Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Golden Plover Survey 2014

The Connemara Bog Complex Special Protection Area was designated in recent years primarily for European Golden Plover and Merlin which are listed in Annex 1 of the EU Birds Directive. Breeding Common Gull and Cormorant are also listed as "features of interest". To monitor the priority species such as Golden Plover we have undertaken a survey to estimate the population found in the 19,209.7 hectare sized SPA. The SPA consist of three separate areas. The plan is survey each area over one summer. We are just about finishing up on the second area at the moment. This area was surveyed in 2004 as part of the Upland Bird Survey during which 27 pairs of Golden Plover were recorded. I think we will be significantly improve on this figure when we have the survey completed next summer. As part of the survey, 12 separate random one kilometre squares are picked for each of the three areas. In each of these one km squares there are five parallel transect lines. All of these squares also require two visits - an early and a late visit. When we are finished next summer the total length of transects that we will have walked will be 360km in length!
We have found that breeding plover tend to be very quiet during the early visits usually when they are on eggs but on the later visits when the chicks have hatched, the parents are much more obvious, standing up on hummocks and constantly alarm calling.

Breeding Golden Plover (Connemara birds at least) are far less well marked than more Northernly/Arctic breeding birds. Even full males can be sometimes difficult to separate from adult females.

Note the grey old lesser, median and greater coverts.
Golden Plover chick, seconds later this chick ran off at full pelt.

Golden Plover chick.

Two Golden Plover feathers.

Plover habitat

Plover habitat

Irene and Aonghus out on the bog.
Pristine blanket bog, this is typical Golden Plover habitat and contained one pair. This sort of terrain isn't for the fainthearted, you can get very wet very quickly if you step in the wrong spot!

Not so pristine blanket bog! Overgrazed and poached by sheep, not surprisingly there were no Golden Plovers recorded in this particular square.

Quads seems to be an increasing problem on lowland and upland blanket bogs. Their use is not out of necessity but sheer laziness on the part of a handful of landowners.

An example of one of the 1km squares we did. With this amount of loughs, deep connecting streams and quaking bogs you get an idea of difficult terrain and how difficult it can be to complete a full transect (the red lines).

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