Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Dublin Waterways Bird Survey

Birds. Our garden neighbors, our pesky pigeons, and our favorite singers. Most people – including me – don't usually take much notice of most of our everyday birds. Sparrows buzz by as nondescript chirruping and singing gives us an unspecific audible backdrop to a summer's day. A recent push by Dublin City Council and Birdwatch Ireland is trying to change the casual way most Dubliners see their feathered friends, especially those in and around our urban waterways.

Kingfisher
Photo: Birdwatch Ireland
They are collecting citizen observation data on four waterbird species in particular. The most famous (and easily-recognized) is the kingfisher. Its bright colors are clearly visible as it buzzes by just above the surface of the water. I noticed these birds on some of my first fishing trips on the River Dodder, and recognized their similarity to the North American belted kingfisher.

Dipper
Photo: Birdwatch Ireland
Dippers have an interesting – and maybe unique – hunting behavior: they walk along the bottom of fast-moving streams to collect food from submerged rocks. I've seen these little guys along the river, but have yet to see their aquatic tricks.

Grey Wagtail
Photo: Birdwatch Ireland
The grey wagtails are recognizable by their banana yellow bellies and very long tails, which they "wag" back-and-forth and up-and-down as they perch on riverside rocks looking for insects.

Sand Martin
Photo: Birdwatch Ireland
The swallow-like sand martin makes its nests in burrows dug into riverbanks throughout Ireland, though it isn't a year-round resident.

If you see one of these birds in a Dublin river or waterway, Birdwatch Ireland kindly asks that you report it on the survey, which can be found here under the title, "Dublin City Waterways Bird Survey." You will be asked to record the species, date, and specific location of the sighting – you may have to use the provided tool to find the exact map grid reference for your sighting – and any breeding behaviors like nest-building or chick-rearing observed. Filling the form is easy and only takes a minute. The data will be used to help the council work to better preserve our local biodiversity and our sensitive native species. 

I'll be out on the rivers this summer looking for fish, but now I'll have four new local species to watch for. See you on the water!

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