BIRDS - by Fintan Ryan
There are of course the usual species of birds in Borris, but the most famous avian inhabitants are our crows. The rookery contains tens of thousands that head out in the mornings in all directions to forage in the fields and return just before sunset.
Unlike in the mornings, where departures are in all directions, the arrivals converge on their roosts in the Demesne along the river valleys.
Often they arise from their perches in large numbers almost blackening the sky and wheeling and soaring, particularly when it is windy. Photograph 1 (right) reminds me of Macbeth: “Light thickens, and the crow makes wing to th' rooky wood.”
PHOTOGRAPH 1 CROWS RETURN TO ROOST IN BORRIS DEMESNE
PHOTOGRAPH 2 A BORRIS BUZZARD RESTING
When I was a boy, there were no buzzards, but they are common now and often seen soaring overhead announced by their plaintive call. They have taken over from the kestrel, Gerard Manley Hopkin’s Windhover, as the predominant raptor in the Borris area.
Another raptor in our area, not commonly seen until recently, is the sparrowhawk. They can be heard more often than seen with a plaintive call as they hunt for prey. Their main quarries are small birds and the female, larger than the male, will occasionally tackle a wood pigeon. If you find a clump of feathers on the ground it’s probably the remains of a victim of the sparrowhawk.
PHOTOGRAPH 3 SPARROW HAWK
Lots of little egrets to be seen now on the Barrow. They only arrive around 10 years agoand can now be seen also up the Mountain and Dinin rivers. The fish for food by stirringup the mud and sand with their feet and catching the disturbed insects and fish.
Photograph 4 was taken by me in Blackrock, Dublin, the Borris Egrets are far to shy for a close photograph!
PHOTOGRAPH 5 GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER - DEMESNE
An occasional visitor in early Autumn. I took photograph 6 by the Mountain River in October 2013. I saw the Osprey swoop down and take the trout and luckily got the photograph.
Initially thought it was a buzzard but closer examination led to the correct identification, a very rare sighting in Ireland.
PHOTOGRAPH 4 EGRET FISHING
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Another new arrival in Borris area with lots in the wood and over in Mount Loftus. You can occasionally hear them drumming with their beaks stabbing the wood in rapid strokes. They are very shy and rarely seen. Padraig Kavanagh took photograph 5, left, within 500m of the village.
PHOTOGRAPH 6 OSPREY MOUNTAIN RIVER
PHOTOGRAPH 7 WATERHEN, BUNNAHOWEN
The waterhen population around Borris was almost eliminated by the arrival of the mink. They had no instinctive fear of this predator and were easy prey.
They are now returning to our waterways as the mink population declines and the waterhens wise up to their threat.
Dipper and Kingfisher
The Mountain and Dinin have a good population of dippers, photograph 8. They are unique in arranging their wings so that the water flow forces them down to the riverbed where they walk/swim collecting aquatic insects and small fish, their primary diet.
I always associate the dipper with the kingfisher. You rarely encounter this beautifully coloured bird with blue and red plumage sitting on a favourite perch above the water. You can however often see it as an iridescent blue streak as it flies low over the rivers. Its shyness probably stems from an instinct developed in the early years when it was hunted for its plumage, prized for hats and fishing flies.
PHOTOGRAPH 8 DIPPER MOUNTAIN RIVER
We have all the usual bird species of course in our area but the once common corncrakes, yellowhammers, cuckoos and curlews are now rare.
The regular population of swallows, house and sand martens still arrive each spring but not in the same numbers as before. Swifts can still be seen around the viaducts and on the Barrow but a lot less common than in bygone years. Sparrows are reported to be on decline in Europe but not in Borris as I regularly see large flocks locally.
Herons and cormorants, see photograph 9, are more common now and less timid since nobody is shooting them as vermin.
PHOTOGRAPH 9 CORMORANT AND HERON, BALLINAGRANE WEIR
PHOTOGRAPH 10 MALLARD WITH 15 CHICKS, MOUNTAIN RIVER, JUNE 2016
There are lots of mallard on the Barrow and the Mountain River. Photograph 10 shows a record clutch of 15 mallard chicks.
Experts tell us the maximum number of eggs laid is 13. Unfortunately, this brood were all gone within three days, and my guess is a predating mink which I saw in the area on the same day.