Wednesday, 6 January 2016

South Dublin Parks - 2015 Review

In 2014 I signed up the trio of suburban parks near home here in Cabinteely as a site for Patchwork Challenge (PWC). Over the course of the year I recorded 64 species of bird between Kilbogget, Cabinteely & Clonkeen Parks (click here for maps) including some great local birds like Cormorant, Light-bellied Brent Goose, Snipe, Lapwing, Kestrel & Reed Bunting.

2015 saw me competing in the PWC comparative league with this South Dublin Parks patch and my main goal was to beat my 100% set in 2014 and get as close to 75 species as possible (not a huge list but harder than it sounds).

Here's a how it all went...

Kilbogget Park
The most productive of the three parks in terms of species diversity due to its mix of habitats, the most crucial of which for adding to the patch list is the wetland which in 2015 held 2 pairs of breeding Coot (fledging 6 young), 1 pair of breeding Little Grebe (fledging 2 young), 1 pair of breeding Grey Wagtail (at least 1 young fledged), large numbers of Moorhen, occasional Little Egrets, up to 18 wintering Teal, 3 Water Rail and a Kingfisher. A pair of Tufted Ducks hung around during the summer but didn't appear to breed. A juvenile Tufty here on 25th September was presumably a migrant. Other species using the wetland on passage included several patch ticks for me: a singing male Reed Warbler in the only stand of Phragmites found by local birder Hugh Delaney on 15th May, a Common Sandpiper on 20th May and a double whammy of Sedge Warbler & juvenile Dipper on 12th August. A female Brambling was seen with the finch flock in nearby trees on 9th December.

Common Sandpiper

The other main attraction at Kilbogget is the gull and wader flocks on the amenity grasslands and sports pitches (best in wet weather when invertebrates are drawn to the surface). A great site to see Mediterranean Gull as their favoured day roosting site at Sandycove is only a few km away. Numbers of Meds at Kilbogget normally number 30 or so but a couple of very high counts included 72 on 25th September, 106 on 5th November, 173 on 7th November129 on 18th November and 80 on 16th December. A winter record of Lesser Black-backed Gull on 12th January was notable but I didn't manage to see anything along the lines of the hoped for Iceland or Ring-billed Gulls and the only other waders I saw apart from the regular Oystercatches were 5 Curlew coming off the pitches early on the morning of 11th September. 

Away from the wetland and pitches, its eyes to the sky in order to add new species to the parks year list. I'm becoming more and more convinced that Kilbogget is used as a migration route for birds moving north and south along the Dublin coast. If viewed from the air, taking a short cut from Dublin Bay to Killiney Bay in order to avoid having to go around the coast at Dalkey/Sorrento Point will bring you right over Kilbogget and the combination of fields and wetland sticking out in a sea of suburbia I think adds as further incentive for birds to travel along here. Looking for 'visible migration' in this sense ensured no shortage of Meadow Pipits, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Redwing etc. recorded passing overhead as well as 8 Fieldfare on 8th November and 3 Skylark on 26th November (patch tick). The undbouted 'viz-mig' highlight was a lone Fulmar drifting West overhead on 22nd May! Absolutely bizzare! What was this seabird doing 2km from the coast on a calm, bright day with no fog or strong winds to disorientate it? Total #patchgold moment.


Cabinteely Park
The old estate grounds at Cabinteely Park bring a nice stand of woodland and parklands to the mix. Most of your typical woodland species such as Treecreeper, Coal Tit & Sparrowhawk can be easily seen here. Highlights included a Jay in February, a Woodcock flushed from the undergrowth on 15th March, a Carrion Crow on 14th April, a pair of territorial and presumably breeding Stock Doves through the spring and summer and an amazing density of Blackcaps with at least 9 singing males in late May and fledged young seen there later in the summer. A couple of pairs of Buzzards now breed not far from the parks and they can often be seen soaring overhead. Winter thrush numbers were down due to mild conditions with the largest flock of Redwing I saw here being 15. A small pond was created in the park a few years ago and along with the existing stream it held peak counts of 2 Mute Swans, 2 Teal, 31 Mallard, 2 Domestic Mallards, 1 Grey Heron, 5 Little Egrets, 2 Little Grebes, 13 Moorhen, 30+ Black-headed Gulls, 4 Mediterranean Gulls and 1 Grey Wagtail. 

Beautiful Demoiselle at Cabinteely Park (left) / Yellow-bellied Slider at Kilbogget Park (right)

Clonkeen Park
The least diverse of the three sites in terms habitat and species but the amenity grasslands and open river added interest. Plenty of gulls foraging on the football pitches while the river held high counts of 4 Little Egrets and 6 Grey Wagtails. The scrub along the river is a regular site for wintering Chiffchaff and one was present there on 2nd January. The only other addition of note to the patch year list from here was a flyover Curlew on 29th July.

By the years end I recorded a total of 73 species across the three parks culminating in 77 points and a comparative score of 113.23%. While doing this I also tallied 46 BirdTrack complete lists & 1589 BirdTrack records so all in all a successful year! The only species I'm aware of missing are Reed Bunting, Long-eared Owl, Light-bellied Brent Geese and nocturnal flyover Greenland White-fronted Geese (seen or heard by other local birders).

I was rather impressed with certain aspects of biodiversity management undertaken by the DĂșn Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council parks staff. Leaving dead wood lying or stacked up on the ground and removal of select non-native species of plant has given more of a 'natural' feel to the woodland in Cabinteely Park. Great to see large swathes of wildflower meadows and grasslands left uncut until autumn at Cabinteely & Kilbogget also. These supported plants like Lady's Smock & Common Spotted Orchid, butterflies such as Meadow Brown, Common Blue & Orange-tip and Common Green Grasshopper (all records of which submitted to the National Biodiversity Data Centre). Simple practices like these can go a long way to enhancing the biodiversity value of the parks. Looking forward to seeing how the newly established community orchard at Cabinteely Park comes along too. Thumbs up all round here.

Less in the way of positive vegetation management at Clonkeen Park but nice to see some lush attenuation ponds installed alongside the river which have brought in Emperor dragonfly and Moorhen not previously recorded in the park. Perhaps the council could see fit to get some wildflower meadows on the go here too? Plenty of space for it anyway.

The reconstruction work undertaken on the wetland in Kilbogget Park five years or so ago has dramatically increased the number of waterbirds both breeding and wintering at this site as well as providing rich feeding for migrant species. Originally just a narrow, shaded stream which held a Grey Heron and a handful of Mallards & Moorhens, the wetland now supports up to 200 waterbirds including breeding Coot, Little Grebe & Grey Wagtail plus wintering Teal, Water Rail, Little Egret & Kingfisher, has attracted migrants of note such as Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, Jack Snipe, Scaup, Reed Warbler & Siberian Chiffchaff as well as being a great place to watch Swallows, Sand Martins & House Martins hawking for insects.


I do feel however that the wetland is coming on a bit in terms of succession with some of the pools beginning to close over and easy access for ground predators onto the islands now making them unsuitable for breeding ducks and Moorhen. It could certainly do with some selective management in order to keep up its maximum potential for waterbirds whilst still functioning as a natural filter system for the river. Food for thought!

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