Storms & Shearwaters: The Copeland Bird Observatory / by Lawrence Eagling

The Copelands are formed of three tiny islands off the coast of Northern Ireland, less than an hour’s drive from Belfast. These wild rocky outcrops provide the perfect habitat for an incredible variety of wildlife from puffins and shearwaters to seals and otters. The second largest, Lighthouse Island, once provided a hide out for smugglers sneaking spirits into Ireland, but now has a more respectable role, hosting researchers at the Copeland’s Bird Observatory since 1954. Recently I was lucky enough to cross the choppy waters to join a team of researchers and bird ringers to spend a weekend living the island life!

The island’s position provided the perfect location to watch the wildlife (and wild weather) beyond the new lighthouse now located (rather confusingly) on Mew Island. On our first evening, the bird team gathered their equipment to attach unique rings to the legs of Manx Shearwaters as they flew in under the cover of darkness to avoid gull attacks, an incredible event to witness! The oldest bird spotted that night had a ring attached to its leg 36 years ago!

Over the course of the weekend I couldn’t believe the diversity of life especially the abundance of birds, it’s a real paradise for photographers! Just watching the storms roll in and blow all the sailboats back to land under dark skies, then instantly followed by a vibrant rainbow was a wonderful experience. I really look forward to returning for the autumn season when the seal pups are due!

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