With the shortening days, opportunities for fieldwork is often reduced in the winter months. However, the INIS Ecology Team are involved in several winter projects that only really kick-off as the nights draw in. One of these is our long-term study of the ecology of wintering shorebirds that several INIS Ecologists have been leading and supporting for the past number of years. Whilst we are also doing day-time surveys of wintering wetland birds at a number of internationally important sites around Ireland, some of the Ecology Team also come out at night to catch these shorebirds after dark. Although Dunlin are our main target species (we caught 541 last winter), we do occasionally get some “by-catch” of other species. At a recent catch in Co. Clare., in addition to 18 Dunlin, we also captured one Snipe, one Redshank, one Knot (only the second Knot we have caught in the six years of the project) and the first Grey Plover. There is always a bit of excitement when catching a new species, and the juvenile Grey Plover (note the buff wash to some of the scapulars) didn’t disappoint. The Knot (which is a much larger and yellow-legged cousin of the Dunlin), was also new for several team members.

All catches are led by the experienced bird ringers we have in the INIS Ecology team, all of whom are licensed by NPWS and BTO to undertake this delicate work.