We hear all about your sightings of swallows, a red-light thrush family and how you've been saving starlings. As researchers at the University of Manchester create a way for seawater to be turned into drinking water, marine biologist Ken Whelan explains what impact that might have on our salmon. And the sight of thousands of Grunion fish tumbling onto shore on wave after wave of Pacific surf is a truly extraordinary thing to witness – and is sometimes referred to as a “Grunion Invasion”. It's long been on Derek's "bucket list" - and recently, in California, he got to see this incredible phenomenon for himself. He tells us about his experience...
Thanks to all who’ve been in touch about spotting swallows – from Fairview in Dublin to Multyfarnham in County Westmeath. If you see a swallow or hear a cuckoo, please do contact us and let us know - and if you can record the birdsong or take a picture, so much the better! E-mail your sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org, and don't forget to record it on Spring Alive (www.springalive.net/en-ie) too!
And finally, well done to Packie Collins of Celtic Warrior Boxing Gym in Blanchardstown in Dublin. He pictured himself with a little starling and tweeted: “Unexpected visitor to the gym! All tangled up in twine. Untangled and unharmed – he’s free as a bird!!!”. Fair play Packie! And if you’d like to learn more about Starlings, check out our Starling Documentary - visit www.rte.ie/radio1/mooney/programmes/2015/0102/669979-mooney-friday-january-2nd-2015.
The ongoing row over water, and its prominence on our domestic news agenda, reminds us what an incredibly precious and valuable commodity water is. Despite the fact that our oceans are deep and wide – and that water is in fact one of our most abundant resources – we all know that the salt content in sea-water makes it undrinkable.
The growing risk of worldwide water shortages is worse than scientists previously thought. According to the international campaign End Water Poverty,some 663 million people around the world have no reliable access to clean, safe water year-round. And two-thirds of the world’s population face water scarcity for at least one month every year.
All this really puts into context news announced this week by researchers at the University of Manchester, who have invented an efficient way to literally sieve the salt out of seawater – raising the real possibility that we could be on course to turn seawater into clean drinking water.
To chat about the significance of the impact it will have not only on ourselves, but on the birds and fish that deal with salt and fresh water, especially species such as salmon, we're joined in studio by Dr. Richard Collins, Eanna ni Lamhna, and marine biologist Dr. Ken Whelan...
Do you have a "bucket list" made out? A list of things you want to try or experience before you die? Mooney Goes Wild presenter Derek Mooney has one, and somewhere near the top of that list was to observe a 'grunion run' - something he managed to achieve on a recent holiday in California! But what is a grunion?
Two grunion fish; the female is longer than the male
A grunion is a sardine-like fish, with have an unusual mating ritual which sees them act on a seemingly suicidal desire to breed out of water. They were the very first species to feature in the BBC’s iconic series The Ascent Of Man – where Jacob Bronowski traced the development of human society through its understanding of science.
Perhaps this is why, over the years, the grunion has captured the imagination of all kinds of artistes fascinated by this weird fish – and by the human habit of taking to the beaches at full moon to go fishing on what’s known as a “Grunion Run”.
The sight of thousands of grunion tumbling onto shore on wave after wave of Pacific surf is a truly extraordinary sight – and is sometimes referred to as a "Grunion Invasion". That provided rich pickings for – of all things – sixties U.S. sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, where the Grunion inspired the plot for no fewer than THREE episodes!
Clockwise from top left; Derek with some grunion collectors in California; Dr. Karen Martin; Derek marks 'observing grunion run' off his bucket list; William Pon & Megumi Ito collecting Grunion
This was something that Derek absolutely HAD to see – so a few weeks ago whilst on holiday in the States, he met up with Dr Karen Martin, Professor of Biology at Pepperdine University in California...
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