Another colour-ring read, another piece added to a puzzle. Personally, it offers me a better understanding and a reinforcement of the science I read. Getting out there, seeing evidence of migration in action, makes it so much easier for me to understand and get to grips with. Colour-ringing and the subsequent ring reading (here’s where I come in) allows me to play a small part in a bigger project. I feel like part of a team.
After a day spent indoors, watching the first round of the Irish Bouldering League in Belfast, I convinced Rasmus to pop by Belfast harbour to spend an hour or so outside. After a quick visit to the RSPB Window on Wildlife Reserve which was filled with ducks and godwits, (well worth a visit by the way) I spied a gang of gulls loitering (also known as roosting) on a metal railing at the side of the road, close to the harbour. Armed with not one, but two scopes, we scanned standing legs for colour.
Our efforts were rewarded. We edged closer and read a single colour-ringed Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus – a white ring with black lettering J4U6. I soon found out from the local gull guy that this bird belonged to a Norweigan ringing scheme and send off the details.
After a little wait, I found out that J4U6 was ringed in March 2012 in Rogaland in southern Norway. Between April and June 2015 he was spotted seven times in southern Norway. This sighting in Belfast Harbour is the first time he has been spotted out of Norway. Maybe he will stick around and enjoy the mild weather we are having! For more on colour-ring reading – here’s a piece I wrote on the Dublin Bay Bird Project #DubBayBirds.
Over the last month or two, I have been learning to read again, but in a whole different way – reading colour rings on birds legs! A bit of a specialised skill, I must admit, which involves spending a considerable amount of time standing in one place, staring at birds’ legs through a powerful telescope, looking for coloured bands, which sometimes have letters / numbers inscribed on the ring. It’s a tad embarrassing, but I do get a rush of excitement when I spot a colour ring and huge satisfaction when I finally get all the details! If you are wondering WHY birds get bling like this the BTO explains it all here. And if you happen to see a bird with bling, please tell someone about it – here’s how.
At Omeath, on the south side of Carlingford lough, close to the newly established Greenway, which I must find time to explore properly, I stopped to examine a mixed flock of birds roosting (chilling out, pruning etc.) at the waters edge. I scanned through the birds and was thrilled to spot a blue colour ring on a Common Gull (Larus canus), which I eventually read as 2AHX.
I sent the details to Shane Wolsey from the BTO in Northern Ireland and he was able to tell me that 2AHX was ringed on Copeland Island on the 29th of June 2013 as a pullus (chick). This was the first time the bird has been seen since!
Just across the water in Warrenpoint, I spied a large gathering of gulls on the roof of a warehouse close to the harbour. Before the morning traffic started, I set up the scope on the footpath in the middle of town and began searching through hundreds of legs for a splash of colour. My heart skipped a beat (is this sad?!) as I spotted a white band on the red-ish leg of a Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus). I edged closer, being careful not to get run over, and with a bit of patience and a lot of luck, I managed to read the ring – T5J4.
After asking some local ringers which scheme this bird might belong to, details were sent off to the Polish Ringing Scheme in Gdansk. It turns out this bird was ringed on the 5th of June 2011 as a pullus (chick) and has travelled almost 1,550 km to Warrenpoint – the point obviously has a lot to offer! Black-headed gulls which breed in northern Europe and around the Baltic Sea migrate to western Europe (including Ireland and the UK) for the winter. Check out bhgullsni for all the news on Black-headed gulls in Northern Ireland!
Three weeks ago today we got on a flight from Copenhagen and landed in Dublin. It seemed like any other visit we have made over the last 3 years, but this time, it was a one way ticket. This time we took more luggage, including two bikes. This time, we are here to stay. Almost a month has passed, like a dream. There has been so many new faces, smells, challenges and surprises and so many memories which pop up at unexpected times. But we are taking each day, one at a time, and doing our best to remember why we made the decision to move to Ireland. What it is we want from this chapter in our lives. More family time, more mountain time, more wild time. Here’s my “best of” so far, which involves a lot of family, hills, birds, bikes, a bit of exercise and the odd dead thing.