Monday 18 May 2015

Copeland Bird Observatory 15th - 17th May

Steve and I headed out on a ringing trip to Copeland Bird Observatory for the weekend (15-17/05/2015) in the hopes of catching a few spring migrants.  The Observatory is located on Lighthouse Island which is part of the Copeland Islands, off the County Down coast in the Irish Sea.
A group of 5 of us arrived on the Island on Friday evening and Steve and I set about setting and furling nets and opening three of the Heligoland traps and the Crow trap.

Saturday morning @ CBO

The weather over the weekend wasn't ideal with constant west winds blowing at around 20mph but we did manage to avoid much of the rain and had some nice sunny weather.  The conditions weren't exactly fantastic for catching birds but the east side of the island remained fairly sheltered.  The winds on Sunday morning switched to South-west for a few hours, which are thought to be the best direction for bringing migrants to the island in spring and they did bring us a handful of nice birds.

                         Spotted Flycatcher           © RD

Breeding is in full swing on the island with large numbers of Eider, Black Guillemot, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull and Lesser-black Backed Gull sitting on eggs.  We also found the nests of Oystercatcher and Blackbird with eggs and seen two Eider chicks.  The Fulmars were sitting on the cliff ledges and a pair of Rock pipits were bobbing about close by.  The pair of Starlings in the workshop were busy feeding chicks and the Swallows have been checking out the usual nests.  We caught and ringed two Swallows on the Friday evening, who had flown into the Ringing Laboratory looking for nesting sites.  Many of the other resident breeders remained inconspicuous, so may be sitting on eggs e.g. female Reed Buntings, Shelduck, Stock Doves.  The Arctic terns have started to arrive back with c180 birds but there are plenty more to come and set about to breeding.  We also had 4 Puffins knocking about, with 2 sitting among the decoys and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers on the sound between Lighthouse Island and Mew Island.    

                            Blackbirds                   © RD

In terms of passerine migrants (except Swallows) the Island appeared to be devoid of any birds on Friday evening and Saturday morning between 5-9am.  Birds then started to appear with a Spotted Flycatcher, a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff feeding in one tree in Bluebell Gully.  The ringing then picked up and we caught a Spotted Flycatcher, which is a first for me and a couple of Chiffchaff and a Whitethroat.  These birds appeared just in time to show a group of 20+ people who had arrived by boat on a guided island tour.  The baited crow trap then produced some birds with 5 Jackdaws and a Magpie inside, although 2 of the Jackdaw and the Magpie managed to slip out when extracting them.  Steve also caught a Pied Wagtail in a Potters trap, so it was a busy couple of hours but it quietened down after midday.  Swallows were the only obvious persistent migrant, with birds flitting through much of the day with 9 ringed and a single House Martin, of which 4/5 passed through. 

              Whitethroat                       © RD

On Sunday the conditions between 6-8am were ideal with full cloud cover and force 3 winds coming from the south west.  The first two net rounds caught the majority of the days birds, with the second round producing a Spotted Flycatcher in 'Heli trap', a Chiffchaff from the 'Garden net' and the 'Withy net' was the best of the lot with 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Blackcap and a Reed Bunting.  We picked up a few more birds through the rest of the morning but the wind had picked up and switched back to a westerly and many of the migrants seemed to have moved on.

                   Spotted Flycatchers           © RD

All in all it was a really good weekend particularly because I caught up with my target species for the year - Spotted Flycatcher and caught another new species in the form of an Eider duck.  Steve also did well with 4 new species ringed - Spotted Flycatcher, Jackdaw, Whitethroat and House Martin, taking him past 40 species in preparation for his C permit application.
Another few trips will be arranged for autumn migration and perhaps a trip in mid summer to work on the Manx Shearwaters and other breeding birds.

You can check out more information about Copeland Bird Observatory on the link to the right of this page and follow the updates from the island on Facebook - 

                      Eider             © RD

Ringing Totals 15-17/05/2015
                                        New         Retrap
Blackbird                                            4
Blackcap                           3
Chiffchaff                          4
Eider                                 1
House Martin                    1
Jackdaw                            1
Pied Wagtail                                       2                         
Reed Bunting                   1                3
Spotted Flycatcher         4
Swallow                            14 
Whitethroat                       1                            
Wren                                 3                3             

Total                                35               11  

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