Monday 28 January 2019

A few more Recoveries

We've received a couple more recoveries from the BTO.

The first was another of our Storm Petrels heading off to the Treshnish Isles on the west coast of Scotland - our seventh caught here and the sixth on Lunga Island specifically.
We caught the bird at Rinnagree Point on the 25th of July 2017 and it was recovered on Lunga, 146km away, on the 28th of June 2018.

Storm Petrel Recovery

The next one wasn't particularly distant but interesting all the same. It is my first personal Lesser Redpoll recovery which was originally ringed on the 16th of April 2015 at Portstewart Strand. It was found dead just 7km away in Coleraine (just down the road from my house) but the 1363 days between ringing is pretty impressive. The bird was born in 2014 so made it into its 5th calendar year - the longevity record for Lesser Redpoll is 6 years old, most living just 2 years.

There is an old blog post from the same date this bird was ringed - see the link

Lesser Redpoll

We have been out doing a little bit of ringing but the weather has finally turned and the arctic winds have brought us a lot of cold wet weather including the first snows of the winter. It's more of the same this week but there is a potential weather window open this coming weekend. I'll update on these recent activities when I have a bit more time.

Sunday 6 January 2019

Other Ringing and Recoveries

I updated on our ringing activities since early summer at both Portstewart Strand and Lough Neagh in previous posts but we weren't just limited to those sites. Through this time we continued our summer Storm Petrel ringing, seven/eight trips to Copeland Bird Observatory between us and a few other bits a pieces.

There was another new species for the group in Grey Heron caught by Ken and James on the 9th of June. Usually when river ringing we are fearful of these massive brutes blundering into the nets and ripping them to shreds but on this occasion it stuck with out any damage to the bird or net and was extracted quickly. Handling Grey Herons is a two man job so no pictures were taken.

One of the nicest birds in this time was this stunner of a Long-eared Owl caught at the University campus in Coleraine by John and Ken on the 4th of July.
Long-eared Owl

We had our first Long-eared Owl recovery but in unfortunate circumstances. One of the chicks ringed at the University campus back in 2011 (pictured below) was hit by a car on the 13th of June this year around 9.5 miles away near the town of Ballymoney. Although sad circumstances, it is interesting to see the dispersals of the birds.

The Storm Petrel season was a poor one yet again and it really is on a downward trend and so to is effort because of it. This year it was just the three visits with catches of 5, 16 & a control and 17 & a Redshank.

As well as our control, we had two birds recovered making it a hat-rick of bird observatories.

The controlled Storm Petrel was ringed at North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory, Orkney, Scotland on the 2nd of August 2018 and controlled by us 18 days later at Rinnagree Point at a distance of 529km.
North Ron is one of those enviable observatories that see and catch what we would deem rare by the bucket load - check their blog out here -

A Storm Petrel ringed by us Rinnagree Point on the 17th July 2017 was caught at Skokholm Bird Observatory, Pembrokeshire, Wales on the 11th August 2018.  398 km distance and 390 days.
Skokholm, like North Ron, makes us very jealous and we'd love just a fraction of their birds! Visit their blog  -

The final bird was one of our 2016 birds ringed on the 1st of August which was retrapped at the Calf of Man Bird Observatory on the 9th of June this year. We have never caught a bird before the 1st of July so perhaps these guys have picked up breeder (which arrive earlier) on route to its breeding site. I'm not sure if they breed on the Calf again yet after the recent eradication of rats. 174km distance and 677 days.
You can keep up to date with these guys on Facebook -

Storm Petrel Movements

I haven't updated the Storm Petrel control maps or info in a while but you can click on the tabs above to check out all the other movements.

This control isn't particularly impressive but considering I just caught my first Greenfinch retrap a few weeks ago, it is nice to see where they go. The said bird was ringed at Castlerock on the 7th of Jan 2018 and found dead by a member of the public 4km away in Articlave on the 15th of May 2018, dead within a week. It was presumably breeding along the local hedgerows which are quite good and hold a population of Yellowhammers, the only decent one I'm aware of in the wider area.

Back in March I updated about the ringing in Kens garden and the good numbers of Siskins and a brilliant control all the way from Cape Clear Bird Observatory 454 km at the very south of Ireland. ( The Siskins continued to visit and 78 new birds were captured. One of these birds itself was then controlled elsewhere making its way to Salsburgh, North Lanarkshire, Scotland. It was originally ringed on the 13th of March and recaptured on the 6th of May - 54 days apart, 193km away. This is the second of our Siskins that has been controlled at this same site following one from my parents garden in the Loughan a few years back.

Siskin to North Lanarkshire 

I've finished with a picture of the Portstewart Strand Cuckoo just because its a stonker bird!

Friday 4 January 2019

Late December 2018

Following on from the work done on the visit on the 16th (just below in this post) we were able to set up the two new 18 metre net rides along with the usual three. The new nets worked with the one in the top patch of scrub catching a Fieldfare, Starling, 2 Blackbirds and best of all a Mistle Thrush. Mistle Thrushes are very difficult to catch and we've only caught 2 fledged birds in the past 5/6 years.

John and I were joined by Ken and his trainee James, who was able to add three new species which is always a good day. One of the three Fieldfares caught was released unringed but it happens!
We are really noticing the drop off in Chaffinch numbers, or should I say, the number that we are catching - perhaps the ones present are all ringed!

Mistle Thrush

Castlerock Golf Club - Saturday 24th December 2018
                      New      Retrap

Blackbird        3            
Bullfinch         1             1             
Fieldfare          2
Goldfinch         1
Greenfinch      6
Mistle Thrush  1
Robin                             3

Song Thrush   1
Starling           1
Wren               1

Total              17              4                


16th December 2018

This morning the focus was more so on preparing the new net rides and together we have cut two new 18 metre net rides and a 6m dog leg off once of these. We are eyeing up another 12m ride also but we will see how these new ones work and see if we can increase the catch of the Fieldfare!

We had the three usual nets open and caught a few birds and again another single Fieldfare, caught in the same net. I did have another in the nets but it flipped out on approach. We will probably use 19x19mm 4 shelf nets in these new rides which are better for catching larger birds as the finer mesh 15x15mm 5 shelf nets have cost us at least 3 Fieldfares so far this season (but do catch the smaller passerines better).


Castlerock Golf Club - Saturday 16th December 2018
                      New      Retrap
Blue Tit           3             1
Bullfinch         3             3             
Fieldfare          1
Greenfinch                    1

Linnet             1
Robin              1

Song Thrush   1
Wren               1

Total              11              5                

A Merlin made an appearance mid morning and made a kill over the river which appeared to be a Fieldfare. The bird was certainly very heavy as the bird made a sharpish landing on the rocks before slipping into the Marram Grass.

The local Otter family also gave us a bit of a show with three feeding right along the rock armour and it looks as though they had been running about the shoreline before I arrived.

One of three Otters present

Otter tracks

Wednesday 2 January 2019

Colour Ringed Gulls and Waders

Throughout the season when we are out and about we pick up a few colour ringed birds, some of which are familiar to us and most new birds. There are plenty more metal ringed birds, particularly terns, which slip through without being identified.

I'm always particularly keen on colour-ringed birds in the Bann Estuary and the first of these was just so - a Sanderling. G4YWBG was ringed in south-west Iceland near Sandgerði on the 22nd of May 2016, presumably on route north to its breeding grounds. The colour rings were resighted by Wilbert McIlmoyle on the 23rd of this month and two days later by Gary Platt around the Barmouth at a minimum distance of 824 miles. These Sanderling generally originate from Greenland, possibly from the Canadian High Arctic. 

 Movement of Sanderling G4YWBG
Sanderling G4YWBG (image by Wilbert McIlmoyle)

The next Sanderling G1RRYW was ringed on the 10th May 2011in south-west at Sandgerði Iceland where it was seen a year later. Two years later it appeared in north-east Iceland near Grjotnes. In May 2017 it was sighted in South Uist, Scotland before appearing in the Bann Estuary the following winter. In 2018 it has been sighted a few times around the Bann Estuary and Magilligan Point. 

The final Sanderling, G4BBYY was ringed on the 24th of May 2016 SW Iceland, very close to the first bird and only two days apart. It's most recent sighting was by me on the 10th of October 2018 at Ramore Head, Portrush.  It was recorded a few times around Portush and Portballintrae both this winter and last winter before being recorded. It was seen again in Iceland in May 2018 and sighted on North Uist Scotland on the 4th of August on its way south. 

The location of the Sanderling on Ramore Head, Portrush - the best spot on the north coast for Purple Sandpipers also!

If you find any colour-ringed Sanderlings please check out -

Oystercatcher OW-Gr(PY) has returned to the Bann Estuary after spending a few weeks there between the 23rd September and 5th of October last year. The bird was originally ringed as a chick on 23rd June 2017, also near Sandgerði in SW Iceland. I picked the bird up again from 14th of September this year and seen it on a few more occasions in the following weeks. I received an email from Gary Platt today saying that he had sighted the bird 4 days ago in the same spot.

Oystercatcher OW-Gr(PY)

One of the most interesting sightings was of a German ringed Mediterranean Gull which was sighted first by Steve and then by John 2 days later but surprisingly some 35 miles apart. Steve sighted the bird at Lough Shore Park in Antrim on the shore of Lough Neagh on the 30th of July before it upped sticks and moved up to Coleraine along the Lower Bann River (a c43 mile journey by river).

The bird was ringed as a chick at Rehbach Gravel Pit, Leipzig, Germany (c95 miles SSW of Berlin) on the 25th of June 2018, roughly 835 miles from Coleraine and only 54 days after ringing.

Along the Lower Bann River in Coleraine (and McDonalds) has been quite productive for colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls and it has yet again produced another two birds. The first was another Icelandic bird from Brekka, Álftanes, Kjósarsýsla - ringed as a chick on the 16th June 2017.
This one was a metal ring read by John on the 8th of March. 

The second Black-headed Gull was a Norweigan bird who is used to spending winters in sunnier climes in Spain. It was ringed as a chick in Boganesholmane, Stavanger, Norway on the 19th of June 2015, resighted close to home in both 2017 and 2018. It spent the winters of 2016 and 2017 in Santander, Spain and was likely on route when sighted by John in Coleraine.
Life history below - 

Date Place Coordinates Observers Days/km/°
19.06 2015 Boganesholmane, Stavanger, Rogaland, Norway
06.07 2015 Grudavatnet, Klepp, Rogaland, Norway
25.01 2016 Limpias, Santander, Spain
21.05 2017  Sandnes Brygge, Sandnes, Rogaland, Norway
12.06 2017 Sandnes Brygge, Sandnes, Rogaland, Norway
12.06 2017 Sandnes Brygge, Sandnes, Rogaland, Norway
27.06 2017 Holme SV Jåttåholmen, Stavanger, Rogaland, Norway
05.07 2017 Holme SV for Jåttåholmen, Stavanger, Rogaland, Norway
20.01 2018 Limpias, Cantabria, Santander, Spain
07.06 2018 Hanaslippen, Sandnes, Rogaland, Norway
10.06 2018 Sandnes Brygge, Sandnes, Rogaland, Norway
18.06 2018 Sandnes Brygge, Sandnes, Rogaland, Norway
09.07 2018 Vågen vgs, Sandnes, Rogaland, Norway
09.08 2018 Strand Road (Jetty), Coleraine, Londonderry, Great Britain

Gary Platt and Adam McClure have been keeping us updated with our Black-headed Gulls from Inch Island in Donegal. So far, five of the 2016 recruits have been re-encountered, four within Northern Ireland. The first lot in this year were metal ringed only, with a number of birds being colour ringed on the second visit. To keep up to date with colour ring reading across Northern Ireland, particularly gulls - check out Gary Platt's blog here -

Black-headed Gull Orange 2ATJ was sighted by Gary himself on the Kinnegar Shore, Belfast Lough on the 11th of March 2018. It was ringed on the 31st of May 2016 and a colour ring added 8 days later.

Black-headed Gull Orange 2BRP made it over to Bracknell Forest near Reading, England but was found in unfortunate circumstances - fresh dead in a horse water trough on the 14th of July this year. It was ringed 25 months before. Given the time of year, it was possibly going to breed here.

EZ61022 appeared at McDonalds, Coleraine on the 17th & 31st of October 2016 having been ringed on the 31st May 2016.

Black-headed Gull (Gary Platt)

Orange 2AXT was sighted at Millquarter Bay, Co. Down (missing the date), ringed on the 8th May 2016,

Black-headed Gull (Gary Platt)

The last Black-headed Gull was a partial metal ring read of EZ610-- at Portrush. The digits gathered are sufficient to say that it was ringed on the 31st May 2016 at Inch.

The final bird was one of our metal ringed Curlews that was resighted by one of the local photographers, Mervyn Campbell, just in front of the Bann Estuary bird hide. The bird was ringed on the 25th of August last year in Grangemore 1.1km away and was photographed on the 9th and 24th of August. We don't have any local breeding Curlew so who knows where this bird was over the breeding season.

Curlew (image by Mervyn Campbell)