Friday, 8 January 2016

Omey Kumlien's and the NEWS

I've being doing several Non-Estuarine Waterbird Surveys (NEWS) now since December. The survey is due to finish up by the end of the month. I think it may be struggle to try and get all of the sectors that we've signed up due to the incessant poor weather we had for most of December. It has settled down noticeably in the last week and with luck will hold for a while yet. The survey involves walking around a few kilometres of coastline to count all waterbirds using the shoreline. It aims to cover as much of the coastline that isn't covered by the regular Irish Wetland Bird Survey (I-WeBS) and is only undertaken every eight or so years. Connemara as a rule doesn't hold much in quantity or quality of wintering waterbirds even compared to east Galway and Galway Bay for example. Despite this however it's great to get out to stretches of coastline that I only rarely if ever visit. Who knows there's always the very slim possibility of stumbling across an Ivory Gull or a Gyr Falcon. The best bird I've managed to come across while undertaking the survey was a second-winter Kumlien's Gull on Wednesday on Omey Island. Unfortunately I recorded the bird after finishing up the survey and it was just outside of my assigned sector anyway. It was seen slowly flying south over the island after coming from the direction of Lough Fahy. The camera settings weren't quite right so the shots came out very dark and I've had to brighten the shots up a little. This is my first "white-winger" of the winter, hopefully I'll have a few more before the winter is out.

While walking along the coastline it's been a good opportunity to discover other items of interest. I've have found two dead Common Dolphins so far in the Ballyconneely area. The animal below was found today. As can be seen from the shots it was entangled in green fish netting. It's possible that the animal may have become entangled post mortem in inshore waters as it was being washed onshore. It was lightly wrapped around the snout but it was caught tightly at the base of the tail fluke and if it was the case that the animal was entangled while alive it certainly would have resulted in its demise. Dolphins do regularly get caught in commercial fishing nets and usually died from drowning. When found in nets fishermen will usually cut off the tail flukes to remove the dead animal from net rather than cutting the net. In this case this section of netting was cut away so I'm not 100% sure what happened to this unfortunate animal but the fact that it was caught tightly on the tail doesn't look good.

There have been several foreign supertrawlers off the Galway/Mayo coastline over the last month or so. These ships can hoover up a huge tonnage of commercial fish. Large amounts of discards ("collateral damage") are evitable in these operations. These boats have received a lot of bad press here in Ireland recently because they are seen as decimating Irish fish stocks and people would rather see Irish fishermen doing the decimating instead! Nothing is usually said of the very same damage that an Irish fishing ship of a similar scale can do to non-target fish and other marine life.
On another note the amount of plastic refuse which is continually washed up on every single metre of Irish coastline is staggering and depressing in equal measure, the majority of it coming ships of one description or another.

Second-winter Kumlien's Gull

Second-winter Kumlien's Gull

Second-winter Kumlien's Gull

Common Dolphin entangled in fishing netting.

Common Dolphin entangled in fishing netting. Left hand side of the body in a much better condition than the right.

Common Dolphin with the net removed from the snout.

Close up shot of the head with the netting removed.

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