South Dublin Branch - Outing Report

Bluethroat - Ballycotton, Cork (photo: Paul & Andrea Kelly)

Killiney Hill, Co. Dublin - 14th May 2017

National Dawn Chorus Day

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The dawn chorus patrol reaches the summit of Killiney Hill. Picture by Eleanor Keane.

South Dublin Members on Killiney Hill, 14th May 2017 (picture: Eleanor Keane)

This year we met at 04:00 hours as always, to hear the opening salvo. Niall Hatch led the way for the 35 participants, providing information and interesting titbits about each bird as they joined in the chorus. It was a dark morning, (no street lights on the hill), also dry, still and cool perfect for birdsong. Killiney Hill has a rich and varied habitat for songbirds so there is quite a variety present and breeding in its environs.

As we awaited the first songster, large groups of ghostly gulls flew silently above us, heading inland to the worm rich fields we presumed. Blackbird is usually first up but this year it was a Song Thrush. He sang long and loud and there were several of them in the park. Then we had Robin and distant Rooks followed by Blackbirds. They really made their presence felt and soon we were surrounded by their flutelike calls, and their occasional alarm calls.

Looking southwest towards the Wicklow Mountains from Killiney Hill by moonlight. Picture by Nicola Dunphy

Waiting on dawn to break, 14th May 2017 (picture: Nicola Dunphy).

Some distant jackdaws were conversing and next heard was the inimitable Wren with its strident, rapid fire, and surprisingly loud performance. What a tour de force from our second smallest bird. The smallest bird in Ireland, Goldcrest who weighs less than the five grams of a 20 cent coin, now joined in from the treetops. Its song is very high pitched and can be difficult to pick out as the chorus grows. We were following the path towards Victoria Gate and were deeper in woodland. Woodpigeon were now cooing in surround sound, there are many in the park. Blackcap joined in surprisingly early as did Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler as we made our way up the hill towards the Obelisk.

A Dunnock sang from the Gorse which clothes the hill in a golden blanket each spring. Sadly we came on the remains of a Mistle Thrush which had been nesting in the area of the tearooms. Later we looked at the large Beech tree where there had also been a failed Mistle Thrush nest. We were at the Obelisk for sunrise which began at 05:29 as expected, a wonderful sight, something everyone should witness at least once. Immediately it provided some heat, a welcome development as there was now a chill southerly wind making us long for a sheltered spot. Soon we went back into the woods where a Jay did a fast flypast and once more the birdsong volume increased. All the Tits were now joining in and we also heard some Treecreeper calling, though we failed to see any.

View over DART railway line, Sorrento Point, Dalkey Island, The Muglins and Dublin Bay from Killiney Hill. Picture by Nicola Dunphy.

Looking north from Killiney Hill, 05:29, 14th May 2017 (picture: Nicola Dunphy)

Just below the Obelisk, in the woods there is an amazing stand of mature beech trees, dressed in lime green for spring, and they provide dappled shade in summer. It is one of my favourite places on Killiney Hill. Here eagle eyed Lucy Desierdo spotted a Red Squirrel high up in an Elm tree having some seeds for breakfast. All present were delighted to get such good views of this endangered species. They were reintroduced into the area about five years ago and a number of them dispersed. Some remained and are breeding here.

Some had seen a fox on the way up to the hill, not a surprise as it is a noted area of residence for suburban foxes. Earlier at the Obilisk area Niall had recognoised the squeaky call of a Pygmy Shrew. As we made our way down a Chaffinch finally added its voice to the choir. We then went down the 'Green Road' overlooking the Vico Road … it was much warmer there in the direct sun light. Along here there is a granite rock on which a carved impression of an eagles head rests. There is an interesting article in summer 2017 Wings about its origins.

Back in the car park following our 2017 Dawn Chorus walk. Picture by Eleanor Keane.

Killiney Hill car park, 14th May 2017 (picture: Eleanor Keane)

As we made our way back to the car park it was now approximately 06:30 hours and many of us were heading back to breakfast and possibly bed for a few hours. As if to finish what we began on, a Song Thrush was in fine voice once more. We parted company to the sound of his brilliant and complicated song. A big thank you to all for getting out of bed at such an early hour, it would have been a lonely event if none of you came along.

Eleanor Keane

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