Dalkey Tidy
Brent GoosePainted Lady
Wildlife Newsletter for the Township of Dalkey
September 2006 - Michael Ryan

One of the best way of seeing birds, and helping them survive, is to have them coming to visit your garden or, more specifically, coming to your garden to feed. This can be achieved by either leaving out specific food for them on a bird table or in feeders or growing plants, flowers or trees that will provide natural food for them through the insects that live on the plants or from the berries or seed that grow on them. Water either in bird baths or ponds (or even in upturned dustbin lids) is essential for the birds all the year round for drinking or for washing. Birds wash to keep their plumage clean, un-matted and functioning properly in flight. Many of us leave out apples in the autumn and winter when they’re much appreciated by Blackbirds, Blue and Great Tits and Blackcaps. Blackcaps were once only summer migrants from southern Europe or Africa but they have modified their migration habits and many birds now overwinter in Ireland and Britain where milder winters and abundant food provided in gardens saves them the long hazardous trip south. They love apples but also take peanuts and a friend who feeds birds in his garden told me they are very partial to mashed potato! Apples are generally considered a winter food for birds so when I left some out on the feeders in the middle of our heatwave in July I wasn’t expecting much uptake. I loop old wire clotheshangers over branches with the hook end at the bottom on which I place the sliced apples. Within hours there were Blue tits clinging on to them and pecking away and soon after I saw a Blackbird perched awkwardly on one, feasting away. There’s every chance it was due to the heat and the birds were getting moisture from the fruit and soon after I saw a female blackcap and three blackbirds taking berries from a Leycestaria bush. This bush is more commonly known as the Pheasant Berry bush and it was imported and grown specially to feed pheasants. It is an attractive bush with cascades of deep maroon and white flowers which contain purple berries. I can not remember when this bush first appeared in my garden, I have heard that someone used breed Pheasants and release them in Dalkey Quarry and sowed these plants to feed them, but now it’s growing everywhere in my garden in borders, through the leylandii hedge and in every available flowerpot, in fact anywhere a bird might perch and relieve itself. A very good demonstration of the effectiveness of birds in dispensing seed. Sometimes I think of cutting the Leycestaria bushes back since they grow a bit too vigorously but then they redeem themselves when I see male and female blackcaps, bullfinches and blackbirds feeding on them in winter.

Dalkey’s Sea Swallows
This was the eleventh year in the Dalkey Tern Project in which the South Dublin Branch of BirdWatch Ireland take a boat over to Maiden’s Rock, the most northerly rock off Dalkey Island, to leave out specially designed birdboxes and spread gravel to act as nests for our summer migrants, Common Arctic and Roseate Terns, elegant little seabirds, white with gray wings and a black cap and long tail who feed by diving into the sea for food, mostly sand eels and sprat, Artic Tern on Post giving them their old name of ‘Sea Swallows’. Mixed fortunes for the birds this year when unlike previous years, fierce North Easterly storms in June and July washed over the rock destroying nests and washing away helpless chicks, this year’s damage was caused by heavy prolonged rain which saturated and washed away eggs. A few days later and newly hatched chicks could have sheltered in the nestboxes but such is nature. Once again many thanks to DLRR Heritage Officer Tim Carey for funding our tern warden who monitored the birds through the breeding season... Always nice to see the fastest moving creature in the world but warden Stephen would probably like to have seen it somewhere else when he witnessed a Peregrine Falcon grabbing one of the juveniles out of the air and feeding it to a juvenile Peregrine. The Arctic Tern is famous
for having one of the longest migrations of any bird with some individuals wintering in the seas of Antarctica then returning to the other end of the earth to breed in the Arctic Circle. A few years ago one of these birds turned up in Western Australia and a ring placed on its leg when it was a chick showed that it had been born in Finland! With a round trip of 35,400km (22,000 miles) it was thought this species had indeed the longest migration of any bird but recently another bird the Sooty Shearwater has been recorded as clocking up 74,000km flying in a figure of eight pattern around the Pacific. To follow the sooty shearwater (Puffinus griseus) on its migration, scientists fitted 33 birds with electronic tags to record data including position, air temperature and the depth to which they dived in feeding. A year after the initial capture of the birds in breeding burrows, 20 tags were recovered, with 19 providing full records of the distances travelled. The information shows the birds flew further on their migration route than any species.