BirdWatch Ireland https://birdwatchireland.ie/ BirdWatch Ireland Thu, 26 Jan 2023 17:06:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.1.1 https://birdwatchireland.ie/app/uploads/2020/09/Artboard@3x.png BirdWatch Ireland https://birdwatchireland.ie/ 32 32 Irish forestry programme in breach of EU State Aid conditions and EU environmental law https://birdwatchireland.ie/ireland-breached-eu-state-aid-conditions-of-forestry-programme-and-eu-environmental-law/ Thu, 26 Jan 2023 16:16:50 +0000 https://birdwatchireland.ie/?p=186289 Snipe chicks. Snipe is a breeding wader that is a Red-Listed Bird of Conservation Concern in Ireland. State afforestation plans pose extinction risk to threatened farmland birds BirdWatch Ireland calls...

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Snipe chicks. Snipe is a breeding wader that is a Red-Listed Bird of Conservation Concern in Ireland.

State afforestation plans pose extinction risk to threatened farmland birds

BirdWatch Ireland calls on the Irish government and the European Commission to ensure cast iron safeguards to avoid tree planting on habitats of threatened bird species are integrated into new forestry programme and any State Aid consent for forestry investment. 

The Irish government Forestry Programme 2014-2022 has operated in breach of the conditions of the EU State Aid consent granted to it in 2014. Afforestation has also occurred in breach of Article 4.4 of the Birds Directive.

In a submission to the draft Forest Strategy Implementation Plan 2023-2027 (new forestry programme) for which State Aid consent is being sought from the European Commission, BirdWatch Ireland has provided evidence to the Forest Service and the European Commission which indicates that the government approved the planting of forestry in environmentally unsuitable sites in breach of the conditions of the State Aid decision for the Forestry Programme 2014-2022.

BirdWatch Ireland research into how farmland bird hotspots overlap with the location of forestry planting since 2014, shows that government has given consent to :

  • the planting of 13,719 hectares, or 14.1% of afforestation or replanting nationally, in hotspots for six of our most threatened breeding waders (Fig1)Fig 1: Afforestation or replanting in breeding wader hotspots since 2014.
  • the planting of 6538 hectares of forestry, or 6.7% of the total afforestation or replanting, in hotspots of 28 Red and Amber listed farmland birds (Fig2).

Fig 2: Afforestation or replanting in farmland bird hotspots since 2014.

The 2014-2022 State Aid conditions from the EU Commission required the Irish Government to ensure that:-
“Afforestation will be avoided on environmentally unsuitable sites” and “The inappropriate afforestation of sensitive habitats such as peat lands and wetlands will be avoided, as well as the negative effects on areas of high ecological value including areas under high natural value farming”. The detail on breaches of the State Aid conditions is outlined in a 2019 report by BirdWatch Ireland shared with the Irish government and the European Commission.

High nature value farmland and other areas of importance for threatened wild birds are of high ecological value. The bird species under grave threat include Curlew and other breeding waders – Redshank, Lapwing and Snipe which are on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland as well as Skylark which is Amber listed; in addition, Hen Harrier, Dunlin and Golden Plover also Red Listed and listed on Annex 1 of the Birds Directive, aswell as Merlin which is Annex 1 and Amber listed, requiring EU member states to implement special measures for their protection.

Afforestation of the habitats used by birds of the open countryside results in the direct loss of habitat for these species. In addition, for those species which nest on the ground, such as Curlew and Lapwing, forested areas provide cover for predators such as foxes and corvids which take the eggs and young of these species breeding in the vicinity of the forest block. Farmland birds, particularly those nesting on ground in open landscapes are more severely threatened than any other group of birds in Ireland.

The evidence of afforestation of important areas for birds shows that the State is also breaching articles of the Birds Directive. All wild birds are protected under this Directive but the state is failing to adequately protect birds in the wider countryside outside of designated Special Protection Areas [1] and most farmland birds are declining as a result. This duty is especially important for open countryside birds which depend to a great extent on the condition of habitats in areas of high ecological value outside of SPAs.

Oonagh Duggan Head of Advocacy at BirdWatch Ireland said “The European Commission cannot in good faith give consent to the 1.3 billion euro in state aid for the new forestry programme as requested by the Irish government and ignore breaches of existing state aid conditions as well as EU environmental law. This is a 5-fold investment over the previous forestry programme and spells the deathknell for threatened farmland birds.”

She continued “the proposed new forestry programme does not contain adequate safeguards to protect habitats for breeding waders and other open countryside birds from afforestation and considering the scale of the lucrative payments available, we anticipate an accelerated loss of important habitats for wild birds and other biodiversity. We call on Ministers Hackett, McConalogue and Noonan to ensure that no further tree planting occurs in farmland bird hotspots and to adhere to EU environmental law”.

She continued “We know what needs to be done to protect the habitats of threatened species. The solution lies in the commissioning of bird afforestation sensitivity mapping as soon as possible and to ensure that maps of important areas for birds and other biodiversity are integrated into the afforestation procedures so that these areas can be safeguarded from afforestation”.

We need more trees in the Irish landscape – more native woodlands and forests to help combat climate change and for people, habitats and species, as well as for timber. And the funding for more trees is welcome. However, these benefits must not be at cost of further losses of threatened birds and biodiversity dependant on open landscapes stringent safeguards must be put in place to avoid this. In addition, we need an ambitious Nature Restoration Law which ensures the restoration of habitats for farmland birds at landscape scale and rewarding farmers financially to do this.

 

[1]

In particular Article 4.4 calls for the State to avoid pollution or deterioration of habitats for birds including outside of designated Special Protection Areas.

Article 4.4 of the Birds Directive :

In respect of the protection areas referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2, Member States shall take appropriate steps to avoid pollution or deterioration of habitats or any disturbances affecting the birds, in so far as these would be significant having regard to the objectives of this Article. Outside these protection areas, Member States shall also strive to avoid pollution or deterioration of habitats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Special Areas of Conservation to Protect Three Million Hectares of Irish Waters https://birdwatchireland.ie/special-areas-of-conservation-to-protect-three-million-hectares-of-irish-waters/ Tue, 13 Dec 2022 17:43:00 +0000 https://birdwatchireland.ie/?p=184113 ‘Ireland’s underwater world’ by Libby Keating. Courtesy of Fair Seas. Fair Seas welcomes the creation of two new marine protection sites for biodiversity    Fair Seas welcomes news that as...

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‘Ireland’s underwater world’ by Libby Keating. Courtesy of Fair Seas.

Fair Seas welcomes the creation of two new marine protection sites for biodiversity 

 

Fair Seas welcomes news that as of today, an additional three million hectares of Ireland’s seas will be protected. Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD announced the creation of two new Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) while on his way to the COP15 UN Biodiversity Conference in Montréal, Canada. 

The General Scheme of the forthcoming Marine Protected Area (MPA) legislation has also been approved by the Government, providing a huge boost for ocean protection, conservation and restoration here in Ireland. Marine Protected Areas are areas of our seas and coasts legally protected from activities that damage the habitats, wildlife and natural processes that occur there. 

Fair Seas has been calling for the important MPA legislation to be progressed for over a year. The General Scheme will undergo pre-legislative scrutiny by the Oireachtas starting early next year. Ireland has committed to protecting 30% of its seas by 2030. The proposed new legislation will allow Ireland to designate new nationally based MPAs, helping it meet its national and international commitments, and giving nature at sea the best opportunity to not only survive, but thrive.

Ireland currently has 2.1% MPA coverage, but with today’s announcement of the new SACs off the North West, and South West coasts of Ireland, that number has increased to 8.3%.

Aoife O’Mahony, Campaign Manager for Fair Seas says, “Today’s announcement is great news for our ocean. We welcome the approval of the General Scheme and look forward to working with our colleagues in government over the coming months to ensure that this delivers robust legislation for Ireland as soon as possible next year. The creation of two new Special Areas of Conservation should be celebrated, this is a significant step in the right direction. However, considering the global biodiversity crisis we are now facing, it’s essential that proper management plans are put in place for these and all other existing MPAs too.”

The Southern Canyons SAC site is approximately 280 km south of counties Cork and Kerry. It’s home to diverse reef communities and corals, as well as larger fauna such as long-finned pilot whales and numerous fish species. The site includes the Whittard Canyon system described as comparable in scale and drama to the Grand Canyon in the USA. Important at-risk species of seabird are frequently present here such as the red-listed kittiwake and puffin.

The Porcupine Shelf SAC site extends north from an area due west of Clew Bay, Co Mayo to an area west of Malin Head, Co Donegal. Biologically sensitive reef-forming, cold-water coral species are found in this area. So too are various species of whale, dolphin, shark and ray. A range of breeding birds including the arctic tern, puffin, storm-petrel and Manx shearwater are also found in this area. 

Dr Donal Griffin, Marine Policy Officer with Fair Seas said, “The designation of the new SACs is such positive news for these unique offshore ecosystems including beautifully delicate and colourful cold water reefs. These ecosystems and habitats are extremely vulnerable to physical disturbance and damage, which is why their SAC designation is so important. Like any MPA, their effectiveness at protecting or restoring conservation features, comes down to how well the site is managed. The Government now has a responsibility to ensure these new offshore SACs are effectively managed going forward.”

The new sites overlap with areas highlighted by Fair Seas in its June 2022 report identifying ‘Areas of Interest’ for MPA designation.

The Minister’s announcements also indicated that new Special Protected Areas (SPAs) will be designated for the safeguarding of birds next year, which may enable Ireland to reach its interim target of protecting 10% of Ireland’s seas. 

The Fair Seas campaign is led by a coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks including Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Sustainable Water Network, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Irish Environmental Network and Coastwatch.

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COP27: Recognition for our Ocean but lack of meaningful action undermines progress on Loss & Damage https://birdwatchireland.ie/cop27-recognition-for-our-ocean-but-lack-of-meaningful-action-undermines-progress-on-loss-damage/ Wed, 30 Nov 2022 09:46:04 +0000 https://birdwatchireland.ie/?p=183142 Last Sunday, 20th November, COP27, the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), drew to a close in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. The Conference’s...

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Last Sunday, 20th November, COP27, the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), drew to a close in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. The Conference’s final agreement text, which each year sets out the Parties’ agreed actions to address climate change and its impacts, has included some potentially promising elements, but yet again, has critically ignored the main driver of climate change. 

COP has been criticised for its lack of tangible outcomes over the years. It is, after all, the 27th time global leaders have met to discuss international action on climate change, and it is difficult to see what real and commensurate action has come out of the negotiations. This year’s COP was dubbed the ‘Implementation COP’ by the Egyptian Presidency who laid out the ambition to “showcase unity against an existential threat that we can only overcome through concerted action and effective implementation”. In addition to this, 2022 has been called the ’Year of the Ocean’, and many anticipated the “Blueing” the Paris Agreement at COP27.

This year, COP’s Blue Zone (the conference’s space for UN Accredited delegates and organisations) included its first ever Ocean Pavilion, there were over 300 ocean-related events, and several declarations and the final text recognised the fundamental role of the planet’s beating blue heart in our climate system, and in its role as one of our greatest allies in addressing climate change.

Recognising the importance of our one global ocean is also critical in connecting the already occurring and devastating impacts of climate change, to the political inertia of faraway and historically high-emitting nations. Unless we tackle the climate emergency at its source, that is at emissions level, the reality for coastal communities globally is that the ocean, while being a source of livelihood for many, is also a source of many threats. For climate-vulnerable countries and small island states, this COP needed to deliver a ‘three-legged stool’ of climate action comprised of mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage.

 

Loss & Damage

Loss and Damage covers all those impacts of climate change that we can no longer avoid or adapt to; everything from the rapid onset events such as flooding and tidal surges that destroy homes and crops, and contaminate drinking water, to the most incomprehensible and slower onset scenarios. For small island states and coastal communities this will, in the not-too-distant future, mean the loss of entire communities engulfed by the sea.

The plight of ocean communities in climate vulnerable nations has long since been sidelined by historically high-emitting countries, who have prioritised short-term economic interests over solidarity with climate vulnerable nations. Indeed, the need to recognise the unjust nature of climate impacts and provide for Loss and Damage dates to before the creation of the UNFCCC in 1992. Just last year Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister, Simon Kofe, delivered his speech to COP26 from a podium in knee-deep seawater to draw attention to rising sea levels and the “real-life situations faced in Tuvalu” because of climate change.

Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Simon Kofe gives a COP26 statement while standing in knee-deep seawater. Photo: Tuvalu Foreign Ministry/Reuters

Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister, Simon Kofe, delivering his COP26 statement. Photo: Tuvalu Foreign Ministry/Reuters

 

During COP27 An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, committed to providing €10 million euro to the Global Shield initiative. However, this insurance-based initiative available for climate disasters in low-income countries, has drawn criticism for distracting from the central demand of establishing a dedicated Loss and Damage fund. An insurance-based scheme is wholly inappropriate to address the impacts of climate change for these countries. At the most basic level, insurance provides for a risk of something that might happen, not something that will happen.

Minister Eamon Ryan, who was EU Ministerial Representative on Loss and Damage in the final days of COP27, has stated that reliance on one funding mechanism such as the Loss and Damage mechanism, can be problematic in terms of delivering false promises and in terms of the lengthy period of time needed to establish it. The final text of the COP27 agreement does not specify the details of how the Loss and Damage mechanism will work and that detail is to be worked out in advance of COP28. It is essential that the details of this programme are not delayed further past this point, as the Global Shield Initiative, which may be an important interim measure, is inadequate and unsuitable in the long term for the purposes of Loss and Damage.

 

Failure to act on fossil fuel extraction and consumption

However, the most insulting and undermining failure of all COPs, not just this ‘implementation COP’, is that the phasing out of fossil fuels, that is addressing the root cause of climate change, has yet to be included in the final decision texts. COP27’s statement restated last year’s pledge to accelerate “efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”.

Progress was made at this year’s COP through expanded support for the Global Offshore Wind Alliance (which now includes support from Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, the UK and the US) that was founded at COP26 in Glasgow, but there has been less focus on reducing harmful energy production. The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) which calls for an acceleration in the transition away from fossil fuel dependency and was also established at COP26, increased its membership by just three. This is a long way short of the entire list of Parties to the UNFCCC. Without removing the root cause of climate change, the ongoing loss and damage, that is the ongoing commitment to climate-related death warrants, is set to continue.

Furthermore, the EU announced that it was ready to increase its emissions reduction target from 55% to 57% at COP27, but this doesn’t go nearly far enough to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2030. Emissions reductions of 65%, not including carbon sinks, is needed for the EU to stay in line with the 1.5°C limit.

 

Just Transition and Just Existence

Decarbonising our society and economy is far from a simple task. However, the fact that we can even discuss how a Just Transition will happen in Ireland is a luxury that many of our global ocean neighbours have not been afforded. Island states have to ask that their Just Existence be considered alongside a Just Transition in historically high-emitting countries. As Dr. Satyendra Prasad, Fiji’s Ambassador to the United Nations stated “We are absolutely, fully supportive of a just transition. All we are asking is that there should be fairness and there should be pace and speed in the transition. But we also ask you to please also understand our just existence. Fairness demands that just transition and just existence are seen equally and not that one is superior to the other.

For climate vulnerable communities, their just existence depends on our actions. We need to ensure that in protecting our seas here in Ireland, we incorporate measures that will also protect our global ocean and neighbours. We need our politicians in historically high-emitting countries to tackle the root cause of climate change and end the extraction and production of fossil fuels, if any commitment to Loss and Damage is to be meaningful. And we need our politicians to make good on the progress for the ocean made in the final text of COP27 and to incorporate ocean-based action in our national climate goals. As Mary Robinson has quite rightly pointed out, the world remains on the brink of climate catastrophe and communities around our global ocean are among the many experiencing the worst effects of this emergency.

 

Don’t forget to sign up to the Fair Seas newsletter for the latest ocean updates, actions and events.

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Large influx of Scandinavian finches to Irish gardens last winter. The Irish Garden Bird Survey has begun again! https://birdwatchireland.ie/large-influx-of-scandinavian-finches-to-irish-gardens-last-winter-the-irish-garden-bird-survey-has-begun-again/ Tue, 29 Nov 2022 20:22:24 +0000 https://birdwatchireland.ie/?p=183111 BirdWatch Ireland’s Irish Garden Bird Survey returns next week, for the 34th consecutive winter. The survey is very simple and asks people to spend a short amount of time each week...

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BirdWatch Ireland’s Irish Garden Bird Survey returns next week, for the 34th consecutive winter. The survey is very simple and asks people to spend a short amount of time each week watching their garden birds and recording what they see.  It plays an important role in tracking the fortunes of some of Ireland’s best-loved wildlife.

On Their Way

BirdWatch Ireland has received lots of correspondence from concerned people all around the country whose garden birds are ‘missing’. This is simply a result of the abundance of natural food available to them in the countryside, but as the weeks go on and weather gets colder more and more birds will be retreating to gardens for food and shelter, just in time for the Irish Garden Bird Survey!

Rare Arrivals

Last winter there was a big increase in the number of Bramblings in Irish gardens. Bramblings are a close relative of our native Chaffinch that breed in northern Scandinavia and are quite rare in Ireland. Every few years however, we get a big influx, and last year 4% of gardens in 21 counties had at least one of these Scandinavian migrants hiding amongst their Chaffinches. “There was a noticeable spike in their numbers in mid-January, corresponding with the lowest recorded temperatures of the winter, highlighting just how important it is to put out food and water in advance of frost or snow!” said Brian Burke, who coordinates the survey for Birdwatch Ireland.
Other notable rarities include the invasive Ring-necked Parakeets in a select few Dublin gardens and a Rustic Bunting in a garden in County Down. Rustic Buntings nest in woodlands in eastern Scandinavia and Siberia and spend the winter in south-east Asia, and this was only the 23rd record of the species in Ireland. A Mediterranean Gull in a Dublin garden represents only the third record of the species in the Irish Garden Bird Survey, though they’re definitely increasing in coastal habitats.

“Taking part in the survey is really easy, and while it doesn’t require a huge commitment, it definitely provides people with extra motivation to keep an even closer eye on their garden birds, and that’s when you might spot something new,” said Brian. “It might be something rare at a national level, or something common but that you’ve never seen in your garden before. There’s excitement either way!”

Common Species, increases and decreases

Robins were seen in the highest proportion of gardens last winter (>99%), followed by Blackbird (>97%) and Blue Tit (>96%), with Magpie moving up to fourth place (90%). House Sparrows were the most numerous birds recorded (average count of 9-10 per garden), followed by Starling and Goldfinch (8-9 per garden).
Our native hibernicus subspecies of Coal Tit fell to its worst ranking in 20 years (11th place, <80% of gardens) after a series of poor years.  Another species showing significant decreases was Song Thrush (down 10%, from 13th to 17th), which may have suffered high nest losses because of the cold start to the summer the previous year. Pied Wagtail, also known by many as the ‘Willy Wagtail’, also declined by 10%.
Notable increases include the Jay, a colourful member of the crow family which also belongs to a unique Irish hibernicus subspecies. They were recorded in more than 10% of gardens for the first time ever, reflecting a widespread increase in the Irish population. More common members of the crow family, such as JackdawRook and Hooded Crow all increased last year, as did all three of our most common pigeon species: WoodpigeonCollared Dove and Feral PigeonGreat Spotted Woodpeckers, which first began their colonisation of Ireland around 2005, were recorded in 5% of Irish gardens, across 21 counties, and continue to increase across the country, favouring peanut feeders in the winter.

jay-drinking-from-hollow-tree-trunk

 

Avian Flu and Trichomonosis in Garden Birds

BirdWatch Ireland would like to stress that the risk of Avian Flu in garden birds is very low at present and that it is safe to continue to feed your garden birds. Avian Flu decimated some seabird species such as Gannet this summer, with hundreds of dead and unwell birds washing up on beaches, while in more recent months it has been swans, geese and ducks that have been infected. “Bird flu is currently circulating in our waterbird species, but these birds don’t tend to interact closely with garden birds. Swans and sparrows don’t hang out together, so it’s unlikely bird flu will be brought into gardens. It’s a situation we’ll continue to keep a close eye on, however,” said Brian.
The main risk to garden birds continues to be the trichomonas parasite, which has been infecting finches for over 15 years now. Greenfinches were present in fewer than half of gardens last winter, down from over 90% of gardens in the early 2000’s. Also, Chaffinches in urban areas are declining faster than those in rural parts of the country, apparently because there are more feeders in urban gardens where they pick up the infection. “If you’re putting out feeders, you also have a responsibility to clean them thoroughly at least once a week to ensure the costs don’t outweigh the benefits to the birds,” notes Brian.
greenfinch-perched-on-branch-looking-towards-ground

Supporting the Survey

The Irish Garden Bird Survey is once again sponsored by Ballymaloe, whose support in recent years has helped ensure the survey has gone from strength to strength, improving monitoring at national level and allowing for greater focus on conservation issues facing individual species.
“Collectively Ballymaloe House, Ballymaloe Cookery School and Ballymaloe Foods are delighted to sponsor the Irish Garden Bird Survey annually in memory of our founder Ivan Allen.  Ivan, Myrtle Allen’s husband, loved the birdlife in and around Ballymaloe House and farmed considerately ensuring their natural habitat was undisturbed.  His sustainable farming practices were undoubtedly ahead of their time.  Supporting this Irish Garden Bird Survey is Ballymaloe businesses way to continually celebrate Ivan’s passion for birdlife, whilst supporting Irish birdlife conservation in his name.” Laura Behan, General Manager of Ballymaloe House. 

To find out more about the survey and the different trends and patterns seen for different garden birds over the last 30 years, listen to the survey coordinator Brian Burke talk to Ricky Whelan and Niall Hatch for the ‘In Your Nature’ podcast, by clicking here.

 

For full details about the survey, how to take part and looking after your garden birds, click here.

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Response to Charities Regulator on foot of Inspectors’ Report https://birdwatchireland.ie/response-to-charities-regulator-on-foot-of-inspectors-report/ Thu, 10 Nov 2022 17:37:12 +0000 https://birdwatchireland.ie/?p=182215 BirdWatch Ireland has been working hard over the last 18 months to address the issues identified as a result of both the correspondence with the Charities Regulator (started in March...

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BirdWatch Ireland has been working hard over the last 18 months to address the issues identified as a result of both the correspondence with the Charities Regulator (started in March 2021) and the Charities Regulator’s Investigation (launched in August 2021), with the conclusions of the latter contained in the Report.

BirdWatch Ireland now has new leadership in place.  At the AGM in July 2022, the Board was significantly revitalised when four new Trustees were elected with a range of skills to complement those of the two existing Trustees.  Both the Governance and the Audit & Risk Committees have been re-instituted with all Trustees involved.

A permanent CEO has been in place since May 2022 and the Finance function has been considerably strengthened with the appointment of a new Head of Finance and Administration in September 2022, as well as the appointment of another financially qualified staff member.

As a result of all these changes, the organisation’s finances are in the process of being stabilised, and substantial steps have been taken to strengthen and change policies, working methods, operational oversight and governance procedures.

This will ensure that they remain consistent with recognised best practice in the charity and NGO sectors.

BirdWatch Ireland would like to reassure its members, supporters, stakeholders and the general public that it is committed to addressing the findings in the Report, and will strive to improve BirdWatch Ireland and continue its vital work as Ireland’s largest wildlife conservation charity.

It also wishes to assure its members and partners that the income of BWI is spent only on the protection of wild birds and their habitats through conservation initiatives, education and research.

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Greetings from Gambia https://birdwatchireland.ie/greetings-from-gambia/ Tue, 08 Nov 2022 13:53:24 +0000 https://birdwatchireland.ie/?p=182085 One of ‘our’ Dublin Port Common Terns has been spotted by Kebba Sosseh in The Gambia, chilling out alongside West African and Sandwich Terns at the Tanji Bird Reserve! Common...

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One of ‘our’ Dublin Port Common Terns has been spotted by Kebba Sosseh in The Gambia, chilling out alongside West African and Sandwich Terns at the Tanji Bird Reserve!

Common Tern ‘PKC’ was colour ringed in Dublin Port June 2022 and observed at Tanji Bird Reserve, The Gambia October 2022, alongside West African and Sandwich Terns. (Kebba Sosseh).

Caught this season as an adult breeding in Dublin Port, it was fitted with the colour ring ‘PKC’ by the Dublin Bay Birds Project in June of this year.

Common Tern ‘PKC’ ringed in Dublin Port. (Brian Burke).
The Tolka Pontoon in Dublin Port which Common Tern ‘PKC’ bred on this season. The Tolka Pontoon was deployed by Dublin Port Company to specifically accommodate breeding terns. (Helen Boland).

Within a few short months of being colour ringed ‘PKC’ had (if all went well) raised a family and then migrated >4,500km south to the Tanji Bird Reserve in The Gambia.

The approximate distance from Dublin Port where Common Tern ‘PKC’ bred in 2022 and Tanji Bird Reserve in The Gambia, where Kebba Sosseh resighted it in October 2022.

The total number of kilometres clocked up by this bird is likely much higher than 4,500 as these birds are constantly following shoals of fish, and hence vast tracts of ocean and coastline.

We know that Common Terns breeding in Europe migrate even further south than The Gambia or Senegal, with colour ringing and satellite tracking work revealing Common Terns migrate as far as South Africa. Common Terns ringed in Dublin Port by the DBBP have been sighted in Namibia by Mark Boorman, just north of South Africa.

Locations of resightings of Common and Arctic Terns on the wintering grounds/ passage. Note the resightings in Spain are from birds on passage.

Come spring, this bird (weighing ~130 grams) will hopefully start migrating back toward Dublin Port to start the whole mind-boggling cycle again!

Common-Tern-In-FlightCommon Tern (Brian Burke).

These migrations show just how interconnected our world is. What happens here during the breeding season, has knock on effects on Common Tern populations migrating to and overwintering in Africa. And vice versa – what happens on migration and the wintering grounds impacts the breeding populations further north.

Countries Common and Arctic Terns have been resighted in during the breeding season, on passage/ wintering grounds. It shows just how connected our planet truly is.

This is why protecting these birds at every stage is vital to their conservation. Colour ringing has the potential to provide us with the baseline data to not only discover where these birds are going, but also their survival rates, thereby informing conservation strategies.

Without the efforts of people like Kebba Sosseh, Mark Boorman, and the many others volunteering their time along migration routes, at the wintering grounds and breeding sites, the Dublin Bay Birds Project simply wouldn’t have this info. It’s no exaggeration to say we cannot do this without your help!

Common_Tern_SenegalCommon Tern ’46P’ resighted by Kebba Sosseh in Senegal in 2019. Resighted on a breeding structure in Dublin Port in 2022. (Kebba Sosseh).
Colour-ringed-Common-Tern-pair-Grand-CanalCommon Terns ‘PLA’ and ‘PLT’  resighted by Kevin Maguire at a breeding colony in Dublin city in 2020. Both birds hatched in Dublin Port in 2015 (Kevin Maguire).

The Dublin Bay Birds Project has coloured ringed Common and Arctic Terns, but also Oystercatchers, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit and Curlew. These waders are overwintering on our shores right now. If you see any of these colour ringed birds, please note the inscription, where you saw the bird, and whether it was foraging or roosting – you can log your records here or email colourrings@birdwatchireland.ie. Photos of the colour ringing schemes can be found below.

Many thanks and happy ring reading!

Thanks to Dublin Port Company for their help, support and continued funding.

Oystercatcher ‘T6’ resighted at Landeyjar, Iceland by Tómas Grétar Gunnarsson. Note the yellow colour ring with the unique inscription on the right tarsus (low leg) and the green ring on the right tibia (upper leg). The colour ring on the left tarsus can be blue as above, or yellow (Tómas Grétar Gunnarsson).
Oystercatcher ‘HVA’ resighted by Ian Thompson at Askernish, Scotland. Note the blue ring on the upper left leg (tibia). This can be red on some Oystercatchers. It is really important that the colour of this ring is recorded (blue or red). (Ian Thompson).
Redshank ‘AN’ photographed by John Fox at North Bull Island. Note the yellow inscribed ring on the right upper leg (tibia) and the green colour ring on the left tibia. The other colour ring can be blue as above, or yellow. (John Fox).
Curlew ‘AH’ caught at North Bull Island in 2020. (Sinead Cummins).
Bar-tailed Godwit ‘DH’ in breeding plumage, photographed by Kim Fischer in Denmark. (Kim Fischer).
Bar-tailed-Godwit-Mark-CarmodyBar-tailed Godwit ‘IC’ in non-breeding plumage photographed by Mark Carmody at North Bull Island. (Mark Carmody).

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Where have all the Garden Birds gone? https://birdwatchireland.ie/where-have-all-the-garden-birds-gone/ Wed, 02 Nov 2022 16:19:59 +0000 https://birdwatchireland.ie/?p=181906 Our annual Irish Garden Bird Survey returns at the end of this month! In recent weeks we’ve received lots of emails and phone calls from people around the country, reporting feeders...

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Our annual Irish Garden Bird Survey returns at the end of this month! In recent weeks we’ve received lots of emails and phone calls from people around the country, reporting feeders completely untouched and barely a bird to be seen in their gardens. So, where have all the garden birds gone?

 

The first thing to say is that this is entirely normal and expected, and we see something similar happen at this time every year. If I asked you to cast your mind back to last winter, when the weather was cold, the days were short and the leaves were off the trees you could probably tell me about a long list of birds visiting your garden, but you’d likely be thinking of a bit later in the year rather than the end of October and start of November. That’s one of the reasons surveys like the Irish Garden Bird Survey are so important. By having a written record, we can ensure we’re comparing like with like over the years.

 

Reliable Return

From late summer onwards, most birds are finished nesting and therefore aren’t restricted to finding food in the immediate vicinity of their nests. They can travel wherever they want, and wherever the food is. This coincides with a time when there’s an abundance of berries, nuts, seeds and insects, from August to October. It’s also a good way for the birds, especially the juveniles, to explore the wider landscape and get an idea where there’s suitable habitat that they may need for nesting or feeding in the future.

This year appears to have been a ‘mast year’ for many trees and shrubs, meaning they’ve produced a bumper crop for the birds to enjoy. So, the birds don’t really need peanuts and seed feeders as they have plenty of fresh natural food. This mast year is likely the reason we’ve had so many people contacting us this year regarding ‘missing’ garden birds, compared to previous years. As the weeks go on these natural food supplies will get depleted however, and the days will get shorter and colder, and over the course of November we’d expect to see the usual suite of bird species gradually returning to gardens. The first ones back will likely be the Tits, Robins and Dunnocks, with Blackbirds, Thrushes and Finches becoming more regular into December. The Irish Garden Bird Survey starts at the beginning of December each year (Monday 28th November this year), as this coincides with many birds having returned to gardens, though we continue to see a build in numbers until the new year.

You can download the form for this year’s Irish Garden Bird Survey here.

More info about the Irish Garden Bird Survey and looking after your garden birds can be found here.

 

Feeding Advice

So, at the moment we suggest that you can either hold off putting out food for another few weeks, or you can put out a small amount of food in one or two feeders – enough so that the birds find it when they need it, but not so much that it’s getting wet and mouldy and needs to be thrown out! At present there’s no substantial concern about garden birds contracting avian influenza, though anyone with poultry or captive birds should follow department of agriculture guidelines and keep them away from wild birds.

 

 

Science Week on RTÉ

In less than two weeks time it will be Science Week (13th-20th November) and we’re delighted to be taking part in the Future Island programme on RTÉ television. We’ll be discussing the Irish Garden Bird Survey, which is Ireland’s longest running citizen science wildlife survey, and the various trends and patterns in numbers we’ve seen over the years. You can email the programme at birds@indiepics.ie with questions, photos or simply to let them/us know what birds are starting to return to your garden. The programme will be broadcast live on three nights over the course of Science Week, and we hope it’ll inspire households around the country to take part in this year’s survey.

 

 

Up Close and Personal

We will be hosting a Ringing Demonstration at our East Coast Nature Reserve in Wicklow on Sunday 13th November, between 9am and 12. Come see some of your favourite garden birds in the hand. See how licensed bird ringers catch and ring birds using mist nets in order to study their life history and ecology. Bird ringing demonstration days are a great opportunity to see some of the best-loved birds up close and to find out more about this important conservation work. There will be an opportunity to ask questions, go through the key identification features and explain how to recognise the species in the field. Feel free to come and go anytime during the session as birds will need to released once ringed. Outdoor clothes advisable. Kindly funded by the Heritage Office of Wicklow County Council.

 

 

 

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BirdWatch Ireland Celebrate Win at the Heritage Week Awards 2022 https://birdwatchireland.ie/birdwatch-ireland-celebrate-win-at-the-heritage-week-awards-2022/ Thu, 27 Oct 2022 16:37:22 +0000 https://birdwatchireland.ie/?p=181598 Minister Malcolm Noonan, Caroline McDonald, Anna Collins (Kildare Bat Group), Ricky Whelan (BirdWatch Ireland). Martina Malone, Virginia Teehan (Heritage Council) – photo: Heritage Council   BirdWatch Ireland were delighted to...

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Minister Malcolm Noonan, Caroline McDonald, Anna Collins (Kildare Bat Group), Ricky Whelan (BirdWatch Ireland). Martina Malone, Virginia Teehan (Heritage Council) – photo: Heritage Council

 

BirdWatch Ireland were delighted to be part of the award-winning team that hosted the “Bats About Rooks” event as part of Heritage Week 2022. Our own Ricky Whelan was on hand at the Royal College of Physicians Ireland last week to co-accept the Biodiversity Award.

The Awards honour those organisers who created the most engaging and inspiring events and projects for National Heritage Week 2022.

This Biodiversity award is presented to the event that successfully encouraged a greater appreciation of our natural world or a consideration of the variety of plant and animal life in the area, and/or conservation of native species and natural landscapes, and/or that considers a resilient and sustainable future for the environment.

Ricky was centrally involved in the BirdWatch Ireland project, which was carried out, in association with Kildare Bat Group and Laois Heritage Office. The team organised ‘Bats about Rooks’, a walk for all ages through the People’s Park in Portlaoise to hear all about its bird and bat life.

BirdWatch’s Ricky led the crow aspect of the event, introducing attendees to the ecology of our native crows, their intelligence, and their complex societies! With the Rooks happily at roost, Kildare Bat Group expert Anna Collins gave a talk about bats, leading the audience after dark along the River Triogue bank to observe bats foraging all around.

The event on Friday, August 19th started at the rookery at the Downs beside the Park and brought to life the antics of the Rooks and Jackdaws that call Portlaoise their home. Portlaoise not only has one of the fastest growing populations in Ireland, but it also has the largest known roost of rooks in the county.

Anna Collins spoke about the bat life of the Park, showing adults and children alike how to use bat detectors to make the echolocation calls of the bats audible to human ears, and helping everyone to adjust the frequency on the detectors to actually identify the different bat species flying above the group, purely by the frequency of their calls.

One of the highlights of the event was when the group was treated to the sight of two Daubenton’s bats, possibly a mother and young, flying together low over the park’s lake, feeding on the insect life.

Ricky Whelan from Bird Watch Ireland leading the Rook tour at the Bats and Rooks Walk in Portlaoise Town Park for Heritage Week. Photo: Alf Harvey

Ricky commented on winning the award.

“We are blessed to have such natural spectacles on our doorsteps and at the centre of our county town. To be able to see upwards of 4000 Rooks come to roost each winter evening is truly wonderful, it’s a privilege to observe their behaviours, politics and social structures right in the middle of town. Add the wonder of echolocating and foraging bats to the equation and you have a truly special event,” he said.

The National Heritage Awards honour those organisers who created the most engaging and inspiring events and projects for National Heritage Week 2022, as well as Ireland’s Heritage Hero. This year National Heritage Week celebrated the return of in-person events, while continuing to showcase digital projects, which proved popular over the last two years.

More than 1,800 events and projects took place around the country in August during National Heritage Week, as communities and individuals answered the Heritage Council’s invitation to explore this year’s themes of sustainable heritage and biodiversity.

Entrants were also encouraged to use environmentally friendly practices to ensure the sustainability of their events and to share heritage with everyone in the community, including those who are new to heritage, those who do not have local roots or those who have additional accessibility needs.

Award winners chosen from entries under six heritage categories received their awards from Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD.

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BirdWatch Ireland’s In Your Nature Podcast returns with a new season. https://birdwatchireland.ie/birdwatch-irelands-in-your-nature-podcast-returns-with-a-new-season/ Wed, 12 Oct 2022 09:15:52 +0000 https://birdwatchireland.ie/?p=164338 Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity Pippa Hackett speaks to podcast Co-host Ricky Whelan Now in its fifth season the popular nature themed podcast by BirdWatch Ireland returns...

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Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity Pippa Hackett speaks to podcast Co-host Ricky Whelan

Now in its fifth season the popular nature themed podcast by BirdWatch Ireland returns with a winter season of six new episodes. With the first episode of the new season Dropping Monday, October 10th, listeners can look forward to episodes on garden birds, spiders, the climate and nature crisis with Minister Pippa Hackett and much more.

Starting out during the early Covid lockdowns the In Your Nature podcast found a captive audience looking for an escape from covid stress and an insight into the natural world around them! Many people found nature and In Your Nature during this period and have stuck with it since. The bird/wildlife related chats between hosts Niall Hatch and Ricky Whelan are insightful, accessible and good humoured and any listener will come away with lots of new interesting facts and a new enthusiasm for the natural world. It is massively evident that hosts are hooked by birds and nature.

To date twenty-five episodes await with all manor of biodiversity topics discussed from light-hearted discussions about the lads favourite birds to more serious themes such as Bird Flu and its likely impacts on the avian world. The lads and their guests have looked into our bogs and even the reintroduction of epic species like the White-tailed Eagle to Irish shores. One rolling feature is “The Bird of the Week” which wraps up each episode and discusses a new bird species, this gives the listener a great and detailed insight into the subjects and is a useful aid in learning to familiarise yourself with a new bird each week!

Podcast Co-host Niall Hatch with Brian Burke talking Garden Birds for the new In Your Nature Season

The in Your Nature podcast is available here or wherever you get your podcasts and the new seasons episodes will go live each Monday for six weeks from Monday October 10th.

In Your Nature is produced in partnership with the Heritage Offices of Laois and Offaly County Councils, supported by the Heritage Council and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and is edited by Ciaran O’Connor.

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The Dublin Port Tern Colony: 2022 https://birdwatchireland.ie/the-dublin-port-tern-colony-2022/ Thu, 06 Oct 2022 13:58:22 +0000 https://birdwatchireland.ie/?p=164127 Summer has long since ‘terned’ to autumn, so it’s high time we give the low down on the Dublin Port 2022 season.   The season began as normal, with the...

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Summer has long since ‘terned’ to autumn, so it’s high time we give the low down on the Dublin Port 2022 season.  

The season began as normal, with the Dublin Bay Birds Project team setting sail to count all the tern nests in Dublin Port. Using this census we can figure out how many terns we have nesting each season. 

Tern nest census in Dublin Port (Victor Garland)

We counted over 500 Common and Arctic tern nests, with Common Terns the more, well, common of the two species.  

Common Tern (Brian Burke)
Tern nest – note the shells and crab claws used presumably as decorations (Brian Burke)

These birds nest on pontoons and mooring dolphins, man-made structures, in the midst of a busy port – a fact which never ceases to blow our Dublin Bay Birds Project minds!  

Terns nesting in the Dublin Port Shipping channel (Helen Boland)
Common Tern chick and egg (Brian Burke)

During our nest census visits, we once more made an effort to catch some of the breeding adults (under licence) and fit them with metal and colour rings.  

Ringing adult terns in Dublin Port (Helen Boland)

This year, 8 of the birds caught were already ringed and 7 of these hatched in Dublin Port. The oldest known Common Tern caught this season hatched in the port in 2006, making it 16 years old. Catching these adult birds is helping us gather information on their origins and how they are responding to changes in Dublin Port.  

Common Tern caught on the nest and originally colour ringed in 2019 as a chick in Dublin Port (Brian Burke)

The busyness of the nest census and adult ringing visits pales by comparison to the chick ringing visits. As happens every year, suddenly there were hundreds of tern chicks ready to be metal and colour ringed.  Among other things, this helps us work out how many chicks survive and leave the nesting structures, and therefore how well the colony did overall. 

Common-Tern-Fledgling-Grand-Canal-Dock-2020-Kevin-MaguireCommon Tern fledgling taking flight (Kevin Maguire)

Throughout the 2022 season, there was a highly pathogenic elephant in the room. Avian influenza was devastating seabird colonies in the UK and continental Europe and its spectre was never far from our minds. As such, in early July BirdWatch Ireland suspended its seabird ringing activities, which was followed by a nation-wide seabird ringing ban by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. So, we swapped our ringing gear for PPE and biosecurity measures, and monitored the colony for any indications of avian flu. Thankfully the Dublin Port terns escaped the virus this breeding season. 

Despite the cessation of ringing activities, we have a good idea how the colony fared.  

Rats and Otters were not a problem this year thanks to the awesome defences put in place by Jimmy Murray and his crew at Liffey & Port Marine Services, and organised by Dublin Port Company.  

An Otter spotted on a trail camera in Dublin Port in 2021, predating tern nests
Otter proofing a breeding tern platform in Dublin Port (Helen Boland)

Two of the platforms, the Tolka Pontoon and the Great South Wall Pontoon, look to have done quite well. 

The Tolka Pontoon got a fancy extension this season. This is probably one of the reasons it had the highest number of Common Terns nesting on it since it was launched in 2013!

The terns nesting on the extension laid their eggs later in the season than those nesting on the original Tolka Pontoon. These birds were likely less experienced individuals, and/or birds which had relocated from other breeding platforms or colonies.  

Tolka Pontoon with extension on the right (Helen Boland)

Food seems to have been a temporary issue on the Great South Wall Pontoon, with high numbers of low-quality fish found discarded.

Discarded fish (Brian Burke)

Adult terns will forage for high-quality prey (fish with high calorific value) such as sandeels and sprat if they’re available.

Common Tern chick with a Sandeel – a high quality prey species (Helen Boland)

They’ll only bring back low-quality prey such as flatfish, pipefish, and shrimp to their young if their preferred prey is scarce. The tern chicks can’t grow as quickly if eating this low-quality prey and indeed in some cases may not be able to eat it at all, hence the discarded food.  

Discarded fish species. Top – Pipefish. Left to right – Scorpionfish, flatfish, crustacean and flatfish (Brian Burke)

Despite this temporary blip however, it seems like good numbers of chicks survived and left the Great South Wall Pontoon, this season. 

Common Tern ‘PZT’ fledged from Dublin Port this season (Victor Garland)

Common Terns on the SPA Platform had to contend with Peregrine predation this season. Unfortunately, a lot of the nests were abandoned at the egg laying stage, and it’s thought that some of these adult birds may have re-laid on other breeding platforms in Dublin Port.  

The SPA Platform (Brian Burke)
Common Tern chasing a Peregrine (Brian Burke)

Arctic Terns nest on only one platform in Dublin Port. These birds also had to contend with avian predation at the beginning of the season, although their main nemesis was a pair of Hooded Crows nesting in an adjacent building.  

The CDL Dolphin (Helen Boland)
Arctic_Tern_82_Maiden_RockArctic Tern (Jan Rod)

However, like Rocky Balboa, the terns on the CDL Dolphin came back swinging and by mid-July there were ~30 chicks, including some Arctic Tern fledglings, and over 20 nests with eggs! The fledging of the Hooded Crow chicks, combined with a mid-season influx of Common Terns, (most of which were probably from the SPA Platform) helped the Arctic Terns recover. 

Tern chicks on the CDL Dolphin

This redistribution shows just how important it is to have multiple nesting site locations in Dublin Port, so that if something goes wrong on a platform such as the SPA, there are other nesting sites in close vicinity to which these birds can safely switch.  And it is through continued monitoring and collaboration that we can secure the future of the Dublin Port Tern Colony in this dynamic environment. 

A massive thanks to Dublin Port Company for funding and supporting this work and to Jimmy Murray and Co. of Liffey & Port Marine Services for their expertise and enthusiasm!

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