Tuesday 16 May 2017

Copeland Bird Observatory 9th-11th May

On Tuesday the 9th I headed out to Copeland Bird Observatory for my first mid-week stay accompanied by Laurence from the Belfast and Down Ringing Group.  The trip had been arranged to accommodate a work party of 10 from a local NGO but they unfortunately had to cancel.  The forecast looked rather decent and I like to get out to the island this time of year so we decided to press ahead anyway. 


The said forecast was as predicted for the two night stay with hardly a cloud in the sky and some very warm weather.  The winds weren't fantastic for migration with northerlies on Saturday morning/afternoon and easterlies for the rest but a number of birds still passed through.  The island is dry as I have ever seen it following almost 3 weeks without rain.  I had said something very similar in a post this time last year but it was much drier this time with the pond down to a muddy sludge and cracked earth all over island.  The island still looks fantastic with the millions of flowers of Bluebell, Crab Apple, Marsh Marigold, Red Campion, Sea Campion, Scarlet Pimpernel and Thrift to name but a few.   

The image above shows the remaining mud in the garden pond and the keen eyed will notice a couple of Swallows and a Pied Wagtail in the net which I put up to take advantage of the dozens of Swallows swooping low over the surface. 

Pied Wagtail

Over the weekend hirundines were the most conspicuous migrants with 175+ Swallows passing through (plus a few resident birds) and 15+ House Martins.  14 Swallows were captured and a single House Martin which was the first of the year.  Swifts made an early dash through on Wednesday morning with at least 6. 
I didn't pay much attention to the action offshore but certainly on Sunday there were obviously fish on the move with lots of Razorbills, Guillemots, Gannets and gulls working the shoals (plus a few angling boats).  The first Common Terns of the year arrived on Wednesday, with even more the following day plus the first Arctic Terns while Sandwich Terns were present throughout.  The Puffin numbers reached 28 with a number visiting the burrows and Black Guillemots hit 66.   

House Martin

The breeding birds are very busy with many of the Eider, Herring Gulls and Reed Buntings incubating their first eggs and the likes of Blackbird, Meadow Pipit, Stock Dove and Rock Pipit feeding chicks.  It will be a busy few months with the Black Guillemots, Common Gulls, Fulmars, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Swallows joining the mix and with any luck the Arctic/Common Terns, Black-headed Gulls and Puffins will have a successful year.  A retrap female Blackcap and a skulking singing male Blackcap suggest they may breed once again and hopefully the singing male Sedge Warblers will hang around after a few years absence. 
Another species new to the ringing list and species list for the year was Whitethroat with three caught over the weekend with a further 3 Sedge Warbler and 3 Willow Warbler.  Corvids were on the move with plenty of Hooded Crows, Jackdaws and two Carrion Crow passing over.  Seven Jackdaw stopped by for a quick feed in the crow trap and were duly ringed. 

Water Rail

A few other nice captures included a smart looking retrap Water Rail, the 8th Wheatear of the season (one of three present) and a late Song Thrush.  Non-avian sightings were made up of 40+ Green-veined White butterflies plus the first Red Admiral of the year. 
We got a little work done on Saturday afternoon when we patched up the holes in the crow trap (which provided immediate dividends in the Jackdaws) and started a bit of grass cutting which is a monumental task. 

Copeland Bird Observatory 09-11/05/2017                           
                                New       Retrap    

Blackbird                                 3               
Blackcap                                  1

House Martin           1
Jackdaw                   7
Pied Wagtail            1                
Reed Bunting                           2
Robin                        1              3         

Rock Pipit                                 1
Sedge Warbler         3
Song Thrush            1
Swallow                   14
Water Rail                                 1   
Wheatear                  1    
Whitethroat              3
Willow Warbler        3            
Wren                                          3              

Totals                      35              14                     


My personal CBO patch list for the year is up to 76 species which is around my usual year total of 75-80 with the autumn still to come.  The Observatory as a whole is having a very decent season in terms of variety and has reached 93 species with the addition of Whinchat and Spotted Flycatcher in the weekend past.  To keep up to date with the species list you can check the CBO website at  - http://www.thecbo.org.uk/birds/2017-species-list/

Moon lit sea and sky to the south east

I'm off to the Observatory again this coming weekend with a party of 12 people, 10 of those ringers.  Migrants at this time of year are very thin on the ground with the last trickle of tardy birds passing through but it does produces some of CBOs best spring rarities.  Hopefully with a bit of luck there will be a few birds to share around but the northerlies don't look promising. 
I head off to Italy for a few weeks the following weekend so activity will be limited until mid June, just in time for Sand Martin season.

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