Booterstown Marsh - 8th January 2017.
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South Dublin Members at Booterstown, 8th January 2017 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)
Big things can come in small packages and so it seems does Booterstown Marsh. Despite covering a mere ten acres, it can provide some excellent birding, and did just that on our first outing of 2017. The weather was perfect; partly cloudy, barely a breeze blowing and a mild and balmy twelve degrees, and all that on a falling tide. These conditions attracted about 50 South Dublin members to Booterstown DART station car park for 10:30 and were welcomed by Branch Chairman Frank Doyle and Hon. Treasurer Niall Hatch.
They explained that the plan was to take advantage of the main footbridge across the tracks that links the up and down platforms. From here, excellent views over the marsh and Sandymount Strand can be had. Later we would head back along the Rock Road to a grassy area at the northern end of the marsh. So, we moved off.
Kingfisher, Booterstown Marsh, 8th January 2017 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)
However, just at the point when most had departed the car park to head in to the station Gustavo shouted out 'Kingfisher'. This beautiful bird is the Holy Grail of South Dublin outings. Unfortunately, most of the group were out of earshot when the call came but a lucky dozen were treated to prolonged and close views of the bird as it sat motionless on a nearby branch. All that the rest of the group managed to see from the footbridge was it flying rapidly away.
About 20 Brent Geese of the pale-bellied form hrota were on the marsh. This subspecies breeds in two distinct populations in the Canadian Arctic. Those that are found from Melville Island eastwards winter almost exclusively in Ireland. They are a welcome and regular feature of the Dublin skyline, fields, estuaries and shorelines throughout the winter months arriving from about late September or early October. The only other wildfowl species observed were good numbers of Teal, our smallest duck.
Brent Geese, Booterstown Marsh, 8th January 2017 (picture: Bill Rea)
Waders present were Oystercatcher, Redshank, Greenshank, Snipe and Black and Bar-tailed Godwits. Booterstown normally holds good numbers of Black-tailed Godwit but not so many Bar-tailed. Today numbers were low with about seven Black-tailed and just a solitary Bar-tailed Godwit observed.
Although there is some overlap, generally speaking Black-tailed Godwits prefer finer, more muddy, silty substrates, which are invariably found at the upper reaches of tidal estuaries or along flowing channels in mudflats. As a rule of thumb you could say where there is more of a fresh water influence. On the other hand Bar-tailed Godwits spend most of the time near the outer edge of the shoreline, especially where the substrate is coarser and more sandy. If it’s a pure sandy shore, like in the west of Ireland, you can be guaranteed it’ll be Bar-tailed Godwits that you find. These preferences must have something to do with dietary requirements as the respective bills are much the same?
Teal, Booterstown Marsh, 8th January 2017 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)
Looking in the other direction over Sandymount Strand and Dublin Bay was a little frustrating as the tide was well out and the majority of birds were far off at the water's edge. Even when using a scope some identifications were part guess work, although we did pin down a Curlew and a Common Gull near each other in the middle distance and there were plenty of Black-headed Gulls on view.
At this point we decided to depart our vantage point on the footbridge high over Booterstown and head for a grassy viewing area at the north end of the marsh just off the Rock Road. On the way we stopped from time to time to scan the marsh and noticed some Snipe bolting from the reeds, flying a short distance, then diving in to cover again.
Little Egret, Booterstown Marsh, 8th January 2017 (picture: Brian Turner)
Now closer to the level of the marsh we enjoyed complementary views of the same species seen earlier, especially of Snipe that decided they could remain out in the open for longer than usual. In addition, a Little Egret flew in and spent some time fishing along the Nutley Stream side. A combination of the good light and calm conditions meant it's reflection could be clearly seen in the water as it stalked its prey. Elsewhere a few Moorhen crept in to view. The majority of gulls present were Black-headed and they were very active flying back and forth all the while creating quite a racket.
Disappointedly no raptors were observed and passerines were in short supply. Best was probably a male Blackcap at the car park end. Others seen in various places were Goldcrest, Dunnock, various Tits including Long-tailed, Blackbird, Linnet and Goldfinch.
Some More Pictures
As lunch time was approaching we decided to call it a day and we headed back to the car park. On arrival we enjoyed the fantastic spectacle of a a skein of Brent Geese flying low over our heads on their way out on to Sandymount Strand. With their calls ringing in our ears we all headed home.