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            Wildlife Newsletter for the Township of Dalkey
                    August / 2016 - Michael Ryan

  I’m sorry to be the bearer of more sad news about Dalkey’s peregrines after reporting about the death in April, seemingly from natural causes, of the female peregrine nesting in Dalkey quarry. In mid-June a very badly injured peregrine was found on the ground in Kilquade dragging a damaged wing and was brought to the Birdwatch Ireland headquarters in Kilcoole whose staff subsequently took it to a vet. It would seem the bird had been injured some time before and had managed to survive on the ground but its injuries were traumatic and sadly it didn’t survive. The peregrine had a ring on its leg and from reading the number on it the Birdwatch staff were able to determine it was one of the brood of four chicks that had been born and fledged in Dalkey Quarry in 2014. At time of writing the bird’s corpse had been sent off for analysis to try and determine how it had been injured and to test it for poisoning but after it had initially been brought to a vet a X-ray revealed the bird had survived a earlier shooting attempt. Whether the injury that caused its death was accidental or malicious it’s very distressing to know someone had previously, totally illegally, tried to kill it. We learned last year that the body of another of the Dalkey ‘14 peregrines had been found discarded in a river in Co. Down alongside another peregrine’s corpse. The only positive aspect of the story was that the injured Wicklow bird had been brought in by a pigeon breeder, a tradition usually considered the peregrine’s enemy but the man who had found it had been very distressed by its injuries and the fact they may have been caused deliberately.

Hang on! Red Squirrel on Killiney Hill in July


  Earlier this year RTE screened four episodes of Wild Cities a programme about the wealth of wildlife found in urban and suburban areas of four of our main cities. The episode about Dublin featured footage of those same peregrines in Dalkey Quarry in 2014 while they were feeding their chicks. The peregrine scenes were filmed under licence from the National Parks & Wildlife organisation with strict supervision by Birdwatch Ireland’s raptor expert John Lusby. The peregrine sections is fantastic although watching it now it’s tinged with sadness knowing the mother bird and two of the chicks are dead. That programme and the other three episodes featuring Cork, Galway and Belfast were filmed by wildlife cameraman Domenico Pontillo. Much of the camerawork in the series was spectacular, the Sand Martins caught turning mid-air being just one example, and the series can be watched on the RTÉ website.

   We’d briefly met Domenico and after watching two episodes online I sent him a text to say how impressive the camerawork was. He replied saying he was actually filming in a hide in a nature reserve on a beach in Donegal. He said it was a particularly beautiful area and a lovely evening and a few minutes later he sent another text saying a pair of cuckoos had just landed on the hide! We were fairly sure we’d spotted a female, possibly pregnant, red squirrel in April going into a dray but subsequent surveillance was disappointing and by June we were getting worried we hadn’t seen a sign of a red for weeks. So we were very happy when Lucy spotted a red in a Scots Pine towering above the densely leaved ash and oak. We were further delighted when we saw it didn’t have an earclip which meant it hadn’t been trapped and recorded and was almost certainly a young squirrel born this year. We saw one again a few weeks later but this time it wasn’t alone, there were two more reds without earclips as well. Watching them is often a mixture of joy and apprehension seeing them hurling from tree to tree and hanging precariously upside down stretching for a cone or seed. We’d been watching them awhile feeding on larch cones when a adult red squirrel, (we knew it was adult because of its earclip) appeared carrying a cone and proceeded very deliberately to a nearby squirrel nest box which it entered briefly then withdrew from without the cone, perhaps storing food for the winter.

Red Squirrel eating Larch cone on Dalkey Hill in July

Young Red Squirrel on Larch tree on Dalkey Hill in July

All Photos: by Michael Ryan