Thursday, 9 January 2014

Some Success Stories

Unfortunately, all too often, reports on bird populations deal with declining numbers and even extinctions so it is very pleasing to report on some success stories.

Collared Dove by Fran O'Connell
The collared dove is a pale, buff grey, medium sized dove with a distinctive black ‘collar’ across the neck, sides and a long tail. The collared dove started spreading across Europe in the early 20th century reaching Great Britain in the early 1950s and Ireland by 1959 (although anecdotal evidence suggests it may have reached Dungarvan prior to that date). It has now spread throughout Europe and North Africa. It is well established in North America but possibly as a result of introductions and escapees. Interestingly, collared doves are sedentary and do not normally migrate. Collared doves are widespread across Waterford, particularly in urban areas and regularly come to garden feeding stations, sometimes in large numbers.

Reed Warbler by Paul Walsh
The reed warbler is a migratory bird arriving in Ireland in early April and May and departing in September/October. Technically an acrocephalus warbler, it is a brown un-streaked bird, which, as its name suggests occupies reedbeds. It has a distinctive song, which is often the best indicator of its presence in dense reed. With patience reed warblers can be seen in reedbeds. Virtually unknown in Ireland until the 1960s, it has undergone a remarkable expansion in this country and is now well established in suitable habitat in Waterford.  Reedbeds along the rivers Blackwater, Suir and Bride are particularly good for encountering reed warblers.

Little Egret by Fran O'Connell
Little egrets are an all white plumaged, medium sized, elegant heron with a black pointed bill and black feet with yellow toes. Almost unknown in Ireland until the late 1980s, little egrets started occurring more regularly and became resident. Breeding was proven in 1997 for the first time in this country in Co. Waterford. In subsequent years other colonies were established and little egrets have now spread to most parts of Ireland and are common in Waterford in suitable aquatic habitats. Numbers in excess of 50 birds can sometimes be seen at Waterford roosts.

Buzzard by Andrew Malcolm

Ireland has a paucity of birds of prey compared to Great Britain and mainland Europe. Buzzards are one of the most common raptors (birds of prey) in Britain and Europe but until recently were extremely rare in Ireland. However, in recent years buzzards have begun rapidly expanding throughout this country and now are seen in every county. Buzzards are medium sized raptors with broad wings, which they hold in a shallow v while soaring. Buzzards can be seen perched on posts, poles and trees and soaring in the skies above. Buzzards are increasingly common and easily seen throughout Waterford.


Caspian Gull by Paul Archer
The most exciting recent event was the discovery of a caspian gull at Dunmore East by Waterford based birder, Paul Archer. Caspian gulls are native to Eastern Europe and Central Asian. Along with being extremely rare in Ireland, caspian gulls present a very difficult identification challenge, making Paul’s achievement all the more noteworthy. The weather at Dunmore East was extremely foul at the time and not very conducive to bird watching. However, the gull lingered long enough for birders from all over Ireland to get to see and admire it. For many it was a very long awaited and appreciated addition to their Irish bird list. Along with the caspian gull a further 11 species of gull were noted in Waterford on one day which is very high by national norms.

Wheater by Andrew Malcolm
 An adult male ring-necked duck continues to over winter at Knockaderry reservoir, as does a spotted redshank at Tramore back strand.

Spring migration has already begun with several wheatears and sand martins recently sighted in Waterford. Over the next several weeks look out for swallows, sandwich terns and perhaps an exotic hoopoe.

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