Tuesday, 22 September 2015

A Moving Story

Join us for a day of ring-reading and learning about migration on Saturday 17th October. 

Since the first colour ring was fitted as part of the Dublin Bay Birds Project on the 19th October, 2012, we’ve been doggedly trying to get as many re-sightings of these birds as possible. Nearly three years later, we’ve fitted many more rings and are still on the hunt for these colourful individuals. We’re learning lots about these birds, both locally and internationally, but equally, new questions are being raised.

To date, 396 waders have been colour-ringed with a breakdown of 262 Oystercatchers, 99 Bar-tailed Godwits and 35 Redshanks. Colour-ringing is a fantastic tool for us, as it allows us to generate lots of data on individual birds without the need to recapture them – we can easily identify each bird according to the inscription on its brightly coloured rings.

Colour-ringed Redshank Niall Tierney

There is no question that reading the rings (and submitted them!) is time well spent, and it is very enjoyable too. Time spent in the wilds of the Dublin coast, with the bustle of the city behind you is surely always time well spent. The thrill of successfully “getting” the rings starts to become addictive over time. You start to become familiar with regular individuals at their haunts, and look forward to their return from breeding areas in Scotland and Iceland. 

Colour-ringed Oystercatchers on Sandymount Strand John Fox

Come spring, most of our colour-ringed birds will leave Dublin and indeed the country altogether, and this is when it really gets exciting. We open our emails each morning with huge anticipation, hoping for messages with foreign names from far-flung places bringing news of “our” birds. We have had re-sightings from Scotland, Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands so far.  It’s always brilliant to get a foreign re-sighting, but it’s even better to connect with that bird back on Irish soil (or sand!) in the autumn.

Oystercatcher re-sightings outside Dublin. Blue marker: Ringing site (Merrion Gates, Sandymount Strand), red markers: re-sighting locations of Dublin-ringed birds, green markers: original ringing locations for ‘FH’ and ‘HD’, which were recaptured in Dublin in February 2013 and colour-ringed.

We would love to see more birders and nature enthusiasts out keeping an eye on our birds and piecing their stories together. Every single re-sighting we receive adds to our ever-growing dataset, tells us more about how the birds are using their winter home and informs us on how we can conserve it.

Reading colour-rings on Sandymount Strand Jen Lynch

If you are interested in trying out some ring-reading and hearing more about the Dublin Bay Birds Project, why not come along to our ring reading day at Bull Island on Saturday, October 17th? On the day we will be on hand, with experienced ring-readers, to introduce you to ring-reading, and we will take to the coast to scrutinise the local flocks for ringed birds. It’s a fantastic time of year to get out and see the huge numbers of waterbirds that use Dublin Bay.

What: Dublin Bay Ring Reading Day

Where: meeting at Bull Island Visitor Centre

When: Saturday October 17th @10am

What to bring: Binoculars and scope (if you have some), Wellies, suitable clothing and some lunch.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Beach Party!

Autumn is upon us, but you can still catch the last beach party of the year.

Each year we observe the coming and going of autumn migration. Amid the current migrants passing along the east coast are good numbers of sea terns. These terns gather to roost as dusk approaches on the Dublin coast, and Sandymount Strand is a favorite spot, attracting thousands of birds each evening. This gathering starts when the breeding season is over, and the spectacle of thousands of roosting terns can be seen from mid-August until mid-September. These flocks made up of a species mix, gathered together as they share a migration route to Africa and beyond. Numbers will have nose-dived by mid-September, and you’ll be lucky to see a tern in Dublin after that.

Sandymount Strand awaits the arrival
of the terns 
Jen Lynch

So far this year we observed a peak of 4,200 terns. The group is made up of a number of different species, the vast majority of which are Common Terns. The remainder is made up of Arctic and Roseate Terns, and, to a much lesser extent, Sandwich Terns.

Sandwich Tern Fishing Dick Coombes

The presence of Rockabill-ringed Roseate Terns, as well as Dublin Port-ringed Arctic and Common Terns, proves the local provenience of individuals within the group. But the Sandwich Terns show that it’s not just locally breeding terns that join the roost. The nearest Sandwich Tern colonies are Wexford and Down, which tells us that birds are coming to Dublin to the roost from further afield. More interestingly, we see Black Terns with these birds on an almost annual basis. Black Terns belong to the "marsh terns" group, as opposed to the “sea terns” mentioned above. They breed on the freshwater marshlands of Holland, Poland and further east.

The fact that these birds are attracted from so far afield shows how important Dublin Bay and Sandymount Strand is for these birds, as they undertake their epic migrations to the west African coast (and far beyond for the Arctics). A record number of 51 Black Terns was observed by local birders in the flock at Sandymount on the 23rd of August and, across the Liffey, on Dollymount Strand, a White-winged Black Tern was seen. 

Ringed Roseate Tern Dick Coombes

It’s wonderful to be able to watch this migration in action, and great that’s this spectacle happens right on Dublin’s doorstep! It is a very short-lived event, though, and can only be seen between mid-August and mid-September. So grab your jacket and binoculars and get over to the coast before these graceful little creatures leave our shores for another year.

BirdWatch Ireland members enjoying the spectacle Jen Lynch