ucd 2012

The main UCD (University College Dublin) campus lies on approx 365 acres of land (once belonging to 4 stately houses before being bought by UCD in 1834).
The campus has one of the busiest motorways in Ireland (the N11) running alongside it, is home to approx 20,000 students, 4,000 staff, all their cars, buses and soon to be luas terminals.
The building work in UCD is near constant and 2012 sees a humungous new Student Centre with swimming pool and cinema being built.
Still, amongst all this concrete chaos, UCD has managed to hang on to (mainly thanks to Ciaran Beattie, grounds manager) some of its wooded areas, streams, ponds and set aside areas for biodiversity.

We are extremely lucky to work/ study in ucd, I am grateful to be surrounded by greenery and all the wildlife that brings everyday, it makes a huge difference to my day.

This is my list of the different bird species I've managed to see around UCD since Jan 5th 2012:

JANUARY 2012

Jan 5th
27 species in just over an hours walk!
Here they are listed in order of sighting.

1.Oystercatchers - footie fields near Clonskeagh Gate, then 25 on Belfield Bowl

Oystercatchers - footie fields near Clonskeagh Gate, then 25 on Belfield Bowl, Jan 2012

2.Robin - several around campus

Robin, UCD Jan 2012

3.Wood pigeon - lots around campus

4.Magpie - lots around campus

5.Mistle thrush, saw 8 (4 different pairs)

Mistle Thrush, near Ardmore House, UCD

6.Great tit - secret lakes woods

7.Moorhen - secret lakes, plus 3 more later on main lake

8.Blackbird (didn't see the leucistic one)

9.Blue tit - several

Blue tits - loads around UCD, this was taken near the main N11 UCD entrance.

10.Chaffinch, several, but biggest gathering was 6 together in a tree next to library

11.Coal tit - secret lake woods

12.Jackdaw - several around campus

13.Feral pigeon - up on roof and window bars of library building

14.Bullfinch - 6 male Bullfinches in the one tree next to library

15.Mute swan - 2 at Main Lake

16.Tufted duck - 24 at Main Lake

17.Black headed gull - 65 at Main Lake

18.Herring gull - 1 at the lake, 1 on top of admin bldg

19.Mallard - 30 at Main Lake

20.Pied wagtail - Main Lake and in front of Main Restaurant

21.Hooded crow - Rosemount woods

22.Long tailed tit - flock of 12, Rosemount Woods

Long Tailed tit - a few flocks around campus, this was taken behind Vets Bldg, UCD

23.Goldcrest - 3 Rosemount Woods

24.Wren - 1 Rosemount Woods

25.Goldfinch - big flock in the bushes next to stream, Rosemount Woods

26.Rook - didn't see one any of the usual places, then saw a juv on field beside Quinn

27.Siskin - saw them once last year and saw a flock of around 30 today, tree next to Hannah Sheehy Bldg

Jan 10th

28.Black cap - Vet woods, male with black cap, it was in the same tree as a Longtailed tit and a Goldcrest. Lots of finch/ tit activity in the shrubbery near the stream, lots of washing and preening, even saw a Siskin washing and preening.

Shrub next to secret lakes, birds seem to love this plant

29.Song thrush - Secret lakes, saw 2, first was perched on a branch with lots of mud and sticks in its beak - nest building already, or insect hunting? Second was singing from a tree.

30.Dunnock - Rosemount stream, the area I usully see Dunnocks in - just where the stream meets the road.
No Grey wagtail which is usually in this area too. 9 Oystercatchers on the main fields.

31. Lesser redpoll - Rosemount stream, 2 of them in the red shrub, along with tits, a noisy, chattering flock of Goldfinches, 1 male Bullfinch, 2 female Chaffinches, 2 Robins and an angry Wren.

Jan 12th

32.Linnet - large flock of approx 60. Great to see, up at some rough ground near Nova.

Linnets were in the rough ground on the left, UCD Jan 2012
Jan 16th

33. Grey wagtail, in the exact same spot down at the stream behind the library.

Jan 17th

34.Water rail!! Hurrah.

same spot as last year (stream behind Conways).

Exactly a year ago today (19th Jan 2011) I spotted a Water rail in UCD down by the 'secret lakes', it was a great find but was to be my only sighting of it over the whole year.
This winter I reguarly scanned the area again, before and after Christmas, but together with no Redwing nor Teal, I assumed lack of Water rail was in keeping with the mild winter non-arrivals.
Until Tuesday, when Niall and Billy got in touch to say there was a report on Irish Birding by Des Higgins of a Water rail in UCD - in exactly the same location as last year!
I headed down on Tues and sure enough saw it darting along the vegetataion, then it came out into the open and showed off its distinctive plumage good n' proper. It's a striking package for a little bird.
Its location is right next to a path well used by joggers, walkers and dog walkers, so the views were quite out in the open but fleeting due to disturbance and its nature. Soon enough, Billy ambled along and I was able to show him where the Water rail was, he had his camera and managed a few decent shots.

Today I brought my lens into work and headed down during lunch - 'please be there, please be there'.
I had the place to myself and not a single jogger/ walker went by, so it was silent except for bird song and the Water rail.

Water Rail, UCD 'secret lakes' Jan 19th 2012
Water Rail, UCD, Jan 19th 2012.

Jan 23rd

No new sightings to report, could possibly have had a female Sparrowhawk or Kestrel but I was walking past Centra when I spotted it in flight, there were loads of students and I was too self conscious to get my binocs out of my pocket and take a look. Shame on me I know.
It had a brown back and even though it was high up and moving fast I could tell it was too large for a Mistle thrush - and had a different flight anyway - no hovering, just flying with Jackdaws giving a little chase.
It flew high up over Quinn and towards the Arts block area, gutted I was in the middle of so many students. Not much else around. I had walked near Roebuck hoping for Starlings or Greenfinches - saw neither.
Did see (you couldn't fail) a digger and a huge cement truck (which had got stuck in the mud ha, ha) seemingly building on the one 'rough grassland' field left in ucd - was quite sad. This is the area where I staked out quite a bit last year for possible Owl sightings at dusk - the long grass would be perfect habitat and sightings of owls were always rumoured around campus, so there was always a chance.
Less chance now if this building is going to be a big un.

'Rough grass' field behind Roebuck (Roebuck on left, RTE tower between 2 stu res bldgs). Jan 2012. An area that has been left in its 'natural state' - great for wildlife.

Today at the top of the Rough Grass field, Roebuck -building has started. Jan 23rd 2012.



Anyhow, in other news, here's some dodgy footage of a 300+ crow roost last Friday 20th Jan in UCD. You can't see the full extent of the 300 crows in the footage as the crows (Hoodies, Jackdaws and Rooks) were in 3 seperate areas across the footie fields.
Taken on my ipod touch which is crap in dark light - anyhow..



Jan 24th

35.Little Egret, seen in flight from track behind creche woods. Cycling into work I saw lots of gulls on the pitches this morning, so at lunch I scanned for a Common gull - no luck, the 80+ were all Black headed gulls.
We have a Finch tree in ucd - it's official. Every single time I've passed this tree there has been, without exception, 1 - 7 Bullfinches and a few Chaffinches sitting in the tree. Talk about a definite location to find a certain species. So, if you're in ucd and passing the library going towards the art block, there's a tree pressed up against the arts bldg - that's the Finch tree. You'll be able to tell - it'll have finches in it!
Also saw a Lesser Redpoll in near summer plumage (very rosey breast) up in the old conifer trees near the creche. I was hanging around there in the hope of a Treecreeper sighting as it's a prime location for them, but none to be seen.

Jan 25th

I had company today, Niall paid a visit to his old stomping ground to check out the Water rail - which typically didn't show, just stayed in the vegetation sniggering at the lot of us tring to find it (my good self, his good self, Des, Fabien and Mick).
No sign of the reported male Teal either, not even a rat to be seen today - lots of grey squirrels, tits, Song thrush, Moorhens and Mallards at the secret lakes though. On the fields about 80 gulls, no Common gull - all Black headed again, some Rooks, Jackdaws and Hoodies, no Oystercatchers. In Rosemount woods - A flock of Long tailed tits and poss 3 Goldcrests chasing each other, near the stream there was a flock of chattering Goldfinches and a Lesser Redpoll in the Dogwood. No Grey wagtail on its stone. The 'Finch tree' was at least to be relied upon - 9 Bullfinches sitting pretty, so all in all - not much unusual, but a nice walk and talk as always aaaah.

Jan 26th

No Water rail again today, just 4 Morrhens and 2 Mallards feeding. 9 Oiks on the fields, no Common gulls or Collared Doves, or Starlings or Greenfinches. Did get a great close up of a Wren and a Chaffinch feeding. Also from window I've seen possible Sparrowhawk being mobbed by crow (think Jackdaw), definite bop anyway which was cool to see from window - even if they were 2 black specks. Will keep eyes peeled.

Jan 27th

36.Greenfinch - like, Finally! Spotted where I thought I'd see it, in the Dogwood next to Rosemount stream, only saw one but heard about 4. Walked over to Newstead today, saw small raptor fly quickly over my head and was gone. So weird to have so many sightings over the last week - still don't know what it is. 11 Oiks on Belfield Bowl.
37.Teal - male loner teal hiding out in the reeds at the 2nd secret pond. I'd like to say that I spotted it whilst walking past, but no, Des and Fabien saw me and showed me where they'd just seen the Teal and after a few mins looking in the same area the unusual head plumage showed through the reeds. The Teal was very secretive, when the others had gone I saw the Teal out in the open with the Mallards - it was so small in comparison! Didn't see any Water Rail today, though B thought he caught a glimpse. Lots of LTT activity, amazing close up views of 2 little Goldcrests and I thought I had a Treecreeper creeping up the bark of a spruce tree on the far bank, but looking through my bins it turned out to be a Coal tit doing a Treecreeper impersonation. Also saw a fly over Little egret.
Jan 2011 saw me manage 38 ucd bird species, Jan 2012 ends with 37.

FEBRUARY 2012

Feb 1st

38.TREECREEPER very nice sighting down at the stream whilst standing with John Fox trying to see the Water rail (which didn't show). Grabbed John by the shoulder and very quietly exclaimed 'TREECREEPER'! John managed some shots as the Treecreeper continued about its business. 20 mins later, on the other side of the pond I saw it again rustling under some ivy which was going up a tree, 2 creepers creeping together aaah.
Feb 2nd
39.Starling, flock of 20ish Starlings up on the rugby pitches next to HP, along with 20+ Linnets feeding on the grass (never seen that in ucd before), 7 Oystercatchers, 2 Mistle Thrush and a Rook. Grey Wagtail down at its spot at Rosemount stream and 3 Bullfinches in the Finch Tree. email from Des says he saw the Rail again today along with 2 male and 2 female Teal snoozing in the sun in the 2nd pond. No Redwings that I saw.

Feb 3rd

-2.5° this morning in Drimnagh, same in UCD. The Lake was partially frozen and I went in search of Redwings around Nova, no luck.
On grass near Forsters Ave I saw 3 Redwing sized birds, unusual to see 3 Song Thrushes together so I slowed down to look for the pale supercilium or red flanks, despite my best efforts none of the 3 birds had either features because I was looking at 3 Songthrushes - amazing views too, they seemed very, very timid suggesting they were winter arrivals who had just arrived from somewhere unlucky enough to be enduring -30°. I left them alone to feed (though they weren't bothered by me at all) and kept walking. Down at the ponds I saw 4 Teal (2 female, 2 male), Treecreeper (so weird to see it again) and yes - the Water rail - same location as always, quite out in the open, but not for long.

Feb 9th

a balmy 7° today, tropical in comparison to the rest of Europe where human deaths as a result of the cold are in the hundreds. Ireland really has escaped this awful, awful cold snap.
I've seen definite escapee birds around campus, birds which are clearly exhausted and weak from a huge flights and no food.
Last week there was a Song Thrush on a tree outside my office window, motionless for about 15 mins, that's a long time for a bird to be so still. I walked past some very tame Chaffinches and Bullfinches at the start of the week too, they were so hungry their only focus was on feeding from the ground.
Niall came into ucd again today, thankfully saw the Water rail a few times (same place) and got the Most amazing views of Treecreeper and 2 male and 1 female Siskins (silver ring around leg) feeding on the Alder (thanks Des). Redpolls flew over, Robin, Goldcrest, Dunnock and Chaffinch and cleaning in the stream and then drying out in the Dogwood. Still no Redwings or Fieldfare to be seen.

Feb 14th

Happy Valliers and Hello Mandarin Ducks on the main lake!
40. Mandarin Duck. Des saw 2 swimming out in the middle of the lake O'Reilly Hall end, I was working through my lunch when he emailed, put on my jacket and walked over to the lake - didn't see any Mandarin on the main lake but a closer look on the little island where the swans nest provided a glimpse of a male mandarin's head! Rang Niall and Ciaran because I know that Mandarins are 'just' escapees and domestic - but still, tis a new species and a beautifully plumaged species, and once they arrive in places they do seem to stay without doing anyone any harm. So this could be the start of Mandarin Ducks on the main lake in ucd and that'd be quite cool ... aaaaaaaaah.

Feb 15th

Gawn, the Mandarin ducks are gawn.
41. Grey heron - flyover, seen from office

Feb 22nd

great views of Water rail again today, bit further downstream to the spot I usually see it.
Reports from Billy that he saw 2 yesterday would confirm Des's initial feeling that he saw 2 about a month ago. We've noticed that the area has become inundated with photographers trying to get Water rail shots - don't blame them either, the Water rail gave very easy views again today despite our proximity.
I have to say that after the initial reporting I didn't expect the amount of attention the Water rail was going to get. Concerned and worried about distubance to the bird, I asked a few trusted senior birders whether we shoud stay quiet about subsequent sightings - but I was assured that 'there's nothing to worry about', 'if the Rails aren't happy they wouldn't be so visible, they're probably winter visitors, it's out of breeding season and there's no harm in people coming to look'. So there you go - we might have 3.
17 Oystercatchers on the pitches, 8 Siskins up at Rosemount, and must've been bath day as the Chaffinches, Robin, Wren, Blue tits, Goldfinches and Greenfinches washed right in front of me - it's a captivating thing to watch.

Feb 27th

RESPECT Ciaran Beattie (Head UCD Groundsman) for banging in several signs around the Secret Lakes asking dog walkers to keep their dogs on lead (and thanks Billy for asking).

Signs around the Secret Lakes to try and stop dog walkers letting their dogs off lead and running into the ponds scaring all the birds.

Feb 28th

5 Oystercatchers on the footie fields. 15 Linnets in heavy discussion about something, a Wren singing Joy to the World, and a sighting of something I've been looking for for months.
Walking along the path near Rosemount, I noticed a possible Song Thrush on the pitches, nothing unusual there, I had ultra close views of a Song thrush just here yesterday. There was another bird next to it which was either another Song thrush or a Mistle thrush. Wondering if they were a pair I looked through my binocs and the Song thrush was in fact a beautiful REDWING.
Thankfully I had my bins and Thankfully I wasn't bombing along too fast to notice - so Feb 28th 2012, the one and only Redwing I've seen all winter in ucd. I see from last years notes I saw Redwing up until March 15th 2011, so I'll keep an eye out in that area.

42. Redwing x 1.

Redwing - one and only 28th Feb 2012, zoomed in x20 with my pocket camera. Footie field near Clonskeagh gate, UCD.
MARCH 2012 

March 9th

43. SPARROWHAWK!!
nearly flew at my head! as if to say - er I can't give you a better sighting than this, so id me now or that's it, I'm off.
Near the creche, walking along and the Sparrowhawk (male) was flying towards me so quickly, at first I wondered if it a mistle thrush, because it really was head on and extremely fast, so I couldn't really get any sense of size or shape, couldn't really see its face even- but then it swerved past me and I saw yellow legs and the underwing and it was gone. 2 or 5 seconds tops I'd say, but yes, 99% sure Sparrowhawk.
Also had 3 completely out in the open sightings of what we assume are 2 Water Rails down at the streams. I think the one near the dogwood has a buffer undertail than the one up at the vegetation which has a brilliant white undertail. Sexes of Water rail are very similar and the only differences stated on internet are that the female has a shorter bill and is a little smaller. We'd need them side by side to see the difference - and so far they seem to keep to their own side of the streams which makes you think 2 males.

March 13th.

44. Pheasant
ok, this one might be a little controversial to list (depending on how weirdly serious you are about lists), but yesterday walking near Rosemount, I saw feathers on the ground from a fox kill. I took 3 of the feathers home and looked them up in a book I bought (Thanks Jamie Durrant for the recommendation) called Tracks and signs of Birds and the feathers were exactly the same as that of a Pheasant. So a fox killed a Pheasant in ucd so a Pheasant must have been in UCD in the first place for it to be killed - ergooooooo no.44= Pheasant.
 
Female pheasant feathers - remainders of fox kill, near Rosemount woods, UCD

Pretty certain these are female Pheasant feathers, UCD (confirmed by Eric Dempsey)
If anyone else has any other opinions, let me know.
I've never seen a Pheasant in this area of ucd, but then I've never seen a Pheasant around Bull Island but found feathers there from a fox kill too.
March 13th also sees 6 Oystercatchers still using the footie fields too.

March 14th.

45.2 x STOCKDOVES in a Cypress tree, in UCD. So quiet, unassuming and gently moving around. Dark eyes, light beak with glistening green and sometimes violet feathers on its neck. Pinkish feet and buff to chest, lighter grey underbelly - all in pristine condition. Dark primaries and the distinctive black patches on its wings, along with dark tail band clinched id. Didn't see them in flight, but saw them shuffling around the tree enough to determine they were Stock Doves. No white anywhere on rump to suggest Feral pigeon and their behaviour was way tooo genteel for a feral pigeon.
Lovely to see.

APRIL 2012

jolliers in Hong Kong / Taiwan

MAY 2012


May 1st

The Mute Swans are off the nest and 6 cygnets are floating around the UCD main lake!
 I thought I might have caught them today on their first day out of the nest but Ciaran said he saw them yesterday (April 30th), one of them sitting on the father's back!! He thinks yesterday was the first day.
Last year the first day I saw the cygnets (also 6 of them in 2011 was May 4th).
I have a crap ipod photo of the cygnets but no time to upload. Also pretty sure I heard a few Willow Warblers around the campus and possible swallow, but it could have been a starling.
The black headed gulls have completely disappeared from their main lake homestead and mallard numbers are down to a few here and there. Seen quite a few new fledlings around, unable to fly properly.
That's it for now, better reports over the next few weeks when I have more time.


May 2nd

46. Swallow, seen flying over Arts Bldg, UCD. Also saw a Swift flying over the dodder near Clonskeagh gate this morning driving into work, but not in UCD yet.The first day I recorded a Swallow in UCD in 2011 was May 6th.

May 10th

47.Swift - they've made their way over! Flying over the Main Restaurant building.
May 14th - bad news; as of last week, the 6 baby cygnets have become 5. No clue at all what happened to the 6th little critter but there's only 5 cygnets swimming along with Ma and Pa now.
Swift numbers have increased to about 8 and Swallows are now flying over the main lake. Still no Housemartins. Jackdaw nest bulging from a ledge of the main library building and the flock of 11 Starling chicks are making loads of noise flying between their nest in a tree next to the Tierney bldg to the piece of grass in front of the arts bldg, parents busily pulling worms from the grass and passing them to one of the raucous chicks.

May 22nd

48. House martin, 2 House martins seen from office window, have been looking out for them but today's the first day to see them, nearly 3 weeks after the first Swallow.
Mute Swan cygnets have now unfortunately fallen from 6 to 5 to 4. I saw Ciaran later in the day and asked him if he'd found the bodies of the cygnets around the grounds but he hadn't and said he never does, so how they die is a mystery to us. The cygnets don't have the ability to lift themselves up from the lake so foxes couldn't take them from land and foxes don't tend to jump into the lake because they can't get back out (Ciaran has had to remove dead foxes from the lake over the years). I wouldn't imagine theyre starving to death given all the feeding that goes on down at the lake, so it's a mystery.

I was sad to hear yesterday that Ciaran's nearly finished up in UCD. He's taken his leave to finally base himself fully in Leitrim where himself and his wife Kealin run their own organic flower business, Leitrim Flowers.


I obviously wish him and Kealin all the best with their new business, but a little selfish fear for the wildlife around UCD kicked in whilst he was chatting.
With his extensive background in horticulture and his wife's interest in birdlife (Kealin set up the Leitrim branch of Birdwatch Ireland) I've always felt safe in the knowledge that with Ciaran around, UCD would never turn into the concrete jungle it always seems to be one step away from.
But times change and people move on, and I suppose thinking about it, Ciaran has actually done more than enough to support ucd's wildlife for many, many years to come.
In his time here, he has increased the woodland coverage from 5 hectares to 9 hectares by planting an extra 25,000 trees around the campus, (bringing the total of trees in ucd to around 50,000, 75 different species in all), he has maintained and protected many biodiversity spaces and leaves a lot of areas 'unmanaged' on purpose.
A new wildlife lake Ciaran has helped design is being built as I type between the Engineering and Main Restaurant buildings.
The new lake is to help with the poor drainage in the area, which often gets flooded and water logged, but with Ciaran around this drainage relief has been designed with wildlife in mind. Without him, god knows what the drainage relief would have been - certainly not a wildlife lake I'm sure.
Nice Swansong Ciaran.
So thinking about it, Ciaran has easily done enough work to keep the campus green for another 100 years at least. That's if the campus is still here in another 100 years.

Anyway - best of luck to Ciaran and Kealin, and if you need flowers for any occassion - here's where to order them from Leitrim Flowers.

JUNE 2012

June 1st

8 Mallard chicks, 3 Moorhen chicks and 4 cygnets, plus parents - are now all living on the little island on the main UCD Lake!
Austerity means nada to these little things, we throw them a bit of Brennans, bit of lettuce and they're happy out.

I first noticed the 8 bundles of Mallard joy yesterday, I'm pretty sure it was their first outing.
They were out again today, snoozing, sunning themselves, so this vid is a bit boring, but I wanted a record of the 8 of them on the lake.


Also, adding to the mix of chick species on the island, 3 little Moorhen chicks have been strutting their scrawny little legs around the edge. I haven't seen them take to the water yet, unlike the ones down near the secret lakes who are bombing it around the joint.


49. Lesser Black backed Gull.
I thought I had listed this already, seen quite often flying over.
There's been a lot of LBB gulls near harold's cross bridge along the canal over the last few months too.
UCD Lake is now home to 3 or 4 Pied wagtail chicks, I saw 3 on the ground which flew off then 1 with the adult, so I'm not sure if that was part of the original 3 or an extra chick.
8 Mallard chicks still bobbing around after the male adult mallard and 4 cygnets still pottering around after the adult Mute swans.

June 13th

43, maybe more, Wood pigeons eating grass seeds from the rugby pitch along the creche road, wished I had my bins with me to scan them for Stock Doves, but didn't.
Down at the Main lake, more Tufted Ducks and Mallards are back, feathers everywhere from moult. Still not a single Black headed gull to be seen.
All 8 of the Mallard ducklings have survived so far, swimming around the lake, lovely to watch them. 3 Moor hens chicks also swimming around squaking at each other, little legs paddling the water like mad. The 4 rapidly growing Mute swan cygnets are looking more and more adult like, big black beaks, taller necks, very strong looking now, amazing transformation over 6 weeks? can't be, yes, 6 weeks - wow.
Not heard any Chiffchaff or (definite) Willow warbler yet.
After the storms we had last week there were 40+ Herring Gulls on the main footie pitches, 3 Lesser black backed and 2 Black headed gulls all feeding with the Crows on the fields.

June 26th

3 of the mallard chicks have croaked it, only 5 chicks swimming around after the mother mallard.
4 Mute swan cygnets silently floating around, very independent now from their parents, though the parents are still aggressively chasing off anything (usually female Mallards) which look remotely like a threat to the Mute cygnets.
1 adult black headed gull has finally returned to the lake, good to see one of them back at least.
Not much else noteworthy.

JULY 2012

July 20th

Within 3 weeks, the number of Black headed gulls back at the main lake has risen from 1 to 9 (last week), to 32 today.
I didn't count the number of Tufties, but a definite increase there too.
The 4 cygents are Massive now at 2½ months old, serenely floating around, I'll try take some photos soon.

On the footie fields a Pied wagtail chick was flitting around in a very amateur fashion, maybe self conscious as 3 Swallows watched over it from the top of the tall GAA nets.
Swifts, Swallows and House martins still flying around - still haven't heard a Chiffchaff or Willow warbler. I know definite Chiffchaff areas from last year (Rosemount woods and woods behind the creche), but so far no sight nor soundof either.

The BIGGIE for today was the sound - and magnificent sight! of a juvenile Sparrowhawk in some woods. Last week it was pouring rain (no, honest it was - pouring rain, very rare for summertime I know), anyway as I walked through the ucd woods last week, I heard a very unusual calling, then a call back, followed by more unusual calling. I wondered if the calls were from Sparrowhawks given the habitat and the fact I saw one a few months ago. I didn't have my bird app with me so I played the sound when I got back to the office - same sound.
I've walked through the same area a few times since, but not seen or heard them again until today.
I heard the call first - from exactly the same cluster of trees, had time to put my bins on the bird to see 2 huge yellow eyes looking back at me and greyish barring across the chest - then it flew off.
I've never managed a good look at a Sparrowhawk, longest has probably been about 7 seconds, today was 5 seconds, long enough though to know it was a Sparrowhawk.

July 25th.

Tufted Ducks are breeding in UCD!! For the first time today I noticed two Tufted duck chicks swimming and diving in the Main lake.


This shows the little chick taking a good old jump in the air before diving, there's also a glimpse of the Mute swan cygnets who are now nearly 4 months old.



A glimpse of the 4 cygnets, now at 4 months old.



You can hear 3 Sparrowhawks calling in the ucd woods.



Different ucd woods, 3 Sparrowhawks calling again. I'm guessing the same Sparrowhawks flew over to these woods as I arrived, but I didn't take that long to walk over to these other woods and I wouldn't be surprised if there are 2 Sparrowhawk families in the ucd grounds.

July 26th

I had Sarah join me in ucd at lunchtime today which was really nice, especially on such a sunny, warm day - she can visit more often!
Knowing Sarah's love of raptors it was great to be able to take her to where we would possibly hear, maybe see, some Sparrowhawks.
Luckily they were in one of the same spots as yesterday, making quite a racket, crashing around in the tree tops. We tried to work out whether there were 3 or 4 Sparrowhawks, but couldn't get a definite 4 calls at the same time. Definitely at least 3 though.
No good sightings, the sunlight making it difficult to look up into the trees, but a lot of fleeting glimpses of them in flight, flying in and out of the trees.
I got the impression that these Juveniles aren't flying that much, given they're in the same area and didn't seem to be gone for any length of time, so I don't think they could have flown from one side of the campus to the other as I wondered yesterday and therefore I'm going to put money on there being two Sparrowhawk families in ucd.
howzabout that then.

Sparrowhawk - UCD

Sparrowhawk - UCD
 August 2012

Aug 16th,
30 Swifts circling wildly in the sky outside my window, never seen so many together at the same time in ucd.
Getting ready to leave?
Swallows also still around.
No Chiffchaffs all summer.

Bit of a distressing convo with a frustrated 70 yr old woman down at the main lake today.
I've seen her for months feeding the swans, big, industrial, rubber gloves, feeding them a mystery food from an old ice cream container.
I always wondered what she was feeding them (potato and mixed seeds apparently- great for the swans).
This woman, E, LOVES the Mute Swans.
Has been feeding them constantly for the last few years - and unfortunately saw exactly how the first 3 cygnets this year died.
I thought they must have been taken by a predator, but no.
They lay dead in the main lake itself, caught up in attachments under the lake - ironically one of them died in an attachment to a food container.
It was all kind of rushed as she told several stories, so I will try catch her again, ask if she told anyone about the dead cygnets in the lake? What happened to them etc..
She is also certain that the other cygnets from last year died from starvation. I'm not too sure about that at all, but that's what she believes.
She wrote a letter to ucd, but didn't hear anything back.

E got quite upset and agitated chatting, especially when she told the story of how she found the very last cygnet from last year, dead on the island.

She explained how she had been feeding the swans daily, driving in, risking getting clamped, taking grass cuttings from other people's lawns so she could feed the grass to the cygnets, basically really putting herself out because she felt no-one else was caring.
When she saw all the cygnets die last year she felt that at least the last very strong one might survive, so she kept driving, making sure it was fed.
Finally, in November she saw it dead on the island. She tried calling numbers in ucd, each person who picked up gave her a different number to call, she'd call that number and be passed on again, with ucd being so gigantic I can see how easily this happened.
She kept calling though because she wanted someone to take the dead cygnet off the island and maybe examine why the last of all 7 cygnets had died, especially when it seemed so healthy the day before.
But she got nowhere and left it, feeling a frustration towards ucd and it's apparent lack of care towards the wildlife on campus.

This year there are 4 gigantic healthy cygnets swimming around.
As mentioned, she saw 3 cygnets dead in the lake, but drives in each day to feed the remaining 4.
I did mention to E that she's not the only one feeding them, and maybe she sohuldn't feel so responsible, I pointed to the maintenance guy who was filling the food container in the main lake with bird feed as we were speaking, and pointed out the constant stream of people feeding the swans/ ducks with bread etc.

E suggested ucd should put the grass cuttings from the grass which is reguarly cut from the front of O'Reilly hall straight into the lake? She included this idea in a letter which she wrote to ucd.
I have seen someone throw grass into the lake before and the Swans and ducks go mad for it, they hoover it up.
But I'd think if the swans/ ducks were hungry they'd just get up on the grass and graze, something which I've reguarly seen them do, the adults anyway.


But Big up to E for making her combo of mashed poatato and seeds, for cutting other people's grass (she doesn't have a garden) and for driving in everyday to feed the swans!
70.
I told her I would try to speak to someone about the grass cuttings idea, the dead cygnet from last year, the dead cygnets from this year and her unanswered letter.

Aug 17th

Response to E's concerns from UCD :

Buildings and Services did receive E's letter, and would have liked to have given her a call, but there was no  number or address included in the letter.
The last cygnet to die on the lake last year was killed by its father.
Once the cygnets are old enough to look after themselves, they're expected to fly away from the adult's territory. If they don't, the adults will visciously turn on them, chase and fight with them until they finally fly off.
Coming up to breeding time, the cob (father) can often be seen on the main lake holding one of it's own cygnets heads under the water in an attempt to drown it.
In some years UCD have physically removed the cygnets from the main lake and released them onto the grand canal, to avoid such instances.

UCD feeds the swans/ ducks everyday with special feed ordered by the vet's college.
The surface litter on the main lake is removed on a daily basis.
UCD maintenance guys go into the main lake wearing waders at least once a month to remove debris from the bottom of the lake.
With regards to the grass clippings, the swans are free to graze the grass, and are often seen grazing with the ducks.
UCD will look into how the feeding container is attached to avoid future birds being tangled up.

So that's all good right?
Hopefully I'll catch E again, pass on these responses to her concerns, and she'll realise she's not alone in caring about the birds on the lake.

Aug 27th
1 solitary Swift and 2 Swallows.

September 2012

Sept 12th - A few Swallows are still around, max 2 at a time seen flying together.
The Songbirds have become more songy which is nice to hear again on walks.
4 cygnets are still floating around the Main lake for all the new term students to ooh and aaah over - great they haven't been killed by their dad yet.
The weather's gotten freezo, no more just wearing a tshirt to cycle to work.
Brrrr.

Sept 13th - 14 Swallows over the mower cutting grass on the main footie fields at lunch time.
Sept 14th - Sparrowhawk being mobbed by Hooded crow.

October 2012

What can I say? I don't think I left my desk for the rest of September and the whole of October.
I did get out for a walk one day and a male Mandarin duck was back on the ucd lake.

November 2012

Nov 5th? an email from Des to say he saw the Water Rail back again - back again or did it ever leave?!
Nov 7th - Billy saw it too in the middle part, where I got the footage from in Jan.
4 cygnets still on the lake, most of the juv grey feathers have moulted off, hopefully I will get a photo of them before they fly off to the canal.
Nov 26th - a little jaunt around ucd near Belfield House, Nova and Roebuck gave no joy in Waxwings but I did get a great view of a Kestrel being mobbed by a Jackdaw, in the strong sunshine the brown/ russetty back glowed golden emphasising the dark wing tips and glowing grey tail.
First definite sighting of a Kestrel in ucd for me and species number FIFTY for the ucd year.
50. Kestrel (adult male), Belfield House/ over running track, ucd

 December 2012

Dec 11th - 4 flyover Curlews as I walked into work, flying over the back of the Main Restaurant.
51. Curlew, this breaks the ucd 2011 list by one!!
Still haven't managed to see a House Sparrow or a Collared Dove, thought we might get some Waxwings in a tree, but none of us have seen any.
No Redwings or Fieldfares either, or Brambling, I've given up on Brent Geese using the fields.
52. 14 Fieldfares! and 2 Redwings Having never seen a Fieldfare in UCD it was very nice to see 14 down at the Orchards in Rosemount, pecking away at the fallen apples along with at least 30 Blackbirds, 2 Robins, Hooded Crows, Magpies, Woodpigeons (feeding from the grass), a Goldcrest in the tree, some Goldfinches and Greenfinches, a Great tit and some Rooks. If you stand still inside the entrance you will eventually see at least one Fieldfare (initially I though there was just the one), but then I saw 3 others, then no more. Eventually I walked down to the greenhouses along the road so as not to disturb the birds feeding.
From the bottom a man walked right through the orchard which was great, all the birds lifted and I got to count another Redwings and 14 total Fieldfares.
Beautiful sunny afternoon, would have made for some stunning shots.
Also heard a Curlew call a couple of times, maybe from the Leinster training pitches on the right.