Thursday, 25 April 2013

Some sad news

Regular followers of the blog may remember the Lithuanian colour-ringed Black-headed Gull I saw in Ballywalter at the start of February (see here). 

Well, this evening I received an email from Vytautas' family with some sad news.  Vytautas Pareigis, the Head of the Bird Ringing Station, Juodkrante sadly passed away on 9 April after falling through ice while reading gull rings on a frozen lake.

Vytautas had over 30 years work ringing and watching gulls, hard work which will thankfully be continued in memory of Vytautas.  This includes continuing to share any information received with the Lithuanian bird ringing centre.

From now on all questions regarding bird ringing in Juodkrante and Neringa should be addressed to Ligita Pareigiene at

Black P736 at Ballywalter, March 2013

Sunday, 21 April 2013

More colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwits

On Thursday morning I had a meeting in Belfast, so heading in early to beat the traffic, I spent an hour or so in the hide at RSPB Belfast Lough Reserve.  I was checking to see if I could spot any more colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwits, after spotting two there last Sunday morning (see here).

One of the first colour-ringed birds I saw was one of the same birds I'd seen on Sunday, YYRX.

Photo by Keith Stevens

This bird was originally ringed in Alftafjorour in Iceland back in May 2003 and has since been re-sighted 28 times in Iceland (1), Northern Ireland (12), Norway (1), Faroe Islands (1), England (8), Portugal (1), France (1) and Wales (3)!

Red - Ringing location
Blue - Locations where YYRX has been re-sighted

Another bird I saw was GGOR(flag), which had been ringed as a chick in northern Iceland in July 2007.  It has since been re-sighted 8 times, all in Northern Ireland - 6 times at Belfast Harbour and twice on Strangford Lough.

Photo by Ronald Surgenor

Three other colour-ringed birds which I recorded had all been ringed at Mahee Island, Strangford Lough by Kerry Mackie. 

During my hour at the reserve I got chatting to Ronald Surgenor, who took the photo above, and after I left he saw and photographed several other colour-ringed birds, including RYO= and LNWX.

Photo by Ronald Surgenor

Photo by Ronald Surgenor

These godwits have been colour-ringed as part of a study called Project Jaðrakan, the main aim of which is to "unravel the population dynamics and migration strategies of this graceful bird".  You can find more out about the project by visiting their website by clicking here.

Many thanks to Keith and Ronald for letting me post their photos here and, as always, to Pete Potts for passing on the fascinating history of these cracking birds.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Our first foreign recovery!! BHG - 2AAR

I received an email at the end of last week from the Polish Bird Ringing Centre, which was entitled, "2AAR".

With great excitement I opened the attached file which told me that this bird had been re-sighted on 11 April by Michal Polakowski at Hryniewicze-wysypisko smieci, Podlaskie in eastern Poland!

2AAR was one of seven birds caught and ringed on 21 December at Antrim, and it has been recorded there throughout the winter.  It was last seen on 12 March by Keith Stevens, which means it has travelled the 1,911km (1194 miles) to Poland in under a month....and that's if it flew in a straight line.

Red - Lough Neagh, Co. Antrim, NI
Blue - Podlaskie, Poland

2AAR shortly after being ringed, 21.12.12
2AAR at Antrim in January 2013

This is hopefully the first of many re-sightings we will get of our project birds and to get a result like this so early in the project is extremely encouraging, especially as, in the grand scheme of things, we've colour-ringed relatively few birds.

Thanks to Michal for reporting his sighting and to the Polish Bird Ringing Centre for getting in contact. 

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Black-tailed Godwit - Y8GL

I met up with a friend from Scotland this morning, who was over in NI visiting family.

Ben Herschell is secretary of Tay Ringing Group and a fellow gull ringer, so we set off in search of colour-rings.

After a bit of searching we finally caught up with some colour-ringed birds, in the form of a Light-bellied Brent Goose and Common Gull, at Millisle, Co. Down.

As the tide was almost fully in, we set off towards the RSPB reserve at Belfast Harbour which gets inundated with birds, pushed off the mudflats, looking for a safe haven to roost.

Scanning the flock of Black-tailed Godwits on the far side of the reserve, we managed to pick out two birds which had been colour-ringed.

I sent the details off this afternoon and within an hour got word back from Pete Potts.

One of the birds we saw (Yellow/8, Green/Lime) was originally ringed in Siglufjordur in northern Iceland as an adult female on 10 July 2012.

Many thanks to Pete to getting back to me so quickly and passing on this fantastic photograph of Y8GL being ringed last summer.

Friday, 12 April 2013

And then there was one....

As expected, as wintering birds disperse, the number of Black-headed Gulls present at our main winter catching site has dramatically decreased. 

Keith Stevens got in touch to say that numbers were well down and that 2AAF was the only colour-ringed bird still there.

This bird was the only juvenile ringed there, which may suggest why it's the only one still around.  It is most likely that all of the adults have dispersed to their respective breeding colonies.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Black-headed Gull - FA00745

Another country has been added to the list of where wintering Black-headed Gulls in Northern Ireland were originally ringed.

Thanks to Lowell Mills who passed on details of a metal ring he managed to read at Antrim Forum back in October.

Lowell was able to read the number and to make out the letters "BEL" on the address and reported the number accordingly.

Just this week, Lowell got word back that this bird was ringed as a chick on 10 June 2006 at Nespish Lake, Braslav in Belarus.  That's a movement of 2095km, making it the largest distance travelled by any of the birds we've reported here.

This is the eighth country of origin of ringed Black-headed Gulls recorded here this winter, along with Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, England, Norway, Poland and Lithuania.


Thursday, 4 April 2013

A movement!

I headed down to Sandy Bay in Larne this evening to check the Black-headed Gull flock for colour-ringed birds and I wasn't disappointed.

Noticing a bird with an orange ring, I assumed it was the bird which I ringed there earlier this winter but when I looked at a photo I managed to get, I realised that the code on the ring was 2ABT.

This bird was actually ringed in Ballyholme, Co. Down by Kerry Leonard when we were out on 24 January.


Kerry with 2ABT in January
Although, it appeared as though not everyone was happy to see 2ABT!

Unfortunately it doesn't count as a recovery as it's only a movement of 22km (13.75m), but this is the first time one our colour-ringed birds has been recorded away from where it was ringed, so I'm delighted!

2ABH, the bird which I ringed at Sandy Bay on 21 January is still around too and I also managed to get a couple of snaps of it.

Both of these birds are adult males and are likely breeding birds from the colony on Blue Circle Island in Larne Lough.

Ready for take-off!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

"A very" Good Friday - Part I

Last Friday afternoon I headed down to the Ards Peninsula and I called into Millisle for a quick look to see if there were any colour-ringed gulls around.

I threw some bread out and the mixed flock of Black-headed, Common, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls very quickly appeared around the car.  Unfortunately, very few of the gulls landed, instead most of them stayed on the wing in the strong breeze.

Frustratingly, I could see a Common Gull with a blue colour-ring but it was one of the birds which had decided not to land...and when it did, it was extremely brief!

Spot the colour-ring!
Ah, so close!

Eventually the bird touched down just long enough for me to catch a photo and make out the code as 2ADX


After, I scanned the birds roosting along the tideline and managed to digi-scope a shot of another bird, 2AAC, with my phone.

Both of these birds have been ringed by Shane Wolsey on Big Copeland, the largest island in the nearby Copeland Islands archipelago.  Copeland Bird Observatory is located on Old Lighthouse Island, which is north of Big Copeland. 

Although this isn't a big movement, Shane has had reports of birds turning up further afield including two birds at Duncannon Strand, Duncannon, Co. Wexford, one on 8th January and another bird on 10th January. Another bird was reported in Limerick City on 12th January, and finally 2AXH was seen at Kervigen Beach, Plomodiern, Finistère, France!

Shane has been using both blue and yellow colour-rings and if you happen to see any Common Gulls with colour-rings, please report them to Shane at

I left Millisle and headed south to the village of Ballywalter where I saw that P736 was still around. I originally saw and reported about this bird back in February (see here).