Tuesday 25 March 2014

Things that go bump in the night

I didn’t see a fox while out radio tracking last night. And it was the very first time that I didn’t see one on a nocturnal radio tracking survey. We are practically tripping over them at night in Dublin. We often see them picking their way along Sandymount Strand scavenging stranded treats laid down by the withdrawing tide, or, at the weekends, skulking in the shadows en route to the chipper to feast on deep-fried treats discarded by the withdrawing revellers.

But this is supposed to be a bird blog, and everyone else seems to be blogging about the signs of spring, so maybe I should too. As I’m practically nocturnal these days, you might think it would be hard to notice anything, but there are some signs:

  • There has been a constant passage of Redwings every night that we have been out in recent weeks. Their diagnostic tseep calls have been providing pleasant backing vocals to our nocturnal endeavours. After fuelling up all day, no doubt on the abundance of berries that still adorn many trees, they take advantage of the cool night air and lack of predators to make their northward migration.
  • We’re not doing such a good job at tracking the wintering birds anymore, as the radio-tagged waders seem to have the same idea as the Redwings. A few weeks ago, we’d be able to get fixes for all of the eleven radio-tagged birds each night, but this number has recently taken a nosedive. We only had three last night: D A, the one remaining Oystercatcher; A N, the Redshank pictured in the banner above; and D C, my second favourite of the Bar-tailed Godwits.
  • Also with procreation on their minds, Robins, Wrens, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes, coerced by a concoction of street lights and testosterone, have been heralding springtime by belting out their songs in the better-lit parts of our survey site.
Nocturnal radio tracking. Niall Tierney

Spring is surely on the way, and it won’t be long until all our winter visitors have left our shores. So it’s a great time to get out to Dublin Bay to read the rings on the birds that aren’t ready to leave yet, but it’s also worth keeping an eye for colour-ringed waders elsewhere, as they are on the move.  

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