Outing Report

Booterstown Marsh & Sandymount - 7th October 2012.

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South Dublin members gather at Booterstown for the October outing. Picture by Denis Keane.

South Dublin members meet up at Booterstown DART Station car park (picture: Denis Keane)

Good birds and good weather are important ingredients for a successful branch outing and we enjoyed both in equal measure with clear skies, warm sunshine and plenty to see during our October outing to Booterstown and Sandymount Strand. By 10.30am nearly sixty people had gathered at Booterstown and were welcomed by Niall Hatch. Following some branch announcements we headed for the northbound platform in Booterstown DART station, where we were able to get good views over the marsh.

The tide was fully out exposing a considerable amount of mud with just the permanent body of water on the far side of the marsh and the Nutley Stream holding any water. An initial scan of the mud showed a good selection of waders and further off on the Rock Road side, some Teal.

A single male and two female Teal on Booterstown Marsh. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Teal on Booterstown Marsh, 7th October 2012 (picture: Colum Clarke)

Within a few minutes a lone Curlew Sandpiper was spotted with a small flock of Dunlin. In Ireland, Curlew Sandpipers often associate with Dunlin as they head south from their breeding grounds in Arctic Siberia to spend the winter in Africa at this time of year. This individual had plenty of miles to go yet and was not wasting any time refuelling for the long trip south as it fed non-stop. Among the more expected birds we got very good views of Woodpigeon, Blue Tit, Robin, Dunnock, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Moorhen, Teal, Grey Heron, Black-headed Gull and a single Greenshank but surprisingly we did not see any Snipe.

A Dunlin on Booterstown Marsh. Picture by Graham Prole.

Dunlin, Booterstown Marsh, 7th October 2012 (picture: Graham Prole)

In addition, there were at least four Little Egrets, a bird that has become a Booterstown regular in recent years. The first confirmed record of Little Egret in Ireland was found near Skibereen, Co. Cork in 1940 and it remained a rare vagrant in Ireland up to the mid 1980s after which it became annual and occurring in greater numbers. So, it was not a big surprise when breeding was confirmed at a location in Co. Cork in 1997. Nowadays it is unusual not to find at least one at Booterstown.

Little Egret, now a Booterstown regular. Picture by Patrick O'Grady.

Little Egret, Booterstown Marsh, 7th October 2012 (picture: Patrick O'Grady)

After an hour or so enjoying the birds on the marsh we made the shot hop across the footbridge to Sandymount Strand, assembling in front of the seawall. From there the entire sweep of Dublin Bay can be seen all the way from Howth across the entrance to the River Liffey, on to Irishtown, Merrion Gates, Williamstown, Blackrock and finally to the West Pier of Dun Laoghaire harbour.

Crossing the tracks from marsh to strand. Picture by Denis Keane.

South Dublin members scanning Sandymount Strand (picture: Denis Keane)

Almost immediately a group of thirteen swans, twelve adults and a young bird, were noticed near the tide line. I assumed they could only be Mute Swans, but soon learned they were Whooper Swans, a real turn up for the books. A quick check of those present revealed no one had ever seen Whoopers on Sandymount before! At this time of year Whooper Swans are moving south to their wintering grounds and this group could very likely end up on the North Slob just outside Wexford town, co-incidentally where next month's coach outing takes us. They remained on view for the entire time we were there although they subsequently moved out on the sea when they were disturbed by dogs.

The unique sight of Whooper Swans on Sandymount Strand with Little Egrets. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Whooper Swans and Little Egrets, Sandymount Strand, 7th October 2012 (picture: Colum Clarke)

All this time Pat Twomey was doing excellent work scanning the sea and soon turned up a large group of about 60 Great Crested Grebes as well as some Red-breasted Mergansers. Not content to rest on his laurels he continued scanning and soon brought everyone's attention to a group of terns including about ten Sandwich Terns and two Arctic Terns way off near the shore line.

Using telescopes we could pick out Sanderlings as they galloped to and fro along the shoreline. There were more Redshank, Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit and Little Egrets to be seen on the strand and a very vocal Pied Wagtail was present in and around the adjacent railway line.

Just as the outing was winding down, a Brent Goose fly-by. Picture by Denis Keane.

Brent Geese , Sandymount Strand, 7th October 2012 (picture: Denis Keane)

Considering that the strand can sometime hold thousands of gulls they were not so many on this occasion! Black-headed Gulls of various ages were most numerous both on the marsh and around Sandymount. Less obvious were Herring Gulls, although at one point we had very close views of an adult and a first-winter as they searched for food in pools nearby. A single Common Gull was seen, mostly in flight but also on the deck.

Some More Pictures

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Little Egret, watching him, watching us! Picture by Colum Clarke.

Some more pictures taken on the outing by Colum Clarke, Denis Keane, Patrick O'Grady and Graham Prole of birds and members.
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Dunnock. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Greenshank in flight. Picture by Denis Keane.
Whooper Swans. Picture by Patrick O'Grady.
On reflection, a Black-tailed Godwit. Picture by Graham Prole.
A beautiful day for an outing. Picture by Colum Clarke.
It's over there somewhere! Niall Hatch welcomes the group. Picture by Denis Keane.
Playing to the gallery. Picture by Colum Clarke.
Pat Twomey scanning the strand. Picture by Denis Keane.

A Kestrel was the only raptor we noted, however it did not stick around as it was doing its best to avoid a Jackdaw that was harassing it and it took off inland over the railway. With lunchtime approaching we were beginning to wind down and getting ready to depart when four Brent Geese flew past. A fitting end to our October outing.

Joe Hobbs

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