Monday, August 20, 2018 - 12:00 AM
By Richard Collins
The curlew is in trouble; a BirdWatch Ireland census found only 150 breeding pairs here in 2015-16, a 97% reduction in numbers since the 1980s.
The bird is still common in winter but the ones you see on Irish wetlands are mostly visitors from Britain and mainland Europe.
Keeping an eye out for curlews, you might come across what appears to be a very dark-coloured one, with long legs trailing behind the tail in flight. Don’t be fooled; despite having the characteristic down-curved bill, this isn’t a curlew but a glossy ibis.
On the Outdoors page, some years ago, we speculated that this exotic creature, which breeds in the eastern Mediterranean Africa and the Middle East, might become a ‘regular’ winter visitor here, rather than a mere ‘vagrant’.
Sightings, since then, have been encouraging. According to the latest report of the Irish Rare Birds Committee, about 46 ibises visited us in 2016. They were seen in 12 counties.
The numbers, although slightly down on the 2015 total of 53, are unprecedented. As Colin Barton, compiler of the report, remarked; “the invasion continues”.