Friday 19 August 2016

Failed Swallow Roost Catch, a few Storm Petrels and a new Species!

Last night we went ahead with our plan of trying out the first Swallow roost catch of the year followed up by a Storm Petrel ringing session.  Again it was John, Ken, Dineka and myself present.  The weather was an ideal with a warm, dry, calm and overcast evening.  We opted to use the University River Site for the roost catch where we have had success in the past.  The very large tide at the moment meant that the reed bed was flooded so we stuck to the willows.  There has been a lot of growth in the colonising trees over the past year and the site is in need of a bit of TLC (a blitzing with a chainsaw!).

We had the nets open and tapes on from around 19.00 but we failed to attract any more than 5 Swallows at a time and they were probably the same birds returning every so often.  In the end we caught a single Blue Tit, a Chiffchaff and zero Swallows.  We didn't do much better last year with the biggest catch of 25 birds and only c45 birds ringed over 3 attempts.  We plan to trial a new reedbed site in 2/3 weeks to see if we have any more luck.  Our best night in 2014 attracted c6000 Swallows with a catch of 125 birds, with the tapes switched off quickly with sagging nets. 


After the disappointment we headed down to Rinnagree Point hoping for a few more birds.  We were set up for 10pm and had to wait around an hour for the first bird to hit the nets.  We only added a further three Storm Petrels before we packed up around 00.30.
A feature of the night, and generally for the end of August, was the movement of waders along the coast with a number of Redshank, Oystercatcher, a Common Sandpiper and potentially a few Turnstones knocking about.  We hit lucky when a couple of Redshanks flew into the net, although being a small mesh net, only one stuck.  Redshank is a new species for us and Dineka was lucky enough to ring it having driven from Donegal for very few birds!

As mentioned in the last post, Gary almost got a full ring read on a Sandwich Tern in Portrush when out hunting for ringed gulls.  Fortunately the numbers clinched were enough to determine when and where the bird was ringed.  It was ringed way back on the 16th of July 1993 as a nestling 61 miles away at Ogilby Island, Strangford Lough, County Down.  This is the oldest Sandwich Tern we have recorded at 23 years and 26 days, beating our previous oldest birds of 20 years, 10 months and 5 days and 20 years, 4 months and 13 days.  That would mean the bird has undertaken around 46 migrations, perhaps as far as South Africa!   
It is also the second time we have traded a bird with Ogilby Island following the recovery of a dead Sandwich Tern at our Inch breeding colony six years after it had ringed at Ogilby back in 1988 - our only Sandwich Tern control (which is no surprise as we only ring pulli). 

Sandwich Tern movement

For more information on gulls and ring reading in Northern Ireland, check out Gary's blog -

I'm off to Venice next week but I'll hopefully be back in action next weekend and with any luck the others will find a weather window and get out in between then.

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