S.O.S. Save Our Seabirds!

Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!

Bird Watch Ireland! Bird Watch Ireland!

Mayday! Bird Watch Ireland!

Red Alert! Red Alert!

Save Our Sea Birds!

We have purposely kept quiet about the late arrival of the usual flock of about 150 / 200 Arctic terns to their summer nesting home on Beginish island. We celebrated their arrival last year from their world wandering on May 13th.

This little bird, sometimes affectionately known as the "sea swallow",, migrates a longer distance than any other bird on the planet and is a bird of international importance and one of our great national treasures.

When they leave their hitherto usual nesting site on Beginish at the end of the summer they fly down the west coast of Africa, past South Africa into the raging Southern Ocean, get blown around the bottom of the world in the strong westerlies ["the roaring forties"], fly up the east coast of Brazil and then back across the Atlantic to their beautiful island home on the Blaskets, which is a designated SAC and SPA  and thus supposed to be protected under European legislation. What do they find? A habitat where they failed to breed successfully last year, not due to inadequate supplies of sand eels but due to disturbance by loose dogs [and possibly American minks] and lack of protection by the State agency obliged by E.U. law to protect their habitat and protect migratory breeding birds in an SPA [Special Protected Area].

Contrast this to New Zealand where the arrival of the bar tailed godwit every year is a cause for national celebrations.

This calamity is in addition to the fact that this little island once supported an over wintering flock of about 200 Greenland white fronted geese - the emblem of Bird Watch Ireland - until their grazing regime was compromised to such an extent that they also failed to return.

Contrast this to the wonderful beneficial effects of the grazing regime on the Great Blasket Island where the close cropped grass is beneficial to the wildlife there, especially the large population of choughs, and for the impoverished marine flora and fauna, one of the reasons it was designated an SAC [Special Area of Conservation].

Although these two islands are literally only a few hundred metres apart, their habitat requirements and protection status are totally different in order to comply with the Habitats Directive - one require close cropped grazing, the other requires absence or minimal summer grazing ending in July or early August and no over-grazing by sheep, free roaming dogs or American mink.

The species in urgent need of this enforced protection in the Blasket Islands S.P.A. in order of protection priority are:  Arctic terns, Greenland white fronted geese, Manx shearwaters and European storm petrels. As far as I am aware these are all Annex 1 in the European Directive and are all visitors to our shores whose habitats are being degraded, and the cost of protecting and monitoring their habitats and numbers is far less than the potential fines from Europe for wilfully neglecting to do so.



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Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry

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