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


Weekend Visit of 8th – 10th May

A weekend party of three left a wet Donaghadee Harbour on Friday evening. It took the Copeland Shearwater RIB around 10 minutes to get to the South Jetty on Old Lighthouse Island. Once on the Island, the party made their way up to the Observatory building to get settled in for the weekend. The persistent rain limited the outdoor activities of the party for that evening. The Chris Bailey Hide provided a suitable refuge for seabird watching.

Early morning netting on the Saturday was quiet with no new birds ringed. The weather looked promising for the arrival of the roof working party that day. The weekend party were able to watch the chartered boat leaving Bangor on route to Donaghadee Harbour to collect the first of the roofing materials. This information was passed to the awaiting party on Donaghadee Harbour via mobile phone.

The chartered boat carrying the first of the roofing material arrived at the South Jetty around 10:45am. Some members of the work party arrived with the materials while other members remained at Donaghadee Harbour to assist with the next load.

Boat loaded with roofing materialsBoat loaded with roofing materials

Once docked, the roof panels and building materials were unloaded from the boat and left on the foreshore. While the boat returned to Donaghadee to pick-up the next load, the work party on the Island started to bring the heavy materials up to the Observatory building.

Roofing materials on the foreshoreRoofing materials on the foreshore

Wheelbarrows and other improvised lifting methods were employed to move the roof materials up to the Observatory building. This operation continued for two more boat trips. By the time the third and last boat was unloaded the water was up to the top level of the South Jetty. Another half hour or so and this jetty would have been unusable.

Roof panel being transported up to the Observatory buildingRoof panel being transported up to the Observatory building

Work party transporting materials up to the Observatory buildingWork party transporting materials up to the Observatory building

After a hard day’s work in the sun, it was time for the Saturday work party to leave. The Copeland Shearwater arrived at the East Jetty around 5:30pm to lift the remaining work party members. This had been a very successful day, with everyone working efficiently together to get an important job done.

Roof panels sitting outside Observatory building on Saturday eveningRoof panels sitting outside Observatory building on Saturday evening

Sunday was overcast with strong winds as forecasted. Rope was used to secure the stacked panels together to prevent them from lifting. Three new birds were ringed that day, with one re-trap bird.

The weekend party left from the East Jetty on the Sunday afternoon. The strong winds made the return journey on the Copeland Shearwater a little choppy. Despite some mixed weather, the weekend was productive and enjoyed in good company.

Bird Summary

Over the weekend, reasonable numbers of Swallows were seen on (or perhaps moving through) the Island. The odd Swift, House Martin and Sand Martin were also spotted. Four Puffins were in the water just north of the East Jetty.

In total, three new birds were ringed (Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Spotted Flycatcher) with one re-trap (male Reed Bunting).

Spotted FlycatcherSpotted Flycatcher

CBO Spring weekends and other plans

Now that the new CBO season is upon us, why not consider a weekend visit?

Spaces are still available on the following spring weekends:

  • w/e commencing Friday 08 May
  • w/e commencing Friday 15 May
  • w/e commencing Friday 22 May

The trip commencing on 15 May includes a week visit (to 22 May) as well as the standard weekend visit.  This will be primarily for habitat management and volunteers for either the full week or Sunday (17th) to Friday (22nd) would be particularly welcome to allow this valuable work to proceed.

Whilst the day trips planned for 16 and 23 May are both now fully booked, we are holding a list of those still interested in going on either day and already we have sufficient interest to arrange a second boat for 23rd, on which there are now only 6 spaces left.  So if you want to go you will need to be quick!  Day trips are only £15 for adults, £10 for under 16’s.

We also hope to have a work day on 09 May for delivery of the materials required for the roof project.  Willing (and physically able) volunteers are sought for this important work, which is likely to take the whole day, but it should be possible to help for parts of this.  The roof project itself is planned to commence on 07 June.  The observatory will close then to normal visiting until this project is completed (hoped to be around 2 weeks), but a small number of physically able and willing volunteers are required to assist with this work.  If you think you can help for any of this time, then do please get in touch.  We will probably be able to arrange boat transport to/from the observatory to suit the availability of volunteers, but all visits are likely to include at least two overnights.

You can find details of our accommodation by exploring this website or check out the following link for panoramic views of the island and buildings

Visit fees are:
Adult overnight visit fee (any number of consecutive nights)  £30
Under 18s overnight visit fee (any number of consecutive nights)*  £20

Note: Junior members must be accompanied by a responsible designated adult.

This includes use of all of the facilities that we have available and the boat journey to/from the island.  This compares very favourably with other UK bird observatories and so far as we are aware, CBO is still by far the cheapest (off shore) bird observatory to visit anywhere in the UK.

Please remember that you must be a full member to visit, so if you haven’t renewed, our membership fees are detailed on our Join CBO page.

For more details contact the Bookings Secretary at

As always, you can see all the latest news and pics either on our website, or do visit our Facebook page.