Friday, 14 June 2013

Copeland Island Visited. Part 1


 The Copeland Islands is a group of three islands in the north Irish Sea, north of Donaghadee, County Down, Northern Ireland, consisting of Lighthouse, Mew and Big Copeland Island and I spent the weekend on Lighthouse Island.  A light station was established in the early 18th century and the lighthouse built in 1815.  It has been inactive since 1884 but the ruined stump of the 16 m (52 ft) stone tower remains.  The ruins of the keeper's house have been rebuilt to house a bird observatory.  The lighthouse was abandoned in favour of the Mew Island to the north.  The island is now owned by the National Trust and operated by volunteer members of the Copeland Bird Observatory of which I am a member.

This photo was taken on Lighthouse Island looking towards Mew Island.
Ringing is an important method for monitoring bird populations and movements and provides data of great value to conservation. Since it involves trapping and handling live birds, it requires extensive training under the careful guidance of British Trust for Ornithology licensed trainers and this weekend that was Shane Wolsey who was also the Duty Officer in charge.  

Trainees learn handling birds safely, identifying species, securing rings, noting gender and age and taking simple measurements. It's a  hands-on experience as appropriate, appreciating that the most important factor for any ringer is 'the welfare of the bird always comes first'.  I observed all of these things over the weekend and in due course will tell you all the birds that were ringed.

Just as the sun was going down I took this photo below and afterwards we lit the fire and waited until it was very dark to go out and  catch the Manx Shearwaters to ring them.  

                                           Sunset on Lighthouse Island at Copeland Islands

As we waited for darkness to fall, I learnt a lot more about ringing and how ringers are taught.  
Ringing aims to understanding what is happening to birds in the places they live and how this affects population increases and decreases, this knowledge is vital for conservation. It also gives information on the movements individual birds make and how long many live for.  Trainees have to ring at least 750 different birds in many differing species and a large range of habitats before they reach the next stage in their training.  It can take many years to be able to ring a bird without a qualified coach.

                                    The team waiting by the fire for darkness to fall (SG)

Then off we went with torches to look for Manx Shearwaters.  Shearwaters tend to gather in rafts  on the water offshore of breeding colonies in the evening waiting for the cover of darkness to approach their burrows.  They lay their eggs in burrows but that hadn't  happened yet.  They are 30–38 cm long, with a 76–89 cm wingspan. It has the typically "shearing" flight of the genus, dipping from side to side on stiff wings with few wing beats, the wingtips almost touching the water. This bird looks like a flying cross, with its wing held at right angles to the body, and it changes from black to white as the black upper parts and white undersides are alternately exposed as it travels low over the sea.  

                                                         Manx Sherwater among the bracken

Most of the photo are mine however there was a lovely German guy with a wonderful camera and a very keen interest in birds and he kindly sent me some of his photos and I have full permission to use them.  When I insert his photos, I will put his initials after them. SG (Stefan Greif).

                                                          Stefan caught the first Manx Shearwater.



                                                Wing spread out to take measurements etc


    Close up of head of Manx Shearwater




        Then I caught a Shearwater  (SG)



   Close up of Manx Shearwater




Above shows a ring on a Manx Shearwater that had been ringed before.  That night we caught 22 birds and only 8 of them were new birds to be ringed.  However all birds were examined and information correctly recorded.




This Manx Shearwater above had been ringed and let go again.  They are ungainly on land and really built for flying.


People often ask if the ringing hurts or affect the birds and it is an important question to answer.  



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Ringing has little effect on birds because relative to the bird’s weight, wearing a ring is similar to a person wearing a watch. It is essential that birds are not affected unduly by the fitting and wearing of a ring; if they were, ringing would not tell us how normal birds behave. Many studies have shown that birds ringed during the breeding season quickly return to incubating eggs, or feeding chicks, once they are released, and long distance migrants continue to travel thousands of miles between breeding and wintering grounds.
Of course while I was out I thought I would try and photograph plants in the dark!!  
Here are the results below. 


Red Campion and Bluebells

Bluebells

Twigs ( I didn't need to change this into B&W!)

    White Campion with Bluebells



   Then we found an egg of a Lesser Black backed Gull



                                                      This is a Lesser Black backed Gull chick



 Finally for today I will leave you with this little chap who must only be a couple of days old. (SG)


I have a lot more material to present to you both from the Copeland weekend but also from Rathlin Island that I returned from last night however you need to be patient as I have a lot of processing to do. 

Thank you for visiting and call again for the next instalment.

21 comments:

  1. Very cool outing, great birds. Love the Shearwater shots and the beautiful flowers!

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  2. It looks like you had a interesting weekend and learnt a lot Margaret? It's always good to be in the company of like minded people. Great post and record of your weekend...Happy processing!...[;o)

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    1. HI Trevor Many thanks for your kind comments. I.m still processing!! I think I will be at this forever!!!! Margaret

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  3. Hi Eileen Many thanks for your comments. Glad you liked the Shearwaters. Margaret

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  4. very cool birds! and loved the firey red sunset, too!

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  5. Fascinating post and lovely images Margaret, I'm looking forward to the next instalment :-)

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  6. Hi Tex Yes I agree. I had never held a Shearwater before so that was awesome. Thanks for comment Margaret

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  7. Fantastic ringing of the Manx Sheerwater Margaret, it must been glorious.

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  8. HI Bob Many thanks for comment. Yes it was great, i had never even held a Shearwater before so for me it was very special. Margaret

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  9. WoW.....what a fun and interesting entry!! I especially loved your first image, of the lighthouse but all images were beautiful!!

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    1. Hi Debbie Glad you liked the post adn yes itwas fun. Thanks for your comments. Margaret

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  10. This trip at night must have been fabulous!

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    1. Hi Karen That;s the right word. Fabulous! Thanks for comment. Margaret

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  11. Wow what an experience that must have been, stunning bird and great photos.
    I also think you may have stumbled across a new form of photography, "Flowers at Night", the dark background really suits them

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    1. Hi Douglas Many thanks for your kind comments. You know I thinnk you might be right about stumbling about the 'night'photography. I woud never have thought of doing this wiht any success but now I know I probably will do it again, Margaret

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  12. Birding in the dark Margaret, that is different.
    You were so lucky to see and get a hold of the Shearwater.

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    1. Hi Roy Yes I considered it a priveldege to be asclose to these birds and holding one was the icing on the cake. Margaret

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  13. Its good that people like you and your pals, spend your time lookig after the wildlife , things that we all take for granted.


    peter

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    1. Hi Peter Thank you for your comment.Perhpas we all need reminded of all the people that voluntary help wildlife out of the goodness of their hearts as well as the people that are paid but have dedicated their lives to making adifferent in the wildlife world. Margaret

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  14. how interesting seeing the banding project Margaret, and the little gull chick, how beautiful. Your night photos of the flora is amazing.

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  15. Hi Carol Thank you for your comments. yes it was very interesting for me also. Be sure to tune in as I am just about to post a series on another island - Rathlin which is off the Antrim coast.Margaret

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