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  04.08.11, 1.30pmhrs  |  reported by admin1
  Skua Nua

Inishowen 2011

A number of rare birds have been confirmed breeding on Inishowen during the 2011 season. Great Skua and puffin are colourful new additions to the peninsulas’ repertoire of resident wildlife.

Skuas’s bred on Inishowen in 2006 but have not nested since then, this year a pair of mature adults successfully fledged one chick which is now hunting the north Inishowen coast. The Skua is well known for its scavenging and harassing tactics which it uses to rob the fish from gulls and terns beaks. It continually dives the birds at great speed forcing them to drop their undigested food. It is these aggressive pirate actions which inspired the naming of the Blackburn Skua dive bomber which was used during WWII.

Puffins were confirmed breeding near Malin head on an isolated sea arch. Although suspected they have not been recorded breeding on Inishowen in the past. 2011 breeding season came early to the sea bird colonies and most species appeared to have a successful breeding season. Particularly high numbers of razorbill and Guillemot were recorded in early July.
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  06.07.11, 7.44pmhrs  |  reported by admin1
  Inishowen Sharks Indicate Ocean Change

An Inishowen based shark study has detected dramatic changes in 2011 throughout the Atlantic Ocean. The team of scientists who started out tracking basking shark movements became interested in plankton (basking shark food) due to the unusual lack of shark sightings.

Plankton is the basis of all life in the ocean and if you know what the plankton is doing you have a very good idea what everything else is going to do explained Donal Griffin a student with Queens University Belfast and a researcher with the Inishowen Basking shark study Group. The project which is supported by the Inishowen Development Partnership started out investigating the secrets behind the movement of basking sharks in Inishowen and Atlantic waters but the research team quickly realised that 2011 was going to be different. “We’ve had allot of ups and downs this year; we had really dense aggregations of sharks in April a whole month earlier than usual, then pretty much no large groupings throughout May and June and now we are seeing jellyfish species and Sunfish in Inishowen waters 4-6 weeks before any previous records”, says Emmett Johnston coordinator of the project. He added “We have always advocated the basking shark as a fantastic indicator species for monitoring global climate and ocean change and this year we have proven it”.

Although initially disappointed with the lack of shark activity the scientists quickly understood that the strange goings on offered a perfect comparison to previous ‘normal’ year’s records. Preliminary results show the key to the shark’s movements is the distribution and density of their food; plankton, which at the surface is determined by sunshine and wind speeds. Emmett went on to say “Having a good hunch or theory is one thing but being able to robustly prove it to the scientific world is another, obviously we hoped for hundreds of sharks but in hindsight we should have actually been wishing for what we got this year, which was little or no activity, because that has provided us with a robust set of figures to prove what marine biologist’s have been discussing for the last 50 years”.

It took the team a bit of time to figure out what was going on out there this year, but after their initial disappointment with the weather they came to the strange realisation ; the lower the number of sightings and the lower the density of the plankton the more dramatic the results are when compared with previous years.

There is allot of unknown variables when it comes to the ocean not least the changes in temperature at different depths. This year’s research has shown that the unseasonably rough weather was really a bit of a red herring when it comes to oceanographic changes. Researcher Donal Griffen summed it up like this “It sounds complicated but if you can imagine a cross section of the ocean like a sandwich of layers, each layer has a different density and different temperature. Normally we get a higher temperature at the surface than the underlying main body of water but this year the surface of the ocean has been cooler than normal but the Atlantic as a whole has been much warmer and it’s this difference that has given rise to the 6 week difference in animal’s movements”. The team believe the ongoing studies on the basking shark are vital to discovering and monitoring the links between Inishowen waters and the wider Atlantic Ocean.

For more information log onto www.baskingshark.ie
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  04.07.11, 8.31pmhrs  |  reported by admin1
  Seabird Feeding Frenzies

July 2011

Thousands of sea birds are flocking to the waters of Lough Swilly through out the summer months. Even local dog walkers are noticing the influx on the beaches and shorelines. The noise attracts most people’s attention first and then the feeding frenzies that follow are something akin to an animal planet programme. Most experts believe the birds are feeding on shoals of sprat and baby herring but large numbers of jelly fish have also been seen on or near the surface. In recent weeks numbers have grown exponentially as the young birds of 2011 begin to fledge.

Wave after wave of razorbill, guillemot, gannet and shearwater have been feeding on the Lough through out the past month. For the first time since the early 1900’s puffin have been recorded south of Dunree opposite Loreto house. The inevitable preying Skuas and peregrine are always close behind providing spectacular aerial displays. In another unusual development Shearwater have also ventured south of Dunree and into the middle Lough. Whatever is bringing these birds deep into the estuary is providing substantial feeding for many of the north coasts seabirds. What bird waters and conservationists are finding so strange is the length of time that this has continued. Usually there are feeding frenzies involving hundreds of birds on Lough swilly for short periods of two to three days, however this feeding has extended over months and is now attracting thousands of birds from as far away as Scotland.

Keep your eyes peeled for unusual goings on along your shores and you could be rewarded by some of the best bird watching Western Europe can offer.
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  04.07.11, 7.49pmhrs  |  reported by admin1
  Eagle Eye

July 2011

Inishowen has been the subject of great excitement in recent months with no less than 6 eagles on the peninsula for a period of time in May and June. Most of these birds are juveniles and experts believe they will not be ready to establish territories for the next 2-3 years even if they become ‘resident’ birds.

The eagle projects release officers are somewhat puzzled by what is attracting so many of these majestic birds to Inishowen, a place they had initially suggested could hold a maximum of one eagle pair. The birds have a different eye for the peninsula and have sourced an adequate food supply from the variety of wild prey scattered along the rugged coastline and rocky mountain tops. Local birders have always maintained that the peninsula could hold more than a single pair and point to the high density of Buzzard and Raven (the highest on the island of Ireland) as being excellent indicators of an ample found supply.

‘Speir’ a golden eagle born free in 2010 in Co. Donegal has spent the majority of its life within a tiny 2km area. The bird is fitted with a satellite tracker and eagle project manger, Lorcan O’Toole suspected for a period of time that the bird might have died or the tracker was malfunctioning. To everyone’s relief it was discovered that the bird is alive and well and sourcing adequate food from a large sea bird colony on a remote part of the north Inishowen coast.

Other birds have set up residence throughout the peninsulas marginal land areas. Mountainous and coastal locations are ideal habitat for eagle prey and it is no secret that Pollan lake has seen occasional displays of White Tailed Eagle fishing. Eagle project officers believe Inishowen could eventually host two pairs of Golden eagle and possibly one or two pairs of white tailed eagles; it remains to be seen if the birds will establish territories over the coming months.

If you see an eagle or want to find out more about the eagle project reintroduction programmes log onto www.goldeneagle.ie
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  12.06.11, 8.45pmhrs  |  reported by admin1
  Fantastic Fritillary

June 2011

Finally a Marsh Fritillary has been pictured on Inishowen. The species has been number-one on the Inishowen Wildlife Clubs most wanted list for many years. It has remained so elusive that many experts believed it to be locally extinct. George McDermot, local moth and butterfly enthusiast has come up trumps once again (George also found the first wall brown in 2009) and he is testament to the fact that time in the field and quiet dedication will pay off in the end.

This Fritillary was pictured in Ahilly near Buncrana on the west coast of Inishowen and George is sure there are more on the peninsula he thinks its just a matter of time and hard work before are pictured and identified. There are many historic locations of breeding Marsh Fritillary on Inishowen but during the past 10 years of the Donegal Butterfly Survey undertaken by Bob Aldwell of Butterfly Ireland and the Dublin Naturalists Field Club no sightings have been recorded.

The species is declining in numbers and is accounted the status of Vulnerable by Butterfly Ireland. It is the only Irish butterfly species protected under the EU Habitats Directive although still relatively common in western Donegal areas where much of its prime habitat survives. Look for uncultivated fields with low level grazing and coastal moor with dune slack nearby.

For more information see

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  16.05.11, 9.15pmhrs  |  reported by admin1
  New Corncrake Officer for Inishowen

May 2011

The National Parks and Wildlife Service have recruited a new Corncrake officer for Inishowen for the 2011 Corncrake breeding season. Anthony Boyle a native of Inch Island will be undertaking the Corncrake survey at night during 6 weeks of the summer months. His duties will also include mapping early cover, predator control, signing up landowners to the different grant and lease schemes, as well as monitoring the cutting arrangements during harvest.

Anthony gained conservation experience by volunteering his free time with locally based wildlife and bird groups. He has worked on the Strahack farm on Inch Island since childhood and is very familiar with current farming practices. " In my own humble way I hope to be able to contribute to the survival of one of Ireland's most endangered species, the Corncrake", said Anthony this week.

The Corncrake is an indigenous part of rural Ireland and one of the islands most endangered bird species. Ireland is required under European Birds Directive to designate lands and undertake conservation measures for its survival. Despite a concentrated programme of works and annual monitoring the population is still falling with less than 100 breeding males recorded calling last year, down from approx. 160 in 2008. 20 of these breeding male callers were found on Inishowen making the peninsula a key location to the survival of the bird. The birds undertake an unbelievable migration to Southern Africa every year and concerns have been raised about the loss of birds on this journey. However the Inishowen community is in a powerful position to assist with the survival of one of the most iconic and traditional sounds of rural Ireland. The memorable creck creck of the Corncrake should not be lost forever if proper management is encouraged and fostered throughout the breeding range of the bird.

If you see or heard a Corncrake please contact Anthony by phone at: 0879041355
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