The bird life of Dromore can be split into two basics groups – woodland and wetland.
Along the woodland paths, flocks of mixed species suddenly appear. These groups will be made up mainly of Long-tailed Tits but will include some Great and Blue Tits too as they travel from bush to tree to shrub seeking out the insects and spiders and hatches of day flying moths amid the leaves and twigs.
These travelling flocks will often include a Goldcrest and perhaps a Tree Creeper. The Goldcrest is Ireland’s smallest bird and has a call that has been described as similar to a hinge that needs oiling. Their nests are a sort of hammock made of spider’s webs and lichen. The Tree Creeper has a curious habit of flying from tree to tree to feed on the insects and spiders in the tree bark with the help of its thin, curved beak. You will notice that it always flies to the lower part of the tree trunk and then creeps up, never down, before flying to the next tree.
Then, as suddenly as it arrived this flock will be gone, seeking out further insect infested branches elsewhere.
Other insect eating birds that will be observed or heard during a stroll in Dromore Wood include Robin, Coal Tit, Willow Warbler, Black Cap, Chaffinch, Wren, Chiffchaff and Spotted Flycatcher.
Bullfinches feed on the seed heads of the plants in open sunny areas, dandelion and herb robert are favourites whilst in the high trees raucous jays are constantly seeking out acorns or birds nests to steal the eggs. Also high in the beech and ash trees, Wood Pigeons softly coo perched near their roughly built nest, a simple platform of sticks.
Magpies also use sticks as nesting material but their nests are dome-like constructions and when the visitors are heading for home these very intelligent birds search out the picnic tables for any tasty morsels that are left behind.
High in the sky, Ravens drift on the wind their deep guttural ‘bark’ clearly heard. The castle in Dromore Wood was a traditional nesting site for this, our largest corvid, unless the Kestrels got there first.
Another familiar call emanates from the tall Norway spruce trees on Rabbit Island as the young Sparrowhawks cry out for their parents to hurry back with yet another meal. They have a nest there, impossible to see in the tightly packed high canopy.
The fruits and berries in the wood are a massive source of food for the birds as well as the mammals. The Blackbirds and Song Thrushes gorge on the ripening wild cherries, a succulent change from searching the leaf litter, but in late summer rowan berries are the favourite food of the mistle thrushes.
During October, Woodcock arrive for the winter, flying in to an open area, perhaps the road or a wide path before walking into the edge of the wood. From this month onwards, the water levels start to rise, eventually spilling from the lakes and river onto the meadows creating wonderful feeding grounds for the thousand of water fowl that arrive here.
Mainly Teal and Wigeon but with some Pochard, Goldeneye and Shoveler amongst others join up with the resident species to spend winter in relatively mild conditions. Flocks of Tufted Ducks, the males in their black and white uniforms, drift around the lakes alongside the resident great crested grebes and flocks of newly arrived whooper swans from Greenland or Siberia. Our native Mute Swans have orange beaks but the Whooper’s beaks are bright yellow.
And all through this great cacophony of quacking and whooping the Grey Heron stands, quietly and motionless, waiting for a minnow to venture into sight as an arrow of turquoise and orange flashes past, the Kingfisher heading off to a favourite perch on the river.