Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Yellow 2X5J - First Dublin Med Gull in Portugal

It's not often someone admits to having a "favourite gull", but I am quite fond of Mediterranean Gulls. Perhaps it's because, although they're seen regularly here, they're still a bit of a novelty up here in NI.

Move south a bit to Dublin and they're much more common with large flocks often seen at Sandycove Strand.

Sean Kingston, along with a number of other ringers, has been colour-ringing Mediterranean Gulls around Dublin for a number of years and over the last three years, a total of 24 Med Gulls have been colour-ringed at Sandycove, including 13 in 2014.

Sean got in touch just before Christmas to let me know that one of the birds colour-ringed this year has been re-sighted in Portugal, the first time an "Irish" Med Gull has been seen there.

2X5J was ringed by Katie Manley in early September. It was re-sighted twice in mid-October and then on 21 December, it was photographed by Nelson Fonseca at Olhao Saltpans in the Algarve!

Photos by Nelson Fonseca

If you see any colour-ringed Mediterranean Gulls in the UK or Ireland, you can report them to Sean, the UK and Ireland Co-ordinator for colour-ringed Med Gulls at medgullring@gmail.com

Many thanks to Sean for passing on the information.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

An early Christmas present

It's been a bit hectic at work and home recently but thankfully a miserable, rainy day has afforded me some time to sit down and update the NI BHG database, respond to emails and update the blog.

There were a couple of weeks worth of emails to trawl through, extract any reports of colour-ringed gulls and add them to the database which allows us to keep track of all the reports.

Once I had added in all of the recent reports I noticed that the total number of re-sightings was sitting on 1613, over 1500 re-sightings! 

2ADV, Antrim, 21 Dec 14
Photo by Gareth Platt
2ADR, Corbet, 13 Dec 14
Photo by Robin Vage

Now, while it's not very important on the grand scheme of things, it's a milestone I had hoped to surpass in 2014 and I'm delighted that the efforts of our gull spotters and reports from the public have helped us reach this total. 

Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to report a sighting or send a photo during 2014. Each and every report is very much appreciated and greatly received, whether it be the 100th report of the same bird from the same site, or the first report since ringing. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Look who's back!

Although we have had (almost) 1500 re-sightings of NI colour-ringed gulls since November 2012, only three records have come from outside of Northern Ireland.

Two of these were 2AAR, the bird which was recorded at Gdansk in Poland in early April 2013, before being photographed at a breeding colony in eastern Poland in mid-April. The third record was of 2AAJ, who was photographed by Gary Woodburn in Seahouses, Northumberland in February this year.

2AAJ at Seahouses, Feb 2014
Photo by Gary Woodburn

2AAJ was originally ringed in December 2012 and was recorded at Antrim throughout winter 2012-13. It was only seen once all of last winter when Gareth Platt saw it on 15 December, before turning up in Seahouses in late-February.

Gareth got in touch on Sunday to let me know that 2AAJ was back at Antrim, almost exactly a year since it was last recorded in NI.

2AAJ at Antrim, Dec 2014
Photo by Gareth Platt

It will be interesting to see if there are any more sightings of the bird this winter, or will this be the only record we get.

As always, many thanks to Gareth for this reports and photographs.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Common Gull - Green J074

Last winter, Cameron Moore reported a colour-ringed Common Gull at Whitehead in County Antrim (see here). J074, had been ringed in Bergen in Norway and Cameron's sighting was the first away from the ringing location.

Well, Cameron got in touch again this week to send of a photo of the same bird which is back at Whitehead this winter.

Photo by Cameron Moore
I reported it via the Norwegian colour-ringing website and could immediately see that J074 had spent the summer back at Bergen, where it was reported eight times between May and July. There are even a couple of photos of it taken in June.

This is a fantastic record which highlights yet another confirmation that "our" wintering gulls are in fact continental birds migrating here to spend the winter months.

Many thanks to Cameron for reporting his sighting and sending on the photo.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Update on BHGNI - Nov 2014

We had a great day at the BTO NI Conference last Saturday and it was great to see three talks dedicated to gulls. Some absolutely fascinating data being gathered from the tagged Herring Gulls from Big Copeland.

As I had to get everything up-to-date in preparation for my talk on the Black-headed Gull project at the conference and the fact that this week marked two years since we began colour-ringing here, I thought this was a good time to post an update.

A total of 298 Black-headed Gulls have been colour-ringed here as part of our project since November 2012, 234 pulli and 64 fledged birds. There have been 1340 re-sightings of 88 individual birds, the latest of which is 2AFD. This bird was ringed as an adult male at Antrim last winter and hasn't been seen until Gareth photographed it in Ballymena earlier this week.

Photo by Gareth Platt

Most importantly, over 50 people have taken time to report their sightings of colour-ringed gulls, which is fantastic!

In terms of wintering birds originating in other countries, recent records have included birds from Latvia, Netherlands and England and the list of countries from where wintering birds recorded here have come from now stands at fourteen.

Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who has supported BHGNI on Kickstarter. If you would be able to support the project by donating a couple of quid, please visit the link below. We need to reach the target of £350 or else nothing is received!



Saturday, 8 November 2014

BHGNI on Kickstarter!

As funding for conservation projects is hard to come by at the minute, we've launched a Kickstarter to try and raise some funds to buy colour-rings for the 2015 season. Please like, share and most of all, feel free to pledge

If you don't know what Kickstarter is, read on....

Kickstarter is full of projects, big and small, that are brought to life through the direct support of people like you.

If people like a project, they can pledge money to make it happen.

Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothingprojects must reach their funding goals to receive any money.

We have set a funding goal of £350 which will allow us to double the dataset of our project in 2015 and if you would like to support it, please visit the link below and help out.

All the money raised will go directly to the NI BHG project and if we raise more than the funding goal, all the better, it means more birds will be included in our project!

Thank you!!


Friday, 7 November 2014

Herring Gull - Yellow 0V:W

Two colour-ringed gulls were photographed at Ballycarry, Larne Lough yesterday and posted on the NIBA blog (see here), one of "my" Black-headed Gulls and a Herring Gull sporting a yellow ring with the inscription 0V:W

Photo by Cameron Moore
Checking the cr-birding.org website, a report of the sighting was sent to Lee Barber. It turns out however, that while it is part of a project registered to Lee in England, the Herring Gull was actually ringed on the Copeland Islands earlier this year.

I felt a bit of an idiot at this point, as the re-sightings co-ordinator for the Copeland colour-ringed gulls is yours truly! Oops. I don't know why I didn't check our database first.

Anyway, this is the first re-sighting of it since. In fact, this is the first re-sighting of any of our birds from Copeland, so we're delighted!

A total of 16 Herring Gulls were colour-ringed in May in the first year of what is an extension to a project already ongoing in mainland UK.

Anyone attending the BTO Conference at Oxford Island tomorrow will hear presentations on both these projects during the afternoon session.

Photo by Cameron Moore
Many thanks to Cameron Moore for reporting his sightings and the photos and to Lee for keeping me right!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

First birds of winter 2014/15 cr-ringed

Yesterday Scott, Ru and I headed to the southern shores of Lough Neagh to take advantage of the mild autumnal weather and do some birding.

We called into Kinnego Marina near Oxford Island to check for colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls as there's normally a sizeable flock hanging around. The birds were "bitey", so I decided to give catching a go.

In the short time we were there I caught four birds, three adults and a first winter. The first birds added to the project in winter 2014/15.

Only two of the three adults could be colour-ringed as one of them was missing a leg.

I've seen black-headed gulls with only one leg before, but I always assumed there would be some sort of stump. This bird however had nothing where it's left leg should've been. It obviously doesn't hinder the bird as it has managed to survive until adulthood, making it at least 2+ years old.

The highlight of our small catch was, without doubt, this control which was sporting a Latvian metal ring.

This is the first Black-headed Gull from Latvia we've recorded in NI since the project began in November 2012, yet another country added to the list of where our wintering birds are from.

Great start to the season, I hope the rest of the year is as successful!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Gull cr-ring reading in Oslo

At the end of last month I headed to Norway with a couple of mates for a week of birding and exploring around Varanger. We had an overnight stop-off in Oslo waiting for our flight north, so we headed into the city for a look around.

Being birders, we were automatically drawn to the seafront and my eye was immediately drawn to the gulls gathered near the opera house. I noticed a couple of the birds were colour-ringed and within 10 minutes we had read five gull colour-rings.

After a walk to the Botanic Gardens, we saw another colour-ringed gull and a colour-ringed Mute Swan at Vaterland.

I reported all of our sightings via the ringmerking.no website and received the birds' histories instantaneously, a fantastic set up.

As part of our trip to Varanger, we visited Vardo - the home of Gullfest.

The iconic image of the Steller's Eider at Vardo harbour
It's not difficult to see why the world's most northerly bird festival is held here, the harbour was packed with thousands of gulls, a truly magnificent sight for any gull lover.

Birding in Vardo!


We spent a superb week in Arctic Norway and I would highly recommend a visit to Varanger, it's an absolutely brilliant place and we will definitely be back...hopefully the guys at Biotope will want to hear all about a Black-headed Gull study from Northern Ireland for Gullfest 2016!

Of the 24 WTE we saw in Varanger this was definitely the best view!


P.S. Does anyone else think this post was just an excuse for me to post some nice holiday snaps?!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

DUCK...I mean GULL!

An idea I "borrowed" from the NW England BHG Project was to add an email address to our colour-rings in order increase the chances of getting reports if someone ever got a good photo or found a bird dead.

Well, it's paid off. Earlier today I got an email from Clare Vet Group in Ballyclare. The email told me they had taken possession of a bird which was fitted with a ring with my email address inscribed on it, asking me to call them.

I phoned the clinic and spoke to Oonagh, the veterinary nurse, who told me that 2BJX had been hit by a golf ball at Ballyearl in Newtownabbey and had a broken wing.

This bird was ringed as a chick at Castle Espie in June this year by Eimear Rooney.

Red - WWT Castle Espie, Co. Down
Yellow - Ballyearl Golf Course, Co. Antrim

After chatting to the vet, Ciaran, it was decided that the best course of action was to euthanize the bird on welfare grounds. While this is obviously a disappointing end, it does highlight some of the trails and tribulations young gulls have to face in order to survive to adulthood.

Many thanks to Clare Vet Group for getting in touch.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Polish breeder, 2AAR, is back at Antrim!

I found myself in the Antrim area with an hour to spare on Friday afternoon, so I did what any respectable gull ringer would do...I bought a white pan loaf and headed to the Marina to check for colour-ringed gulls!

There were plenty of people already there feeding the swans and ducks, so it'd didn't take much effort to start noticing colour-ringed birds, especially when they're as obliging as 2ABS who walked over to the car looking for some scraps.

Managing to read 13 rings in under 20 minutes, I was pleased to see 2AAR had returned. Regular followers of the blog might remember that this is the bird which, having spent winter 2012-13 at Antrim, was re-sighting on breeding grounds in Poland (see here). Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me, so here are some photos of 2AAR which Gareth took last winter.


Notice how scraggly and worn he appears when first seen in October (top photo), then how well he looks in December (middle photo), before developing his dark-headed breeding plumage in March (bottom photo).

Although this is only the second autumn of our colour-ringing study, we're starting to see how similar the return rates of some of the birds are. Now, it may just be coincidence, or it might be down to observers just not seeing the birds, but here are a couple of examples:

Last record
First record
Last record
First record
12 Mar
3 Aug
2 Mar
3 Aug
12 Mar
3 Aug
2 Mar
10 Aug
31 Mar
6 Sept
16 Mar
24 Aug
12 Mar
20 Oct
9 Mar
17 Oct
12 Mar
3 Aug
16 Mar
31 Aug
31 Mar
3 Sept
23 Mar
7 Sept

The last and first records of each winter will be one aspect of their ecology which we will be keeping an eye on over coming years to see if a trend is emerging.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

NI BHG is now on Facebook

If you're a user of Facebook, then please look us up and give our page a "like".

Search for Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study or www.facebook.com/bhgni

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Black-headed Gull - White E6HA

I'm just back from a fantastic week spent exploring Varanger in Norway, which included a stop-off in Oslo where we managed to spend a couple of hours sightseeing and reading colour-rings at the seafront! More about that to follow, but just before I headed off, I recorded a colour-ringed Black-headed Gull at Dargan on the Co. Antrim shore of Belfast Lough.
The bird was fitted with a white ring, with the inscription E6HA. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me, and all I managed to get were a couple of dodgy digi-scoped shots with my phone.

I sent an email off to Frank Majoor and while I was away he replied to let me know that the bird had been ringed as an adult at Harlingen in The Netherlands on 1 July 2010. It was sexed as a male.
Blue - Harlingen, The Netherlands
Red - Belfast Lough, Northern Ireland
It was recorded twice later that same month, both times at the ringing location, but it wasn't seen again until my sighting on 17 September 2014. Where has it been during the 4 years between sightings?!
Many thanks to Frank for the information.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Mediterranean Gull - White 3KNT

Ronald Surgenor got in touch via Facebook to let me know of a colour-ringed Med Gull which he had photographed at Portrush, County Antrim.

The first year bird was fitted with a white ring with 3KNT inscribed on it.

Photo by Ronald Surgenor

I passed on the details of who to contact and he heard back a short time later from Camille Duponcheel that this bird had been ringed as a chick in the Netherlands by Frank Majoor on 27 June.

Ronald's re-sighting is the first since ringing.

Many thanks to Ronald for the report and to Camille for the information.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Back again....T35J

I know we shouldn't have favourites, but one of the colour-ringed gulls I most like to see is  T35J .

This was the first colour-ringed Black-headed Gull I saw when I first started this study almost two years ago, and I was delighted to discover that it was ringed in Lithuania (see post from October 2012 here).

Well, Gareth Platt got in touch last week to report that T35J has returned to Antrim for another winter. This is, at least, the third winter that the bird has over-wintered at Antrim.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Mediterranean Gull - Green RJN5

A day or two after Cameron reported seeing Med Gull E742 at Whitehead, he photographed another colour-ringed Med Gull at the same site.

This was juvenile with a green ring, RJN5.

Photo by Cameron Moore
We heard back that this individual had been ringed as a chick on 29 June at Polder de Sebastopol, Vendee in France. Cameron's report is the first since ringing, which isn't surprising as it had only been ringed 5 weeks earlier. 

Many thanks to Cameron for the photo and reporting it and to Camile for the information.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Mediterranean Gull - White E742

Local birdwatcher, Cameron Moore, got in touch last week to report a sighting of a colour-ringed Mediterranean Gull at the seafront at Whitehead, County Antrim.

Photo by Cameron Moore

Originally ringed in The Netherlands, this is the same bird which both Cameron and I reported at Glynn in Larne Lough back in April (see here). Cameron's report is the first since those re-sightings. 

Red - Ringing location (De Kreupel Island, Netherlands)
Blue - Re-sighing locations (Glynn & Whitehead, Co. Antrim, NI)
Photo by Cameron Moore

Many thanks to Cameron for reporting the sighting and the photo and to Camille for the information.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

First re-sightings of 2014 birds

One of the aspects of colour-ringing young Black-headed Gulls which I find most interesting is seeing where they turn up once they leave the colony. Determining juvenile dispersal is also one of the main objectives of this colour-ringing study.

One of the aspects of colour-ringing young Black-headed Gulls which I find most frustrating however, is seeing colour-ringed birds which are too far away to read the code on the ring!!

After the frustration of seeing colour-ringed first-year birds at Dargan, Belfast Lough and Glynn, Larne Lough on 23 and 24 June which were too far away to identify, I am pleased to have received a number of re-sightings of juvenile birds away from their colonies.

Three birds have been reported so far, one from Castle Espie and two from Copeland Bird Observatory.

2BKC, which was ringed at Castle Espie on 19 June, was found dead at Hillsborough Lake at the end of July. Two birds  from the colony on the Copeland Islands have both made the journey to Kiltonga Nature Reserve at Newtownards, Co. Down.

Blue - Ringing locations
Red - Re-sighting locations
Many thanks to the observers who have taken the time to report their sightings via bhgni@ymail.com

Sunday, 17 August 2014

BHG - White 21L6

Our principle ring-reader, Gareth, got in touch during the week to let me know about a colour-ringed bird he had seen in Ballymena, County Antrim.

Photo by Gareth Platt.

Sporting a white ring, the code began with a "2". This means that it has been ringed in the UK or Ireland as all small gulls (i.e. Med, BHG and Common) colour-ringed in the UK or Ireland are given codes beginning with "2".

Gareth got in touch with the ringer via cr-birding.org and heard back from Tim Ball that 21L6 had been ringed at Hosehill Lake LNR in Berkshire in June 2013.

Photo by Gareth Platt

Gareth's report is the eighth re-sighting of the bird since ringing, after it was reported wintering in Navan, Co. Meath last year before returning to Berkshire.

Blue - Hosehill Lake LNR, Berkshire
Red - Navan, Meath
Green - Ballymena, Antrim
Many thanks to Gareth for passing on the information from Tim.