South Dublin Branch - Outing Report

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

Pollardstown Fen, Kildare - 19th May 2019.

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Some of the South Dublin members that were on the Polardstown Fen outing. Picture by Ronan Browne.

South Dublin Members at the Pollardstown Fen car park, 19th May 2019 (picture: Ronan Browne)

Pollardstown Fen has been a nature reserve since 1986 and I have often thought of visiting there but never quite made it - so 19th May was the day. It is only 3kms from Newbridge, Co. Kildare, and about twenty South Dublin members met near the Curragh Racecourse at 9:00 a.m. where a Skylark was singing and then we proceeded to the Fen, which has ample parking spaces.

There are several information boards around and about, beginning in the car park where it is explained that it is an area of alkaline peatland that is fed nutrients by calcium rich springs. There are numerous such springs around the Fen, which covers 220 hectares and has a looped boardwalk thus making it a safe walk for children, push chairs and wheelchairs. Pollardstown is a type of Fen now rare in Ireland and western Europe and is of international importance, having some rare types of vegetation and invertebrates. One such example of vegetation is the Saw Sedge which is almost unique to Ireland. There are also orchids and insect-eating plants.

General view of part of Pollardstown Fen including the looped boardwalk. Picture by Ronan Browne.

General view over part of Pollardstown Fen (picture: Ronan Browne)

After our customary group photograph our bird list began with Swifts and Swallows flying over the car park accompanied by a wonderful variety of bird songs, and so our walk began down the path leading to the boardwalk. This path was a passerine haven with ivy-clad trees and dense shrubs, and the different songs came loud and clear so we stood and listened for a good while to enable people to become familiar with these bird calls. In the middle distance was the clear repetitive call of the Song Thrush, whilst around us were the Wren, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Blackbird, Woodpigeon and a distant Pheasant.

Willow Warbler, summer visitor from Africa, at Pollardstown. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

Willow Warbler at Pollardstown, 19th May 2019 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)

As we began along the boardwalk there were even more Willow Warblers around us and we managed to get good long views of them as they perched near the tops of the Willows (hence their name I guess?). We took our time on this first section, often hearing a snatch of a Sedge Warbler but unable to see any, but some lucky folk caught a glimpse of a Kingfisher flying away from us.

Frank Doyle explained that some of the water fed into the nearby Grand Canal, which served the many mills in the area. It was Frank who was fortunate enough to see a Snipe some distance ahead of us, standing on the side of the boardwalk. After that I did hope to hear the drumming of a Snipe, a sound I haven’t heard for many years. Back in the 1990s, branch trips to Clonmacnoise almost always guaranteed this characteristic sound of summer. But I digress...

Male Reed Bunting strikes a typical pose. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

Reed Bunting, Pollardstown Fen, 19th May 2019 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)

A little further on we saw a handsome male Reed Bunting at the top of a Willow clearly showing his white neck-ring, black head and bib and white mustache. Everyone had time to have a good look at him and to listen to his gentle call. We were still hearing tantalizing bursts of a Sedge Warbler but no actual sighting!

But now we had a good view of the Hill of Allen and stood for a while drinking in this beauty and the atmosphere of the Fen, but at 11º or 12ºC the chill air began to get to us and we continued on our way. At this point a Kestrel was noted, hovering above the Fen and this was to be our only bird of prey to put on the list.

Sedge Warbler, more usually heard calling from deep in a reedbed than seen. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

Sedge Warbler, Pollardstown Fen, 19th May 2019 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)

We were accompanied by Swallows, Swifts, House Martins and a few Sand Martins, and a Meadow Pipit was perched in a straggly tree. Along the last stretch of the walk we had excellent views of a pair of Stonechats, a 'fly-past' by a Mistle Thrush, a brief burst of song from a Chiffchaff and at last a view of a Sedge Warbler hiding in a bush and found by Gustavo’s dogged determination. A Blue Tit was the final bird, flying into the back of a large tree-trunk, obviously feeding young since it was observed flying to and fro several times.

Some More Pictures

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Not a Tree Pipit, rather a Meadow Pipit in a straggly tree! Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

Some more pictures of birds taken on the day by Gustavo Zoladz and Ronan Browne.
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A Wren hanging on to its perch in the cool breeze. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.
Stonechat balancing act. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.
Kestrel hovering over Pollardstown. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.
Curious Mr. Fox comes to check us out. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.
Eleanor outlines a plan. Picture by Ronan Browne.
South Dublin members at Polardstown Fen. Picture by Ronan Browne.

For many in the group it was either the first time to Pollardstown or the first time in many years and were only now making a return visit. It was a pity that the morning was rather cool and this must have kept down the number of insects and birds, but we did have a very pleasant couple of hours with very good views and sounds of birds. Pollardstown is certainly a place worth re-visiting and I am delighted to have become acquainted with it at long last. Many thanks to our able and friendly leaders- Eleanor, Frank and Gustavo.

Ruth Mann

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