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Wildlife Newsletter for the Township of Dalkey
                         August / 2017 - Michael Ryan

It was a very humid day and the sea at Killiney Bay was mirror calm. It wasn’t long until Lucy started spotting grasshoppers beside the path. Nearly every time we find grasshoppers we’d see one differently coloured to any we’d seen previously. Some are a solid bright green, some dull brown with copper coloured abdomen, some a solid rusty colour and a new one we saw was almost translucent but whatever shade or colour they are, they always seem to blend seamlessly into the background. They come in a large variety of sizes as well and some may well be young ones in early larval stages. We know the larger ones are Common Field Grasshoppers but there could well be other species there as well. The Killiney Bay side of the hill is often a number of degrees warmer than anywhere else in the locality and free from cool strong north westerly winds and that warmer mini climate
might account for the profusion of insects and indeed the creatures that feed on them. Not more than three inches long but perfectly formed there were at least four juvenile Common Lizards interspersed amongst the grass. You couldn’t imagine their tiny mouths being big enough to swallow a fully grown grasshopper but there were plenty of other smaller insects for them to feed on. Apparently lizards are totally independent of their mother once they are born and can fend for themselves.

Juvenile lizard probably only a few days old but already able
to feed itself. Photo: Michael Ryan


Then a kestrel drifted into view and hovered just above the highest outcrop of rock. Like us it could be looking for lizards as well but its intentions would be to see one, not as a wonder of nature, but as a potential meal. It was a welcome sight though since, although we’d been regularly seeing a kestrel hunting over the winter, it was months since we’d last seen one and we feared the worst. Then yet another kestrel appeared and buzzed the first one. One landed and we saw it was a juvenile as probably was the other one and that might explain why the original bird seemed to hang a little awkwardly and flutter its wings more than you’d expect on a dead calm day, its hovering skills still needing some refining.

Kestrel hovering over Dalkey Hill in early July. It seemed to be beating its wings a lot on such a calm day. When it perched we saw it was a juvenile.
Photo: Michael Ryan

Borrowing a Tune

  As I entered the woods I heard a Jay calling and then the repeated staccato notes of a blackbird’s alarm call. I presumed the blackbird was upset at the presence of the jay, birds quick to take advantage of a
unprotected nest or fledgling. It was only when I could see the jay calling I realised it wasn’t actually two birds, it was the jay making both sounds.   As I’ve commented before, jays are usually associated with a
raucous shriek but they possess a wide range of much more varied calls, some very soft and almost poignant and they will imitate other birds. A few weeks later we were sure we could hear a buzzard’s mewing call ahead until we saw perched on a branch was another, or possibly the same talented bird working through its repertoire.





Juvenile Kestrel perched
Photo: Michael Ryan

Big Beats
On the woodland floor a few solitary leaves on the ground seemed to be lifting and moving around by themselves since there wasn’t even a light breeze. I thought there might be some creature underneath disturbing them then saw what was causing the leaves to move was a large bumblebee, possibly a queen, flying a few inches above the ground. Like a miniature helicopter hovering above a field of cereal the wind created by the bees rapid wing beats (apparently bumblebees wings beat over 200 times a second!) was creating enough disturbance to lift the leaves and set the grass swaying below it.

In early July the rowan berries weren’t ripe but the female bullfinch was tucking in to them
Photo: Michael Ryan