June for the birds

Outdoor Living

BUSY TIME This month is particularly busy for our adult kittiwakes, as they fly back and forth bringing food for hungry chicks.

Ciara Moynihan

June is shaping up to be a busy month for birdwatchers around the county with two outings organised by the Mayo Branch of BirdWatch Ireland to look forward to.
First up will be a visit to Downpatrick Head on Sunday, June 12, providing those who go along a great chance to view the many seabirds nesting along the spectacular cliffs – a truly memorable sight this time of year.
According to BirdWatch Ireland, up to 1,000 pairs of Kittiwakes nest on the cliff ledges. “June is a particularly busy time as the adults constantly fly back and forth bringing food for their chicks. At this time their characteristic ‘kitt-i-waake kitt-i-waake’ call fills the air. By late July the colony becomes quiet as the year’s young fledge,” the wildlife group explains.
“Guillemots are the ‘penguins of the northern hemisphere’. They are tightly packed onto the ledges during the summer as they incubate their pear-shaped eggs standing up. Before fully grown and encouraged by the adult, the chicks leap into the sea on calm June nights. Look closely for the bridled form.”
The cliffs in summer can also offer onlookers excellent views of breeding fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills, while great skuas, manx shearwaters, sandwich terns and puffins can be seen offshore.
But it’s not just about seabirds, there are many other species to see in the area – watch out for choughs, ringed plovers, wheatears and rock pipits.
The meeting up point will be the Downpatrick Head car park, north of Ballycastle along the Wild Atlantic Way, at 1pm.
George Keegan, PRO of the Mayo Branch, has a word of warning to those intending to travel: “The cliffs could be unsuitable for some as they are quite dangerous, so extreme caution will be required at all times,” he says, adding: “[The event is] probably unsuitable for very young birdwatchers, and older children under 18 years must be accompanied by an adult. If weather conditions are adverse the outing may be cancelled, so check out our social media platforms before travelling.”
The second outing takes place a few days later on Wednesday, June 15, at the Castlebar Swimming Pool. Lynda Huxley, renowned for her years of efforts on behalf of Swift conservation, will give a talk at 8pm, and this will be followed by outdoor observation of these lovely birds entering and exiting their nest boxes. All are welcome and admission is free, but donations will be welcome to help cover costs.