Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Irish Grey partridge - back from the brink.

Grey partridge hiding by a crop planted specially for them
The alarm went off at 4.30 am yesterday morning as I had to catch an early morning flight to Dublin to visit one of the Irish Grey partridge re-introduction projects. The North Dublin Grey partridge project covers three farms, totalling about 1000 acres and is organised by the Irish Grey partridge Conservation Trust, working alongside local biodiversity Government officers, who are also funding the project.

Because Grey partridge have been completely lost from most of Ireland, lots of habitat restoration has had to be put in place prior to any thought of releasing Grey partridge back into the area. Plenty of good nesting cover, in the form of tussocky grass margins has been created and alongside them, cereal and Kale strips have been planted, which are left for two years so as to provide food and cover throughout the year.

Supplementary hopper feeding and areas of wild bird seed mixes are also used, while a targeted, spring and summer predator control programme has been put in place to limit numbers of Fox, Crows, Magpies and ground predators such as rats.

The project has already had some success with breeding taking place and broods successfully reared. We were treated to a lovely covey of 12 birds bursting out of cover, flying away over a tall hedge, the sunlight picking out their heart shaped brown chests as they turned.  A wonderful sight!   
I managed to advise on a number of points which will hopefully tweak what they are already successfully doing, so that even more coveys are established by this time next year.

Incidentally, the news from one of the other projects in Boora, county Offaly, that I visited a couple of years ago is very positive too, with Greys doing well. What is equally important is that the local breeding population of Lapwing (which has all but disappeared from Ireland too) is thriving on the back of the Grey partridge project.  This year was exceptional, with 81 nests producing 178 fledged chicks on just 694 acres. Not bad for a bird which had previously been almost lost as a breeding species in the country!

So, well done to Kieran Buckley and his team from the Irish Grey partridge Conservation Trust, and also the Irish Government for the vital funding they are giving to these projects. Not only are they saving the Grey partridge, but the Lapwing too! I should have added that Skylark numbers are also going through the roof too!!  
The enthusiastic project team - although they don't look that keen in this photo!

1 comment:

  1. It's especially pleasing to hear of such efforts taking place to conserve the Greys in Ireland, given the declines revealed by the Bird Atlas recently. They show that the four most rapidly declining species in terems of their range in Ireland are all ground-nesting species. Keep up the good work you lot.

    Kind Regards