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Wexford Wildfowl Reserve Website
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WATCH THE SKIES!
The geese have arrived!
The latest count of Greenland White-fronted Geese on the North Slob, taken on November 20th is over 7,300, (the previous was 5,380, November 4th) which is normal for this stage of the migration period. Storms in the Atlantic have often been blowing in the wrong direction for the geese so they have been sitting it out meantime, waiting for favourable Northerly winds. Also 1,600 Brent Geese were counted, along with 8 Barnacle Geese with a lone Canada Goose. Birds seen on November 23rd included a Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, 2 Common Buzzards, 2 Spotted Redshank, 3 Greylag Geese and 5,000 Golden Plovers (and 21 Moorhens in the Visitor Centre grounds).
Seven geese have been seen wearing the identification collars that researchers put on them to study group behaviour and movements (as shown on the video playing in the Visitor Centre). Whooper Swans are also here in good numbers, over 120 at last count, they also fly over from Iceland and winter here, and in many other places all round Ireland.
The first three Greenland Whitefronts recorded on the Reserve this season flew over the Visitor Centre Saturday (Oct 11th) morning at 9 and had been heard calling the previous evening. There were few at first but as long as conditions suit, the winds being northerly, more arrive each day. By Monday 13th, over 70 were seen, and a similar number of Whooper Swans. Stormier, more Southerly winds blew over the next few days on the Geese' route from Iceland, which interrupted the migration briefly.
The birds do a weather check before setting out and will only fly in wind directions that help them. They are expert judges of weather conditions and of their own abilities and reserves of energy, so they do not set out unless they know that they can go the distance, and if conditions worsen during the flight, they know to turn back while they still have the strength to reach land.
The flocks of Greenland White-fronted Geese spent 6 weeks fattening up on their stopover on Iceland, pairs that bred this Summer had this year's brood of goslings with them, All were waiting for winds from the North to blow and carry them down to Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, home to about 8,000. The flight from Iceland lasts about 18 hours, and, not built to glide or soar, the hefty geese have to actively flap all the way, burning off half a kilo (about 1lb and 1/6th of their bodyweight) of body fat on the way, so having the wind behind them can make all the difference.
A few Brent Geese, who breed even further North in Arctic Canada, have also arrived. One was seen on Ardcavan Beach on Monday October 6th and 4 have been spotted in Wexford Harbour on the 9th. Small, compact dark geese who look like hefty ducks and fly in loose flocks rather than the skeins or V's adopted by most geese in flight, they arrive typically a little earlier than the Whitefronts, so keep a look out. The first Whooper Swans, another visitor from Iceland have also reached Wexford, 14 being seen on the slob on the 8th. Now is the time to start looking. We'll keep you posted so check our website and keep watching the skies.
Greenland White-Front Conference in Wexford Wildfowl Reserve 6th November.
On Thursday November 6th, several scientists, rangers and researchers gathered to listen to talks about the current and long-term status of the Greenland Whitefronts on the Slob and overall. Talks by Tony Fox, Mitch Weegman, Dave Tierney and Brian Burke outlined various aspects of recent research and changes over the years. Sadly, this species is in decline with latest figures just under 21,000, a drop of nearly 60% from a turn-of-the-century peak of over 35,000. This figure is still higher than in the 1970s and 80s before the ban on hunting in the early 90s, when numbers began to rise sharply.
Also, many wintering grounds in Ireland and Scotland have been abandoned or are in decline with fewer being stable or increasing. The region of Northern Ireland (Swilly) and Southern Scotland seems to be the healthiest with many sites keeping their geese or gaining new ones. The Southwest Irish grounds seem to be declining in number of sites and of geese on the sites. Nine sites in Ireland have been abandoned.
Numbers in the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve have been stable through the years but recent research shows that this population is not breeding at a rate to keep its numbers up. Numbers are kept stable by additions from other wintering populations. 'Our' Whitefronts breed up in the Northern part of their Greenland grounds but with only 5% of each winter's returning flocks being juveniles (it needs to be 15% to replace annual mortality of adults), they are not breeding often enough. Many pairs only breed once and most young geese stay with their parents as adults for years, being reluctant to leave. What is happening up in Greenland is little known as research there is extremely difficult. Each pair occupies 10 km/2 of land which cannot be traversed by vehicle or on foot so observation of them is pretty much impossible.
Weather systems up around Greenland alternate due to the AMO, the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. This means that at times, winds blow wet weather over Greenland in the spring, bringing snow to the breeding grounds and hampering the Geese feeding when they most need nourishment. Each year of such weather brings down the breeding rate while in the odd year when the AMO is not in force and conditions are dry (snow free) as occured 3 years ago, breeding returns to normal levels. But this has been the exception for a while now and the AMO may now be the norm for the foreseeable future. The Islay (Scotland) population breeds at a higher rate in its more Southerly Greenland breeding grounds.
Most research has been carried out on the wintering grounds in Ireland and Scotland, these are more accessible and any number fom dozens to thousands can be observed in a short period of time. Conservation measures here are working well by and large and the geese seem to fare well in safety. But Greenland looks to be the business end, whatever factors that are causing declines seem to occur there, but research, especially large scale, long term quantitative research is very difficult. The answer to many a question from the floor was in the line of; "We thought of that but can't find the answer at present".
Special thanks from the data analysts went out to the field researchers -many of them NPWS staff- who monitored and censused each site on the ground each and all winter to provide the necessary data since 1982. It is those who put in the hours and the miles who are the bedrock of any study, and any conservation work required. The affinity between those knee deep in rain-lashed sphagnum moss and those stuck behind computers in offices (along with a slice of mutual envy) was obvious.
Windswept and Interesting: Attendees of the Greenland White-Front conference at the Pump House WWR, 6/11/2014. Those present include NPWS staff, rangers, researchers, site surveyers, census takers, scientists from many places including Southern and Northern Ireland, Britain and America. We don't care if it rains or freezes,. We will keep studying them geeses.... Photo by Alyn Walsh (that's why he's not in the picture)
Our latest public events celebrated the return of the Greenland white-fronted geese who kindly time their arrival in late October to coincide with the Wexford Opera and Fringe Festival and school holidays! Wild Goose Week ran from October 25th to November 2nd.
GOOSE FESTIVAL EVENTS:
Thank you to all who attended our Goose Week events.
THE EDUCATION OFFICE IS OPEN FOR THE AUTUMN WINTER 2014 SEASON.
WE WERE BARELY A WEEK INTO THIS SEASON'S PROGRAMME (RUNNING TO NOVEMBER 25TH) AND WE ARE ALREADY BOOKED OUT.
ANY SCHOOL WHO CALLED TO BOOK AND COULD NOT GET A DATE THIS YEAR HAS BEEN PUT ON TOP OF THE LIST FOR NEXT SPRING/SUMMER.
SUMMER IS OVER!
Our Summer and Heritage Week Programmes have just concluded. The weather was not at its salubrious best for Heritage Week, but there was still enough sunshine and warmth for us to see and catch many insects on our nature walk in the Raven and our bug and butterfly hunts in the Snipe Field and Visitor Centre. Our bat walk along the boardwalk behind the Pump House and Pat Walsh Hide revealed lots of bats of different species including Daubenton's bat, who hunts over water.
A huge thank you to all the people who turned up, over half a thousand of you, to our Tuesday and Thursday events through the Summer. The weather was kind, only once were we rained off. And we caught a wide variety of land and water invertebrates from tiny water mites and flies to some spectacularly big dragonfly nymphs and beautiful fritillary butterflies.
SPRING EVENTS 2014
We have had another successful and enjoyable Spring/Summer term, we can take bookings for September to November.
Same as every year the dates booking up quickly so booking over the summer or early September is advised!
It's the summer again and so our summer migrants are here.
In fact we have had our 1st Wheatear, Sand & House Martin, Chiffchaff, Willow Warblers, Swallow, Whimbrel, Sandwich and Little Tern on the slob/harbour and Black Redstart in the county. Also a Hobby at Carnsore Point, 1st April. Remember if you do see migratory species don't for get to log them on springalive.net.
Other birds to see here from the hides and tower including our geese and swans include Greenshank, Redshank, Snipe, Teal, Buzzard, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Kestrel, Peregrine, Goldeneye, Great-crested & Little Grebe, Little Egret, Great Northern Diver, Shoveler, Gadwall.....
Some recent sightings of species of particular interest include Spotted Redshank, Red-necked, Black-necked & Slavonian Grebe, Spoonbill and White-tailed Sea Eagle.
White-tailed Eagle has been seen for that last 3 days as of 21st March.
14th April I counted 7 Greenland White-fronted geese, 1 Whooper Swan and a few 100 Brent. All geese are long gone now.
There is a Spoonbill on the slob (19th May)
Another sign of spring is tadpoles.
The frog spawn in the tank at reception here in the centre has turned into 100's of tadpoles. In fact there were so many I had to release about 400-500 back to the pond from where they came.
Don't forget we are a DPSM centre.
Up comming events.
National Biodiversity Data Centre as part of its 2014 workshop programme will be running 3 workshops here at WWR.
Beginner Birdwatching with Dick Coombes of BirdWatch Ireland 12th April 10am-4pm. (A great success)
Bird survey techniques with Dr.Olivia Crowe of Birdwatch Ireland 23rd April 10am-4pm. (Another great success)
Yellow asteraceae identification with Paul Green 11th August 10am-4pm.
These workshops need to be booked through biodiversityireland.ie as spaces are limited.
World Migratory Bird Day on this weekend 10th/11th May.
I will be in the tower for much of the day this Sunday the 11th. I hope to see and point out as many of our migrants to all who want to join. Don't forget to bring your binoculars!
National Biodiversity Week on 17th - 25th May.
Greenland white-fronts migration south and winter weather
Cold or wet weather poses no problems for the insulated and waterproof geese that are already here but when the more southerly winds are not blowing in their favour of the geese still up in Iceland wait for a change of wind direction. Strong fliers as they are, they still need a following wind from the North to help them carry their hefty selves all the way from Iceland. As it is they lose half a kilo (about a pound) on their way here. Geese are expert judges of their fat reserves and can 'read' the wind direction and speeds that will take them on their route. They can also tell how far to go before turning back if necessary so they do not run out of strength before they either arrive at their destination or, if they must turn back, return to where they began.
Birds counted on 24th October 2013 were 5,000 Greenland White-fronted Geese, 1,500 Golden Plovers, 800 or more Black-tailed Godwit, 45 Whooper Swans (not to be mistaken for the Mute Swans you can see from the Pat Walsh Hide), 10 Liittle Egrets, 6 Pink-footed Geese, one solitary Barnacle Goose, a Kingfisher, a Spotted Redshank, a Hen Harrier, 2 Merlins, a Kestrel and 2 Buzzards.
HOMES FOR SWIFTS OCCUPIED BY SQUATTERS
Seven swift boxes were put up on Thursday October 10th under the eaves on the west side of the tower, you can see them as you come in to the grounds of the Visitor centre. Before the first hour was over, house sparrows had occupied five of them. We will have to tape over the entrances for the winter and open them in May when we put up the tape and swift-speaker. It is not that we're hostile to sparrows but swifts are far less numerous and encouraging these enigmatic and mysterious birds to live at the Visitor Centre is a much-cherished ambition of ours. Don't worry on behalf of the sparrows. They have no difficulty finding homes of their own.
Wexford Wildfowl Reserve
Wexford Harbour and its Slobs, by their location and geomorphological structure, are natural havens for birds. Situated on the south-east coast of Ireland, they are the closest point for birds migrating into or out of Ireland from Britain and the Continent from a southerly direction.
Waders and wildfowl in particular are attracted to the area where the flat landscape and the wide shallow harbour with its sandbars and mud banks provide safe areas to feed, loaf, roost and breed.
Wexford Harbour opening to the Irish Sea to the east, is partially protected by Rosslare Point to the south, the Raven sand dune system to the north and the Fort and adjacent sandbars in the middle. From the west, the harbour is fed by the meandering River Slaney which, in its lower reaches, is tidal.
The Slob lands were reclaimed from the sea in the 1840's, with the building of the sea wall and the pump house. For more information on the history of the area please visit our history section.
From early October through to the middle of April, the North and South Slobs and the Harbour are home to thousands of ducks, geese, swans and waders making this a site of major international importance for wildfowl and waders. In addition, during spring and autumn, large numbers of birds on migration stop to feed in these rich areas.
Click here to see what's on offer for visitors
A yellow-browed warbler was seen by Hook Head onthe last day of September. a rare visitor from Siberia.
A few Sedge Warblers, Reed Warblers, Tree Sparrows, Swallows, House and Sand Martin, Curlew, Lapwing, Whimbrel and many more may be seen from our hides.
Along the sea wall Sandwich, Little, Common and Arctic Terns have been spotted.
Seen in September:
17th Sept. 1st 7 Brent Geese of the season seen flying along the sea wall...the winter is coming!
Brent Geese usually arrive a little earlier than the Greenland White Fronts, and come from Arctic Canada, even further North. They are the second most numerous Goose to winter on the Slob, typically two to three thousand of them.
Artic Skua, Dunlin, Kingfisher, Little Stint*, Green* & Wood* Sandpiper, (16th-...still here 29th) Lesser Yellowlegs***, Spotted Redshank* (24th & 25th), Godwits, Hen Harrier, Chiffchaff**, American Golden Plover***and Willow** Warbler.
Note: There could always be other rarer sandpipers and warblers in their respective flocks. Rare migrants or lost vagrants often find flocks of similar resident birds and fly, feed and roost with them, sharing their safety in numbers and finding all the good local food scources.
* Passage migrants passing through Ireland from northern breeding grounds going south for the winter.
** Summer migrants which have finished breeding in Ireland and are ready to head south also.
*** American vagrant blown across the Atlantic.
Also seen in July:
Common sandpipers and large numbers of Godwits.
Also seen in June:
Cuckoo, Short-eared Owl.
Also seen in May:
Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Yellow Wagtail (Adult male), Whitethroat.
Schools are gearing up for the new academic year and so is our education programme for the 2013/2014 school year.
Any school wishing to book activities for this Autumn please contact the centre at
076 100 2664 & 087 2646433.
Summer 2013 Family Activities:
Our twice-weekly summer activities were a great success, helped by the fine weather in what must have been the best Summer in years.
Click here to find out more.
Thursday 18th July we had a visit form Teresanne O'Reilly from Beat 102-103 to the Raven Wood where John and Andrew were running the summer activity.
National Heritage Week: another great week of activities in 2013.
Click the link for details
The Geese left in March and April for another summer, but they will soon be back!! While they are away you can still come and visit to see our summer birds including the swallows who are raising their chicks in our hides.
We had our tadpole tank set up in the centre until the 13th of June when we released the last of the froglets to our ponds (well away from the hungry ducks).
Winter Season 2012-2013 Updates
The first of last winter seasons Greenland White-fronted geese and Whooper swans arrived on Saturday 29th September. The latest and last count for the season from 16th April is 403 Greenland White-fronts. Unfortunately the percentage of juveniles in the population is at a record low of only 4.86% with an average brood size of 2.63 young per breeding pair. Of the many other species there are over 1000 light-bellied Brent Geese. Greenland White-fronted geese pairs don't breed every year and no two years are the same, read all about them here
Along with these there were many other birds to be seen in the fields and ponds around our tower including Curlew, Teal, Oystercatcher, Snipe, Lapwing, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Moorhen and many, many more.
Our winter visitors are gone but will be back this coming autumn and winter.Our new sightings to the reserve can be found here