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

Mistle Thrush sitting on nest in May ‘16 Photo: Lucy Desierdo
     This might be due to the proliferation of Hooded Crows which seem to have filled the niche once taken by Magpies but are much bigger and in such numbers they’re liable to be more threatening towards the thrushes. Last year we’d regularly watched a female mistle thrush sitting on her nest then one day the nest was deserted, evidently having failed since it was far too early for any chicks to have hatched. I wasn’t optimistic about this pair’s chances this year but they’d been sitting on the nest for a few weeks so we hoped for the best. Then a few days later, walking up through the woods just before dusk, we saw a scattering of feathers on the ground then we found the body of a mistle thrush lying face down. Only a few yards from the tree it was almost certainly one of the nesting pair. It seemed only recently dead and since it hadn’t been carried away or eaten it was almost certainly not killed by a predator such as a sparrowhawk. I suspect it might have been killed by a hooded crow after the eggs. Sad as it was finding its body, what was even sadder was over the following two days the surviving mistle thrush was still trying to defend the nest, chasing away hooded crows and magpies, possibly still expecting its mate to return. A few days later we met a friend and told her the bad news about the mistle thrush.

She had found another pair of mistle thrushes nesting on a tree just above the main path to the obelisk from the cafe. The nest was firmly placed in a tiny gap where two branches met and as we looked at it we saw one mistle thrush hop in to replace the one on the nest, taking its turn to sit on the eggs. So that cold Saturday morning, as the little group walked up the path, we were looking forward to showing them the surviving nest but as we drew level with it we couldn’t see any occupant. Some moss was hanging down from the branch then we spotted the remains of the nest lying on the ground. A cup of mud lined with moss and, curiously, it had bits of glittering tinsel threaded through it. Later we remembered some Christmas trees, left up too late for recycling, had lain near the depot and that’s evidently where the thrushes had found the tinsel. Later Lucy told me she’d seen feathers in the undergrowth near the nest so every chance another thrush had died. At the height of the nesting season birds can seem almost reckless, foregoing their usual caution in their desire to create offspring and maybe the thrushes had risked everything and lost to defend their nest.

   I heard someone saying recently that there was such a high mortality rate for blackbirds on the roads in springtime due to their powerful urge to mate and breed. Early one Saturday morning as we were driving down towards Wicklow a blackbird flashed across the road in front of the car just at the moment another car was overtaking us. The blackbird saw the other car, did a astoundingly impressive U Turn and flew back in front us again to where it had came from, the whole incident taking place in a second or two. One very lucky bird. Tragic that two separate pairs of mistle thrushes had both lost nests but within a week we saw one presenting food to another. One could conjecture that the remaining pair had teamed up and hopefully some young will be fledged. Although the walk that morning had begun on a sad note later, as we walked the ‘Green Road’ with a cold choppy sea below us, Lucy spotted a raven then saw it was flying in to feed three of its recently fledged noisy chicks perched on a conifer tree, a cheering sight on that grey day.