Mooney Goes Wild, Sunday March 13th 2016

If you notice something unusual in the natural world in your garden or on your travels or have a question about wildlife, ask the Mooney Goes Wild experts! We will do our best to get you the answer but remember a picture paints a thousand words so, if it is possible and safe to do so, take a picture and send it to

On Mooney Goes Wild tonight...

On Mooney Goes Wild tonight...

Niall Hatch explains why it remains illegal to cut hedges at this time of year, Terry Flanagan finds out about a jackdaw with a deformed beak, author Martin Stevens tells us about Cheats And Deceits: How Animals And Plants Exploit And Mislead, and Sinéad Renshaw has details of various upcoming events, movies and shows with a natural history slant!

Summer Hedgecutting Remains Illegal

Summer Hedgecutting Remains Illegal

Many of you may have driven down a country road only to have to stop to allow a tractor with hedge-cutting equipment to pass.  Nothing unusual about this, much hedge-cutting is done for purposes of road safety.  But spare a thought for the wildlife, shrubs, wildflowers - and especially for the birds who use hedges for refuge and nest-building at this time of year.

There are restrictions on when hedgecutting can take place, but a motion put forward before the dissolution of the last Dáil proposed that those restrictions be changed to reduce the protected season.  Thankfully, time was called before the proposal could become law.  But why is it so important that these restrictions remain?  For more on this, and other seasonal bird news, we're joined in studio by Niall Hatch, Development Officer with BirdWatch Ireland...

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 ( 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.

White-headed Black-headed Gulls

On a recent walk through Dublin's Docklands, Derek noticed some black-headed gulls - only not all of them appeared to have a black head!  Why might this be? Derek puts the question to Niall Hatch...

Cheats And Deceits: How Animals And Plants Exploit And Mislead

Cheats And Deceits: How Animals And Plants Exploit And Mislead

Have you ever white-lied about yourself to score a hot date?  Have you ever mildly fibbed in a job interview to increase your chances of success?  People often pretend that they are something that they NOT to get ahead in life.  And animal and plants worlds are no different.

Did you know that predators sometimes present themselves as flowers. harmless snakes pretend to be toxic or that caterpillars can mimic the scent of an ant to raid a colony’s pantry?  All this deception is subject of a new book, called Cheats And Deceits: How Animals And Plants Exploit And Mislead, by Martin Stevens.  Martin is Associate Professor of Sensory and Evolutionary Ecology at the University of Exeter, and he joins us from the BBC Cornwall studios in Truro to explain more...

Cheats And Deceits: How Animals And Plants Exploit And Mislead, by Martin Stevens, is published by Oxford University Press.  The ISBN is 9780198707899 and the RRP is £22.99 (approx €30) .  For more details about the book, click here.

Jackdaw With Deformed Beak

We recently received an e-mail with a photo to our inbox here on the Mooney Goes Wild programme from regular listener Sean Smith.  The photo was of a jackdaw, but a jackdaw with an unusual beak.  It was distorted or deformed and Sean had first noticed this particular bird in the garden a while ago.

A birds' beak is very important for a number of reasons.  Not only do they use them for feeding but also for a number of other functions, including preening and sexual display, so if the beak is not in perfect working order, then the bird may be in trouble.

The bird in question continues to visit, and Sean wondered what might have caused this deformity, and would it hinder it in the long term. So he took the photo and sent it in to us and we decided to send our reporter, Terry Flanagan, off to investigate...

What's On...

What's On...

A few weeks ago, we spoke on the programme about the production of BEES! The Musical, which has just finished its run at the Ark in Dublin.  But there are plenty more nature events taking place all around the country.Mooney Goes Wild's Broadcast Co-Ordinator Sinéad Renshaw (pictured) pops into studio with some examples...


Sunday, March 20th

BirdWatch Ireland Carlow: River Barrow Walk. Meet at Clashganny Weir at 9:30am.

BirdWatch Ireland West Cork: Join us for a woodland walk in spring, a great time to learn birdsong. Meet at Dromillihy Wood car park, on N71 between Connonagh and Leap, at 10:00am. Leader: Nicholas Mitchell.

Saturday, March 26th

DLCOCO: Nature For Health Walk & Talk:  Barnaslingan Woods, Kilternan, midday.  Join us on a gentle paced three hour walk in the beautiful Barnaslingan Woods. Experience the beauty of nature through mindfulness and learn about the health benefits from connecting with nature.

BirdWatch Ireland Clare: Outing to Ballyvaughan to see divers (incl. Black-throated Diver), Red-breasted Merganser, Brent Geese, Wheatear, etc. Meet opposite Monk's Pub at 11:00am.

Monday, March 28th

Become An Animal Tracker: Fitzsimon's Wood, Kilcross Park, Sandyford, 10am.  Learn how to track animals in woodland habitat through signs left behind, such as footprints, fur and droppings. If weather is suitable we’ll also make plastercasts of animal footprints for the children to take home.  Leader: Andrew (Mouse) Fleming, OWLS

Thursday, March 31st

BirdWatch Ireland Donegal: The birds of Donegal, by John Cromie. Also, Donegal Branch AGM. County Museum, High Road, Letterkenny, 8:00pm.

Saturday, April 2nd

BirdWatch Ireland Galway: Short outing at Nimmo's Pier, Galway, 10:30am, with Tom Cuffe. Very suitable for beginners and young birdwatchers, as well as experienced ones.

More events around the country...

Biodiversity Events in the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown area:

BirdWatch Ireland events taking place around the country:

Irish Wildlife Trust events around the country:

And if you are involved in an event that you'd like us to tell our listeners about, please do get in touch! E-mail the details to


There are a variety of nature programmes on television over the course of the next week, from Puffin Rock to Eco Eye, to another chance to see Derek's award-winning series Secrets Of The Irish Landscape (broadcast on Sunday afternoon at 16:55, on RTÉ One).  For full listings, visit


Oddball And The Penguins (G) - currently on release: Sheepdog nurses fairy penguin back to health (based on true story)...

The Good Dinosaur (PG) - currently on release: What if a meteor hadn’t crashed, causing climate change and wiping out the dinosaurs?

Zootropolis (PG) - on release from next Friday, March 18th: Comprised of habitat neighbourhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything.

To find out which movies are on in your local cinema, visit!

The Dawn Chorus

Back from the Brink is a one-hour programme that plans to celebrate the hard work, dedication, and commitment of conservationists who are striving to save endangered species from extinction. Here, Derek Mooney discusses this unique, pan-European natural history event.

I've been working in natural history broadcasting for over 30 years now. In that time, I’ve seen some truly wonderful sights, but I’ve also seen first-hand the problems that wildlife is facing, both in Ireland and around the globe. There has been a growing awareness amongst the general public, particularly in the last few years, of the threats to our environment and biodiversity.

In many ways, this has been long overdue, but I’m also aware that for a lot of people the current state of our planet can seem overwhelming, even depressing. We are increasingly bombarded by tales of doom and gloom. Issues like climate change and animal extinction are too often made to seem insurmountable, as though tragedy is a foregone conclusion, but that’s simply not true. It’s not too late to help nature. 

We need to find a way to bring some much-needed optimism back into the conservation. That’s definitely what attracted me most to Back from the Brink. Through my work over the years on Mooney Goes Wild, in particular, I have met thousands of dedicated scientists and conservationists out there, fighting hard to save endangered species and working miracles. By telling some of their stories, I thought we could inspire people and show that there is every reason for hope.

Nature is resilient, and if given a chance it can recover from all sorts of abuse. It was once thought that the Red Kite, a stunning bird of prey, was lost forever from Irish skies, shot and poisoned to extinction. To see dozens of them now flying over the Co. Wicklow countryside again, all thanks to the dedication of people who simply weren’t prepared to give up, was a humbling and inspirational experience.

The same goes for the enormous efforts that I witnessed to safeguard the growing populations of Wolves in Italy, Brown Bears in Spain and Eurasian Beavers in The Netherlands, to give a few key examples from the programme. Perhaps the most sobering part for me personally was seeing the dramatic effects that climate change has wrought on the Swiss Alps, where glaciers are rapidly melting and high mountain habitats are disappearing, along with the unique animals that live there. Even then, against all the odds, people are fighting back.

Back from the Brink is not just a story about animals. At its core, it’s really a story about people. We, humans, have caused our planet’s problems, but people are also the key to fixing them. Literally every conservationist I interviewed for the programme spoke with such passion about their work, coupled with an unshakeable belief that what they were doing was utterly worthwhile, and I think that shines through on the screen. It must do because even the production crews, and there were many across Europe, not least our own team here in Ireland, headed by Colm Crowley from RTÉ Cork and scientific advisor Niall Hatch, were totally dedicated to this project.

We want to empower as many of those viewers as possible, and to reinforce the truth that every single one of us can play a role in saving endangered species and the wider environment. It’s not just about doing your bit – it takes much more than a bit, it takes a lot! – but about understanding that we need to accept fundamental changes to the way in which we live our lives. Having seen what can be achieved when the will is there, it will be well worth it, believe me.

Watch Back from the Brink at 6:30pm on Monday, 30th of December on RTÉ One.

Second Chance Archive

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

Ireland and Climate Change: Are we up for it? Professor John Sweeney - Maynooth University

When the countries of the world assembled for the now famous Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to adopt the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, they undertook to take the necessary steps to prevent ‘dangerous’ climate change. Defining what was dangerous proved a difficult task, however, and largely as a result of the European Union’s prodding, a value of 2oC warming above pre-industrial times was generally adopted as the criterion. Gradually the rest of the world fell into line with this, except the Small Island Developing States of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. For them this was something that would have condemned their island homes to submergence beneath the rising sea. So when the Paris Agreement emerged in 2015, it had a nuanced objective: "to hold increases in global temperatures to well below 2 °C and pursue efforts to limit increase to 1.5 °C." To flesh out what the 1.5oC target would actually mean, the Conference asked the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to produce a Special Report, which they did in October of last year.

The report confirmed that significantly greater climate problems would be experienced at a warming of 1.5oc compared to the present day, even though we have already warmed by 1oC over pre-industrial levels. These would include increases in extremes of heat and heavy rainfall events in several regions, accompanied by more frequent and more intense droughts. But most worrying was the realisation that the remaining carbon budget to avoid this warming would only last for a decade or two at the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions. After this budget was exhausted the carbon would be in the atmosphere for a century or more. Globally, emissions needed to fall by 45% on 2010 levels by 2030. It was this realisation that galvanised many groups and energised many individuals around the world, culminating in the mass protests we see around us. This was true, even in an Ireland whose compliance with its international obligations are failing miserably and its laggard status approaching the level of a national shaming. As a developed country with historical responsibility, we should be bearing more of the burden of tackling this problem than most other countries. Instead our per capita emissions are 50% higher than the EU average and place us as the second worst contributor to climate change on a per capita basis within the EU. The recently released 2018 figures confirm we are now 5M tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over the limit we agreed solemnly with our EU partners over a decade ago.

At the same time as we declared a climate emergency in Ireland this year we also declared a biodiversity emergency. This was in recognition that Ireland was also experiencing serious threats to its species and habitats, partly due to climate and also a number of other drivers, such as agricultural intensification. Another UN report in spring 2019 confirmed that human actions are now threatening more species with global extinction than ever before. The current rate of species extinction is 10-100 times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years. Around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades.

In Ireland, our peatland, coastal marsh and mountain habitats are particularly at risk. 29 different bird species and 120  species of flowering plants are in serious decline. Some bird species such as the Corn Bunting and Corncock have become extinct. Others such as the Curlew have been decimated and many species such as the pearl mussel, bumblebee, barn owl and marsh fritillary butterfly face serious threats. At the same time invasive species are moving into newly favourable ecological niches providing additional competition and stress to native species.

Ireland has warmed by 0.5oC over the past 30 years and is likely to warm by a similar amount over the next 2-3 decades. This  will have impacts on our growing season, making crops like maize much more feasible to grow. However, projected changes in rainfall are likely to be the main climate change problem Ireland will face. Already we are seeing an increase in intense rainfall events. Increased winter flood problems will result and the government will need to find €1B of taxpayers’ money to protect against future events. Winter storms are also likely to become more problematical. Winter 2013/14 was the stormiest winter in Ireland for at least 143 years. Winter 2015/16 was the wettest winter on record over half of Ireland. Former hurricanes such as Ophelia and Lorenzo pose additional late autumn threats which are likely to increase as the Atlantic warms and summer droughts will bring their own difficulties for agriculture and municipal water supplies. All in all, it is changing weather extremes which will bring the message of climate change home to Irish people and instil in them the urgency of playing a constructive role in international negotiations.

Conscious that it their legacy that is under threat, young people have been in the vanguard of protest. The ‘Fridays for Future’ schools protest has taken up the baton of Greta Thunberg who has become the icon that communicates the reality of climate change more effectively than a hundred graphs and tables. Armed with the factual knowledge of the Green Schools, it is to these inspirational leaders that the rest of society must now turn. The time for tinkering around the edges with excuses about efficiency or identifying ‘low hanging fruit’ on the basis of economic cost benefit curves is now over. The problem is now an ethical one of intergenerational equity, one where scientists can no longer be labelled ‘alarmists’ but rather ‘realists’. In an emergency the unthinkable has to be considered and Ireland is now at a crossroads where the next decade will determine what legacy we leave to the next generation. It’s an awesome responsibility. Are we up for it or not?

Professor John Sweeney is Ireland’s foremost climatologists and was a  lecturer at Maynooth University’s Geography Department for 40 years until his recent retirement. Over the past 30 years he has published approximately 60 scientific papers and edited and co-authored texts on various aspects of climatology and climate change in Ireland.


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



Contact the Show

E-mail: moone

Presenter: Derek Mooney

Series Producer: Ana Leddy

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