Monday, 11 November 2013

From Breeding to Feeding

The breeding season has come to a close for yet another year and thankfully it has been a successful season for breeding waders on the Shannon Callows. While the weather has been reasonably mild, winter continues to creep in and many of the migrant species that will feed on the callows over the coming months have now arrived.
It has been a fantastic year for breeding Redshank on the Callows (© Brian Caffrey)

2013 has seen a continued increase in total breeding wader numbers on the sites managed as part of the Breeding Wader Project. The final numbers were 16 pairs of Lapwing, up 8 on last year; 105 pairs of Redshank, up 26 on 2012; 22 pairs of Snipe, down 2 on last year and no change for Curlew with just 1 breeding pair recorded. The Curlew successfully fledged two young, and continued to remain around Inishee into late August when most of the other breeding waders had left.

Curlew feeding on Bullock Island (© Brian Caffrey)

The Shannon Callows remains one of the few lowland areas where breeding Curlew are recorded in Ireland. In 2007 Curlew was added to the IUCN red list of threatened species. It is estimated that there are now less than 200 breeding pairs left in the country – a 96% decline in 20 years. As well as areas like the Shannon Callows, Curlew like to breed in marginal upland areas and it is likely that afforestation, commercial peat cutting and wind farm developments have all led to their breeding range becoming more fragmented. The Halting Environmental Loss (HELP) project is a cross border initiative between RSPB Northern Ireland, RSPB South West Scotland and BirdWatch Ireland, who are focusing on the conservation of breeding curlew in the border counties of Ireland through survey and management work. Let’s hope that through these widespread efforts we will continue to hear the very evocative cry of the curlew on our wetlands and uplands for many years to come. 

Flock of Golden Plover feeding on Bullock Island (© Brian Caffrey)

Meanwhile, the winter waders have well and truly arrived. Over the past few weeks the area has seen an increase in the number of winter migrants coming in. Our small numbers of resident breeding waders are suddenly replaced by larger winter flocks that come to avail of the abundance of food on the wet grasslands at this time of year. Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Teal, Golden Plover and Wigeon all occur in large flocks and are joined by other species such as Dunlin, Shovler, Pintail, Whooper Swan and Black Headed Gull. 

Whooper Swan flying in to feed on the grasses and aquatic vegetation of the Shannon Callows (© Brian Caffrey)

Posted by: Colin

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