A big year is an informal competition among birders to see who can see or hear the largest number of species of birds within a single calendar year and within a specific geographical area. This year I am going to try to do a big year on an informal basis. My two main reasons for doing this is as a life long learner, I want to be able to sharpen my identification skills. and secondly to continue my Irish Wildlife adventure!.Please could you bring me a new scope and to spot some new species!
In comparison to most European countries, Ireland has fewer breeding species. While many of these are migratory, there are also many resident species, common in Europe, that are rare in Ireland. There are several reasons for this:
Firstly, Ireland has been isolated as an island for approximately 8,000 years. As a result, many sedentary species including Nuthatches, Willow Tits and Tawny Owls, which do not move great distances, have not managed to cross the Irish Sea. Secondly, Ireland's mild, wet climate results in a lower winter mortality rate for resident species, allowing such species to commence breeding in the best habitats before many migrants arrive. Therefore, Ireland has fewer available niches for migratory species. Finally, Ireland has fewer habitat types than our neighbouring island. In comparison to Britain, Ireland has less deciduous woodlands and Scots pine forests, while habitats such as heaths, chalk down land and very high mountain ranges are totally absent explaining why birds like Woodlark, Dartford Warbler, Crested Tits and Ptarmigan do not occur here.
However, Ireland does hold healthy populations of some species that are in serious decline elsewhere in Europe. Corncrakes are recovering their numbers in the midlands, while Dublin and Wexford hold large numbers of Roseate Terns. Of course, the islands and headlands of the rugged western and southern coasts hold enormous seabird colonies, with the largest breeding number of Storm Petrels in the world. Ireland also holds three sub-species of breeding birds, Coal Tit, Jay and Dipper, while the Irish Red Grouse is also considered by some to be a distinct subspecies.
While Ireland's western geographical location is not ideal for many European migrants, it is perfect for the occurrence of many North American species swept across the Atlantic on their long migration from northeast Canada.