Saturday 2 July 2016

June 2016

I've arrived back in Northern Ireland to pretty cold, wet and breezy conditions, so I haven't been able to jump straight back into any ringing but the others have been doing bits and pieces over the last three weeks.  We also received news of our best Blackbird control yet plus some new funding!

On the 22nd of June, the team assembled at Inch Wild Fowl Reserve, Donegal for the final visit of the season to the Gull/Tern colony, hoping to ring the remaining chicks.  Ken, John and the National Parks and Wildlife Service Team were again joined by Adam and Gary from the Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study.
The weather had taken a bit of turn over the preceding weeks with more wet/cold weather and some thundery showers, resulting in higher water levels (closer to the norm), making access to the Islet much easier than the previous visit. 
The results were a little disappointing considering the potential of it shaping it up to be one of the best years at the colony.  The Sandwich Tern result was decent with 22 more birds ringed from the c30 eggs counted on the previous visit.  These 22 birds take the total up to 357 birds for the year, which compares well with previous years.  2016 represents the sixth most successful breeding year for Sandwich Terns in the 31 years of the study, the most productive year was 453 birds ringed in 2004.  For more information, check out the Terns/Gulls tab above.

Common Tern

Common Terns on the other hand were the big disappointment with only 22 birds ringed from what could have been over 150.  The Common Terns nest at the edge of the colony so are a little more susceptible to predation, changes in water levels and probably the weather.
It would appear that predation, potentially from large gulls, is the issue.  Twenty odd larger Black-headed gull chicks were found dead at the edge of the tern nesting area and looked to have been killed.  We reckon that it is more the case of missing eggs, rather than chicks.  A total of 32 Common Terns were ringed this year, which is just one more than the previous year and much better than the years of complete breeding failure. 

Adam and Gary were again busy colour-ringing Black-headed Gull pulli and added a further 52 new birds to the study, making it a grand total of 122 colour-ringed BHG's at Inch, plus a further 39 metal ringed.  The numbers ringed looks very favourable against numbers from the last 31 years but BHG's have never been a focus of study in the past and the total this year represents only a fraction of the population of the islet.  It will be really interesting to see where these guys start to crop up in future years and whether many will return to breed on the Islet. 
You can stay up to date with any findings on the Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study Blog or their Facebook Page - the blog can be found on the following link -

Colour-ringed Black-headed Gull

It has been a while since we got a long-distance control, so we were very pleased to receive news of a Blackbird that I had ringed in my garden, had been recovered in Norway!  The bird was found in unfortunate circumstances with just its leg and the ring recovered all the way up in Hundorp, Opland.  The female, born in 2013, was originally ringed on the 2nd of January 2014 and recovered 881 days later on the 1st of June this year, presumably on its breeding grounds.  The straight line distance between the two locations is 1202km.  This is our first control to Norway but hopefully not the last. 

Blackbird control to Hundorp, Norway

John and Steve visited the new Sand Martin colony at Grangemore a few weeks back for the first time to test out its potential.  The late morning visit was a little breezy and made the nets a bit obvious.  The colony is on the outer bank of a meander on a small tidal river, which makes setting a net quite difficult.  They opted for an 18m, 3 shelf net but a few shorter nets may be more suitable in future visits.  The catch was decent enough considering the conditions with 16 new birds caught.  14 of these birds were juveniles plus two adult females.  The following two visits will hopefully pick up more of the adult birds plus more of the juveniles.      

Sand Martin

The final bit of good news is that we were successful in gaining a little bit of funding from the Centre for Environmental Data and Recording at the National Museums Northern Ireland.  An application had been put forward for the Environmental Recorders Group Fund to cover the cost of rings and we received partial funding.  The £137 granted is around a quarter of the amount requested but it will still go a long way in enabling our scientific research and we are very grateful to CEDaR

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