Sunday 26 July 2015

Donegal Petrels 24/07/2015 & New Storm Petrel Recoveries

On Friday (24th July) I headed over to Malin Beg/Glencolumbkille, on the western tip of Donegal to ring some Petrels.  The trip was organised by members of the Belfast & Down Ringing Group and The Irish Midlands Ringing Group, who were staying for three nights.  The area is really beautiful with a rugged coastline, old forts, deep glens, hidden coves and non-intensive farming.  The bird species are much reduced in this exposed and relatively treeless landscape, but what it lacks, it makes up for in style with breeding Chough, Twite (presumably) and waders.  On the Island of Rathlin O'Birne, just off the coast of Malin beg, there is a breeding population of Storm Petrels and most likely breeding Leach's Petrels too. 

Rathlin O'Birne Island at sundown

The weather throughout Friday and Saturday was fantastic with lots of sunshine; which can be hard to come by on the west coast of Ireland.  The guys had set up the nets earlier in the day, so we opened up shortly after 11pm.  The skies were clear, so it took a while to darken and the birds to arrive.  As well as the 10 ringers present, a few locals and some Austrian tourists had stopped by to check out the weird goings on and see these fabled birds.  After 11.30 the first few birds started to arrive, turning to a constant flow after midnight.  We continued ringing until around 3.30am, when the birds started to slow off, as the sky lightened.  Shooting stars were a feature throughout the night in some of the darkest skies I've seen.     

The view from the ringing site

   The northerly wind was a little stronger than we would have liked and meant the net pockets were billowing towards the direction the birds were coming, so lots of birds bounced out.  The catch was still very good with c265 new Storm Petrels, one controlled Storm Petrel, one Leach's Petrel and a Rock Pipit caught early on.  There was also a couple more Leach's Petrels flying around and some that escaped the nets. 
The forecast for Saturday was pretty poor, with only the first hour or so being suitable.  I received a text this morning to say that this was the case and they only managed a catch of 28 birds before the rain came and the winds got stronger.  The forecast tonight looks even worse.

The Napoleonic Watch/Signal Tower above the ringing site 

Rinnagree Storm Petrel Recoveries

As I mentioned in a previous post, we managed to catch two controls (birds ringed elsewhere) on the 15th of July.  The improved BTO response system means that we have received the information already!  The new system once in place should mean instantaneous information and as I understand it, search capabilities for ringers. 

The first bird was originally ringed on the Isle of May, Fife, Scotland on the 31st of July 2014.  This is our second exchange with the observatory and it is a minimum distance of 884 km as the Storm Petrel flies, 349 days apart. 

The second bird was originally ringed at Marske-by-the-Sea, Redcar & Cleveland in North-east England.  This is the first Storm Petrel we have caught from England and as the Storm Petrel flies, is the furthest away location, at a minimum of 1077 km. The bird was ringed on the 6th of August 2014, so 343 days apart.   

The star denotes our ringing location

Check out Belfast & Down Ringing Group on Facebook:

and The Irish Midlands Ringing Group on their blog and Facebook:

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