BirdWatch Ireland

Kilcoole, Ireland

BirdWatch Ireland

Kilcoole, Ireland
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Acampora H.,Mayo Institute of Technology, Galway | Berrow S.,Mayo Institute of Technology, Galway | Berrow S.,Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation | Newton S.,BirdWatch Ireland | O'Connor I.,Mayo Institute of Technology, Galway
Marine Pollution Bulletin | Year: 2017

Plastic pollution has been the subject of much research in the last decade. Seabirds can mistake plastic fragments for prey, which can perforate or block the digestive tract and cause ulcers. Most commonly, seabirds accumulate this indigestible matter in their stomachs, obtaining no nutrition and may die from starvation. Certain species of seabirds however, have the ability of regurgitating indigestible matter in the form of pellets. This study aimed to investigate the ingestion of plastics by live seabirds through the examination of regurgitated pellets (n = 92) from a Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) breeding colony and a winter roost in Ireland. Plastic prevalence was consistently 3.2% at both sites. The presence of plastic litter highlights the fact that all species of seabird are susceptible to interact with marine litter regardless of feeding habits, although at different rates. More research is needed to understand the driving factors involved in plastic ingestion among different species. © 2017 Elsevier Ltd.

Acampora H.,Mayo Institute of Technology, Galway | Newton S.,BirdWatch Ireland | O'Connor I.,Mayo Institute of Technology, Galway
Marine Pollution Bulletin | Year: 2017

Seabirds can interact with marine litter, mainly by entanglement or ingestion. The ingestion of plastics can lead to starvation or physical damage to the digestive tract. For chicks, it could additionally lead to reduced growth, affecting survival and fledging. This study quantified the ingestion of plastics by seabird chicks via an opportunistic sampling strategy. When ringing is carried out at colonies, birds may spontaneously regurgitate their stomach contents due to the stress or as a defence mechanism. Regurgitates were collected from nestlings of three different species: Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla, n = 38), Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis, n = 14) and Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo, n = 28). Plastic was present in all species, with the highest frequency of occurrence (FO) in Northern Fulmar chicks (28.6%), followed by Black-legged Kittiwakes (7.9%) and Great Cormorants (7.1%). The observed load of plastics on chicks, which have not yet left the nest, highlights the pervasive nature of plastic pollution. © 2017 Elsevier Ltd.

Jessopp M.J.,University College Cork | Cronin M.,University College Cork | Doyle T.K.,University College Cork | Wilson M.,University College Cork | And 3 more authors.
Marine Biology | Year: 2013

The distribution of Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) from Skellig Michael, south-west Ireland, was investigated using geolocation loggers between the 2010 and 2011 breeding seasons. All tracked birds travelled rapidly west into the North Atlantic at the end of the breeding season in August, with the majority undertaking transatlantic trips from Ireland to the Newfoundland-Labrador shelf. The furthest distance from the colony reached by each bird was not influenced by body mass or sex and was achieved in approximately 20 days. By October, all birds had moved back to the mid Atlantic where they remained resident until returning to the breeding colony. The most parsimonious explanation for the rapid, directed long-distance migration is that birds exploit the seasonally high abundance of prey [e.g., fish species such as capelin (Mallotus villosus) and sandlance (Ammodytes spp.)] off the Canadian coast, which is also utilised by large populations of North American seabirds at this time. Once the availability of this short-term prey resource has diminished, the tracked puffins moved back towards the north-east Atlantic. A relationship between relative abundance of puffins and zooplankton was found in all winter months, but after correcting for spatial autocorrelation, was only significant in November and January. Nevertheless, these results suggest a potential switch in diet from mainly fish during the breeding and early post-breeding periods to zooplankton over the remaining winter period. This study suggests that puffins from south-west Ireland have a long-distance migration strategy that is rare in breeding puffins from the UK and identifies a key non-breeding destination for puffins from Ireland. This has implications for the susceptibility of different breeding populations to the effects of possible climatic or oceanographic change. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Johnston A.,British Trust for Ornithology | Ausden M.,Royal Society for the Protection of Birds | Dodd A.M.,Royal Society for the Protection of Birds | Bradbury R.B.,Royal Society for the Protection of Birds | And 21 more authors.
Nature Climate Change | Year: 2013

The dynamic nature and diversity of species' responses to climate change poses significant difficulties for developing robust, long-term conservation strategies. One key question is whether existing protected area networks will remain effective in a changing climate. To test this, we developed statistical models that link climate to the abundance of internationally important bird populations in northwestern Europe. Spatial climate-abundance models were able to predict 56% of the variation in recent 30-year population trends. Using these models, future climate change resulting in 4.0C global warming was projected to cause declines of at least 25% for more than half of the internationally important populations considered. Nonetheless, most EU Special Protection Areas in the UK were projected to retain species in sufficient abundances to maintain their legal status, and generally sites that are important now were projected to be important in the future. The biological and legal resilience of this network of protected areas is derived from the capacity for turnover in the important species at each site as species' distributions and abundances alter in response to climate. Current protected areas are therefore predicted to remain important for future conservation in a changing climate. © 2013 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

Copland A.S.,BirdWatch Ireland Midlands Office | Crowe O.,BirdWatch Ireland | Wilson M.W.,University College Cork | O'Halloran J.,University College Cork
Bird Study | Year: 2012

Capsule Skylarks breeding in Ireland prefer extensive grassland habitats and almost completely avoid tillage habitats. Aims To describe the distribution and habitat use of breeding Skylarks in Ireland, particularly in lowland agricultural habitats, and to use this information to inform conservation measures for this species. Methods Countryside Bird Survey (CBS) and Farmland Bird Project (FBP) data were examined to determine large-scale (national) distribution and habitat selection, in addition to smaller-scale (farm- and field-level) habitat use. The CBS is a national breeding bird monitoring scheme involving 397 1-km squares. The FBP collected detailed bird and habitat data from 122 farms. Results CBS and FBP data both showed significant regional differences in breeding Skylark densities, with the highest relative abundances in the northwest and west. Dry grassland/grass moor habitats supported the highest densities of breeding Skylarks in the CBS, which were significantly higher than in improved grassland or tillage. At the farm-level, Skylark numbers were positively related to wetland habitats but negatively associated with trees in field boundaries, dense ground vegetation and overall density of farm boundaries. At the field-scale, larger fields and unimproved grasslands were preferred. Conclusion Agri-environment measures tailored to region-specific requirements and to the relatively local habitat preferences of target species are required if population declines of species of conservation concern, including Skylarks, are to be reversed. © 2012 British Trust for Ornithology.

Chivers L.S.,Queen's University of Belfast | Colhoun K.,Royal Society for the Protection of Birds | Newton S.F.,Birdwatch Ireland | Houghton J.D.R.,Queen's University of Belfast | Reid N.,Queen's University of Belfast
Marine Ecology Progress Series | Year: 2012

Seabirds are central place foragers during the breeding season and, as marine food resources are often patchily distributed, flexibility in foraging behaviour may be important in maintaining prey delivery rates to chicks. We developed a methodological approach using a combination of GPS data loggers and temperature-depth recorders that allowed us to describe the behaviour of surface-feeding seabirds. Specifically, we tested whether differences in foraging behaviour of black-legged kittiwakes Rissa tridactyla could be linked with reproductive success by comparing 2 consecutive years at 2 sites. At Rathlin Island (Northern Ireland) during 2010, foraging differed markedly from that during 2009 and from that at Lambay Island (Republic of Ireland) during both years. Birds exhibited foraging trips of greater duration, travelled a greater total distance, spent more time in transit and spent longer recuperating on the surface of the water. This notable shift was associated with a decline in breeding success, with greater loss of eggs to predation and lower prey delivery rates, resulting in the starvation of 15 % of chicks. We suggest that food resources were reduced or geographically less accessible during 2010, with suitable foraging areas located further from the colony. Birds did not invest greater amounts of time attempting to catch prey. Thus, our results indicate that kittiwakes at Rathlin modulated their foraging behaviour not by increasing foraging effort through feeding more intensively within prey patches but by extending their range to increase the probability of encountering more profitable prey patches. © Inter-Research 2012.

Crowe O.,BirdWatch Ireland | Musgrove A.J.,British Trust for Ornithology | O'Halloran J.,University College Cork
Bird Study | Year: 2014

Capsule Population estimates for 51 common breeding birds, totalling 62 million individuals, were estimated for Ireland.Aims To generate robust population estimates for common and widespread breeding birds across Ireland.Methods Densities were generated for common breeding birds using data from annual bird monitoring surveys using count data for all years between 2006 and 2010 inclusive. Bird atlas data were then used to (1) quantify the distribution of each species (10-km squares), and (2) generate an estimate of proportion occurrence of each species within each square. The total number of birds of each species was generated by multiplying proportion occupancy by the total area of the 10-km square and by the mean regional density generated from the bird monitoring data, and by summing the estimates of squares.Results Almost 62 million individuals of 51 common breeding birds were estimated. Wren Troglodytes troglodytes, with an estimate of more than 6 million individuals, contributed 10% of the total birds recorded. Swallow Hirundo rustica and Robin Erithacus rubecula were the next most numerous, at 5.8 and 5.4 million individuals. A total of 15 species were estimated at more than one million individuals each.Conclusion The estimates of detected individuals generated are based on best available information and analyses to date. Incorporating the bird atlas data permits vastly improved estimates by providing better informed distribution range across which the regional densities were extrapolated. However, estimation of densities and population sizes based on data from annual monitoring surveys alone is limited to species with widespread distributions because of the relatively low coverage and limited detectability of scarce species by this methodology. © 2014 British Trust for Ornithology.

Donnelly A.,University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee | Donnelly A.,Trinity College Dublin | Crowe O.,BirdWatch Ireland | Regan E.,Waterford Institute of Technology | And 2 more authors.
International Journal of Biometeorology | Year: 2014

Citizen science is proving to be an effective tool in tracking the rapid pace at which our environment is changing over large geographic areas. It is becoming increasingly popular, in places such as North America and some European countries, to engage members of the general public and school pupils in the collection of scientific data to support long-term environmental monitoring. Participants in such schemes are generally volunteers and are referred to as citizen scientists. The Christmas bird count in the US is one of the worlds longest running citizen science projects whereby volunteers have been collecting data on birds on a specific day since 1900. Similar volunteer networks in Ireland have been in existence since the 1960s and were established to monitor the number and diversity of birds throughout the country. More recently, initiatives such as Greenwave (2006) and Nature Watch (2009) invite school children and members of the general public respectively, to record phenology data from a range of common species of plant, insect and bird. In addition, the Irish butterfly and bumblebee monitoring schemes engage volunteers to record data on sightings of these species. The primary purpose of all of these networks is to collect data by which to monitor changes in wildlife development and diversity, and in the case of Greenwave to involve children in hands-on, inquiry-based science. Together these various networks help raise awareness of key environmental issues, such as climate change and loss of biodiversity, while at the same time promote development of scientific skills among the general population. In addition, they provide valuable scientific data by which to track environmental change. Here we examine the role of citizen science in monitoring biodiversity in Ireland and conclude that some of the data collected in these networks can be used to fulfil Ireland's statutory obligations for nature conservation. In addition, a bee thought previously to be extinct has been rediscovered and a range expansion of a different bee has been confirmed. However, it also became apparent that some of the networks play more of an educational than a scientific role. Furthermore, we draw on experience from a range of citizen science projects to make recommendations on how best to establish new citizen science projects in Ireland and strengthen existing ones. © 2013 ISB.

Tomankova I.,Queen's University of Belfast | Boland H.,BirdWatch Ireland | Reid N.,Queen's University of Belfast | Fox A.D.,University of Aarhus
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems | Year: 2013

Lough Neagh and Lough Beg Special Protection Area (SPA, hereafter Lough Neagh) is an important non-estuarine site in Britain and Ireland for overwintering wildfowl. Multivariate analysis of the winter counts showed a state-shift in the waterbird community following winter 2000/2001, mostly due to rapid declines in abundance (46-57% declines in the mean mid-winter January counts between 1993-2000 and 2002-2009) of members of the diving duck guild (pochard Aythya ferina, tufted duck Aythya fuligula and goldeneye Bucephala clangula) and coot (Fulica atra), a submerged macrophyte feeder. Only pochard showed correlations between declines at Lough Neagh and those of overall species flyway population indices to suggest that global changes could contribute to declines at the site. However, indices from the Republic of Ireland showed no overall decline in the rest of Ireland. Tufted duck indices at the site were inversely related to indices in Great Britain. Lough Neagh goldeneye indices were positively correlated with indices in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain, suggesting that short-stopping could contribute to declines at the site. Coot declines at Lough Neagh did not correlate with trends elsewhere, suggesting local factors involved in the decline. These analyses indicate that although there are potentially different explanations for the dramatic declines in these four waterbird species at this site, the simultaneous nature of the declines across two feeding guilds strongly suggest that local factors (such as loss of submerged macrophytes and benthic invertebrates) were involved. An assessment of the food supply, local disturbance and other factors at Lough Neagh is required to find an explanation for the observed adverse trends in wintering numbers of the affected species. This study highlights the potential of waterbird community structure to reflect the status of aquatic systems, but confirms the need to establish site-specific factors responsible for the observed changes in abundance of key waterbird species at a site. © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Lehikoinen A.,University of Helsinki | Jaatinen K.,Australian National University | Vahatalo A.V.,Novia University of Applied Sciences | Vahatalo A.V.,University of Jyväskylä | And 11 more authors.
Global Change Biology | Year: 2013

Climate change is predicted to cause changes in species distributions and several studies report margin range shifts in some species. However, the reported changes rarely concern a species' entire distribution and are not always linked to climate change. Here, we demonstrate strong north-eastwards shifts in the centres of gravity of the entire wintering range of three common waterbird species along the North-West Europe flyway during the past three decades. These shifts correlate with an increase of 3.8 °C in early winter temperature in the north-eastern part of the wintering areas, where bird abundance increased exponentially, corresponding with decreases in abundance at the south-western margin of the wintering ranges. This confirms the need to re-evaluate conservation site safeguard networks and associated biodiversity monitoring along the flyway, as new important wintering areas are established further north and east, and highlights the general urgency of conservation planning in a changing world. Range shifts in wintering waterbirds may also affect hunting pressure, which may alter bag sizes and lead to population-level consequences. © 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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