Wexford slobs – Ireland’s polder lands

The Wexford slobs are two flat areas of land which were originally mudflats and sandy islands in the Slaney estuary but were reclaimed from the sea using dykes commencing in the 1840s. The lands are drained by a network of channels which flow into two central channels. Water from these channels is pumped into the sea at pumping stations. The slobs are similar to the Dutch polders and the name ‘slob’ comes from the word slab, meaning mud. Indeed, Wexford gets its name from the Viking word Waes Fjord, meaning ‘inlet of the mudflats’. The reclaimed slob-lands extend over an area of 1,000 hectares and is the lowest point in Ireland.

The Wexford Slobs are of international importance for Greenland white-fronted geese which spend the winter months here

sea wall north slob

The sea wall, or dyke, which protects the north slob.

pumping station, north slob, wexford

Pumping station, north slob, Wexford during February 2016.

Approximately 200 hectares of this reclaimed land is a nature reserve that is jointly owned and managed by BirdWatch Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Service as the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve. The Wexford Wildfowl Reserve was designated a Ramsar site in 1984. The North Slob is part of the Wexford Harbour Special Protection Area (SPA).

Greenland White-fronted Geese is one of Europe’s rarest geese, and the species is listed on Annex I of the EU Birds Directive

The Wexford Slobs are of international importance for Greenland white-fronted geese which spend the winter months here. Greenland White-fronted geese first found the Slobs in the 1910s with the numbers growing to several thousand by the mid-1930s. Currently up to 10,000 Greenland White-fronted Geese, one-third of the world population, winter here. Greenland White-fronted Geese is one of Europe’s rarest geese, and the species is listed on Annex I of the EU Birds Directive.

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The North Slob, February 2016, with Greenland white-fronted geese visible.

Greeland white-fronted geese (4)

In winter, the North Sloblands are home to over 10,000 Greenland White-fronted Geese, representing approximately one third of the world population of this species.

Over 2,000 Light-bellied Brent Geese, which breed in Arctic Canada, winter in the Wexford slobs each year.

Over 2,000 Light-bellied Brent Geese, which breed in Arctic Canada, winter in the Wexford slobs each year.

Light-bellied Brent Geese on the North Slob, February 2016.

Light-bellied Brent Geese on the North Slob, February 2016.

Internationally important populations of Light-bellied Brent Goose, Mute Swan, Black-tailed Godwit and Bar-tailed Godwit also winter here, and over 20 species of wintering waterbirds with populations of national importance also occur. Several of the species which occur regularly are listed on Annex I of the Birds Directive. The Wexford slobs are under threat from sea level rise, agricultural activities and disturbance from the increasing numbers of one-off houses which are being built around the site.

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