Two year's ago I headed out to Co. Wicklow to help my mate Damian Clarke set up a Dipper ringing study. During the 4 nights I was there we caught and BTO ringed a total of 56 Dippers. I returned in 2014 with the hope of helping him start a colour-ringing project but the delivery of the colour-rings was delayed and they arrived the day after I left! Last Friday we finally got to officially launch Damian's Wicklow Dipper colour-ringing project with the capture of the first bird this autumn which, as it happens, was a retrap of a bird originally ringed in 2013. Over the course of three nights we caught and colour-ringed 40 Dippers of which nine were retraps from autumn 2013. Given that we didn't visit all the sites we did in 2013, and that other birds wearing BTO rings were missed that is a very encouraging survival rate, which, at first glance, seems a bit better than we get over here in Wales. Hopefully the colour-ringing will progress apace now and we can make some direct comparisons between Wales and Wicklow. It could be interesting as there are obviously no Tawny Owls in Ireland and they are known to be a predator of roosting Dippers over here.
A Wicklow colour-ring Dipper, the first of many hopefully
On the subject of owls, whilst over there we also had a go at netting a small wetland area owned by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. I wasn't expecting to be doing wader netting so I only had one 60ft net with me. None the less we managed to catch 12 Redshanks on a small pool in a flooded field. Whilst ringing the birds we heard a loud commotion from near the net and rushed over to see a Short-eared Owl sitting on a Redshank it had caught and didn't want to let go of - so much so in fact that I walked over and picked it off the bird by hand! The Redshank was a little the worse for wear but still alive and managed to fly off. No wonder the owl looks p****ed off in the photo!
Hand-caught Short-eared Owl. Sexed as a female on background colour
and strength of markings and as a juvenile on tail pattern.
There can't have been that many Short-eared Owls ringed in Wicklow before?