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Panel: Éanna Ní Lamhna, Richard Collins, Terry Flanagan & Niall Hatch
Niall Hatch at this year's Dawn Chorus - Photo Derek Mooney
Change is in the air . . . and in the sea too
There has been a distinctly autumnal feel to the weather of late, which of course prompts changes in the behaviour of many creatures. For example, several listeners have reported seeing large congregations of Swallows massing over towns and along electricity wires in recent days. Impressive flocks of terns, or "sea swallows", as these elegant seabirds were once widely known, have also been seen gathering in Dublin Bay in their thousands, as they do at this time every year.
An Arctic Tern flying near on the Great South Wall, in Poolberg, Dublin. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
As our panellists explain on tonight's programme, all of these birds will soon be migrating south for the winter, and mid-September is when they come together in a last effort to fuel up on energy-rich insects or fish before setting off across the sea on their long autumn migrations.
Speaking of arduous maritime journeys, Éanna Ní Lamhna also fills us in on her own recent sea-swimming exploits. With our sea temperatures in September being the highest in the whole year, now is certainly a good time for it.
For more information about Swallows, visit birdwatchireland.ie/birds/swallow
Breathing new life into Dublin’s 'Dead Zoo’
The Natural History Museum on Dublin’s Merrion Square has been a source of inspiration and wonder for generations of naturalists, professional and amateur. Often described as "a museum of a museum", it has remained remarkably unchanged since Victorian times. Change is coming, however, in the form of a much-needed new roof for this venerable building, which has been closed in recent months but which is set to reopen to the public in early 2022.
Terry Flanagan in an empty Natural History Zoo
On tonight’s programme, our roving reporter Terry Flanagan jumps at the chance to pay a visit to the ‘Dead Zoo’, where he talks to Nigel Monaghan, Keeper of the Natural History Museum, and Paolo Viscardi, the museum’s Zoology Curator, about the renovations and the museum’s plans for the future.
For more information about the Natural History Museum, visit museum.ie/en-IE/Museums/Natural-History
Pollinators: why we need to give our bees a boost
We’ve spoken a lot on the programme in recent years about the vital importance of our pollinating insects, which are so crucial to our agriculture, our economy and our biodiversity, but which have been coming under increasing pressure as a result both of human actions and inaction. Insect populations associated with farmland, which comprises roughly 70% of Ireland’s entire land area, have shown particularly stark declines. Two-thirds of our 99 bee species are under threat, for example, and many farms have become inhospitable environments where little to no opportunities exist for them to feed on nectar, limiting both their movements and their lifespans.
Close-up of bee pollinating on purple flower. Photo Getty
On tonight’s programme, we speak to Ruth Wilson, Farmland Pollinator Officer with the National Biodiversity Data Centre, from her home in Castlewellan, Co. Down about the role that farmers, and indeed all of us, can play in helping to give our struggling bees, hoverflies, beetles and other pollinators a boost. As Ruth explains, supporting and encouraging nature-friendly farming, creating suitable breeding and nesting opportunities and providing more flowers can make a big difference . . . and potentially save our economy billions of euro.
For more information about the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, visit pollinators.ie
Why has a white Pheasant suddenly appeared in Co. Meath?
Listener Nicola Carroll from Co. Louth has been in touch with the programme to tell us about a sighting she made in Co. Meath of a very odd-looking bird: an almost completely white Pheasant . . . and she has the photos to prove it!
On tonight’s programme, Richard and Niall consider Nicola’s intriguing avian discovery, explaining that her Pheasant is what is known as a leucistic individual, and discuss how it occasionally happens that some birds show abnormal plumage and why there is no such thing as a "partial albino".
For more information about Pheasants, visit birdwatchireland.ie/birds/pheasant
How you can become a ‘citizen scientist’ and help to measure nitrogen dioxide levels
Nitrogen dioxide, or NO2, is a gas which enters our atmosphere due to the burning of fuel, with the vast majority of emissions in our urban areas coming from the exhausts of cars, trucks and buses. As traffic levels increase, so do the levels of nitrogen dioxide, which is very bad news for a number of reasons. This gas pretty much goes unnoticed by most of us, but it contributes to the formation both of acid rain and of toxic ozone, and breathing air which contains a high concentration of it can aggravate respiratory diseases, particularly asthma.
Fumes coming out of a car's exhaust. Photo Getty
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and An Taisce are now asking Dublin-based Mooney Goes Wild listeners for their help. On tonight’s programme, Stephanie Long, a senior scientist with the EPA, joins our panel from her home in Dún Laoghaire. She fills us in on the problems that this pervasive pollutant can cause and why tackling it is so important.
Given that 4 out of 5 people surveyed have expressed concerns about air pollution, Stephanie is hoping to recruit volunteers to receive a NO2 testing pack. Selected participants will be sent a small tube that will measure the levels of the gas, as well as simple instructions for installing the tubes outside their homes or businesses. The tubes are to be installed on Friday 8th October and left it in place for four weeks, and then posted back.
Taking part is free of charge, but you will need to be quick: applications need to be received by Wednesday 22ndSeptember 2021. Results will be available in early 2022 and will all be mapped, so participants will be able to compare their results with those from other parts of Dublin.
For more information about the project and to sign up to participate, visit cleanairtogether.ie
Fota Wildlife Park is open for business
Our experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic have given many of us a new-found appreciation for wildlife, with more people than ever before taking an interest in the natural world and trying to learn more about our fellow members of the animal kingdom. It’s no surprise, therefore, that since FotaWildlife Park in Cork reopened to the public on 29th April, it has enjoyed one of the highest summer visitor numbers it has experienced in its 38 year history. The park attracts a staggering quarter of a million paying visitors each year. Crucial funds, not just for their conservation work but the local economy also.
Derek recently took a trip to Fota Island to tour the park with its director, Sean McKeown, taking in a visit to its Madagascan Village to see its newly born baby Black-and-White Ruffed Lemurs. As Sean explains on tonight’s programme, this is just one of the many endangered species that have benefitted from the park’s impressive conservation efforts in recent years. He talks to Derek about another exciting project where he and his team have helped rewilding efforts in Poland and Romania through the reintroduction of Europe’s largest land mammal, the European Bison.
A European Bison in Spain - Photo Getty
Sean and Derek also discuss the park’s efforts to boost the wild population one of Ireland’s most highly threatened bird species, the Corncrake, including the use of specially trained dogs to help to locate their nests.
For more information about Fota Wildlife Park, visit fotawildlife.ie