Residents of inner city Dublin might not expect to see much wildlife, but the Grangegorman campus, within a mile of the Spire on O’Connell St, provides an oasis. Over the past few years over 30 bird species have been seen within the walls of the campus. Sometimes, the birds have literally been within the walls, as Blue Tits have used the walls along Grangegorman Lower for nestholes.
On a crisp spring morning, walking in from the North Circular Road, you can often hear the high pitched calls of Ireland’s smallest bird, the Goldcrest, in the Leylandii trees opposite the Phoenix Care Centre. Mistle Thrush and Pied Wagtail cruise through the grassy areas, feeding on the ground. Very often they vie with flocks of Rooks and Jackdaws, as well as Herring Gull, for the best feeding spots. The Herring Gull will soon start prospecting for nesting spots among the chimneys of the North House, and will be joined by a rarer summer migrant, the Lesser Black-Backed Gull.
Further along St Brendan’s Way, a large flock of Starling wheel around the playing pitch, sometimes joined by Feral Pigeons – the signature bird of nearby Stoneybatter! The Starling often line the netting around the pitch. Smaller birds – Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, and Great Tit – flick through the younger trees along the path. Down behind the pitches, in a quieter patch of the campus, Dunnock, Blackcap and Redpoll move among the fruit trees.
Sparrowhawks patrol the campus from time to time, flying over with their characteristic flap-flap-glide flight pattern. In the summer, you generally hear the smaller birds mobbing the Sparrowhawk before you see it. The summer also brings our favourite visitors – the Swifts – screaming over the low houses of Stoneybatter and Kirwan Street. You can read more about our Swift conservation efforts in a later blog.
We’ve had some relatively rare birds on campus, for example Grey Wagtail behind the Clock Tower. Usually they are found near rivers – maybe they hear the underground Bradogue river rushing under the campus. Peregrine Falcons, the fastest animal in the world, have been seen over the campus. Increasingly we are seeing Raven, Buzzard and Brent Geese as well. A colourful Jay – no doubt a vagrant from the Phoenix Park – was seen on campus in 2013.
There’s a few surprising absences from our bird list on the campus – Bullfinch, Song Thrush, Willow Warbler are all relatively common locally but haven’t been recorded yet on campus. As Great Spotted Woodpecker have recently started breeding in the Phoenix Park, we hope to hear their drumming sound on campus soon. Watch this space!
Dr Brian Gormley
Head of Campus Life