Island Birds | Observatory

Early in the 1940's knowledge of bird migration in Ireland was not very detailed, especially as to what occurred in Spring and  Autumn. The Saltees were in a good geographical position for the study of bird migration and there were already indications that large numbers of migrants passed through the area.

Thus in 1950 on the Great Saltee island, the Saltee Bird Observatory was founded by Major Robert F. Ruttledge and Mr. John Weaving by kind permission of Michael the First. The old farmhouse was put at the disposal of the observatory and it was there that the work of the SBO continued until its closure in 1963. The co-operation of Michael the First throughout this period is not realised by many, but without his assistance, the observatory could not have functioned successfully and our knowledge of migration in that area would have been so much poorer.

Under the guidance of Major Ruttledge (the most prominent figure in Irish ornithology, died January 2002, at the age of 102), the observatory developed in its early years and soon it was discovered just how important the Saltees were as a stopping place for the migratory birds. The observatory added tremendously to the knowledge about the birds that passed through the island.

The Saltee Bird Observatory was successful in its objective, but it had a greater achievement that is not alway acknowledge It inspired and encouraged young bird watchers to develop their interest in birds and there can be few ornithologists today who did not take a keen interest in its activities. This became obvious, when on the death of Michael the First, hundreds of condolences in faxes, emails and letters were received by his family from ornithologists all over the world.




Copyright 2004 Saltee Islands