South Dublin Branch - Outing Report

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

Pollardstown Fen, Kildare - 12th June 2022.

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South Dublin members gather in the new car park at Pollardstown Fen for our June outing. Picture by Bill Rea.

South Dublin Members, Pollardstown Fen, 12th June 2022 (picture: Bill Rea)

Our last event of the 2021-22 season was an outing to Pollardstown Fen, which was the branch's second visit there. The Fen is in Kildare about one mile north of the Curragh Racecourse and about a 45 minute drive from the Borough. Since our last visit a new car park with about 20 spaces has been constructed and that's where we met up at 09:00. The outing was led by committee member Gustavo Zoladz and branch chairman Des Higgins, and they welcomed the 20 South Dublin members that turned up at 09:00.

Pollardstown Fen is a 220 hectare calcareous fen that collects much of the water draining from the Curragh aquifer. As such it is the largest calcareous fen in Ireland and a site of national significance because of the plants and invertebrates found there. Much of the fen is covered by Saw Sedge and Black Bog Rush, a combination that is rare in Ireland, never mind extending to such a large area.

A splendid looking male Reed Bunting at Pollardstown Fen. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

Reed Bunting, Pollardstown Fen, 12th June 2022 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)

The day was bright but windy which made hearing birds difficult. In the wooded lane, leading to the boardwalk, we saw and heard Willow Warblers. Later we heard and got brief views of Reed Buntings and Sedge Warblers. We had plenty of Sand Martins flying around; these possibly breed in some of the local gravel pits. We also saw a few Swifts and it is sad to relate there were more Swifts present than most of us had seen so far this year.

In the distance we had a soaring Buzzard but the bird of the day was a displaying Snipe, picked up by Gustavo. Male Snipe perform a display flight during courtship known as drumming. As the bird swoops downwards the outer tail feathers vibrate making a loud buzzing noise, but sadly on this occasion the bird was too distant to hear anything, but at least we got to witness the spectacle. It was probably breeding somewhere in the fen?

Sedge Warbler cautiously watching us passing by. Picture by Gustavo Zoladz.

Sedge Warbler, Pollardstown Fen, 12th June 2022 (picture: Gustavo Zoladz)

Apart from the birds, we did see what appeared to be Otter spraint and Justin Ivory found two shrews, one dead and one he managed to video. We reckoned these were Greater White-toothed Shrews rather than the native Pygmy Shrew. These are larger than Pygmy Shrews and represent a species new to Ireland. Exactly how they got to these shores is not known but they are gradually spreading their range. They were first noticed in Barn Owl and Kestrel pellets in Tipperary in 2007 and 2008, then in March 2008 a total of seven were trapped at various locations in Tipperary. However, its quite likely they were around prior to that, maybe as far back as 2001?

Presumed Greater White-tooted Shrew. Picture by Justin Ivory.

Greater White-tooted Shrew, Pollardstown Fen, 12th June 2022 (picture: Justin Ivory)

The fen is famous for its Orchids and insectivorous plants. We saw various Spotted Orchids and a beautiful clump of the insectivorous Common Butterwort in flower, spotted by Rachel Hynes. We also had Meadow Thistle (Cirsium dissectum), identified by Sue Iremonger. Other more common plants seen were Bird's-foot-trefoil, Milkwort and Tormentil.

Some More Pictures

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The main boardwalk at Pollardstown. Picture by Bill Rea.

Some pictures taken around Pollardstown Fen on the day by Bill Rea.
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One of the Polypore or Bracket Fungus. Picture by Bill Rea.
Japanese Rose, an introduced shrub that is potentially invasive. Picture by Bill Rea.
Yellow Iris aka Yellow Flag, Ireland's only native Iris. Picture by Bill Rea.
Des reminds everyone that birds are sometimes seen in flight. Picture by Bill Rea.
Justin getting in close for another photo. Picture by Bill Rea.

The Flora of Pollardstown Fen

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Tormentil, a member of the Rose family of plants. Picture by Justin Ivory.

Some pictures showing just a sample of the wide variety of plant-life at Pollardstown Fen, taken by Justin Ivory.
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Bird's-foot-trefoil, a member of the Pea family of plants. Picture by Justin Ivory.
Meadow Vetchling, another member of the Pea family. Picture by Justin Ivory.
Lesser Trefoil, the trifoliate leaves are often used as Shamrock on St. Patrick's Day. Picture by Justin Ivory.
Lady's-mantle, a member of the Rose family of plants. Picture by Justin Ivory.
Common Butterwort, an insectivorous plant whose leaves produce a sticky fluid to trap insects. Picture by Justin Ivory.
Germander Speedwell, one of about ten Speedwells (genus Veronica) in Ireland that show dark blue/purple flowers. Picture by Justin Ivory.
Milkworth, according to old Irish folk tales the juice of Milkwort was a cure for warts. Picture by Justin Ivory.
Cuckoo-flower, also known as Lady's Smock. Picture by Justin Ivory.
Common Hogweed, so named as it was once collected in the summer months and fed to pigs. Picture by Justin Ivory.
A Marsh-orchid, possibly Narrow-leaved? Picture by Justin Ivory.
Spotted-orchid, an extremely variable perennial. Picture by Justin Ivory.

Pollardstown Fen is a wonderful location, full of insects, plants and birds and a great place to visit at this time of year. We finished up at 11:30 just in time to avoid the rain.

Des Higgins

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