Migration phenology of Jack Snipe at an Irish coastal wetland

Abstract: 7th Irish Ornithological Research Conference 2017. Full paper to be published in next issue of Irish Birds

Tom Cooney

Although Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus are annual winter visitors to Ireland, there is no reliable data on the timing of their biannual migrations. This lack of data is however understandable as Jack Snipe are a difficult species to detect and monitor owing to their crepuscular or nocturnal activities, secretive nature and reluctance to take to the wing when disturbed. What little is known about their movements in Ireland is largely based on records supplied by hunting organisations and random observations by birdwatchers. To test the feasibility of recording baseline data on their migration phenology, systematic monitoring was carried out at North Bull Island in Dublin Bay in autumn 2011 and spring 2012. Because the results were promising the survey work has been carried out annually since then. The presence or absence of birds was recorded during two, three and occasionally four site visits each week from August to October and again from February to May. The specific habitat surveyed was a small Mediterranean salt meadow known to the author as a regular site for this species during migration times. Field recording of migration times of Jack Snipe is considered feasible but can be very time consuming as multiple visits over long periods are required before the first and last migrant birds are recorded. Preliminary results to date suggest that the average arrival times in autumn, departure times in spring and duration of stay in winter at North Bull Island are comparable to published data for Britain.

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