After two very enjoyable years of taking part in the PWC on my home tramping ground of the Bann Estuary on the 'North Coast' I've decided to add an extra new patch to work in 2017... Copeland Bird Observatory. I first visited the Observatory in September 2012 and have been hooked ever since, probably in part due to seeing a Northern Ireland rarity on my first visit, a Common Rosefinch.
As many of you will be aware, the Copeland Islands lie in the Irish Sea off the County Down coast and are home to Northern Ireland's only bird observatory. The Copeland's consist of three islands, Big Copeland, Lighthouse Island and Mew Island. The focus of my attention will be Lighthouse Island, which, despite it's name, does not currently have a lighthouse (which is now on Mew Island) but it is home to Copeland Bird Observatory. Mew Island sits around 50 metres away across 'Copeland Sound' and can be well observed from around the Observatory buildings. To stretch the patch, I've included Big Copeland (increases it to 2km2), although I've yet to set foot on the island and most observations will be restricted to boat.
I usually have four ringing/birding weekends on the island each year and the odd day trip if I can squeeze it in. My time therefore will be rather restricted to c10 days on the island, generally between April and October. This year I hope to get a few trips outside of this period to pick up a few of the wintering species to up the totals.
The islands are quite different from my regular patch, with a somewhat different range of birds including more seabirds etc. and I have recorded at least 10 species here which I have yet to tick off in the Bann Estuary. There have been over 200 species recorded at the Observatory during it's 60+ year history, so my current total of 93 needs quite a bit of improving. I have seen some nice species in the past few years include White-tailed Sea Eagle, Common Rosefinch, Ring Ouzel, Yellow-browed Warbler, Hen Harrier and Long-eared Owl although I would be just as pleased with a Blue Tit or a Dipper on the island.
I am quite unlikely to top 100 species in a year but I should be relatively competitive in comparative scores, with a bit of effort, with targets to beat of 77 species (113 for Obs as a whole) last year and 66 in 2015.
The visitor season at Copeland Bird Observatory opens up in late March and runs through to the end of October, so I would encourage anyone interested to come and stay!