Outing Report

Lough Boora Parklands, Co. Offaly - 15th April 2012.

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Assembled group at Lough Boora. Picture by Eithne Cavanagh.

Lough Boora outing participants (picture: Eithne Cavanagh)

On a fine sunny day with a deceptively cool breeze (if you did not stand in the sun) 27 of us travelled to Lough Boora in Co. Offaly on Sunday 15th April.

The Grey Partridge Conservation Project is funded by the National Wildlife and Parks Service and managed by the North Eastern Region and it is supported by the Irish Grey Partridge Conservation Trust a registered charity dedicated to the conservation of Ireland's native game birds. We were met on arrival by Kieran Buckley who works for the NWPS.

A view of part of Lough Boora. Picture by Eithne Cavanagh.

A view of part of the Lough Boora Parklands (picture: Eithne Cavanagh)

The Grey Partridge has been in serious decline and on the Red Data List but with the introduction of managed habitats its numbers are showing a healthy improvement.

little egret
Grey Partridge feeding hopper, Lough Boora. Picture by Eithne Cavanagh.

Grey Partridge feeding hopper
(picture: Eithne Cavanagh)

Kieran is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide and he took us around the specially designated fields. These are designed to have vegetation at the edge, where the birds can nest or roost and a little way in there are cleverly disguised hoppers (right) full of wheat for the birds to feed from.

Being a game bird they have big clutches and it is thought that the clutch of 27 that was found in this area is an international record! They are monogamous and the lifespan is about 1 years. They are not great fliers and have developed a clever habit of coming out to feed at dusk so as to avoid predators. Because of this habit we thought we would be out of luck but just as we arrived back at the bus for lunch Kieran said 'there they are' and 2 were seen very near. They are a small rotund, short-tailed bird (dumpy comes to mind) and the males have an inverted dark horseshoe marking on their lower breast (see Colum Clarke's picture below). Fortunately everyone got a good look at these small round dumpy birds with chestnut on the head and flanks. they were very well camouflaged in the grass.

Part of the group looking for Grey Partridge at Lough Boora. Picture by Eithne Cavanagh.

Looking for Grey Partridge (picture: Eithne Cavanagh)

There were 19 goslings being minded by 7 adult feral geese. It was easy to see they were from different broods as the size varied. Regrettably possibly only one of these goslings will survive till adulthood as they are taken by crows, herons and the like. Most of us had a sighting of our first Swallow, Sand Martin and House Martin skimming over the lakes. Plenty of Skylarks singing their hearts out. Other birds have benefitted from the habitat management and in one area there were 44 pairs of Lapwings nesting. We were treated to a few of their enchanting displays.

It is a good spot for Birds of Prey. On the hoppers Kieran picked up an owl pellet: the owls find it a good dining table as the local mice come to feed on the wheat and are an easy dinner!

Grey Partridge at Lough Boora Parklands. Picture by Colum Clarke.

Success! Grey Partridge at Lough Boora Parklands 15th April 2012 (picture: Colum Clarke)

Boora Bog Parklands stretches over 2000 acres and there are cycle trails, designated walks, a Sculpture park covering 50 acres and of course fishing in the lakes. So far there is no coffee shop! A warm thank you to Kieran for showing us around and explaining the programme for the partridge. A thoroughly enjoyable day.

Aileen Prole

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