Friday 25 October 2013

Colour rings

I know this isn’t a Dublin Bay story, but it’ll be interesting to our colour-ring readers. 

In October, we blogged about a Galway-ringed Little Egret  that we came across on Sandymount Strand during one of our low tide surveys, and in that post mentioned the one that another of the Galway birds had ended up in the Azores. Now another of these colour-ringed birds, DH (ringed in June this year), has been seen... in ICELAND – one of a total of only 16 Little Egret records there ever! 
These birds, having colonised Ireland from the south east, must have a tendency to head north west, so maybe that’s something to do with it! The more resightings that are generated, the more chance we’ll have to piece this story together. Please report your colour-ringed Little Egret re-sightings to

DH Birding Iceland

We also posted about a Greenshank colour-ringing study that aims to ascertain the wintering grounds of these waders. The latest news is that another of the Scottish-ringed birds has been recently been recorded on the Mullet Peninsula in Mayo. 

Colour-ringed Greenshank Peter Hill

This guy, “NB-LO,” was ringed in July 2010 in the Ythan Estuary in north east Scotland, was re-sighted close to the ringing location six times between then and the August 2010, and wasn’t seen again until it turned up in Mayo on the 14th October this year. Any colour-ringed Greenshanks should be sent to Brian Etheridge

This lad stands out from the crowd

Have you seen this leucistic Oystercatcher around Dublin before?

The Dublin Bay I-WeBS count team say he’s a regular, and often come across him during their monthly rising tide surveys. We first noticed him this year on Sutton Strand on the 12th September, and picked him up again on the Red Arches pitches in Baldoyle yesterday.

Leucistic Oystercatcher Anna Valentín

Leucism results in white feathers, due to an absence of melanin pigment. It is an inherited trait, so we can’t know for sure if we’re looking at a single individual or perhaps one of its offspring. Aside from making affected birds more noticeable to predators, the white feathers are prone to more abrasion than normal feathers, and this can affect flight in some cases. And if that wasn’t bad enough, there is evidence that sometimes these birds aren’t recognised by their peers and potential mates!

Speaking of birds standing out from the crowd, when you’re out and about this weekend, keep an eye out for some newly colour-ringed Redshanks!

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Brent Geese arrive back as normal

Well, I say normal, but some closer scrutiny of the flocks might prove otherwise...

The Irish Brent Goose Research Group first reported geese in Ireland on the 4th September, but also remarked that, throughout September, the influx was slower than expected. This could have been down to the weather or to good feeding opportunities delaying the final leg of their journey from Iceland to Ireland. Numbers increased throughout September, and 16,000 were counted in Strangford Lough towards the end of the month. 

Brent Geese David Dillon

The first Dublin sighting was on the 20th September in Malahide Estuary, and from then on they started to be picked up at their regular haunts around the county as the birds filtered down to us along the coast. On the 4th October a flock of 25 were seen on Malahide Estuary, another flock of 11 were on Bull Island and a further 40 were at Merrion Gates on Sandymount Strand. 

The International Brent Goose Census took place on the weekend of the 5th and 6th October and 34,000 birds were counted in the most important sites at this time of the year in Iceland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, with 150 of these in south Dublin Bay.

Brent Geese Clive Timmons

So what’s all this about closer scrutiny of the flocks? Well, this year, like last year, the folks at the IBGRG are noticing a low proportion of juvenile birds among the flocks, which of course suggests an unproductive breeding season. By mid-September, the IBGRG had reported some sightings of juveniles in Iceland, but none in Ireland. While some juveniles have been reported here since then, this is definitely something worth taking a closer look at. We have no way to know for sure what has caused this poor breeding season in Arctic Canada, but we can try to put some numbers on it by investigating the proportions of adults and juveniles in the flocks we encounter throughout the winter (see photo below). 

Brent Geese juveniles showing white barring 
on the wing coverts Billy Clarke 

As the numbers continue to build throughout the autumn, we’ll be treated to the amazing sight of these arctic breeders spending the winter right amongst us, and have the privilege of sharing our parks, pitches and beaches with these birds. The sight and sound of thousands of Brent Geese flying en masse from the city parks to roost on Bull Island is certainly something to behold, and one of Dublin’s great natural spectacles. 

Keep up to date with these developments and lots more Brent Goose stuff at: 

Thursday 3 October 2013

Colour-ringed Little Egret

Ugly ducklings...

One of the team spotted a colour-ringed Little Egret at Merrion Gates on Sandymount Strand the other day. It turns out that “HN” was ringed on the 4th June this year at a colony in Galway Bay, and that it’s the second bird from this colony to head to the big smoke for the winter.

Little Egret nest in Galway Bay colony John Lusby

Little Egrets are a very recent coloniser – we only confirmed their breeding in Ireland in 1997, so we know very little about them here. We do know that their population and range are expanding, and thanks to a colour-ringing project, we are able to follow the movements of these pioneering birds. Chris Benson and John Lusby started to colour-ring Little Egrets in Galway in 2009, soon after they started nesting there, and they are getting some fascinating insights into the movements of these birds away from their natal colonies.

Little Egret chicks after ringing John Lusby

In January 2011, John was contacted about a resighting of one of his Galway Bay birds. You’ll all remember what a harsh winter we endured in 2011, and how we constantly mused about escaping to the sun? Well that’s just what one of John’s Galway-born Little Egrets did! This bird was seen in the Azores in Portugal in October, over 2,000 km from its natal colony! Who would have guessed that they would travel as far as the Azores?

Colour-ringed Little Egret John Lusby

Chris and John have received good numbers of resightings so far, but are of course, always keen to hear about more. As the season progresses, we’ll bring you lots of info on the colour-ringed birds that are in Dublin Bay this winter. Colour-ringing projects can tell us so much about birds – things we would have no other way of finding out.

Please report your colour-ringed Little Egret resightings to