Incredible birds of Booterstown

After a break in writing blogs, it’s good to get back to discourse about a trip that I took to Booterstown Marsh on a cold January morning. Birdwatch Ireland planned a birdwatching outing to see the birds on the An Taisce property. I got wrapped up well, packed my binoculars and bird book and set off on my e-bike. A good crowd of people turned up, all with binoculars and a fair number of telescopes. A good proportion of the attendees were women which is good news, as birdwatching has been seen as a male pursuit in the past.

There were a good number of birds there, mainly waders of different species. We spotted Knots, Dunlins and Sanderlings which are quite similar in size and the colour of their greyish winter plumage. The experts were helping us separate them in identification. Godwits and Redshanks are easier to determine, though I’m hard-pressed to separate Bar-tailed from Black-tailed Godwits! Expert Rachel showed us a Snipe in her telescope with its long bill, which I had never seen before – another one to tick off on my life list! I also spotted a Greenshank having a snooze.

I am proud to be a member of An Taisce and that it manages the site along with other properties around Ireland. I pointed out the sign, installed by the Dun Laoghaire Association of An Taisce, that lists the birds to be seen in the Marsh, including the Little Egret. It is considered a Climate Change bird as it has only appeared and wintered here for the last 20 years due to rising temperatures. I also noted the two recent islands in the marsh providing a roosting and resting place for birds at high tide.

Towards the end of the outing, two women alerted me to Long-tailed Tits in the trees along the Merrion Road. They are lovely small balls of pinkish fluff. While focussing on these, I noticed a bigger shape behind them and thought it was just a Woodpidgeon. It then dawned on me that it was a Sparrowhawk preening itself! I thought of the great Sparrowhawk photo on the cover of the 2019 An Taisce Annual Report (pictured on the banner). It was taken by Gustavo Zoladz in the Grove, another An Taisce property. My bird book confirmed the identification.

Importance of protecting the Marsh

A clean-up and biodiversity management of the Marsh was arranged for April. A long picker would have helped to get down to the grass area. Bird and plant walks took place during Biodiversity Week in May. These were conducted by Sean Hogan and Catriona Brady respectively. I was told we saw a Gadwall through Gustavo’s telescope, which I had never seen before! With Catriona, we got down to the grass and mudflat area, which I had never done before. It was good to get up close and personal with the plants that grow there, and to be even closer to watch the birds. Cleaning the Marsh will be easier for me next time!

These events were organised by Rebecca Jeffares who does trojan voluntary work for An Taisce. She is great at getting funding for activities around our properties there and in the Grove – well done! All in all, fine visits to one of our Dublin properties to see all the birds and plants on display.

Given the number we saw, you would not think we have a poor situation re declining bird numbers in Ireland and around the world. This makes bird sanctuaries like Booterstown Marsh very important. In addition, it’s worth a visit at harvest time to collect blackberries, as long as you leave plenty for our feathered friends! There are great views of Dublin bay to be seen alongside, as an added bonus.