Sunday, 20 April 2014

FAME seabird talk & Dingle Peninsula Bird Report launch


An exciting event to launch the Dingle Peninsula Bird Report 2011-13, by Michael O' Clery has been organised by the BirdWatch Ireland Corca Dhuibhne (West Kerry) Branch. It will be held on Sunday 27th April in Dingle (see event poster below for details).

Highlights of the report include articles on Wilson's Phalarope in Ireland, Little Egrets in Kerry and the White-Tailed Sea Eagle Project.

In addition to the launch of the bird report, the branch is delighted to welcome Dr. Steve Newton (BirdWatch Ireland) to give a talk on seabirds. Dr Newton's talk will focus on the FAME project, entitled "Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment – safeguarding Irish seabirds in a rapidly changing ocean". Furthermore there will be a BBQ & live traditional music later that evening as part of the days festivities.

The afternoon start time offers plenty of scope for pre-event birding at local hot spots (Ventry Harbour, Baile an Reannaig, Dingle Harbour, Ferriters Cove and Riasc Wetland).



Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Winter Seabird Strandings: a request for records

Several seabird stranding events have occurred along the Atlantic coast of Europe over the past month. Numbers of dead or dying seabirds found on beaches have been greatest in Brittany, the Channel Islands & along the South West coast of Britain. The situation in Ireland seems less severe so far but a number of dead seabirds have been reported from coastal areas in Counties Donegal, Galway, Cork & Wexford.

The prolonged period of bad weather experienced this winter is believed to be the main driving factor behind these stranding events. A continuous run of strong low pressure systems has made feeding conditions at sea very difficult with some of the smaller species such as Guillemot, Razorbill & Puffin being hit hardest. Lack of food & exhaustion leads to them washing up on our shores either dead or in a weakened condition, displaying signs of malnutrition. Other seabirds such as Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Shag & Great Northern Diver have also been reported among the list of casualties.

In order to ascertain the full scale of this event, BirdWatch Ireland are asking members of the public to report any dead or dying seabirds they have found washed up along the coast so far this winter and over the coming weeks. 

As many of the following details as possible would be greatly appreciated:
(1) Date
(2) Location (with a Grid Reference if possible: www.gridreference.ie)
(3) Species involved
(4) Numbers involved
(5) Presence of any ringed birds (metal or coloured rings on the birds legs with details of codes if noted)

Please send details of any stranded seabirds you have encountered to the BirdWatch Ireland seabird team at seatrack@birdwatchireland.ie

If any live seabirds are found which may require rehabilitation then please consult the Irish Wildlife Matters website (www.irishwildlifematters.ie) for guidance and details of any listed vets or rehabilitators in your area which may be able to help. 


Guillemot. The long, pointed, all dark bill and generally brown tone to plumage helps separate them from Razorbill. Note the sunken appearance of the breast, a sign of malnutrition © Niall T. Keogh

Razorbill. The bill is shorter, blunter and often features a vertical white stripe unlike Guillemot. The plumage tends to be more solid black in tone © Cammy Harley

Juvenile Great Northern Diver. The fact that this bird is swimming in a hunched position with its legs raised out of the water would suggest it is in a weakened condition. The squinted eye is another indication of this © Aidan G. Kelly

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Spring Seabird Talks

Continuing on from a series of seabird talks which ran over the course of the winter, another set of presentations featuring the work being undertaken by BirdWatch Ireland & Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment (FAME) will be given at BirdWatch Ireland local branch indoor meetings throughout March & April.

Each event is free & all are welcome to attend. 

Co. Louth
  • "Oceanic Wonders & Migration on the Edge! - seawatching & the Seatrack project" - a talk by Niall Keogh.
  • The Spirit Store (upstairs), Dundalk, Monday 3rd March at 7:30pm
Co. Mayo
  • Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment – safeguarding Irish seabirds in a rapidly changing ocean” - a talk by Dr. Steve Newton.
  • Castlebar, Thursday 6th March (further details will be posted soon).
Co. Donegal
  • Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment – safeguarding Irish seabirds in a rapidly changing ocean” - a talk by Dr. Steve Newton.
  • County Museum, High Road, Letterkenny, Thursday 13th March at 8:00pm.
Co. Roscommon
  • Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment – safeguarding Irish seabirds in a rapidly changing ocean” - a talk by Dr. Steve Newton.
  • Hannon's Hotel, Roscommon Town, Thursday 20th March at 8:00pm.
Co. Laois
  • Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment – safeguarding Irish seabirds in a rapidly changing ocean” - a talk by Dr. Steve Newton.
  • Parish Centre, Portlaoise, Tuesday 25th March at 8:00pm.
Co. Tipperary
  • Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment – safeguarding Irish seabirds in a rapidly changing ocean” - a talk by Dr. Steve Newton.
  • Cabragh Wetlands, Thurles, Thursday 27th March at 8:00pm.
Co. Cork
  • Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment – safeguarding Irish seabirds in a rapidly changing ocean” - a talk by Dr. Steve Newton.
  • SMA Hall, Wilton, Cork City, Wednesday 2nd April at 8:00pm.
Co. Dublin
  • "Oceanic Wonders & Migration on the Edge! - seawatching & the Seatrack project" - a talk by Niall Keogh.
  • Botanic Gardens (main auditorium), Glasnevin, Thursday 17th April at 8:00pm. 
Co. Kerry
  • Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment – safeguarding Irish seabirds in a rapidly changing ocean” - a talk by Dr. Steve Newton.
  • The Díseart, Green Street, Dingle, Sunday 27th April at 2:30pm (talk will feature as part of all day festivities to celebrate the launch of the Dingle Peninsula Bird Report 2011-13. See here for more details).

Puffins © Clive Timmons

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Cetaceans on the Frontier 5

Following on from Cetaceans on the Frontier 4 which took place between January & February 2013, the next installment of our adventures, Cetaceans on the Frontier 5, will begin on Monday 20th January 2014 from on board the R.V. Celtic Explorer, spending two weeks at sea along the edge of the continental shelf off western Ireland.

This will be the fifth such multidisciplinary survey to be undertaken since 2009 with staff on board studying offshore bottlenose dolphins & other cetaceans, acoustics, plankton, jellyfish & micro plastics. A team from BirdWatch Ireland will also be on board to conduct visual surveys for seabirds to assess their distribution & abundance in Irish waters.

project blog has been created so those of you on dry land can keep up to speed with our progress. The blog will be updated daily with cetacean/seabird sightings & pics and feature guest blogs from different staff members from time to time relating to specific areas of their research.




Thursday, 14 November 2013

FAME Seabird talks on tour


A series of seabird talks featuring the work being undertaken by BirdWatch Ireland & Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment (FAME) will be held over the coming weeks during BirdWatch Ireland local branch indoor meetings.

Each event is free & all are welcome to attend. 


Co. Westmeath
  • Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment – safeguarding Irish seabirds in a rapidly changing ocean” - a talk by Dr. Steve Newton.
  • Bloomfield House Hotel, near Mullingar, Thursday 14th November 2013 at 8pm.
  • Full details on event page here

Co. Dublin
  • "Oceanic Wonders & Migration on the Edge! - seabird migration & the Seatrack project" - a talk by Niall Keogh.
  • Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire, Tuesday 3rd December 2013 at 8pm.
  • Details of South Dublin Branch events can be found here.

Co. Carlow
  • "Oceanic Wonders & Migration on the Edge! - seabird migration & the Seatrack project" - a talk by Niall Keogh.
  • Lord Bagenal Inn, Leighlinbridge, Thursday 12th December 2013 at 8pm.
  • Details of Carlow Branch events can be found here.

Co. Wicklow
  • Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment – safeguarding Irish seabirds in a rapidly changing ocean” - a talk by Dr. Steve Newton.
  • Glenview Hotel, near Delgany, Tuesday 21st January 2014 at 8pm.
  • Details of Wicklow Branch events can be found here.

Kittiwake © Laura Glenister

Friday, 1 November 2013

“MedFest” – Enjoying Ireland’s wintering seabirds

The Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment (FAME) & BirdWatch Ireland

Free Outdoor Event

Date: Saturday 9th November 2013
Time: 10:00am – 16:00pm




Location: Newtownsmith promenade, along the seafront between Dun Laoghaire & Sandycove. Look for our marquee on the green-space beside the seafront car park on Windsor Terrace (adjacent to the old baths).


About: Ireland is renowned for its seabirds. Our coastal cliffs & islands are home to significant populations of nesting Puffins, Manx Shearwaters, Storm Petrel & Gannets. On the East coast, rare breeding Roseate & Little Terns seek refuge at wardened sites such as Rockabill, Kilcoole & Baltray

But what do our seabirds do in winter? Where do they go when they leave the breeding colonies?

BirdWatch Ireland’s seabird experts will be on hand to answer all your questions & guide a series of short walks along the seafront promenade to view some of Ireland's wintering seabirds such as Razorbill, Shag & particularly, Mediterranean Gull.

Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus):
A rough translation of the scientific name would be ‘black-capped gull’ but given that we already have a Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) which actually has a brown head in the summer months then it can all become very confusing! Furthermore, the English name raises questions as to why we also have them in Ireland!

Okay, wind the clock back 20 years and yes, Mediterranean Gulls were generally seen in more southern parts of Europe – most of them breeding in southern France, Italy, Greece and around the Black Sea. In winter they would disperse over the Mediterranean Sea and out into the Iberian Atlantic. Then another ‘sub-population’ commenced breeding in the Low Countries and northern France. Instead of an expected southerly autumn migration, these gulls fly northwest to Ireland & the UK!

We can identify these birds in particular by the colour rings fitted to them as chicks by European ornithologists. The number of Mediterranean Gulls begin to build at staging sites such as Sandycove from July & can be seen there until they leave for their continental nesting sites in April. Their expansion has continued & Mediterranean Gulls now breed in small numbers in Ireland (since 1996), mostly in Wexford!

So if you'd like to see these beautiful gulls in the flesh, learn how to separate them from Black-headed Gull & have a go at reading some colour rings then be sure to head down to the Dun Laoghaire-Sandycove seafront promenade on Saturday 9th November. We'll also take a look at some other seabirds groups such as Cormorant & Shag, Guillemot & Razorbill and Herring Gull & Great Black-backed Gull.

We hope to meet you there,

Steve Newton & Niall Keogh (BirdWatch Ireland Seabird Team)

Adult winter Mediterranean Gull at Sandycove fitted with a white colour ring identifying it as a bird from a breeding colony in Belgium © Niall T. Keogh

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Seatrack Update: early November survey

The final Seatrack survey of the year takes place this weekend Sat 2nd/Sun 3rd November with a start time of 08:25am. Priority will be given to the Saturday so as to compliment other seawatching surveys being undertaken by FAME partners from headlands along the West coast of Europe also on that date.

A strong low pressure system moving through over the next few days is likely to create some good seawatching conditions on the West coast on Saturday, dissipating through Sunday.

If you would like to take part in upcoming Seatrack surveys then please get in touch with Niall Keogh at seatrack@birdwatchireland.ie

The series of fast tracking low pressure systems which moved East across the Atlantic last week brought with them a wide array of seabird species which were recorded along the West & South coasts showing that a few surprises can still be in store even at the end of the migration season. 30 Sooty Shearwaters, 19 Pomarine Skuas & 2 Grey Phalaropes were some of the highlights among a heavy passage of Gannets & Kittiwakes at The Bridges of Ross on 27th Oct (Aidan G. Kelly et al.) with the first reported Little Auk of the season & 7 Leach's Petrels nearby on Loop Head the next day (Shane Farrell). A Great Shearwater at sea, South of Ballycotton from the R.V. Celtic Explorer on 24th Oct was another notable record (Stephen McAvoy).


Great Skua, Celtic Sea, 12th Oct 2013 © Niall T. Keogh
Kittiwake, Celtic Sea, 15th Oct 2013 © Niall T. Keogh
Rough weather has caused a number of juvenile Storm Petrels to crash land on boats offshore, like this one which came aboard the R.V. Celtic Explorer (released successfully), Celtic Sea, 11th Oct 2013 © Gary Robinson