Tuesday, May 17, 2011

UCC songbirds

University College Cork (UCC) may at first seem largely devoid of life but on closer examination it reveals a surprising variety of wildlife. The river, stone walls, trees, bushes and short grass areas all provide ideal habitat for several small songbirds as well as some bigger species.

The best hotspot for life on the UCC grounds is the river walk which can be accessed by taking a right just past the main gates, here overhanging willows and a variety of other tree species provide ideal refuge for many robins which can easily be spotted looking for food, feeding chicks and singing on branches, these robins are quite approachable and are undoubtedly drawn to the nearby restaurant where they can scavenge for tidbits. (robin of the day!, right)

Alongside the robins live numerous chaffinches which can be easily viewed amongst the branches! 

Another attraction, perhaps the most significant of all is the presence of several mistle trushes (below). These large trushes are much bigger than the closely related blackbirds and song trushes that can be seen around the city, they have slate grey backs and a harsh urgent calls and can be seen regularly looking for food around the fields. I have never seen such an abundance of them as I have here, one day I found eleven of them in one area. These birds can be hard to find and go largely unnoticed but are quite worth pursuing. An Irish nickname for them is ‘storm cock’ because they have a tendency to sing from treetops during rain showers. 

Pied wagtails (top) and Grey wagtails (bottom) can also be found along this path, both birds are closely related but the pied is a lot more common, the grey is harder to spot and generally sticks only to river banks. It’s worth seeking out as its yellow plumage is quite a sight! The pied wagtail in contrast is extremely common and at least one can usually be seen on the fields and paths of UCC at any given time.


The rocky part of the river walk with its overhanging vegetation provides ideal habitat for several species of tits such as the great tit below. These entertaining birds can also be seen at the bird feeders around campus. 

Other species of interest that I have seen here are bullfinches (left) and greenfinches (right) and gold crests (bottom) which remain camouflaged most of the time but can occasionally be seen amidst the leaves, a bird worth pursuing, it’s also Ireland’s smallest bird.

The four most common crow species of Ireland can all be found around campus as well. Magpies are easy to find with their bold colours and loud agitated calls whilst jackdaws roam most of the grassy areas. Rooks and hooded crows occasionally join them as well especially if there is food to be scavenged. A visit to UCC is guaranteed to turn up at least two of these species if not all four! (rook below)

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