A new study by BirdWatch Ireland has found that the number of waterbirds wintering in Ireland has declined by 15% over the past five years. More alarming is the comparison over a longer time period, which shows that our wintering waterbirds have declined by almost 500,000 individuals (40%) since the mid-1990’s, a truly shocking finding.
Wading bird species, including Knot, Dunlin, Golden Plover and Redshank, have been the worst hit, suffering a combined loss of over 100,000 individuals (19%) over the past five years. Wildfowl, including 14 species of duck, 3 species of swan and 4 species of geese, declined by 28,000 individuals (9%). In total, 27 species declined by over 10% over the course of just 5 years, with only seven species managing to increase by more than 10%.
The Environment Committee of the European Parliament has voted to ring-fence a significant €15 billion of the next Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) to support farmers in restoring nature on farmland. This represents a significant vote of confidence to reverse the declines in wildlife and habitats on farmland. The next step is for the Agriculture Committee of the Parliament to do the same and then the whole Parliament must endorse this approach.
BirdWatch Ireland calls on Irish Members of the European Parliament, and the political parties with whom some are affiliated, to ensure that €15 billion is ring-fenced in the next CAP to support farmers to produce food that also supports the birds and the bees.
Dalkey Island is designated as a Special Protection Area, (SPA), for breeding populations of three seabird species: Common, Arctic and Roseate Terns. In 2017, it was estimated that 113 Arctic and 15 Common Tern breeding pairs were nesting on the island, the highest count on record for Dalkey to date. However, a combination of depredation and storm surges resulted in a low level of breeding success on the island, with only four chicks assumed to have survived to fledging.
Camera trap footage taken this year, and trail signs such as footprints, droppings and burrows have confirmed the presence of a ‘healthy’ population of brown rats on Dalkey Island. This species has been found to have a devastating impact on ground-nesting birds such as terns, as they predate upon eggs and chicks.
BirdWatch Ireland is concerned about recent figures issued by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) which reveal that there was a further decline in Corncrake numbers recorded during the 2017 breeding season. The population of these highly threatened birds has declined for the third year in a row and is now down to 140 pairs from a peak of 230 in 2014.
Given that this is the third year in a row in which the population has declined, both nationally and in Co. Donegal, which is one of the key strongholds for this highly threatened species, there is definitely cause for concern.
Overfishing and climate change are pushing seabirds closer to extinction, according to the latest update on the conservation status of the world’s birds by BirdLife International for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The updated global list makes for grim reading, but of particular concern here in Ireland is the plight of the Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, a small cliff-nesting species of gull named for its distinctive "kitt-i-wake" call. Ireland is home to significant numbers of this species, which breeds at colonies around the Irish coast and which is now considered to be globally threatened.
BirdWatch Ireland is extremely concerned about the deaths of at least 15 migratory Whooper Swans in Co. Donegal. Their carcasses were discovered lying under electricity lines close to the village of Carrigans in the north-east of the county, close to the border with Northern Ireland. The birds collided with the wires in flight and were electrocuted. A high proportion of the swans that were killed were juvenile birds, just a few months old. It appears that the deaths were the result of multiple separate collisions with the electricity wires over a period of several weeks.
The BirdLife Partnership has published The Killing 2.0, A View to a Kill. Led by BirdLife International with input from experts from the region, including BirdWatch Ireland, this report exposes the scale and scope of the illegal killing of birds across critical regions. It is estimated that 0.4 - 2.1 million individual birds per year may be killed illegally in Northern and Central Europe and the Caucasus region – mainly for sport or ‘pest’ control. The report highlights that a more robust system of monitoring is required in Ireland to accurately tackle illegal killing of birds here.
We condemn the illegal fires which have destroyed vast swathes of habitat, decimated wildlife and, most recently and tragically, a family home. Thousands of hectares of mountain, hill, bog and forest habitat have been destroyed already this year, incinerating the wildlife that cannot escape fast enough, including helpless chicks in their nests, or animals which find themselves caught between flames and fences. These damaging fires happen every year and little is being done to prevent them. From 2010 to 2015, the cost to the exchequer of tackling over 5,889 gorse, forest and bog fires in ten counties amounted to over €6 million.
Over 140 organisations from all over Europe, including BirdWatch Ireland – representing consumers and the food sector, and those working to promote environmental protection, health, and animal welfare – have joined a call for reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
The organisations have responded to an appeal by 'Living Land' – a broad campaign which recognises that the EU’s agriculture policy is devastating to both our climate and our environment, wiping out wildlife, harming public health, and is failing small- and medium-sized farmers as well as rural communities.
BirdWatch Ireland is thrilled that our EU nature laws have been saved, following an epic two-year campaign by conservation groups. EU President Jean-Claude Juncker and his Commission have confirmed that the EU’s flagship nature laws – the Birds and Habitats Directives – will remain in place and will neither be rewritten nor weakened, as had been initially proposed, ending two years of uncertainty over the laws’ future. The Commission has also called for a plan to better implement and enforce these laws.
This is a win for the record half a million people, including 8,000 people from Ireland, who called on the Commission to save and enforce these laws as part of the Europe-wide #NatureAlert campaign.
BirdWatch Ireland would like to raise its serious concerns in relation to a highly misleading and misinformed article featured on the front page of last week’s edition of the Tipperary Star, which makes outlandish claims that Buzzards, a bird of prey, have been “targeting” terriers in the county.
Such misinformation and negative sentiment towards birds of prey is unfortunately nothing new. The particularly sensationalist piece in the Tipperary Star warns owners of pet dogs and cats to be on high alert from “giant Buzzards” which are “causing major problems in the mid-Tipperary area”. This article has succeeded in attracting significant attention for all the wrong reasons. There are far-reaching consequences from fostering such misguided fear of birds of prey, which threaten to drag Ireland back into a darker past.
A task force of key stakeholders is to be set up immediately to protect the Curlew, one of Ireland's most threatened breeding bird species. This was one of the main actions which arose out of the recent Curlew in Crisis workshop.
The workshop brought together almost 100 scientists and conservationists to discuss the crisis facing breeding Curlew in Ireland. Results from a survey funded by NPWS have shown that just 130 breeding pairs remain in the Republic of Ireland and that the species is facing extinction here within the next 10 years if emergency action is not taken.
The Curlew, one of Ireland's most iconic wild birds, is under serious threat. Unless urgent action is taken, it is facing extinction as an Irish breeding species within the next 10 years.
In the 1980s there were around 5,000 breeding pairs in the Republic of Ireland, but today there are fewer than 150, according to a national survey commissioned by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
BirdWatch Ireland, University College Dublin and Mary Colwell are organising a one-day workshop for experts and local community representatives to formulate ways to halt the extinction of the Curlew on 4th November at the New Forest Golf Club in Co Westmeath.
BirdWatch Ireland would like to remind the public that hedge-cutting is NOT permitted between 1st March and 31st August inclusive, except in the case of any of the derogations permitted under the Wildlife Acts 1976-2010 applying.
BirdWatch Ireland is extremely surprised to learn about the poster campaign launched today by the Irish Farmers’ Association to bar our organisation, as well as the National Parks and Wildlife Service, from accessing farmers’ land, as reported on the IFA website.
The Board are pleased to announce the appointment of Declan O’Sullivan as CEO of BirdWatch Ireland for an interim period from Monday 18th April 2016.
This year, BirdWatch Ireland, in partnership with the RSPB and North Wales Wildlife Trust, will start a 5-year EU LIFE-funded programme to boost the conservation status of Roseate Terns in northwest Europe. Here in Ireland we have two colonies, at Rockabill (Co. Dublin) and Lady’s Island Lake (Co. Wexford).
© Stephen McAvoy
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