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

Three times we’ve been to Kilmacurragh National Botanic Gardens and each time we’ve gone on the guided walk with three different guides each equally knowledgeable and entertaining. This time, visiting in early June we were too late for the spectacular early spring colour display of the rhododendrons although apparently this year it had been dampened by the horribly cold wet weather of early spring and buds of some of the plants had dropped off the bushes without even opening. Still it was lovely when we did get there, the heatwave still in place and the wildflower meadows full of rattle, buttercups, oxeye daisies and early flowering orchids.
   Our guide was telling us a lovely grass floored avenue between a line of deciduous trees had at one stage been the main Wexford road and the ruins of a small building nearby had probably been where they collected tolls from travelers and pilgrims.
   From further up the avenue a sharp ‘whick’ call from the trees had us both say to each other with some excitement, was that a woodpecker? The male only makes the famous drumming sound in spring to attract a mate and signify it’s holding a territory but the rest of the year its presence can be detected by a call very similar to what we’d heard.


Juvenile Jay, note the short tail but even when fresh out of the nest it already has the beautiful blue feathers, though doesn’t yet have the crown stripes or black ‘moustache’.              
Photo: Michael Ryan


Adult jay keeping an eye on four youngsters .   Photo: Michael Ryan






    We continued on the walk and were once again pleased we’d opted for accompanying a guide who brought so much of the plants and their history to life. After the walk concluded we wandered up by the meadows adjoining the avenue. On one raised mound there was evidence of recent digging and initially I thought the amount of soil disturbed and the sheer size of the two holes made into it must have been done by someone using a small digger or some sort of machinery.
     But Lucy spotted a number of bees crawling through the soil, some distressed and some almost lifeless and we knew it wasn’t a machine that had dug down into their nest but a badger. We’ve seen it quite a few times, an underground bees’ nest in disarray looking like it had been hit by an air strike with dead and confused bees around the excavated entrance.    The badgers aren’t looking for honey but are after the grubs the colony will be attending to. Much as I love badgers you’d feel very sorry for the bees although in the UK people who support badger culling in order to prevent TB in cattle cite badgers as being a threat to declining bee populations as another reason to destroy them.
      We meandered around the grounds spying a Red Kite and a Buzzard gliding across the warm air until we found ourselves back where we’d earlier heard what we thought was a Great Spotted Woodpecker and almost instantly heard the call again, much louder and closer and then one flew out of a tree overhead. Winding its way up the trunk of a tree we soon saw why it was making so much noise, there was at least one juvenile Woodpecker motionless in the fork of a tree waiting to be fed.
   The gardens’ many old trees with their gnarled and fissured bark and lots of small apertures provide lots of good secure nest sites for smaller birds and we saw two Blue Tit nests in century old conifers but passing close to a old stone wall we got our most endearing sight when Lucy heard chicks calling and just inside one tiny space a newly born chick was stretching up and gaping its bill alarmingly wide demanding to be fed.
     A few days before walking down a farm lane we’d heard another noisy clamour of baby birds while a concerned Blue Tit fussed from the hedge then realised the nest was down an old rusty iron gate post. The chicks had hatched during a prolonged warm dry spell and I hope they’ll still be ok when the rains come.
    Later I told Birdwatch’s Dick Coombes, who has been monitoring GS Woodpeckers since they recently began breeding in Ireland, about our sighting and he said he’d had a male Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in Kilmacurragh a couple of years ago and was glad to get confirmed breeding for there. So far this year he has already got a record number of 43 Woodpeckers nesting in Ireland.

The ant gives an indication how small the Common Lizard actually is. This one was on Dalkey Hill      Photo: Michael Ryan