevin's bird, is the latest in a series of sightings, concerning the return to the island, of birds that had been ringed as chicks in June 2017.  Ringed on the 24th June 2017, at Rue Point, the only previous sighting of   2BAJ , occurred on the 17th March 2019.  Jan Rod, spotted the gull at Laytown, in Co. Meath, in the Republic of Ireland - 176 kms / 109 miles (S).

Kevin's report, was backed up by Ric Else, who also spotted   2BAJ  , at Ushet Lough, on the 23rd May.  There's no doubt, others from the 2017 cohort, are yet to be recorded, but the signs are good, that from the summer of 2020 onwards, many returnees will integrate into the breeding population here on Rathlin.

My thanks goes to Kevin Kirkham-Brown and Ric Else, for reporting their sightings, plus contributing photos.

Common Gull  -    2BAJ   -  Ushet Lough, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (21 May 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Rue Point, Rathlin Island)
(Photo Courtesy of Kevin Kirkham-Brown)


      A Trip to the Scottish Islands of Jura and Islay       
On Wednesday 22nd May 2019, I joined a boat trip, which was organised by Jim Wells.  Initially, the trip was to re-visit the island of Islay, in Scotland, which had been visited two days earlier.  As there were not enough places available, the second outing was arranged, but several folk enquired about the island of Jura instead.

As I'd been to Islay, last March, I was keen on going to Jura, and duly booked my seat, so long as that would be the destination.  Jura was elected, with the hope of seeing White-tailed Sea Eagles, but we got an unexpected surprise.  On the return journey, we would stop by the island of Islay, to visit a Golden Eagle nest, which was spotted on Monday's trip.

Arriving at Jura, the aim was to re-visit two known Sea Eagle sites, which had been recorded over the past couple of years, during other boat trips organised by Jim.  At the first site, we came up blank, and then went to the second site.  A nest at the second site, which was successfully used two years ago, was not in use, and the eagles did not breed here last year.

Everyone, scanned the plantation, situated by the shore, looking for a nest, when eventually, a white-washed nest was spotted.  Although, higher up, and further into the plantation, a chick was seen a short time later and cameras went into overdrive.  Checking my photos back at home, I was a little bemused to discover that I had not captured the chick.  Ginny McKee, has saved the day, as she has kindly allowed me to use her photo of the nest and chick.

Some reckoned, that there were two chicks in this nest, but that question will be answered around a month's time, when a return trip will be organised.  Although, the Isle of Jura, is only 65 kms / 40 miles, to the north of Northern Ireland, these are our closest nesting Sea Eagles, as they do not breed here as yet.  A re-introduction programme, based in County Kerry, in the Republic of Ireland, are seeing breeding pairs, edging slowly towards us from the south.

White-tailed Sea Eagle Chick, on it's Nest, on the Island of Jura, Scotland  (22 May 2019)
(Photo Courtesy of Ginny McKee)

Having found the nest, with it's chick or chicks, we had to wait for quite a while, before the adults appeared.  Once one arrived, the other appeared as well, having been hidden within the canopy in the plantation.  I'm not one for seeking rarities, as I'm only interested in nesting birds and ring reading, but here, I was able to tick off both, a rarity and an occupied nest.

Adult White-tailed Sea Eagle, on the Island of Jura, Scotland  (22 May 2019)

On our way back, we stopped by the Golden Eagle nest, on a sea cliff on the island of Islay.  As with the Sea Eagles earlier, they were not a bit bothered by our presence in the boat.  The jury, is still out, whether this pair have or have not got any chicks, but this will also be answered on a later date.  The trip was well worth the effort, as we were awarded great views of both pairs of eagles, plus the two nests as well.

This was not my first nest for Golden Eagles, as I came across one on the Isle of Arran, in Scotland, back in the 1980's.  Just a couple of years ago, I recorded a pair of Golden Eagles, here, in our own County Antrim hills.  I've often wondered, what happened to that pair, which comprised of an adult male, and an immature female.  No-one, ever got around to following up my sighting (blog).

Golden Eagle on Nest, on the Island of Islay, Scotland  (22 May 2019)


      Ringing Details       
A ringing recovery, of a 'metal-rung' Herring Gull, which I spotted at Whitehead beach, back in March, has finally arrived from the BTO.  The bird concerned -   GK57597 , was not on their system, so they had to contact the ringer for the gull's details.

The ringer, whom I'll not name, ringed the bird as a chick, on the 26th June 2012, on the Isle of Muck, in County Antrim, 12 kms / 7 miles, to the north of Whitehead.  In the BTO's 'Ringers Manuel', a word of caution is used, about ringing the chicks of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  The reason being, they look almost identical at that young age.

  GK57597 , was mistakenly ringed as a Lesser Black-backed Gull chick, and my photo clearly shows that bird to be a Herring Gull.  My sighting, was the first record of the gull since it was ringed, the duration as of the 17th March 2019, being 6 years, 8 months and 19 days.  

Herring Gull  -    GK57597   -  Whitehead Seafront, Co. Antrim  (17 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a Lesser Black-backed Gull Chick, on the 26th June 2012, on the Isle of Muck, Co. Antrim)


      Saturday 25th May 2019       
I decided it was time, to return to the Black-headed Gull breeding colonies, at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, in Belfast, as well as the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, in County Down.  Millisle would be my final destination of the afternoon, to look for any ringed Common Gulls.

Arriving at the visitor centre on the WoW Reserve, the first thing that struck me, was that none of the nesting rafts, had been towed out for the Common Terns to nest on.  Many Common Terns, were standing around the lagoon in their pairings, with very few actually on nests, especially on the two existing platforms, which are infested with nesting Black-headed Gulls.  According to the staff at the centre, these rafts should have been out by now, and an effort is to be made this week, in placing them on site.

To me, this is not good management, as when I visited another RSPB Reserve, at Portmore Lough on the 12th May, nearly all of the Common Terns there, were already quite happily sitting on eggs.

Viewing the Black-headed Gulls, on the two permanent nesting platform, they are packed with nests.  A few pairs of BHGs, seemed to be building new nests, whereas, many others had eggs to quite large well feathered chicks.  I spent a long time scoping these platforms, looking for the Orange Darvic's, belonging to Adam McClure, but not a single ring was spotted.  I was not helped, as much of the vegetation has grown quite tall.

Looking at the Mediterranean Gulls, there are still five pairs with nests.  The pair that had laid it's first egg, by the 20th April, has now got a single quite well feathered chick.  Two pairs, nesting towards the front of the platform, are still sitting either on eggs or small chicks.  One of these pairs, would include the 'metal-rung' male, whose ring number still needs completing -   3.**4.2*3 .  The other two pairs, nesting towards the back of the platform, should include the French-rung   RJ9H , but these are heavily obscured with nesting BHG's.

Mediterranean Gull with Chick - RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (25 May 2019)

A trifle disappointed, I checked out the nearby Kinnegar Beach, but very few birds were about, so I made my way to Castle Espie.

As stated after my previous visit to the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, it appeared as if the nesting Black-headed Gulls here, were two to three weeks behind their counterparts in Belfast.  This was confirmed on today's visit, with most pairs sitting on eggs, though a handful of pairs did have small chicks.

Once again, I noticed that very few pairs were actually nesting in the main compound area, where many of the ducks and geese are present.  I asked two female members of staff, if the gulls were being prevented from nesting in that area, their reply being no.  Even they thought it was strange, that the birds were avoiding the compound for some reason.

Anyhow, searching through the gulls for Orange Darvic's belonging to Adam McClure's study, I recorded nine codes.  The codes on another two gulls could not be read, as they were standing on their nests, and the nest material hid these.  Once again, there were over one hundred Black-headed Gulls on the tidal lagoon, many of which, are non breeders, or possibly birds that have yet to begin nesting.

Among the Black-headed Gulls on the tidal lagoon, were two un-ringed, second calendar year Mediterranean Gulls.  I wonder if these entitle me to another free coffee, as promised by that male member of staff, during my last visit here.

On returning home, and entering the nine 'coded' Black-headed Gulls onto my spreadsheet, I discovered that four of them, were first ever sightings for me.  I reported all four to the BTO, through my DemOn Ringing Database account, but as of today, Thursday 30th May, their details still have not arrived with me.  I really need to get this post published, so I'll report the ringing details in my next post.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BXR   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (25 May 2019)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)

Black-headed Gull  -    2ASC   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (25 May 2019)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)

Black-headed Gull  -    2BKT   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (25 May 2019)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)

Black-headed Gull  -    2APK   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (25 May 2019)
(Waiting on the Ringing Details)

Of the five coded rings that were read,   2ASA , was the only Black-headed Gull, that was not native to Castle Espie.  Ringed as a chick on the Copeland Islands, in June 2013, I first recorded   2ASA , last summer, here at Castle Espie, when I recorded it breeding, on two occasions (13th & 27th May 2018).  My only other sighting of this bird until today, occurred last winter, when I observed it at Kinnegar Beach, on Belfast Lough, on the 9th December 2018.

I have six records of this gull, before my first sighting of it in 2018.  29 days after being ringed on the Copelands,   2ASA , was spotted by Cameron Moore, at Whitehead, in County Antrim (18th July 2013).  The next four sightings were from Castle Espie, here in County Down, on the 11th July 2014 (Robin Vage), 10th September 2014 (Graham McElwaine), 3rd April 2016 & 9th April..
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This post now brings me up to date, with my sightings and reports from others, concerning our ringed nesting and visiting birds.  Having finally got over my cold, which has lasted for nearly five weeks, I'm feeling in good form at last.  This feel good factor, seems to run in line with the weather.  The last few weeks have been very cool, and at times, quite cold.  Finally, the temperatures are on the rise, which is good for many birds, whose eggs are now hatching, or due to hatch.

Looking forwards, my ringing trainer, has informed me that I've been invited by the Causeway Coast Ringing Group, to attend their ringing session at Inch Island, in Co. Donegal.  Whilst they ring Sandwich Tern chicks, I will be busy ringing Black-headed Gull chicks.  I helped Adam McClure, to ring chicks here in 2016, and we've since missed a couple of opportunities to return.  I'm looking forwards to this next visit, as I doubt if any youngsters will be ringed in Northern Ireland, for a second summer running.

Also looking hopeful, is my application for permission, to catch and 'colour-ring' wintering Black-headed Gulls at Lurgan Park.  Marcus Malley, of the Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon Council, says that they agree in principle, to my application.  If all goes well, Lurgan Park, would be a great site to work on.

With all of the disturbance at Antrim Marina last winter, it was difficult to entice the gulls there, as they had become very nervous and wary.  At Lurgan Park, the gulls remain very forthcoming, and I would like to see some sort of continuation, towards Adam McClure's project or former project.  Either way, we can still learn a lot more about our wintering birds.

Mid June, will see a concentrated effort to ring Common Gull chicks on Rathlin Island, plus a few other County Antrim sites, in continuation of my project which began in 2017.  I've also provided some of my 'colour-rings', to be used by the ringers at the Copeland Island Bird Observatory.  Although Common Gulls, are not a specific target there, the addition of these Darvic's may well tempt the ringers, to focus a bit more on this species.  Shane Wolsey, gave up his ringing programme on Copeland in 2014, but it would be fantastic, to see some sort of continuation there in the future.

      Rathlin Island Common Gulls       
In my blog post, published on the 21st April 2019, I reported on three Common Gulls, that had been spotted on Rathlin Island, by Richard Else.  These birds were from my new 'colour-ringing' project in County Antrim, which began in the summer of 2017, with the majority of chicks being ringed on Rathlin.

Over the last two winters, very few of these chicks, have been reported to me, therefore they were being overlooked at their wintering sites.  Guessing, that two-thirds of the youngsters, would perish before the end of their first winter, those that survive, should on the whole, get through subsequent winters.

I did expect that a few of the 2017 chicks, would start to reappear at Rathlin this summer, although not quite at full breeding age.  As mentioned above, reports of sightings started to come in from Richard, when firstly he spotted   2BHL , on the 29th March 2019, at Rue Point, on Rathlin.   2BHL , still in it's juvenile plumage, was ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2018, at Arkill Bay, on Rathlin.

On the 13th & 15th April 2019, Richard then spotted   2APT  and   2BAX , at Rue Point.  These two sub-adults, were ringed as chicks, on the 17th June 2017, at Rue Point, and on the 24th June 2017, at Arkill Bay, and both were first re-sightings since being ringed.  These sightings confirmed my belief, that some of the Common Gulls would return to the island this summer.

More recently, Richard has reported another two, of the 2017, rung chicks.  On the 2nd May,   2AJT , was spotted at Rue Point, which is where it had been ringed on the 17th June 2017.  However, this was not a first re-sighting this time, as   2AJT , had previously been recorded on the 22nd May 2018, by David Nixon, at Dundrum, in County Down.

Common Gull  -    2AJT   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (02 May 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th June 2017, at Rue Point)
(Photo Courtesy of Richard Else)

The second of the two gulls to be reported by Richard, was   2BAH  , also at Rue Point, on the 3rd May 2019.  I had recorded   2BAH , just five days earlier (28th April), when I spotted the gull on Kinnegar Beach, on the south side of Belfast Lough (see previous post).  Kinnegar, is 74 kms (SSE), from Rue Point, where   2BAH , had been ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2017.  It was obvious from my sighting, that   2BAH , was on the move northwards towards Rathlin.

Common Gull  -    2BAH   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (03 May 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Rue Point)
(Photo Courtesy of Richard Else)

On Sunday 5th May, I undertook my first visit to Rathlin Island, to check out the Common Gull colonies, to see how they were progressing with their breeding season.  Whilst there, I was also on the lookout for my 'colour-ringed' birds.  As the day wore on, one thing I noticed, especially at Rue Point, was that the overall number of breeding pairs, was lower than last year, which was also lower than in 2017.

At each colony, I scoped the gulls from a distance for rings, trying to not to disturb the birds too much.  The day started off promising, with a 'colour-ringed' bird being spotted, within minutes of my arrival at the Arkill Bay colony, the first site to be visited.  This gull was   2BBF , and on entering it's ring code onto my spreadsheet after returning home, I discovered that I had recorded this bird in the past, at Carnlough, also in County Antrim.

  2BBF , was ringed as a chick, here at Arkill Bay, on the 24th June 2017.  I spotted   2BBF , on the 9th June 2018, and on the 7th July 2018, on Carnlough Beach, which were the only sightings until today.  I spent around an hour at Arkill Bay, but no other rings were spotted.  A number of gulls were obviously incubating eggs, and there could have been a slight chance, one or two of these may also have been ringed.  Whilst here, I detected the first signs of a decrease in nesting pairs, which became the main feature of the day.

One good sign though, was that the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls, which also nested here over the past two years, did not seem to be about.  Having said that, the female could be sitting on eggs, just out of sight at the northern end of the bay.  Preying on the eggs and chicks of the Common Gulls, the Great Black-backed's are a major problem, but they have to live too.

Common Gull  -    2BBF   -  Arkill Bay, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (05 May 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Arkill Bay)

Moving on, and spending lengthy visits to the Doon Bay, and Rue Point colonies, no more rings were spotted, not even any of those that had been recorded by Richard Else.  Richard, had also reported on a Common Gull, at Rue Point, which was just ringed with a 'metal', but I was not able to locate that bird.  If that gull could have been found, and was nesting, then there was a good chance for my camera to catch the ring number.

Over the past two summers, a small number of Common Gull chicks, were ringed with 'metals' only, as at the time of ringing, they were too small for a 'colour-ring'.  Again, as at Arkill Bay, the overall number of breeding birds has decreased, especially so at Rue Point, which is the main hub for breeding Common Gulls, on the southern arm of Rathlin Island.

The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls, which nested on the headland at the northern end of Doon Bay, over the previous two summers, were nesting in the exact same spot, as the did in 2017.  Whilst walking across the shore at Doon Bay, I noticed a few eggs that had been taken by a predator.  These seemed to be Greylag Goose eggs, and definitely not Common Gull eggs, but I think crows, rather than the Great Black-backed's, could be blamed for these.

Two bird kills were also found at Doon Bay.  The scattering of feathers, appeared to be the work of a Peregrine Falcon, and both birds that were the victims of the kill, seemed to be Common Gulls.  Whilst I was at Rue Point, I spotted an immature female Peregrine, flying in off the sea, from the direction of the mainland, and making it's way over Doon Bay.  Could this bird be the culprit?

Moving inland to Ushet Lough, four nests containing eggs were found around the southern shore, number 2x2 eggs, and 2x3 eggs.  Scoping across to the northern shore, another 4 Common Gulls, could be seen sitting on their nests.  A further 10 to 12 birds, appeared to be sitting on nests, on the small island, at the western end of the Lough.  A small number of the gulls here, were scoped for rings, but none were spotted.

I did not have time to visit the final colony at Roonivoolin, situated on the western shore of the southern arm, so I made my way back towards the harbour.  Arriving at Mill Bay, I scoped a small number of Black-headed and Common Gulls, and spotted one of my rings.  Despite these gulls being well out, due to the low tide, my camera did catch the code on the Common Gull -   2BAP .

  2BAP , is another gull from Arkill Bay, which had been ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2017, and this sighting was a first since being rung.  The nearest breeding colony, would be 2 kms away, and this sighting strengthens my belief, that the 2017 rung birds, are merely prospecting rather than breeding, but there's always the outside chance, one or two of these birds are nesting.

Common Gull  -    2BAP   -  Mill Bay, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (05 May 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Arkill Bay)


      Caspian Gull - Graham McElwaine       
On the 10th May, I received an email from Graham McElwaine, who is the ringing coordinator for the Irish Brent Goose Research Group.  Whilst out and about, earlier that day, Graham spotted a juvenile gull, which was colour-ringed -   X86A .  This bird, which was spotted at Millquarter Bay in County Down, was hard to identify, and Graham suspected that it was a Herring Gull, and not a Great Black-backed Gull.

Graham, like myself, and a vast majority of birdwatchers, find trying to identify the species of large juvenile gulls, a big problem, as many look so alike.

I was tasked, with finding the owner of the 'colour-ring', and after consulting the cr-birding site, sent an email to Ronald Klein, in Germany.  Early on Sunday morning a reply was received, and 'WOW', what a sighting this turned out to be.

  X86A , was in fact a Caspian Gull, which had been ringed as a chick, on the 3rd June 2018, on the site of a Gravel Pit, just to the north-east of Leipzig.  Before Graham's sighting,   X86A , had previously been recorded at two sites in England.  On the 25th November 2018, it was spotted by a Rob Archer, at the Ashworth Moor Reservoir, situated to the north-west of Rochdale.  The second sighting, was on the 23rd January 2019, at Altham, in Lancashire, which is slightly further to the north from Ashworth Moor.

I went online, in an attempt to see if I could find any reference to the two English sightings, and came up trumps, when I came across a site called - Manchester Birding Forum (here), which contained Rob Archer's sighting at Ashworth, along with a photo.  I tried to find an email address for Rob, without success. I wanted to ask for permission to use his photo, but I am hopeful that he does not mind me including the photo here.  On the whole, most birdwatchers are fairly obliging to each other.

Immature Caspian Gull  -    X86A   -  Ashworth Moor Reservoir, Greater Manchester, England  (25 Nov 2018)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 3rd June 2018, at the Laußig Gravel Pits, near Leipzig, Germany)
(Photo Courtesy of Rob Archer)

Next, I checked out the British Trust for Ornithology's 'Online Ringing Report', to see if 'ringed' Caspian Gulls, had ever been recorded in Northern Ireland in the past.  There was one record, of a Polish 'colour-ringed' bird, ringed as a chick in June 2006, having been spotted in County Londonderry, in February 2007.  There were no records for the Republic of Ireland.

Also checking the website of the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Association (here), there are a couple of references to Caspian Gulls, though these are sketchy.  This proves just how rare, sightings of this species is on the island of Ireland as a whole, therefore making Graham's sighting - a brilliant spot. 


      Antrim Town & RSPB Portmore Lough Nature Reserve       
On Sunday 12th May, I decided to visit the RSPB Reserve at Portmore Lough, which lies a few miles south of Antrim Town.  Last summer, I had noticed one of Adam McClure's 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, nesting in the front right hand corner, of the central nesting platform, just in front of the wooden hide, on the Lough.  I tried on a couple of occasions to read the code without success.

To get to Portmore Lough, I had to pass through Antrim Town, but had no initial plans to stop there.  Passing by the Tesco Distribution Centre on the edge of Antrim Town, I noticed that the roof was swarming with gulls.  I had to pull in, to see what was going on here.  These extensive rooftops, had become home to a large number of nesting Lesser Black-backed Gulls, with smaller numbers of nesting Black-headed, Herring and Common Gulls.  In the past, I've also recorded nesting Common Terns, and once had an Oystercatcher with chicks.

This year however, there has been a major problem with this site.  Tesco, have made a concentrated effort, at preventing these birds from nesting here, having used the services of a falconer, to scare off the birds.  Over the past few weeks, fellow birdwatcher and Swift enthusiast Mark Smyth, has kept a watchful eye on the events around the Kilbegs Industrial Estate.

Mark discovered that some of the gulls had relocated to the far side of the Industrial Estate, and a number of pairs of Black-headed Gulls, were now nesting on a rooftop of a derelict building behind the Asda Shopping Centre.  Two or three weeks ago, I too had a look, and there were no gulls at Tesco, but did locate the gulls mentioned by Mark.  I also noticed the Lesser Black-backed Gulls, were concentrated on another rooftop behind Asda.  With most of the rooftops being at a height, as well as flat, there was no way to look to see what exactly was happening there.

Today, with many gulls back on the Tesco site, did this mean, the services of the falconer, were no longer required - or so they thought.  My main interest with this site at Tesco, is in the Mediterranean x Common Gull pair, which have nested here over the past three years.  Last summer, I confirmed that they hatched out three chicks, though only two survived until fledging.

Setting up my telescope, I soon realised, that several gulls had built, and were now sitting on their nests.  Possibly, a hundred plus pairs, were also present, but had not began to make nests.  Among these gulls, were a couple of pairs of Common Gulls with nests, one of which was situated on the exact same spot, where my Med x Common Gulls, nested over the past three years.

My delight, at having this pair back again, turned to dismay a short time later, when a returning mate, turned out to be another Common Gull, with a changeover of nesting duties taking place.

Now very disappointed, I had to push on to Portmore Lough, but I shall re-visit the Tesco Warehouse fairly soon, as I will also have to begin a few random visits to Antrim Marina, to record the resident gulls there.

Common Gull on Nest  -  Tesco Distribution Warehouse, Antrim Town, Co. Antrim  (12 May 2019)

Arriving at Portmore Lough, I was hoping that the same gull mentioned earlier, would again be nesting here, and to my delight, it was.  Equipped with a better camera than last summer, I hoped that this time, I could finally nail that code.  I was checking the gulls on the platforms for rings using my binoculars, without success, until something spooked the birds, and they all took to the air.  On their return to their nests, it was then that I saw the 'Orange Darvic'.

The gull in question, was nesting in a really awkward position.  Whilst on the nest which was out of view, I could only see the top of the birds back and head.  There is a safety board, topped with square wire, which runs around the whole platform, which therefore blocks out the view of all the nesting gulls on the front of the platform.

Inside the hide, I had set up my camera on a tripod, with it locked onto where the nest was and waited.  I was hoping that the birds partner would arrive, with a possible changeover of incubation duties.  After a very long wait, I began to get bored of my task, as nothing was happening.  Having checked all three platforms for 'ringed' BHGs and Common Terns, only one 'metal' rung Black-headed Gull, was spotted on the right hand platform.

Thinking back, to when the birds were spooked earlier, I thought I'd try something unorthodox, and scare them myself.  I waved my camera bag outside of the hide's window, to great effect.  Camera on, I took photos of the gulls returning, and after a couple of attempts, about ten minutes apart, I had captured the code -   2BKN  .

This hard won code, became even harder.  Having reported my sighting to the BTO, they had no ringing details for the gull, and sent an email to Adam, for the relevant ringing information.  As my regular readers will be aware, Adam has not responded to sightings for quite a considerable time now.  I'm still waiting for those, of two Black-headed Gulls -   2AHB   &   2AHT , spotted at Castle Espie, on the 24th March 2019.  No doubt, the wait will be a long one.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BKN   -  RSPB Portmore Lough Nature Reserve, Co. Antrim ..
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At last another post.  Just lately between one thing or another, I've been distracted from regular birdwatching, or even having time to work on this article.  At present, I have enough info for another post, which I must push on and complete.  Most of our nesting birds have now settled down on eggs, and I have recorded a few ringed birds at their colonies.

From next weekend onwards, several visits to nest sites will be made, especially at Castle Espie.  A small number of Common Gulls, from my new ringing project have turned up, which I'll have to report on.  There's bad news / good news, concerning the rooftop nesting gulls, at the Tesco Warehouse in Antrim Town, as well as a rare sighting in Northern Ireland, of a ringed Caspian Gull, spotted by Graham McElwaine.

      Sunday 28th April 2019       
With Storm Hannah, having passed through yesterday, today was dull, cool and still a bit breezy.  I waited until the early afternoon, before leaving to go to the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, and to catch the incoming tide at Kinnegar Beach.

At the WoW Reserve, I had planned to view the nesting platforms, in front of the visitor centre and hide '1'.  At hide '1', I was hoping to have another go, at completing the 'metal' number, on the Dutch Mediterranean Gull -   3.**2.4*3 .  Having gone to the visitor centre first, I spent the best part of an hour, searching through the Black-headed Gulls for rings, but none were spotted.

As I was about to leave, when I fell in with a fella and a very lengthy conversation then followed.  With his Ministry of Defence connections, he was looking for a ringer, who could undertake some ringing at some of their installations.  From what I was being told, some 'mouth-watering' opportunities may arise in the future, including a well known site for breeding Lapwings.

If this Lapwing site does become available, it would be an excellent site where the chicks, safe from foxes, could be 'colour-ringed'.  He can also, easily arrange for me to gain a 'Permit' from the MoD, to ring at such sites.  The permit, would also allow me to take my car onto the private road, which leads to the army camp, close to Kinnegar Beach, the car being used as a mobile hide.  I was not going to this year, but now have to apply for a disturbance licence from the DoE, as raptor ringing will also be involved - all interesting stuff.

As the conversation lasted so long, I had to skip the Mediterranean Gulls, and head straight over to Kinnegar Beach.  The tide was further up than I had expected, so was glad to get here when I did.  Once again, Common Gulls, were by far the most numerous species, and like my previous visit, numbered 100 to 150 birds.

I started scoping through these, and eventually spotted a 'White Darvic', but this was not on a Common Gull.  The bird was still a long way off, but at first, I was not quite sure, whether it was a Black-headed or a Med Gull.  Once clear of the other gulls, I could see that it was a 2nd Calendar Year Mediterranean Gull.  By luck, I had taken 6 photos of the bird, when it flew off.  I suspected, that this was another Dutch-rung bird, which I was able to confirm on returning home.

Despite my photos being taken from a distance, I just about caught the code - White 3PRT.  I reported the bird to Camille Duponcheel, who replied, even before I got out of bed on Monday morning.  A first re-sighting, White 3PRT, was ringed as a chick, on the 22nd June 2018, at De Kreupel Island, on Lake IJsselmeer, in north-west Holland.  This is interesting, as it continues the trend, where by a number of Dutch-rung Med's from this island, have been recorded around the Belfast area in the last couple of years.

My thanks to Camille for his quick reply, along with the gulls ringing details. 

Mediterranean Gull  -  White  3PRT  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (28 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 22nd June 2018, at De Kreupel Island, Lake IJsselmeer, NW Holland)

Continuing to scope through the Common Gulls, the next two 'colour-ringed' birds, belonged to my own new project, which began in the summer of 2017.  One of these, was a 2nd Calendar Year bird, which I would have ringed as a chick last summer.  Unfortunately, the youngster took off, whilst I was waiting for it to move clear of the water's edge, so that I could obtain a few photos.  It flew towards Carrickfergus and I never saw it again.

The second bird, was a shade more obliging.  Although still a long way off from where I was positioned, it moved clear of the other gulls, and a number of photos were taken.  Once again, I just about managed to capture the code -   2BAH , and this was one of my Rathlin Island birds.  Ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Rue Point, today's sighting was the first since being ringed.

This, along with a couple of other birds, recently reported to me by Ric Else, on Rathlin, is further evidence of my gulls returning to Northern Ireland.  I reckon, that these birds, although not quite two years of age as yet, are likely to prospect future nesting sites, hopefully at Rathlin, but possibly around other County Antrim colonies.  Although, one or two birds may attempt to breed this summer, I'm not really expecting too much, until next year.

Common Gull  -    2BAH   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (28 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim)

The fourth 'colour-ring' to be spotted on today's visit to Kinnegar Beach, and the 3rd Common Gull, was that of a bird I've already recorded twice.    2J08 , was caught and ringed, by the Clyde Ringing Group, as a fledged juvenile, on the 16th September 2018, at Blackness Castle, Falkirk, Stirlingshire, in Scotland.

My first sighting of   2J08 , was made on this very same beach, on the 10th November 2018, followed by another sighting on the 5th January 2019, at Whitehouse Lagoon, situated on the northern side of Belfast Lough, opposite Kinnegar Beach.  It's good to see, that   2J08 , has survived it's first winter, and has remained within the Belfast Lough area.  Depending on it's survival, this young bird looks set to be recorded here for years to come.

Common Gull  -    2J08   -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (28 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Fledged Juvenile, on the 16th September 2018, at Blackness Castle, Stirlingshire, Scotland)


      Black-headed Gulls - RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve       
Since my last visit to the RSPB's Window on the 13th April, my three latest visits, were made on the 20th, 22nd and 28th.  Many of the Black-headed Gulls, are now sitting tightly on eggs, but I've been on the lookout for 'colour-ringed' birds belonging to Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Study, or should I say former Study.  Ongoing or not, I still regard it as very important, to try and follow these birds as best as possible.

Stopping at the visitor centre first, on the 20th, my initial priority, was to try and complete the numbers, on two 'metal-ringed' birds, which were present directly in front of the window at the centre.  There was no sign of   EZ9**05   today, or on my two subsequent visits made on the 22nd and 28th.

However, I completed the number for the 2nd bird, having recorded   EZ33143 , on the 13th.  This birds appears to be a female, which was standing guarding a nest, which had been built among a small circle of stones.  I had much bother trying to take photos of the ring through a double-glazed window, even though the bird was only a short distance away.  Checking to see what digits I had captured, I was pleased to find, that I had recorded the whole number -   EZ33143 .

Later, back at home, I went to enter the number on my spreadsheet, but the predictive text was showing   EZ33136 , and   64 , which meant I had already recorded two birds from this ring series.  As it turned out,   EZ33136 , which was also 'colour-ringed' -   2BP2 , had been recorded by Cameron Moore, on the 28th August 2017, at Whitehead, located on the north-east edge of Belfast Lough.

  EZ33164 , was a bird that I recorded in the car park of the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, here in my home town of Ballymena, on the 6th November 2017.  Just by chance, I fell in with   EZ33164 again last winter, at the harbour in the coastal village of Carnlough, on the 16th February 2019.

These two, plus today's bird -   EZ33143 , were all ringed as chicks, on the 20th June 2017, at Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire, in Scotland.  I remembered about an email, from Iain Livingstone, of the Clyde Ringing Group.  He had stated that they took 120 'colour-rings', expecting to take many back home again, but such was the success of the BHGs, they ran out of 'colour-rings', and had to settle with a few chicks being ringed with 'metals' only.

  EZ33143 , was still present at the nest, on the 20th, but there was no sign of the bird on the 28th, despite my lengthy visit at the centre.  It might be likely, that this bird, may not have reached full maturity, and was just going through the motions.  I'll check again on my next visit the this RSPB Reserve.  

Black-headed Gull  -    EZ33143   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (20 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 20th June 2017, at Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire, Scotland)

  2ASF's , first re-sighting this spring, was recorded on the 3rd March, when I spotted it on nesting platform 2.  On the 20th April, it along with it's mate, suddenly appeared in front of the visitor centre where they went into a full courtship display.  On the 22nd, it was seen back on nesting platform 2.

  2ASF , was ringed as a chick, on the 18th June 2013, at Blue Circle Island, on Larne Lough, Co. Antrim.  It is known to winter, at the nearby Whitehouse Lagoon, having been recorded there in the autumn/winters of 2015, 2016 & 2018.  It's first breeding season appearance here at the RSPB Reserve, was recorded in March 2016, and it was also here during the breeding seasons of 2017 and 2018.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ASF   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (20 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 18th June 2013, on Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

The sighting of   2ATJ , here on the reserve was really pleasing.  I ringed this bird with a 'metal' ring, on the 31st May 2016, as part of my re-training as a ringer.  I had been invited by Ken Perry, from the Causeway Coast Ringing Group, to attend a ringing session at Inch Island Lake, in County Donegal.  Although, not my nominated 'A' ringer, Ken supervised my ringing of a number of Black-headed Gull and Sandwich Tern chicks.

Adam McClure, joined us, on the next two visits to Inch, which saw many Black-headed Gull chicks, being fitted with 'Orange Darvics' from his Project.    EZ61019 , which had been ringed on my first visit, was caught again, and fitted with -   2ATJ .

This was the last we heard of this bird, until I spotted it on the nearby Kinnegar Beach.  Although I did not know it at the time, it wasn't until Adam replied to my email, this was the bird I had ringed at Inch - I never knew of the 'colour-ring' codes used on the site.  That sighting at Kinnegar, was made on the 11th March 2018, and here it was now, on the 20th April 2019, on nesting platform 2.

Black-headed Gull  -    2ATJ   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (20 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 31st May 2016, at Inch Island Lake, Co. Donegal, R. of Ireland)

  2BLK , was a new sighting for me, on the 23rd February 2019, here at the Window on Wildlife Reserve.  I have now recorded the gull on four occasions, with re-sightings having also been made on the 3rd & 9th March 2019, as well as today.

  2BLK , was no stranger to me, as I reported the gull to Adam McClure, on the behalf of Derek Polley, on the 15th March 2018.  Derek, had spotted   2BLK , on the nest platform, but despite several visits, I never came across the gull at all, until this year.

  2BLK , was ringed as a chick, in June 2014, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre in County Down.  The only other records for   2BLK , were made on the 8th & 9th October 2015, when recorded by David Nixon, at Millquarter Bay in County Down.

Black-headed Gull  -    2BLK   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (22 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2014, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down)


      Black-headed Gulls - Castle Espie Wetland Centre       
Today's visit to the Castle Espie Wetland Centre (22nd April 2019), is my third visit this year, having previously called by, on the 2nd February and on the 24th March 2019.

During my previous visit, on the 24th March, I recorded two of Adam's Black-headed Gulls, which were new sightings to me -   2AHB   &   2AHT .  I reported both birds to the British Trust for Ornithology, but these two gulls were not on their system.  They emailed Adam McClure, for the ringing details, and as I write this, Adam has still not responded.  For now, I'll just have to wait, and if either of these two gulls, have any sort of re-sighting history, it will probably go un-recorded.  If any of my readers have ever recorded either of these two Black-headed Gulls, could you get in touch with me.  Even better, should you have a copy of a PDF File from Adam, will you send it to me (email address in the side-bar opposite).

Also, on my previous visit, I recorded a 'partial' number on another Black-headed Gull -   238 .  I had a good look for this bird today, but could not locate it.

As far as nesting goes, the Black-headed Gulls, appear to be some two to three weeks behind their counterparts at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve in Belfast.  Some 100 to 150+ birds, many in their pairs, were resting on the bank of the tidal lagoon, where they basked in the sunlight.  Occasionally, a bird would stand up revealing an 'Orange Darvic'.  In other parts of the Wetland Centre, other gulls were busy building nests.

In all, eight 'colour-rings' were spotted, and the codes were read on seven of these.  Interestingly, most of those read, belonged to younger gulls.  More interesting, hardly any gulls, are attempting to nest in the main concourse, where they would be in close contact with the public.  This was not the case last year, and I'm wondering if the staff at the centre, are deliberately preventing the gulls from nesting here.  We'll see how things progress, over later visits.

Of the seven 'colour-rings' that I read, I'll deal with each in alphabetical order.

 2AHN , was spotted, along with it's partner, resting on the mudflats of Strangford Lough, in front of Castle Espie's 'Brent Hide'.  Although, a long way out, my camera still captured the code.  This is my second sighting of   2AHN .  On the 27th May 2018,    2AHN , was recorded within the breeding colony at the Wetland Centre.  Having reported my sighting to Adam, it turned out to be the first re-sighting, since the gull was ringed as a chick, on this site, in June 2014.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AHN   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (22 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2014, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre)

The sighting of   2APR , was also my second record for this bird, which is currently building a nest.  I first recorded   2APR , on the 24th June 2018, which at that time, was another first sighting since being ringed as a chick, in June 2015. 

Black-headed Gull  -    2APR   -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (22 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 23rd June 2015, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre)

  2ARL , was also ringed as a chick in June 2015, at Castle Espie.  It was another gull which went un-recorded until I found it nesting at the centre on the 13th May 2018.  I also recorded it for a second time on the 27th May 2018, and I have no further records of it until today.  This bird appears to have a nest, but there were no eggs in it.

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Not too much to report about at the minute.  I've just completed my first week off work this year, and had all the intentions of getting out and about every day.  Perhaps, it was just as well, that I had planned this break, as I had a 'stinker' of a time in mid-week, after my visit to Inch Island, in County Donegal.

Now into my fourth week, I cannot shake off this bout of the cold or flu, which took a turn for the worse, whilst I was actually at Inch.  Despite it being a very warm sunny day, though a little too windy, I took one of the worst headaches, that I've ever had in my life.  I began to shiver, despite wearing a chill suit, and a coat, I took coughing fits, and my nose ran so much, I could have filled the lake twice over.

Yes, I'm exaggerating a wee bit here, but the following couple of days, were non too pleasant.  By Saturday, I had improved, but had to remain at home, as Storm Hannah, swept across the country.  I had hoped to get to Rathlin Island, to scope the Common Gulls there, to see how their nesting season is progressing.  I've been keeping a check on a couple of Black-headed Gull colonies, but more on that shortly.

For now, this post contains a few bits and pieces, that have been reported to me, as well as a couple of ringed birds which I have also spotted.  I have also looked at the 'Live' Polish and Norwegian Ringing Databases, and a handful of our wintering gulls, have been recorded back home.  More on these, will also be posted next time.

      Mediterranean Gulls       
Recently, I received another email from Andreas Zours, concerning German Bred Mediterranean Gulls, which have been recorded in Northern Ireland.  Andreas, has graciously kept me informed about such birds, and the latest concerns -   AY.CT .

Ringed as a chick on the Löbnitz Gravel Pits, near Leipzig, in June 2017, Cameron Moore, was the first to re-sight the young bird, when he spotted it at Whitehead, in County Antrim, on two separate dates in September 2017.  Since then, the gull has gone un-recorded until the 19th April 2019.  A David Cousins, spotted the Med, now in it's adult plumage, within a colony of Black-headed Gulls, at the RSPB's Leighton Moss Reserve, in Lancashire, England, (PDF File).

My thanks to Andreas for the update, and to Cameron and David, for the inclusion of their photos.

Mediterranean Gull  -    AY.CT   -  Whitehead, Co. Antrim (2017)  and Leighton Moss, Lancashire (2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2017, at Löbnitz Gravel Pits, near Leipzig, Germany)
(Photos Courtesy of Cameron Moore and David Cousins)

I too, have been busy watching Mediterranean Gulls.  In my previous post, I reported on a 3rd 'metal-ringed' Med Gull, which has been recorded on the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve, in Belfast.  Having recorded a 'patial number' -  *.**2.4** , on the 13th April, I returned on the 20th & 22nd, in an attempt to complete the full number.  Having taken a 'bucket full' of photos, on both days, I'm not really any further forward.  I have definitely recorded a '  3 ' at the start of the sequence, and what appears to be another '  3 ', at the end of the sequence.

If correct, I now have -  3.**2.4*3 .  Many of the photos taken, very absolutely useless, as details were obliterated, by the sun shining off the ring.  This bird also has a partner, but they do not appear to have a visible nest.  The un-ringed female, can often be seen sitting, but if there is a nest, there's very little in the way of material.

Both of the other 'metal-ringed' birds, have seemingly moved on.    3.735.920 , which I recorded on the 23rd February, has not been seen since.  This one was standing in the exact position, where it had nested in the previous two summers.  I have a feeling, it was waiting on it's partner, which may have failed to return.

The second 'metal-rung' bird -   3.738.593 , was also present on the 23rd February, though at the time, I only managed a 'partial' number on it's ring.  On that occasion, it too, was on it's own, but on the 13th April, I completed the whole ring number, and it now had a partner.  Since then, there has been no sign of this pair.

As well as these three 'metal-rung' Meds, a 'colour-ringed' bird, ringed as a chick in France, has been observed on the same nest platform.  It was first recorded on the 6th April, by a Derek Charles, and then spotted by Suzanne Belshaw, on the 12th April.  I have since recorded the gull, on all three of my visits, on the 13th, 20th and 22nd April.    RJ9H , also has a partner, and I'm pretty sure they have a nest, which seems to be behind a block of timber, and therefore not visible.  When sitting, the top of their heads can be seen from time to time.

Mediterranean Gull  -    RJ9H   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (20 Apr 2019)

Mediterranean Gull  -    RJ9H   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (22 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 2nd July 2016, at Polder de Sebastopol NR, Barbâtre, Vendèe, France)

As well as the two pairs, with ringed individuals, there are also two pairs of un-rung birds.  One of these, again appears to have no nest, though an adult clearly appears to be sitting at all times.  The other pair, had one egg viewable on the 20th April, but by the 22nd, the nest had been added to, therefore obscuring the contents.

Un-Ringed Pair of Mediterranean Gulls with One Egg  -  RSPB WoW Reserve, Belfast  (20 Apr 2019)


      Marsh Harrier       
A text message from Jim Wells, alerted me about the presence of a Marsh Harrier, at Whitehead, and this bird had 'Green - Wing Tags'.  Local birdwatcher and 'Ring Reader', Cameron Moore, had spotted it, hunting in an area, just on the edge of the village.  Jim asked me if I had any idea, where this tagged bird came from.  Having a sneaky suspicion that the bird was from the East Anglia District of England, a quick check online, and I soon proved this to be the case.

On replying to Jim, to state where the bird was from, I also informed him, that the 'Wing Tags', should have a two-character code.  No doubting, that message was passed on to Cameron, as he spent two days pursuing the Harrier, to try and photograph the bird, as well as capturing the code.  Later, a photo appeared on the NIBA website, showing the Harrier.  I downloaded and studied the photo, and the code appeared to read -   4X .  I sent an email to report Cameron's sighting, along with an edited photo, to see what could be made of it.

On the 24th April, I received a reply from Phil (surname not given), to say that he would bet on the bird being -    4X .  It had been processed as a chick, on the 13th June 2018, along with four other siblings, on the Holkham Estate, in Norfolk, England.  Adding 'fuel' to the sighting, was that   4X , had already been reported in Ireland, when it was seen at Barranny, in County Galway, on the 18th November 2018.

Marsh Harriers do not breed in Northern Ireland, or if they do, it's being kept quite.  However, birds do frequently turn up at the RSPB's Portmore Lough Reserve in County Antrim, and less so at sites in County Down, especially at Quoile.  I remember reading a few years back, of two juveniles, having been spotted after the breeding season, in County Down.  With an increasing breeding population, on the British Mainland, perhaps, breeding here is not too far away in the future.

However, a good sighting by Cameron, was well backed up with photos showing the code on the 'Wing Tag'.  My thanks to Phil & Jim Wells, and also to Cameron, for sharing his sighting and photos.

Marsh Harrier  -    4X   -  Whitehead, County Antrim  (15 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 13th June 2018, at Holkham Estate, Norfolk, England)


      Black-tailed Godwits       
In an email from David Nixon on the 19th April, I was requested to track down the owner of a Black-tailed Godwit, spotted by David, on the 18th.  The bird, seen on the high tide roost, of the Inner Bay at Dundrum, appeared to be ringed - Red, Green, Blue, on the left leg, and Red, Black (Niger), Red, on the right leg.  On checking my handy guide to 'colour-ringed' Black-tailed Godwits, an email was dispatched to Peter (Pete) Potts, in England.

A reply arrived from Pete the next day, along with a lengthy ringing and re-sighting history.  RGB-RNR, had been ringed as an adult, on the 29th September 2012, on The Swale, in Kent, England, which forms part of the Thames Estuary.  Prior to David's recent sighting at Dundrum, this Godwit, had been reported ten days earlier at Pagham Harbour, on the south coast of England.

I had to copy the bird's full re-sighting history from the email, paste it onto a page on my Word Processor, and then create a PDF File, which can be read (here).  My thanks to David, for sharing his sighting and the photograph.

Black-tailed Godwit  -  RGB-RNR  -  Dundrum Inner Bay, Dundrum, Co. Down  (18 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult, on the 29th September 2012, at Harty, on The Swale, Kent, England)
(Photo Courtesy of David Nixon)

On the 22nd April, I was at Castle Espie Wetland Centre, to see how the Black-headed Gulls were progressing with their nests.  Whilst checking the birds on the tidal lagoon, a flock of up to 100 Black-tailed Godwits were roosting.  Scoping through these, I noticed a leg bearing a 'metal-ring'.  The bird concerned, was at the back of the flock, and hidden from view.

I patiently waited for the birds to move, and eventually my target bird came into view.  As often happens with resting waders, it was standing on one leg, in this case, it's right leg.  The 'metal', was visible just above it's ankle, and two 'colour-rings', red over white, were fitted above the knee joint.

The wait now continued, hoping to get a view of the birds left leg.  I hoped nothing would come along and spook the birds, but shortly afterwards, the bird had a good stretch, stood on both legs, and again tucked it's head into it's back.  The left leg, revealed another red ring, over a 'Black Flag'.

On returning home, and checking my Godwit 'colour-ringing' Guide, I then sent an email to David Turner, of the Humber Wader Ringing Group.  David, replied to say that he had now retired, and copied in Ian Nicholson, the new ringing secretary.

A reply arrived from Ian, the following day.  RNf-RW, was ringed as an adult female, on the 3rd February 2018, at Welwick Pond, on the Humber Estuary, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England.  My sighting was the first, since the bird was ringed, the distance being 386 kms / 239 miles (WNW).

My thanks goes to David and Ian, for their quick replies.

Black-tailed Godwit  -  RNf-RW  -  Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Co. Down  (22 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 3rd February 2018, at Welwick Pond, East Riding of Yorkshire, England)

During correspondence via email, with David Nixon, concerning the two aforementioned Godwits, David informed me about his visit to Inch Island Lake, on the 22nd April.  Whilst he was there, he spotted a few hundred Black-tailed Godwits, but unfortunately, did not have his telescope with him.

To me, this was like being offered sweeties or a carrot on a stick.  The number was tantalisingly high, which therefore offered a good chance for spotting one or two 'colour-rings'.  The next day, off I headed to County Donegal, despite coming down with another dose of the cold, which I cannot seem to shake off.  I reckon, this is going into the fourth week, and having booked this week off from work, I've been fit to do practically nothing at all.

Arriving at the lake at Inch Island, the Godwits were there, numbering some three to four hundred birds in total.  Many were roosting, way out on the edge of the small island, which was a hive of activity, with nesting Black-headed Gulls and a small number of Mute Swans.  Numerous Sandwich, and lesser number of Common Terns were present, with these birds having just arrived back prior to nesting.  A single Black Swan, was also present.  Last year, I took a photo of a Black Swan on it's nest, on this very same island.

Several hours, was spent scoping the birds for rings.  At first, I spotted one Godwit, standing on one leg in the water.  The top of a red 'colour-ring', could just be seen poking above the water, so I knew I had at least one marked bird.  Scoping the terns, several Sandwich Terns had 'metal-rings', and two ringed Black-headed Gulls were also seen.  One of these bore a 'metal', whilst the other, had an 'Orange Darvic'.

The bird with the 'Darvic', was from Adam McClure's Project, and would have been ringed on the island here, as a chick, in June 2016.  This was the only time, Black-headed Gull chicks were ringed at Inch, though at the time, Adam was hoping to ring here on a yearly basis.  Even with my camera at full 'digital zoom' (3000mm), the code could not be read.

After a couple of hours, many of the Godwits began feeding.  Many flew towards the shore of the lake, quite near to the car park.  It was here, that I managed to get photos, of the bird with the red ring.  It was showing well, and a few photos were easily taken.  The ring read - red over white(8), on the left leg, and red over yellow, on the right leg.  Seeing the white(8), immediately made me suspicious - Do I Know You??  By the time of my departure, most, if not all of the Godwits had been checked, and only this single 'colour-ringed' bird was among them.

Returning home, I checked my spreadsheet, and I did know this bird.  I first recorded it, on the Dargan Mudflats in Belfast, on the 24th July 2016, which going by memory, was my first ever sighting of a 'colour-ringed' Black-tailed Godwit.  My next, and last sighting of this bird until today, was on the 7th April 2018, when I came across it at Whitehouse Lagoon, on the northern outskirts of Belfast.

I reported my latest sighting to Böddi in Iceland, whom sent me an updated file on it's ringing and re-sighting history (pdf).  Since I last recorded RW(8)-RY, at Whitehouse Lagoon, it had been spotted in February 2019, in County Waterford, and March 2019, in County Louth.  I had hoped for a new sighting here at Inch, but to fall in with an 'old friend', was just as good.

Black-tailed Godwit  -  RW(8)-RY  -  Inch Island Lake, Co. Donegal, Republic of Ireland  (24 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 7th July 2010, at Lambadalseyri, Dyrafjordur, NW Iceland)


      Norwegian Common Gull       
On the 22nd April, I checked out Kinnegar Beach, having completed a visit to the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve nearby.  With the tide on it's way in, a nice gathering of 100+ Common Gulls could be seen in the distance.  Scoping through these from the car park overlooking the beach, I spotted three birds with 'colour-rings' - two 'White', and one 'Green'.

The gulls, were in a nice long line, although fairly bunched in places.  I grabbed my camera, and walked partly out towards them.  I reckoned, that all three birds were of Norwegian origin, and this would be quite something, if I could read all the codes.  The first to come into clear view, was the 'Green' bird.  Zooming in with my camera, I captured the code -   J76R .

I began scoping through the gulls again, looking for the other two, but minutes later, a women, along with her two dogs, appeared from my right scattering all of the birds on the shoreline.  Most of the gulls, flew towards the direction of the RSPB Reserve.  Just what is it with some folk, a whole beach available to walk on, but they for some reason have to disturb the birds!!

Returning home later that day, I entered my sighting onto the 'Live' Norwegian Ringing Database.  My sighting of   J76R , was the..
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      From Suzanne Belshaw       
On Friday 12th April, Suzanne Belshaw sent an email concerning the first ever 'colour-ringed' Mediterranean Gull, recorded in Northern Ireland, that was ringed in France.

Suzanne, was visiting the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve in Belfast, when she spotted the gull on nesting platform 2.  The RSPB, have a camera on this platform, which can be operated from the visitor centre.  A member of staff, was able to find the gull, and Suzanne took a few photos, via the monitor, showing the birds ring number -   RJ9H .  Checking the cr-birding site, Suzanne reported her sighting to the contact's email address.

Early on Saturday morning, came the reply from Camille Duponcheel.  It turns out, that Suzanne's sighting, was the second report of the gull in six days.  On the 6th April, a Derek Charles, had also reported this bird, presumably here on the reserve.  These were the first reports of the bird, since it was ringed as a chick, on the 2nd July 2016, at the Polder de Sebastopol Nature Reserve, on the west coast of France.

I checked the BTO's Online Ringing Report, which confirmed, that this was indeed the first ringed French Med Gull, to be recorded here.  I personally, had intended to go to Belfast last weekend, but remained at home dying with a cold, and planned to go this weekend, which I did.

There had been reports, of good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits, where I had hoped to spot a ring or two.  With no rings recorded, I then called into the Window on Wildlife Reserve.  The Mediterranean Gulls, are of interest to me, having recently recorded two 'metal-rung' birds.  Both gulls, were of Dutch origin, and having completed the number for one bird, I was still hoping to complete the second, for which, I only had a partial number.

On arriving at Hide One, which overlooks nesting platform 2, two 'metal-rung' Med Gulls were present, along with the newly recorded -   RJ9H .    RJ9H , was on the far edge of the platform, and I could only capture the last three digits of the ring.  This bird has a mate, so it will be interesting to see if they remain to breed here.

Mediterranean Gull  -    RJ9H   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (12 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 2nd July 2016, at Polder de Sebastopol, Barbâtre, Vendée, France)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)

Mediterranean Gull  -    RJ9H   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (13 Apr 2019)

As stated above, I had recently recorded two Dutch Mediterranean Gulls, both fitted with 'metal-rings.  During my visit, on the 23rd February 2019, I completed the number, on one of these two birds, which was located just to the left of centre on the nesting platform.  This bird, rung -   3.375.920 , stood in the exact spot, where it had nested successfully, during the summer's of 2017 and 2018.

I only managed a partial number for the second Med Gull, recorded here on the 23rd February.  Initially thinking it could have been a British-rung bird, a closer examination of all the photos taken, with a bit of editing, made me think that this second bird was also Dutch - with the full number likely to read -   3.739.*** .  On the 23rd February, it was positioned on the front right corner of the nesting platform, the very same spot, as one of the two 'metal-rung' birds spotted today.

Concentrating my camera on this bird in the corner, I took lots of photos of it's 'metal-ring', and as can be seen, in the picture below, it has a partner.  On returning home, it took ages to sift through these photos, but in the end, I had managed to complete the number -   3.738.593 .  Comparing the number, with that on the 23rd February (photo), the digits did not line up for the two birds.  Having, only captured a 'partial' number, I then realised the sequence was wrong.  Instead of reading -   3.739.*** , the details should have actually have read -   3.7**.59* , which would then give an exact match for today's sighting.  What had appeared to be a ' 3 ' before the ' 9 ', on the photo taken in February, has turned out to be a ' 5 '.

Satisfied, that I had now completed the partial number, recorded for the bird recorded on the 23rd February, I proceeded to enter this gull onto my spreadsheet, and the predictive text, showed the number was already entered.  Looking up the records concerned, I was in for quite of a surprise.

I had recorded -   3.738.593 , on two occasions in the past.  Ringed as a chick, in Holland, in June 2015, I first came across it, on the 28th November 2016, when I recorded it at Glenarm, County Antrim - (photo)-(blog)-(BTO Details).  Almost a year later (23rd November 2017), I fell in with   3.738.593   -  again, at Sandy Bay, Larne, in County Antrim (photo) - (blog).

On the 27th January 2019, Paul McCullough reported a metal-rung Med Gull, to the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Association website (photo).  Just the day before (26th), Neal Warnock, had reported a 'Dutch-ringed' Med Gull (photo), at Drains Bay, situated slightly north from Paul's sighting at Sandy Bay, in Larne, the following day.  I sent an email to Neal, for confirmation of the gulls ring number, but never received a reply.  However, both of these sightings may have been -   3.738.593 .

It's fascinating to think, that these foreign gulls may nest here, so far from their own countries of origin.  If these 'metals' had not been read, we wouldn't have known anything about these birds.

Mediterranean Gull  -    3.738.593   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (13 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 20th June 2015, at De Kreupel Island, Lake IJsselmeer, Holland)

The second 'metal-rung' Med Gull today, turned out to be another new sighting, which makes this the third altogether that are ringed with 'metals' only.  I had only taken a few photos of this bird, before it flew off, and did not return.  With only a couple of these photos readable, the ring on this one, is of another Dutch bird, and appears to read -   *.**2.4** .

  *.**2.4** , seems to have an un-ringed partner, and were positioned on the front left hand edge, of the final third of the platform.  Although   *.**2.4** , flew off, it's presumed partner remained throughout my visit.

As can be seen in the photo below, the country 'Holland' can just about be read, with the dot in ' *2.4* ', situated underneath the letter '  o '.  The metals on the other two Dutch birds, reads -   3.735.920   and   3.738.593 , thus clearly showing that '  *2.4* ', is definitely of a new bird.

Mediterranean Gull  -    *.**2.4**   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (13 Apr 2019)

For comparison, I've also added the 'stitched' photo of   3.738.593 , which clearly shows the position of all the characters of a 'Dutch-metal', including the dots, underneath the address.

Ring of Med Gull  -    3.738.593   -  taken at Glenarm, County Antrim, on the 28th November 2016.

The Mediterranean Gulls here at the reserve, are going to give me a 'headache'.  It is hard enough, to photograph the 'metal-rings', due to the distance between 'Hide 1', and 'Nesting Platform 2', but to have three 'metal-rung' Med Gulls, plus the 'colour-ringed' bird, is going to present me with quite a challenge, following the fortunes of all four birds this summer.  I also have the added problem, of completing the number of the my new sighting.


      From Ric Else       
On the 13th & 15th April, I received emails from Richard Else, who is based on Rathlin Island.  Ric, is well aware of my Common Gull Project, which commenced in the summer of 2017, when I 'colour-ringed' chicks in County Antrim, and especially on Rathlin.  Having used 'Blue Darvic's', with a white alpha/numeric code, Ric has been keeping an eye out, as some of the 2017 youngsters may return to possibly breed this summer.

On the 29th March 2019, Ric spotted   2BHL , at Doon Bay, which had been ringed as a chick, on the 26th June 2018, just north at Arkill Bay - both sites are on the east coast of Rathlin.  I was not expecting to see the return of immatures so soon.

On the 13th April, Ric spotted   2APT , and then on the 15th, recorded   2BAX , with both birds being present at Rue Point, which holds the main breeding colony on the island.    2APT , was ringed as a chick at Rue Point, on the 17th June 2017, and   2BAX , was ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Arkill Bay.  Having gone un-recorded since being ringed, these two might breed here this summer.

I thought there was a chance, that one or two, 2017 bred birds would return this summer.  As they are still under two years of age, I am expecting to see a number of returnees, from next year onwards.  For now, its a good start, and hopefully more will follow.

My thanks to Ric, and his birding partner Hazel, for keeping a look out for my birds.

Common Gull  -    2APT   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (13 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 17th June 2017, at Rue Point)
(Photo Courtesy of Richard Else)

Common Gull  -    2BAX   -  Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim  (15 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2017, at Arkill Bay, Rathlin Island)
(Photo Courtesy of Richard Else)


      From Paul McCullough       
On the 14th April, I received an email from Paul McCullough, concerning a 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull -   2J03 , which he spotted two days earlier, at the Leisure Centre, in Carrickfergus.  I immediately recognised the ring series, as those being used by the partnership of Christmas & Christmas, though the ring series is registered to Kane Brides.

Having no email address for the partnership, I contacted Kane, though I did not expect a quick reply.  In Kane's line of work, the Internet is not always readily available to him.  As luck would have it, a reply did come sooner than expected.

Kane supplied the life history of   2J03 , and the first thing that I noticed, was that   2J03 , was no stranger to Carrickfergus.  Ringed as an un-sexed adult, on the 26th February 2014, at Carnforth, Lancashire, England, it's first re-sighting was given as the 21st April 2014, at Carrickfergus.  Seeing this, prompted me to check for the gull on Adam McClure's blog, and sure enough, there was a post (read).    2J03 , had been recorded by Paul, though he's obviously forgotten about it.

  2J03 , was still in Carrickfergus, on the 26th May 2014, and had not been recorded again in Northern Ireland until now.  Between these visits to Northern Ireland,   2J03 , has been recorded on four occasions.  The first and fourth of these, was back at the original ringing site at Carnforth, on the 25th December 2016, and on the 13th March 2019.  The second and third sightings, were at the RSPB Hodbarrow Reserve, in Cumbria, England, on the 1st August 2017, and on the 26th March 2018.

My thanks to Paul, for sharing his sighting, plus the photo.  I'm sure he was surprised having realised he had recorded this bird in the past.  My thanks, also to Kane for his speedy reply.

Black-headed Gull  -    2J03   -  Carrickfergus Leisure Centre, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim  (12 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 26th February 2014, at Pine Lake, Carnforth, Lancashire, England)
(Photo Courtesy of Paul McCullough)


      Out and About       
Since the end of March, I have not been out and about too often, mainly due to catching the cold.  I cannot seem to shake it off, as it has run into a third week.  Maybe, due to my age, I seem to catch the cold quite often now, and always have trouble trying to get rid of it.  I also work in a cold environment, where temperatures are often kept at or below freezing point, which does not help.

With the winter season over, and the nesting season beginning to ramp up, I've been taking things easy at home, and have caught up on some badly needed work in the garden, and adding more information to my 'ringing spreadsheet'.  Having added extra features to the spreadsheet, such as links to photos, blog entries, ringing locations, via Google Maps, I have given myself a lot more work to do.  I'm trying to add all entries from whenever I started my blog.

As I've gained more experience blogging, I want to re-visit my early posts, and give these a facelift.  In those early times, I did not have a decent photo editor, but in time, everything will be re-worked.

On Sunday, the 7th April, I headed off to the coast of County Antrim, to take a first pre-season check on the Common Gull colonies at Ballintoy, Torr Head and Waterfoot.  As per usual, plans are not always fulfilled, and I never got to the latter two sites.

I spent ages at Ballintoy Harbour, which has a loose colony of Common Gulls spread over a large area of the shore.  Scoping these for rings, especially the blue 'colour-rings', that I've used on chicks at Rathlin Island, only a single 'metal' was spotted.  This bird was on the same rock islet, as a bird seen here last summer, although not in the same spot.  The gulls were collecting nest material, and I might have a fair chance of reading the 'metal' with my new camera on a later date.

Despite being very cold in the strong easterly wind, I spent a good couple of hours here.  Head counts were made on several occasions, with over thirty birds present on each count.  Although nest building is not in full swing, there could be over 20 pairs altogether.

Last summer, the Common Gulls had a poor breeding season here.  As Ballintoy Harbour, is a major location in the series 'Game of Thrones', the area was overrun by tourists on a daily basis.  Many folk would clamour over the rocks where the gulls were nesting, and it wouldn't surprise me, if eggs were accidentally stood on, or deliberately broken.

Moving on towards Torr Head, I stopped by Ballycastle Harbour, to check on the gulls on the beach there.  To my delight, somewhere between 50 to 70 Common Gulls, were present, bathing at the point where the Glenshesk River, enters the sea.  Just as many Black-headed Gulls, along with smaller numbers of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, were also present.

Here, I thought, I was bound to fall in with one of my 'colour-ringed' Common Gulls, but the only 'colour-ring' spotted was on a Black-headed Gull.  Bearing an 'Orange Darvic', I knew this was one of Adam McClure's birds.  I've never recorded any of Adam's birds at Ballycastle before, so I thought this was likely to be a new sighting.

Having scoped the bird at distance, I walked closer to capture it with my camera.  At the same time, a women with two kids, walked down onto the beach, and proceeded in the direction of all the gulls.  They were too far ahead of me, and then the gulls took flight and settled onto the sea.  Once the beach was clear of people, some of the gulls returned, but no sign of the 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gull.

I waited for a really long time, and was frozen to the bone.  I then headed towards the shops to buy a loaf.  Throwing full slices of bread onto the beach did the trick, and the gull I was after re-appeared.  Camera out, I took a few photos, and captured the code   2CNB .  By now, the weather conditions seemed to worsen, and the sky became really dark, so I ended my afternoon here.

On returning home, I entered   2CNB , onto my spreadsheet, only to discover that this was not a new sighting.  With three past records, two of these were made by me.    2CNB , was ringed as a chick, on the 16th June 2017, on..
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Unlike 'Game of Thrones', where the winter is coming, for me the winter has ended - though, with our current weather, it does not seem like it.  Talking of Game of Thrones, I along with many of you, cannot wait for the final episodes to unfurl.  Over these last few weeks, I have been watching the seven previous seasons, after returning home from work at night.  Who will win the throne?

No matter who survives until the end, I must comment on an excellent production by HBO, and certainly to all the actors who took part, well done to you all.

It's now that time of the year, when many of our wintering birds, will be well on their way home, to breed for the summer.  This is also the time, when my blog winds down.  Instead of 'Reading Rings', I will be out and about looking for our own nesting birds, with the view of ringing their chicks.

Posts, will most likely be made on an infrequent basis, pending on what information I receive.  'Ring Reading', does not stop entirely, as from time to time, I will be out looking for our 'ringed' breeders.  Every so often, I will check into the 'Live' Norwegian and Polish Ringing Databases, to see if there are any latest reports, of birds recorded here this winter, and those which have gone unrecorded from earlier years.

Despite extensive searching, some gulls recorded last winter, were not recorded this winter.  They could have died, or simply slipped by un-noticed, but I will keep checking for them.

As can be read below, I cancelled, what was to be my final weekly visit to Antrim Marina.  This past winter there, has been a nightmare and frankly, I cannot see things improving next winter.

Other than that, this winter has been excellent, with many old and new ring sightings having been recorded.  I cannot wait for next winter to arrive, so I can begin the whole process of recording our returnees.

As I say, my blog will now take a 'back seat', but I hope my readers have enjoyed my efforts to record ringed birds.  I also must thank all of the other observers who have submitted their ring sightings for inclusion in my blog.  Not only do their records add to our knowledge of wintering birds, but the blog produces a hard copy of their efforts - THANK YOU All.

      Antrim Marina       
Sunday, the 31st March, or Monday, the first of April, was supposed to be my last weekly visit to Antrim Marina this winter.  I decided to cancel the visit, owing to the number of disastrous visits over recent months.

Now that the breeding season is almost upon us, many of the gulls have now moved on towards their breeding sites.  Throughout the summer, I will conduct random visits to the Marina, to record the resident Black-headed Gulls, especially any of those that I have caught and ringed, over these past two winters.

The construction work, of the new cafe, will continue over the summer, which will not help in recording 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls.  Work is to be completed by August 2018, the planned month for the cafe to open.  August, is also the month, when I begin my 7th winter of 'Ring Watching at Antrim Marina'.  

Hopefully, next winter does not see the disturbance, that the gulls had to experience, over these last few months.  Somehow, I doubt it, and a good wintering site, has now been destroyed.  A good study, has become a poor study, but I will have to persist no matter what.


      Ringing Details Received       
Graham McElwaine, who is the ringing coordinator for the Irish Brent Goose Research Group, has now returned home from his visit to Australia.  Graham, is now playing 'catch-up', responding to all of the Brent Goose sightings, which have been reported to him.

Among these, are three of several Brent Geese, which I have reported over the last few weeks.  Graham has included temporary PDF files for each of these three birds, which are updated at a later time.

Brent Goose - Yellow I / Yellow 3
I recorded this bird, on the 2nd & 30th March 2019, at Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down.  It was ringed as an adult female, on the 12th May 2007, at Jörfi, Álftanes, in SW. Iceland.  The duration since being ringed, is now 11 years, 10 months and 18 days.  Still to be fully updated, it's re-sighting history can be read (here).

Brent Goose - Black H / White P
I recorded this bird, on the 2nd & 3rd March 2019, at Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down.  It was ringed as an adult male, on the 9th February 2018, at Dundrum, County Down, here in Northern Ireland.  The duration since being ringed, is now 1 year, and 22 days.  Still to be fully updated, it's re-sighting history can be read (here).

Brent Goose - White V / White J
This goose was spotted walking on the road, beside the play park on the seafront at Millisle, County Down, on the 3rd March 2018.  It was ringed as an adult female, on the 16th January 2007, on Strangford Lough, in County Down.  The duration since being ringed, is now 12 years, 1 month and 15 days.  Still to be fully updated, it's re-sighting history can be read (here).


On the 24th March 2019, I spotted a 'colour-ringed' Black-tailed Godwit (GR-PNPNP), during a visit to the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, in County Down (blog).  Being a new sighting, I reported the bird to the registered contact, given in the 'Guide to Colour-Ringed Black-tailed Godwits (PDF).  Having waited for a while, and receiving no reply, I reported the bird to the BTO, through their 'Online Ringing Database'.

On Thursday, the 4th April, I received a reply from the BTO, with the ringing details attached.  My Godwit, was ringed as a juvenile, on the 20th December 2009, at Mahee Island, which is situated 6 kms to the south-east of Castle Espie.  No great distance here, but the duration since ringing, was 9 years, 3 months and 4 days.

As the ringing details, also included the Godwit's 'metal-number', I entered this onto the 'DemOn Database', to discover that this was the first official reporting for the bird.  It is possible that the bird has been re-sighted in the past, but I have learnt, that many project organisers fail to submit those sightings to the BTO.


      From Richard Else       
I received an email from Richard Else, on the Friday 29th March 2019, concerning a Common Gull, from my own 'Colour-Ringing' Project.    2BHL , was spotted by Ric, at Doon Bay, on Rathlin Island, earlier that day.    2BHL , was ringed as a chick, on the 24th June 2018, at Arkill Bay, on Rathlin Island, which is about 2kms to the north of Doon Bay.  The duration since being ringed, was 9 months, and 5 days.

Ric, and his birdwatching partner Hazel Watson, have been watching the Common Gulls on Rathlin, as many are now returning, prior to the oncoming breeding season.  Both, are aware of my ringing project, which began during the summer of 2017, and some of those surviving youngsters from that year, may attempt to breed this summer.

In 2018, I ringed 69 Common Gull chicks on the southern arm of Rathlin Island, 53 of which, were large enough to be fitted with a 'Blue Colour-Ring'.  Of those 53, which were 'colour-ringed', Ric's sighting today, is only the second of those chicks to have been recorded over this past autumn/ winter season.  On the 19th August 2018, I spotted   2BCL , at Cushendun Harbour, further south along the east coast of County Antrim.

My thanks to Ric & Hazel, for reporting their sighting, and hopefully, there are more to come.  Ric & Hazel, have compiled the Rathlin Island Bird Report, copies of which can be found on the side-bar of my blog.

Common Gull  -    2BHL   -  Doon Bay, Rathlin Island, County Antrim  (29 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 24th June 2018, at Arkill Bay, Rathlin Island, County Antrim)
(Photo Courtesy of Ric Else)


      Saturday 30th March 2019       
Another late start for a Saturday, I decided to check out the gulls at the RSPB's Window on Wildlife Reserve in Belfast.  Having already had one Dutch-rung Mediterranean Gull, confirmed recently, I am still hoping to complete the 'metal' number for a second Dutch Med Gull.

Watching the nest platform, from hide one, a pair of Med Gulls, were present, but neither were ringed.  I remained at the hide for a considerable amount of time, in the hope, that one or both of the 'metal-rung' Dutch Med's would appear.  They never did, but I recorded two 'colour-ringed' Black-headed Gulls, from Adam McClure's Northern Ireland Study.

The first of these, was   2AJF , this being my sixth sighting of the gull, and the fourth record for 2019.    2AJF , was ringed as a chick, on the 19th June 2014, but it's first re-sighting happened to be here at the RSPB Reserve, on the 12th May 2018, when I recorded the gull breeding on the nesting platform (PDF).

My second sighting of   2AJF , was made on the 9th December 2018, when I recorded it wintering on the nearby Dargan Industrial Estate.  Kinnegar Beach, also close to the reserve, was the site of my first sighting of   2AJF , in 2019 (17th February).

Prior to today's sighting, I have recorded   2AJF , on this same nesting platform, on the 2nd & 9th March 2019.

Black-headed Gull  -    2AJF   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (30 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 19th June 2014, at the Castle Espie Wetland Centre, County Down)

The second Black-headed Gull, was   2CJF , this being only my second sighting of this bird.  I first recorded it, on the 26th August 2018, at nearby Kinnegar Beach.  Ringed as a juvenile, on the 3rd July 2016, at Blue Circle Island, on Larne Lough, it appears that   2CJF , is attempting to breed for the first time, here at the Reserve.

Black-headed Gull  -    2CJF   -  RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve, Belfast  (30 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 3rd July 2016, at Blue Circle Island, Larne Lough, Co. Antrim)

Leaving the RSPB Reserve, I drove the short distance to the beach at Kinnegar.  Knowing the tide was due to come back in, I positioned my car overlooking the beach.  As I arrived, a couple had just got out of their car, and walked down onto the beach, carrying a garden fork and a bucket.  To my dismay, they proceeded towards a large flock of Common Gulls, numbering somewhere near to the 100 mark.

Stopping just shy of the gulls, they began to dig into the sand.  The gulls were wary, with some walking away, but in the most part, others stood their ground.  I began scoping through them and spotted one bird, with a green 'colour-ring'.  The bird, was probably from Norway, but was quickly obscured by other gulls.  At this point, I grabbed my gear and walked out towards the couple that were digging.

Scoping through the gulls again, I could not re-locate the bird I was after, and soon afterwards, they all took to the air, as the couple approached even closer.  Sugar!!, I thought to myself, there's one that got away.

Oystercatchers, were by far the most numerous species on the beach, numbering over 150 birds.  Looking through these, I saw one 'metal-ringed' bird, but no sign of the two Icelandic 'colour-ringed' birds, that I recorded on many occasions this winter.  Perhaps, they too, are on their way back home.

A group of 45 to 50 Brent Geese, attracted special attention from me, as I noticed that a few were carrying 'colour-rings'.  As the tide pushed the birds ever closer, I recorded 5 ringed birds, two of which were recent re-sightings, 2 new birds, and 1 that I recorded back in April 2018.

This bird was Blue 2 / Blue K, which I spotted at Glynn, on Larne Lough, on the 15th April 2018.  Graham McElwaine, will send me an updated PDF File in due course, but for now, I've added my old one showing the movements of Blue 2 / Blue K, up until my sighting at Glynn (read).

Brent Goose  -  Blue 2 / Blue K  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (30 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 7th February 2012, at Sandyford, Co. Dublin, Republic of Ireland)

One of the new Brent sightings, was White L / Blue S.  I've reported the bird to Graham, and he will get back to me at a later date, with it's ringing and re-sighting history.

Brent Goose  -  White L / Blue S  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (30 Mar 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

My latest sighting of Red H / Red J, is my fourth record for 2019, having noted it's return to Kinnegar Beach, initially on the 17th February.  I first recorded Red H / Red J, last year, here at Kinnegar Beach.  Just the single sighting, on the 4th March 2018, it was partnered to a male - Red H / Red H, which sadly, failed to return after the summer.  Again, Graham, will forward an updated PDF File at a later date.  In the meantime, I've added the file, which Graham sent to me last year (read).

Brent Goose  -  Red H / Red J  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (30 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 22nd November 2013, at Portmarnock, Co. Dublin, R. of Ireland)

Blue B / Blue C, was my second new Brent Goose sighting today at Kinnegar Beach.  Currently, I'm waiting on the ringing and re-sighting history for this bird, to be forwarded by Graham.

Brent Goose  -  Blue B / Blue C  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (30 Mar 2019)
(Waiting for the Ringing Details)

The fifth Brent Goose, was Yellow I / Yellow 3.  Today's sighting, was my second record for this bird, with my first sighting, having been made on the 2nd March 2019.  In my blog entry, I recorded the bird as Yellow 1 / Yellow 3, but will have to correct that.

Graham, has sent me a copy of the birds PDF File, which has yet to be updated, but it contains a substantial record of re-sightings, since the bird was ringed in Iceland, in 2007 (read).

Brent Goose  - Yellow I / Yellow 3  -  Kinnegar Beach, Belfast Lough, Co. Down  (30 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 12th May 2007, at Jörfi, Álftanes, SW Iceland)


      From Suzanne Belshaw       
On returning home from work on Thursday night, I checked my emails, to find one from Suzanne Belshaw.  Earlier that day, Suzanne spotted a 'colour-ringed' Herring Gull, on the mudflats at Dargan, in Belfast.

Although, Suzanne already knew, the bird was from the Dublin Project, I was asked to report the bird to my 'Ring Reading' counterpart - Graham Prole.  On Friday morning, Graham - on the ball, as always, replied to Suzanne.

  298:D , was ringed as a chick, on the 26th June 2018, on the roof of Dublin City's Mater Hospital.  Suzanne's sighting at Dargan, was the first record of the gull, since being ringed (PDF).

My thanks goes to Suzanne, for sharing her sighting, and to Graham, for his quick reply.

Juvenile Herring Gull  -    298:D   -  Dargan Mudflats, Belfast Lough  (04 Apr 2019)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 26th June 2018, at the Mater Hospital (roof), Dublin City, Republic of Ireland)
(Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Belshaw)


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      Barnacle Geese on the Isle of Islay, Scotland       
On Monday the 18th March 2019, I joined a trip to the Island of Islay, which had been organised by Jim Wells.  Those going on the trip had two options:- (1) Remain at the Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve, run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, or (2) travel around the island to read rings on Barnacle Geese.

Ten people, including myself, booked onto the trip, with Jim Wells, David Nixon, Maurice Cassidy and myself, electing to 'Read Rings'.  Two folk, by the morning of the trip, were unable to participate, though the graciously submitted their fee, which made the total cost of the trip, slightly less for the rest of us.

Jim, a friend of my since the early 80's, was interested to see me in action with my camera.  He knew, the results I was obtaining with my old Nikon P900, but the new Nikon P1000, really excelled on Islay.  Jim, and the other 'Ring Readers', were impressed at just how good the camera was, at catching the ring codes from distance.

On arriving at the RSPB's Loch Gruinart Reserve, a small flock of Barnacle Geese, were present in the field below the car park at the Reserve.  Just one of these birds was ringed, bearing a 'metal'.  Despite, good light being on the wrong side of the 'metal', plus the goose was on the move, feeding, I managed to capture a number of photos, showing a 'dodgy' ring number.

By the time, we were due to leave the island, I had also recorded 19 'colour-ringed' geese.  All sightings were sorted, and copies of the photos were sent to Steve Percival, the ringing coordinator for the Barnacle Geese.  Steve suggested that my 'metal-rung' goose, may be of Icelandic origin, as British rings had seven digits, whereas, my 'dodgy' ring number appeared to read -   120866 .

I reported the bird to Iceland anyway, not 100% sure whether they would accept the sighting.  When the reply, came back, they confirmed that the number -   120866 , was indeed used on a juvenile, ringed on the 18th July 2018.  Understandably, I was well pleased with the result.  I'm sure, very few 'Ring Readers', ever read 'metals' on Barnacle Geese, here on Islay.  

Barnacle Goose  -    120866   -  Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 18th July 2018, at Breiðamerkursandur, SE. Iceland)
(PDF File)

As can be imagined, my use of the camera, to document my ring sightings, went down a treat, for all concerned.  Photos, eliminate the margin for mistakes in reading codes, offering full proof of my sightings.  Graham McElwaine, from the Irish Brent Goose Research Group, has commented on my sightings in the past, as I always submit photos for each Brent Goose sighting, here in Northern Ireland.

Below, are the email comments, from Steve Percival (coordinator) and David Nixon (fellow 'ring reader').

Many thanks for your kind offer to use your photos, much appreciated. Its awesome to be able to verify sightings like this. The clarity of the rings is fantastic, your set-up seems perfect.


Hi Steve,

Great to see the feedback from Gareth's records from Monday. Quite a few of those records are the same as mine for the day so I'm only reporting a few extras picked up when not with Gareth. I'm afraid I can't provide photographic evidence of my sightings, those great photos take this type of recording to a whole new level !!


Below, are the 19 'Colour-Ringed' Barnacle Geese, that I recorded.  Some of these birds, were spotted at distance, therefore, their photos were taken, well into 'digital mode', with my camera.  With the codes captured, many of these geese, were ringed quite recently, and have quite an extensive local re-sighting history.  I've added a 'Link', to the PDF File, for each goose encountered, other than trying to list all of the re-sightings on this post.

All in all, this was a good first visit to the Isle of Islay, as I had never recorded a 'Ringed' Barnacle Goose, before today.

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  6TF  -  Bridgend, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a 2nd Calendar Year Female, on the 14th February 2018, at Rubha Ban, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)
(Re-Sighting History)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  6TP  -  Bridgend, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 14th February 2018, at Rubha Ban, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)
(Re-Sighting History)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  6UN  -  Bridgend, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 16th February 2018, at Rubha Ban, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)
(Re-Sighting History)
Barnacle Goose  -  (White 6UL)  -  Bridgend, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 16th February 2018, at Rubha Ban, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)
(Re-Sighting History)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  6UY  -  Bridgend, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 16th February 2018, at Rubha Ban, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)
(Re-Sighting History)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  6XC  -  Bridgend, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Male, on the 16th February 2018, at Rubha Ban, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)
(Re-Sighting History)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  EBJ  -  Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ring as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 26th October 2018, at Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)
(Re-Sighting History)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  EBT  -  Grainel, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2018)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 26th October 2018, at Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)
(Re-Sighting History)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)   SDS  -  Bridgend, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 3rd March 2018, on the Orkney Islands, Scotland)
(R-Sighting History)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  SNU  -  Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 2nd March 2017, on the Isle of Tiree, Inner Hebrides, Scotland)
(Re-Sighting History)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  SNV  -  Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a Juvenile, on the 2nd March 2017, on the Isle of Tiree, Inner Hebrides, Scotland)
(Re-Sighting History)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  VYY  -  Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 9th November 2004, at Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)
(Re-Sighting History)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  XFX  -  Bridgend, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult, on the 13th November 2004, at Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)
(Re-Sighting History)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  XHC  -  Bridgend, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Un-Sexed Adult, on the 13th November 2004, at Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)
(Re-Sighting History)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  XVJ  -  Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 30th October 2008, at Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)
(Re-Sighting History)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  ZTZ  -  Bridgend, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 27th October 2014, at Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  ZZH  -  Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as an Adult Female, on the 25th October 2018, at Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland)

Barnacle Goose  -  (White)  ZZL  -  Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (18 Mar 2019)
(Ringed as a Juvenile Male, on the 26th October 2018, at Loch Gruinart, Isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute,..

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