South Dublin Branch - Outing Report

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

Booterstown Marsh - 12th January 2020.

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Some of the South Dublin members taking part in the January outing to Booterstown. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

South Dublin Members in Booterstown DART Station car park, 12th January 2020 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)

A fine calm morning drew up to 50 participants to Booterstown Marsh for our first branch outing of 2020. Sean Hogan, a South Dublin branch member, (and linked to An Taisce, who administer the marsh) set out his stall at the end of Booterstown's railway platform to lead some of the group, while the rest of us climbed the bridge that links the north and south bound tracks for a balcony view of the marsh and Sandymount Strand.

An excellent portrait of a winter plumaged Black-tailed Godwit at Booterstown Marsh. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

Black-tailed Godwit, Booterstown Marsh, 12th January 2020 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)

A very high-tide had pushed the waders to the marsh edges and two grassy islands at the northern end of the marsh, but the bright sunshine enabled excellent viewing. Godwits and Redshanks were dominant among the large flocks, with plenty of wing flapping and tail-wagging to help identify the species.

The Black-tailed Godwits, which favour the rich mudflats in the marsh, are best distinguished from their Bar-tailed cousins in winter plumage by their plain rather than streaked back and wings and in flight by striking wing-bars and black tail, compared to the more uniform wing and barred tail of Bar-tailed Godwit.

Some of the many Knot we saw at Booterstown. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

Knot, Booterstown Marsh, 12th January 2020 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)

Most of the birds were having one-legged naps but a Knot busied itself probing along the edges. Some Little Egrets, Grey Herons and Greenshank occupied the higher ground, while a pair of Snipe paused on the fringe of the reeds. Gulls were represented in the marsh mainly by the Black-headed variety.

Dunlin is our most common small winter shorebird and many huddled among the taller waders. A few pairs of its subspecies schinzii breed in northwest counties but the Booterstown birds are most likely the nominate form alpina, which is a winter visitor from Scandinavia and northwest Siberia. A third subspecies, arctica visits Ireland while on passage from its breeding grounds in Greenland to winter in Africa. These forms can be told apart but its not easy or straightforward.

A sleepy Black-tailed Godwit and two preening Little Egrets on one of Botterstown's islands. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

Little Egret and Black-tailed Godwit, Booterstown Marsh, 12th January 2020 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)

The high vantage point of the railway bridge gave excellent views of thousands of Oystercatchers, Bar-tailed Godwits and Dunlin wheeling over Sandymount Strand, sometimes alighting on the spit of 'flat dune' near Merrion Gates. Out on the sea, over one hundred Great Crested Grebes were dotted around. Each year, Dublin Bay accommodates a huge flock of this grebe that has a preference for sheltered bays and estuaries in winter that provide them plenty of feeding opportunities. The birds we saw are most likely a mixture of Irish breeding birds and winter visitors from the Continent.

We next moved along the Rock Road to the north end of the marsh, where closer views were available, especially of Teal displaying their marvelous plumage in the sunlight.

Some More Pictures

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A male Teal in the bright sunlight. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

Some more pictures of birds taken on the day by Gustavo Zoladz and Ronan Browne.
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Some of the large flock of Great Crested Grebe on Dublin Bay. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.
Oystercatcher wading in muddy ground at Booterstown. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.
Common Snipe peeking out from the reeds. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.
Black-tailed Godwit over Dublin Bay. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.
Redshank, Black-tailed Godwits, Knot, Dunlin and Teal roosting on one of Booterstown's islands. Picture by Ronan Browne.
Sean Hogan addresses the group. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.
The well appointed railway bridge at Booterstown that provides great views over the marsh and bay. Picture by Ronan Browne.

Many of those attending, including some novice birders, expressed their satisfaction with a very enjoyable visit to this undervalued urban treasure. The outing was attended by Veronica Heywood, Chairperson of An Taisce’s Booterstown Reserve Management Committee.

Frank Doyle

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