Tuesday 20 June 2017

Copeland Bird Observatory 19-21st May 2017

I was out at Copeland Bird Observatory for my third weekend of the year with a large party of two from the Observatory, six from the Belfast and Down Ringing Group, a rabbit researcher from Queens University Belfast and myself.  The forecast didn't promise much in the way of movement but as ever I'm always hopeful for something nice turn up in the nets.

As predicted the winds weren't overly compliant and migrants were thin on the ground.  We didn't totally hit a blank and trapped 2 Chiffchaff, a single Sedge Warbler and a late Redwing.  The girls from BDRG got a bit of practice catching and handling large gulls trapping three Herring Gulls and one Lesser-black Backed Gull on Saturday afternoon using nest traps.


On Friday night Rosie and Terry set up the moth trap around the garden pond in ideal conditions.  It was a decent catch with the Poplar Hawk moth looking the most spectacular plus 151 Campion, 1 Clouded Border, 20 White Ermine, 2 Flame Shoulder, 1 Angle Shades, 1 Sandy Carpet, 2 Spectacle, 3 Broom moths, a possible Bullrush Wainscott, possibly 4 Red-headed Chestnut, possibly 1 Twin-spot carpet and 17 unidentified micros, a couple rather dapper looking.  It is great spot for moth trapping although there has been little trapping in the past 10+ years.  Other lepidotera included c20 Green-veined White, 1 Red Admiral and 1 Speckled Wood butterflies.  As Records Secretary at the observatory I've not yet had the chance to look at any records other than birds yet but once I get everything in order I hope to work on the likes of cetaceans and moths etc.   

Poplar Hawk Moth

White Ermine

On Sunday afternoon, after news of our delayed boat, I spent a bit of time doing a full island gull count and searching for nests amongst the scrub.  A full circumference of the island produced c395 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, c360 Herring Gulls, 63 Common Gulls, 2 Great Black-back Gull nests and a few other bits and pieces including 11 pairs of Oystercatcher, at least 3 Fulmar nests with eggs (no doubt more) and a single Eider nest much higher up the shore than normal (there will have been plenty more on the lower shore but I didn't want to disturb the birds - there were 19 new female Eiders and 22 retraps caught midweek on Mew Island).  I had a bit of luck with some of the larger nests and turned up three occupied Woodpigeon nests and a single Magpie nest.  The Magpie nest, with five eggs, was actually within 40cm of a Woodpigeon next with two eggs as pictured below.  The other two WP nests had 2 well developed chicks and a single egg.

Woodpigeon nest to left and Magpie nest slightly up right
Woodpigeon chicks

Another benefit of the delayed boat was the sighting of a Marsh Harrier that drifted across to Mew Island as we sat in the hide late afternoon.  The large gulls didn't take kindly to its presence and it was swiftly escorted away.  Marsh Harriers are very uncommon in NI with only a handful of sightings in a good year and probably only 3-5 sighted at CBO since 1954. 

Copeland Bird Observatory 19-21/05/2017                           
                                                   New       Retrap    

Blackbird                                                      1
Chiffchaff                                    1                1
Goldfinch                                     1               1                                             
Jackdaw                                       1
Herring Gull                                 3
Lesser-black Backed Gull          1      
Pied Wagtail                                1
Redwing                                       1         
Reed Bunting                               2               5
Robin                                            1               2

Rock Pipit                                    1               1
Sedge Warbler                            1
Swallow                                        2
Woodpigeon                                2 (pulli)
Wren                                            2               1          

Totals                                          20              12           

Sundown over the Pub

Davis S went out to CBO the weekend before and despite being restricted by strong winds caught a further five Whitethroats and turned up the first Spotted Flycatchers of the year with two caught. 

Copeland Bird Observatory 12-14/05/2017                           
                                New       Retrap    

Chiffchaff                  3               
Manx Shearwater     1                                                           
Pied Wagtail             1           
Reed Bunting                           5            

Rock Pipit                                1
Sedge Warbler         1
Spotted Flycatcher  2    
Whitethroat              5
Willow Warbler        3
 Wren                                       1                            

Totals                      16              7                   

Spotted Flycatcher

Spot the Puffin decoys

30 minutes with a scythe cleaned up the Puffing breeding bank

The real deal

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