Outing Report

Cruagh Wood, Co. Dublin - 6th April 2014.

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South Dublin members assemble at Coillte's Cruagh Wood. Picture by Niall Hatch.

South Dublin Members at Cruagh Wood, Co. Dublin. 6th April 2014 (picture: Niall Hatch)

Saturday night's weather forecast had predicted rain, but Sunday morning skies were bright enough to tease a group of about 20 South Dublin members into travelling to Cruagh Wood, on the south side of Dublin city above Rathfarnham, in search of various woodland dwellers including Crossbill, and the small and quite elusive Goldcrest.

As we gathered in the car park at the arranged meeting time of 10:30 a misty rain had begun to fall. Things started off well however, as almost immediately a Mistle Thrush was first heard and then spotted sitting atop a large conifer in a field across the road from the car park. As Stephen McAvoy pointed out, one of the ways of identifying this particular species is by the location in which you find it. If it's a thrush and it's singing from the top branches of a tree, likely it's a Mistle Thrush.

It's a thrush at the top of a tree, therefore must be a Mistle Thrush! Picture by Stephen McAvoy.

Mistle Thrush, Cruagh Wood, 6th April 2014 (picture: Stephen McAvoy)

Niall Hatch stayed behind in the car park to keep a watchful eye on the cars, a sad reflection of the times we live in, while the rest of the group headed off for what would hopefully be a productive morning spotting woodland birds.

There are a number of marked trails in Cruagh Wood, including our chosen route for the day, the Sli na Slainte or 'path to health' walk. This is an approximately 4km loop of forest road, which provides a fairly gentle walk with some good views of Dublin City and the surrounding mountains. The Dublin Mountains Way passes through here and there is an access route up to the open mountain top. You can also access Tibradden (Pine) Forest and Massy's Wood from Cruagh Wood and eventually the Wicklow Way.

South Dublin members on the Sli na Slainte, Cruagh Wood. Picture by Stephen McAvoy.

Tackling the hill, 6th April 2014. (picture: Stephen McAvoy)

Starting from the barrier beside the car park we followed the forest road in a clockwise direction through a stand of mature larch trees. A number of different species could be heard calling from the undergrowth including Chaffinch, Siskin, Coal Tit and the distinctive 'teacher, teacher' song of Great Tit. A Chaffinch was seen briefly as it flew over our heads from one side of the road to the other before disappearing into the trees. Whatever chance we had of finding it again in the thick woodland cover was made more difficult by the persistent drizzle, which caused bins and scopes to fog up.

Moving further along the path beyond the 1km marker, the woodland cover began to change from Larch to Sitka Spruce. Around us we could hear a number of Robins singing loudly; staking their claims to their respective territories. Unlike suburban Robins, which have become used to interacting closely with their human neighbours, the Robins here were far more reticent about making themselves visible to the group although brief glimpses were had. As we rounded a bend approaching the 2 km mark we had views over to our left of Tibradden Mountain and beyond to Fairy Castle. However, the rain had failed to lift and we could also see sheets of mist being blown through the valley immediately in front of us.

Cruagh Wood, one of the many Coillte maintained forest parks. Picture by Niall Hatch.

Cruagh Wood, Co. Dublin. (picture: Niall Hatch)

Along the way we heard, but again didn't manage to get any sightings of Wren and Goldcrest. Continuing on towards the highest point on the walk, to our right we had good views of Dublin city from Sandymount and the Aviva Stadium on the south side, to the Papal Cross and right around the bay towards Howth on the north side. From here we gradually descended through Spruce and then Larch forest back to the car park. Right at the end we caught a glimpse of something yellow, almost like a Canary, flying at speed round the eve of a house across the road from the car park, but it didn't reappear so we never got to identify it.

Unfortunately very few sightings were had that morning, but finding woodland birds is perhaps one of the more difficult aspects of birding considering the habitat they live in, which provides plenty of cover, and that most, if not all, of them are quite small; what birders often refer to as the LBJ or little brown jobs. Add a bit of bad weather into the mix and you have a task, but you just have to be philosophical about these things and remember there's always tomorrow!

Jon Field

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