Outing Report

Cabinteely Park , Co. Dublin - 19th May 2013.

National Dawn Chorus Day

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Some of the South Dublin members in Cabinteely Park for Dawn Chorus Day. Picture by Niall Hatch.

The early bird catches the worm! Cabinteely Park, 19th May 2013. (picture: Niall Hatch)

It was a perfect morning for the Dawn Chorus, no wind, no rain, not even too cold as has been the case on other years. The number of people, about 85 on this occasion, who get out of bed very early for this 4am event continues to astonish and delight those who have been doing it for many years now.

Niall Hatch led the walk and we in South Dublin Branch are so lucky to have him as a member and very willing to lead our events whenever he can. Niall began by explaining the reason for all the early morning bird song, who would be singing and in what order. Bird song is about claiming territory, holding it, and then impressing females that they are a good mating prospect and will protect them and their chicks. Males only, do most of the singing but an important exception is the Robin, where both sing and hold separate territories outside of the breeding season. Blackbirds are always first up, and their fluty melodic song was heard from all around us. Robins soon followed, these two species being the birds with the relatively largest eyes so they can see at first light, feel safe from predators and come out to hold their territory on the new day.

Proceeding around Cabinteely Park on Dawn Chorus Day 2013. Picture by Eleanor Keane.

Cabinteely Park, 19th May 2013 (picture: Eleanor Keane)

We moved in to the park and around by Cabinteely House, where a Mistle Thrush had a brief input, and some small bats flew about more than likely Pipistrelle. Then a Wren burst in to song, with their familiar explosive gusto, and soon we could hear Wrens all about us, but Blackbird and Robin were still hanging in there. A Song Thrush joined in, with its varied, repetitive, glorious singing. On cue about half an hour into the dawn chorus a Blue Tit got in on the act, with his tsee tsee tsu, followed by a wheezy sound.

Now it was getting more complex, so more difficult to identify the competing individuals but Niall kept us on track by reminding us of who was who. At this stage we had identified quite a few birds but had only had a silhouette sighting of a Blackbird, illustrating how useful bird song is in identifying birds without seeing them.

Niall Hatch addressing the group at the pond. Picture by Eleanor Keane.

Down by the pond, 19th May 2013. (picture: Eleanor Keane)

As we walked further, Goldcrest were on song and a little further on we head Treecreeper clearly calling. By now we had some raucous Rooks and cooing Woodpigeons, joining in and the volume intensified. Walking through a wooded path we saw a Grey Heron take flight silently, and a flock of Herring Gulls feeding in a large green area. Chaffinch were heard but none seen just yet, and as we made our way toward the pond some Rooks and Herring Gull were flying overhead.

A lone Mute Swan sat in the lake on what looked like a mirror, so still was the air. There were a few Mallard hiding in the reeds also a Moorhen and Little Grebe. None of them sang! As its name suggests the Mute Swan does not sing, just a warning hiss if you get too close. As we went further in to the woodland, Great Tit sang their familiar 'Teacher-Teacher' song or as Niall prefers their 'squeaky bicycle pump' imitation and Chaffinch singing their very distinctive song, were now visible close to us. We also heard the timid but distinctive Bullfinch two note 'pipe type' call.

Whatever can they be looking at? Picture by Eleanor Keane.

Cabinteely Park, 19th May 2013. (picture: Eleanor Keane)

We heard Blackcap giving a terrific, Pavarotti like song burst but did not see any. The high speed of their delivery and abrupt end is the clue to their identity. Woodpigeon, Jackdaws and Mistle Thrush were now feeding on the lawn, and as it was after 6 am, birds were beginning to sing less, and concentrate more on feeding, breakfast seemed like a good idea to all.

A big thank you to Niall for leading a great Dawn Chorus and to Dun Laoghaire - Rathdown County Council Parks Department for access to the Park for the occasion.

Eleanor Keane

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