Mooney, Friday January 10th 2014

On Mooney Goes Wild today, with Olan McGowan...

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...

Caring For Garden Birds This Winter

Caring For Garden Birds This Winter

To find out how to care for and attract garden birds, read Jim Wilson's Guide To Garden Birds - CLICK HERE!

Why Robins Sing In Winter

Why Robins Sing In Winter

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...

BT Young Scientist Exhibition

BT Young Scientist Exhibition

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...

Terry's Pick:

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.

Eanna's Pick

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.

Richard's Pick

Project:    The reliability of eyewitness accounts in court cases

Students:  Lauren Faraker, Grainne Tyrrell & Carrie Manning

School:     Pobalscoil na Trinóide in Youghal, Co Cork

Dublin Zoo's Animal Studbooks

Dublin Zoo's Animal Studbooks

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

Elephant Pregnancies

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 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 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!

Neil Heyward, Champion Birdwatcher

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...

Second Chance Sundays

Have another chance to hear some of our Mooney Goes Wild programmes uncovered from the RTÉ Radio 1 archive. Click the links below for more information. 

The Dance of the Cuckoos - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

The Blue Whale - Mooney Goes Wild Special

Feathers - Mooney Goes Wild Special

Bergen Whale - Mooney Goes Wild Special

Sparrows  - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

Wildlife Film Makers - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

The Common Swift - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

E-mail:        Facebook:          Twitter: @NatureRTE



Statement from BirdWatch Ireland, Thurs Feb 28th 2019:

BirdWatch Ireland wishes to remind the public, local authorities and contractors that hedge-cutting is NOT permitted between 1st March and 31st August inclusive, except in the case of any of the derogations permitted under the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended. The Heritage Act 2018 gives the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the power to make certain changes to these dates, but it is important to note that, as yet, the Minister has not done so. As a result, the usual dates when hedge-cutting is prohibited currently remain unchanged.

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.  To read the Heritage Bill 2016, as passed by Dáil Éireann on July 5th 2018, click here.  To read the Heritage Act 2018, click here.

To contact your local wildlife ranger, click here for contact details. To read the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, click here.

Caring For Wild Animals

Please note that many species of mammals, birds, invertebrates etc... are protected under law and that, even with the best of intentions, only someone holding a relevant licence from the National Parks & Wildlife Service should attempt the care of these animals.  For full details, please click here to read the NPWS Checklist of protected & rare species in Ireland.  If you are concerned about a wild animal, please contact your local wildlife ranger - click here for details.


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



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Presenter: Derek Mooney

Series Producer: Ana Leddy


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