To mark Biodiversity Week 2013 several brave souls dragged themselves out of bed to meet up at 5am at Greenfields, close to the causeway to Inchiquin Island. These intrepid bird watchers were ably led by Neil Sharkey and by 7am a total of 33 different bird species had either been heard or seen by the group. The small but varied area searched by the group yielded familiar summer visitors such as the swallow but also three secretive warblers, two wading species and a tern. There were five species of crow, four different finches, and even a goose! All 33 species are listed below.
Neil pointed out the difference between the calls of the three warblers; the rich melodic, soft, clear warbling notes of the Blackcap, the loud, fast sequence of harsh grating chattering notes of the Sedge Warbler, and the thin, pleasant liquid notes of the Willow Warbler, which starts out softly, rises in pitch and then fades away. The calls of the Cuckoo and the Wood Pigeon were distinguished by listening carefully for the Cuckoo’s ‘cuc-coo’ and the pigeon’s ‘cooo-cooo’.
The most exciting twitching moments were spotting a group of Whimbrel flying along the horizon and a Common Sandpiper. The Whimbrels were on their spring migration, moving north from wintering grounds in Africa to breeding grounds in Iceland and northern Europe. The sandpiper is a small wader that is at home on the edges of rocky water bodies, and was spotted resting on rocks but also flying low over the surface of the water.
Just as the group started to make its way back to the cars, an Arctic Tern was spotted making shallow dives into the water, presumably feeding on small fish. To reinforce the fact that it is generally much easier to watch birds than mammals, the only hint of the latter was the very strong fox scent picked up at one spot along the walk.
The event was enjoyably rounded off with a hot cup of tea. The target for next year’s dawn chorus is 40 species!
Common Gull; Black-headed Gull
Willow Warbler; Sedge Warbler; Blackcap
Chaffinch; Greenfinch; Goldfinch; Linnet
Raven; Jackdaw; Hooded Crow; Rook; Starling
Kate McAney – Headford Environment Group