There was already brightness in the sky as over 50 people met with leaders Alan McGuire and Chris Wilson at 4.30 am the Irish National Heritage Park, Ferrycarrig for this year’s celebration of the great natural phenomenon, the Dawn Chorus. The crowd was greeted by singing Robins and a Song Thrush without having gone any further than the car park.
After going through the visitor centre and emerging at the back we walked along the path by the lake where Blackbird and Moorhen were added to the morning species list followed by the flutey warble of a Blackcap and the sound of a Wren. Several unidentified bats were visible feeding above the surface of the lake.
It became noticeably brighter as we made our way under the road and up the path towards the Norman Motte and Bailey, briefly stopping near the River Walk to have a listen. The regular sound of Sunday morning traffic (even at this time!) was an unwelcome addition to the chorus. Despite this the early morning cacophony, consisting largely of thrushes, was in full swing, music to out rival any band.
By the time we reached the Motte and Bailey several other species, including Mute Swan, had been recorded and a calling migrant, a Whimbrel, added a coastal flavour to it. The ever increasing amount of light brought more birds out to join the chorus but it now became quieter as the thrushes had lulled. On retracing our path we heard a Willow Warbler singing when we were near the Crannóg. This made an interesting find as this was a species that had not been recorded during the Wexford Naturalists’ Field Club’s Mini Bio-Blitz in the Park eight days earlier despite the abundance of seemingly suitable habitat.
After walking back towards the centre we headed off under the railway and investigated the ”Wet Woodland Walk” where a tame juvenile Robin stole the attention and provided photo opportunities then to be physically reprimanded by an adult bird! The smell of Ramsons, wild garlic, permeated the air here. Also noticeable were the Bugle plants and Cuckoo Flower (Lady’s-smock) which grew at the sides of the path as well as the magnificent Marsh Marigolds. On a plant related theme it was lovely to see several Early Purple Orchids growing near the Dolmen however, their attractive flowers meant that some had unfortunately been picked.
After breakfast there was a final treat in store – a Peppered Moth near a tree in the car park. When put on a birch tree it camouflaged perfectly. This particularly interesting species has a melanistic (dark) form which evolved during the Industrial Revolution in English cities to avoid predation. The pale moths were easy prey on trees which had been blackened by soot so this adaptation countered that problem.
Thank-you to leaders Alan McGuire and Chris Wilson and to all the members of the public who turned up. A special thanks is due to Maura and all the staff in the Heritage Park for facilitating the event and who got up so early to prepare breakfast.
BIRD SPECIES LIST: Mute Swan, Mallard, Pheasant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Moorhen, Whimbrel, Woodpigeon, Swift, House Martin, Swallow, Robin, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Hooded Crow, Chaffinch.
Report by Brian O’Connor.