circa.4300 BC to 2018 AD
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Wildlife Newsletter for the Township of Dalkey
                         May / 2017 - Michael Ryan

Jay with raised crown. One of a group of four, but were they fighting or romancing?
Photo: Lucy Desidero

   The high temperatures and continuous sunshine of the second weekend of April brought many visitors to the hills. On the Saturday of that weekend I saw my first two swallows, flying overhead in a cloudless blue sky and Holly Blue butterflies flitted around the garden. The following day up in the woods I heard, then saw, my first Willow Warbler of the year, another summer migrant. In the course of that walk around the hills there were at least three more individual willow warblers singing. It was as if they had all arrived simultaneously overnight and indeed that is what may well have happened, the winds blowing in the right direction to take them, and the swallows, on the last leg of their journey from Africa to set up a territory and look for a mate in the woods of Killiney. Resident birds had been busy for weeks before. A tiny Goldcrest with a bundle of moss in its bill was a charming sight and we were able to watch it take the nest lining material to a tiny structure in a Douglas Fir tree. We’d seen a group of four jays together on two successive occasions making not their usual shrieks but soft low sounds and saw one had a raised crest, a display gesture to make it seem bigger. I presumed they were two pairs having a territorial dispute but subsequently I read that ‘Jays can be seen in groups of up to three to thirty in trees around March time... usually the Jays that haven’t mated and are looking for a mate. These gatherings are known as ‘Jay Marriages’. To confirm it more accurately that what we were witnessing, it also said ‘Jays display their crests to other jays and call out in order to find a mate’. So it wasn’t quarrelling neighbours but prospective couples.