Outing Report

Turvey Parklands and Rogerstown - 12th January 2014.

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South Dublin members gather in the new car park at Turvey Parklands. Picture by Niall Hatch.

South Dublin members assemble at Turvey Parklands, 12th January 2014 (picture: Niall Hatch)

Rogerstown Estuary and Turvey Parklands near Donabate in north Dublin have always been a great location to birdwatch and nowadays even more so as a result of work undertaken by Fingal County Council and BirdWatch Ireland to develop the area for the public and the birds with new car parking facilities, public footpaths, wader scrapes, freshwater ponds, bird hides, planting of trees etc; all part of an Inner Estuary Biodiversity Plan. We got a chance to see all of this ourselves as our first branch outing of 2014 took us across Dublin to spend the morning birding around the parklands and estuary.

By 9am about 15 South Dublin members had gathered in the new car park off Turvey Avenue. The morning was cool with heavily overcast skies, a bracing wind and rain was forecast. So, there was no time to hang about and we set off after a greeting from Niall Hatch, who led the outing. The plan was to make our way through the parkland to the Turvey Hide and back, a total distance of about 2 kilometres, stopping along the way as need be.

Pat Twomey scanning the fields and estuary at Rogerstown. Picture by Eleanor Keane.

Scanning the fields at Rogerstown, 12th January 2014 (picture: Eleanor Keane)

The first birds encountered were 2 Reed Buntings feeding at the side of the path. They didn't seem too bothered with the attention allowing us good clear views. Our next stop was to scan a fresh water pool near the old allotments area, however we didn't stay long as the only birds on view were a couple of Mute Swans. As we proceeded some Goldfinches were noticed flying in and out of the hedgerows and a male Pheasant flew across a field of winter crops landing out of sight. As we searched for the Pheasant a Buzzard appeared more or less overhead, circling a few times before heading off. Niall Hatch saw a Sparrowhawk in flight, but it disappeared before we could all get a look. There were small flocks of Starlings and the usual assortment of crows around the fields.

Soon after we began to get our first distant views of the estuary and it looked like there were plenty of wildfowl and waders present. We noticed there were big numbers of birds in the air and it became obvious that a Buzzard was making everything jumpy. We couldn't say if it was the same bird as before or a different one but probably different as we saw at least three during the outing and there may well have been more. This bird eventually settled in a tree and we managed to get scopes on it allowing everyone to get a good look. Not so very long ago you would be hard pushed to find a Buzzard in Ireland but in recent years it has undergone an extraordinary change in it's status and it is now widespread over much of the eastern half of the island.

The entrance to the well appointed Turvey Hide, that gives excellent views over the Inner Estuary. Picture by Niall Hatch.

The Turvey Hide, Rogerstown (picture: Niall Hatch)

We headed on to the hide, getting there just as Brian Carruthers from the Fingal Branch was arriving to open it. The hide is situated on the south side of the estuary and the view from it is terrific. There was plenty for us to see including big numbers of Brent Geese, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal and Mallard. Brent Goose and Wigeon are winter visitors from Arctic Canada and Iceland respectively, whereas Shelduck, Teal and Mallard can be seen throughout the year. There were plenty of waders too, some very vocal Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Greenshank, Grey Plover and big flocks of Lapwing. Also seen was a Little Grebe and some Cormorants on the estuary, a Little Egret in the fields and plenty of Black-headed and Great Black-backed Gulls loafing about. Of these we were very fortunate that both male and female Teal, Redshank, Greenshank and Grey Plover came right under our noses in the hide, some staying for long periods.

We saw more Buzzards from the hide, including three together at one point. Niall Hatch picked up a Red Kite way off in the direction of Balleally. It was too far to be able to make out if it was fitted with wing tags but it was almost certainly one of the Red Kite Reintroduction Project birds that have been released near Donabate in the past few years. During this time, Pat Twomey was diligently scanning the fields and his efforts paid dividends when he found a stunning female Merlin sat on a post. She kindly obliged by staying put long enough for everyone to get good views and many were of the opinion that she was the bird of the day.

The Inner Estuary at Rogerstown with the rail viaduct and Lambay Island in the distance. Picture by Aidan G. Kelly.

The Inner Estuary at Rogerstown with Lambay Island in the distance (picture: Aidan G. Kelly)

By now it was getting closer to noon and the prospect of rain was ever more ominous, so we decided to call it a day and head back. On the way we added one more bird to our day's tally when a mixed flock of Fieldfare and Starling were spotted feeding in a field of cows. We estimated there must have been about 25 or even 30 Fieldfares, a great sight and a great way to finish off an excellent morning's birding.

Joe Hobbs

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