News from Sheskinmore November 2013

November has been busy at Sheskinmore and in the surrounding area. Here is a flavour of what has been going on in the wild and what conservation work has been carried out recently.

The Greenland White Fronted Geese are enjoying the ground that was prepared for them in October prior to their arrival.  The level ground south of Sheskinmore Lough is a traditional favourite feeding site for them and in recent years, because it had not been cut for round bales, it was starting to get tussocky. So, in October it was topped and sweetened up with a dressing of fertiliser and finally to make it really attractive an electic fence was erected to keep the cows off  and leave it for the geese to graze.  This plot is privately owned and these improvements couldn’t happen without the co-operation of the landowner.  The geese are spending lots of time there in particular since they arrived.  Each year they are joined by other wayward goose friends. Last year it was a snow goose. This year, a very tame Barnacle Goose has teamed up with a Canada Goose and joined the gang.  The flock is staying at 21-24 but there is another flock of Greenland White fronts outside Glenties, so overall the number is the area is stable.

GWF feeding area

There was a flying visit from a female satellite tagged Hen Harrier, called Miranda.  She is definately not ready to settle down and has moved from her birthplace in Scotland through the Isle of Man, the east coast of Ireland, up through the midlands to the north coast and has worked her way down along the coast, spending a couple of days at Sheskinmore before moving on. She continued on to Mayo, her travels can be followed on www.henharrierireland.blogspot.ie.  Sheskinmore is an ideal Hen Harrier roost spot and I do a roost watch during winter months to look out for them.

The linnet plot at Mullyvea didn’t produce a good yield of cereal this year, but theres enough there to feed a small flock of Goldfinch, Linnet and Reed Bunting.  Soil samples of the plot have been taken and the results will help to restore the soils vitality. After ten years of ploughing it may need an input of some organic matter next Spring to kick start it again and produce a cereal plot that will attract Twite, our target species.

Soil sampling was also carried out on a field we’ve selected to make some improvements to for feeding the geese, more about that in the Spring.

The existing drains were cleaned out, a job that hadn’t been done for over ten years. That should improve the grassland, for plant species, for grazing and for saving fodder.  The ground around the drains had become really rank over the years and was neither being grazed nor cut. That reduces plant diversity and makes it unattractive to ground nesting birds as it becomes too difficult to move through.

Not too far away from Sheskinmore, there was lots of wildlife activity during November.  I was delighted to see a red bushy tail disappear into the side of the road near Summy Lough, I was talking to one of the family who own the ground and their peanut feeders are visited by a red squirrel on a regular basis.  I still have to log my new pal on the mammals atlas of ireland website.

A strong northerly wind blew an unusual visitor ashore on Maghera Strand. On the 21st November a woman who walks on the beach found a sperm whale at the edge of the tide. He was intact but probably dead in the water for a while. He measured 11.3m, small for a male.  Donegal County Council arranged for him to be buried the following day. I asked them to remove the jaw and they kindly delievered it to McGlincheys field studies centre at Sheskinmore. When the skin rots away the jaw will make a great exhibit for cetacean talks.

Sperm whale

Portnoo National School had an unexpected visitor recently. When the staff and pupils arrived one morning there was a badger tangled up in their football net.  The Department of Agriculture staff responded really quickly and had the badger on its way before second break !

The children in Loughros Point are  used to seeing wild geese. They can watch Barnacle geese out the school windows. I took some stuffed geese into the school for a goose talk. The children already have a lot of knowledge about another bird that is particular to their area, the twite.  They have set up their own bird plot for feeding wild birds in winter.

School goose talk

I’m looking forward to what’ll happen around Sheskinmore over the next couple of months…. lots no doubt !

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