Dalkey Tidy
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Wildlife Newsletter for the Township of Dalkey
April 2006 - Michael Ryan

Tree Week Walks on Dalkey & Killiney Hill
As part of National Tree Week DLRCC had organised three walks on Killiney Hill for two classes from The Dalkey Schools Project and one from Johnstown School. It was a cool morning though pleasantly bright and dry. The three classes were very attentive, well behaved, seemed to enjoy themselves and some produced some very good drawings in the notebooks the parks department had given them. They had all walked up the hill from their various schools as well but had no problem scrabbling up the steeper slopes. We told the first class the importance of the woods as a habitat for the Red Squirrel but told them the chances of seeing any were virtually nil. They are usually most active early in the morning and being small and usually confined to high up in the trees they can be difficult to see by individuals let alone a big group of people. So when the first walk moved off the main path into the trees it was great to see one Red Squirrel chasing another, the two of them tearing up tree trunks and throwing themselves from branch to branch. Everybody seemed to get a good look at them before they disappeared into the treetops. The two other groups were not so lucky, but further along the path we were able to pick up cones of Scots Pine and Douglas Fir trees that had been chewed down to the stalk by the squirrels before they dropped them to the ground. Another group got good views of a pair of Treecreepers a very elegant little bird which spends nearly all it’s time circling the trunk of trees feeding on insects in the bark with it’s thin curved bill.

National Tree Week is timed to coincide with almost the latest date for planting bare rooted trees. The only disadvantage with this time is when groups are going around looking at trees, apart from the conifers (and not even all of them), all the trees are bare of leaves which are generally the easiest way to identify them. Nevertheless trees have different trunks which can help identification in winter, with some deeply lined like Oaks and Sweet Chestnut, others smooth like Beech and Sycamore. We explained the value of native trees as opposed to introduced trees. Scots Pine support 91 species of insects. Our two native species of Oak Sessile and Pendunculate support up to 284 different species of insects! These insects in turn may be fed on by birds and some birds, such as the Great Tit time their chicks hatching at the same time there is a profusion of caterpillars on trees. These relationships develop over thousands of years whereas trees that have been introduced in the last hundred years haven’t evolved together with our native wildlife and are not as useful to it.

Spring Alive
‘Spring Alive ’ is the name of an exciting new Europe-wide migration monitoring scheme that BirdWatch Ireland will participate in this year. The idea behind Spring Alive is to ask people all over Europe to help keep track of the arrival of migrants, allowing us to observe the progress of spring across the continent. It does this in a very simple way, people are asked simply to go online and enter the dates they see or hear their first Swallow, Swift or Cuckoo. This is extremely easy to do - just a couple of mouse clicks and typing your name and e-mail address is all it takes. You will then be able to go back to the website and watch spring arrive across Europe on the interactive map. It also makes a fantastic and simple project for children of all ages, so please pass on the details to any kids, parents or teachers that you know.
To take part or to find out more details, including lots of pictures, sound recordings and video clips of the birds, simply visit www.springalive.net. There will also be a link from the main BirdWatch Ireland homepage (www.birdwatchireland.ie), so even if you forget the main internet address you can still know where to find the site.
Birds prosper from garden feeding
Goldfinches in the UK have reversed a serious population decline with their numbers improving by one third in 20 years and it’s reckoned it’s because of improved feed that is given to them in garden feeders. Traditionally, goldfinches lived on thistle, groundsel, teasel and dandelion, but supplies of the plants dwindled, especially in winter, following the increased use of herbicides on farmland. High - energy sunflower heart seeds are now widely available as are Nyjer seeds from the ramtil bush of Ethiopia and small black sunflower seeds which are also sold as high-energy bird feed. The seeds more closely resemble goldfinches natural diet than bird-feeders traditional offerings of peanuts and kitchen scraps. Peanuts are still a very substantial food source for many other bird species and help many survive winter and even very cold springs such as the one we have had this year. Berries and seed are not as prevalent in the spring and if the weather is too cold for insects it can leave a gap in the birds normal diet, so keep feeding your garden visitors.