I spent a day last week trudging around the parks, pitches
and beaches of Dublin looking for colour-ringed Oystercatchers, hoping to read
as many rings as possible, knowing that it’d be one of the last chances I’d get
before they head northwards to breed in the coming weeks. I was well prepared
for the cold weather, but it turned out to be a very pleasant day with good
spells of bright sunshine, which made ring-reading a joy. I managed to get 32
rings over the course of the day, including some that hadn’t been read before.
These colour-ringed birds are now individually recognisable
and their rings can be read with a telescope or camera from hundreds of metres
away (i.e. without the need for recapture). This allows us (and you) to record
the movements of the birds throughout Dublin Bay and beyond. An analysis of
these movements will allow us to determine key foraging and roosting areas in
Dublin Bay as well as unlock mysteries about how birds are affected by things like
disturbance and adverse weather.
The re-sighting effort began the day after the catch day
(see March post), and since then, we’ve notched up a total of 123 re-sightings.
Thanks to numerous enthusiastic ring-readers, 87 out of the 119 colour-ringed
birds have been re-sighted. While the majority of these have been in the
vicinity of the ringing site on Sandymount Strand, a small number of birds have
been recorded numerous times on various parks and pitches in south Dublin.
Early indications suggest that some birds have St. Michael’s College rugby
pitches in Ballsbridge on their daily itineraries, while other birds seem to
head elsewhere for their earthworms. It’s up to you to fill in the gaps on
The remainder of the wader roost at the Merrion Gates spit that
held thousands of waders during the winter. Richard Nairn
We’re calling on you to make a special effort to read the
inscriptions on these rings and report them to us. Even reports of
colour-ringed birds where the inscription could not be read are useful.
Although wader numbers are really dwindling in Dublin Bay at the moment, as
birds head off to breed, there’s still some time to tick off another couple of
With this type of project, there really is no such thing as
too much information! The benefit of having 119 individually recognisable
Oystercatchers in Dublin Bay cannot be underestimated - these birds can tell us
so much about what they do, what they need and how we can effectively protect
and conserve them. But a solid database of re-sightings is the foundation on
which everything else can be built.
I was delighted to see the re-sightings flying in as soon as
the project was launched on the BirdWatch Ireland website, so keep up the good
work! It’s great getting all the re-sightings into the database and generating
the re-sighting reports for each of the birds. At this stage, the “re-sightings
histories” that we send to ring-readers only go back a number of weeks, but we
have to start somewhere! With plenty of ring-reading, these re-sighting
histories will become more and more interesting!
|Three colour-ringed Oystercatchers on Sandymount Strand. John Fox|
I think there is something very intimate about knowing the
movements of individual birds around my local parks and beaches. But perhaps
more importantly, reading the rings on these birds makes a contribution to
conservation science and allows us to learn about how these birds use Dublin Bay
and how we can work to ensure that they always will.