Issue 92, May 2017
Welcome to the May 2017 issue of eWings, BirdWatch Ireland's email newsletter.
Regular readers of eWings will know that BirdWatch Ireland is extremely concerned about some of the proposals contained in the current Heritage Bill, and specifically about the provisions in Section 8 which would permit the burning of scrub during March and the cutting of hedges during August each year. The law at present prevents cutting and burning during the period from 1st March to 31st August.

The bill, which flies in the face of scientific evidence regarding the nesting periods of several threatened bird species, has already passed the Seanad stage, and this week it came before the Dáil for the first time. If it becomes law, it will have a devastating effect on some of our most vulnerable birds. These include the Curlew, which begins nesting in March, and the Yellowhammer, which nests into August. Pollinating insects, already struggling across the country, will also be badly hit. The next generation deserves an environment that they can be proud of, not regressive action which rows back on the protections afforded to biodiversity.

This is where you come in. If you feel as seriously concerned about these proposed changes as we do, please take action. Write to our Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD, who is the architect of the bill, to demand that she reverse her plans to devastate our natural heritage. Write to each of your local TDs, telling them that you expect them to vote against the Heritage Bill in the Dáil. Please do not be fooled, as has been claimed, that the bill is necessary for reasons of road safety: current legislation already makes full provision for cutting roadside hedges at any time of year where road safety is at issue, and this bill will not change a single thing in this regard.

If you need inspiration, please have a look at the powerful letter sent this week to the minister and to all TDs from the pupils of St. Colman's Secondary School in Midleton, Co. Cork, informing them that 515 students had signed a petition against the Heritage Bill. You can also find full details of BirdWatch Ireland's position on the bill here.
To view the articles and news below in full, simply click on the link displayed at the bottom of each summary.
Illegal gorse fires prove costly both to wildlife and the exchequer
Like nature-lovers all over Ireland, and indeed the world, BirdWatch Ireland has been appalled over the past few weeks by the illegal fires which have destroyed vast swathes of habitat, decimated wildlife and endangered human life. Thousands of hectares of mountain, hill, bog and forest have been destroyed already this year, incinerating the wildlife that cannot escape fast enough, including chicks in their nests.

These fires happen every year, yet little is being done to prevent them. In addition to the terrible toll on wildlife, the cost to the exchequer is also astronomical. Through a Freedom of Information Act request to all 30 local authorities in Ireland, BirdWatch Ireland has discovered that between 2010 and 2015 over €6 million was spent tackling 5,889 gorse, forest or bog fires . . . and that is only in the 10 local authority areas that actually provided us with data. (Photo: Nest destroyed in a scrub fire, by Ian Vickery - Bantry Fire Brigade)
Learn more about the true cost of illegal burning in Ireland, and why action is needed
Rockablog: bringing the Roseate Terns of Rockabill to the world
The Roseate Tern (left) is one of Europe's rarest breeding seabirds, not to mention perhaps its most beautiful. Each summer since 1989, with support from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, BirdWatch Ireland wardens have maintained Europe's largest colony of the species, on tiny Rockabill Island off the coast of Skerries in north Co. Dublin. Our wardens have begun their annual Rockablog to keep you updated on the fortunes of these remarkable birds. Starting this year, additional funding for our Roseate Tern LIFE Project from the European Commission will help us make further improvements to the conservation prospects of the terns, both on Rockabill and across Ireland and the UK.
Read our blog from the Rockabill tern colony, and check back for frequent updates
Ireland's Garden Birds: second edition out now!
We are often asked to recommend books about garden birds. The best book available for garden bird fans in Ireland is, hands down, Ireland's Garden Birds by Oran O'Sullivan and Jim Wilson. An essential companion for bird lovers and gardeners alike since it was first published in 2008, this acclaimed guide has now been fully updated for its second edition. Containing the latest information and a wealth of brand-new photographs, this book will tell you all you need to know about the birds found in your garden, as well as how to attract them and care for them. It also has a special section highlighting plants and plant schemes which best support garden wildlife.
Buy Ireland's Garden Birds from BirdWatch Ireland's online shop for just €15.00, plus P&P
Trichomoniasis: finches and other garden birds hit hard by disease
Over the past few years, BirdWatch Ireland has periodically received reports of birds suffering from a disease known as Trichomoniasis (also sometimes called Trichomonas). Since about 2009 reports of infected birds remained at a steady but low level. However, the past couple of months have seen a renewed increase in the reports of birds suffering from this disease, with the Greenfinch (left) being the hardest hit.
Learn more about this disease and the steps you can take to reduce its impact
BirdWatch Ireland opposes removal of Balbriggan gull nests and eggs
BirdWatch Ireland objects strongly to the granting of a derogation by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys T.D., to allow community groups in Balbriggan to remove gull nests and eggs. The aim is to reduce the number of gulls nesting on buildings in the town and prevent the gulls from breeding, a plan also opposed by students from Loreto Secondary School, Balbriggan. We are particularly concerned about the potential impacts of this derogation on the Herring Gull, which is red-listed as a species of Conservation Concern in Ireland following a 90% decline in its Irish population. (Photo: Herring Gull by Michael Finn)
See why we believe the destruction of gull nests and eggs is unwarranted and ill-advised
Announcing our 2017 Cape Clear Bird Observatory courses: book now
BirdWatch Ireland's Cape Clear Bird Observatory, located on beautiful Cape Clear Island off the coast of west Co. Cork, has a long tradition of running courses for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. We are pleased to announce that our course schedule for Autumn 2017 has just been launched.

Our most popular offering each year is our From Seabirds to Songbirds course, led by Dick Coombes, which this year will take place on the island from 11th to 15th September. During the course, Dick will cover a wide range of topics, from the skills needed to identify, understand and appreciate birds to knowing when and where to find them. During the week of indoor and field-based activities, participants will explore the wonders of migration, with a special emphasis on seabirds, their breeding habits and the fascinating journeys they undertake. The fee for the course is €195, which covers tuition and materials. Accommodation is also available in the observatory building for €25 per night (€22 for BirdWatch Ireland members).

This year, for the first time ever, BirdWatch Ireland will also be running a residential bird ringing course at the observatory. It will take place on the island from 6th to 10th September, and is for existing bird ringers of all permits. The emphasis of the course will be on developing ageing and gender-identification techniques, computerising data and enhancing general field craft. The price of the course is €300, including accommodation.
Click here for full details of our 2017 Cape Clear Bird Observatory courses and to make your booking
BirdWatch Ireland's AGM will be held from 14:00 to 16:00 sharp on Saturday 17th June 2017 at the Midlands Park Hotel (formerly called the Heritage Hotel) in Portlaoise, Co. Laois. All fully-paid-up members of BirdWatch Ireland are entitled to attend and to vote at the meeting. We look forward to seeing many of you there.

The Oiled Wildlife Response Network, of which BirdWatch Ireland is proud to be a member, is running a free training course for people who wish to become first-responders to assist seabirds and other marine wildlife in the case of an oil spill. It will take place this coming Saturday 27th May between 10:00 and 16:00 in Howth, Co. Dublin. For more information or to obtain a booking form, please click here.

If you are planning to go to Bloom, which will be held in Dublin's Phoenix Park from 1st to 5th June, please keep an eye out for us. BirdWatch Ireland will be running both an indoor information stand in the Grand Marquee and a family activities tent in the Conservation Zone: please stop by to pick up some posters and pin badges, to ask us any questions you may have and, if you are not one already, to join BirdWatch Ireland as a member.

We have one final request this month. Do you know the location of any nesting Whinchats? BirdWatch Ireland is conducting a survey of this scarce breeding species and would very much appreciate any information you might have regarding the location of breeding pairs. If you can help, please email Alex Copland or give him a call at our Banagher office on 057-9151676.

See you again next month!

Niall Hatch
Development Officer
BirdWatch Ireland
Unit 20, Block D
Bullford Business Campus
Co. Wicklow
A63 RW83
Tel: (+353)-(0)1-2819878

BirdWatch Ireland is the trading name of the Irish Wildbird Conservancy, a company limited by guarantee and registered in Ireland, no. 116468. Registered Charity no. 5703.
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