Monday, 22 February 2016

21st February Birdwatching Broadmeadow Estuary

On Sunday 21st February the Dublin Branch went birdwatching in Broadmeadow Estuary. Despite terrible weather, our guide Sean Fox showed us quite a few species of birds, including brent geese, teal, black-tailed godwit, stonechats, little egrets, cormorants, and of course the mute swans for which the estuary is famous. Highlight of the trip however, was the sight of a sparrowhawk hovering over the motorway in search of prey. Alas the weather was too wet for the kingfisher which Sean assured us was a regular visitor.

As the morning wore on the wind and rain eased off, and we were able to look through our binoculars and telescopes without getting fogged up. The sun fitfully came out and we had time to look at the swans at close quarters as they gathered around us looking for some bread to eat. There was no need to panic, however, as Sean informed us that the old story about swans being strong enough to break a  man's leg was nothing but a myth!

Photos courtesy of Brendan

Monday, 8 February 2016

2nd February - Green Drinks The Pine Marten

This month the IWT Dublin Branch heard Ruth Hanniffy, Ireland Projects Support Officer in the Vincent Trust give a talk on these fascinating and little known animals, that are making a bit of a comeback in Ireland, and may just be helping to control the grey squirrel!

Once common throughout the country, by the 20th century the pine marten had become extinct from the majority of Ireland, surviving only in a few isolated and fragmented populations mainly in the west. The main reasons for the species’ decline were related to hunting for its fur; loss of habitat through the destruction of forests; direct and indirect poisoning and persecution as a potential predator of livestock/game populations. As all of these factors declined, so has the pine marten recovered so that it has extended its range across most of Ireland. However, the most recent estimate is that there are only about 2,700 individuals on the island, so it is still Ireland's rarest mammal and will remain vulnerable for the foreseeable future.

The spread of the pine marten has coincided with the decline of the grey squirrel, which is now missing from large parts of its former range in the midlands, roughly the same areas where the pine marten is now expanding. It is thought that the pine marten may have a hand in this, by predating on the greys more than the reds, as the greys are heavier, and live more on the ground, making it harder for them to escape. At the moment however, this is only speculation, and further investigation is needed. Ruth will shortly be beginning studies on behalf of The Vincent Trust trying to get further evidence of what exactly is going on, by studying the interaction of both red and grey squirrels with this elusive creature. You can learn more about the pine marten at :