Thursday 3 November 2016

Copeland Bird Observatory 28-30th October

On Friday evening Richard, David, James, Laurence and I (Steve) were joined by 2 non-ringers Andy and Pat to begin our journey to Copeland Bird Observatory from Donaghadee Harbour. Of course we could not begin our trip without grabbing our usual pre-CBO feed from the local chippy – delicious!  The journey across on The Mermaid is much slower than on the Observatories RHIB but it did give us a chance to observe Turnstones, Cormorants/Shags, Red-breasted Merganser and many gulls off Big Copeland.  The weather was good, with a slight South Westerly breeze, we were fairly optimistic that the weather would remain calm and fine for the weekend ahead.
Yellow-browed Warbler   (DS)

On reaching the island at dusk, we set about getting the mist nets up in the usual net rides at mid garden, NW Garden, Heli 60’, Heli Extension, Thicket, Pond 60', Withy, Millennium Wood, the Ditch and a new net ride at Bluebell.  We also set the four Heligoland traps, the Crow trap and a few Potter and Spring traps.  The Potters were baited with sardines as they have been producing the goods with Water Rail recently.  It was well into darkness by the time we got finished so all nets were furled as we went, ready for a busy day on Saturday.  While erecting the last net c30 Greylag Geese came in to roost on Mew Island – and what a racket they made!

The next day Richard and I got up earlier than the others to prepare the nets and tape lures before dawn.  Being so late in the autumn, the main migrants passing through were thrushes with Blackbird, Song Thrush and Redwing.  The species that really caught our attention though were the Fieldfare.  Two of the Fieldfares wound up in mist nets and both, with beautiful speckled markings on their orangey throats.  This set the mood for the rest of the day. The first weekend of October 2015 saw us with high hopes of catching a Yellow-browed Warbler; a bird ringed less than 10 times before in Northern Ireland.  Being so late, the chances of getting one were slim but by 10am, I had a Yellow-browed Warbler in my hand and it was beautiful.  Lesser Redpoll numbers tend to dwindle around late October but we still had a few passing through, including a Goldpoll (a Redpoll with a golden crown in place of red) and a BTO Control (ringed somewhere else in the UK or Ireland).
Lesser Redpoll   (DS)
Song Thrush (top) and Redwing (bottom)   (DS)
Later that morning a flock of c120 Starling and a mixed flock of c150 Redwing, Fieldfare and Song Thrush passed over the island.  As well as the Yellow-browed Warbler we added another new species for the year in the form of two Wigeon amongst a flock of over 90 Teal off Mew Island. In the evening we caught a glimpse of a female Sparrowhawk but it made its way back towards big Copeland and a Buzzard was perched on the Mew Lighthouse.  A Short-eared Owl was spotted on Big Copeland although not by us unfortunately, as this would have been a nice addition to the CBO year list.
The next day the Yellow-browed Warbler was relocated in Bluebell Gully where it had been last heard on Saturday afternoon.  There were a few more Lesser Redpoll, Redwing, Song Thrush, Goldfinch, Linnet and Blackbird on the move.  The Gully heligoland trap performed well producing a six Meadow Pipit but with the trap being unfinished it could have possibly caught more.  There were a good number of Grey Seal pups scattered around the island, snuggled in amongst the rocks with their mothers close by.  The glorious weather on Sunday, which felt like earlier September, produced a late migrant butterfly - a Red Admiral
Grey Seal Pup   (SF)

Ringing Totals for Copeland Bird Observatory 29-30th October
                                             New    Retraps  Controls
Blackbird                               3           5
Blackcap                               2
Chaffinch                              4
Dunnock                                         4
Fieldfare                               2
Goldcrest                             1            2
Goldfinch                              2
Linnet                                    1
Lesser Redpoll                    24                          1
Meadow Pipit                      6
Redwing                               14         1
Robin                                     1          8
Song Thrush                         5           1
Wren                                      3          4
Yellow-browed Warbler    1

Total                                     74        25             1 __      

As this was the last visit of the season we were set with a list of end of season chores.  After these were completed we were able to relax and wait for the boat to arrive.  We brought five lawnmowers ashore for servicing and it must have been quite a sight watching us lift the heavy machines off the boat and carrying them up on the steps of the harbour walls on our return to Donaghadee.
 The team ready for home
Fully packed boat home
As we left Copeland Bird Observatory behind us, the sun was dropping behind the mainland and brought a close on a very successful weekend and yet another brilliant season at Northern Ireland's only bird observatory.  Bring on next year as I'm sure everyone who has been to the island is desperately longing to return.
The Observatory building locked up and ready for winter
 Sunset over Donaghadee
Myself (Steve), Richard and David

Richard will be back at the weekend with an update about the goings on back at home over the last week. 

Steve Fyffe

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