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!
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?"
Students: Rachael Gallagher, Evelynn Godkin, Laoise Keane
School: Kildare Town Community School
Teacher: Ms. Sinead Shields
Overview: Does the playing of music affect laying rates in hens and if so, what type of music is best to improve production.
Project: The reliability of eyewitness accounts in court cases
Students: Lauren Faraker, Grainne Tyrrell & Carrie Manning
School: Pobalscoil na Trinóide in Youghal, Co Cork
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 and the Law
Hedgerows in Ireland form important features in maintaining wildlife diversity and in establishing wildlife "corridors", particularly for birds. The commonest nesting birds found in hedgerows such as wrens, dunnocks, robin and willow warblers depend entirely on insects during the Summer months. In general untrimmed, thorned hedgerows containing species such as blackthorn, whitethorn and holly are favoured by birds as they provide ample food and also serve as a protection against predators.
Section 40 of the Wildlife Act, 1976, as amended by Section 46 of the 2000 Act, provides protection for hedgerows by providing that it shall be an offence for a person 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. It is important that, where possible, necessary work to hedgerows is carried out outside this period.
It is possible in most cases to schedule and carry out necessary work to hedgerows outside this period. The legislation makes provision for works (other than road or other construction works) to be carried out for reasons of public health and safety under the authority of any Minister or a body established by statute that lead to the destruction of vegetation. There is also a provision to enable the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government to request from the relevant Minister or body details of any such works together with a statement of the public health and safety factors involved.
It shall not be an offence to destroy vegetation in the ordinary course of agriculture or forestry. Also it shall not be illegal to destroy vegetation while preparing or clearing a site for lawful building or construction works.
It is the policy of the Minister to prosecute for offences under section 40 of the Wildlife Acts 1976 and 2000 and successful prosecutions have been taken under this section in recent years. Members of the public are encouraged to contact their local wildlife ranger and report instances where hedgerows are being destroyed during the prohibited period.
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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