Wildlife Habitat Survey
Town quays: Habitat: Quay walls, sandy beach, seafront, houses and other buildings, streets and roads:
The most obvious birds that can be seen from the quays are several species of gull. The most numerous is usually the Black-headed Gull, with the Common Gull and Herring Gull nearly always present also. In winter, watch for the white-winged Glaucous Gull (from Iceland) and Iceland Gull (from Greenland), while one or two Little Gull (the smallest gull in Ireland) may also be seen occasionally. In recent year the expanding Mediterranean Gull (pictured right) is becoming more regular (it now breeds in Ireland), and it can be told from the Black-headed Gull by its larger size and all-white wings when in adult plumage. The sinister-looking black Cormorant is rarely far from the quays as it dives for food in the current of the River Blackwater. The Gannet occasionally enters the harbour, but rarely comes inside Ferry Point. In the spring and autumn migration periods terns may be seen off the quays. The most numerous species is the large Sandwich Tern. The Fulmar, which nests on the cliffs near the lighthouse, occasionally wanders up the harbour, sometimes all the way to the New Bridge.
On the landward side birds such as Pied Wagtail, House Sparrow, Starling and Jackdaw occur, each of which breeds in buildings. The Pied Wagtail forms communal roosts in winter on trees just off North Main Street. During the summer period the Swallow, House Martin and Swift all occur in good numbers, and all nest in and on buildings. The Swallow favours the insides of buildings, but occasionally nests in unusual sites, such as beneath the quay walls where ships dock. The House Martin nests on the outside of buildings and their mud nests can often be seen just beneath the eaves (look for them at their favourite site on the Red House on North Main Street). The Swift likes to crawl on to the top of walls through cracks below the eaves of older houses, although modern buildings are occasionally used.
Slob Bank: Habitat: Estuarine mudflats (at low tide), stone-faced embankment, drains, wet pasture fields:
The Slob Bank is at its most interesting during the winter season when the greatest number and diversity of birds are present although some species are present throughout the year. The drainage ditches and pools behind the bank, as well as the wet pasture fields are important for a variety of species. Mallard are always present, but Teal and Wigeon occur only in winter, while very occasionally species such as Long-tailed Duck may be seen. The Little Grebe occurs occasionally. The Kingfisher (pictured right) has frequently been seen in the drainage ditches here, but it is easy to overlook it. The now familiar white Little Egret and the Grey Heron can be seen at all times of the year. The heron is a bird of long standing in Ireland, while the egret (like the Mediterranean Gull, above) has become a breeding species in more recent times; no doubt this is related to global climate change resulting in a push northwards of a species formerly found only in southern Europe.
Wading birds occur on the wet pasture fields behind the drains and pools. Here, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Lapwing and Redshank all occur, sometimes feeding in considerable flocks in the fields. Snipe can be numerous sometimes, although rarely seen until flushed because of their skulking nature, and the Turnstone occurs along the outside face of the Slob Bank where they feed among the seaweed growing on the wall. Rarer species such as Ruff and Green Sandpiper may be occasionally seen in autumn and winter.
The same gull species as occur at the town quays may all be expected off the Slob Bank, along with others, such as Great Crested Grebe, Great Northern Diver and Red-breasted Merganser. A flock of up to 40 Shag may be seen around and on a buoy moored off the Slob Bank.
Small land birds also occur along the Slob Bank. These include species such as Meadow Pipit and Rock Pipit, Stonechat, Linnet, Goldfinch and the migrant Wheatear (the latter usually present only during spring and autumn migration).
The Otter also occurs along the quays and the Slob Bank. This is generally a shy animal, and most of its activities take place at night. However, daytime activity may be observed in quiet and undisturbed places. Evidence for the presence of the Otter can be seen around the sluice and edge of the drainage ditches in the form of its black droppings (when fresh) which contain fish bones and pieces of crab.
Foxhole: Habitat: The marsh habitat here is brackish in nature with features of estuarine saltmarsh (due to seepage through the bank and sluice) and freshwater marsh with Reeds (probably due to freshwater springs): (Sign board 3)
The field at Foxhole is a high tide roost site for wading birds and other species which occur in the main harbour and on the River Tourig estuary. Spring high tides are the best periods during which to watch here, although some birds may be present at other times. Estuaries are most important for numbers and diversity of species during spring and autumn migration periods, and during the winter. The most numerous species are Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Lapwing, with smaller numbers of Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and Greenshank. During the autumn migration period small numbers of Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint may be seen, and rare American vagrants have even occasionally occurred here.
Ducks, especially Teal (pictured left), are usually present in winter, and several Little Egret and Grey Heron may be seen resting on the grassy bank. Spring migration is usually lighter for most species than is autumn migration. However, for one species (the Whimbrel) the spring migration is larger than the autumn one. The Whimbrel is similar to, but slightly smaller than, the Curlew, and occurs in considerable numbers during late April and early May each year.
Very large numbers of gulls may also occur in Foxhole during high tide in the winter season. Gulls often occur in association with landfill sites, and Youghal is no different. However, in recent years Youghal landfill has been ‘capped’, and this has led to a considerable reduction in the amount of food available, and consequently in the number of gulls occurring here. Nevertheless, gulls still occur in reasonably large numbers, the most numerous usually being the Black-headed Gull and the Lesser Black-backed Gull, with smaller numbers of Common Gull, Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull. Rarer species have also occurred frequently here, especially Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Mediterranean Gull and Yellow-legged Gull.
Areas where large numbers of wading birds and small gulls occur are often good places to watch for birds of prey. These birds frequently fall prey to such species as Peregrine and Sparrowhawk, while the Kestrel hovers over margins and grassy banks in its search for small mammals and insects.
Main Road (pools, drains and fields): Habitat: Freshwater pools, drains, wet pasture fields, hedges:
A drain on the east side and a pool on the west side of this road is occasionally the habitat for a considerable number of wading birds. The most common species are Lapwing, Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit (pictured right), with occasional Ruff and Green Sandpiper also having been recorded. Little Egret and Grey Heron also occur here.
Greencloyne Road, Mill Road and Quarry Road Park: Habitat: Hedges, gardens, vegetated cliff, pond, lawns and amenity park:
This area includes gardens and hedgerows, as well as the vegetation within Quarry Road Park. This area is quite rich in birds, as gardens usually are. The Woodpigeon and Collared Dove occur here, and the woodland-loving Long-eared Owl has also been seen. Small birds such as Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Coal Tit may be seen here, and the Long-tailed Tit breeds and winters also. In summer, warblers such as Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and the increasing Blackcap may be seen, and the Spotted Flycatcher has been recorded as well. Resident thrushes include Blackbird, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush, while Redwing and Fieldfare are winter visitors. Among the finches, the Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch are numerous, while Linnet, Lesser Redpoll and Bullfinch are more restricted in numbers.
This area is also suitable for bats. About ten species are known to occur in Ireland, several of which are also known to occur in the Youghal area. The Pipistrelles (two species, Long-eared Bat and Leisler’s Bat have all been recorded here in this area.
9th May 2013