Monday, 23 February 2015

Coláiste Íosagáin meets Dublin Bay's birds

We were delighted to have the opportunity to meet with the students and teachers from Coláiste Íosagáin, Booterstown recently. The outing was part of the science curriculum focusing on local biodiversity and habitats, so it was an excellent opportunity to spread the word about our research on the waterbirds in Dublin Bay and the habitats upon which they rely. 

Ricky meets with Coláiste Íosagáin students
 at Booterstown Marsh Neasa Ní Ghallchóir

On the day, three 2nd year classes visited Booterstown Marsh and identified the ducks and waders feeding in the nature reserve. Later we visited Sandymount Strand to see some of the birds that prefer to feed on the sandflats and along the tideline.

We also did some radio-tracking, which proved a big hit! We’re currently tracking ten Oystercatchers to work out their foraging and roosting habitats during the day and at night, and with the girls’ help, we were able to get a few more fixes for the database. 

Getting a closer look at some Redshanks 
Neasa Ní Ghallchóir

We all got a chance to see a great variety of waterbirds on the day; everything from the vegetarian, grazing Brent Geese to the carnivorous, probing Dunlin, and learned all about their adaptations and foraging strategies. Other topics covered included disturbance, migration, population trends and conservation issues.

The girls have a go at radio-tracking 
Oystercatchers Neasa Ní Ghallchóir

A big thanks to all the students and teachers for an enjoyable morning chatting about the importance of Dublin Bay for birds and biodiversity. It was heartening to meet students who were both interested and well-informed about the natural environment around them. I wonder if the children at our Oystercatchers’ breeding grounds are as well informed. …Maybe we’ll have to plan a trip to Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway or Scotland to find out! ;-)

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Dining on Dublin's Docks

Brent Geese have become a very familiar site in Dublin City in recent years often turning up in all sorts of places.Our thanks to Richard Nairn of Natura Environmental Consultants for his insight into the movements of Brent Geese within Dublin Port.

"Brent Geese are now using the inner parts of Dublin Port on a regular basis.  As the winter progresses,  their natural food resources such as eelgrass and green seaweeds become scarcer on the mud and sandflats throughout the bay. The geese seem to have been forced to seek out other feeding areas including golf links, sports pitches and public parks with over a hundred such sites now used around the city.  A recent development has been the tendency of some geese to favour feeding on spilled agricultural products on the quaysides in Dublin Port.   

Feeding flock by the quayside - Richard Nairn

They swim on the River Liffey or in the Alexandra Basin (a deep mooring area for large ships within the port) until any disturbance has passed and then fly up onto the quays where they feed intensively on maize and soya meal among large flocks of pigeons and smaller numbers of gulls.  So far as we are aware this behaviour has not been recorded anywhere else in their range which includes sites in Canada, Iceland and throughout Ireland. I have been monitoring these geese closely over the last few winters and  peaks of up to 450 geese using this source of food have been recorded. 

Brent Geese next to Alexandria Basin - Richard Nairn

 Among them are some colour-ringed geese and the large numbered codes on these rings show that a core group of up to ten individual birds are using the Port on a regular basis, including over several winters.  This suggests that some geese have learned to exploit this food and others then follow them in to share the spoils.

Ringed Brent Goose - Richard Nairn

You can follow the fortunes of the geese on the blog posts of the Irish Brent Goose Research Group at"