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Birds of Clare Island: Dipper

20 August 2020

On Day 6 of Heritage Week we learn about a very rare occasional visitor on Clare Island, featuring in New Survey of Clare Island, vol. 9: Birds

The ninth volume in the New Survey of Clare Island series focuses on the birds of Clare Island and is being released on 17 August as part of Heritage Week. Join us during Heritage Week and learn about some of the many birds that populate the island.

Today, you can read the entry on the Dipper as it appears in Chapter Two of New Survery of Clare Island, vol. 9: Birds. Chapter Two contains an inventory of the birds of Clare Island, and this is compared with the findings of the first survey conducted during 1909–11. The list comprises records that span the period from 1887 to 2018.

Dipper Cinclus cinclus (Linnaeus)
Extinct as a breeding species; very rare occasional visitor.
The subspecies Cinclus cinclus hibernicus Hartert is the taxon involved, making it the only endemic Irish subspecies to be found on Clare Island (Ussher 1912; Ruttledge 1950), and whose breeding biology is well described (Smiddy et al. 1995).
The dipper was found to be breeding on Clare Island in the 1909–11 survey, during which several specimens were obtained for comparison with museum skins (Ussher 1912). However, the dipper was not seen again until 14–18 June 1989 when one individual was found (D’Arcy 1992; Ruttledge 1994). The dipper was not detected in any of the atlas surveys or those of Barlee and Ruttledge (1945), Lloyd (1984) or Winters (2006), although one was seen by John Feehan in November 2017. One wonders whether the collecting of specimens during 1909–11 contributed to their extinction.
Image credits: R.T. Mills

About the book:
Explore Clare Island’s avifauna, including the seabirds, land birds and waterbirds, and investigate the curious absence of breeding rooks from the island. This volume features a systematic list comprised of records of bird sightings that stretch from 1887 to 2018. The result of almost 20 years of fieldwork, it is an invaluable source for future monitoring of birds on Clare Island and beyond.
The first Clare Island Survey of 1909–11 was the most ambitious natural history project ever undertaken in Ireland and the first major biological survey of a specific area carried out in the world. The ‘Birds’ paper included in that survey was written by Richard J. Ussher and was based on fieldwork conducted on the island between 1909 and 1911. Ussher’s ‘Aves’ paper, however, also summarised details of the avifauna of a wider area in the west of Ireland—mainly the Counties of Galway and Mayo—a theme that was revisited several times by the late Major Robert F. Ruttledge. The current ‘Birds’ volume focuses exclusively on Clare Island and applies modern methods of census. 
Buy the book here.

About the project:
The New Survey of Clare Island is a unique multidisciplinary project, the overall aim being to assess the environmental changes that have taken place over the last hundred years on Clare Island. Together with Robert Lloyd Praeger’s first Clare Island Survey, the New Survey provides an invaluable body of research informing future conservation of natural and built heritage of Ireland and Europe.

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