Wednesday 21 September 2016

Copeland Bird Observatory 17-18th of September & PSS

After our 13 hour delay getting to Copeland Bird Observatory due to the tide, we set sail from Bangor at 7am, all a little weary eyed.  As well as Dean, Steve and myself, we were joined by Laurence from the Belfast and Down Ringing Group for the weekend.  The trip out was a new route for us leaving from Bangor and it was a real treat with perhaps 500+ Razorbills all around the mouth of Belfast Lough with a scattering of Black Guillemots, Guillemots and Eiders along the way. 
We arrived on the island around 8am and immediately set about opening the traps and getting some mist nets up.  We used the usual lot of the favoured net rides and opened the 4 helgoland traps, crow trap and a few potters baited with sardines.

Water Rail

The weather was decent with moderate westerlies for Saturday morning switching to southerlies in the afternoon for the rest of the weekend.  Saturday was a hot sunny day, where as Sunday was a little greyer with light drizzle as we were getting ready to depart mid-afternoon.

The range of migrants on show was lower than expected but a couple of species passed in large numbers.  Swallows and Meadow Pipits were the main feature with probably 800+ of the former and 500+ Mipits passing over the two days.  As usual in September, Robins begin to arrive back on the island after heading elsewhere for the breeding season.  A number of adult birds were reencountered that hadn't been seen since the spring plus a number of new juveniles.  Finches arrived on Sunday with 80+ Goldfinch, 40+ Linnets, a couple of Chaffinch and a single Lesser Redpoll.  Lesser Redpoll will soon become the dominate passage species as the autumn progresses with over 800 ringed last year!  There was a light scattering of Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests, House Martins and singles of Skylark, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Willow Warbler and a migrant Blackcap. 


The ringing was pretty decent in terms of numbers which were bolstered by the three main movers with 22 Swallows, 14 Meadow Pipits and 13 Robin.  The first couple of rounds on Sunday morning produced the majority of the new Chiffchaffs (5) and Golcrests (3).  The Chaffinch caught is more than likely a controlled bird although it could have been ringed on the island 6+ years ago. 

Willow Warbler (left) and Chiffchaff
On Saturday night, as we were heading out shearwatering, we got a nice a surprise when we captured a Water Rail in one of the baited potter traps.  The bird was already bearing a ring and was originally trapped on the island back in 2012.  Despite the very bright full moon we managed to ring 29 Manx Shearwaters which were all pulli or recently fledged birds.  We also set the moth trap to run through the night but the catch of 5 moths of three species was pretty low and they were outnumbered by Sexton Beetles who do a great job clearing up the bird and rabbit carcasses across the island. 

Song Thrush

Copeland Bird Observatory Ringing Totals 17-18th Sep 2016

                                 New      Retrap    Control
Blackbird                                  1
Blackcap                    1            1
Chaffinch                                                  1
Chiffchaff                   6             1
Goldcrest                   6             1
Goldfinch                   4
Manx Shearwater      29  
Meadow Pipit            14
Reed Bunting             1
Robin                         13           9
Song Thrush               1
Swallow                     22
Water Rail                                1
Willow Warbler          1
Wren                          4            3            

Total                        102           17               1           

All in all it was a very enjoyable weekend and we are looking forward to the next visit in mid October is the weather allows it. 

On Tuesday morning John and I squeezed in a quick visit to Portstewart Strand to make the best of the conditions before a delayed start to work.  There had been a report of a possible male Common Yellowthroat a couple of hundred metres further along the shoreline a few days before and although the bird had been searched for by others unsuccessfully, a number of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs had been sighted. 


We were on site bright an early and had the nets up by 7am.  The wind was a little brisker than forecast but that is usually the case with southerlies where they blow straight off the river.  It was evident that there had been an arrival of Robins with a number ticking throughout the scrub before first light.  Other new birds included Blackbirds and a few extra Bullfinches than of late.  Once the sun had risen and things heated up a few Chiffchaff began to call amongst a roving flock of Goldcrests and a few Blackcaps appeared. 


The main entertainment for the morning was the local juvenile Peregrine who has been terrorising just about every bird in the estuary.  Today it was testing out 4 Ravens, 11 Grey Herons in the roost and every duck and wader in sight.  It seems to have the most luck lifting the Black-tailed Godwits of which there were 140+ this morning.  It eventually made a kill before the tables were turned and the Hooded Crows tried to muscle in.  A second juvenile Peregrine appeared before we left around 10. 

The ringing was slow in the shortened sunny, breezy session but it is nice to see the arrival of some migrant Blackcaps and Goldcrests and hopefully a sign of the start of proper autumn migration.


PSS Ringing Totals 20/09/2016
                                 New      Retrap  
Blackcap                    3           
Blue Tit                                     2
Chaffinch                   1             1                 
Dunnock                    1            
Goldcrest                   3            
Goldfinch                   5
Meadow Pipit            1
Robin                         3             1

Total                        17           4              

The weather forecast is looking grim but there is a chance of short session on Sunday morning.  Dean and David S are heading off to the south coast of Ireland tomorrow to the fabled Cape Clear Bird Observatory (I'm just a bit jealous) for a weekend ringing course.  Cape Clear is easily the best birding spot in Ireland for autumn passerines, particularly from North America and if they hit the winds and weather right, they could be in for an amazing weekend.  Dean and David will be back next week with an update and pictures of their trip. 


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