The robin, not the turkey, is the real Christmas bird; you'll find him on cards, cakes and Christmas trees. But is Robin Redbreast having us on? Is he really the friendly and gentle little fellow he seems? Does he deserve his special Christmas place? Dr. Richard Collins, scientific adviser to Mooney Goes Wild, investigates! To read more about this special documentary, and to listen to the programme, click here.
On Mooney Goes Wild today, with Olan McGowan...
We meet Neil Hayward, record-breaking birdwatcher, who spotted an astonishing 749 species in one year in north America. Our Friday panellists, Richard, Eanna and Terry, pick their favourite projects from the BT Young Scientist exhibition. And Katriona McFadden reports from Dublin Zoo on the science of keeping stud books, maintaining the pedigree of each and every animal...
To find out how to care for and attract garden birds, read Jim Wilson's Guide To Garden Birds - CLICK HERE!
BT Young Scientist Exhibition
The 50th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition began on Wednesday at the RDS in Dublin, so we sent Terry Flanagan, Eanna ni Lamhna and Richard Collins along to pick out their favourites from the projects on display...
Project: "The connection between the origin of music and birdsong"
Student: Patrick Sweeney
School: Carrick-on-Shannon Community School, Co. Leitrim.
Teacher: Mrs. Jacqueline Walsh.
Overview: The investigation into the connection between the origin of music and birdsongs and the similarities between African and Irish music thru’ birdsong.
Project: "Does music affect the laying patterns of hens?"
Arranged marriages are common in many parts of the world – but did you know that they are rife in Dublin 8 - in Dublin Zoo to be precise? Keepers there are in constant contact with Zoos all around Europe and often play 'matchmakers', assessing and transporting in suitable mates for some of their animals.
The system is known as the 'Studbook' – and it is the 'Bible' of sorts for Zoos. Mooney reporter Katriona McFadden went to Dublin Zoo yesterday afternoon to see the Studbook, and to have a look around the Zoo in the company of Zoo Director Leo Oosterweghel. Katriona and Leo went to see the Asian lions, Sumatran tigers & Asian elephants (four of whom, Asha, Bernhardine, Yasmin and Anak, are currently pregnant by the one bull Upali)...
Asha, Bernhardine, Yasmin and Anak
Dublin Zoo is delighted to confirm that early indications suggest that the four female Asian elephants at Dublin Zoo are pregnant. They believe that Bernhardine, the matriarch, is the furthest along in her pregnancy and will be the first to give birth.
Asha, Upali and Bernhardine
However, it is still very early days. The average gestation period for an Asian elephant is 22 months. Hormonal samples have been sent for analysis. Once the results have been confirmed Dublin Zoo is hoping to announce the pregnancies along with further details and timings.
In the meantime, the animal care team at Dublin Zoo will be keeping a very close eye on the herd.
Upali and Anak
Facts about Dublin Zoo’s heard of Asian elephants:
Upali: Born 14 November 1994, Zurich Zoo. Upali is the only male elephant in the Dublin Zoo herd.
Yasmin: Born 25 November 1990, Rotterdam Zoo. Sister of Bernhardine
Bernhardine: Born 16 June 1984, Rotterdam Zoo. Oldest female in the herd.
Asha: Born 7 May 2007. Asha is the daughter of Bernhardine and the first elephant to be born in Dublin Zoo.
Anak: Born 26 July 2003, Rotterdam Zoo. Anak is the daughter of Yasmin.
Asha, Bernhardine, Yasmin and Anak
Visitors can see Upali, Bernhardine, Yasmin, Anak and Asha at the Kaziranga Forest Trail daily. You can also keep an eye on the herd on the elephant webcam by visiting the website www.dublinzoo.ie. The keeper talk 'Elephant Encounters' happens throughout the weekend at 12.30pm, so this is a good time to visit the Kaziranga Forest Trail to learn more about Upali and the female Asian elephants.
Dublin Zoo Elephants
Dublin Zoo has published a brand new illustrated children’s book entitled Dublin Zoo Elephants. Written by Catherine de Courcy and illustrated by Cathy Callan, Dublin Zoo Elephants introduces readers to the magnificent herd of elephants at Dublin Zoo.
In this beautifully illustrated book, children will learn about the elephants, how they live and how they communicate. Children can learn about the keepers' work behind the scenes and the different personalities of the elephants.
Dublin Zoo Elephants is available in Dublin Zoo and online at www.dublinzoo.ie. The price is €7.95, and all proceeds will go towards the care of the animals at Dublin Zoo. Dublin Zoo Elephants was designed by Vermillion and published by Associated Editions.
And Dublin Zoo have very kindly gave us five copies of Dublin Zoo Elephants to give away to listeners! We asked you to text us with your name, and the first five entries we received would each win a copy. So congratulations to Darach Johnson from Co. Westmeath, Erma Kiely from Co. Clare, Gay O’Brien from Co. Kildare, Vera Ryan from Cork City and Janet Coyne from Dublin!
It really is a lovely sound to hear, first thing in the morning, the song of the robin. But apart from the satisfaction you get from hearing that lovely, wild and natural music, there is another reason to be happy when you hear a robin singing in the morning: it's a clear signifier of mild weather.
Why do we know this? Well, when a robin sings at dawn, it does so to attract a mate, or to mark territory. But it can ONLY do this if it has enough energy to sing.
And robins only HAVE these energy reserves when the weather is mild. During spells of cold weather, any excess energy is stored up in the form of fat, and used simply to survive the cold night.
To explain more, Olan and the panel are joined from BBC Bristol by Innes Cuthill, Professor of Behavioural Ecology at Bristol University. Prof. Cuthill has studied this phenomenon in detail, and even applied mathematical models to measure the weight of a robin, versus its capacity for morning song, as he explains this afternoon...
We talk a lot about birds on this programme, and we are proud of our esteemed ornithological experts. Richard Collins, Niall Hatch, Eric Dempsey, Jim Wilson - but each and every one of them will take their respective hats off to Neil Heyward.
Neil has just been crowned the North American bird watching champion, having spent the entire year of 2013 logging as many different types of birds as possible. And in doing so, he broke a record dating back 15 years, to 1998 - spotting a massive 749 variety of birds!
The Great Skua - Bird #749 for Neil Heyward
Neil Hayward in the WGBH studio in Boston, Massachusetts, where presumably he has set down his binoculars for just a few minutes, to tell us about this epic feat...
Hedgerows: It is an offence to 'cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy hedgerows on uncultivated land during the nesting season from 1 March to 31 August, subject to certain exceptions'. For more information, click here.
UPDATE: February 29th 2016 - Press Release From BirdWatch Ireland:
Putting the record straight: Dates for burning and hedge-cutting have NOT changed
BirdWatch Ireland, Ireland’s largest conservation charity, is very concerned about misinformation that is currently circulating regarding the dates within which the burning of vegetation and cutting of hedges is permitted. It would like to remind landowners that all burning and cutting must cease on 29th February this year and that burning and cutting remains prohibited from 1st March to 31st August.
Despite attempts by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys T.D., to change the laws regulating these dates by introducing the Heritage Bill 2016 earlier this year, it is important to note that the proposed date changes were ultimately NOT made. This is because the bill failed to pass through both houses of the Oireachtas before the recent dissolution of the Dáil in advance of the general election.
The laws in place governing the dates for hedge-cutting and upland burning therefore remain unchanged. The period within which cutting and burning is prohibited are set down in Section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976 (as amended in 2000), which states that:
(a) It shall be an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy, during the period beginning on the 1st day of March and ending on the 31st day of August in any year, any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated.
(b) It shall be an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch during the period mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection (above).
The existing law provides exemptions for road safety and other circumstances and should be read carefully to ensure compliance.
Section 40 of the Wildlife Act exists to protect nesting birds. Many of our upland bird species are in decline and are in danger of extinction in Ireland; amongst them is the Curlew, which has declined by 80%. Many birds which nest in hedgerows into August are also in serious decline, including the endangered Yellowhammer. The changes to the cutting and burning dates which had been proposed in the now-defunct Heritage Bill 2016 would have caused serious impacts to these birds. A petition launched by BirdWatch Ireland in conjunction with several other national conservation organisations to stop these changes attracted more than 16,200 signatures and rising.
BirdWatch Ireland would also like to advise members of the public that if they see hedges being cut or fires in the uplands on or after 1st March, such activity could be illegal. In such cases, we would encourage people to contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service (www.npws.ie) to report such activity.
BirdWatch Ireland warmly welcomes the demise of the Heritage Bill 2016 and sincerely hopes that any future administration will consider the importance of Ireland’s natural heritage and will not attempt to reintroduce such a flawed and damaging piece of legislation.
To contact your local wildlife ranger, click here for contact details. To read the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, click here.
Please DO NOT send any live, dead or skeletal remains of any creature whatsoever to Mooney Goes Wild.
If you find an injured animal or bird, please contact the National Parks & Wildlife Service on 1890 20 20 21, or BirdWatch Ireland, on 01 281-9878, or visit www.irishwildlifematters.ie