Without a lot of public attention Birdwatch Ireland, the conservation organisation which protects Ireland's birds and their habitats, is engaged in an extensive survey of seabirds. Ireland is a very important country for seabirds which are, in my view, marvellous creatures of Nature. The variety of seabirds around our coastline is huge, but they are facing several threats and, if the issues are not resolved, some species could face extinction.
Sailing around the coastline I have marvelled at seabirds. One of my best memories is of a Summer’s evening heading towards Valentia Island on the Kerry coast.
Passing Puffin Island is an experience to remember. It is an Irish wildbird conservancy reserve of Birdwatch Ireland, near Portmagee. It is separated from the mainland by a narrow sound and is, at times, home to thousands of pairs of Manx Shearwaters, Storm Petrels and Puffins and smaller numbers of other breeding seabirds.
I was particularly impressed by the Puffins with their coloured bills and black-and-white coats, almost looking particularly well-dressed for a formal evening out.
I thought the Puffins were the most magnificent of birds and admired them while sailing past.
For this edition of my radio programme I spent a very pleasant hour or so with Niall Hatch, Development Officer of Birdwatch Ireland discussing why Ireland is such an important location for seabirds and why it is vital to support work being undertaken to ensure their future and, particularly, that of species which are threatened with extinction.
“Ireland is incredibly important for seabirds. We are home to populations of many scarce and threatened species,” Niall told me. “Given our location, at the very edge of Europe, we are the last point of departure as they leave and the first port-of-call for those coming in from the Atlantic.
On this week’s THIS ISLAND NATION, which you can listen to below, he outlines the threats of extinction faced by several species of seabirds, describes the survey work being done in this regard and, in a wider perspective, talks about the involvement of Birdwatch Ireland internationally and the efforts to protect that legendary bird associated with the sea, the Albatross.