Thursday, December 18, 2008

July to December 2008

Talks, Walks and Interpretative Panels

During August we facilitated the design and erection of several interpretative bird panels around Carlingford and environs in collaboration with Greenore Port. We also had a poorly attended sea-watching outing to Clogherhead, though just as well because on that day, despite the fine weather, the birds did not cooperate!

In September we had our first talk of the Autumn season: Birds of America, given by Breffni Martin.
In October Damian Clarke from the Golden Eagle Trust returned to give a very well attended talk on Buzzards.
In November Oscar Merne gave a talk on his many trips to Africa. Later in the month we joined the Cavan Branch of Birdwatch Ireland for an outing along the Navvy Bank, the highlight of which was the flock of Twite at Soldiers Point.
During December we had two basic bird identification sessions with the Omeath Scouts Troop and on the 1st of that month we had our last talk of the year given by Anthony McGeehand from RSPB Northern Ireland. This talk was preceded by out second AGM.


The meeting started just after 7pm. Present were Derek Watters, (Treasurer), Gerry O'Neill (Secretary) and Members Peter Philips, Peter Rooney, and Breffni Martin (Chair). Sandra McKeever couldn't make it and Enda Flynn resigned due to work commitments. We resolved to investigate ways to improve the goose situation in the vicinity of Lurgangreen and to improve communication on activities within the group generally. The programme for nest year was also discussed. The meeting ended at 8pm in time for Anthony's talk.

Little Terns at Baltray

Members of the North Louth Branch volunteered for warden duty at Baltray beach during the nesting period in 2007 and 2008 and we covered the cost of insurance for the project. The cutting edge conservation effort, managed by the Louth Nature Trust, produced 40 odd successfully fledged Little Terns over the two years. Although Little Terns are not threatened globally, they are declining in Europe and Amber-listed by Birdwatch Ireland.

Sandra Mckeever, Chairperson of the Louth Nature Trust will give an illustrated talk on the project on the 5th January 2009 at the Spirit Store on Dundalk Docks at 8pm - entry is free and all are welcome!

Nest, Nestling and Juvenile Little Terns


Over the year we published several short articles in the local papers with the idea of getting people interested in birds and wildlife conservation in general. The first was on the disappearance of Peregrine Falcons from Slievenagolgh in the Cooley Mountains. This was followed with a piece on Barn Swallows and other hirundines, notably House Martins, who are particularly affected by changes housing and attitudes. Other initial pieces focused on the Song Thrushes practice of using stones to break snail shells and an episode of rescuing a brood of lost Shelduck ducklings.

Shelduck duckling

Then in August, normally a quiet month for birding before the migration storm of September and October, we got a vague but credible report of a woodpecker being seen in a garden in Dunleer. It didn't take long to figure out that this was probably not a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but more likely a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker, and as such suggested the possibility that Great Spotted Woodpeckers may be breeding in Ireland after an absence of at least several hundred years! To try to trigger more sightings we put this item in the paper. I got a few calls in the following month but nothing sure, then out of the blue came a call from someone with video footage, which sure enough turned out to be the real thing - except that it was an adult female! The presence of a female and juvenile bird in close proximity strongly suggests the possibility the birds were breeding, if confirmed this would be the first confirmed breeding in several hundred years!
Great Spotted Woodpecker at Dromin (Photo Gerry O'Neill)

Bird Race

Because 165 birds were seen by one well-known birder in Louth in 2007 (a good number for a small North-Eastern county), an informal race started up to see if the record could be beaten. As it turned out 2008 would prove to be an exceptional year for Louth birding. After a particularly good run in Spring with Lapland Bunting, Bewick's Swan and Glaucous Gull, the summer also proved exceptional, particularly for seabirds with Sooty Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, Sabine's Gull and Little Auk off shore. Then after news of the Great Spotted Woodpecker, very cooperative Osprey fish eagle turned up at Rockmarshal. Ospreys are increasingly regular in Louth as they migrate from Scotland and Cumbria to West Africa. It is possible that if a nesting platform were placed strategically around Lurgangreen or Ballymascanlon, they might be tempted to nest.

Osprey at Rockmarshal (Photo Peter Rooney)

Then when we thought the year was over a Grey Phalarope turned up at Balaggan Point.

Grey Phalarope (Photo Gerry O'Neill)

Grey Phalaropes are normally pelagic birds and only rarely come close to the shore so the opportunity to see one close up brought a good crowd.

Grey Phalarope Twitch - Balaggan Point

Then a week later a Spotted Sandpiper, an American vagrant and a very difficult bird to seperate from our Common Sandpiper in the field, turned up at Giles Quay - amazing!

Spotted Sandpiper (Photo Derek Watters)

This county record was found by Frankie Carroll and had to go to Killian Mullarney for confirmation on the id.

Finally to round off the year we had an irruption of Waxwings, probably triggered by a berry failure in Scandanavia bringing the county total for 2008 to 182 species, which is the highest ever recorded as far as we know.

Waxwings at Muirhevnamore, Dundalk (Photo Peter Philips)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Year Two - January to June 2008

We kicked off 2008 with a talk by Dick Coombes from Birdwatch Ireland. Dick gave a fascinating account of a few trips to Iceland covering cetaceans, birds and hot springs.

Humpback whale diving

Then in February Peter Phillips gave a review of rare and scarce birds recorded in County Louth during 2007., the best of which were probably Forster's Tern and Long-billed Dowitcher at Cruisetown strand and Dundalk Docks respectively. It was also noted that evening that a well known Louth birder had seen 165 species in Louth in 2007, an impressive number for a small north-eastern county.

Long-billed Dowitcher and Forster's Tern, American visitors

The same evening Brian Caffery from BWI gave a talk on the current Bird Atlas work. In a diversion from birds, the Spring season of talks finished with two talks by Don Hodgers in March and April on Odonata first, then butterflies and moths.

Black Guillemots

The Black Guillemot conservation project was completed in April with the drilling of eight nesting holes on the north wall of Oriel Port at Clogherhead thanks to a donation of 1300 Euros from Oriel Wind.

The work involved drilling into reinforced concrete while suspended on a crane - there's a lot of DIY in bird conservation!

Fortunately it was nice weather!

In May we had our annual Dawn Chorus outing, this time to Mellifont Abbey where we were greeted by a magnificant dawn at 5am. After a walk around the grounds we were received by the Monks and stayed in the refectory chatting, albiet slightly dazed after getting lost in the garden maze, and drinking tea until 7am.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Foundation - 2007

In January 2007 we had two further events:

- Talk on South African Birds and other wildlife by Billy Clarke, a noted wildlife photographer
- Outing with local school as part of CoastWatch Europe event (this was featured on rte news).

Then, in February, following our trial period, we submitted a proposal to Birdwatch Ireland for founding the branch.

A further event birding weekend at Carlingford was organised on February 10th led by Eric Dempsey and attracted over 60 participants.

Carlingford biodiversity

In February, Steve Newton from Birdwatch Ireland came and gave us an account of the situation with Irish seabirds, Steve's speciality.

In April our own Peter Phillips gave an inspiring talk on bird conservation in Mauritius, followed by the more mundane, but nevertheless important, topic of bird conservation in County Louth.

On the 15th May we received confirmation that the Branch could be formed. Founder members were Enda Flynn, Gerry O'Neill (Secretary), Derek Watters (Treasurer) and Breffni Martin (Chairman).

During the following months we ran the following events:

- Sunday 20th May, 5am, Spring Chorus Walk, Ravensdale Park

- Monday 28th May 8pm Spirit Store, Dundalk Docks - Eric Dempsey, "Here Today Gone Tomorrow" - A Talk about Extinctions and New Arrivals in Ireland

- Monday 11th June 8pm Spirit Store, Dundalk Docks - Don Hodgers, "Spring Trip Report, Alicante, Spain"

- Monday 3rd September 8pm Spirit Store Dundalk docks - John Lovatt, "Birds of County Cavan"

- Monday, 8th October, 8pm Spirit Store Dundalk Docks - illustrated talk by Kieran Buckley entitled "Irelands grey partridge - history, conservation and management."

Monday, 5th November, 8pm Spirit Store Dundalk Docks - illustrated talk by Sandra McKeever - "Little Tern Conservation at Baltray."

Little Terns

- Monday, 3rd December, 8pm Spirit Store - illustrated talk by Damian Clarke - "Raptor Reintroductions in Ireland"

This final talk of the year by Damian from the Golden Eagle Trust was one of our most popular with 64 people in attendance.

Black Guillemot Conservation

The refurbishment of the nesting holes for Black Guillemots at Giles Quay was supplemented by placing nesting boxes for the Black Guillemot Colony at Greenore Port.

Black Guillemots


During the summer Sandra McKeever and Peter Phillips joined the committee and the first AGM was held on the 3rd September 2007. Conservation projects covering geese at Lurgangreen, shellfish collection in Dundalk Bay, and Black Guillemots at Clogherhead, the third colony of this species in Louth.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Before The Beginning - 2006

This website is about the North Louth Branch of Birdwatch Ireland. Centred on Dundalk, North Louth is on the East coast of Ireland bordered by Carlingford Lough to the North and Clogherhead to the South. In encompasses Dundalk Bay, the single most significant area for overwintering birds on the east coast of Ireland hosting over 60,000 wildfowl and waders at peak population. Other important bird areas are Carlingford Lough, Ballymascanlon Bay, Lurgangreen and Clogherhead. Inland are several bogs, marshes, mountain areas, rivers, ponds and woodlands. In fact all important bird habitats are present with the exception of a large freshwater lake. Despite this the national bird protection NGO did not have a branch in the area and many localpaople are unaware of the tremendous wildlife resources at their doorstep. This is what led a group of local birders to propose to set up a branch to try to generate more interest locally. To test the idea a tread was started on Birdforum in 2005 and several events were organised during 2006, notably an outing and illustrated talk by Eric Dempsey in Carlingford that was covered by the Nationwide TV show (click on link to see clip).
Other events during 2006 included the following:

- Field trip, talk and slideshow by Eric Dempsey

– Demonstration of birdwatching for beginners at Quay wall, Dundalk Harbour

Dundalk Docks
- Talk by Eric Dempsey and bird photo competition in Carlingford
- Field outing by Eric Dempsey
- Repair and refurbishment of Black Guillemot nesting holes at Giles Quay

Black Guillemots parading at Giles Quay

– Dawn Chorus event at Park Hotel Omeath

– Talk by Oscar Merne on Galapagos trip

- Field outing at dusk to Mulahattin to look for Long-Eared Owls, Woodcock and Grasshoper warbler (we had all three at the same time!)

– Talk at Monksland National School on Owls
– Field trip to Lurgangreen

- Talk by Niall Hatch on work of BWI

– Talk by Lorraine Benson on Gambia in Dundalk


- Talk by Niall Hatch in Carlingford

Dundalk Bay from Rockmarshal