Field Visit Report: Bealtaine Dawn Chorus

Submitted by admin on Fri, 05/08/2015 - 21:35
Willow Warbler

Report written by Frank McGourty, IBIOLI Secretary, Hons

Leaving Ballyvaughan for Lough Rask.

On Sunday morning, May 3rd 2015 at 5.30am, 52 interested ‘birdwatchers’ gathered outside the Village Store in Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare for the annual Dawn Chorus event. The event, which was organized by BurrenBeo Trust (, warmly welcomed members of The Institute of Biology of Ireland ( to join them. Gordon D’Arcy, the well-known and respected ornithologist, led the group around the local Turlough, Lough Rask.

Heavy rain, accompanied by southeasterly winds, had fallen from the previous evening until about 4am on the Sunday morning. Weather conditions had greatly improved as dawn was beginning to break; patrons were arriving by car, on foot and bicycle, and Jim (from the Village Store) provided freshly made tea, coffee and croissants. What a welcome treat! The scene was set for a great morning.

Little time had passed until Gordon had us ‘tuning our ears’ to the variety of bird sounds, and learning to separate the sounds of the song thrush from the chaffinch and from the myriad of other tweets and chirpings that we take for granted each day.

Gordon gives a class in ‘ear-tuning’ to the bird songs.

We travelled for about 1km through the dawn chorus and down a tree clad country boreen until we reached the Turlough, locally known as Loughrask. Along the way we learned that it is the male bird that sings to identify his territory and attract females.

We also continued to identify other birds as we encountered them from their plumage colour, flight patterns, and the discrete bird songs.

We reached the Turlough to be greeted by the Grey Heron, the Blackbird, and the Wren. In the distance we observed the gliding flight of the Woodpigeon. Rooks were in abundance; the monotonous cawing made the nearby treetop rookery a noisy place. We were later to encounter the super territorial Robin, the Mistle Thrush, the Cuckoo, the Coot, the Chiffchaff, the Blue Tit, and more.

Gordon engages the group as we move towards the Turlough.

We finished the day with a sumptuous champagne breakfast in Logue’s Restaurant.

The Turlough in the early morning.