‘Worst breeding summer’ as birds abandon nests

Birds all over the country have abandoned their nests due to the washout summer, making it one of the worst breeding years in memory.

Even our most famous feathered parents — the blue tits in the walled garden of Áras an Uachtaráin – have failed to raise a family of chicks this year, leaving their webcammed bird box bleakly empty.

The bright plumage and industrious personality of the blue tit have made it one of Ireland’s best-loved garden birds.

But leading bird expert Eric Dempsey said the incessant rain, coupled with a shortage of insects, has left many of these birds giving up on their deeply instinctive urge to breed.

“This is possibly one of the worst breeding summers I can ever remember, said Mr Dempsey. “Many blue tits abandoned their nests and never even bred.

“Some even laid eggs and just gave up. We know this because people have put webcams in their nesting boxes.

“We had one here and the blue tit was in the nest. I was watching in May and we had really strong northerly winds and torrential rain and the bird just gave up and didn’t nest.

“It was the same with the blue tit in the box in the Áras. She abandoned too and so did the blue tit in Derek Mooney’s box.

“This has been mirrored across the country.”

The author said the birds did the unthinkable and failed to breed because of the lack of insects on the ground.

“The idea is that their chicks come out at the end of May and into June to coincide with the emergence of insects and caterpillars, but there was such torrential rain that the food supply was not there,” said Mr Dempsey.

The top ornithologist and author of the bestselling Complete Guide to Ireland’s Birds has recently been appointed the Irish ambassador for the Global Birding Initiative to form a birding network around the planet to encourage people to birdwatch.

He said yesterday that Ireland’s sodden summer, in the wake of a run of freezing winters, has played havoc with breeding in the country.

Mr Dempsey, who runs birdsireland.com, said songbirds, swallows, barn owls, and the endangered corncrake have all had their nesting plans destroyed by devastating floods.

“This summer comes on the back of some freezing winters. Two out of three of the last three winters have been really, really cold,” said Mr Dempsey.

“The mortality rate for songbirds has been very, very high in the last couple of winters. Birds like the wren and the stonechat has been very badly affected.

“The number of stonechats has been decimated over the two winters.

“They would have been trying to breed this summer but from what we’re hearing around the country many birds had a very, very poor breeding season, particularly birds like these which depend on the insect population to feed their chicks.”

Mr Dempsey said even the hardy swallow’s numbers are plummeting this year.

“Anecdotally it appears that the swallow’s breeding season has been very, very poor,” he said.

“People who would have up to 10 nests in their barn are telling us there are none this year.”


Lifestyle

Another great aspect of being able to roam around Phoenix Park is the abundance of wild garlic, which flourishes throughout the great expanse.The Currabinny Cooks: going wild with garlic

Dyed purple hair, fake tattoos ... Ophelia Lovibond certainly went against type for her latest role.Succes from Failure: Ophelia Lovibond certainly goes against type for latest role

Keeping plants like lupins and delphiniums happy now will pay off this summer, says Peter DowdallPeter Dowdall: Embark on a perennial quest

Three figures with roles in the Cork band’s trajectory tell Ellie O’Byrne about the legend-in-the-making that was sadly never to be.B-Side the Leeside: Nun Attax and the Knocknaheeny Shuffle

More From The Irish Examiner