11 Apr 2006

A fascinating morning cut short and a Little Gull visits the Quoile

118. Little Gull Larus minutus

Last night I received an email from Graham McElwaine, Resightings Coordinator,Irish Brent Goose Research Group at 11.45 asking whether I would be interested in observing a group capturing and ringing brent geese, the downside was that I had to be at Dundrum for 7.00am. So alarm clock was set for 6.00am. It was an absolutely beautiful morning, it was also -2'C and there was a heavy frost. I met up with the team just at the back of the National Trusts Murlough National Nature Reserve and Dundrum Inner Bay. They were going to set up in a field that the Brent Geese had been observed flying in to. The team was made up with researchers from Queens University,WWT,and the Brent Goose research group.

First of all a landrover was driven across the field so that the capture net could be hidden in tyre tracks. Then the cannons were buried into the ground before the net was attached to metal posts that would be fired out of the cannon. You can see here Alex Portig from Queens University digging in one of the four cannons that fire each net. Today we were going to fire two nets. You can also see the net on the right hand side of the picture. Each cannon is wired up to a control lead that would be detonated from behind the hedge in the background. The setting up took a couple of hours and it eventually looked like this with the fairly realistic brent decoys made from polystyrene set out in a feeding pattern. Some of them also looked as though they were asleep and one of them was in a vigilant pose.

Annoyingly for me as I said in my post title I had to go upto Belfast for a meeting with the RSPB Volunteers coordinator Cara and Anthony Mcgeehan the reserve warden to be shown the ropes at the Belfast Harbour Lagoon Hide I have volunteered to do a four hour shift three times a month on the weekends. I have tried to coordinate them with the high tides as that is when many of the gulls come to roost on the lagoon. I cant think of a better way to spend a quarter of ones weekend.

On the way home I stopped off at the Castle Island Hide only a few minutes from my home. It was a lovely day and there was an enormous amount of insects flying on the surface of the pondage. The 200+ teal were everywhere noisily lapping them up and there were a hundred plus Black Headed Gull flying all over the place. Apart from one gull which was slightly smaller in size than the Black Headed Gulls it had grey underwing and it was flying fairly erratically darting upwards to catch flies and then diving to pick flies off the surface of the water. I wasnt sure about id and another birdwatcher went and got his fieldguide from his car and the description of its flight was identical to the Little Gull so was well chuffed(Or should that be Choughed) to spot it.
It was an adult in winter plumage.

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