Dublin Bay is a Special Protection Area designated because of the internationally important numbers of wintering waterbirds that it supports. Adjacent to a city of 1.5 million people the bay is constantly at risk from human disturbance and exploitation; and a rise in sea-level caused by climate change is predicted to occur. To manage and mitigate the effect of these threats on waterbirds it is necessary to understand how they use the site for both foraging and roosting.
Helen Boland‘s research has been commissioned as part of the Dublin Bay Birds Project (DBBP) and she will use a range of techniques to investigate the way in which wintering waterbirds use the bay. The work by the DBBP involves – amongst other activities – the colour-marking and tagging of wintering waterbirds, systematically gathered counts, and mapping of waterbird distribution. Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit and Oystercatcher are the species selected for colour-marking, radio telemetry and other tracking. To date, they have colour-ringed 260 Oystercatchers, 99 Bar-tailed Godwits and 35 Redshank, and radio-tagged 14 Oystercatchers, 4 Bar-tailed Godwits and 3 Redshank.
The first aspect of Helen’s research aims to examine the foraging distribution of waders on the intertidal sandflats of south Dublin Bay in relation to benthic prey distribution/density, and in relation to human-related activities. Using study plots spread across the extensive intertidal area she recorded numbers and behaviour of waterbirds, while recording potential disturbance events in terms of distance from birds. She also carried out invertebrate sampling across the site. These data will allow exploration of what may be influencing the way in which waders use the bay for foraging. Are foraging behaviour and foraging distribution influenced by human-related activities? Do human-related activities cause foraging waders to avoid areas that they would otherwise use?
The Dublin Bay Birds Project is funded by the Dublin Port Company and managed by BirdWatch Ireland, co-ordinated by Niall Tierney with support from Ricky Whelan, and is funded from 2013 to 2017. Helen is registered as a part-time PhD student in BEES since 2014 with John Quinn and John O’Halloran.