Sunday, 28 April 2019

Lighthouse Island: I

Lighthouse Island: East Jetty


THE COPELAND ISLANDS lie off the south side of the entrance of Belfast Lough, County Down.

They were the property of Ker of Portavo; they take their name, however, from a family who settled in Ards, in the 12th century, in the time of John de Courcy.

Lighthouse Island lies less than a mile north-northeast of Big Island, and comprises 40 acres of arable land, with a coastline of about a mile in circumference.

A lighthouse upon it had a square tower with walls seven feet in thickness, and seventy feet in height to the lantern.

Its light could distinctly be seen at Portpatrick and the Mull of Galloway in Scotland.

Timothy Belmont has been incommunicado for forty-eight hours, mainly due to the fact that I have spent that time at Lighthouse Island, one of the Copeland Islands, opposite Donaghadee, County Down.

I arrived at Donaghadee on Friday afternoon at about four-thirty, parked the car, and swiftly made a bee-line for Pier 36, a well-frequented establishment on the sea-front near the harbour.

At Pier 36, I seated myself up at the bar and ordered a little restorative, viz. a Tanqueray and tonic-water.

Rosie and Nick, two fellow National Trust volunteers, arrived soon afterwards.

We had another drink, then ordered a meal.

 I had the halibut with buttery mash and asparagus tips, which was simply delicious.

Craig and his party then arrived, and we proceeded to make for our ferry, MV Mermaid, which took about fifteen of us, including eight NT personnel, to Lighthouse Island.

This compact little island lies behind the main Copeland Island itself.

The journey took about forty-five minutes.

When we arrived at the small jetty, we disembarked and unloaded various provisions and tools for the weekend's task.

Wheelbarrows are used to take bulky items up the hill to the cottage, also known as Copeland Bird Observatory.

Having set up camp and having been told the basic house rules and regulations, I chose my bunk in the male dormitory, which sleeps nine.

Later that evening, we were all invited to join Davy, the duty officer, for the evening catching and ringing juvenile Manx Shearwaters, quite remarkable sea-birds which live in burrows and are not great on the feet.

Indeed, they are relatively easy to catch at night.

We also caught and ringed a fair number of swallows.

We were all given the opportunity to release them outside the ringing office.

When darkness fell, these wonderful little birds sat on the palm of my hand for a few minutes, before flying away.

Next episode ... ablutions and eating arrangements


Christopher Bellew said...

I take it on trust that a Manx Shearwater is relatively easy to catch. Tell me, how in the name of goodness do you catch a swallow?

Timothy Belmont said...

I'm no expert on birds, though they have a large net which I think is 15 or 20 feet high and of considerable length, placed in a strategic position, which catches little birds.

Basically traps of one sort or another are used. It's all very humane and the captured birds are ringed and released.