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Wildlife Documentaries

A four part series of wildlife documentaries from the Mooney Goes Wild team, broadcast on the first Sunday of each month starting on November 6th 2005

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Documentary on One
Sunday 6th November 2005 at 10.02am on RTÉ Radio 1

Title: Wolf - Spirit of the Wild.

Presented by Eric Dempsey
Produced by Derek Mooney


In the first of a four part series of wildlife documentaries from the Mooney Goes Wild team, naturalist and author, Eric Dempsey fulfils a lifelong ambition when he comes face to face with one of the world's most elusive creatures, the Wolf.

In the short time since wolves have emerged from the shadows of misunderstanding and fear, people's fascination with wolves have grown. In this documentary, Eric Dempsey examines the primal fear of the wolf that lies within many of us. Has this fear been generated by European stories like Little Red Ridinghood or the association of wolves with Bram Stokers 'Dracula'.or is there another reason?

Eric looks at the history of wolves in Ireland from the ancient fossil records to more modern times and looks at the place the wolf has in Irish mythology. Travelling to Germany, he discovers the status of wolves and the threats they face in Europe and across the world. He also discovers that mans best friend, the dog, is in fact a direct descendant of the wolf..the wolf in the livingroom! In Germany he also comes face-to-face with captive wolves and speaks with wolf experts on the habitats and behaviour of wild wolves. Finally, Eric makes a journey of discovery to the mid-western United States in search of wild wolves.

There, he experiences wolves first hand, hearing the haunting sounds of wolves howling across the snow covered plains of the Lamar Valley in theYellowstone National Park at dawn. He meets both wolf experts and fans, and questions why the wolf holds such a fascination for these enthusiasts. "To look into the eyes of a wolf is to discover the spirit of the wild" says Eric Demspey.

Documentary on One
Sunday 4th December 2005 at 10.02am on RTE Radio 1

Title: Fallow Deer - the Dubliners' Deer

Presented by Terry Flanagan
Producer by : Derek Mooney.


CLICK HERE for photos of the Fallow Deer in the Phoenix Park

In this, the second of a four part series of wildlife documentaries from the Mooney Goes Wild team, biologist and Secondary schoolteacher, Terry Flanagan looks at the life of our Fallow Deer.

Born within a couple of hundred metres of the Phoenix Park, Terry spent much of his childhood fascinated by these majestic animals that roamed the Park. Now he has fulfilled his ambition by spending a year following their progress and recording their activities from the moment of conception to the birth of a young fawn, the following year. But deer are not just confined to the Phoenix Park. Terry travels to South Co. Wicklow to spot wild and elusive deer there. Getting close to wild deer is nowhere like as easy as watching the deer in the Park. Possibly the best known of the deer species is the reindeer and Terry travelled to Lapland to see them and discover how they have become adapted to the harsh conditions present there.

The recent Foot and Mouth scare sent shivers down the spines of those concerned with our deer populations, not least the Fallow Deer in the Park. Terry looks at the measures taken to prevent this infection spreading to the Park and what lessons can be learned from this tragedy. He also speaks with the Irish Deer Society and discovers the role they play in helping to conserve our deer.

The population of Fallow Deer have been present in the Phoenix Park for over 300 years now. They have become an icon, not just to to Dubliners, but to everybody in Ireland. Many placenames throughout the country are derived from the former presence of fallow deer, or more particularly the parks in which they were confined. There are locations called Deerpark in at least 16 counties.The highlight of the year long project for Terry was the birth of a young fawn and the subsequent intensive study, tagging and monitoring of the individual animals following their release by the Mammal Research team from UCD led by Dr. Tom Hayden.

Documentary on One
Sunday 1st January 2006 at 10.02am on RTÉ Radio 1

Title: Kingfisher - king of the fishers
Presented by Dr Richard Collins
Produced by: Derek Mooney


In this the third of a four part series of wildlife documentaries from the Mooney Goes Wild team, Dr Richard Collins explores the mysterious world of the kingfisher.

Some creatures are so ridiculously beautiful that they just don't belong in the real world. The Halcyon, or Kingfisher, was a favourite of the Gods. Kingfishers nest underground in river-banks. The nests are never seen and the ancient Greeks thought that the birds must lay their eggs out on the sea. The waters around Greece are usually tranquil for a few weeks around the summer solstice. This was because the Gods calmed the sea to allow their special bird to nest; hence the expression 'halcyon days'.

Irish birds are, by international standards, a dull unpretentious lot, the avian equivalent of the 'plain people of Ireland'. The Kingfisher is so glamorous that it looks out of place here. Its extraordinary colours are more appropriate to the tropics than to a cloudy overcast island.

Glamour has its downside. It's not always wise to attract attention to oneself and, for a bird to do so, can be fatal. Flamboyant costumes may impress your neighbours but they make you an easy target for your enemies. Kingfishers, therefore, must have a very good reason to dress up.

Wasps have painful stings and wear yellow and black football-jerseys to frighten their enemies away. Are Kingfishers doing the same? Perhaps a hawk, which eats a Kingfisher, finds the flesh so unpalatable that it never catches one again, a case of 'once bitten, twice shy'. This is just one of the intriguing question raised in this radio documentary on Kingfishers.

New ways of persuading kingfishers to nest have been developed at the Rye Meads nature reserve in London. The discoveries there were used with spectacular success this summer in Wicklow. Presenter Dr Richard Collins and producer Derek Mooney visit the RSPB site at Rye Meads and Druids Glen in Wicklow to talk to experts about the life and times of Ireland's most glamorous bird.

Photo by John Cooney of the RTÉ Guide Documentary on One
Sunday 5th February 2006
RTÉ Radio 1.

Title: ARCTIC FOX Producer Derek Mooney
Presenter Eanna Ni Lamhna

Pictures: John Cooney RTÉ Guide


In this, the final programme of a four part series of wildlife documentaries from the Mooney Goes Wild team, ecologist and lecturer Eanna Ni Lamhna looks at the life of the Arctic Fox

Photo by John Cooney of the RTÉ Guide Turning white in winter to blend in with the white background of snow is a very successful adaptation. Stoats, Hares and Arctic foxes have perfected this way of living but not everywhere. At the end of the last Ice age these mammals, with others spread northwards, colonising all suitable habitat. However Ireland soon warmed up from the tundra stage, which immediately followed the melting of the ice. Long snow covered winters became a thing of the past. The hare and the stoat adopted an Irish solution to an Irish problem and stayed brown during the winter. The Arctic fox didn't adapt however and so is no longer part of our fauna.

In this programme Eanna follows him north to another island - Iceland - to see if being isolated on an island makes the Iceland Arctic fox different to those on mainland Europe. And of course they are. Their main item of diet on mainland Europe - the lemming- is completely absent from Iceland and so the Arctic fox there must learn an Icelandic solution to an Icelandic problem.

Do they have to turn white in the winter if they are not creeping up on unsuspecting lemmings? What do they eat anyway if there are no lemmings? And how can they manage to survive in temperatures of minus forty degrees? The wild and beautiful Iceland forms a background to this whimsical look at the Arctic fox - an animal that was once here but fell a victim to global warming the last time round.

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