Booterstown Marsh - 10th February 2019.
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South Dublin Members at Booterstown DART car park, 10th February 2019 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)
A clear blue sky and sunshine witnessed from inside the window promised a enjoyable morning's bird watching. The reality was somewhat less pleasant as a check on the outside temperature revealed just 2°C, feeling more like -2°C was the comment and a relentless icy northwesterly wind made sure of that! These conditions did not deter about 50 keen South Dublin members from coming along to see and hear about our winter waders at Booterstown.
Booterstown Marsh is situated between the busy Rock Road and the costal railway line, about five kilometres from Dublin city centre. It is a Nature Reserve and Bird Sanctuary covering an area of four hectares and is administered by An Taisce. It is connected to the sea at Williamstown Lagoon by a sluice gate, which floods the marsh with each high tide. Consequently the marsh consists of areas of brackish and salt water as well as some saltmarsh and plenty of mud, all ideal habitat for wildfowl, winter waders, herons etc. It is surrounded on two sides by hedgerow and some mature trees, which provide us with small bird territory.
Greenshank at Booterstown Marsh, 10th February 2019 (picture: Bill Rea)
Niall Hatch led the group. We went to the DART station platform and pedestrian bridge which affords a superb viewing platform over the marsh and Sandymount Strand. On the marsh were large flocks of roosting Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit and a group of up to 20 Greenshank. Elsewhere a smaller group consisting mainly of Knot with some Dunlin were busy feeding, providing us with the opportunity to compare and contrast these two closely related Calidris waders. Black-tailed Godwit that were feeding below us took a few short flights displaying the the black tail that gives them their name.
A few Teal were on the marsh and on the largest 'island' were two Grey Heron and two Little Egret. Some Common Snipe were picked out among and along the edges of the reeds but not everyone managed to get on them, even using telescopes. Thankfully several of them obliged us by stepping out in the open giving wonderful views to all present. In their stillness, with distinctive dark head stripes and very long bill, they resemble a wood carving. As usual there were Black-headed Gulls around the marsh and a Common Gull out on the strand.
Common Snipe, Booterstown Marsh, 10th February 2019 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)
We next turned our attention in the opposite direction to scan across Sandymount Strand and Dublin Bay. The bay is rather shallow which explains the extensive areas of mud exposed at low water, expertly exploited by thousands of wading birds.
Here we saw some Oystercatchers and further out on the water, Great Crested Grebes, a species that winter in huge numbers on Dublin Bay. However, the combination of a far distant tideline and strong offshore wind meant very little was seen about the strand.
Oystercatcher, Sandymount Strand, 10th February 2019 (picture: Bill Rea)
It was not a day for lots of song birds, but we did manage to see and hear some including a Dunnock perched on a bramble. Gustavo, who has a track record of finding Kingfishers at Bootertown, found and photographed one, but it was long before anyone else had arrived so it was just him that was able to enjoy it. As we began to drift away suffering from the effects of the biting wind a handful of were rewarded as a family group of five calling Brent Geese dropping in to the marsh.
Knot, Booterstown Marsh, 10th February 2019 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)
One of the Knot we observed was carrying a coloured ring and a plastic flag on its left leg. Gustavo photographed the bird and sent it to Niall, who checked with his BirdWatch Ireland colleagues if they could shed any light on its history.
It turned out that this Knot was first ringed by a BirdWatch Ireland staff member at Booterstown Marsh on 30th January 2014 when an ordinary metal ring was fitted. It was not seen again until 30th March 2018 when caught and controlled by ringers at Altcar on Merseyside, north-west England and this was when the colour ring and the plastic flag were fitted. Our sighting at Booterstown is the first report of the bird since then. Nobody yet knows yet where it spends the summer, probably Greenland or Arctic Canada, so hopefully someone will spot it on the breeding grounds at some point in the future and we will learn more about that aspect of its life.
Some More Pictures
Despite the cold, the light was wonderful and gave really clear views of all that was to be seen making it a super morning's birdwatching. It is encouraging to see so many regular members and some new ones as well turning up. BirdWatch Ireland needs your continued support to maintain its conservation and habitat protective work.