Friday, 29 November 2013

One weekend / two conferences!

Last weekend I, along with many others, headed to Cork for the 6th Irish Ornithological Research Conference, hosted by the School of Biological Earth and Environmental Sciences at UCC.

On our journey down, we stopped off at Portmarnock in north Dublin to assist the Irish Brent Goose Research Group (IBGRG) with a catch.

Ireland hosts the vast majority of the world population of Light-bellied Brent Geese (c.30,000-40,000) and the work of the IBGRG has resulted in almost 4000 geese being caught and colour-ringed since 2001. They have recorded over 130,000 re-sightings, which makes my 500+ re-sightings seem slightly insignificant!!

I can't believe this blog is over a year old and I haven't mentioned the IBGRG before - sorry, guys!

This was my first experience of cannon-netting and unfortunately, a temperamental fuse resulted in only six of the 120 or so geese in the catching zone being caught. *Insert expletives here*

It was fascinating and impressive to watch the professional setup the guys had to process the birds, taking all sorts of biometrics and, of course, colour-ringing them.

You can keep up to date by following the IBGRG blog, here.

Photo by Niall Harmey
We also caught two Black-headed Gulls which Niall Tierney from Birdwatch Ireland duly ringed. Sadly, as the birds weren't caught in Northern Ireland, I couldn't fit them with colour-rings, but it was the first time Niall had ringed one, so hopefully he might think about starting his own project!

Photo by Niall Harmey
Photo by Niall Harmey
Measuring head & bill to determine sex
Photo by Niall Harmey

Saturday saw the conference start bright and early at 09.30 and was a superb series of talks by researchers and academics from across Ireland, highlighting the amount of fantastic work being conducted here. Speakers covered a wide range of topics, including seabirds, raptors, geese, monitoring and the human impact on birds.

The keynote speaker was Stephen Votier from University of Exeter who has a passion for seabirds and has extensively studied my favourite species, the Gannet. The work which he has been involved with has included capturing some absolutely amazing footage from a back-mounted camera, fitted to a Gannet, which you might've seen on the BBC earlier this month.

As well as the talks, there were also around 20 poster presentations, including one on my Black-headed Gull study in Northern Ireland.

The following morning, the Irish Ringers' Conference was held, and was well attended with over 50 people filling the room.

Talks included one by Niall from Birdwatch Ireland on the Dublin Bay Birds Project, which will see birds, primarily waders, fitted with colour-rings to monitor their movements within Dublin Bay and further afield to establish how the are influenced by disturbance. You can follow their blog here.

There was also a presentation on Mediterranean Gulls in Dublin by Sean Kingston, who has been monitoring the ever growing population. Sean is also catching birds and fitting them with colour-rings to establish movements, longevity, etc. similar to my Black-headed Gull study in Northern Ireland.

It was fantastic to meet so many enthusiastic people and we shouldn't wait another five years before holding another Irish Ringers' Conference!

A long, tiring but ultimately, brilliant, weekend.

Thanks to Niall for letting me use his photos, to the IBGRG for and John O'Halloran et al at UCC and Alan Lauder for organising two brilliant conferences.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Common Gull - Green J074

Stephen's colour-ringed black-headed gull isn't the only Norwegian bird to be recorded here in recent weeks.

A common gull, fitted with a colour-ring J074, was reported to me by Cameron Moore. Cameron had seen the bird at the shore at Whitehead in County Antrim.

I got in touch with Kjeld Pedersen and he passed it on to Morten Helberg in Norway, who confirmed that this bird had been ringed at Bergen on 19 August and aged as a first year.

It was recorded a couple of times later that same day in a near-by park, but Cameron's sighting is the first record since.

Cheers to Cameron for reporting and to Kjeld and Morten for passing on the information.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Black-headed Gull - White J4P4

Stephen Hewitt got in touch last week to say that he had seen a colour-ringed black-headed gull while he was carrying out his monthly WeBS count at Lurgan Park, Co. Armagh.

The bird, which was J4P4, had been originally ringed as a pullus at Stranga, Norway in June 2006. It was recaptured in April 2011 at Oslo, when it was fitted with the colour-ring.

It has subsequently been re-sighted at Oslo in March 2012 and close to the colony where it was originally ringed in July this year.

A couple of weeks ago I had been speaking to Raymond Duncan from Grampian Ringing Group and he had told me they had experienced an influx of Norwegian gulls into NE Scotland, and to keep an eye out here...perhaps I should've asked him for the lottery numbers instead! 

Blue - Ringed as pullus, June 2006
Yellow - Cr-ring added, April 2011; re-sighted, March 2012
Green - Re-sighted, July 2013
Red - Re-sighted, Nov 2013
Stephen's sighting is the first of this bird away from Norway and is a distance of 1172 km.

Monday, 18 November 2013

500 not out!

Taking advantage of the Wi-Fi on the ferry home after a brilliant weekend at the Scottish Ringers' Conference in Carrbridge, I thought I needed to put up a quick post to say that this afternoon...well, technically yesterday afternoon...I received the 500th re-sighting for the study (503 to be precise!).

I'm delighted and this is a great result. Also, it couldn't be more timely, as this week sees the anniversary of the project beginning.

Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to report a sighting or point people in the right direction.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Black-headed Gull - White TY34

In my update last week, I reported seeing two Polish colour-ringed black-headed gulls at Antrim, T35J which wintered there last winter too, and a new bird.


The new bird was also sporting a white ring and the code read, TY34. Reporting it via the Polish Bird Ringing Centre website, I received feedback the next day which told me that it had been ringed as a second-winter bird on 9 February 2012 at Olsztyn in Poland.

My re-sighting on 29 October is the first for this bird and is a movement of 1728 km.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Talk on black-headed gulls in NI, 06.11.13

There will be a talk on black-headed gulls in Northern Ireland tomorrow evening (Wednesday 6 November), hosted by Larne RSPB Group, at Larne Grammar School.

Starting at 7.30pm, everyone is welcome.

Photo by Debs R.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Update on NIBHG

It has been a while since my last update (Feb 2013), so I thought I should post a quick update to let you know how the study is going.

Since last November, when the study began, a total of 142 black-headed gulls have been colour-ringed here. Ninety-two of these were pullus at three breeding colonies (see here, here, here and here), the rest were fledged birds caught as and when the opportunity arose!

As of the end of October, 419 re-sightings of 50 individual birds from 27 different observers have been received. Currently, this is a re-sighting rate of over 35% and means we are well on track to reach the target of 500 re-sightings by the end of 2013.

The most interesting record so far, has been 2AAR, which I blogged about last week (see here).

On Tuesday afternoon, I stopped off at Antrim and recorded 23 colour-ringed black-headed gulls. Twenty-one were locally-ringed birds and two ringed in Poland, including T35J which wintered here last year, and a new bird which I will blog about in a few days.

Last week, I managed to catch and ring three new birds, the first this winter. I hope that, with a bit more effort and the use of a whoosh net, the number of wintering birds caught and ringed in coming months will increase on last year, generating a few more foreign recoveries next spring.

Finally, I will be presenting a poster on the study at the upcoming Cork Ornithological Research Conference on Saturday 23 November. If you're attending the conference, it'd be great to meet / catch up with you.