Other Visitors

While the little terns may not have shown up in force, there is still plenty to see down here at The Haven. We have had some fantastic wildlife sightings here over the last couple of weeks, it is a privilege to be able to spend so much time in such a beautiful space.

We were lucky enough to spot a short-eared owl hunting over the dunes one evening. These owls can hunt during the day or night and have a distinctive flight style when searching for prey. This individual flew along the top of the dune occasionally hovering a few feet over the ground before dropping down on its unsuspecting prey. The owl’s prey can include anything from voles to small birds such as the meadow pipits and skylarks that we have in such huge numbers here. The short-ear even left us a small gift which gives us some insight into his diet (our resident wildlife expert Maurice Conagh points out this individuals small size suggests it is a male).

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Short-eared Owl makes his escape.

 

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Pellet left by owl gives us clues to his diet. This leg is likely from a meadow pipit or skylark.

Another impressive bird nesting nearby is the kestrel. This species has often been recorded taking tern chicks however we can still appreciate its superb hunting abilities. Kevin managed to get a couple of shots of this bird as it made its way back towards its nest. I’m sure these pics will make their way onto the blog soon.

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Owl pellet broken up. You can see the eye orbitals and bill in the bottom left corner.

Our proximity to the river mouth brings us into contact with a range of marine mammals. We regularly spot the grey seal (and she, us) as it floats down the river towards the sea or rests in the surf. The otter remains elusive however we have seen some tracks in the sand at low tide which suggests he may be a nocturnal visitor to the site. Yesterday morning was particularly calm allowing Kevin to spot a harbour porpoise out to sea.

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These tracks were found going towards the exclosure from the water. They likely belong to an otter, or maybe a badger.

A few other exciting sightings we have had include one of Ireland’s only land reptile- the common or viviparous lizard. This lizard is unusual for a reptile in that it gives birth to live young rather than laying eggs. The red-listed Curlew has also been seen a number of times feeding at the waters edge. This bird has seen substantial declines in its breeding population in Ireland, estimates by BirdWatch Ireland indicate up to 80% of their breeding population have been lost since 1970 due to land drainage and intensive grassland management among other factors. Additionally we spotted an Irish hare the other day when it bolted from the long grass.

Although we have stopped wardening the site due to a lack of nesting activity there is obviously plenty of other opportunities to spot some of our native wildlife. Out on the beach or on the dunes there is plenty to see if you spend a little time out here. If you are available next summer we would definitely appreciate your help protecting this little patch!