Sherkin Island Marine Station

 
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Sherkin Island,
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Sherkin Island Bird Reports

 


These reports contain information on birds collected by Sherkin Island Marine Station's biologists, over the years. They provide an excellent introduction to the island's birds, including a summary of the status of each species.

Since 1985, much work has been carried out on the island's avifauna, and the status of some of the species has changed.

 

No. 1. 1985 Compiled by Mike Pollard .........................................4.00

(plus postage - Ireland - 0.60; UK - 0.80; Europe - 1.20 [airmail]; Rest of the World - 1.20 [airmail])

Coverage of birds in 1985 was the most complete for a whole year since records began, with observers present for most of the period from May to December. Veronica Egan undertook a complete breeding bird survey of the island from May to July; then from August to December Mike Pollard continued observations, especially of migrants, with help from Matthew Rodgers.

Immediately south-west of Sherkin lies Cape Clear Island, home of Ireland's most famous bird observatory. For this reason the bird life of Sherkin has been very much overshadowed by the intensive coverage given to Cape Clear. While Cape Clear may be visited by several hundred birdwatchers in a season, Sherkin is very rarely visited by ornithologists, other than those at the Marine Station. This report shows that the avifauna of Sherkin is of considerable interest and, as on Cape Clear, that a variety of unusual species can occur at times. The information already collected by ornithologists on Sherkin allows comparison with observations on Cape Clear both in relation to migrants and, more interestingly, breeding species. It is hoped that this report will provide both record of information so far collected and a stimulus for further observations and research.

 

No. 2. 1989 Compiled by R.P. Mundy .........................................4.00

(plus postage - Ireland - 0.60; UK - 0.80; Europe - 1.20 [airmail]; Rest of the World - 1.20 [airmail])

In addition to Sherkin itself, this report covers many of the small outlying islands around its coast. Badger Island to the south-west holds an important seabird colony. Also included are The Catalogues, Sandy Island and Quarantine Island to the north. The total land area is about 539 hectares.

A total of 56 species have bred on and around Sherkin. In 1989, between 45 and 50 species bred. In addition, 13 species were added to the island's list, bringing the total to 147. 1989 was the first year in which near uninterrupted coverage of autumn migration was attained, with regular monitoring continuing until December 2nd. The migratory pattern and status for most species during this season is now becoming clear.

 

No. 3. 1990 Compiled by R.P. Mundy .........................................4.00

(plus postage - Ireland - 0.60; UK - 0.80; Europe - 1.20 [airmail]; Rest of the World - 1.20 [airmail])

Observations began on 2nd March, the earliest date yet that an observer has been present on the island in spring. A late winter record of interest was an adult Iceland Gull, 16th March. The first summer visitor of the year was a Wheater, 13th March, followed by four more and the first Linnets by the end of the month.
April is usually the month of peak spring migration in this area. Southerly gales on the 1st brought a few Blackcaps, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests, but weather conditions were far from ideal for major arrivals of migrants during the rest of the month, with a north-westerly air-flow covering Ireland. The weather began to change during the last week of April, and as high pressure became established over Britain on the 30th, light south-easterly winds brought good numbers of migrants during the first days of May. Turle Dove and Grasshopper Warbler were highlights. During May, June and July, a comprehensive breeding survey was carried out. Further evidence of various recent trends was revealed, and the status of most species is now becoming clear. The highlight was the first confirmed breeding record of Water Rail on the island.

Several interesting seabird movements were recorded in July and August and some very lage feeding concentrations were observed during August and September. Numbers of Sooty Shearwaters and Sandwich Terns were high, and a few Great, Cory's and "Balearic" Shearwaters were also recorded.

Wader passage during August and September was light, but with a good variety of species including Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Plover, all of which are unusual on Sherkin. Good numbers of Whimbrel were also recorded. This first autumn migrant to be seen was also by far the rarest; an adult, summer plumage Spotted Sandpiper on Middle Calf Island, 11th July, which has been accepted by the Irish Rare Birds Committee. During the second half of that month, Common Sandpipers, Sandwich Terns, Swifts, Sand Martins and Willow Warblers began passing through the island.

October was notable for a particularly heavy passage of finches. Siskin and Redpool numbers were especially high. A major movement of birds towards the end of the month involved very large numbers of Skylarks, Black Redstarts and Chiffchaffs. A Red-breasted Flycatcher and one or two "unstreaked" Acrocephalus warblers were more unusual. Also in October, a flock of Crossbills and two Yellow-browed Warblers were of interest. Light north-westerly winds on the 31st brought several skeins of geese to the island. Of three skeins of grey geese, only one was positively identified, as Greylags. Five Barnacle Geese on the same day were the first record of that species from the island.

 

No. 4. 1991 Compiled by Nigel Baskerville.........................................4.00

(plus postage - Ireland - 0.60; UK - 0.80; Europe - 1.20 [airmail]; Rest of the World - 1.20 [airmail])

One hundred and thirteen species were recorded on Sherkin Island and around its coastline from April 30th to October 29th.

During May and June a survey of breeding birds was made. All but the late spring migrants had arrived before surveys began. A Cuckoo was not heard until the 9th May whereas Whitethroat was recorded earlier than previous years, on 1st May.

Notable spring sightings included a Mute Swan on 6th May, a Short-eared Owl on 10th June and several records of Turtle Doves during late May and early June.

During July a Kingfisher on the 9th was an unusual sighting, the first island record for six years.

Seawatching from the south coast during late summer/autumn was a little disappointing compared to previous years with few records of the large Shearwater species. Manx Shearwater passage was greatest in early August with between 4,500-6,000 per hour moving west. Storm Petrel passage was greatest during late August reaching in excess of 350 per hour. Wader passage began in early July with the arrival of the first Redshank, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank. More unusual sightings include Grey and Golden Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit during late September and October.

Cold weather during October heralded the arrival of winter visitors. Most notably a large flock of Sisken and several Mistle Thrush (unrecorded in the last two years). Red Breasted Merganser rafts reached a peak of 32 on Kinish Harbour on 27th September. Unusual birds included another Kingfisher, Little Gull and a Wryneck which remained on the island from 7th to 9th October and was the first record of this species for Sherkin Island.

 

No. 5. 1992/1993 Compiled by R.P. Mundy .................................4.00

(plus postage - Ireland - 0.60; UK - 0.80; Europe - 1.20 [airmail]; Rest of the World - 1.20 [airmail])

This report covers the two years 1992 and 1993. During 1992, coverage continued uninterrupted from the 20th March to the 27th September. In 1993, there was discontinuous coverage between 23rd May and the 28th October.

A complete survey of Sherkin's breeding birds was made in 1992, and a partial one was conducted in 1993. Full surveys of the breeding seabirds of Roaringwater Bay were completed in both years. A small quantity of ringing was carried out in 1992, through the Marine Station. During migration periods, coverage was complete for spring 1992 only.

During 1992, a substantial amount of sea-watching was carried out from Reenabulliga, the southern tip of the island, results from which are presented in the systematic list.

 

No. 6. 1994 Compiled by R.P. Mundy .........................................4.00

During 1994, at least one observer was present on the island continuously from 17th March until the end of the year.

During the summer, a full survey was made of the breeding species on Sherkin, and for the fourth consecutive year, a complete survey was made of the breeding seabirds of the islands of Roaringwater Bay.

Mute Swans were confirmed breeding on Sherkin for the first time time since 1974 and Chiffhcaff also bred. Breeding numbers of several species continued recent declines, most notably: Mallard, Kestrel, Skylark, Swallow, Pied Wagtail, Jackdaw, Starling and Linnet. There is now some evidence that the Chough population on the island may also be in decline, with only two pairs breeding for the fourth consecutive year, compared with the four or five which usually bred in the 1980s. The breeding populations of Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat have again increased.

Spring migration was generally fairly light, but included the first records of Night Heron and Little Egret on the island. Other less common species included a Long-tailed Duck and two Tree Sparrows. Autumn was noteworthy for exceptionally large numbers of Swallows and Black-headed Gulls and relatively large movements also of Black Redstarts, White Wagtails, Grey Wagtails and Swifts. Slavonian Grebe, Brent Goose, Curlew Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull and Lesser Whitethroat were all recorded for the first time on the Island. Also of interest were several Yellow-browed Warblers, a Firecrest, a Hobby, another Long-tailed Duck, four Black-tailed Godwits and a flock of Lapland Buntings.

Winter records included two Purple Sandpipers and several Black Redstarts and Chiffchaffs.

The report includes several records of interest from 1986, which have not appeared in any previous Sherkin Island Marine Station publication. These are the first and only record of Tufted Duck on the island; the fourth record of Lapwing; the third record of Black Tern and details of the Yellowhammer population from that year, the last in which it was recorded breeding on the island.

(plus postage - Ireland - 0.60; UK - 0.80; Europe - 1.20 [airmail]; Rest of the World - 1.20 [airmail])

 

© Sherkin Island Marine Station 2006