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Wexford Wildfowl Reserve Website
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SPRING IS IN THE AIR, AND SO ARE THE GEESE
As Winter turns to Spring (and yes, it does eventually) our flocks of Greenland White-fronted Geese turn north, to Iceland first, then Greenland for the Summer. Already hundreds have left in advance of the rough weekend weather, and more will go during any spell of suitable wind. Soon, by late April, all will be gone so drop in anytime to see them enjoy their last meals before departure.
With Easter over, our schools programme is back up and running. Any schools we have failed to contact, please email email@example.com or phone 076 100 2664 for details and we will send you our brochure. We can take bookings for any time from now to the Summer holidays. Check our activities page.
GOOSE WEEK WAS A GREAT SUCCESS.
Thank you to all who came to visit the centre and to those who came especially for our GOOSE WEEK events.
THE GEESE NUMBERS ARE VERY SLOWLY BUILDING!
The first Greenland White-Fronted Geese of the 2015/16 wintering season, two adults and a juvenile (hatched and reared in Greenland this summer), were seen by Ayln Walsh and Andrew Butler on Wednesday 7th October (early but not exceptionally so). The latest count (15/12) is about 5,900 Greenland white-fronts on the slob which is about 2,000 down on what we would expect for this stage in the season. Many are reported on the east coast of Britain and on the Norwegian coast, with perhaps more in Europe. Islay hasn't recieved any more than usual. This is mainly due to the stormy weather conditions, which were preceded by mild weather on the staging grounds in Iceland. Hopefully they will make their way to us soon.
As of 18/12 there are about 2,000 Brent Geese from Arctic Canada on the slobs. We also have about 190 Whooper Swans, 2 Bewick's Swans, 13 Barnacle Goose and 5 Pink-footed Goose. More Whitefronts will be coming over the next months and we will keep track of their numbers. As the winds turn northerly over the Goose stopover grounds in Iceland, they will start on the 15 to 18 hour flight to Ireland arriving at any hour of the day or night.
"Janey, I'm bushed. Will we ever get there?"
Recently we have been treated to regular sightings of hunting Peregrine, Merlin, Kestrel, Hen Harrier and Buzzard. Both Short and Long-eared owls are also around. The numbers and variety of Ducks is also increasing, with Pintails seen on the main channel on 6th November and a North American Ring-Necked Duck seen on November 10th.
There are also large flocks of wintering waders in the fields (hence the raptors), including Golden Plover, Curlew and one of my favourites, Lapwing.
GOOSE WEEK from Saturday October 24th to Sunday November 1st.
To celebrate the return of the Geeenland-White-Fronted Geese to the North Slob each winter we run a week of events as part of the Wexford Fringe Festival for visitors to enjoy during mid-term break.
Saturday October 24th 6 to 10 am: Rise with the Geese
Join us for a walk down the Raven Nature Reserve to see the geese rise from their overnight roosts in Wexford Harbour. Meet at the Raven barrier Gate at 6am sharp (wear outdoor clothes and walking boots) for a 40 to 50 minute walk the length of the Raven to see the Geese fly out to the slob for the day's feeding (places are limited, booking is required).
Tuesday 27th & Thursday 29th 7 to 9am: Morning Goose watch
Wednesday October 28th & Friday 30th 4 to 5.30: Evening Goose Watch
From the Observation Tower, Wexford Wildfowl Reserve. Bring binoculars and telescopes (we provide some binoculars) to see the Geese fly in to the fields of the Slob to start the day's feeding, and out again to their overnight roosts.
Wednesday October 28th and Friday 30th 2 to 3.30: Pond-dipping in the Raven Nature Reserve.
Join us for family-friendly pond-dipping for water bugs and minibeasts in the Raven. Park in the Raven car park, walk through the barrier gate and join us in the first clearing.
And ALL WEEK (24-10 to 1-11) in the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve:
Dave Daly Art Exhibition in the Pump House.
Through the Spyhole: identify the birds for which each birdhouse is made.
Wexford CSI: identify the skulls.
Wild Goose Chase: find the answers to our Goose Challenge.
Book Sale: all proceeds to Bird Watch Ireland.
For our book sale, any books on wildlife or nature-related subjects wanted. Please donate any nature books you have finished with to the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, all proceeds from their sale go to Birdwatch Ireland.
While we wait for the Greenland White-fronted Geese to arrive (any week now), we've seen other birds migrating through Wexford Wildfowl Reserve during the changing of the seasons. Not least these flocks of Black-Tailed Godwits. These graceful waders with that straight just-too-long bill of theirs that can bend at the tip are enjoying the shallow watered ponds and feasting on the microbes, invertebrates and plants.
Another bird, a more local migrant that can be seen around the Slob each winter is our most day-active owl, the Short-Eared Owl; those 'ears' are just feathers that are nothing to do wth the owl's actual ears, which are placed lower down on the sides of the head at different assymmetrical heights.
Maybe people are more inclined to read the signs with an owl glaring at them.....
First up in the evening and last to bed (roost) in the morning, these owls are possible our most-often seen. The mice and rats in our fields have found a new enemy.
HERITAGE WEEK 2015 ran from 22nd to 30th. We enjoyed the last week of the holidays with a series of events all over the county and country celebrating our natural, cultural and built heritage.
Thanks to all who have turned up on Tuesdays and Thursdays this July and August, in the Snipe Field next to Ardcavan Beach and in the Raven Nature Reserve. A grand time was had by all. In what was a fairly dull season, we we only rained out once and our enthusiastic bug collecters seemed pretty undaunted by whatever weather was thrown at them, but we had good days too don't forget and the variety and land and especially water invertebrates never failed to excite and impress.
- DAWN CHORUS MAY 17TH
The Dawn Chorus in the Raven on Sunday 17th May was a success with the very first bird to sing being the elusive cuckoo. One seemed to follow us as we walked the length of the Raven it's call serenading us for over 20 minutes. In all, we had 22 species this morning.
The spring is here and many of you will have seen frog spawn in ponds and puddles, we have spawn in our tank here at the centre and are looking forward to watching them develope over the next few months. 6/3/15
They are hatched as tadpoles already! 12/3/15
The Geese are patiently waiting for the winds to change and start heading north to Iceland. The Whoopers have all headed home for another year.
We also have our summer and passage migrants arriving in small numbers for now. We have some Wheatear, Chiffchaff and even a Swallow. In fact if you are walking in the Raven Wood you will definately hear the chiffers singing. Don't forget to log any of your spring migrants on Springalive.net.
Also worth looking out for are Butterflies, there have even been a few sightings of the rare Comma already.
The geese have arrived! (November 2014)
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 occurred 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 from 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 surveyors, 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)
AUTUMN/WINTER 2014 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.
It's the summer again and so our summer migrants are here. (2014)
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 forget to log them on springalive.net.
Other birds to see here from the hides and tower as well as 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.
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 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 on Hook Head on the 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 sources.
* 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