The Copelands are a group of three islands located at the mouth of Belfast Lough, Northern Ireland. Copeland Bird Observatory is located on Old Lighthouse Island approximately 3km offshore and has a Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus colony estimated at 2867 Apparently Occupied Sites (Stewart 2000; Mitchell et al. 2004). Shearwaters have been ringed there since 1952. Big Copeland is the largest island in the group and is midway between the mainland and Old Lighthouse Island. Historically, there have been no surveys of Big Copeland for Manx Shearwaters. The population was estimated to be 100+ pairs in the 1970s (Neville McKee pers. comm.) but this was a projection based on the work of the adjacent observatory. Big Copeland was surveyed for the first time in 2001 as part of the Seabird 2000 survey and this resulted in a minimum population estimate of 1766 AOS (Stewart 2000; Mitchell et a.l 2004). With this new information on Manx Shearwater numbers and distribution, members of the observatory visited the Big Copeland colony in the summers of 2002 and 2004 in an attempt to catch adult shearwaters that were originally ringed on Copeland Bird Observatory. In 2003, a visit was made in late August to ring pulli. During these visits, 75 adult shearwaters were handled and five birds originally ringed at the observatory have so far been re-trapped or recovered dead (Table 1). These birds represent the first recorded movements of shearwaters between the two Copeland colonies. These movements are not unexpected as perhaps one third of fledglings may leave their natal colony and in a similar situation on Skomer and Skokholm in Wales, movements between the two islands have been shown to be frequent (Brooke 1990). These two islands, together with Middleholm island, may be considered a ‘super-colony’. The Copeland colonies total approximately 5000 AOS, which is 13% of the Irish population and renders the islands internationally important for the species (Mitchell et al. 2004). The whole island group was designated as an Area of Special Scientific Interest in 2004, the population of Manx Shearwaters being an important part of this designation. Rathlin Island (Co. Antrim) hosts the only other Manx Shearwater colony in Northern Ireland. Formerly thought to hold at least 1000 pairs (Brooke 1990), it seems this colony has been badly affected by introduced ferrets Mustela furo (Mitchell et al. 2004). Some birds may still be present on inaccessible parts of the cliff but limited surveying as part of Seabird 2000 revealed no shearwaters (Mitchell et al 2004).

Atlantic seabirds

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Nederlandse Zeevogelgroep

Kerry Leonard. (2005). Notes on seabirds 79. First known movements between two colonies of the Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus on the Copeland Islands, Northern Ireland. Atlantic seabirds, 7(1), 39–40.