The sign at the Curragh racecourse
People who regularly walk their dogs at the Curragh training grounds have been urged to be mindful of a flock of up to 5,000 birds who spend the winter in the area.
Golden Plovers are a protected species which usually fly south from Iceland or the Faroe Islands in October and are particularly fond of the rolling grassland of the Curragh.
Public information signs signed by Curragh Racecourse CEO Pat Keogh have been erected at the perimeter of the training grounds area of the Curragh Racecourse.
People are allowed to walk dogs there after 1.30pm each day to allow for horses to be exercised before then.
The Golden Plover, which feeds mainly on worms, is a little bit bigger than a blackbird.
It gets its name from the golden yellow patches on the feathers of back and wings.
For locals, it’s an impressive sight to see thousands of Golden Plover wheeling around in the winter sunshine over the Curragh.
The public notice signs say: “Each winter the Curragh Racecourse attracts a large number of Golden Plover — a protected species that returns to the racecourse each evening.
“The current number over-wintering on the racecourse is estimated to be 5,000 birds.
“They are generally accepting of low volume machinery movement and walkers in their vicinity but can be alarmed at the sudden arrival of loose dogs in hunting mode.
“Dog owners are requested to avoid areas where the Plover are congregating and to keep their dogs under control when using the racecourse facilities."
Mr Keogh added: “Working together we can continue to enjoy these beautiful birds each winter and contribute in a small way towards the protection of an endangered species.”
The Golden Plover. File photo
The Wild Kildare group said that the Golden Plover is a protected species under the Wildlife Act and under the EU Birds Directive.
A spokesperson said: “This year there was a small flock of 50 seen in the Curragh Racecourse area on July 27 and by mid-winter there may be as many as 7,000 there.
“The Curragh, although not an Special Protection Area, is an important wintering site for the species and is the foremost site for them in County Kildare.
“The Curragh has now become a hugely popular recreational area for walkers, many with dogs.
“This activity combined with activities of the racecourse maintenance staff can cause much disturbance to the Golden Plover, keeping them airborne for long periods.
“The fact that they have not abandoned the Curragh in spite if this disturbance is surely an indication of how much they like the site.
“The Curragh is a proposed Natural Heritage Area, which has yet to be formally designated.
“Hopefully, this statutory designation can happen soon, as it would include a plan to protect the site’s wildlife.
“This plan would have to contain a plan to minimise disturbance to the wintering Golden Plover.”
Wild Kildare experts believe that the Golden Plover has been using the Curragh for wintering dating back to when the Plains were exposed after the Ice Age.
The majority of Golden Plover that come to Ireland breed in the Faeroe Islands and Iceland with a small number breeding in Scotland and the uplands of Ireland’s north west.
A spokesperson added: “In the not too distant past, they were hunted with long nets on the Curragh and elsewhere for the food markets of Dublin and elsewhere.”