Monday 5 October 2015

Copeland Bird Observatory 2nd - 4th October

After our routine pre-CBO 'chippy', John, Ken, Steve and I were ready to jump into the RHIB and set sail for Lighthouse Island.  We met up with Island regulars David, Philip and Ian at the harbour in Donaghadee, who were accompanied by Olli, on his first trip.  As forecast, the winds were very light and the sea was flat calm for a change.
On arrival on the island, we set about readying the nets and traps.  With 6 ringers on hand we set a few extra nets than the norm, covering most of the north and east of the island.  In total we set 10 mist nets, with the 4 in situ Heligoland traps, the crow trap, plus 7 spring & potter traps.     

Lesser Redpoll

When setting up it was evident there were a few birds knocking about and we caught a couple of Blackcap, Goldcrest and Song Thrush before sunset around 7pm.  After dark, a few us headed out in search of a few Manx Shearwaters but with little hope.  It is very late in the season and the majority of the chicks should have fledged and be on route to the southern hemisphere.  Luckily we managed to find 12 new chicks within half an hour and the following night added 5 more. 
  The CBO team along with Oxford University were successful in retrieving 3 geolocators from adult birds over the summer.  These had been attached 3/4 years ago when the birds were chicks in their burrows.  It is not known exactly what young shearwaters do from their first migration south until they return to the breeding colonies 3/4 later.  Hopefully the data can be extracted and it will shed some light/confirm peoples thoughts in what they do!  For updates on the project, follow Copeland Bird Observatory on Facebook -


The next day, we were up before dawn (two of us anyway!) to open the nets and get ready for the mornings ringing.  Again the conditions were ideal and the birds started trickling out of the bushes and into the mist nets.  The birds consisted of Blackbird, Blackcap, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Robin, Song Thrush and Wren.  It wasn't long before the finches got moving with flocks of Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll and Linnet moving around/over the island plus c30 Skylark.  With the help of tape lures we picked up 73 Lesser Redpoll and 11 Linnet, before closing the nets early afternoon.  A Hooded Crow found it's way into the crow trap for a second time, following its initial foray in April.  The sea remained quite for the most but totals of 1000+ Razorbill, 500+ Gannet, c40 Eiders, c50 Harbour Porpoise, a few Red-throated Diver and other bits and pieces kept Ian content.  The Grey Seal breeding season is in full swing with at least 40 seal pups spotted at the Observatory and on the near side of Mew Island, with probably many more around the rest of Mew and Big Copeland.  The bulls (males) were also getting very frisky, as the females come in to season. 

                                            Grey Seal pup           (© Steve Fyffe)

  Adult Grey Seals

On Sunday morning the conditions were perfect, with next to no wind and a good covering of cloud.  The initial net rounds showed there had been an arrival of Chiffchaff, with 14 ringed in the first few hours.  The catch was similar to Saturday but with an added Wheatear from the 'Heli Trap' at first light, a Woodpigeon from the 'Thicket' net and a Meadow Pipit in a spring trap.  Again the finches got moving with Linnets (including a flock of c50), hundreds of Lesser Redpoll, plenty of Goldfinches and a single Chaffinch.  The Lesser Redpolls surpassed the previous days totals and this corresponded in the ringing totals, with 103 new birds.  The sea was again pretty quite but 3 Great Skua, c100 Curlew and a few extra Black Guillemot was something.  No Hirundines were noted all weekend.



Overall it was a very enjoyable weekend with lots of birds ringed and some good weather.  Unfortunately we couldn't produce one of the Yellow-browed Warblers, that have pouring down the coasts of the UK and Ireland, that we were hoping for. 

CBO    Ringing Totals         02-04/10/2015
                                        New        Retrap           
Blackbird                         1                4                   
Blackcap                          6                1                            
Chiffchaff                       14  
Dunnock                          3                             
Goldcrest                        27               2
Goldfinch                         1                                      
Hooded Crow                                    1
Lesser Redpoll              175  
Linnet                              14
Meadow Pipit                   1
Manx Shearwater           17               2
Robin                               13              5                                                                                
Song Thrush                    4                                                                            
Wheatear                         1      
Woodpigeon                    1
Wren                                4                1                                
Total                               282             16        

A bird laden Pond 60' net

Other bits and pieces from the weekend included Peregrine Falcon, Sparrowhawk, up to 7 Buzzard, a possible Harrier spp., Stock Dove, Water Rail, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Snipe Turnstone, Grey Heron, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull Fulmar, Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Magpie, Jackdaw, Raven, Rook, Cormorant, Shag, Teal, Mallard, Starling, Reed Bunting, Pheasant, Small-tortoiseshell and Red Admiral. 
Home time at 'East Landing'

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