Outing Report

Shanganagh Cliffs, Co. Dublin - 12th June 2016.

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South Dublin members assemble on Shanganagh Beach to observe the Sand Martin colony. Picture by Frank Doyle.

South Dublin Members on Shanganagh Beach, 12th June 2016 (picture: Frank Doyle)

A total of fifteen keen South Dublin members assembled at Shankill Dart Station for our last outing of the season. The aim is to check the on-going viability and welfare of the colony of Sand Martins, which annually inhabits the Shanganagh Cliffs, near Shankill. In particular, the previous winter had brought many periods of heavy rain, adding to the constant erosion of their vulnerable nesting habitat by wind and wave.

On the way to the beach, a confiding Blackcap entertained us with excellent close-up views and a full rendering of its beautiful song. We also had Meadow Pipits and a strong show of House Sparrows, which have become a rather scarce sighting in recent times. As we continued to the Sand Martin colony we noted a single Stonechat and Swallow as well as a passing Dunnock.

Blackcap in song on Corbawn Lane. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

Blackcap, Corbawn Lane, 12th June 2016 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)

As we reached the edge of the cliffs Sand Martins were showing in increasing numbers busily hunting after flying insects. A short walk along the stony shore brought us near to the specific areas of the sandy cliff-face favoured by these burrowing birds.

There are two locations frequented by Sand Martins at Shanganagh and each has many nesting holes closely grouped in the fine damp sand. As we watched, the birds were extremely busy on their foraging trips, constantly entering and exiting the nest holes. Occasionally, a Martin would pause briefly at the mouth of the burrow, giving a very short opportunity to us birders to examine the dull brown plumage, the clear brown breast-band and white under-side. These harassed parents had little time for idle posing!

A busy Sand Martin foraging for insects on Shanganagh Beach. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

Sand Martin, Shanganagh Beach, 12th June 2016 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)

In some cases the front of the burrow was crowded with hungry chicks ready to open wide for another feed of nourishing insects. It was reassuring to note the number of nests constantly attended to. On the whole, the Sand Martin colony at Shanganagh appeared strong and viable during our brief visit. Apart from the groups of chicks observed, there was constant removal of fecal sacs from other burrows which would indicate a steady rate of successful hatching. All in all, things seem to be going well for the Sand Martins at Shanganagh. Hopefully that will continue for many seasons to come.

Some More Pictures

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Cormorant drying its wings at Shanganagh. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

Some more pictures taken on the day by Gustavo Zoladz.
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Stonechat on a fence. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.
Sand Martin sunny side up.... Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.
... and over easy. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

Another short walk brought us to the steps leading to Corbawn Lane. One solitary Sandwich Tern, several Cormorants and some Great Black-backed Gulls added themselves to a short day list. In spite of the misty weather, it was a very enjoyable outing, led by Eleanor Keane, our highly esteemed honorary secretary and beautifully photographed by ever–obliging Gustavo Zoladz.

Frank Doyle

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