Wednesday, October 5, 2011

999 - 'hello, we're dying'

Photo of a Curlew I took at Bull Island last year.

'Hello, you're through to Emergency Services, which service do you require?'
'Hello, well we didn't know whether to call you or the Simon Community, see, we're all dying and we've also got nowhere to live'
'Oh dear. Well, I'm very sorry for you but I can't help, sorry - this is for important emergencies only - the human kind.'
'Oh, ok, thanks. Bye'

In the late 1970's there were an estimated 24,000 Irish Curlews living, breeding and happily prodding the mud all over Ireland.

As of October 2011, there's an estimated 300 (max) breeding pairs of Irish Curlew left in the whole of Ireland.
The boss of BWI reckons there's actually only about 100 breeding pairs left, but lets hope he's wrong.

Fact: For hundreds of years, Ireland has been one of the few countries where Curlews lived all year round. In a few years time, if we want to see a Curlew, we'll have to wait until Curlews from other countries come over to visit Ireland over the winter months.
So we will still see Curlews, but they'll just be visitors.
They'll leave again in Spring, leaving Ireland silent of Curlews until the visitors arrive again the next winter.

Using my calculator:
12,000 Irish breeding pairs (1970's) minus 300 Irish breeding pairs (2011)  = a loss of 11,700 breeding pairs.
That's a loss of 23,400 individual Curlews prodding the mud in Ireland.
That's a loss of 97½ %.

97½ %.

Imagine walking all over Co.Donegal and then walking all over Co.Mayo - that's a mammoth amount of ground.
Only 8 Curlew nests were found in Co.Donegal and Co Mayo this year.
4 in Mayo and 4 in Donegal.
And you know all that moorland and heathland in Wicklow?
None in Wicklow.
There is a red dot on the map, but Niall whispered to me that it was a mistake, so Wicklow is bare of red dots. Red dots = confirmed Curlew breeding sites.

Taken from BWI Curlew Appeal page

My mum is from a place surrounded by farmland in Co.Kilkenny. Now living in Yorkshire, whenever she hears a Curlew she always says it reminds her of home.
In a few years time Ireland may never see (or hear) an Irish Curlew ever again.
The map will have no red dots.

Forests being planted, abandoned fields resulting in huge gorse growth and farmlands being too intensely farmed are the biggest causes of the decline.
Predators such as mink, crows, foxes, pine martins, humans and their dogs trampling on nests are other reasons for decline.
The Curlew is also a bird still listed as 'legal to shoot' in Ireland - though it is thought that hunters would never shoot a Curlew knowing their declining status - but still, it might be a good idea to remove the Curlew from the shooting list. Even if it is for appearances sake.

Curlews are happy to set up home and raise their young in open fields, meadows and amongst heather.
They like large open spaces where they can see predators approaching. They like dry areas (for the nest) which are close to muddy areas (where they can feed) and they like Marks and Spencer oxford pillow cases where they can rest their heads. Not really, they don't rest their heads, they just shut their eyes - but in comparison to us, they need very little.
They just need the right kind of habitat.
It's not too much to ask for really is it?

Birdwatch Ireland have estimated how much cash is needed to try and put into action everything they think they need to help this poor species out - €99,000.

So if there are any lottery winners or anyone who wouldn't miss a fiver in their pocket - you can donate to their Cry of the Curlew appeal at this link Birdwatch Ireland's Cry of the Curlew Appeal

If you're strapped for cash (and who isn't?), then maybe look out for ways to help volunteer or make sure report any Curlews you see next summer to Birdwatch Ireland.

Thankyou to Dr. Anita Donoghy (Birdwatch Ireland, Donegal) for the presentation last night to the South Dublin branch.

'Interesting talk, dismal message'.

Some further reading:
Article written in Irish Times Sat 24th Sept 2011: