There is still alot of rabbits above ground. The trapper with the NPWS has been doing some culling but the population is still mucher higher than in recent years. Probably as a result of the good food supply 1-3 Buzzard can be seen on most visits. The area around the main entrance gate at Mullyvea is a good place to look for Buzzard. Sometimes there are Lapwing there too, along the Kiltooris Lough shoreline, othertimes they are along the shoreline of Sheskinmore Lough. I saw 49 Lapwing in November at Sheskinmore. The Greenland White Front Goose population this year is similar to last year, this year there are 23, last year there were 21. It looks like there is only 1 juvenile in this group, there were 5 juveniles with the 2013 flock.
These geese are not having good breeding success in recent years. The geese that come to Ireland breed in the Northern part of their Greenland grounds but only 5% of each winters returning flocks are juveniles. This is not enough to replace adult mortality and so the population is in decline. Research in Greenland is extremely difficult. Each pair occupies 10km square of land which cannot be traversed by vehicle or on foot, so observation is almost impossible. The weather in Spring when they arrive there is a factor which affects their breeding. Recent Springs have had rain and snow. The geese need it to be dry for good feeding, nesting and incubating conditions.
Other bird species around Sheskinmore Lough or Sandfield Lough that have been counted this year include Teal, Wigeon, Whooper and Mute Swan, Curlew, Heron and Common Gull. Mammals encountered include the pesky rabbits, a fox on a leisurly walk and signs of Badger, Otter and Mink.
A surprising encounter at Portnoo, while looking out for Barnacle Geese on Inishkeel in late November, a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins came along and did some acrobatics before heading north. There is a big flock of Barnacle Geese at Loughros, the bottom right photo attached shows a group of around 400. Up in Lettermacaward there is the largest flock I’ve seen there of Greylag, 140 are there, this is a record high for this site.
I am working with a school on their Biodiversity Green Flag and I am encouraging the children and anyone else with an interest in wildlife to log their mammal records on the mammals atlas of ireland website. 2015 is the last year for collecting records for this atlas. So thats one good new years resolution to make for next year. You can send in old records too. I’m going to make a wish list of species I’d like to see in Sheskinmore, when I’ve compiled that I’ll post it in the new year.