Weekend Visit of April 17th – 19th

  • Five species added to ringing list including, Pied Wagtail, Hooded Crow, Goldfinch, Blackcap and Reed Bunting.
  • Crystal clear night sky with great views of the International Space Station (ISS), Milky Way Galaxy, and moons of Jupiter.
  • New door frame fitted to Gully Trap.
  • First Puffin of 2015 seen.
  • Migration underway – notable movements (>40) of Hooded and Carrion Crows, and three Wheatear seen.

Sometimes the weather can be almost too good!

The second weekend team of 2015, covering Friday 17th – Sunday 19th April, certainly got spectacular early spring weather. The clear air in the mornings gave the eye a full sweep from Goat Fell on Arran in the North, to the Calf of Man in the south; a panorama from the old lighthouse stump which easily covered over one hundred miles. This is not, however, the weather that a ringing team necessarily want! When the conditions are so clear the birds often keep moving. Despite this, the weekend provided a steady trickle of birds through the nets and traps. Notable were the first Blackcap and Goldfinch of 2015, and an exciting catch of three Hooded Crow in the walk-in Crow-trap (feeding on old smelly cheese!). Other migrants included two Willow warbler, and singles of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest.

This photo shows the rarely seen underfoot of a Willow warbler – a vibrant yellow sole.
This photo shows the rarely seen underfoot of a Willow warbler – a vibrant yellow sole.


Several pairs of Reed Bunting breed on the island. A female was ringed on Sunday morning.
Several pairs of Reed Bunting breed on the island. A female was ringed on Sunday morning.


Regular visitors may bemoan the night-time loss of the familiar sweep of the beam from the Mew Island Lighthouse, recently decommissioned and replaced with a fixed flashing light. The night sky, however, somehow seemed enhanced. The Milky Way was clearly visible, and the team also tracked a four-minute transit of the International Space Station across the southern sky.


The spring flowers are really starting to show. The early double-flowering daffodils have already turned, but the narcissi probably have another few weeks left.


Clumps of Marsh Marigold can be found in wet areas.
Clumps of Marsh Marigold can be found in wet areas.


Bird lists and migration logs are updated every day. Large numbers of crows – mainly Hooded, but also some Carrion – were noted on passage. The first Sandwich Tern was heard off Mew, and a Puffin dropped into the sound between Lighthouse and Mew Island on Sunday afternoon. Three Wheatear spent an hour on Sunday morning feeding around the front of the Gully trap.

Some island views…

East jetty under high tide.

East jetty under high tide.


South jetty underwater
South jetty, the same…


Ship passing behind Mew…
Ship passing behind Mew…


Occupied Loo with a View…

Occupied Loo with a View…


Scopes ready for the next species…

Scopes ready for the next species…


Chris closing the nets on Saturday evening.
Chris closing the nets on Saturday evening.


If you would like to arrange a weekend stay, contact our Bookings Secretary – davidgalbraith903@btinternet.com

Remember, your membership support is essential to us. Please consider joining or renewing your membership today!

First trip of 2015

  • Exciting start to new season – work progressing on refit of Gully trap.
  • Buildings and jetties intact after winter storms.
  • 6 species ringed – 1st bird ringed of 2015: Song thrush.
  • 33 species sighted – including Snipe, Swallow, Chiffchaff, Willow warbler and Goldcrest.

On Tuesday 7th April a team of seven volunteers paid the first visit of 2015 to the observatory – mainly with the purpose of preparing the Gully trap (our East-facing Heligoland walk-in trap) for the new season, but also to check over the buildings and jetties after the winter storms.

This was also the first outing of the season for our Rigid-Hulled Inflatable, the Copeland Shearwater.

The sea conditions from Donaghadee to Lighthouse Island were superb; flat calm, with the sky and sea merging into horizon.


After five minutes the team had their first sight of the island


Landing at the South Jetty just ten minutes after leaving Donaghadee, disembarkation was watched with interest from the cliff-top by a group of ten Shelduck. A dozen drake Eider were milling around the Gavney channel after a few females, and calling with their distinctive nasal mew.

The island is still looking very sparse and spring is yet to get a grip; the Bluebell carpet is just beginning to show and the thick patch of Narcissi around the front of the buildings is still waiting to flower.


Despite the recent spell of dry weather, conditions underfoot were soggy. Both the ponds were full to the brim.



Mew Island was resonating with the calls of Grey seals.


Early double-flowering daffodils were out above the Seat.


Philip Galbraith set a mist net in the garden, and worked the Wall and Heli Traps. On the first run of the Wall trap, a Song Thrush was caught and ringed – the first bird ringed in 2015.

After that, the Garden net provided a steady catch throughout the day. Six Goldfinch were caught and single Willow warbler and Chiffchaff.

Interestingly, the Chiffchaff had a pollen cone at the base of its bill – probably built-up during feeding in Africa and Iberia.


You can find out more about this at the following link


Meanwhile, work progressed with the refit of the Gully trap. All the support wire was replaced and tensioned, and the trap is now waiting for a team to refit the wire mesh.


In addition to the birds, a group of eight Porpoise were spotted just beyond Mew, and a Peacock butterfly beside the wall trap.


In total 33 species were counted. The bird list is a follows:

Species sighted Number counted
1.       Cormorant 1
2.       Gannet 6
3.       Mallard 3
4.       Eider 30
5.       Shelduck 16
6.       Greylag Goose 2
7.       Buzzard 1
8.       Snipe 2
9.       Curlew 6
10.   Oystercatcher 6
11.   Whimbrel 1
12.   Common (Mew) Gull 100
13.   Black-headed Gull 20
14.   Black Guillemot 80
15.   Pied Wagtail 2
16.   Meadow Pipit 10
17.   Woodpigeon 1
18.   Stock Dove 10
19.   Robin 2
20.   Song Thrush 1
21.   Blackbird 1
22.   Dunnock 1 (singing)
23.   Wren 20
24.   Willow Warbler 3
25.   Chiffchaff 2
26.   Goldcrest 12
27.   Swallow 3
28.   Raven 3
29.   Chaffinch 1
30.   Linnet 5
31.   Lesser Redpoll 1
32.   Goldfinch 1
33.   Reed Bunting 8


In total, 12 birds of 6 species were ringed:

Species ringed Number ringed
1.   Song Thrush 1
2.   Willow Warbler 1
3.   Chiffchaff 1
4.   Wren 2
5.   Dunnock 1
6.   Goldcrest 6

The team departed at 4.30 pm, again in near perfect conditions.

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Why not consider a weekend visit?