Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Gull wings his way across Atlantic for Ulster holiday

Ulster's best known holiday resorts include the likes of Newcastle, Portrush and Bangor - but Whitehouse Lagoon?

Yet every year without fail, one holidaymaker makes its lonely way thousands of miles across the Atlantic to spend the winter carousing on the lagoon on the shores of Belfast Lough, with just the occasional trip to Tesco.

The tourist in question is a Ring Billed Gull which goes to enormous lengths to avoid the winter rush to the usual haunts by heading to Northern Ireland instead.

The seabird, which breeds around the Great Lakes in Canada, heads east instead of joining millions of others as they make their annual migration south to Florida, North Carolina and Mexico.

This winter, two Ring Billed Gulls have been spotted in Northern Ireland, one at the East Strand car park in Portrush from November 8 to 10. Two were seen at the same site on November 26.

An adult was seen at Whitehouse Lagoon from November 10 and birdwatchers believe it is the same bird that has been coming to the same site for the past 25 years. It was first noted there in 1983 and has returned to Whitehouse Lagoon year after year.

A spokesman for Northern Ireland Birdwatching Association said the Ring Billed Gull has an estimated population of 1.5 million pairs.

The first of the species to be recorded in Ireland was in 1979 at Bellmullet in Co Mayo.

"Since then it has become a regular but still rare visitor to Northern Ireland with between six and 10 recorded most years," he said.

"The Whitehouse Lagoon bird was first spotted in 1983. It was a second year bird which means that it is now 25 years old.

"When it's not at the lagoon it can sometimes be found at Tesco's car park in Newtownabbey nearby scavenging for food with small numbers of other gulls."

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