Copeland Artwork

Below is some wonderful artwork entitled “To be Continued” by Adele Pound that was completed on CBO this year as part of several visits by local Artists. The visits were thoroughly enjoyed by both the artists and the Observatory and some wonderful pieces were created and exhibited at a wonderful showcase earlier in the year. The full piece below can be viewed by clicking on the arrows at the bottom.


To be Continued compressed

Ringing Trip to Mew

A CBO ringing team visited Mew Island on 14th May to ring Eider ducks. 51 birds were handled of which 23 were new birds and 28 were retraps (birds which were ringed previously, and have been recaptured to read the ring number). Of the retraps, 4 birds were ringed in 2008, 7 in 2009, and 8 in 2010. This long-term CBO project is showing encouraging retrap results which will feed back into the BTO database and provide important longevity information on the life of these marvellous Copeland birds.


Remember, you can help support the work of CBO by joining today. It’s easy by Direct Debit – just check out our website.


The team were fortunate to visit on a beautiful spring day. On the way out, passing Lighthouse Island (home-base of CBO) 24 Puffin were spotted in the water below the sound-system/decoys.

c d b a o n m l k j i h g f e

3rd-5th July, 2015: Scouts Return to Complete Un-Finished Business!

On Friday, 3rd July a group of 10 Explorer Scouts, with leaders John Lyons, Scott Guiler and DO Chris Acheson, arrived on the island with the express purpose of continuing work on the Gully Trap and completion of a number of other jobs. Five of the boys had been on the island for the same weekend last year and were involved in stripping the old wire off the trap, so it was fitting that they were again contributing significantly to the completion of the job. The other 5 were enjoying their first visit to the Observatory.

After settling in, etc., the group went shearwatering. Twelve new birds were caught and 12 re-trapped – the highlight was a chick from 1985 which had not been recorded since ringing (just short of 30 years).

On Saturday, the boys worked hard and completed several important jobs on the permanent traps in preparation for the Autumn season. The Gully Trap door was repaired and re-hung with new hinges and several new panels of galvanized wire were fixed in position across the trap to extend the roof significantly towards the entrance. The door of the Wall Trap was also re-hung, as it had broken off some time ago, making the trap difficult to use. A newly constructed door was fitted to the Crow Trap, completing its refurbishment and ensuring that it is now also easy to operate.

As this was essentially a working weekend, no mist nets were set, though a few birds were caught during occasional visits to the traps – most notably 5 Jackdaws together in the Crow Trap early on Saturday evening. After nightfall it was clear that many fewer Manx Shearwaters were visiting than on the previous night, so a round of the southern half of the island produced only 2 new birds and 6 re-traps, the oldest from 1988.

On Sunday morning, more roof panels were fitted to the Gully Trap and several heavy rolls of wire mesh were brought up from the Pub to the Old Buildings for storage, thus tidying up the site quite substantially. During a break in the work schedule, the opportunity was taken to visit the Black Guillemot nest sites – 7 chicks were ringed and 2 adults re-trapped (one from 2003 and the other from 2005). Two Great Black-backed Gull chicks were ringed below the Pub.

All in all an enjoyable, successful and productive weekend – many thanks to John, Scott and the boys for all their hard work and continued support of our activities on the island.

Ringing totals for 3rd-5th July, 2015:

  • Manx Shearwater 14 (and 18 re-traps)
  • Blackcap 1
  • Great Black-backed Gull 2
  • Blackbird 2
  • Black Guillemot 7 (and 2 re-traps)
  • Wren 5
  • Jackdaw 5


New roof fitted to CBO observatory buildings

Great news! After several months in the planning, the new Kingspan Trapezoidal insulated roof has been fitted to the observatory buildings. This will provide generations of visitors with a safe, secure and DRY roof over their heads.

This also completes one of the biggest jobs undertaken by the observatory for many years, and CBO would like to thank all those who supported this project including…

  • Minister Durkin and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency for providing the opportunity – through the plastic bag tax/ Challenge Fund – for organisations such as CBO to obtain funding for such a large and ambitious project.
  • Northern Ireland Environment Link for their smooth and professional running of the Challenge Fund.
  • All those volunteers who contributed to the planning, transportation and fitting. Especially those folks who worked so hard on the roof delivery day in May; and Peter, Larry, Ian, Chris, Wesley and Niall who helped during the fitting.
  • The superb engineering team – Harry Magill, Tommy Gray and Craig ‘Cecil’ McNeilly – from T&H engineering, who worked tirelessly and with good humour to fit the roof in just over nine days.

We hope to run some day trips in August – September. Look out for the opportunity to visit CBO and see the roof first hand. More soon…

Some photos from the fitting…

East dorm tackled first on Monday 8th May.

Stripping the old roof Stripping the old roof Stripping the old roof New roof going on over dorm 4 working over the common roomMessy job in buildings as old roof stripped away. In the kitchen everything was covered in sheeting.

Messy kitchenWorking above the kitchen

Working above the kitchenDorm two roof stripped away – glorious weather.

Working above Dorm 2Almost there

Almost done!Final touches to soffits…

Finishing touchesAnd complete on Tuesday morning – 16th June.

Nine days!

Day 9... complete!Old roof stacked in courtyard pending removal

Old roof awaiting disposal

Well done Tommy, Harry and Craig… The fitters - Tommy, Harry and Craig


Treasurer Required

CBO Treasurer Advert – June 2015 (PDF)

Can you spare a few hours per month?

The Copeland Bird Observatory has a vacancy for the position of Treasurer.

By volunteering your time and skills, you could make a real difference to the work of the Observatory.

About the Observatory

The Copeland Bird Observatory (CBO) was formed in 1954 by local amateur ornithologists. It is the only bird observatory in Northern Ireland and has been run for over 60 years by dedicated volunteers. The CBO is situated on Old Lighthouse Island off the County Down coast and is a non-profit making organisation.

CBO is an accredited Bird Observatory and a member of The Bird Observatories Council. The main aims of the Observatory are:

  • To collect data on migratory and breeding birds
  • To manage the island for the benefit of birds
  • To develop and manage a conservation education programme.

The Copeland Islands form both an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) and a Special Protection Area (SPA).

Overview of the role

The treasurer’s role is an important one which is vital to the running of the observatory. In the short-term (next six months), the observatory proposes to move to on-line banking and develop an electronic payment system for membership – both of which the treasurer will manage. This unpaid voluntary position requires an enthusiastic individual with the following skills:

  • Experience of book-keeping
  • Competent in the use of Microsoft Office (e.g. Word, Excel, PowerPoint) or similar package
  • Ability to manage an electronic membership database
  • Ability and availability to carry out banking duties (e.g. lodging money and on-line banking)
  • Ability to prepare and present short reports, e.g. monthly for the Committee and annually at the AGM.

Note: The treasurer would be expected to become a CBO member if not already one.

Who to contact

For informal enquiries about the role please contact:

Wesley Smyth (CBO Secretary),   Email: Wesley Smyth or Tel: 07837 449264

Expression of interest should be made to Wesley no later than Wednesday 17th June 2015.

Depending on their ability to fulfil the above skills, candidates may be invited to meet with a sub-group from the committee on Tuesday 23rd or Wednesday 24th June. It should be noted that the Committee will appoint someone as temporary treasurer pending ratification by the membership at the next AGM in March 2016.

Weekend Visit of May 15th – 17th


  • Breeding in full swing –first chicks of the year seen
  • 12 species ringed – 5 new species for the year including Swallow and Whitethroat
  • Important work continues:  habitat management resumes across the island

A team of five volunteers including Ian McKee, who planned to stay for a week to progress with the first serious attack on the grass-cutting, departed Donaghadee on Friday 15th May for the sixth weekend visit of the CBO 2015 season. [Ian was joined for the remainder of the week by another volunteer on the boat switchover on Sunday].

The weekend weather remained dry throughout but with constant winds blowing at around 20 mph coming from the west/south west. Sunday morning brought this nicest weather with a drop in the winds and a near cloudless sky.

Sunset over Mew IslandBeautiful morning over Mew

The breeding season is in full swing on the island with large numbers of Eider, Black Guillemot, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull and Lesser-black Backed Gull sitting on eggs. The team also spotted nesting Oystercatcher and saw the first two Eider chicks of the year.

The Fulmars are sitting on the ledges on the East cliffs and a pair of Rock Pipits are bobbing around the foreshore. The pair of Starlings which nest in the workshop were working tirelessly to feed to their noisy brood, flying back and forth across the island continuously in the hunt for insects. The local Swallows were checking out the usual nest sites around the Observatory buildings and the cave. Two curious Swallows flew into the ringing laboratory on Friday evening to look for an ideal nest site and were caught and ringed.

Many of the other resident breeders remained inconspicuous, so may be sitting on eggs e.g. female Reed Buntings, Shelduck and Stock Doves. The Arctic Tern numbers are building; reaching c180 birds on Saturday 16th May but we expect plenty more to arrive. Four Puffins were again present with two sitting among the decoys. A highlight for the species list was a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers, spotted on the sound between Lighthouse Island and Mew.

Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher

In terms of passerine migrants (except Swallows) the Island appeared to be devoid of any birds on Friday evening and Saturday morning between 5-9am.  Birds then started to appear with a Spotted Flycatcher, a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff feeding in one tree in Bluebell Gully.  The ringing then picked up with a Spotted Flycatcher, a couple of Chiffchaff and a Whitethroat caught.  These birds appeared just in time to show to a group of 20+ people who had arrived by boat on a guided island tour.  The baited crow trap then produced some birds, with 5 Jackdaws and a Magpie inside – although 2 of the Jackdaw and the Magpie managed to slip out when extracting them.  A busy couple of hours quietened down after midday.  Swallows were the only obvious persistent migrant, with birds flitting through much of the day with 9 ringed and a single House Martin, of which 4/5 passed through.


On Sunday the conditions between 6-8am were ideal with full cloud cover and force 3 winds coming from the south west.  The first two net rounds caught the majority of the day’s birds, with the second round producing a Spotted Flycatcher in the ‘Heli trap’, a Chiffchaff in the ‘Garden net’, and the ‘Withy net’, which was the best of the lot, produced 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Blackcap and a Reed Bunting.  A few more birds were picked up through the rest of the morning but, with the wind increasing, and switching back to westerly, many of the migrants seemed to have moved on. Spotted Flycatchers

Spotted Flycatchers

CBO Weekend trip 15th-17th May Ringing Totals

New Retrap
Blackbird 4
Blackcap 3
Chiffchaff 4
Eider 1
House Martin 1
Jackdaw 3
Pied Wagtail 2
Reed Bunting 1 3
Spotted Flycatcher 4
Swallow 14
Whitethroat 1
Wren 3 3
Total 35 12


In the meantime, the habitat management progressed apace. Long hours were spent mowing the vegetation to maintain the short sward grass in designated areas, and keeping the pathways and net rides accessible. It takes a full week to complete all the mowing around the island and this takes place 3 times a year. Without this effort and work, moving around the island would very difficult with the dense cover of Red Campion and Bracken. It also maintains ideal habitat for the island’s diverse flora, and for many of the bird species (and the rabbits!). To find out more about habitat management and how to get involved, contact Ian McKee at

1 2