Garden Bird Survey updated to 2014/15

I’ve carried out two more Garden Bird Surveys since my last update. Here are two graphs which is a good way to highlight the main trends (note the two different scales). Siskins had one more good season but there was virtually no sign of them last winter. I finally got a Nyger feeder and even though I only put it up in January the dramatic effect it had on Goldfinch and Redpoll numbers is evident.

Graph of 4 species of interest 2015


Graph of 4 abundant birds 2015

Oran O’Sullivan coordinates this survey for Birdwatch Ireland and it was great to meet him last year at a talk he gave in Naas for our Kildare branch. In his analysis of the 2014/15 results (Wings No. 79) he noted that ‘the winter had no snow events, no cold snaps, and hence fewer noticeable movements of birds into gardens’. He confirmed the scarcity of Siskins – due mainly to a good seed harvest in conifer forests – traditionally, Siskins make a late-winter appearance in gardens when the cone harvest in plantations is depleted. He also noted the huge movement of Goldfinches into gardens from an occurrence in just six gardens in 1994/95 to 588 gardens in 2014/15. I shot this video in January 2013.


Daubenton’s Bat Surveys

Kildare Bat Group members also participate in the All Ireland Daubenton’s Bat Monitoring Scheme – Lucy and I have a transect on the Royal Canal between Maynooth and Kilcock west of Jackson’s Bridge. The Group was given a map of all the survey sites in Kildare a few years ago (by Bat Conservation Ireland) which was a bit hard to interpret, as there are so many waterways in Kildare, so I superimposed the waterways by hand which helped to put it in a different perspective. We’re hoping that we might be able to get a student from Maynooth University to take this on as a nice GIS project sometime.

Kildare has two major rivers, the Liffey and the Barrow, plus tributaries such as the Rye. It also has the three major canals, Royal Canal, Grand Canal and Barrow Line, plus branches such as the Naas/Corbally branch and the Milltown Feeder which flows out of Pollardstown Fen. I have very fond memories of some of these waterways.

There are also some wonderful aqueducts – the eagle-eyed out there might be able to spot the locations of three of them even from this imperfect map. This is something I hope to return to especially if I can get some good photos.

Kildare Daubenton's - waterways imposed


Kildare Bat Group

Kildare Bat Group is a small enthusiastic bunch of people, headed up by the irrepressible Anna Collins, which punches way above its weight. I am not one of its more active members so I’m not claiming any of these plaudits for myself! Its activities range from the community to the technical. On the community side, it hooks up with three Tidy Towns groups every year (liaising with Kildare County Council) providing them with support, public bat walks are held and promotional activities are undertaken. The technical activities include workshops, carrying out bat counts and erecting and monitoring bat boxes. In the photo below, Tina is erecting a bat box in Donadea in January 2012 with lots of willing helpers.



Royal Canal Butterfly Transect – 2015 Results

I recorded 12 species on my Royal Canal transect this year as part of the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme; again, no Wood White or Small Copper. Numbers fell back from the 612 high of 2014 to 450, similar to the 2013 level. The most numerous species was the Small White at 82, closely followed by Speckled Woods at 79 down a little from their 2014 high of 104. The Common Blue has made a small recovery this past two years although it is still in single figures. However, the Holly Blue has been doing really well from the single individual I recorded in 2013, to 22 last year and 38 this year. Holly Blue numbers tend to fluctuate quite a bit, largely as a result of parasitism I understand.

This lovely wildflower meadow appeared during the summer on a patch of bare ground which was left after a major water scheme finished up – could it have been the work of a guerrilla gardener I wonder?? It was nice while it lasted and enjoyed by the butterflies until it fell foul to men with rotavators and grass seed. However, there may have been time for some self-seeding to occur – we shall see …








This transect being on a waterway is of course rich in other wildlife which makes it always interesting to walk even when there’s not much butterfly activity. I’ve improved my identification skills with regard to dragonflies and damselflies although females and immatures still pose a challenge. Here’s a couple of my dragonfly videos. The mating pair are Migrant Hawkers and the ovipositing female is a Brown Hawker.


Barrow Way photos from 2015

I walked the Barrow Way in Kildare a lot this year as part of my Comma project. It also helped immensely with my rehabilitation and I could visit my mother in her nursing home before heading home. I have to admit that I was unfamiliar with this corner of Kildare and the engineer in me marvelled at the, mostly 18th century, infrastructure which you can get a glimpse of from these photos – no butterflies for once. The Barrow Lock is where the Grand Canal Barrow Line enters the River Barrow at Athy. South of this there are some navigation cuts or side canals to enable boats to pass weirs, mills and rapids. The Levitstown cut measuring 2 miles is the longest of these. The county boundary with Carlow is south of Maganey where the River Lerr flows into the Barrow – the west bank of the river along here is in Laois.

11 River Barrow Athy
River Barrow at Athy Castle


10 Barrow Lock2
Barrow Lock & Horse Bridge, Athy


8 Ardreigh Millhouse & Lift Bridge
Ardreigh Millhouse & Lift Bridge


7 Ardreigh Lock
Ardreigh Lock looking north to Athy



Barrow Way map6 Athy2


4 Levitstown Lift Bridge
Lift Bridge at Levitstown


3 Levitstown Mill
Levitstown Mill


2b Maganey Bridge
Maganey Bridge



1 Maganey Lock
Maganey Lock

Barrow Way map7 Maganey2