With lockdown taking place all over Ireland, the noise levels reduced and we are finally able to hear the birds singing. Birdwatching is a great way to keep connected to nature; besides, Ireland is a hub for migratory birds, so now is a perfect time for birdwatching!
Birds and animals in Covid-19
In the spring, we stayed home because of the lockdown, so we became closer to nature than ever before and now more than ever we were able to hear the birds singing. In ordinary times, birds do not feel comfortable when thousands of people are moving around the city, but during the quarantine, human activity was close to zero and it affected the behaviour of animals and birds.
You may have seen posts on social media about wild animals and birds leaving their natural habitats and visiting the cities. Most of the news regarding wildlife going into the cities were fake. The swans who were said to return to the canals of Venice have always been there – people just didn’t notice them earlier. No, there were no dolphins in Venetian canals, and elephants didn’t get drunk and pass out in the fields of Yunan province.
Although we want to believe in the positive side of the pandemic, there were no significant changes to the number of birds or wild animals’ behaviour. What happened though is that we started to notice more, and more people have been interested in nature and birdwatching in particular. The Birdwatch.ie website has had more hits since the beginning of the lockdown. Hopefully, we will still be interested in nature and be aware of its presence around us in the future.
How to watch birds
Those who live in the city know how difficult it is to connect to nature. Prepandemic we were getting tired of the sounds of the city; during the lockdown, we’re getting tired of sitting at home. When we don’t spend enough time outdoors, we can experience a nature deficit disorder. We need to go outside, and sometimes we all need a bit of nature.
Birdwatching has a calming effect and is suitable for everyone. It can be part of children’s education, and it’s useful for everyone who cares about nature and the environment. You can watch birds in many places; for example, you can visit a nature reserve, a protected area where wild animals and birds are in their natural habitats.
There are multiple nature reserves around the country; most of them are free of charge and open all year round. East Coast Nature Reserve is the largest and covers 92 hectares. The Little Skellig reserve is famous for its colony of Gannets, one of the largest breeding colonies in the world. You can’t access the island, but you can watch the colony of Gannets from the mainland or a boat. The complete list of the Irish nature reserves is available here.
However, you don’t even need to go that far from home to watch birds. Some birds may be even found in your garden. You can make your garden bird-friendly by putting out food for them and planting trees for nesting birds. This way you will be able to observe wildlife within arm’s reach; maybe next summer you’ll even see little chicks just out of the nest.
Bird migration coming soon
As an island, Ireland doesn’t have that many breeding bird species. There are 200 “regular” bird species that stay in Ireland all year round or stay here during the winter or the summer. However, there are 450 bird species that have ever been recorded in Ireland. This number includes “regular” birds and also those that have a stopover in Ireland.
Bird migration is a natural phenomenon when millions of wild birds move to warmer places to stay in the winter. In the spring, they go back. The routes of many wild birds go through Ireland, and that’s what makes Ireland a great place to watch bird migration, starting from the end of August and until the late autumn.
The Birdwatch.ie website has information about the bird species you can watch at the moment and where to find them. Until the end of September, you may find the colonies of Terns resting along the Irish coast, and those are not just Irish colonies; some of them came from the UK or mainland Europe to have some rest before heading south! Recommended locations include Skerries Coast or Sandymount Strand if you live in Dublin. It’s better to go in the evening when the tide is high.
During the lockdown, we tended towards nature, and it would be great to keep this up afterwards. Birdwatching is one of the ways for people in Ireland to keep in touch with nature. It reduces stress and helps us to learn more about the environment, and it’s simply beautiful.