circa.4300 BC to 2018 AD
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Wildlife Newsletter for the Township of Dalkey
March 2015 - Michael Ryan

Dormouse –
Photo: Kildare Animal Foundation
  I had heard about a young swan which had a non-fatal collision with a train near Booterstown last year and had then been rescued off the tracks by the Booterstown Dart stationmaster. He had kept the cygnet safe and comfortable in a back room till it was taken to the animal hospital in UCD where it was kept overnight before being transferred the following day to the Kildare Animal Foundation, a charity which takes in, treats and rehomes domestic animals as well as caring for a increasing variety of wild animals and birds.I wasn’t able to get in touch with the stationmaster and presumed the bird probably hadn’t survived. I eventually got in touch with the Kildare Animal Foundation and was pleasantly surprised to hear that the swan was in fact still alive, in very good health and they hoped that after a period of rehabilitation they would be able to re-release it back into the wild.

   The Kildare Animal Foundation website itself is fascinating. When a Dormouse, a mammal previously unknown in Ireland before this century, was found in the wild (actually asleep in a treehouse, the person who found it thought it was a baby squirrel) in a Kildare garden in 2010 it was taken to the Kildare Animal Foundation. Dormice are found in Britain but are a threatened species there and very rare but, like most Irish people, the nearest I’d have got to a dormouse would be reading about the one who slept through most of the tea party in Alice in Wonderland. They’re beautiful little creatures with golden brown fur, big eyes and, unlike other mice species a very fluffy tail. The tail is probably an asset to keeping it warm as they do hibernate and it’s estimated they can spend up to three quarters of their life asleep.
   Somebody had photographed two young dormice on a bird feeder in Kildare a few years before but this was the first adult found in the country. At the time it was thought they might have been escaped or released pets but when I spoke to Dan Donoher of the Kildare Animal Foundation he told me since that individual was found they had received quite a few more dormice into their care and it seems likely there is a small breeding population in Kildare. It’s now thought that they might be of a European race rather than of British origin and DNAsamples have been taken which should ascertain where they originated. One theory is that they might have been imported in hay, possibly hibernating sound asleep, from the continent. Since they aren’t native mammals they can’t be released back into the wild but they will be well looked after at the foundation. Many imported non-native species can be very detrimental to native species, the grey squirrel being one of the worst offenders, but researchers reckon that even if the dormouse becomes established it will not be a threat to any Irish species. The Kildare Animal Foundation has now developed such expertise working with other The Kildare Animal Foundation has now developed such expertise working with other
native wild animals that a lot of cases are now referred to them. One of their recent cases was a short eared owl that was found injured in Skerries and they have also treated kestrels, otters, red squirrels and pine martins as well as many other birds and mammals. If you’d like to support their work, one way you can do it is by ‘adopting’ a wild
animal to pay towards its treatment. Hedgehogs are €15, Hares €20, Swans €25 and there’s a range more of animals.
For that you will receive a sponsorship pack and you will also receive an update on the sponsored animal. Their website is


Badger and Fox –
Photo: Kildare Animal Foundation
  I eventually got in touch with the stationmaster at Booterstown who had rescued the swan and he told me that their station and Grand Canal Dock Dart station regularly get swans in trouble, the birds often standing immobile on the tracks (it’s possible some of them may have collided with overhead wires), and they have become quite adept at catching them, throwing a big coat over them and wearing gloves to avoid pecks and then either returning them to water or else getting help for them if injured. The Booterstown stationmaster, Peter Ridgeway, told me that last year there was a swan leading a family of tiny cygnets outside the station on the car park side. The swan began walking, with little family in tow, towards the main road and possible calamity but Peter caught up with them, headed off the swan and drove them back into the safety of the marsh.
  If you do encounter a wild animal or bird in trouble and you can’t get immediate professional help the website of Irish Wildlife Matters is invaluable for giving instant information on how to handle or catch injured animals, how to assess their injuries and how best to keep them or transport them if further treatment is needed. It also has a list of contacts around the country some of whom specialise in treating specific creatures such as hedgehogs or birds of prey and they will either give appropriate advice or actually take in the injured animal or bird. –

  If asked what species of goose has the longest migration from breeding ground to wintering area you might think that it’s a species like the bar-headed goose which flies from its breeding grounds in Mongolia over the Himalayan Mountains to winter in southern India. Although they fly high there is another species of goose that travels much farther. In fact the goose with the longest migration distance is the light bellied Brent, the same small goose you can still see now often gathered in numbers in Booterstown Marsh, feeding on the rugby pitch at Blackrock College, swimming around Scotsman’s Bay, feeding on Dalkey Island or flying up the coast at dusk after feeding in Wicklow, in fact all along the east coast in winter.

Brent Geese at Booterstown – Photo: M. Ryan

  They nest in the eastern Queen Elizabeth Islands of Arctic Canada and migrate to Ireland via Greenland and Iceland and some of the birds who will be leaving our shores in March or April will be nesting in June just 500 miles south of the North Pole. Before their breeding grounds turn to sub-zero temperatures and 24 hours of darkness the majority of the world’s population of light-bellied Brent will move south through Greenland and Iceland to spend winter in Ireland making them one of our most important wintering birds. The geese’s favourite food is a type of marine plant called eelgrass or Zostera, which grows in estuaries and around the coast but this will all be consumed by late winter and after this food source has been exhausted they move on to pasture and other green areas, often football pitches and parks. While in Dublin Bay they might be threatened by foxes and chased by dogs but when they’re sitting on their nests they’ll be in danger from Arctic foxes and wolves. The word ‘brent’ is derived from the Norse word ‘brand’, meaning burnt. The geese were given this name because of their colour - like charcoal. Before April is over these birds will be on their way north again.