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Shannon-Fergus estuaries waterbird usage surveys

MKO was appointed by Clare County Council on behalf of the steering group for the Strategic Integrated Framework Plan (SIFP) for the Shannon Estuary 2013-2020 to carry out a large-scale bird usage survey of the River Shannon and River Fergus Estuaries Special Protection Area (SPA). This SPA is the largest estuarine complex in Ireland and is considered to be the most important coastal wetland site in the country, regularly holding over 50,000 waterfowl. Our surveys remain the most complete surveys undertaken by the SPA.

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Project challenges

The surveys were undertaken to provide geospatial data on the bird populations present for use in the planning and assessments of strategic development within the estuary and, in particular, within the SPA.

Due to the size and complexity of the SPA, it has proven difficult in the past to complete a full and comprehensive survey of the entire SPA. However, MKO’s experience in designing, scoping, co-ordinating and resourcing surveys, in particular for the wind energy industry, facilitated the organisation of this large-scale survey project. A total of 19 surveyors carried out 1,181.4 hours of survey over the eleven rounds of survey within 87 subsites covering an area of 312.85 km2 (78.58 km2 intertidal habitat). During the survey, a total of 70 species were recorded, including all 21 Special Conservation Interest (SCI) species of the River Shannon and River Fergus SPA, with 243,786 individual birds observed and counted. The total number of waterbird species recorded across all subsites ranged from 53 species in October to 28 species in June. More than 20,000 waterbirds occurred during the winter of 2017/2018, with the numbers peaking at nearly 44,000 in December.

Main services provided


Survey design

MKO’s experience in designing, scoping, co-ordinating and resourcing surveys ensured the successful undertaking of this complex and large-scale bird survey programme.


Robust data

Our quality control and attention to detail ensured the dataset collected will provide an invaluable basis for the sustainable development in the Shannon and Fergus estuaries and their hinterland into the future.

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