Tralee Bay

“What am I doing here?!”...Tralee Bay, Co. Kerry by Kilian Kelly

This is a new-ish arena for me. I am returning to it after many years away. I’m a pretty average birder, with a very average list. I’m getting involved in the Patch Challenge because it will force me to explore my local area more than I might otherwise do and also to improve my ID skills. 

I remember ringing Reed Warblers with our local wildlife ranger in Youghal, Co. Cork when I was 10 (22 years ago...yeouch). My first twitch was a Little Ringed Plover that turned up in Ballycotton around the same time. However, my teenage years were taken up with hurling and birds of a different variety. ‘Hurling’ of course, for those unfamiliar with the activity, is one of our national sports. It was only when I packed in a job that I wasn't keen on in inner city Dublin, to do a degree in Wildlife Biology in Tralee, Co. Kerry that I re-connected with the birding world. Naturally, I regret not maintaining my early birding interest, but 
it is great to be back and I am really enjoying catching up with my birding.

Tralee Bay Wetland Centre

I don’t really twitch unless something is reasonably close by - mainly because I am still studying and fuel is too damn expensive! Funding aside, I ought to focus on improving my skills before belting around the place after the rare stuff. I am also into plants and I’m a reluctant budding bryologist. So patch birding suits me well. I don’t have to drive very far and I can mix birding with botanising. I can nip out at lunchtime or get up early and have a quick dash around before heading to college.

Tralee is in the north east corner of the Dingle Peninsula in south west Ireland, so I have access to some wonderful birding locations. I still have learner plates on my scope and Tralee Bay offers a wide variety of good birding spots. Some great local birders have been working the patch for many years, so I will be doing very well to nab any self-found rares ahead of them. But then, I’m in a pretty competitive mini-league with some Big Cheeses, so I won’t worry too much about my scores and be content with the scraps.

The Bay

Tralee Bay is a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the Birds Directive, a statutory nature reserve, a candidate Special Area of Conservation (cSAC) under the Habitats Directive (HD) and a Ramsar site. In its entirety, the bay takes in a multitude of habitat types and includes extensive mud flats, sandy beaches, dunes and rocky headlands. The site is a candidate SAC for fixed dunes, alluvial forests and lagoons (all Annex I HD priority habitats). A myriad of others exist within the bay such as Atlantic and Mediterranean saltmarsh, Marram dunes and Salicornia (samphire) mudflats.

My patch, which lies within the larger area of Tralee Bay is called Blennerville. It is at the eastern end of the Tralee Bay and has extensive mudflats fringed with saltmarsh vegetation. Common cord-grass (Spartina anglica) dominates in the saltmarsh/mudflat intertidal zone throughout most of the site. Atlantic salt meadow is the dominant saltmarsh habitat type with typical plant communities being found. The area I have marked out allows me to include some riparian habitats and some wet woodland (well sort of) and small patches of reed bed. The patch is surrounded by improved grassland and mainly grazed by horses and some cattle. Tralee Bay Wetland Centre is also included in the patch ( and the ponds there are great for some gulling action. 

Tralee Bay patch map

The Juice

So what birds? Well, I recorded a whopping 102 species on the patch in 2011 and another award winning 101 species in 2012. However, I wasn’t around from June to November, and so lost some crucial months. I didn’t find anything rare or scare, but some of the Big Cheeses did. I missed out on 2 Gyrfalcons, a Yellow-legged Gull, Semiplamated, White-rumped and Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stint, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Dark-bellied Brent goose and a Spoonbill. Damn it. I must up my game considerably.

Tralee Bay Wetland Centre in the making. The gulls love these ponds.

The bay supports one of the four largest areas of Zostera (noltii and angustifolia) in Ireland and supports internationally important of Light-bellied Brent Goose. Over a 1,000 spent last winter in and around the Blennerville area alone, with further numbers out in the larger area of the bay. Numbers seem lower this year however but I haven’t counted them properly yet. Other wildfowl and wader species also occur in nationally important numbers.

Light-bellied Brent Geese & Great Crested Grebe

Looking north west across Tralee Bay

Over the years the patch has had some rather exciting birds (most of which would be lifers for me let, alone patch ticks). Bonaparte’s Gull, Black Tern, Smew, American Herring Gull, Terek Sandpiper, Red-rumped Swallow, Cattle Egret, Caspian Tern, Glossy Ibis, Night Heron, Crane, Baird’s Sandpiper, Sociable Plover and Temminck's Stint are some of the birds that have been found before my time. I would be delighted with any of the above in 2013, thank you very much.

I am pretty sure I won’t pose any threat in the Patchwork Challenge, or even in our Irish mini-league, but then that is not what it is about for me. I want to get out more in my local area, improve my skills and maybe, just maybe, eek out a rare before a Big Cheese comes along to snaffle it up.  
The salt marsh East of Blennerville Bridge

1 comment:

  1. Hello.
    I am thinking of taking this course starting this September. I love Wildlife and everything about it. I have some hesitations though because IT Tralee doesn’t seem to be a ‘recognised’ institution therefore is a bit of a risk studying your Bachelor’s Degree there, no matter how much you love something.
    Do you think the Bachelor’s Degree in Wildlife Biology from IT Tralee will have some potential for a Master’s Degree maybe in another country such as Norway or Canada?
    I would like to hear your opinion since your are already ‘inside’.
    Thank you!!