Birds in Ireland 9781472596963, 9781408137017, 9781408136997

Birdwatching has become an increasingly popular pastime in Ireland as elsewhere. Nor is all of the birdwatching done by

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Birds in Ireland
 9781472596963, 9781408137017, 9781408136997

Table of contents :
Factors affecting the distribution of birds
Ornithology and bird conservation
Recent changes in status
Background to the species accounts
The species accounts
List of local reports
Principal organizations
Scientific names of mammals. fishes and plants in the text
General index
Species index

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Birds in Ireland by CLIVE D. HUTCHINSON Illustrated by JOHN BUSBY

Published for the Irish Wildbird Conservancy T & A D POYSER


First published 1989 byT & AD PoyserLtd Print-on-demand and digital editions published 2010 byT & AD Poyser, an imprint of A&C Black Publishers Ltd, 36 Soho Square, London W1D 3QY © 1989 by Clive D Hutchinson and the Irish Wildbird Conservancy ISBN (print) 978-1-4081-3701-7 ISBN (epub) 978-1-4081-3700-0 ISBN (e-pdf) 978-1-4081-3699-7 A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means - photographic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage or retrieval systems - without permission of the publishers. Visit to find out more about our authors and their books. You will find extracts, author interviews and our blog, and you can sign up for newsletters to be the first to hear about our latest releases and special offers.

Contents Introdu ction Acknowledgem ents Factors affecting the distribution of birds Ornithology and bird conservation Recent changes in status Background to the species accounts

7 9 11 29 40 44

The species accounts


Appendices List of local reports Principal organizations Scientific names of mammals. fishes and plants in the text Bibliography General index Species index

201 202 202 203 208 209

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Introduction Watching birds is a popular and growing pastime in Ireland as elsewhere in the world and the demand for books about birds seems insatiable. Books on identification. books on birdwatching. books on good places for watching birds are on the shelves of every bookshop. Television and newspapers provide publicity for records of unusual birds and journalists increasingly report campaigns for the conservation of birds and their habitats. The books and the media publicity. however. do not provide much information on the status of birds in Ireland. where and when they occur and in what numbers. This may seem surprising in view of the obvious demand for such material. but the status of Irish birds has been reviewed in depth on only two occasions since the turn of the century (Ken nedy et al 1954. Ruttledge 1966). The most recent book took the story up to 1965. more than twenty years ago. Since then. there has been an explosion in our knowledge of birds: surveys of breeding and wintering birds have taken birdwatchers into every 10 km square of the National Grid to map distribution; surveys of seabirds and waterfowl have resulted in the publication of books which mapped the main concentrations: studies have been carried out on many individual species. Most of this work has been done by the growing army of amateur birdwatchers but. increasingly. professionals have tackled particular problems. especially where conservation requires scientific research. The results of many surveys and single species studies have been published as papers in Irish Birds. th e annual journal founded in 1977 to provide a forum for the publication of work by both scientists and amateurs. and of course observations on scarce and rare birds continue to be published in the annual Irish Bird Report, itself now part of Irish Birds. As well as the research published in Irtsh Birds and the books recording the results of major surveys. a large body of material on bird distribution and numbers has appeared in ephemeral bird reports or . in som e instances. has been transmitted by word of mouth . This book attempts to

gather together from all these sources the results of the activity of birdwatchers since the mid 1960s. to set it on the firm base of the previous works on Irish birds and to summarise the status of all species occurring in the country. I have tried . however. to give more than just a statement of the status of each species . In the first of the introductory chapters I have placed the birds in the context of their environment. Too many birdwatchers are unaware of the habitats in which birds spend their lives and of the reaction of birds to habitat chan ges. Rather few wonder why the number of bird species breeding in Ireland is less than in Britain. but this topic has intrigued severa l distinguished scientists and I have reported the views of severa l of them. In the next chapter I have outlined briefly the history of ornithology and of the conservation movement in Ireland as further background. In many cases apparent changes in bird distribution merely reflect an increase in observers; an understanding of the extent of the new interest in birds in both Northern Ireland and the Republic is therefore essential to an interpretation of the species accounts. Where there have been significant changes in status I have summarized them briefly in a further introductory chapter. The main bulk of the book. however. comprises the systematic list of species. In this I have tried to combine a summary of status with the results of any special studies so the reader will be aware of research which has been publi shed or is in progress. For some groups of birds (wildfowl and seabirds for example) quite a number of studies are in progress but relatively little is known about our common birds of woodland and farmland . Throughout the book I have used the place names adopted by the Ordnance Surveys of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland for the sites within the territory of each state. Hence I have used Lond onderry throughout. where Derry is also in common usage. I have given the county for each placename but. in order to save a little space. I have not used the term 'Co.' before it.



Introdu ction

My own interest in bird s was stimulated by correspondence from Major R. F. Ruttledge when I was 13 years of age. I eagerly sought his 1966 book Ireland' s Birds when it appeared and I know how wide its influence was among Irish ornithologists of my generation. We were impressed by the material in the book. but we were also encouraged to go into the field to try to fill some of the obvious gaps in knowledge. the principal one being the lack of quantitative on breeding or wintering birds.

Th is gap has been filled in the case of breeding seabirds and wintering wildfowl and wad ers but we still have only a very general knowledge of th e status of ou r passerines and we know virtually nothing of where our seabirds feed at sea . If th is book can provide a baseline on which future workers can plan their research and if readers are stimulated to investigate aspects of bird distribution for which information is lacking. then it will have been a success.

Acknowledgements Writing thi s book has been a joy. Although I have been involved in bird recording for a bout twenty years I had no idea how many people carry out quite intensive studies of birds without telling an yone about their work. It has been a delight to discover people. in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, with hoards of unpublished data on birds and who - without exception - were willing to make their results available. Most of them. I hope, will publi sh their research in due course. though I fear the malaise which affects so many amateur ornithologists when they set about writing up their work will strike a number. In any event. I am grateful for the stimulating correspondence with so many enthusiastic people. From th e beginning the Irish Wildbird Conserva ncy (IWe) reacted positively to my proposal for a new book on Irish birds to coincide with the 21 st anniversary of the foundation of the organization and agreed to make available the results of all IWC surveys. Both Maurice Bryan. the Chairman. and Richard Nairn, the Director. gave their active support. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) supplied summaries of ringing recoveries of birds ringed in Ireland and recovered abroad and of birds ringed abroad and recovered in Ireland. The BTO also pro vided summaries of Comm on Birds Census plots surveyed in Ireland. Dr Raymond O'Connor. Director of the BTO when the book was first proposed, gav e every encouragement. lowe a particular debt to the following who read and commented on th e entire species list in drafts: J. S. Furphy, Dr T. C. Kelly. Dr W. M. McDowell, O.J. Merri e. K. Preston and P. Smiddy. Ken Preston in addition checked the rarity records against his own card index and made numerous corrections. Accounts of groups of species were read and commen ted on by D. Norriss (birds of prey ). Dr J. G. Green -

wood (Dunlin and Black Guillemot). R. Nairn (breeding waders), G. C. Noonan (Ravens) , J. R. Sheppard (wildfowl and waders). L. Toal (Merlins) . J. H. Wells (birds of prey and Ravens) and H.J . Wilson (White-fro nted Geese). Jim Wells provided introductions to a number of Northern Ireland observers working on particular specie s. Dr T. C. Kelly. O.J. Mern e and K. Preston commented on the introdu ctory chapters as well as the list of species. Joe Furphy provided valuable comment on the chapter on ornithology and conservation. Needless to add . any errors in the text are my own responsibility and not that of th ose who kindl y advised on earlier drafts. Un published material on particular species wa s pro vided by Susan Cowdy, Bob Davidson . Cliff Daw son, Dr Paul Hillis. Frank King, David Knight. Graham McElwaine. Gabriel Noonan and Larry Toal. Mick Green m ade available the results of his survey of waders of rock y shores of the west of Ireland in advance of publication. Terry Carruthers and Oscar Merne let me see th e unpublished results of their Common Birds Census (CBC) studies in Kerry and Wexford respectively. Dr Karl Partridge of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) provided copies of research report s commissioned from th e RSPB by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland and whi ch the Department kindly agreed to release . Richard Na irn provided a summary of the results of the IWC's study of the breed ing birds of the Shannon callows in 1987. Hugh Brazier suppli ed proofs of th e 19 8 7 issue of Irish Birds so that material from it could be used in an early dr aft of the species list. Mark Shorten made available his types cript on th e birds of Cork . Pat Smiddy pa ssed on the results of reviews by the Irish Rare Birds Committee of rare bird records right to my final deadline for revision of th e text. 9



Information on ornithology in Northern Ireland was provided by C. Douglas Deane, Dinah Browne and J. S. Furphy. Archival material on the Irish Ornithologists' Club was supplied by Frank Miller. I am grateful to all the above. Without their help this


book would never have been completed. Above all, however, I am grateful to the birdwatchers from all parts of the country whose passion for recording what they see in their spare time makes books like this possible.





Ireland and its location on the western edge of Europe

Factors affecting the distribution of birds The principal factors which determine what bird species occur in Ireland include the location and size of the country. its climate. its topography and the range and diversity of habitats on the island. LOCATION

Ireland is situated on the western edge of the European land mass. out in the North Atlantic. cut off from the larger island of Great Britain and from the Continent by the intervening seas. The Irish Sea to the east. which separates Ireland from Great Britain. varies from 18 to 320 km wide and is less than 200 m deep . The coast of Ireland forms the north-western outpost of Europe. but the shallow seas of the Continental Shelf extend westwards into the Atlantic. south to Spain and north-east to Scotland and Norway.

Seabirds The location of the island of Ireland. projecting into the Atlantic and surrounded by rich and relatively shallow seas, is the main reason why so many seabirds are recorded. At Cape Clear. Cork. observations carried out since 1959 have shown large westerly movements. Fulmars are recorded throughout the year but are scarce in late autumn; Gannets and Kittiwakes are abundant throughout the year: auks are abundant except in late summer when they congregate in sheltered bays: Manx Shearwaters and Storm Petrels occur in very large numbers from March to September and July to September respectively (Sharrock 1975). Some of these birds nest on the Irish coastline. but many come from colonies farther afield.

Although more observations of seabirds have been documented for Cape Clear than any other Irish site. records have also been kept at other headlands. Together. these have shown that seabird passage on the south coast is predominantly westerly, on the east and west coasts southerly and on the north coast most birds pass west. Many of the movements observed involve feeding birds. For example. the late summer passage of Manx Shearwaters at Cape Clear clearly consists mainly of birds from the Kerry island breeding colonies. Early in the morning some easterly movement is noted and at dusk the largest numbers are seen. moving steadily westwards, returning to their colonies. But the most remarkable movements. those in which southern shearwaters, northern skuas and rarities such as Sabine's Gulls and Leach's Petrels are sometimes seen. appear to result from weather conditions driving birds inshore which are normally out of sight of land. At Cape Clear south-westerly winds and rain. usually associated with the passage of a front. provide the best conditions, as the birds are presumably pushed eastwards: at north facing points. such as Brandon Point in Kerry and Loop Head in Clare. north-westerlies are optimal. Seabirds moving back out to the open sea appear to follow leading lines when they encounter barriers to their movement. so those species which are normally not visible from the mainland can be observed temporarily as they pass headlands or islands. The implication is that there are large numbers of seabirds. feeding well out to sea. which can only be seen



Factors affecting the distribution of birds

North Harbour and Bird Observatory at Cape Clear. Cork. (Photo: Richard T. Mill s)

from the land in exceptional weather conditions. Several boat trips have been made to observe sea birds at sea. the principal one being in 1980. Between mid July and mid October in that year a group of scientists and observers crui sed from Brittany to Cork. round the Irish coast. including a trip 300 km west of Kerry to the edge of the Continental Shelf. north to the Shetlands and back again (Evan s 1981). The highest seabird densities in July and in September/October were found off south-west Ireland. the lowest off the north-west. In July . Gannets. Storm Petrels. Manx Shearwaters and Guillemots predominated; by earl y October the Storm Petrels and Manx Shearwaters had virtually all dispersed but there were many Kittiwakes. Razorbills and Guillemots. Large numbers of auks were found in Clew Bay. Mayo . but the Porcupine Bank. near the edge of the Continental Shelf. had low seabird densities. apart from Fulmars and Storm Petrels. Bourne (1986). in a recent summary of a number of previously unpublished observations of seabirds at sea off the west coast of Europe. emphasized that the important seabird feeding areas are the boundaries where cool and warm waters mix. and where cool upwelling water brings nutrients to the surface. These support plankton growth which provides food for fish and squid populations. which themselves support assemblies of feeding seabirds. Tidal mixing off headlands occurs close to land. upwelling occurs out to sea where deep. cool currents strike the slopes of the Continental Shelf and thermal fronts occur in the eddies along ocean currents. giving rise to changes in temperature in the North Atlantic Drift. Indeed. an infra-red satellite photograph. published by Bourne (1986). shows clearly an area of warm water. bounded by fronts where mixing takes place . in the north-west Irish Sea which is known to support the largest concentrations of feeding seabirds off Northern Ireland (Watson 1980): and Raine (1987) has documented an upwelling of cold water off the Fastnet Rock. Cork. in another seabird rich area.

A great deal remains to be learned about the distribution of seabirds off the Irish coast. Man y more cruises are needed. especially in winter and spring. and research into the food and feeding ecology of seabirds at sea is required. Observations on land have suggested that there is a substantial northerly passage of Pomarine and Long-tailed Skuas off the west coast in May (Daven port 1984). and observations in February and March 1980 have shown that a few southern shearwaters remain off the west coast in winter (Dannen berg 1982 ). W intering Birds Location serves to explain why wlnteringbirds come from such a wide range of breeding areas. Being on the western fringe of Europe. Ireland provides winter quarters for birds from as far west as Arctic Canada. for a number of species which breed in Greenland and Iceland and for birds which breed in northern Europe east to Siberia. Brent Geese ringed on Queen Elizabeth Island. Bathurst Island and Melville Island in northern Canada have been seen in Ireland. The numbers of Great Northern Divers wintering around the coast are far greater than the Icelandic population can account for. and may well include Canadian as well as Greenland breeders. Ireland's wintering Knot population breeds in Canada and Greenland. From Greenland alone come Barnacle Geese and Whitefronted Geese and several wader species. Ireland is the principal wintering area for a number of Icelandic species. particularly Whooper Swans. Golden Plovers. Black-tailed Godwits and Redshanks. From Scandinavia and the Baltic come many ducks. waders and finches. and from as far east as Siberia come our wintering Bewick's Swans. Grey Plovers and Bar-tailed Godwits. Irel and is far indeed from Siberia and Canada. but migratory birds stop off en route in Scandinavia and the Baltic or in Greenland and Iceland respectively. Vagrants Location is also the principal reason for the

Factors affecting the distribution of birds 13 pattern of vagrancy. Being on the western edge of Europe. Ireland is the first landfall for many wanderers from North America. Ducks such as Green-winged Teal and Surf Scoters, waders such as Pectoral and Buff-breasted Sandpipers and gulls such as the Ring-billed Gull are now annual visitors. Passerines from the Nearctic are also recorded in most autumns and it is likely that an increase in observations on the west coast in late autumn would result in a sharp rise in the number of American vagrants recorded. From the east come Yellow-browed Warblers and

other small passerines every autumn. but the proportion of eastern and southern vagrants seen in Ireland is much lower than in Britain. reflecting the extra distance these birds have to travel. AREA

The area of Ireland is 84.421 km ': the greatest length from north to south is 486 krn: the greatest width from east to west is 275 krn , The adjoining island of Great Britain is 2.8 times as large. There is little doubt but that the


Barnacle Geese at Lissadel1. Sligo. (Photo: Richard T. Mills)

Akeragh Lough in Kerry . the first muddy habitat sighted in Europe by many transatlantic vagrant ducks and waders. (Photo: Richard T. Mills)


F actors affecting the distribution of birds

smaller size of Ireland is the principal reason for the relatively poor avifauna. A total of 397 species was recorded in Ireland up to the end of 1986, of which 137 were known to breed during 1968-72, the period of the Breeding Atlas. These figures are 67% and 65% respectively of the totals for Britain. It has long been known that there is a statistical relationship between the number of breeding species and area. MacArthur & Wilson (1967) developed an influential theory to explain this relationship. They proposed that the number of species on an island tends to be fairly constant, immigrant species being balanced by extinctions. They argued that the best colonist species tend to arrive first at an island. As more species arrive there is increased competition. The potential colonists either fail to establish themselves or the extra competition increases the likelihood of extinction of existing species with low populations. The rate of immigration is considered to be independent of area and dependent on distance from the source 'pool' of immigrants. The rate of extinction, however, varies with the size of the island. Eventually, an equilibrium is reached between immigration and extinction, and the level is lower on small than on large islands. Critics of MacArthur & Wilson's theory have argued that smaller islands have less diversity of habitat and greater environmental uniformity. Lack (1969), for example, considered that Ireland, though superficially similar to Britain is in fact very different. This island is much smaller, lacks a number of habitats, has a more oceanic climate and extends neither so far north nor so far south. Lack held that the failure of a number of bird species to colonize Ireland was due to their failure to find the right conditions. Later in this chapter we will look at the various Irish habitats and at the end we will consider the most recent views on why the Irish avifauna is less diverse than that of Britain. CLIMATE

Ireland lies in a climatic zone dominated by mild southwesterly winds and is warmed by the North Atlantic Drift. Mean air temperatures in the coldest months, January and February, are between 4°C and 7°C. In the warmest months, July and August, the mean temperature is between 14°C and 16°C, but can reach as high as 25°C. The mildest temperatures in winter are on the south-west coast, in summer the south-east coast has the highest temperature. Rainfall is relatively high, ranging from over 1,200 ern per annum in the west (and up to twice this in the mountains) to 75 em in the east. Snow is infrequent away from high ground. In summer there is an average of between 5.5 and 6.5 hours of sunshine over most of the country.. Wexford has the most sun with an average of about 7.5 hours per day (Rohan 19 75). The impact of climate on bird populations in general is difficult to evaluate, and for Ireland, where so little work has been done on common birds, only a few comments can be made. Firstly, the mild and relatively uniform climate with few hard winters appears to reduce severe winter mortality among resident species and winter immigrants. The Irish Kingfisher population, for example, was thought not to have suffered such high mortality in the 1962/63

Ireland: mean January temperatures

winter as the Kingfishers of other European countries (Ruttledge 1968). Secondly, because the springs and summers are not as hot as in other countries with a less uniform climate, there are insufficient surplus resources for a number of summer migrant species (O'Connor 1986). The implications of these two points are considered at the end of this chapter. Thirdly, the mild winter temperature and high rainfall produce soft soils and flooding in winter, which provide good feeding conditions for wildfowl and inland feeding waders (such as Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Curlews). TOPOGRAPHY

Like climate, the principal effect of topography on bird distribution is its influence on the habitats which cover the landscape. Ireland is a relatively flat country with three-quarters of its surface below the 1 SO m contour and only 5% over 300 m. The hills are grouped around the edge of the island with mountains generally of 600-900 m. The central plain consists mainly of limestone no more than 75 m above sea level. The coastline from south-west Cork round the west coast to Donegal is sharply indented, partly no doubt the result of the unceasing battering by the Atlantic. The best account of Irish topography for the general reader is Professor Frank Mitchell's (1986) The Shell Guide to Reading the Irish Landscape. He describes the origins of the land mass, the glaciations and the development of the environment we see around us nowadays. Mitchell's account is both stimulating and readable, and it provides

Factors affecting the distribution of birds 15

Ireland: mean annual rainfall between 1,000 and 2,000mm (stippled), over 2,000mm (black)

Ireland: land over 150 m (stippled), over 300 m (black) and rivers

an admirable backdrop to any account of Irish natural history. Ireland is believed to consist of two parts, one originally joined to what is now North America and one joined to Europe. During movements of the earth's crust about 400 million years ago the North American plate and the European plate collided and fused together. We know this from the presence in the Irish fossil record of specimens of North American origin in the west and of European origin in the east. Subsequently, the North American and European plates separated again as the earth's crust shifted, and a rift opened west of Ireland where the modern Atlantic Ocean flows. The topography of the country was moulded by events between this period and the end of the last Ice Age, about 13,000 years ago, but the main surface features of Ireland were probably established several million years ago. The oldest Irish rocks are the pre-Cambrian granites and slates of Donegal and west Connemara. These areas are exposed to the Atlantic and the acid rocks are covered with peat-bog. Bird densities are low because of the sparsity and uniformity of the vegetation, but the countryside is wild and beautiful. About 400 million years ago the Wicklow granites were thrust upwards and the Donegal and Connemara mountains were folded. River systems deposited large quantities of sand and gravel and these sediments were cemented into sandstone. Subsequently, some 375 million years ago, the seas warmed up and flooded over the land depositing shell fish and plants which were eventually consolidated into limestone and coal. This period, known

as the Carboniferous, came to an end about 300 million years ago when there were further rock movements which folded the sandstones and limestones of the coast, thus creating shelves and ledges on which seabirds could nest in due course. Erosion exposed the limestone as the coal disappeared over millions of years. Then, about 100 million years ago, it appears that the country was covered by a thin layer of chalk but this has been so thoroughly eroded, except in Antrim where it is protected by a layer of basalt, that until recently many doubted that there had ever been chalk on the Irish surface. From 1.7 million years ago to 13,000 years ago, there was a series of cold and warm periods. During much of the period Ireland was covered with ice and the birds which colonized the country were forced to retreat on several occasions. Our modern breeding avifauna has all been established in the last 13,000 years. The geology of Ireland has formed the basis of the modern landscape, but climate, the effect of erosion by wind and water, and the pattern of plant and animal colonization after the last Ice Age have all played parts in producing the habitats which cover the island nowadays. The principal habitats can conveniently be divided into the broad categories of (a) coast, (b) inland wetlands, (c) mountain and bog, (d) farmland, (e) woodland and (f) urban. Within each category is a number of different habitats. In some the birds have been quite well studied, in others they have been largely ignored.


Factors affecting the distribution of birds COAST

The Irish coastline is rich and varied in habitat. The cliffs and offshore islands support large populations of breeding seabirds, the estuaries and coastal lagoons hold many wintering and passage wildfowl and waders. The seabirds and waterfowl are the most studied groups of birds in Ireland. This is partly because their habitat is threatened by reclamation. pollution and disturbance. partly because these birds are rather easier to count than passerines skulking in woodland. and partly because many of our species are identified as important in the context of international conservation. Rocky Shores More than 85% of the coast consists of rocky shores. The east coast from Belfast Lough, Antrim. south to Dundalk Bay, Louth. is mainly low cliff. From Dundalk south to Wexford most of the coastline is low drift cliffand sand dune. A few promontories and islands provide breeding sites for seabirds. chiefly Lambay Island. Ireland's Eye and Howth Head in Dublin, and Bray Head and Wicklow Head in Wicklow. From the Saltee Islands off the Wexford coast, west to Cape Clear. there are long stretches of cliff, up to 60 m high, broken only by bays and estuaries. most of them holding breeding colonies of Larus gulls . Kittiwakes. auks and Shags. From Cape Clear round the Kerry coast is a series of deep rias , but apart from the offshore islands where Ireland's largest seabird colonies are situated, there are few steep cliffs to provide breeding sites. The west coast from Kerry north to Donegal has high cliffs interspersed with sandy beaches and one major estuary. that of the Shannon. the largest river in these islands. The many rocky islands and promontories on the west coast show the effect of submergence of the coast during the Ice Age: the heavy Atlantic waves are still eroding the cliffs. From Donegal around the north coast to Belfast are high cliffs at Fair Head and Benbane Head and a scattering of islands, most notably Rathlin which has a large colony of breeding seabirds and a high density of Buzzards. There are about nine seabird colonies with more than 10,000 breeding pairs in each. Of these only Lambay Island off the Dublin coast. Great Saltee off the south Wexford coast and Rathlin Island, Antrim. are away from the west coast. The largest colonies are in Kerry where some tens

Little Skellig off the Kerry coast, from the monastic sett lement on Great Skellig, (Photo: Richard T. Mills)

Seabird colonies holding more than 10 .000 pairs (based on Cramp et al 1974. with updating of species numbers) No of species

Saltee Islands. Wexford Skelligs, Kerry Blasket Islands. Kerry Puffin Island, Kerry Inlshglora, Mayo IIIaunmaister, Mayo Horn Head . Donegal Rathlin Island, Antrim Lambay Island. Dublin

12 II 14 12 9 10 9 13 12



+ + + +

+ + + +

+ +



+ +



+ + + + +


+ +

Groups present' Co Sh

+ +






+ + + +

+ + + +

+ + + +


+ + + +

+ + + +

+ + + +

+ + + + + + + + +

+ + + + + +

'Key: Fu - Fulrnar: MS - Manx Shearwater: SP - Storm Petrel : Ga - Gannet: Co - Cormorant: Sh - Shag; G/R - Guillemot & Razorbill ; Pu - Puffin ; BG - Black Guillemot.

Factors affecting the distribution of birds of thousands of Manx Shearwaters, Storm Petrels, Gannets and Puffins breed on the islands. These are the largest Storm Petrel colonies in the world. The colonies close to the Irish Sea have large numbers of Razorbills, Guillemots and gulls. In short. the colonies of those species which feed farther out to sea are on the more exposed coasts. The inshore feeders concentrate on the fringe of. or close to, the Irish Sea. The seabird colonies have been the subject of a number of studies. mostly ringing and censuslng. Almost all the colonies in the country were visited in 1969 or 1970 as part of the 'Operation Seafarer' survey (Cramp et a119 74). but the research effort has understandably been centred on the more important colonies. The Kerry islands have been visited by ornithologists since the mid nineteenth century. and there were frequent visits from 1964 onwards (Evans & Lovegrove 1974, Evans 1977). Since the mid 1970s, however, there have been few visits and census studies have been concentrated at Puffin Island which Hugh Brazier has been visiting since 1980. Great Saltee's seabirds were censused each year from 1978 to 1980 (Lloyd 1981) and Great Black-backed Gulls were studied there in 1980 (Hudson 1982). Census work is continuing (0. J. Merne). There have been censuses of all seabirds on the Northern Ireland coast (Watson 1980), of breeding terns throughout the country (Whilde 1985), of breeding Cormorants (Macdonald 1987), of cliff-breeding seabirds at sample colonies on the west coast annually (Stowe 1982). of Kittiwakes on the Waterford coast (O'Meara 1975. McGrath & Walsh 1986) and of seabirds at a scattering of other sites. All available data on the Republic's seabird colonies have been incorporated in an inventory

Gannets on Great Sa/tee , Wexford. (Photo: Richard T. Mills)

Ireland: seabird colonies holding more than 10 ,000 pairs



Factors affecting the distribution of birds

compiled by Dr C. S. Lloyd in 1982 and held by the Wildlife Service. The rocky shores support wintering populations of Turnstones and a few Purple Sandpipers. Oystercatchers, Curlews, Redshanks and Greenshanks also winter on the rocks or in small inlets on rocky shores. The only counts which have been made of long stretches of these shores have been in Northern Ireland, where the Outer Ards peninsula, Down, has been shown to have up to 1,900 wintering Turnstones (Austin & Leach 1984), and on part of the coast of Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo and Clare (M. Green). Soft Shores Less than 15% of the coastline is sandy beach, mudflat or salt marsh. These shores, however, incorporate a large inter.. tidal zone and are important for wintering waders and wildfowl, though only six estuaries the Shannon Estuary, Lough Foyle, Strangford Lough, Dundalk Bay, the North Bull and Cork Harbour - hold more than 20,000 waders regularly. These estuaries, as would be expected, have the largest areas of inter-tidal mudflat. It is now Widely accepted, following rec.. ommendations of the International Waterfowl Research Bureau, that a wetland holding more than 10,000 ducks, geese or swans, more than 20,000 waders or in excess of 1% of the flyway population of a waterfowl species is of international importance (Atkinson-Willes et alI982) and on these criteria 18 Irish coastal wetlands qualify. Ofthese wetlands 11 qualify because of their Brent Goose numbers. Most of the Pale.. bellied Brent Geese which breed in Arctic Canada and west Greenland winter on Irish shores and Whilde (1986) has indicated that Brent Geese have

Coastal wetlands holding internationally important winter populations of wildfowl and waders, 1980-86 (based on Whilde 1986 and Salmon et a11987) Internationally Maximum important species count 1980-86*

Lough Foyle, Londonderry


Strangford Lough, Down


Dundalk Bay, Louth


Rogerstown Estuary, Dublin Malahide, Dublin North Bull, Dublin

8,722 6,149 35,463

Wexford Harbour and Slobs, Wexford


Tacumshin Lake, Wexford Bannow Bay, Wexford


Dungarvan Harbour, Waterford Ballymacoda, Cork Cork Harbour, Cork


Castlemaine Harbour, Kerry Tralee Bay, Kerry Shannon Estuary, Limerick, Kerry, Clare



28,904 57,727

3,383 [82,000]

Cummeen Strand. Sligo


Llssadell, Sligo Lough Swilly, Donegal

1,004 NC

Bewick's Swan, Whooper Swan, Brent Goose, Wigeon. 10.000+ wildfowl, 20,000 + waders Whooper Swan, Brent Goose. Shelduck, Knot. Redshank, 10,000 + wildfowl, 20.000 + waders Shelduck, Wigeon, Black-tailed Godwit, Bartailed Godwit, 20,000 + waders Brent Goose Brent Goose Brent Goose, Knot, Sanderling, 10.000 + wildfowl, 20,000 + waders Bewick's Swan. Whitefronted Goose, Blacktailed Godwit. 10,000 + wildfowl Bewick's Swan, Brent Goose, Grey Plover Brent Goose, Black-tailed Godwit Brent Goose, Black-tailed Godwit Black-tailed Godwit Shelduck, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit. Redshank. 20,000 + waders Brent Goose, Wigeon Brent Goose Brent Goose, Wigeon. Teal, 10,000+ wildfowl, 20,000 + waders Brent Goose Barnacle Goose Whooper Swan, Whitefronted Goose

* Key: [] peak counts from 1971-75; () - peak counts 1983-

86; NC no full count available. Otherwise totals represent peak counts of all species counted from 1980 to 1986.

Ireland: internationally important wetlands

Factors affecting the distribution of birds


IWC commence d its We tlands Enquiry in 19 71 / 72. Monthly coun ts were carried out at m an y estuaries up to 19 74 / 7 5 (Hutchi ns on 19 79 ), but onl y irr egularly from 19 75/ 76 to 19 82 / 8 3, except in Northe rn Irel and where th e major estuar ies ha ve been su rveyed eac h winter. For the three winters to 1986/ 8 7 monthly counts were carried out at many estuaries in th e Republic and th e results up to autumn 198 6 h ave been summ a rized (Whilde 1986). Regular m onthly coun ts co ntin ue in Northern Ireland. There have been rather few studies of individual species or estua ries, th ough there has been research on Oysterca tche r feeding a t Str angford Loug h (O'Connor & Brown 19 77 ). mudfl at utilization at Stra ngford (Pritcha rd 19 8 2 ). th e infauna of th e Shannon est ua ry as a food reso urce for birds (O. }. Merne MSc th esis). th e bird s of Galw ay Bay (Whilde 19 8 3 ) a nd Cork Harbour (Hu tchinson & O'Halloran 19 84). Curren tly Mich eal O'Briain is ca rrying ou t research on Brent Geese, and seve ra l workers are ca tchin g and ringing waders. At the Wexford Slobs a pr ogramme of colour marking White-fronted Geese to study th eir movements is in progress. The sandy sho res on th e west coast are known to su pport quite large winter population s of Ring ed Plo vers a nd Sanderlings: th eir ext ent was not kn own until a survey wa s carried out of sa mple stretches of th is coastline in winter 19 8 7/ 88 (M. Green) . As well as win ter wad ers. sa ndy sho res also support some breedin g terns. th ou gh th e co lonies tend to be sma ll and widely dispersed.

Wigeon and other waterfowl at the North Bull. Dublin. with the Bull Island Interpretive centre in the background. (Photo: Richard T. Mill s)

been recorded in internationally important numbers at 20 additional sites. but has recommended that. because of the abundance of Brent Geese in Ireland, these sites do not warrant internationally important status. Several sites qualify principally because of their Black-tailed Godw it numbers. Much of the Icelandic breeding population winters on Irish shores. Th e interpretation of internat ional criteria. however, is fraught with difficulty and th e cu rrent inventory of th e Wildlife Ser vice includes seve n additional sites holding more th an 1% of th e Brent Goose population of the Republic: Carlingford Lough in Louth , The Cull in Wexford, Tramore Bay in Waterford. Galway Bay in Galway. and Blacksod Bay, Broadhaven and Killaia Bay in Mayo (O.}. Merne). The wildfowl wintering on Irish estuaries were first counted in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Midwinter counts were made at many estuaries from 19 6 7 onwards, but only du cks. geese and sw an s were cou nted until th e

Above th e High Tide Line Th e cliff top s pro vide feeding habitat for Choughs from Wexford west to Kerr y and north to Donegal and Antrim. Bullock et aI (1983 ) h ave shown that regular gr azing of pasture on clifftops and th e absence of fertilizers provide an a bu ndance of inv ert ebrates ac cessible to a long-billed corvid. Choug hs have not declined in numbers over th e pa st 90 yea rs except in Northern Ireland wh ere fencing of the coastal strip, iron ica lly by th e Na tion al Trust for Nort he rn Ireland. has led to a reduction in th e number of pairs from 2 1-22 to 9- 10 ove r th e 20 years from 196 3 to 19 8 2 . On the west coast. grassy islands ar e th e main wintering ground for Barnacle Geese wh ich breed in north-east Greenland. The Inishkea Islands. Mayo . hold nearly half th e Irish winter population and these birds have been studied since 1961 (Cabot & West 1973, 1983). Many of these islands also provide secure ne sting sites for Arct ic. Common and Sandwich Terns, A few hold Little Terns as well. Th ere is a small amount of sand dune ma ch air in th e west. Machair comprises stable dune grassland with san ds enriched by ca lca reo us shell fragments. It is he a vily grazed and frequently in cludes wet pools and m arshes. This habitat is thinly distributed in Donegal. Sligo, Mayo and Galway. A survey of 51 machair sites in summer 19 85 found 604 breeding pairs of wad ers (Na irn & Sheppard 19 85 ). Pure sand dune is an important coa st al habitat in Donegal, Kerry and Wexford but it tends to be poor for birds except on the edge where scrub provides cover. Detailed cen su s studies have been carried out in Down (Nairn & Wh atmough 1978 ) and Wexford (O. }. Merne).


F actors affecting the distribution of birds


In winter the open waters of the inland wetlands provide feeding and relative security from predation for ducks and geese, mainly from breeding areas to the north-west and north-east. The damp edges provide grazing for the wildfowl and also attract Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Curlews which can locate food more easily on soft than on hard ground. In summer ducks and grebes nest on the larger waters, Little Grebes, Moorhens, Dippers, Kingfishers

Inland wetlands holding internationally important populations of wildfowl or waders. 1980-86 (based on Whilde 1986. Salmon et al 1987 and 0.]. Merne) Maximum count*

Internationally important species

Rahasane, Galway


Lough Corrlb, Galway River Shannon, Athlone-Portumna, Galway, Offaly, Roscommon. Tipperary, Westmeath Little Brosna, Offaly, Tipperary


Bewick's Swan, Whooper Swan, Wigeon, Teal. 10,000+ wildfowl Pochard, 10,000 + wildfowl White-fronted Goose, Wigeon, Black-tailed Godwit

River Suck, Galway, Roscommon Lough Gara, Roscommon, Sligo Ballyallia Lake. Clare River Foyle. Carrlgans-St. Johnstown, Donegal, Londonderry Sheskinmore Lough, Donegal Loughs Neagh & Beg, Antrim, Armagh, Londonderry. Tyrone Lough Iron and Glen Lough, Westmeath Lough Owel, Westmeath Stabannan, Louth River Blackwater, Waterford




2,000 13,956


1,350 (36,900)


Whooper Swan, Whitefronted Goose, Wigeon, Shoveler, Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwit Bewick's Swan Bewick's Swan Shoveler Whooper Swan. Whitefronted Goose

White-fronted Goose. Barnacle Goose Bewick's Swan, Whooper Swan, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Scaup, Goldeneye Whooper Swan, Whitefronted Goose


White-fronted Goose

NC 6,336

Whooper Swan Bewick's Swan, Whooper Swan, Blacktailed Godwit

Key: ( ) - peak counts 1983-86: NC no full count available. Otherwise totals represent peak counts of all species counted from 1980 to 1986.

and Grey Wagtails on the rivers, and ducks, Lapwings and Snipe on the marshes.

Lakes The largest areas of open water are Lough Neagh and the adjoining Lough Beg in the north-east, the Lough Erne lakes in the north-west, Loughs Corrib, Mask and Conn in Connacht, a scattering of lakes in the midlands Loughs Derravaragh, Ennel, Owel, Ramor, Gara, Sheelin. Gowna and Oughter - and a series of lakes on the Shannon system from Lough Allen to Lough Derg. There are numerous smaller lakes and in total they comprise 2% of the land area of the country. In Northern Ireland it has been estimated that there are over 1,100 lakes, though only 119 exceed 10ha in area (Wood 1982). The south-east third of the country has very little standing water of any size. Much the largest lake is Lough Neagh which has a surface area of 383 km-, In summer it holds well above 750 pairs of Great Crested Grebes, approximately half the total breeding population for the country, but in winter it is of European importance for the huge numbers of wintering waterfowl it holds. The flocks of up to 1,700 Scaup are much the largest inland concentration in Europe; the numbers of Goldeneye (5,000-9,000) are among the largest in Europe and the flocks of Pochard (up to 17,000) and Tufted Ducks (up to 8,900) are much lower in recent years than the gatherings of 30,000 each which were recorded in the mid 1960s (Hutchinson 1979), but are still by far the largest in Ireland or Britain. Lough Corrib, Galway, with an area of some 170 km', is the second largest lake and it too is a shallow lake with a large diving duck population in winter. In the 1970s it was known to have a flock of up to 22,000 Pochard in late autumn, presumably completing their moult, and in winter there were up to 12,000 Coots at peak. Numbers appear to have declined somewhat in recent years, but aerial censuses are required to assess the status of the ducks more accurately. These two lakes are much the most important for birds, principally because they are so shallow. The other large lakes Laughs Derg (116 km-), Lower Lough Erne are deeper and of less (140 km 2 ) and Conn (50 km 2 ) importance in winter. However, a number of the midland lakes, especially Loughs Iron, Owel and Derravaragh, have sizeable winter duck populations. In summer Great Crested Grebes, Mallard and Tufted Ducks nest on most lakes. Common Scoters nest on the Lough Erne system, on Lough Conn and increasingly in small numbers on other lakes. There are large colonies of Black-headed Gulls, Common Gulls and Lesser Blackbacked Gulls on the western lakes and smaller numbers of Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls (Whilde 1978, 1983). Common Terns are the most widespread terns breeding on lake islands (Whilde 1984) but Arctic and Sandwich Terns also nest on islands some distance from the sea, though in small numbers (73 and 242 pairs respectively in 1984). Flooded meadows and marshes The water table in the midlands and west of Ireland rises with winter rain, the slower flowing rivers flood and the remaining turloughs

Factors affecting the distribution of birds

fill with water. This flooding produces large areas of water where ducks. geese and swans can graze, relatively safe from predators; it drives invertebrates up to the surface where Lapwings. Golden Plovers and Curlews search in the soft ground for prey; and it covers such large tracts of country that startled birds can find feeding again after a short flight.


The callows or flood meadows on both sides of the River Shannon between Athlone and Portumna. on either side of the River Suck in Roscommon and Galway, and on either side of the Little Brosna in Offaly and Tipperary are the finest examples. though the Blackwater callows in Waterford are also superb. Here Wigeon graze on the edge of the water in great flocks of several thousand birds.

Rahasane in Galway . an example of a turlough. (Photo: Richard T. Mills )


Factors affecting the distribution of birds


Ot; .


' \.

Whooper Swans graze out in the middle of the flood and large flocks of Golden Plovers wheel about. Black-tailed Godwits probe in the soft alluvium as well as the more common Curlews and Lapwings which can be seen in most fields. At some of these sites flocks of White-fronted Geese winter. feeding on the callows and usually roosting on the surrounding bogs. The feeding appears to be very rich in spring. for numbers of Wigeon and Black-tailed Godwits normally reach a peak in March on the Little Brosna , apparently because many birds of Icelandic origin assemble here before departing to their breeding grounds. The callows are also important breeding sites for Lapwings. Redshanks and Snipe. and they hold significant numbers of breeding Corncrakes. Turloughs - shallow limestone depressions which flood when the water table rises after autumn and winter rainfall - also provide rich feeding for wildfowl and waders in the west. but a number of them have been drained. Rahasane. Galway. is the finest remaining example. Much of the west of Ireland is termed unimproved agricultural land and this is archetypical Snipe country. Snipe breed in quite small numbers. though widely. but in winter the damp pastures, flooded water meadows. marshes and bogs are filled with immigrants from Britain, Iceland and the Baltic states.

Rivers Because the central plain is so flat most Irish rivers are slow and sluggish in their upper courses. but they tend to run much more rapidly as they come close to the sea . Fifteen rivers collect 65% of the surface drainage (Drew 1979). but very little is known of the birds of these major rivers. Studies of the birds of three rivers have been published. Chris Bailey has been surveying 10 km of the River Lagan near Belfast since 1974 and the results of his breeding censuses up to 1980 showed that Moorhens were the most

numerous waterfowl with a density of about five pairs per km. Kingfishers. Dippers. Grey Wagtails and Reed Buntings all bred. but a number of species had decreased over the period. apparently because of the effects of cold weather. pollution and. most importantly. the arrival of mink (Bailey 1982). In Kerry . a 4 .5 km stretch of the River Flesk was censused in 1983 and 1984 (Carruthers 1986). but only five species were found to breed. though Dipper density at 6.6-8 .8 pairs per 10 km was higher than at most other Irish sites where they have been counted. The paucity of species on the Flesk appears to be largely due to it being a fast flowing river with a steep gradient. In Northern Ireland. Watson (1984) surveyed the birds of sections of the River Blackwater and its tributaries in Armagh and Tyrone. Dippers have been studied at several sites in the north of Ireland and the highest density recorded has been on the River Bann, Down, where 12 pairs per 10 km were found (perry 1986). MOUNTAIN AND BOG

In the Republic of Ireland it has been estimated by the National Soil Survey that marginal land occupies 45% of the total land area. 22% being mountain and hill. 12% low level peat and 11 % wet mineral lowland (Gardiner 1979). In Northern Ireland such marginal land occupies 31 % of the surface area . 9% being blanket peat and high ground over 300 m, 17% being peaty soils on higher hills and 5% lowland bog (Cruickshank 1982). Some of this land has been drained and is under crops but the statistics indicate the proportion of poor agricultural soils.

Mountain Only 20% of the land area is over 150 m. five per cent over 300 m and only 240 km -' over 600 m. There are 45 peaks reaching over 750 m. Ireland clearly has relatively little mountain land.

Factors affecting the distribution of birds

The birds of high ground have been little studied. though the breeding waders of Northern Ireland's moorlands have been censused (Partridge 1988) and several individuals have carried out unpublished studies of birds of prey and Ravens. Golden Plovers once nested on moorland in the south, east and midlands but now only remain as breeding birds in the north and west. Ring Ouzels almost certainly continue to nest in small numbers in most of the mountain ranges in the country. though persistence is required to track them down. Ravens were once true montane birds but have increased and spread into the lowlands. The principal birds of high ground are Meadow Pipits. At Glenveagh, Donegal, the birds of upland heath and bog were censused in 1980 and a very limited range of breeding species was found (MacLochlainn 1984). Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Wrens and Wheatears were present up to the summits. A few Golden Plovers and Red Grouse also nested and there were scatterings of Kestrels , Merlins , Peregrines, Ravens and Ring Ouzels. In winter most birds leave the mountains though Snow Buntings are known to occur at this season in the mountains of Donegal (MacLochlainn 1984), Kerry (K. Preston) and Northern Ireland O. S. Furphy). BoglandSome 17% of the land surface ofIreland consists of bog , a higher percentage than any other European country except Finland. This includes fens, raised bogs and blanket bogs . Fens are shallow bogs, fed continually by mineral-rich waters. Raised bogs are the typical bogs of the central plain where shallow lakes were overgrown by vegetation and turned into bog as plant debris accumulated


to form peat. Blanket bog is characteristic of mountain ranges and of the west of Ireland and occurs where pine woodland died otT and an increasingly wet climate led to the development of bog vegetation. Blanket bog has somewhat similar vegetation to raised bog , but peat moss is scarcer and a number of mountain plants occur. Raised bogs are known to be of considerable importance in winter as Snipe habitat and, in certain areas, they support roosts of White-fronted Geese. Unfortunately, they are declining rapidly in extent as Bord na Mona (stateowned peat development board) crops the turf. Only 21 % of ra ised bogs remained intact in 1979. though as much as 74% of blanket bog had not been modified (Doyle 1983). Conservation of a representative sample of bogs has been widely sought because of the scarcity of the habitat. The results of only two studies of birds on Irish bogland have been published, one each on blanket and raised bog. Watson and O'Hare (1979d) sampled Mayo blanket bog in 1968-71 by using pointing dogs to flush birds. They found that Meadow Pipits were the most abundant birds, dominating in heathery areas. Skylarks were numerous on flat bog and Snipe on well grazed wet areas with rushes and bog myrtle. Species diversity was low and bird densities appeared to be much lower than on a similar area in Britain. The same authors recorded passing birds in spring and August (Watson & O'Hare 1979a). They found Whitefronted Geese in spring each year on bogland lakes or flying towards them. Golden Plovers were seen on one occasion and a few raptors were seen . Overall numbers of birds were clearly very low , though it was evident that the availability


F actors affecting the distribution of birds

of dead sheep in spring supported a high population of scavengers. Ravens and Hooded Crows were the seventh and eighth commonest bird or mammal seen on the bog (Watson & O'Hare 1980). Madden (198 7b) visited an intact raised bog and an adjacent area of cutaway bog in Offaly on ten occasions over a period of about a year, in 1985/86, and found only 12 species on the intact bog and 36 on cutaway bog. Only four species were proved to breed on the intact bog and another was suspected of nesting; 19 species bred on the cutaway bog. The greater diversity of species on the cutaway bog reflected a wider range of vegetation. Madden considered that the bird community of raised bog is poorer than that of western blanket bog. FARMLAND

Just under 70% of the land area of the Republic and more than 80% of the area of Northern Ireland is improved land under crops and pasture, though some is land of poor agricultural quality. The current agricultural regime, with its emphasis on grassland, was not always in place. In the middle of the last century the Famine marked a turning point for agricultural practices. Before the Famine, Ireland was very different from what it looks like today. The country was a net exporter of grain and livestock, so large areas of the country, where cattle are raised today, would have been under tillage. However, the high human population, dependent on the potato for subsistence, was vulnerable to the failure of their basic food and the Famine not only decimated the population but led to some fundamental changes in the landscape, which must have had (and in some cases can be shown to have had) a marked effect on wildlife in the countryside. Frank Mitchell (1986) has described Ireland in 1850 as a ruined landscape, almost destitute of any woody growth, due to the need of the huge population for fuel, and with soil fertility severely depleted by endless repetition of potato crops. This depressingly bleak landscape was relieved by islands of habitat where large estates survived behind great walls. However, one has to consider, in examining Mitchell's picture of the landscape after the Famine, that the area of tillage and root crops was still extensive. The area under grain crops was 7.8 millionha in 1851 having been 8.7 million in 1845; there were 3.7 millionha under root crops in 1851 having been 7.0 million in 1845. The 1845 area was about four times the current level. After 1850 there were several changes which were to have an impact, albeit a slow one, on the landscape. Firstly, the system of land tenure was changed under the successive Land Acts and the total number of farm holdings was reduced from 685,000 in 1841 (64% of 38 ha or less) to 570,000 in 1851 and 362,000 in 1960. At the same time, the size of holdings increased as the population declined. Secondly, there was no increase in the land under cultivation. Up to the Famine attempts were made to cultivate marginal land on mountain sides and there was some slight continued expansion of the cultivated area up to the 18 70s. After that, the amount of land under cultivation remained stationary overall and in western counties declined. Thirdly, there was a sudden decline in the proportion of

Ireland: tillage as a percentage of crops and pasture in 1970: 1525% (stippled) and over 25% (black)

land under tillage, which must have produced a noticeable change in the appearance of the country. The acreage of tillage declined by 4% between 1851 and 1859 and by a further 14% between 1861 and 1868 as corn prices fell. From the 1870s to the 1950s there was little change in the appearance of the Irish agricultural landscape. The area under grain crops continued in slow decline. In the Republic there were just over 2.5 million ha under grain in 1921 but only 1.9 million by 1931 and 2.18 million in 1974. There were increases in tillage during both World Wars but they were not maintained. At the same time, the number of livestock on pasture was relatively static. The total of 4.9 million livestock units in the 26 counties in 1922 was not exceeded until 1960. So, we have a picture of a relatively conservative agricultural regime from the 1870s to the 1960s. There was then a further significant change which resulted from the injection of capital into agriculture from the 1960s onwards. The Irish admission to the BEe in 1973 added to the impact. Mechanization of Irish farming took off in the 1960s. One indication of the rate of mechanization is the number of tractors, which increased in the Republic from 2,100 in 1939 to 43,700 in 1960, 84,300 in 1970 and 145,100 in 1980. Fertilizer usage was negligible until recent years. Annual applications of lime in the Republic were less than 100,000 tonnes before 1951 but had reached 2 million tonnes by

Factors affecting the distribution of birds 25 1970. The annual application of nitrogen was 29.000 tonnes in 1961/62,48,000 tonnes in 1966/67, 98.000 tonnes in 1971/72 and 275,000 tonnes in 1981/82. The use of herbicides in the Republic increased from 495,000 tonnes in 1965 to 1.5 million tonnes in 1980. The amount of silage made in the Republic increased fourfold between 1969 and 1981. Hedgerow destruction, although measured in only one survey in the Republic (D. Hickie cited in Cabot 1984), increased. These developments were aimed at increasing yields of farm products, but they have had a significant effect on the environment and on its wildlife. which is difficult to measure but which is on a larger scale than just the drainage of famous wetlands. The effect of agricultural change can be seen in the changes in numbers of Quail and Partridges. Quail are believed to have been common in Ireland in the eighteenth century and certainly increased in the first half of the nineteenth century. By the Famine it was a common breeding species in most parts of the country. At Easky, Sligo, the normal bag for a day's shooting would be five to ten brace. After the Famine numbers declined and by 1880 none were believed to nest in Ireland (Ussher & Warren 1900). There were occasional revivals and Quail have bred in small numbers in parts of Ireland, particularly Louth and Kildare, at intervals this century but they have never returned in numbers. The decline was attributed at the end of the nineteenth century to the structural change in agriculture after the Famine as the amount of land under tillage collapsed. Quail nested in the cultivated smallholdings which covered the country before the Famine and, it was argued, the change in habitat was so marked after the Famine that Quail disappeared. Partridges are now rare breeding birds, nesting sparsely in the south-east, midlands, east and north. In 1900 they were reported as having been long in decline as a result of the decline in wheat growing and an increase in shooting pressure. In the early 1960s they were considered to be holding their own but there has been a recent, marked decline and in the early 1980s Partridges could only be found in the midlands and at a scattering of locations in the north and east. The reduction in cereal growing after the Famine appears to be the principal cause of decline. More recently, changes in farming methods since the early 1960s have probably caused the further decline. Partridges need good nesting cover, low predation levels and an abundance of insects. In Britain modern farming methods have been shown to have reduced the numbers of these insects, thus reducing chick survival rates (Potts 1980). The effect of land use on two commoner species can be shown in the case of the Stock Dove and Rook. Stock Doves feed largely on weed seeds and newly sown grain on ploughed land. They are recent colonists, having first bred in Ireland in 1877, and increased steadily until the 1960s. The breeding distribution is centred on the tillage counties but not restricted to them, and the arrival of the species post-dated the decline in tillage after the Famine. However. survey work for the Winter Atlas in 1981/82

to 1983/84 shows a more restricted distribution than in the early 1970s, with the largest numbers not unexpectedly concentrated in the cereal growing areas. This contrasts with the British position where Stock Doves are less dependent on the cereal growing areas. apparently because the intensified use of herbicides has reduced the availability of weed seeds and Stock Doves now favour areas of mixed pasture and tillage. The apparent decline in numbers since the early 1970s may be real or may just reflect the increased difficulty in locating the birds at low densities in winter. Rooks occur at higher densities in most parts of Ireland than in Britain. This reflects their requirement for mixed farming with a preponderance of pasture. In England they require a mix of cereal and pasture and the large numbers in the north of Ireland reflect the dominance of this farming regime there. Good grassland is required to provide food for the young in the summer and grain is needed in autumn when the number of insects declines in grassland. Cowpats are an important food source because of the number of invertebrates they attract. WOODLAND

In the Republic of Ireland there are about 268,000 ha of state-owned woodland and 82,000 ha of private woodland, representing about 5% of the land surface. The state forests are 95% coniferous with two North American species, Sitka spruce and lodgepole pine, accounting for 85% of current planting. The private woodlands are about 40% broadleaf forest, 40% scrub and 20% coniferous. The private woods

Ireland: distribution of woodland


Factors affecting the distribution of birds

Oakwood in Killarney. Kerry. (Photo: Richard T. Mills )

are all small. only three estates having more than 500 ha of forest (McEvoy 1979). In Northern Ireland there are about 60.000 ha of planted woodland with Sitka spruce predominating. and there are a small number of mixed deciduous woods (Tomlinson 1982). This represents a similar proportion of land area under afforestation as in the Republic. There have been surprisingly few studies of the bird communities of Irish woodlands. particularly when the scarcity of species as compared with Britain is con sidered. Batten (1976) reported on an intensive survey of several woodland types in Killarney. Kerry . in 1973 and Wilson (1977) discussed studies of bird communities of sessile oak woodlands. using some of the data from Batten. Simms (19 71) carried out some transect studies in Irish woods as well. More recently. repeat studies have been carried ou t in oakwood and yewwood in Killarney to draw comparisons with the 1973 survey (T. Carruthers). Deciduous Woodland At the end of the sixteenth century 12.5% of Ireland was forested ; by 1800 only 2% wa s covered by trees (McCracken 1971). Since parts ofIreland were covered by bog or lakes. or are too high for woodland. the percentage of available land under trees in 1600 was much higher than 12.5%. Oak was the most widespread species in the early seventeenth century. ash was less common except on limestone. hazel occurred in association with oak. and birch was also quite common. There were virtually no hedges until the early eighteenth century and. while yews and elms occurred. they appear to have been scattered thinly. Many of the woods were felled in the seventeenth century so that the timber could be used in shipbuilding. house building and iron smelting. From about

1700 onwards there was some planting of deciduous trees on estates. bu t this declined in the mid nineteenth century. The census work carried out in the early 19 70s (Batten 1976. Wilson 19 77) showed that the most numerous species in oakwoods, three of which were censused in Kerry and two in Wick low. were Chaffinch. Robin . Goldcrest, Blue Tit. Coal Tit and Wren. these six comprising 75-85% of the breeding bird communities. Comparison with results from Welsh and Scottish oakwoods which had a somewhat similar history of management and utilization highlighted some differences . Willow Warblers. Garden Warblers and Blackcaps, all of which breed in Welsh and Scottish woods. were absent from the Irish plots. though they breed in other parts of Ire land . Batten suggested that the absence of Willow Warblers was due to the occupation of their niche by Goldcrests; Wilson suggested that the absence of pioneer growth in the Irish plots . especially of birch. militated against Willow Warblers. It was suggested by Wilson that the absence of the two other species was due to a scarcity of dense undergrowth. In two yewwoods visited in Kerry the six most abundant species were the same as in the oak woods. However. Coal Tits were less common and Blackbird s more common in the yew. More recent census studies in Kerry have shown that the number of territories in yewwood had declined from 113 of 16 species in 1973 to 101 in 1982. and 74 of 15 species in 1986. In oakwood the decrease was from 100 territories in 1973 to 53 in 1985 and 1986 (T. Carruthers). The decline appears to be due to the effect of weather conditions. A series of mild winters preceded the 1973 census and the density of some species appears to have been exceptionally high. In contrast. several cold spells occurred in winters 1981 /82.1984/85 and 1985/86 and

Factors affecting th e distribution of birds they appear to have led to sharply increased mortality (T. Carruthers). The sharp changes between th e results in 1973 and the 1980s. on the same census plots. shows the difficulty of generalising about Irish bird den sities from a very small body of data. The complete absence as breeding birds from Ireland of Tawny Owls. Green Woodpeckers. Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. Marsh Tits. Willow Tits and Nuthatches. and the extreme rarity of Pied Flycatchers. Tree Pipits. Redstarts and Wood Warblers has puzzled many ornithologists, particularly since most of them have a widespread or predominantly westerly distribution in Britain and the last four named species are annual passage migrants. The traditional explanation ha s been that because Ireland is a smaller island than Britain it supports fewer species as ecological factors restrict colonization (Lack 1969). Wilson (1976) in contrast has pointed out that larger woods support more species and has suggested that the small size of Irish woods, coupled with the extent of grazing in the woods. which has restricted regeneration. has caused the extinction of many woodland birds which formerly bred in Ireland. Sharrock (1979). in a discussion of the rarity of Tree Pipits. has supported this argument and speculated that the destruction of the wood s led to th e extinction of Tree Pipits. The difficulty about this theory is that the only evidence that any of these species formerly occurred Widely in Ireland is the discovery of sub-fos sil remains of two Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Kennedy et al 1954). There is not even any evidence that woodpeckers were breeding in Ireland in medieval tim es. It can be argued that medieval records are sparse. but the unrecorded extinction of so many species seems less likely than the counter argument that they have been excluded by other generalist species which colonized after the last glaciation and occupied the niches which the woodpeckers and other. specialist species required . Coniferous Plantation The development of state afforestation is the greatest change in land use on the island of Ireland at present. Between 6.000 and 10.000 ha in the Republi c and about 1.000 ha in Northern Ireland are planted annually. This has had a noticeable effect on Hen Harrier numbers which increased from the early 1950s to a peak in the mid 19 70s, the spread corresponding with the development of plantations on hillsides throughout much of the country. Hen Harriers nest in young plantations. and the. maturing of many forests and the clearance of marginal land following Ireland's admittance to the European Economic Community were believed by O'Flynn (19 8 3) to be responsible for some decline in the late 1970s. The onl y publi shed census study of breeding birds in Irish conifer plantations is that of Batten (19 76) who surveyed Norway spruce and Sitka spruce woods in Kerry in 19 73 as well as deciduous wood s. He found the highest density of birds on any survey plot in the Norway spruce wood where there were 180 pairs per 10 ha, of which 59 were Goldcrests, though the number of species at 14 was very low. Goldcrest densities were much the highest recorded in any habitat in Britain or Ireland. The Sitka spruce wood had 100 pairs per 10 ha but only eight specie s were found. Again. Goldcrests were the most numerous species with


Chaffinch and Robin in second and third place as in Norway spruce. Batten pointed out that Sitka spruce is an American species and seems less suitable for European birds. At least Norway spruce is a European species and pre sumably more suited to Irish birds . URBAN AND SUBURBAN HABITATS

Population density is low in both the Republic and Northern Ireland. In the Republic 58 % of the population of 3.443 million in 1981 lived in towns of more than 1.00 0 people . The major centres of population are Dublin (9 15.0 0 0 ), Cork (150.000). Limerick (76 .000). Galway (4 2 .0 0 0) . Dundalk (2 9.00 0) . Drogheda (2 4. 0 0 0) and Bray (2 3.00 0) . In Northern Ireland the population in 1981 was 1.562 million. The major population centres are Belfast

Pied Wagtail roost outside the General Post Office. O'Connell Street. Dublin. (Photo: Richard T. Mills )


Factors affecting the distribution of birds

(327,000), Londonderry (93,000), Craigavon (72,000) and Newtownabbey (72,000). So, 36% of the population of the entire island lives in these 11 centres. The features of Irish towns which have drawn most attention in the ornithological literature have been the roosts of Pied Wagtails and the increase in urban Magpies, though there have also been studies of birds at a Cork municipal dump (N.J. Buckley and T. C. Kelly) and at four sites in Dublin (D. Keating and J. Whelan), and of Mute Swans in Cork O. O'Halloran) and Dublin (R. Collins). The Pied Wagtail roost at O'Connell Street, Dublin, has been known since 1929 and up to 3,600 birds have been counted there, though numbers in recent years have been lower at 600-1,000 (Cotton & Lovatt 1985). In recent years urban roosts have been located at Cork, in two other parts of Dublin and no doubt they occur in other towns and cities. It is clear that urban roosting is a widespread phenomenon. Magpies have been known to breed in Dublin since at least the mid nineteenth century and they are now so widespread that their depredations on nestlings of other species drive onlookers to write despairing letters to the Dublin newspapers every summer. In a recent study (Kavanagh 1987) it was estimated that Magpies were nesting at a density of 16.6 pairs per km 2 and had been increasing at an annual rate of 12-13% since 1970. At the Cork municipal refuse dump, gull and corvid attendance was studied in 1984 and 1985. Herring Gulls were noted as having declined sharply since 1982/83 and Black-headed and Common Gulls had increased considerably. Of the corvids only Rooks occurred consistently and in large numbers (N. J. Buckley, T. C. Kelly). The Dublin study by D. Keating and J. Whelan was of the bird communities of two parks, an urban wilderness and a residential area in the city and was carried out from January to August 1982. The highest density of birds was found in the urban wilderness, but this had the lowest species diversity. Diversity was highest in the parks. WHY ARE THERE FEWER SPECIES IN IRELAND?

Why, therefore, does Ireland not have a number of species which breed in Britain or on the Continent? The reasons appear to be several. Firstly, it appears likely that a number of summer migrants have not colonized Ireland because they are at a competitive disadvantage from year round residents. O'Connor (1986) has shown that only 16 of the 46 migrant species (35%) regularly breeding in Britain also breed in Ireland, but that 86 of the 125 resident species (69%) do so. O'Connor identified several reasons for the disadvantages which migrants have in establishing themselves. He showed that migrant species in general are distributed in seasonal areas where food resources peak in summer to levels beyond the capacity of the residents to exploit. He also emphasized the advantage which resident

species have in being on the breeding grounds earlier, being able to start nesting earlier and to produce more young, and he pointed out how resident individuals that survive winter adversity can be expected to be more competitive than migrants that have wintered in a more favourable climate. The mild oceanic Irish climate, with few extremes, would appear therefore to provide less resources for migrants and to permit greater survival of residents, and earlier nesting by them, than the British climate with its greater seasonality. Secondly, the absence from Ireland of sedentary species such as Tawny Owls, woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Marsh Tits and Willow Tits is likely to be due to their lack of ability to reach Ireland at all. Only the Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker have been recorded as vagrants. The Green Woodpecker has not been recorded this century and most of the Great Spotted Woodpecker records are believed to be of the irruptive Continental race rather than of British origin. Lack (1969) considered that the difficulties of dispersal over the Irish Sea were not responsible for the reduced Irish avifauna, but the absence from Ireland of this group of birds supports MacArthur & Wilson's hypothesis that immigration rates are dependent on distance from the source pool. If conditions in Ireland are in fact suitable for these species, but competition or failure to cross the Irish Sea has prevented colonization, one would expect reduced species diversity in an Irish habitat together with higher densities of those species which are present. Unfortunately, there have been rather few studies, but Common Bird Census study plots at Irish farmland show higher densities of Blue Tits and Goldcrests than do British studies (BTO data). Census studies at Irish sessile oakwoods have shown that diversity is lower than in Scottish or Welsh oakwoods but that Coal Tits, Blue Tits and Goldcrests occur at much higher densities (Wilson 1977). Presumably they occupy some of the niches occupied in Britain by the woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Pied Flycatchers and Redstarts. Thirdly, a number of habitats which occur in Britain are not represented in Ireland. The lowland heath and chalk downland of southern England and the high mountains and Caledonian Scots pine woodlands of Scotland are good examples. The absence of these habitats helps to explain why Woodlarks, Dartford Warblers, Stone-curlews and Crested Tits do not breed in Ireland and why Dotterels and Greenshanks have only been found once. The reasons why small islands in general have fewer species than large islands are still debated among scientists and Ireland has been used as an example by several. The current thinking indicates that there is not just one simple explanation but that several factors are involved. The only certainty at this stage is that much more remains to be said on the subject.

Ornithology and bird conservation The traditional attitude to birds in Ireland has been typical of rural communities throughout Europe. Birds are part of the environment in which people live and. like other features of this environment. are divided into categories based upon their usefulness to man. The game species. for example. are valuable as food or for sport. Certain other birds. such as Woodpigeons and Magpies. which feed on farmland. are widely perceived as vermin and deserving of persecution. Small garden birds. such as Robins and Song Thrushes. are regarded as useful foragers after slugs and other pests of growing vegetables. Until recently. birds have not been regarded as worthy of observation or admiration in their own right. Indeed. there is still an attitude that an unusual bird is something to be collected as an interesting object. and several rare and colourful species, including the first two Irish examples of the American Belted Kingfisher, have been shot. There have always been exceptions to these generalizations but the development of the idea that man should share the natural world with birds. rather than subjugate them. came much later in Ireland than in England. Thomas (1983) has described the replacement. in eighteenth century England. of the notion that the world was made for man alone. and that all other species were subordinate to his wishes, by new ideas of the balance of nature and of the value of the countryside and the wild creatures which inhabit it. These ideas were developed by the middle and upper classes and so were slow to travel to a largely peasant Ireland . There is a very limited literature of peasant Ireland. but the books written by several inhabitants of the Blasket Islands in Kerry give a vivid picture of a rural community and of attitudes to life. They contain few references to wildlife. Tomas O'Crohan, for example. who lived on the Great Blasket from 1856 to 1937. apparently did not con-

sider the seabird colonies of the Kerry islands. which are now so famous. as in any way remarkable. referring only to the food value of young Gannets on the Skelligs (O'Crohan 1937). And there is a substantial literature on shooting and fishing in the Irish countryside in the nineteenth century. in which it is clear that birds are best divided into game. which are useful. and vermin. which should be destroyed. In the latter category are included eagles and other birds of prey (e.g. Maxwell 1832). The popular idea that birds should be admired as wild and undisturbed creatures owes much to the steady growth in interest since the mid 1960s in the scientific study of birds (as ornithology is defined) . and in recent times to the influence of television as a medium for bringing the excitement of wildlife into people 's homes. ORIGINS OF ORNITHOLOGY IN IRELAND

All the standard texts on Irish ornithology consider Giraldus Cambrensis, the Welsh monk who visited Ireland in the twelfth century. as the first Irish ornithologist. He was in Ireland in 1183 and 1185. travelling in Cork and Waterford on the first occasion and from Waterford to Dublin on the second. Based on these visits he wrote his History and Topography of Ireland which was read publicly at Oxford in 1188. His book has been widely criticized by historians as unreliable and it is difficult to know what to make of his accounts of Irish birds. He was clearly very gullible. For example. he describes cranes (presumably Grey Herons) taking turns by night to keep guard while standing on one leg with a stone held in the other claw. They do this. he reported. so that if they should go to sleep they will be wakened again by the fall of the stone and can continue to keep watch. Yet he noticed that the Irish crows were not black but of different colours and he described



Ornithology and bird conservation

their practice of breaking open shellfish by dropping them onto stones, behaviour familiar to anyone who has watched Hooded Crows at the coast. He describes convincingly Ospreys, Peregrines and Dippers (though incorrectly called the last Kingfishers) and he refers to the absence of Pheasants, Partridges, Magpies and Nightingales. Partridges are believed to be indigenous, though it has been remarked in justification of Giraldus that there is no Irish name for them (O'Meara 1982), but Pheasants were introduced in Elizabethan times and Magpies are later colonists. Nightingales are still absent, apart from occasional vagrants in spring or autumn. So much of Giraldus rings true and yet he appears to have believed such extraordinary fables that caution must be observed in quoting him. Nevertheless, he is one of the very few sources of information on Irish birds before the nineteenth century. Later references to birds by writers on Ireland, right up to the late eighteenth century, tend to concentrate on game birds and are extremely few. John Hall, in an assessment of the evidence for the Capercaillie being an Irish bird, reviewed a number of seventeenth and eighteenth century sources and his paper (Hall 1981) provides an invaluable list of references. A book on the natural history of Dublin by John Rutty, an English born medical doctor, published in 1772 was a pioneering but apparently isolated work. The book provides fascinating accounts of a number of bird species, far more than just the game birds, and while Rutty includes such interesting information as an opinion on the flavour of each species when cooked, his text reads as a consistent and apparently reliable work. To put his book into perspective one must remember that Carl von Linne of Sweden published the tenth volume of his System of Nature in 1758, only fourteen years before Rutty's book appeared. The real origins of Irish ornithology lie, however, in the upsurge of interest in science in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Royal Dublin Society had been founded as early as 1 731; the Royal Irish Academy was founded in 1771. In 1821 the extremely influential Belfast Natural History Society was formed. William Thompson, author of the first book on the birds of Ireland, Natural History of Ireland (Vols 1-3, 1849-51), read his first zoological paper to this body in 1827 on 'The Birds of the Copeland Islands'. According to Robert Lloyd Praeger (1949) the membership was about 60 by then and each member in turn was required to read a paper. There was a fine for failing to do this and a member who did not attend a meeting for three months was ejected in the absence of sufficient apology. Such a system has much to commend it and it certainly did not discourage Thompson who spent much of his short life (he died in 1852 at the age of 47) conducting an extensive correspondence and taking the notes which were to be incorporated in due course into his Natural History of Ireland. In 1838 the Natural History Society of Dublin was formed and had a membership in its heyday of about 250; it died out about 1871. In Cork the Cuvierian Society of Cork, founded about 1845, published a Contribution towards a fauna and flora of the County of Cork which had been prepared for the 1843 meeting in Cork of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

1850- 19 I 5 The middle of the nineteenth century marked a real turning point. In Britain the British Ornithologists' Union (BOU) was founded in 1859, and the field club movement in Ireland gradually supplanted the earlier natural history societies. The Belfast Naturalist's Field Club was founded in 1863, shortly after the Belfast Natural History Society became the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society, its change of name signifying a broadening of its scope. The Dublin Naturalists' Field Club was founded in 1885 and the Cork Naturalists' Field Club in 1892. Alone of the three, the Cork club did not survive, transferring its activities in 1923 to the newly formed Cork Camera and Field club. The first two of these frequently had large memberships and for many years they were the centres of the exchange of information on ornithological matters. The years from 1850 to about 1915 were the golden years of Irish ornithological discovery. The publication of Birds of Ireland by R. J. Ussher and R. Warren in 1900 marked one of the high points; even a rapid survey of the book shows what an enormous amount of work had been done in discovering the distribution and migratory status of Irish birds. There were correspondents in many counties, many of them apparently professional men, some landlords and some Church of Ireland clergy. These were presumably people with the leisure to get out into the field and make observations. But as well as the network of correspondents which Usher built up there were several outstanding individual ornithologists. R. M. Barrington, born in 1849 at Fassaroe near Bray in Wicklow, produced work of outstanding importance. He was called to the Bar but preferred the outdoor life that he got as a land valuer and farmer. His interests were broad and he was an excellent botanist, but his enduring work was the creation of a virtual bird observatory network from the Irish lighthouse and lightship keepers. He knew the importance of regular publication to keep enthusiasm going among those participating in a scientific enquiry, and his great The Migration of Birds as observed at Irish Lighthouses and Lightships published in an edition of only 350 copies in 1900 is a remarkable account of bird migration around our coast. Indeed it provided the basis for the information on migration in Kennedy, Ruttledge and Scroope's Birds of Ireland published in 1954, over half a century later. Barrington was a tough man. He climbed in Switzerland and Canada and visited many remote places, including Rockall in 1896, but the story which typifies his spirit is one which Praeger quotes in his classic account of his travels around Ireland, The Way that I Went (Praeger 1937). Apparently Barrington and H. C. Hart went to Powerscourt one very wet day hoping to hear Wood Warblers and to search for plants. It rained all day and Hart, in order to show his contempt for the conditions, walked through the longest grass and the briars close to the edge of the stream. Barrington reacted to this move by stepping into the water and sitting down on a submerged stone to eat his lunch. Without a word, Hart joined him. All rivalry ceased forthwith. How could one not admire such a man. A. G. More, though an Englishman, was a most influential ornithologist in Ireland, not least because he acted as DEVELOPMENTS:

Ornithology and bird conservation a stimulus to many younger men, including R. M. Barrington. His most enduring work was a study of the geographical distribution of birds in Britain as analysed from letters from a network of correspondents. This was published in the Ibis before he came to Ireland in 1867 as Assistant in the Dublin Museum. He progressed to become Keeper of the Natural History Division in 1881 but was forced by illness to retire in 1887. After his death, a detailed account of his life, together with his letters and scientific papers, was published by C.B. Moffat (Moffat 1898). In a period of outstanding individuals, Richard John Ussher of Waterford stands out. He was the real author of Birds of Ireland; Robert Warren was a collaborator but wrote only small sections of the book. Ussher was a big, energetic, blue-eyed, red-bearded figure who visited at one time or other almost every cliff, lough, hill and wood in Ireland. Praeger (1949) has described how he settled down after some years abroad to live in the family home at Cappagh and took up 'vigorously that destructive and rather meaningless branch of zoology - if it can be dignified by such a phrase - egg-collecting, and the nests of the rarer birds such as Peregrine Falcons were harried year after year by him or through his agency; but in later years he atoned by relinquishing the collecting of eggs, by helping energetically the work of the Irish Society for the Protection of Birds, and by widespread explorations of the cliff-bound shores of the west coast and the bogs and lakes of the midlands to determine the breeding range in Ireland of rarer species'. In an obituary notice in the Daily Express on 16 October 1913 it is reported that the writing of the new standard book was originally to be done by A. G. More, R. M. Barrington, R. Warren and R.J. Ussher, but that it was soon decided to place the work almost solely in Ussher'shands. His own particular interests were cliff-breeding birds and the country is richer for the vast series of notes which he bequeathed to the Royal Irish Academy. After a survey of breeding Choughs in 1982 Ian Bullock, the organizer of the survey, was able to compare the location of current breeding sites with those which Ussher knew at the turn of the century (Bullock et a11983). As well as being a great ornithologist, Ussher was an outstanding explorer of caves, an activity in which he was greatly encouraged by finding Great Auk bones in coastal kitchen-middens. These men were chiefly. interested in bird distribution, an emphasis which is understandable at a time when very little was known about the status of Irish birds. Publications on behaviour were scarce indeed, but there was an interest in broader research which is best evidenced by Barrington's massive investigation into migration. These two strands intermingled, however, in a manner which was not to be typical of Irish ornithology in the twentieth century. Barrington co-operated closely with Ussher and the tiny ornithological community was perhaps closer knit, possibly because of the eminence of these two figures, than it was to be later. Among the general public there was clearly some interest in birds, although it appears to have been restricted to the small middle and professional classes and to some landlords. In 1902 or 1903 the Belfast Society for the Protection of Birds was founded with the Countess of


Shaftesbury as first president, but the organization did not survive for more than a year or two. The Irish Society for the Protection of Birds was founded on 29th April 1904 in Dublin, and in the following July was successful in having withdrawn from the newspapers an advertisement for a supply of terns for millinery purposes. One recalls that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, now the largest bird protection organization in the world, was founded in 1891 as a response to the popular fashion of attaching plumes of herons and egrets to women's hats, and it seems likely that the Irish bodies took their cue from the early success of the British body. Bird protection was not a popular cause in Ireland, however, in the early years of the present century and the Irish Society was a low profile body. INTO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: 19 I 954 The years between the First World and 1954, the year in which Kennedy, Ruttledge and Scroope published Birds of Ireland, their successor to Ussher and Warren's book of 54 years earlier, appear at this remove to have been less exciting in terms of ornithological achievement than the previous fifty years or the next thirty-five. If the 1954 book is compared with its predecessor it is clear that what is new was less revolutionary than the material which Ussher and Warren had to hand. This is not surprising. A comparison of the number of correspondents referred to in the two books indicates that there was no increase in the number of amateur ornithologists in the country during the early twentieth century. The relative scarcity of keen ornithologists in Ireland contrasts with the development of a strong amateur ornithological movement in Britain, and perhaps reflects the insularity and conservatism of both Northern Ireland and the then Irish Free State, now the Republic, from the 1920s to the 1950s. During this period there was a small but active bird protection movement. In Belfast the Ulster Society for the Protection of Birds was founded in 1921, and in Dublin the Irish Society for the Protection of Birds, with C.B. Moffat as Secretary for over twenty years up to his death in 1945, secured the safety of the long-standing Mayo breeding colony of Red-necked Phalaropes by purchasing the land where the birds nested and appointing a summer warden. These societies were largely concerned with bird protection and not with habitat conservation. The threats to birds came from egg-collectors (as at the phalarope colony) or from indiscriminate shooting; land-use changes had not yet had a perceptible effect on bird populations. The Ulster Society secured Swan Island in Larne Lough as a bird sanctuary in the late 1930s. Watchers were appointed to protect seabird colonies on Rathlin Island and in Strangford Lough from egg-collectors, and perches were erected for tired migrants on the Maidens Lighthouse in 1936. Douglas Deane was involved in one of the Ulster Society's major successes, in' 1946, when 177 crates packed with over 7,000 wild birds were found in cold storage plants in Belfast. He and Dr J. A. Sinclair examined the birds and found that they included 5,509 birds of 19 species which were protected by law. The most numerous were Lapwings (1,880), Razorbills (1,501) and Guillemots (1,466),


Ornithology and bird conservation

but also found were scarcer species such as Grey Phalarope and Leach's Petrel (C. Douglas Deane). Both societies were successful in promoting legislative protection for birds and this was unquestionably their most important achievement. In what is now the Republic, the Irish Society provided assistance in the preparation of the 1930 Wild Birds Protection Act, and in Northern Ireland the Ulster Society provided substantial input to the 1931 Wild Birds Protection Act. Towards the end of this period the Irish Ornithologists' Club was formed in Dublin in 1950. It brought together a number of men in Dublin who were interested in studying birds and was the first purely ornithological society in the country, providing a forum for meetings and discussion, and organising regular field trips. Its principal rule was that it should have no rules or keep no minutes. Women were excluded in the early years and it was considered that junior birdwatchers were adequately catered for by the Dublin Naturalists' Field Club. Meetings were held in The Stag's Tail and later in The Dolphin bars in Dublin (F. Miller). The organization received no mention in Birds in Ireland published in 1954, but it was to be notable in due course for its foundation of the first bird report. Among the ornithologists, although an egg-collector and disapproved of by the protectionists. George Humphreys, who was born in Anglesey in 1886, was a link between the dominant figures of the late nineteenth century and those of recent years. He knew Barrington and Ussher personally and was a wonderful source of anecdotes up to his death in 1980. He came to live in Dublin in 1904 when he was appointed to the staff of the then London and North Western Railway at the North Wall. Because of his job with the railway company he had concessionary travel rates around Ireland and he used these to get to know Connemara well. He described on a number of occasions how he obtained his first pair of binoculars in 1 911 and how in the same year he became what must have been Ireland's first ringer by placing rings provided by H. F. Witherby on Little Terns at the North Bull. He was a very keen ornithologist and perhaps even more enthusiastic oologist. In the 1930s he reorganized the scheme of correspondence with lightkeepers which Barrington had conducted so successfully and reports were published in the Irish Naturalists' Journal for several years. He wrote the 1937 edition of the National Museum's List of Irish Birds, following a series of distinguished authors of previous editions, including both A. G. More and Richard Ussher, but was not included among the authors of the new Birds of Ireland published in 1954, in his view because his egg-collecting enthusiasm was not frowned upon. Nevertheless, he was a kind and generous man to those who knew him, always willing and keen to discuss developments in ornithology. The best known ornithologists of this period were of course the authors of the new standard textbook published in 1954: Rev P. G. Kennedy S.J., Major R. F. Ruttledge and Col C. F. Scroope. Father Kennedy, as he was widely known, .was the man who popularized the North Bull in broadcasts on Radio Eireann, articles in Studies and the Irish Naturalists' Journal and eventually, in 1953, in a little book named An Irish Sanctuary - birds of the North Bull. In 1931

he persuaded Dublin Corporation to apply to the Minister for Justice to sign an Order establishing the area as a sanctuary. But there were various plans over the years to turn the North Bull channel into a boating marina and to build a cinema and dance-hall on the site. He died in 1967, but he would surely have enjoyed the enormous public enthusiasm nowadays for the 'Open Days' organized at the Bull by the Irish Wildbird Conservancy and Dublin Corporation. Major R. F. Ruttledge, or 'the Major' as he has been known to generations of birdwatchers, had quite different interests from the urban dwelling Father Kennedy. He was born in Carlow in 1899 but moved to Mayo at an early age where he concentrated on studies of the distribution of birds in the west of Ireland. His contribution to Irish ornithology in the first half of the twentieth century is notable for the care with which he documented his observations on the distributions of birds. His particular interests were seabirds breeding on the islands off the west coast and the geese which wintered on the midland and western bogs. A major paper on the birds of Galway and Mayo (Ruttledge 1950) was the first modern county avifauna produced in Ireland and his paper on the numbers and distribution of geese with Mrs Hall Watt (Ruttledge & Hall Watt 1958) was the summary of many years of goose observations. These were simply the highlights of his publishing: from 1916 onwards he published a series of notes and short papers which had no parallel in Irish ornithology at the time, either in number of publications or in scope of topic. The culmination of these publications was his joint authorship of the 1954 Birds of Ireland with Kennedy and Scroope, and his editing of the Irish Bird Report from 1953, the first national bird report produced in these islands and a forerunner by eight years of the British Birds Rarities Report. The Major's work in the early 1950s was responsible for a new interest in documenting bird records and it had a vital impact on new generations of birdwatchers. The last member of the triumvirate which wrote the 1954 book, Lt-Col Scroope, was not a prolific author, but he was an excellent field ornithologist who in his early years came under the influence of Robert Warren. He served in the Indian Army and had a remarkable diversity of interests, which included shooting big game in the Himalayas, playing tennis for Ireland in the Davis Cup, and reaching a high standard as golfer and fisherman. When on leave in Ireland, and during his retirement, he watched birds mainly in Dublin, Wicklow and Cork. He probably knew more than anybody else about breeding Hen Harriers in Ireland during the 19 50s, but his publications were very few. These ornithologists of the first half of the twentieth century were all interested primarily in the distribution of birds. But the most original ornithologist of the period, and perhaps the most influential Irish ornithologist of any period, was a man little known to the public. a man who was so little known to the naturalists of his day that he did not merit a mention in Robert Lloyd Praeger's Some Irish Naturalists. He was J. P. Burkitt. Burkitt was born in 1870. He trained as a civil engineer and between 1900 and 1940 was the County Surveyor for Fermanagh. He placed different patterns of metal bands on

Ornithology and bird conservation


Aerial view of Nort h Harbour and Bird Observato ry at Cape Clear, Cork. Note the dark colour of the sea due to red tide. (Photo: Richard T. Mills)

th e legs of Robin s in his garden - not coloured ring s because he wa s colour blind - and thus made possible for th e first time the study in th e field of indi vidual bird s. He discover ed new facts about territorial behaviour a nd son g. including fem ale song: he observed threat display: he was th e first to use ringing returns to estimate ave rage a ge. He told David Lack th at he did not look at a bird until he was 3 7, at wh ich tim e he h ad no ornithological friends (Lack 1965). He publi sh ed a pioneering paper in British Birds, entitled 'A study of the Robin by means of marked bird s' (Brit Birds 1924-2 6,17:294-30 3: 18:97-10 3: 20 5-557: 19 : 120124: 20: 9 1- 10 1) and a few sho rt papers in the Irish Nat uralist . He told Lack in 1944 ' Whe n I was doing the Robin I had pricks of con scien ce th at I wa s really more interested in th e created than th e Cre ator'. He was deepl y religiou s, extrem ely humble and in tellectu ally brilliant. He spent his lat er years reading th e Bible and working in his gard en . One othe r littl e-known Irish a utho r deser ves men tion here and th is is Rev E.A. Armstro ng , the a utho r of th e 'New Na turalist' mon ogr aph on The Wren (195 5) and of The Folklore of Birds (19 58) in th e same series. His Birds of the Grey Wi nd (1 940). an evocative account of his explora tion of the landscap e of his hom e pro vin ce in sea rch of birds. was the first bird book on Nor the rn Ireland . Howe ver , he was outside th e mainstream of Irish ornith ology and, unlike C. Dou glas Dean e. who wrot e the Ulster Museum 's

Handbook of th e Birds of No rthern Ireland ( 19 54 ), had little influe nc e on lat er gene ra tions . 'Jimmy' Deane, as he was Widely kn own , mad e maj or contribution s both to th e study of birds in Northe rn Ireland and to th e popula riza tion of an interest in wildlife th rou gh his prolific writings and his films.

SLOW B il l' STEA DY PROG RESS : 1954-19 6 6 Two events in 1954 had a maj or influ en ce on the developm ent of Irish ornithology. Thes e were th e publication by Oliver & Boyd in Edinburgh of Birds of Ireland by Kennedy. Ruttledge and Scr oope , and th e foundation of th e Irish Bird Report by th e Irish Ornithologists' Clu b under th e edit or ship of Major R. F. Ruttledg e. The book was a major undertaking. describing th e st atus and distribution of Irish birds as kn own in the lat e 19 40s and ea rly 1950s. but more vital for the future wa s the publi cati on of th e first Report. Birds of Ireland is very much a descendant of th e 1900 book of th e same title: th e order h as chan ged but th e approa ch is sim ilar. as no doubt ca n be sa id ab out thi s book! Th e new Report . however , pro vided a forum for documenting changes in Irish ornitho logy whic h was so succ essful th at its editor was a ble to produce a new book, Ireland 's Birds,· with in twelve years. Birdwat ch ers were keen to ha ve th eir record s published a nd th e a n nua l appea ra nce of a list of unusual bird occ urrences stim ula ted th e sma ll number of ac tive observe rs . Th e first twelve issues


Ornithology and bird conservation

contained a very full systematic list and, for most of these years, a report of bird records at Saltee Bird Observatory. Only with the publication of Ireland's Birds in 1966 did Major Ruttledge feel that the systematic list could be somewhat curtailed and short papers included. This was eventually to lead to the foundation of an Irish ornitholgoical journal. The issue which most intrigued ornithologists in the 1950s and early 1960s was the study of bird migration. In Ireland Saltee Bird Observatory was founded in 1950, though closed in 1964. Copeland Bird Observatory and Cape Clear Bird Observatory, both still thriving, were founded in 1954 and 1959 respectively. Bird Observatories also existed briefly at Tory Island (1958-1965) and Malin Head (1961-1965). A great deal was learned in a few years at these sites about the pattern of bird migration but perhaps the greatest long-term value of the observatory network was the cross-fertilization fostered by the mix of relatively experienced British and novice Irish birdwatchers, and the opportunities provided for Irish birdwatchers to learn the techniques of bird-ringing and the use of mistnets to catch birds. Well-known ornithologists, such as Frank King and Oscar Merne, cut their teeth at Saltee. Others, such as Ken Preston, Killian Mullarney and Anthony McGeehan, developed their skills at Cape Clear. The presence of ornithologists at island watchpoints who knew how to keep log-books, record data and make descriptions of birds was a marvellous educating factor. The collection of data and the encouragement to analyse it stimulated many of us in later studies. The Northern Ireland Ornithologists' Club was founded in 1960 and developed a reputation for co-operative survey work in the mid 1960s when it carried out monthly wildfowl counts in the entire Lough Neagh basin, thus establishing the importance of the area for wintering diving ducks. The early 1960s were also the years when the bird conservation movement first made real progress. In Northern Ireland a Committee on Nature Conservation, chaired by the Duke of Abercorn, reported in 1962 and recommended the establishment of an independent nature conservancy funded by the government and linked closely to Queen's University. The recommendation was not implemented, apparently because of objections from the then Ministry of Agriculture (which also included Forestry) but three years later, after much lobbying at Stormont, the Amenity Lands Act 1965 was enacted and the responsibility for countryside and nature conservation was passed to the then Ministry of Development. This was a major turning point. For the first time Nature Reserves could be established and a second-tier element known as Areas of Scientific Interest was also introduced. The Act formed the basis for the effective conservation of many rich ornithological sites in Northern Ireland over the next 20 years. Voluntary bird conservation in Northern Ireland also made significant progress with the establishment by the National Trust for Northern Ireland, with the support of the local wildfowling organizations, of the Strangford Lough wildlife Scheme in 1966. Under its auspices refuge areas for nesting ducks and terns and for wintering waders, ducks

and geese were created, a warden was appointed and information facilities for the public were installed. Conservation was slower to get moving in the Republic, but certain changes were in the wind in 1965 and 1966 which would have lasting repercussions. A new voluntary body, the Irish Wildfowl Committee, was founded in Dublin in December 1965, largely under the stimulus of an energetic young American post-graduate at University College, Galway, Dr David Cabot. Its objectives included safeguarding the Wexford Slobs, conserving wetlands, surveying wildfowl populations and publicizing conservation needs. Also in Dublin John Temple Lang began to revitalize the dormant Irish Society for the Protection of Birds and to campaign for a new Wildlife Act. New figures were appearing who were to have a marked impact on ornithology in the next twenty years because of their organizational dynamism and their ability successfully to promote conservation as an issue. 1967-1987 It is not just nostalgia which makes the late 1960s appear as exciting years. Increasing urbanization, changes in land-use, land drainage, pollution and the effect of pest icides all appeared as major threats to birds. The voluntary conservation movement developed rapidly in response; government in both Northern Ireland and the Republic committed more resources to wildlife conservation: the general public showed a heightened awareness of wildlife; and television showed that close-up views of birds and their behaviour was popular early evening entertainment. Attitudes seemed to be changing very rapidly. In the Republic the principal organizations concerned with bird watching and conservation, the Irish Wildfowl Conservancy (it had changed its name from the Irish Wildfowl Committee), the Irish Society for the Protection of Birds and the Irish Ornithologists' Club, came together in 1968 to form the present Irish Wildbird Conservancy with objects of (a) conservation, (b) education, (c) research and (d) encouragement of field ornithology. The new organization saw co-operative field ornithology as both a means of providing essential conservation baseline material on the distribution of Irish birds and as a popular outlet for the enthusiasm of active members. Four principal surveys were promoted from the beginning: wildfowl counts, breeding seabird counts, the survey of breeding birds on the basis of the 10 km squares of the National Grid and the breeding Peregrine census. Wildfowl counts were first carried out in Ireland in the late 1940s and early 1950s under the auspices of the Wildfowl Trust and were concentrated on locations close to Dublin and Belfast. Then, in 1964-65 the Northern Ireland Ornithologists' Club commenced a series of counts of the wildfowl of the Lough Neagh basin which showed for the first time the immensity of the numbers of duck wintering in the area. From 1967 onwards, the Irish Wildfowl Committee and, in due course, the Irish Wildbird Conservancy, organized country-wide counts of geese and wildfowl generally as part of the International Waterfowl Research Bureau international censuses. The initial reasoning behind the wildfowl counts was a growing consciousness of the threat to the habitat of ducks, THE RECENT PAST:

Ornithology and bird conservation

geese and swans posed by increasing drainage and the obvious lack of information on the numbers and distribution of these birds in Ireland. An additional motivation to these surveys was the international interest in wildfowl and their habitats. and the closer contact with bodies such as the International Waterfowl Research Bureau and the World Wildlife Fund. which efforts to raise funds to purchase part of the Wexford Slobs had produced. When the Seabird Group, a mainly British organization of workers interested in seabirds, proposed a census of all the breeding seabirds around the coastline of Britain and Ireland in 1969 and 1970, the Irish reaction was as enthusiastic as the response to wildfowl counts. The habitat on which birds spend so much of their lives, the inshore waters around our coast. appeared to be gravely threatened by oil pollution and by the concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs which were identified as a possible contributory factor to unusual seabird mortality in the Irish Sea in 1969. As with the wildfowl, virtually nothing was known about the numbers of birds breeding around our shores and there was also a growing international interest in seabirds and their conservation. So, the decision was early taken to co-operate with the Seabird Group and to take part in what wa s called


'Operation Seafarer'. There had been an Irish involvement in the Seabird Group from the start: the Bird Observatories at Cape Clear, Malin Head and Tory had contributed to the Atlantic Seawatch scheme which the Group had promoted and a number of Irish sea watchers had contributed data from points such as Brandon Point. the Old Head of Kinsale and even, though somewhat removed from the Atlantic, the West Pier, Dun Laoghaire. Irish representation on the Seabird Group Executive Comm ittee, as on so many organizations in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was personified by Oscar Merne and he promoted the new survey actively. It was a most exciting two years and. while the survey's techniques have been much criticized in recent years, it did pinpoint all the major seabird colonies and. for some species, provided valuable baseline data. The main criticism of the survey has been the general lack of a systematic approach to censusing the cliff-breeding auks and the burrowing species. a criticism which is valid . but it should be recalled that this extremely ambitious survey did result in a number of research projects aimed at solving the censusing problem and at other aspects of seabird breeding biology . The results were summarized in book form in 1974 (Cramp et aI1974).

The third survey promoted by the Irish Wildbird Con-


Ornithology and bird conservation

servancy in its early years was the plan to join with the BTO in mapping the breeding birds of Britain and Ireland on a 10 km square grid, over the five years from 1968 to 19 72. There was no obvious conservation motive behind this survey, unlike the wildfowl and seabird counts, but there was a sense that if the British and Northern Irish were going to do it (and it was the concept of the BTO) then the Republic should join in. Very little consideration was given to the difficulty involved or indeed to who would organize the survey: at this stage, no organizer of an amateur ornithological survey in Ireland had received reimbursement of his expenses, let alone any remuneration. There was no money anyhow. However, the IWC was fortunate in that the BTO appointed as organizer Dr Tim Sharrock, whose association with Cape Clear Bird Observatory, which he had helped to found in 1959, had brought him in contact with the more active Irish ornithologists. Equally fortunate was the fact that David Scott agreed to organize the survey in the Republic of Ireland. The enthusiasm and hard work of both men ensured the success of the Atlas. David Scott spent each summer in the field and the rest of the year corresponding with observers, ensuring that all parts of the Republic were covered and checking records. The project had a scientific value in that it mapped with unprecedented accuracy all the records of confirmed, probable or possible breeding over the five year period. It also propagated the idea of field ornithology as an activity of interest in itself and many Irish amateur birdwatchers were introduced to rigorous recording techniques. At the end of the Atlas period many called for a new survey to keep them occupied in useful activity, but the replacement survey on important bird habitats which was adopted in Britain proved too complex and too demanding of most Irish observers and was not a success here. Finally, the IWC in response to the declining population of the Peregrine promoted annual censuses of the species in the Republic. This survey was organized annually by John Temple Lang and summary results were published each year. Like the wildfowl counts and the seabird censuses, the Peregrine survey marked a response to conservation problems and the threat to a species. Each of these surveys reflected the interest of Irish ornithologists in numbers and distribution of birds. The wildfowl counts developed in due course into a Wetlands Enquiry which amassed a great deal of material on the seasonal distribution and numbers of most Irish wildfowl and waders in the early 1970s (Hutchinson 1979), and was repeated in the 1980s, but there was no spin-off into studies of why the birds feed on particular estuaries, where they moult, or how many of them actually utilize individual sites. These were the problems which increasingly interested British and Continental ornithologists from the mid 1970s on, but. apart from a small amount of wader and wildfowl ringing, one state-funded project on Mallard, one long-term project on Barnacle Geese, and a couple of single season studies of waders in Strangford Lough, there was no research on ducks, geese or waders. It may be argued that research was carried out on the Wexford Slobs on the feeding ecology of White-fronted Geese but, if so, the results have never been published. There was little improvement

in the 1980s despite all the protests about threats to waterfowl, though a state-funded research programme commenced on White-fronted Geese, Micheal O'Briain carried out studies on Brent Geese as part of his doctoral research in University College, Dublin, and Oscar Merne studied the infauna of the Shannon Estuary as a food resource for shorebirds. The criticism which the seabird census work had attracted led to several attempts to survey particular sites, but it was left to the RSPB to institute a scheme of annual monitoring of specific seabird colonies at a series of cliffs (Stowe 1982). The enthusiasm for atlassing was soon seen to be limited to surveys based on the simplest of instructions. Attempts to run a Register of Ornithological Sites foundered repeatedly on observer indifference to the habitat within which the birds occur: one might almost describe it as an apathy towards ecology. Efforts were made to organize Common Birds Census work but the birdwatchers who had taken part in the Atlas found this too complex and demanding of their time. It was not until 1981 when the BTO/IWC Winter Atlas project was launched that this enthusiasm was harnessed again for a simple survey with clear objectives and a very straightforward recording card. Even the Peregrine survey, which led to post-graduate projects for two. workers and eventually to state-sponsored surveys in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, did not produce much material on the birds other than on numbers and distribution until the early 1980s. One is drawn inexorably to the conclusion that while amateur ornithology flourished in Ireland in the nineteenth century, it parted company from British and Continental movements in the early years of this century. As both amateur and professional research developed abroad. Irish ornithology stagnated in an interest in bird distribution and bird reports not that far removed from the current enthusiasm for 'twitching' or adding as many species as possible to one's life list. It could be argued that such a strong statement is not fair to ringers, but Irish ringing has been notable for the dearth of publications from its proponents. The BTO provided essential assistance in both Northern Ireland and the Republic in the late 1960s and early 1970s by providing intensive ringing courses, and there are now approximately 100 ringers in the country, but only a handful of serious research projects have been started and very few papers relying mainly on ringing results have been published. One would hardly think that this is the country of J. P. Burkitt, the father of colour ringing. In the foregoing I have dealt very largely with Irish amateur ornithology. The reason for this emphasis is the scarcity of professional opportunities for ornithologists in Ireland. There is no University with an interest in ornithology to rival Oxford, Aberdeen or Durham in the UK, though there are indications that this may be changing. At each of the colleges of the National University in Dublin, Cork and Galway there is now at least one member of staff prepared to encourage students to work on birds. Secondly, there is an increase in the number of professional ornithologists working in the civil service since the mid 19 70s. It would not be true to say that there is a plethora of opportunities in the state service but there does seem to be

Ornithology and bird conservation an increase in the number of ornithologists earning a living from research, either as employees of or under contract to government departments. In particular, the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland has commissioned a substantial amount of work in the last five years, largely from the RSPB. Surveys of breeding 'Peregrines, breeding Common Scoters and breeding waders have provided contract work for ornithologists in Northern Ireland. In the Republic the Wildlife Service has commissioned research into seabird breeding ecology, White-fronted Goose feeding ecology, the effect of Cormorants on fisheries and the effect of drainage of a river system on the birds of the area. Thirdly, there are signs of a very few amateurs carrying out first-rate ornithological research and being prepared to contemplate publishing it. One of the aims of the journal Irish Birds, which was founded in 1977, was to encourage both amateur and professional ornithologists to publish original work on Irish birds and, while the emphasis of the majority of papers has been on bird distribution, there have been important contributions on other topics. During these years there was unprecedented pressure on the natural environment. Increasing industrialization and land reclamation threatened many bird habitats. The conservation movement responded with varying degrees of success to these threats. In Northern Ireland the Amenity Lands Act had been passed in 1965 and under its provisions a number of important ornithological sites have been conserved. The cliffs and sea-stacks at the western end of Rathlin Island off the Antrim coast, with their breeding seabirds, and the Quoile Pondage in Down with its wildfowl, are among the 44 nature reserves now established. Under the provisions for establishing Areas of Scientific Interest a certain degree of protection was afforded by the exercise of a measure of planning control. By this means the large sites of Lough Neagh and Lough Beg were saved from all forms of development except those of a purely agricultural nature. By the end of the 1970s it was clear that the Department of the Environment (NI), the successor to the Ministry of Development, did not have sufficient powers to deal with the major conservation problems which were becoming apparent. In 1985 two related Orders-in-Council strengthened the provisions of the 1965 Act. The new legislation provided severe penalties for disturbing birds in the breeding season, made it an offence to introduce certain species which had the capability to become pests .and, among strong provisions regarding Areas of Special Scientific Interest, landowners are obliged to consult the Department of the Environment in advance of undertaking a range of operations or activities which the Department considers may damage the value of the site in nature conservation terms. The voluntary organizations have also played a prominent role in nature conservation in Northern Ireland. The National Trust, which established the Strangford Lough Wildlife Scheme, has also set up and managed a number of reserves, including one at the Bann Estuary. The RSPB first became involved in Northern Ireland in 1966 when it absorbed the Ulster Society for the Protection of Birds and appointed Frank Hamilton as its first Regional Officer. Growth has been steady and members' groups were formed in Belfast in 1970, Bangor in 1971, Larne in 1973, and


Antrim, Lisburn, Fermanagh and North West in 1977. Current membership in all Ireland is approximately 4,000, of which the great majority are in Northern Ireland. The RSPB now has a full-time Regional Officer, Assistant Regional Officer and Overall Reserves Warden as well as secretarial staff, wardens and contract researchers. It has reserves at Castlecaldwell on Lough Erne, Green Island and Greencastle Point on Carlingford Lough, Swan Island on Larne Lough, Shane's Castle on Lough Neagh, Rathlin Island cliffs and Lough Foyle. In the Republic the then Department of Lands, which had recently established a small game development and conservation unit, announced in November 1966 that the Minister was having legislation prepared to deal with game on a national basis and that amending legislation dealing with wild bird protection was also envisaged. In 1968 the Department of Lands and the Irish Wildbird Conservancy, with financial help from the World Wildlife Fund and Arthur Guinness, Son & Co, Ltd, acquired a section of the North Slob in Wexford and established the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve. Two years later, as part of the Irish contribution to European Conservation Year, an international wildlife seminar was held in Killarney (O'Gorman & Wymes 1973). This has been described by one of the participants as a rather lavish function which 'appeared like a battle, waged with free alcohol, between An Foras Taluntais (Agricultural Institute) ... and the Forest Service of the Department of Lands' (Parker 1987). The seminar recommended that a centralized wildlife conservation agency be established with adequate budgetary support. In 1970 the small game development unit in the Department of Lands was merged with the Forestry Division to form the Forest and Wildlife Service, and over the next few years a small number of staff was hired to begin assessment of sites for conservation purposes, several areas of ornithological interest were protected by the imposition of 'noshooting' orders with landowner consent (totalling 66 by 1988), and work continued on the preparation of a comprehensive wildlife act. In December 19 76 the Wildlife Act was enacted and it came into effect in June 1977. The Wildlife Act placed responsibility for wildlife conservation with the Forest and Wildlife Service and provided for the establishment of both state-owned and privatelyowned nature reserves, of refuges for fauna and for special management arrangements, for the protection of wild birds, fauna and flora, for the control of hunting and shooting, and for the control of trading in wildlife. Unlike the Northern Irish legislation it did not give any statutory support for areas of special scientific interest. The Act was welcomed by the voluntary conservation, shooting and hunting bodies and they in turn were invited to nominate members to a Wildlife Advisory Council which was set up to advise the Minister. The Wildlife Advisory Council included a number of independent experts as well as the nominees of various voluntary bodies, and served for three terms of three years until 1987. Its reports chart the progress made and the problems and frustrations encountered. By the end of 1985,26 nature reserves had been declared, but 23 were in state forests. While it was important that natural and semi-natural woodland should be conserved, the high pro-


Ornithology and bird conservation

portion of reserves on state land was due largely to the unavailability of finance to purchase sites in private hands and to the reluctance to use the sections in the Act which allowed the Minister to recognize privately-owned nature reserves or to make management agreements. The second report of the Council noted the accelerating rate of destruction of natural habitats and described the response of the Department of Fisheries and Forestry, which incorporated the Forest and Wildlife Service, as inadequate. While much useful research had been carried out, the Council reported, there were signs of difficulty in translating the results into a co-ordinated policy for nature conservation. The final report stated clearly that it was apparent to those, both within Ireland and overseas, who were aware of the facts, that satisfactory progress in wildlife conservation had not been and was not being made. These were harsh words addressed to a Minister from a Council set up to advise him, and the Council went further, adding that a number of its recommendations had not been implemented. The principal difficulty was the marginalization of wildlife conservation within the structure of a government department largely committed to commercial forestry. In 1984 a Review Group on Forestry was appointed to advise the minister and, in its own submission, the Wildlife Advisory Council recommended that the objectives of wildlife conservation would best be met by the establishment of a heritage authority which would be responsible for wildlife, national parks and historic monuments. This recommendation was accepted and in 1987 the Wildlife Service was separated from Forestry and transferred to the Office of Public Works with a governmental commitment to setting up a heritage authority. The Forest and Wildlife Service, known since July 1987 as the Wildlife Service, has carried out a great deal of research to identify sites of sufficient value for nature reserve status in the Republic, just as the Department of the Environment has done in Northern Ireland. In 1986 an index of publications and reports over the years 1969 to 1986 contained over 250 items. It continues to maintain the 66 areas covered by 'no-shooting' orders. It administers the Wildlife Act, issuing licences and bringing prosecutions, but its commitment to conservation through purchasing habitat has been disappointing. Two other state bodies have had a significant input to conservation in the Republic. The Office of Public Works, to which the Wildlife Service was transferred in 1987, has established National Parks at Killarney in Kerry, Glenveagh in Donegal and Connemara in Galway. These incorporate over 20,000 ha and include a number of sites of importance for birds. As Foras Forbartha, the National Institute for Physical Planning and Construction Research, produced a series of inventories of areas of scientific interest for each of the counties in the Republic in the 1970s and published a summary in 1981, the total area of which was 231,500 ha. In addition, the Conservation Unit of An Foras carried out or commissioned environmental impact surveys for a number of local authorities where major plans for changes in land-use were proposed. The abolition of this organization was announced in 1987 as part of the government's policy of budgetary spending cuts. In a pungent review of wildlife conservation in the

Republic, in the five years following the passage of the Wildlife Act, Temple Lang (1983) concluded that the most important defect in policy was the absence of a firm financial commitment by the state to the acquisition of nature reserves. He considered that this was the main reason for the failure to conserve the fourteen most important wetlands listed by the International Council for Bird Preservation, or to acquire any areas except Pollardstown Fen in Kildare for wildlife conservation. His critique still holds true in its main thrust, though three more sites have been acquired for wildlife conservation in subsequent years, and, with the Irish government committed to a policy of severe financial restraint in the late 1980s, it appears unlikely that substantial funds will be available for nature reserve acquisition in the near future. The IWC remains the principal voluntary wildlife conservation organization in the Republic. Its membership in 1987 was about 5,000 in 22 branches. Throughout the 1970s the IWC was run by volunteers but sponsorship in 1980 made it possible for Richard Nairn to be employed as Director. Since then, membership has grown from about 1,700 to over 5,000. Nowadays, the IWC has a staff of three and several researchers and assistants on contract. Its reserves include the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve (jointly with the Wildlife Service), the Little Skellig and Puffin Island in Kerry, Sheskinmore Lough in Donegal, Broad Lough in Wicklow and Lough Beg in Cork. With increasing public interest in wildlife and birds in particular, the IWC has been successful in achieving a high media profile and its open days at the North Bull in Dublin have attracted thousands of visitors. Public attitudes to birds and conservation have changed significantly in the 1980s, though it is still worth pointing out that far more people shoot game than are members of all the bird conservation and ornithological bodies in the country. In Northern Ireland there are about 89,000 shotgun licences, the majority of which are issued for shooting game. The number in the Republic is similar. There is a strong gun club movement and the membership has been adequate to support several shooting magazines over the years. The ornithological and the nature conservation public in Ireland has never been considered large enough by any Irish publisher to support a commercial magazine, though a number of British magazines are sold into this market. However, a handful of books on Irish birds (e.g. Roche & Merne 1977, D'Arcy 1981, D'Arcy 1986, Hutchinson 1986) have found commercial success, and several enterprising pioneers have made a living from organising courses on field studies and wildlife related topics. The impact of television on attitudes to wildlife has not been sufficiently stressed. In the Republic, home produced television went on the air for the first time on New Years Eve 1964 and within a couple of years half the homes in the country had television sets. From an early stage, Amuigh Faoin Speir, a weekly programme of wildlife films illustrated by drawings and narrated in both English and Irish, was an amazing success. Eamon de Buitlear, who had been running a pet shop, and Gerrit van Gelderen, who had been working in advertising, teamed up to produce forty-eight programes a year and the public loved

Ornithology and bird conservation


Little Skellig, off the coast of Kerry , Ireland's largest Gannet colony , (Photo: Richard T. Mill s)

them, Eventually the programme was dropped, but both men have continued to make wildlife films and are public figures throughout the country. Without preaching at anyone these simple programmes opened the eyes of many people to the wildlife of the Irish coun tryside and to the beauty and wildness of the places where birds , mammals and plants can be watched. They had a tremendous effect on raising public awareness, similar indeed to the effect of the much more sophisticated programmes produced by the BBC and by Independent Television in Britain, Eamon de Buitlear's achievements were recognized by the ornithological community in 1983 when he was elected President

of the IWC and by the wider Irish community in 1987 when he was appointed a Senator. If interest in birds is measured by membership of an ornithological body, then the majority of the birdwatching public is situated in Dublin and Belfast. The urban concentration is not surprising, as it reflects the position in Britain where most RSPB members live in highly urbanized south-east England. But the IWC in the Republic and the RSPB in Northern Ireland both have a stro ng and widely dispersed branch network nowadays with members situated all over the country and this bodes well for the future.

Recent changes in status Although birds are the best documented wildlife in Ireland, chan ges in status are difficult to measure because of the increase in intensity of observ ation over the past twenty years. As th e number of birdwat chers in the field has increased so has their mobility and th eir competence. Birds which were difficult to identify twenty years ag o are now readil y separated by more skilful birdwatchers using better opti cal equipment and improved field guides. An obvious con sequence has been an expa nsion of th e Irish list by the add ition to it of a number of va gran t species. many of which may well have been overlooked in the pa st. A furth er effect of the explosion in interest in birdwatching has been that more distribution surveys have been carried out and some birds have been found to be more common than was previously suspected. In the case of th e Blackcap, for example. it is th ought that much of th e apparent increase recorded in th e late 1960s resulted from sea rche s being made for the birds so that they could be rec orded for the Breeding Atla s proje ct. Field workers wh o had pre viously concentrated th eir atte ntions in areas kn own to be good for bird s visited places a nd habitats where th ey would not normally hav e gon e. ADDI TIO N S T O T HE IRI SH L IST

The total number of species on th e Irish list at 31 st December 19 86 was 39 7. Of th ese. 4 7 were added in th e years from 1966 to 19 86. One of th ese. Ruddy Duck . has colonized Ireland from En gla nd wh ere a feral population


ha s been established for many yea rs. Of th e rem ainder. 23 are va gra nts from North America. 15 from Euro pe and North Africa and eight from Asia . Three species recorded by Ruttledge, but su bsequen tly rejected. have been recorded again: Short-billed Dowitcher. Gull-billed Tern and Brunnich 's Guillemot. Breeding has been recorded for th e first time in eight species. Three species - Black Tern . Greens han k and Dotterel- br ed only once or twice and seem unlikely to become established. Pied Flycatchers ne sted in tw o counties in 1985 and, if nestboxes continue to be made available for them. are likely to nest again because of the proximity of a large breeding population in we st Wal es. Goosanders have a tenuous foothold in Ireland but seem likely to becom e permanent. Ruddy Ducks . Black-tailed Godwits and Bearded Tits appear to be slowly establishing themselves. Several spec ies which breed in Britain are occurring more frequentl y and ne sting seems likely in the near future. Such species would include Golden Eagle (a former breeder). Osprey. Little Ringed Plover. Cetti's Warbler and Firecrest. CHANGES I N STA T US

The number of breeding species sho win g signs of marked increase su bstantia lly exceed s th e number kn own to be decreasing. The most exce ptiona l change in sta tus has been tha t of th e Collared Dove. which first bred in Ireland

Recent changes in status in 1959 and which by 1965 was thinly distributed along the coast. The spread was rapid and nowadays Collared Doves nest throughout most of Ireland and in certain cereal growing districts are extremely numerous. Several seabird species have continued to increase. Cormorants have doubled in numbers since the late 1960s. In this case the increase has been attributed to the availability of a new food source - the rapidly expanding population of roach in Irish lakes - and to protection from shooting in 1976. Fulmars, Shags, Common Gulls, Black-headed Gulls and Guillemots have all increased as well. Several of the gulls appear to have responded to the increase in waste products of the fishing industry and to the spread of refuse dumping. Indeed, the Herring Gull increase to the mid 1970s and the subsequent decline have both been attributed to the effects of refuse dumping. The new food source is believed to be responsible for the increase, but the change in the dumping habits of householders when they started using black plastic bags, in the late 1970s, is thought to have caused the decline by providing optimal conditions for botulism. The increased availability of food for gulls has affected breeding populations abroad as well as in Ireland. The increase in wintering Lesser Black-backed Gulls, the regularity with which flocks of Little Gulls occur in Wicklow, Wexford and Galway, the scattering of Mediterranean Gulls which now winter along much of the coast and the occurrence of small parties of North American Ring-billed Gulls are all evidence of the good health of gull populations generally. Habitat changes have caused some major changes in







Irish bird populations. In particular, the spread of coniferous afforestation has reduced the area of upland rough pasture and led to declines in Hen Harriers, Merlins, Red Grouse and Twites. It has also led to an increase in Jays, Coal Tits and Siskins. The most dramatic declines have been in the Corncrake, Grey Partridge, Roseate Tern and Nightjar populations. Species first recorded in Ireland between 1966 and 1986 Systematic order Year order

White-billed Diver Cattle Egret Great White Egret Lesser White-fronted Goose Ruddy Duck Black Kite American Coot Semipalmated Sandpiper Stilt Sandpiper Short-billed Dowitcher Marsh Sandpiper Solitary Sandpiper Laughing Gull Ring-billed Gull Ross's Gull Gull-billed Tern Elegant Tern Forster's Tern Brunnich's Guillemot Little Swift Belted Kingfisher Olive-backed Pipit Citrine Wagtail Gray Catbird Pied Wheatear Rock Thrush Siberian Thrush Gray-cheeked Thrush Cetti's Warbler Savi's Warbler Paddyfield Warbler Blyth's Reed Warbler Pallas's Warbler Radde's Warbler Dusky Warbler Bearded Tit Philadelphia Vireo Black-and-white Warbler Northern Parula Yellow-rumped Warbler Blackpoll Warbler American Redstart Ovenbird Northern Waterthrush White-throated Sparrow Indigo Bunting Bobolink

1966 Semipalmated Sandpiper Bearded Tit 1967 Little Swift White-throated Sparrow 1968 Stilt Sandpiper Solitary Sandpiper Laughing Gull Citrine Wagtail Blyth's Reed Warbler Cetti's Warbler Pallas's Warbler American Redstart 1969 Lesser White-fronted Goose Gull-billed Tern 1970 Dusky Warbler 1971 Bobolink 1973 Ruddy Duck 1974 White-billed Diver Rock Thrush 19 76 Cattle Egret Yellow -rumped Warbler Blackpoll Warbler 19 77 Ovenbird 1978 Belted Kingfisher Olive-backed Pipit Black-and-white Warbler 1979 Ring-billed Gull 1980 Marsh Sandpiper Pied Wheatear Savi's Warbler 1981 American Coot Black Kite Ross's Gull 1982 Elegant Tern Forster's Tern Gray-cheeked Thrush Paddyfield Warbler Radde's Warbler 1983 Northern Parula Nothern Waterthrush 1984 Great White Heron 1985 Short-billed Dowitcher Siberian Thrush Philadelphia Vireo Indigo Bunting 1 986 Brunnich's Guillemot Gray Catbird

Species recorded breeding for the first time between 1966 and 1986 1967 Black Tern c. 1975 Black-tailed Godwit

Ireland: location of first-sightings of new birds in Ireland, 196686. Small dots represent one record. medium dots two or three records, and the large dot 14 records

1969 Goosander 1972 Greenshank 1973 Ruddy Duck

19 75 Dotterel 1976 Bearded Tit 1985 Pied Flycatcher


Recent changes in status

Corncrake at the edge of a meadow. (Photo: Richard T. Mills)

Corn crakes a re now largely rest ricted to th e we st coast and the Shannon valley. There has been much spec ulation as to the reason for decline and ch angin g farming practice ha s been th e most widel y sug gested cause . Howe ver. Corncra kes hav e disappeared in man y pla ces wh ere th ere h ave been no obvio us changes in farmin g methods. so th e position app ears to be more complex . Roseate Terns have declined on both sides of th e North Atlantic so the Irish position is n ot special. but the rea son s are unknown. Th e decline of the Grey Partridge and the Nightjar . both now rare speci es in Ireland and app arently destined for extinction . have not been adequately explained. Changes in sta tus of certain summer migrants can be attributed to the effect of factors in the wintering area. Several species which winter in the Sahel ar ea of Africa. notably Sand Martins and Wh itethroats, ha ve been affected by the drought in that area and adult mort ality appea rs to have been very high . Th e result has been very much reduced numbers returning to breed in summe r. One species. the Reed Warbler . ha s colon ized Ireland successfully in the period. Th ere wa s one old breeding record. but Reed Warblers now nest in small numbers at a number of reed-bed s on th e south . eas t and north-east coasts. In thi s case. the commencement of breeding in Ireland followed an increase in passage bird s in autumn. There are some signs that a similar trend may be happening with the Wood Warbler. Among wintering and pa ssag e birds th ere have been few

species showing noticeable chan ges in sta tus despite the effect s of drainage on wildfowl and wader h ab itat. The win ter population of the Gree nlan d White-fronted Goose has declined in mo st of its traditional haunts aw ay from th e Wexford Slobs. but in Wexford numbers have been maintained well and even sho wn an in crea se. Th e declin e Species for which there is good evidence of status change between 1966 and 198 6 Breeding speciesshowing marked population expansion or reduction Increases Decreases Great Crested Gre be Hen Harrier Fu lmar Merlin Cormorant Red Grouse Sh ag Grey Part ridge Buzzard Corncrak e Peregr ine Herring Gull (after mid 19 70 5) Black-h ead ed Gull Rosea te Tern Commo n Gull Nigh tjar Herring Gu ll (to mid 19 705) Sand Marti n Arcti c Tern Whitethroat Guillemot Twite Colla red Dove Yellowh amme r Reed Warbl er Com Bunting Jay Magpie Hooded Crow Raven Siskin Reed Bunting

Recent changes in status Passage or winter visitors showing substantial and generally progressive increases or declines Increases Decreases Whooper Swan Tufted Duck Greylag Goose Twite Brent Goose Gadwall Teal Long-tailed Duck Mediterranean Gull Little Gull Black-headed Gull Common Gull Lesser Black-backed Gull Goldcrest Firecrest

in the outlying flocks has been largely due to the destruction of habitat and to the disturbance of the birds. but the trend has been reversed in recent years due to a ban on shooting. Few duck or wader species have shown major changes in numbers and those which have. such as the increasing Whooper Swans. Greylag Geese. Brent Geese. Gadwall and Teal. and the decreasing Pochard and Tufted Ducks. appear to be responding to events elsewhere. perhaps on the breeding grounds.


Breeding species showing local increases or decreases itl rangeor numbers Decreases Increases Common Seoter Gannet Kittiwake Grey Heron Stock Dove Mute Swan Barn Owl Gadwall Sedge Warbler Shoveler Spotted Flycatcher Lesser Black-backed Gull Kittiwake Sandwich Tern Razorbill Long-eared Owl Robin Redstart Whinchat Blackcap Wood Warbler Chiffchaff Coal Tit Jackdaw

Background to the species accounts PERIOD COVERED

The species accounts cover records of birds in Ireland up to the end of 1986. The bulk of each account deals with records since 1965, the date to which Ruttledge's Ireland 's Birds (1966) summarized records, but brief synopses are given of reco rds in the period up to 1952 , the year to which Kennedy, Ruttledge & Scroope's Birds of Ireland (1954) brought records, and from 1953 to 1965 . ARRANGEMENT OF MATERIAL

The sequence and nomenclature ofVoous's List of recent holarctic bird species (I977) as given in The 'British Birds ' List of Birds of the We stern Palearctic (I984) is followed. Species not included therein are placed according to the listing given in A Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World (Howard & Moore 1984). Every species accepted by the Irish Rare Birds Committee as recorded in Ireland up to the end of 1986 is included. Where the total number of records does not exceed ten , all those recorded since 1952 are listed. Records of birds


known to be of a species not otherwise recorded in Ireland but not fully identified as to species (eg Pterodroma sp.) are included in the text but not in the totals of species recorded . Records of birds believed to have escaped from captivity (eg Red-headed Bunting) or known to have arrived by shipassisted passage (eg Northern Flicker) are given square brackets. Records of rare birds have all been accepted by the Irish Rare Birds committee with the exception of Blacknecked Grebes and Buzzards in the breeding season, and of Ruddy Ducks in Northern Ireland. The breeding season records have been provided for this book by the observers concerned and Ruddy Ducks are now resident in Northern Ireland in such numbers that observers no longer consider the birds as rare. Where significant material on commoner birds has been available for the period since 1986 this has been fully utilized in the text. All statements regarding status refer to the island of Ireland unless otherwise indicated. References to the

Background to the species accounts Republic of Ireland and to Northern Ireland are to the territory of each state. References to Munster, Leinster, Connacht and Ulster are to the area of each province. Throughout the text counties are referred to without the prefix 'Co.'. Placenames are given the nomenclature used by the Ordnance Survey maps in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland. The use of an oblique in a date (eg 1985/86) implies a continuous period. A hyphen (eg 1985-87) indicates a series of season s in successive years where the recording per iod is not continuous. THE HISTOGRAMS

These show distribution of selected species by halfmonthly periods from 1966 to 1986. Presence is recorded for each period in which a bird is known to have occurred and not just the period in which it was first recorded. Longstaying birds, therefore, are shown as being present in a succession of periods. The month is divided in two at the fifteenth day with day I 5 attributed to the first halfmonthly period. Darker stippling represents the first sighting of individual birds; paler stippling represents birds known to have arrived in an earlier period. SOUR CES

The pr incipal sources for each species are the Irish Bird Report (IBR). Ruttledge's Ireland's Birds (RuttIedge 1966),


Kennedy, Ruttledge & Scroope's Birds of Ireland (Kennedy et al 1954), The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland (Breeding Atlas) and The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland (Winter Atlas). References to these are as shown.

Local bird reports have been widely consulted and are referred to by the initial letters of the title (eg CBR 1984 for Cork Bird Report 1984). These local reports are listed in Appendix I . Computer print-outs of Irish ringing recovery data have been provided annually by the BTO to the Research Branch, Wildlife Service. Bray, Wicklow, which makes them available to the Compiler of the annual Ringing Report (published in Irish Birds). Summaries of recoveries in Ireland of birds ringed outside the country and of recoveries abroad of birds ringed in Ireland were provided by the BTO for use in the preparation of this book. The BTO Ringing Scheme receives financial support from the Nature Conservancy Council in Britain, the Wildlife Service in the Republic of Ireland and the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. SOURCES SPECIFIC TO PARTICULAR GROUPS

Wildfowl and Waders Wildfowl counting began in Ireland in the late 1940s and early 1950s under the auspices of the Wildfowl Trust at Slimbridge in England. There were few counts from the mid 1950s to the early 1960s, but counts revived in the mid 1960s and systematic wader

Tile Bridges of Ross. Clare. Ireland's fine st west coast seawatchinq point. witll Loop Head in tile backgr ound. (Plloto: Ricllard T. Mill s )

Background to the species accounts


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