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Wildlife Newsletter for the Township of Dalkey
April / 2016 - Michael Ryan
 
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Male Stonechat at Rogerstown Nature Reserve. The Stonchat name derives from their call, compared to the sound of two stones being
knocked together.

 

  I hadn’t been out birdwatching at Rogerstown Estuary for years so when we did decide to go in late February we were fortunate to have one of the nicest days of the month which, though cold, was dry and sunny. There was enough heat in the air to provide perfect warm air thermals for soaring buzzards and we saw at least seven circling above us at various times. On the last time I’d been there I remember everyone on the Birdwatch branch outing getting excited by seeing a buzzard perched on a fence but now they’ve got so common in North Dublin they’d only generate interest if there weren’t any present. The land, a very substantial area comprising 220 acres, previously contained allotments and farmland where a number of tillage crops were grown but is now managed by Fingal Council and a lot of the area is managed for wildlife with over 40,000 trees planted by local
children and fields sown with a mix of seeds to provide feeding for many species of finch and other birds. In a fenced paddock beside the path a Kerry cow grazed in a field with chocolate brown sheep with great curving horns while curlew and herons wandered around. A Mistle Thrush serenaded us from the top of a nearby tree as we walked down past a recently created pool lined with reeds and populated by swans, moorhens and a recently arrived group of Gadwall ducks. Little flocks of Brent geese flew around moving around various feeding areas.
  The path runs beside one of the aforementioned fields growing cereals for the birds on one side and a hedge with mature trees at the other side into which a big flocks of finches would fly before sweeping back down into the field. Dozens of Linnets and Chaffinches chattered in the trees. We’d been told a few Brambling, a winter visiting finch, had been seen among the flocks earlier in the winter but if they were there we didn’t see any. Another bird we’d hoped to see, in what would be a perfect habitat for it, was the Yellowhammer but none of them to be seen either. As we neared the main birdwatching hide at the estuary our friend Brian scanned the area with his scope and spotted on top of a brick mound the head of a perched peregrine which looked like it was plucking a recent kill.
The hide used to look over the water at a council rubbish dump but that has long closed and the land it sat on is being restored so now a large grass covered mound is the only remnant of it. A flock of dozens if not hundreds of curlews fed on the grassy slopes, as big a number of this iconic wader as I’d seen all winter. Suddenly they were all gone, perhaps spooked by a buzzard which flapped across in front of them with powerful wingbeats. The hide is a converted shipping container which is placed on a raised base giving great views over the water and the hundreds of geese, ducks and waders which frequent it for the winter months. Volunteers from the local Birdwatch branch man the
hide at weekends keeping a tally of the birds seen that day and offering assistance to anyone not too familiar with the different species.

  When we’d seen our fill of wildfowl we wandered back getting lovely views of a pair of Stonechat.
It was still relatively early in the day so we thought we’d stop off at Broadmeadow Estuary in Swords on our return journey. Another spot I’d once frequented regularly that I hadn’t been to in years, Broadmeadow remains the same apart from the fact there are colossal stone pillars rising out of the bank to support the north and south bound lanes of the NI with a constant stream of traffic humming overhead. When the motorway’s route was originally proposed there were fears the swans that frequent the estuary in large numbers might land on the roadway, especially in wet weather when the glistening surface might be mistaken for water, causing potential catastrophe on the road but thankfully that hasn’t happened and lots of people still drive to the estuary to feed the swans especially on Sundays. We parked nearby and approached the waterside and as we neared a culvert bringing a stream underground into the estuary a blaze of turquoise lashed out, two kingfishers who are apparently regulars there. We spotted Snipe and watched Wigeon, Redshank, Dunlin, Black tailed Godwits and many more ducks and waders feeding ahead of the fast approaching tide. The sun had gone behind the clouds and we were feeling the sharp breeze so we headed back to the comfort of the car but as we began to put away our scopes Lucy spotted, a few yards away in a clump of trees the unmistakable vivid yellow glow of a Yellowhammer. As bright as any canary this particular individual added to its spectacular presence by having its feathers fluffed up so it looked like a small vivid feather duster. We spotted more on the other side of the road moving through the hedge while our ‘dandy’ stayed perched near us giving us great views. We’d got to see them after all.

A fluffed up male Yellowhammer near
Broadmeadow Estuary at Swords


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