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Tuesday, January 29th 2008

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On January 18th 2008 whilst about to remove the Christmas tree erected in the Honan Square UCC, the staff of the offices of buildings and estates discovered a Blackbirds nest.

Professor John O'Halloran, Department of Zoology, Ecology & Plant Science (ZEPS) examined the nest and confirmed that these were viable black bird eggs laid this year. Three eggs were found in the nest. Because the female was incubating it was impossible to be sure when the birds laid their first egg and thus estimate when the nesting cycle started.

However the eggs hatched on January 25th. Given that the female blackbird incubates the eggs for about 16 days and she doesn't start incubating until the last egg was laid and based on our calculations the first egg of the clutch was laid on January 5th or 6th, a record. Typically, these birds don't breed until late February or early March and this record is extraordinary. While one swallow doesn't make a summer, one early breeding bird does not make a spring, this observation is adding to a body of observations which is showing a number of species breeding early, as predicted by climate change models. These observations fit with research data we have been collecting in UCC on a model breeding bird the dipper, which has show signs of shifting of their breeding season also by a number of weeks.

The Blackbirds continued to feed their very young fledglings during the UCC Student Rag week and on Monday Jan28th web cam we deployed to observe the birds.

There are now two birds in the nest, one presumably having died, and they are growing rapidly. The bare trees make them more vulnerable to predation and the question is whether there is enough food about for the adults to feed them.

We will have to wait and see

Blackbird young grow fast and we can expect to see these birds on the lawn of the campus in about two weeks. It is important that these birds are not disturbed during this period.

To see the nest click here

We're a week ahead of ourselves on this programme. Next Tuesday is Pancake Tuesday but Derek was whisking and flipping last night in order to get a head start on proceedings.

Perhaps you're even thinking of taking part in the Odlums National Pancake Party Week which is from February 1st to 5th and hosting a Pancake Party in aid of the National Children's Hospital in Tallaght.

We have Chef at Dunbrody House, Kevin Dundon in studio to give us all some batter tips and filling suggestions.

The traditional Irish Pancake is a thin pancake like the French crepe. The American Pancake is made with buttermilk and it is thicker, a bit like a crumpet - much easier pancake for beginners to use - the batter is quite thick - ladle it and it will form a thick disc - you know one side is done when bubbles form in the batter - these kinds of pancakes are very good with fruit compote and maple syrup.

If you get a tissue paper, dip it in oil, rub your pan with the oil - then roll the pancake mix around the pan. When the edges of the pancake start curling away from the pan - flip it over - then leave it on the pan for a few minutes. Then place the pancake on a plate, and layer further pancakes with greaseproof paper. You can do them in the afternoon and reheat them.

You must let your batter rest for about an hour before you use it.

The pan should be put on medium to high heat.

For pancake and filling recipes click here

Did you know that one in ten of us suffer from some hearing loss but that most people wait at least 10 years before going to get it checked out. Today is the start of Hearing Loss Awareness Week and with me now is well known TV presenter Mark Cagney who involved with campaign and only recently discovered that he has suffered some hearing loss.
Mark had noticed a change in his hearing over the past number of years and was finding it more difficult to distinguish individual voices in conversations and was asking more people to repeat themselves.

"In July last year I decided to put my mind to rest and only to discover I was right … my hearing had dropped significantly in one ear and a little in the other. "

"As I make my living through communication, my hearing is of particular importance to me. Over the past few years I noticed I'd been missing things ... as a presenter I've an earpiece in my right ear all morning on Ireland AM, so I need to be able to hear clearly what my producers are saying to me."

New MRBI research indicates that 41% of Irish adults aged 15 plus wear earphones regularly and a massive 82% in the 15 to 24 age bracket wearing earphones more than once week. Most of them have the volume up too loud and this is gradually causing significant damage to their hearing. It's a ticking time bomb and the audiologist Mark visited said that he is seeing an increasing amount of people in their early thirties coming into him with hearing loss.

You should still be able to hear normal sounds that are occurring outside the headphones such as cars passing or people talking.

Mark went to an audiologist who administered the test. The first he did was to check his ears for a build of wax. Once he saw that Marks ears were clear of wax he started the hearing the test. Mark wore headphones and he played a series of tones. A mark was given for each tone and the computer was able to analyse this and tell what frequencies Mark was having difficulty hearing. He was able to show what sounds represented those frequencies. For instance Mark can hear adults in conversations perfectly but when he played a small girl talking he had difficulty hearing that.

Mark wears very small hearing aids that are hi-tech. In the old days hearing aids were basically just amplifiers. Wearers received an amplified sound of everything that the microphone was picking up. Modern hearing aids like the one Mark wears are tuned to amplify only the frequencies that the wearer can't hear.

The Have You Heard? leaflet and indicator test is available in the following places:
Call the care line: 1800 882 884
Email: hearingaware@hiddenhearing.ie
Website: www.hearingawarenessweek.ie

You can also visit Hidden Hearing clinics or GP offices nationwide.

The care line is open throughout the Hearing Awareness Week from 9.00am through to 5pm each day and hearing tests are free of charge through Hidden Hearing Clinics nationwide.

Louise Delaney joined us from our Cork studio - she runs a company called Sowan's Organic Bread Mix and she also makes a pancake mix with spelt flour - what's the advantage of that?

It's higher in minerals and vitamins - bio-available - the nutrients are more readily available to the body with less processed bread. Spelt does contain gluten but it's much easier to digest than ordinary flour.

Usually the wheat used in conventional breads is corrupted with additives and preservatives.

Louise worked at home for five years with her children. She knew she wanted to return to work when her five year old started school. She began researching the idea of organic bread mix - she loved to bake and didn't like the idea of a 4am start so wanted to look at the business involving baking but something that had not been done yet.

She started the business in August 2005 and did that for about 18 months. Now they are supplying caterers and health food shops. They have two distributors that take the product around the country.

Sowan was a word to describe fermenting hops that would have been used to leaven bread before the advent of bread soda before the 19th Century - and it's a form of porridge in Scotland.

They moved into a unit in April 2007. They had to take a bank loan out and got mentoring support and grant assistance from the Enterprise Board.

They're organic but not just organic, they're hoping to use stoneground flour - rather than the steel milling, stoneground milling is a more traditional way of milling and Louise believes it doesn't break down the grain as much. She thinks it leaves a more whole taste to the flour.

They will branching out into cake and bun mixes as well.

Louise is still not taking an income from it as yet - she covers her costs. She hopes to see it growing in the future.

For more information on Sowan's Organic Bread Mix see below. TEL: 087 662 3998
Website: www.sowansorganic.ie

And we congratulate Damien O'Neill, Daingean, Co Offaly on winning €1000 of Mooney's Money! To find out how you could win €1000 tomorrow, click here...