Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Finnish 2nd-winter BHG at Ballyronan, Lough Neagh

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

Red - Ballyronan
Blue - Antrim
Green - Kinnego

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

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

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

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

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

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

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