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Birds of Clare Island: Willow Warbler

18 August 2020

On Day 4 of Heritage Week we learn about a well-established breeding species on Clare Island, which features 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 Willow Warbler 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.

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus (Linnaeus)
Migrant; breeds.
Although ‘not observed on Clare Island’ (Ussher 1912), this warbler is now a well-established breeding species, having been first discovered there by Ian Forsyth and Pamela Allen in 1996 when ‘three breeding territories were identified and another five in 1997’ (Forsyth and Allen 1997). Subsequent surveys showed breeding willow warblers in both L68 and L78 (Winters 2006) (see Chapter 4). However, it appears that no breeding pairs were observed in L68 during the most recent atlas survey (Balmer et al. 2013).
A willow warbler—a well-known single brooded species—Evans et al. (2009), was seen carrying food on Clare Island on 14 July 2000 (Kelly pers. obs.), which may indicate some pairs here are double-brooded. The willow warbler, which is six times more abundant than the chiffchaff in Ireland (Crowe et al. 2014), has recently undergone a marked increase in the west and north-west of the country (Crowe et al. 2010; Balmer et al. 2013).
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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