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         Wildlife Newsletter for the Township of Dalkey
                      June / 2016 - Michael Ryan
 
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The male peregrine, within an hour its
mate would be dead

 

  When I saw a text from the Wicklow Wildlife Ranger saying one of the Dalkey peregrines was dead I was hoping there had been some mistake. We’d been watching them that afternoon, the pair of peregrines perched on the same ledge where they had nested in 2006 and 2014. In 2014 they made national news headlines when two racing pigeons coated in poison were tethered alive near the nest with the intention of killing the birds and their young. After that I was hoping they’d never try to nest in the quarry again.
  In 2006 the ledge they nested on was just bare rock. You could see the female sitting on the eggs and when two young were born you could see them sleeping between frantic bouts of feeding and flapping their growing wings. A friend said he’d been watching them one morning when another observer and self styled expert had categorically stated the young birds were dead. They weren’t dead of course, just flopped down asleep, so this time I was hoping the report of the death of one of the birds might be another erroneous observation. Sadly it wasn’t.

  In the intervening years since 2006, possibly because of the fertilising effect of the accumulated peregrine poo, a thick tussock of grass had grown on the ledge so earlier this spring, despite occasional sightings of one of the birds on the ledge there was no definite sign they had a nest there. But on that early April afternoon when we saw the two birds near the ledge we were certain they were nesting in Dalkey Quarry again. The male was perched above the ledge preening itself, flecks of blood from a recent kill visible on it’s feathers while the female sat closer to the nest. We watched them for a while and when we left the scene all was peaceful and calm, nothing indicating that within 30 minutes the female peregrine would be found lying on her back on the footpath nearby in obvious distress.
  Thankfully somebody who came upon it tried to get help for it and called into the next house she came to. The homeowner got a crate to carry the bird in and went back with her to find that somebody was there taking photos of it lying helpless while their dogs were obviously bothering the poor creature. The bird was dying and didn’t last much longer so he brought its body home and was able to get word to the National Parks and Wildlife Service. That evening NPWS Ranger Ann Fitzpatrick was notified and she came out early the next morning. She climbed down to the ledge from where the male bird flew out, he’d been incubating two eggs while waiting for his mate to return
.


  He would soon abandon them though because even if the eggs had hatched there would be no chance a single parent would be able to feed and protect any chicks. Ann collected the peregrine’s body, wearing gloves because of the very real concern that the bird might have traces of poison on it. That was the initial suspicion for the bird’s death though worrying reports of a drone being flown erratically in the area raised concern that the bird might have been in a collision with it but Ann had it x-rayed the following day and there was no sign of trauma or fractures. The bird then went to a laboratory for post mortem and testing to see if it had ingested poison. When the results were eventually released it was something of a relief to find that the bird hadn’t been poisoned but seemed to have died of natural causes. It had a number of cysts on its heart and liver but basically it would seem to have died of heart failure. It’s possible it had been the same female that has been nesting in the quarry and other sites for the last ten years, it would have had to be an experienced bird that could raise and fledge four chicks as it did in 2014. It was also a very large bird, the heaviest peregrine that Ann had ever came across. Although peregrines raised in captivity have lived to 25 years, birds in the wild wouldn’t last as long and we can only hope that this bird, after successfully raising many chicks, had reached the natural end of her life.

 
The dead female peregrine being held by Wildlife Ranger Ann Fitzpatrick
Photos: M. Ryan

 


Pyramidal Orchid, a welcome addition to the back lawn
 
  Although summer last year is probably remembered for its bitterly cold July we actually had some prolonged warm dry spells earlier in that season. One of these stretches of warm weather gave me a good excuse not to cut the grass and this was probably the reason I had a very surprising addition to the garden in June. I noticed a solitary pink flower had appeared in the back lawn and on closer inspection I saw it had a very attractive conical cluster of deep pink flowers. It seemed unlikely but I thought it might be a orchid so I checked a field guide and that’s what it was, a native Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis). I’ve no idea where it came from, I’ve never seen one in the vicinity and the seeds seem far too tiny for any bird to eat and later disperse so presumably it was either wind borne or had lain in the soil for years. I know they used grow naturally in the grass bank alongside Wyattville Road but had never known of any nearby. Anyhow, however it got there I was very glad to have it. I put a ring of stones around it so I wouldn’t accidentally mow it and it stayed in flower for weeks.
 

 


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