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COVID-19’s impact on visits to offshore islands may be benefiting the gannet seabird colony on Wexford’s Great Saltee.

A new University College Cork (UCC) study has recorded the level of disturbance to the birds caused by tourists in the summer of 2017.

Great Saltee does not have a warden, and many tourists unwittingly cause a disturbance, leading to parents leaving their nests temporarily, exposing them to predators who quickly seize the opportunity and steal the gannets’ one and only egg, the report says.

Gannet colony on the Great Saltee Islands off the County Wexford coastGannet colony on the Great Saltee Islands off the County Wexford coast

Many tourists, especially those looking for that perfect photograph of birds on their nests, got too close to the gannets, often to within less than one metre.

This led to a 60% reduction in breeding success compared with birds at undisturbed parts of the colony, according to Debs Allbrook, a UCC masters in science student.

“On one occasion we saw nine disturbance events over a two-hour period. This directly led to eggs from nine gannet nests being stolen by herring gulls, who seem to have learned to watch the interactions between tourists and people,” she said,

“ One photographer ran right through the colony trying to retrieve his camera lens rolling downhill, leading to disturbance of about 30 nests,” she said.

As part of her research, Debs Allbrook tested to see if tourists would pay attention to an information sign warning them that their actions could be damaging.

The sign said: “These birds are breeding. Under the Wildlife Act (1976) it is illegal to disturb nesting birds. Please do not approach the colony as doing so may result in the abandonment of eggs or the death of chicks. Thank you for your consideration.”

The vast majority of people paid attention to the sign. People stayed away from the birds and fewer disturbance events were observed.

“This showed that it was largely lack of knowledge that led to the disturbance in the first place. People did not understand the harm they were causing,” she noted.

“The disturbance often caused confusion in the colony and it only took a second for a gull to zip in and steal an egg,” she said.

The full publication can be accessed now online here

Published in Marine Science

Dun Laoghaire Baths Renovation

Afloat has been reporting on the new plans for the publically owned Dun Laoghaire Baths site located at the back of the East Pier since 2011 when plans for its development first went on display by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. 

Foreshore consent was applied for in 2013.

Last used 30 years ago as the 'Rainbow Rapids' before falling into dereliction – the new site does not include a public pool.

The refurbished Dun Laoghaire Baths include the existing Baths Pavilion for use as artist workspaces, a gallery café and for the provision of public toilet facilities. 

Work finally got underway at Dún Laoghaire on the €9 million redevelopments of the old Dún Laoghaire Baths site in June 2018 under a contract with SIAC-Mantovani.

The works have removed dilapidated structures to the rear of the Pavilion to permit the creation of a new route and landscaping that will connect the walkway at Newtownsmith to both the East Pier and the Peoples Park. 

Original saltwater pools have been filled in and new enhanced facilities for swimming and greater access to the water’s edge by means of a short jetty have also been provided.

The works included the delivery of rock armour to protect the new buildings from storm damage especially during easterly gales. 

It hasn't all been plain sailing during the construction phase with plastic fibres used in construction washing into the sea in November 2018

Work continues on the project in Spring 2020 with the new pier structure clearly visible from the shoreline.

A plinth at the end of the pier will be used to mount a statue of Roger Casement, a former Sandycove resident and Irish nationalist.

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