On Friday 15th June we went on our bird watching fieldtrip to Woodstown beach and Dunmore East. It was pouring rain but we had brought our rain gear, wellies and umbrellas.
We travelled by bus to Woodstown beach. Our teacher gave us questionnaires and a bird identification sheet. While we waited for the rain to stop we answered some of the questions. When the rain eased we walked down the lane to the beach. Woodstown is a long curved sandy beach with the River Suir passing by. The tide was coming in.
First we spotted the sand martins. They were flying in and out of their homes in the sandy cliff. Sand martins get their name from where they nest in the cliff. Sand martin eggs are pure white so the adult birds can see them in the dark nest holes. The sand martin spends six months in Ireland and migrates to West Africa for the winter. It feeds on insects that it collects in the air.
We saw a flock of arctic terns go by. Arctic terns feed on fish. They are summer visitors to Ireland and over winter in the southern ocean. They build their nests on the ground and protect their stone coloured eggs against intruders by "dive bombing".
A hooded crow flew down from a nearby tree. Hooded crows are black and grey. They get their name from the black hood they appear to have. They are scavengers and will eat almost anything with meat even young rabbits. Hooded crows nest in trees and their eggs hatch out in 19 days.
A heron was standing near the wooden stakes at the waters edge. The heron is a tall, grey, white and black bird. It has long scrawny orange coloured legs and a long beak. It was waiting patiently for fish to swim into the shallows. Not only does the heron eat fish but it also eats insects, small birds and animals. The female heron builds the nest high up in a tree. Herons use the same nest every year. Heron eggs are a greeny blue to camouflage them in the trees.
We saw a group of oystercatchers on the shore. They are a black and white bird. They are present in Ireland all year round. Oystercatchers eat oysters, clams, mussels and crabs. It uses its long beak to stab the shells and get at the meat inside. It lays its eggs on the ground where they are difficult to see.
We travelled on to Dunmore East harbour. There we saw the kittiwakes nesting on the cliffs.
The kittiwake is a small oceanic gull. Its breeding range extends from Portugal to the low Arctic. There are 3,000 breeding pairs in Ireland and 8 colonies in Co. Waterford. The Dunmore East kittiwakes use discarded fishing material to build their nests. This is unsuitable because it can accidentally kill them by strangulation. The Dunmore East colony is unique because of it's proximity to man.
The kittiwake lays 1-3 eggs and the young hatch out in early June.
The kittiwakes leave Dunmore in September and migrate to the north Atlantic. Kittiwakes use the same nest every year. Mature kittiwakes always return to Dunmore East but the young may seek other places to nest.
Kittiwakes from Dunmore East have been tagged and tracked to places as far away as Greenland, Brittany and Britain. Kittiwakes can live for up to 18 years.
Kittiwakes get their unusual name from their call.
Although it was raining we still enjoyed seeing the birds. It was interesting to learn about them and we will be able to identify these birds when we see them again.
Frewen's Fourth Class,
St. Mary's National School,