Mooney Goes Wild, Sunday April 9th 2017

The Blue Tit

Parus caeruleus 
Meantán Gorm  

The Blue tits are back! Watch the adult feed five young nestlings in the nest box in Derek Mooney's back garden. (Tuesday 14.05.19) The interior of nest box is designed to look like a thatched cottage and the Tit family love it.

For more information about Blue tits - Click Here

The Fox

This recording of the fox was made at Derek's home on Tuesday 14.05.19. The fox is regular visitor to Derek's back garden and likes nothing better than lie out on the granite paving and soak up the sun. 

The Red Fox

Vulpes vulpes  

Madra Rua 

Urban Foxes - Are they Common?
Urban foxes are very common in Dublin. They are found throughout the city and suburbs. Foxes can be seen at night roaming Grafton St. and O'Connell St., with dens near Dáil Eireann. In the suburbs foxes do best in estates with large gardens. 

Areas like Sandymount have very high densities of foxes but they are also found in industrial estates and in some council housing areas. These days Dublin probably has a similar density of urban foxes to English cities like Bristol or London. 

I Thought I Saw a Puddy-Fox!
If you thought you saw a fox in your garden, then chances are you were right! In areas of Dublin where foxes are common most houses will be visited by a fox at some stage of the night. If they don't visit your back garden then they'll almost certainly trout through the front garden on their nightly explorations. If you see a fox in the garden… don't panic. Foxes are pretty harmless and they will run away if approached. However, as with all wild animals, never try to corner a fox as it may bite in panic. Often people are upset by the boldness of urban foxes. Some will not run away even when shouted at from a window, others can be seen strolling down public roads in broad daylight! This is because urban foxes have become habituated to the noise and smells of the city, if you approach them, however, they will run away. 

Should I Feed 'My' Foxes and With What?
The answer to this depends on your motives. If you think the fox looks skinny and needs fattening, don't bother. Foxes are slinky little animals by nature and they are more than able to feed themselves, especially in a food-rich environment like Dublin. If, however, you want to attract foxes so you can watch them, then by all means do. BUT always place the food in a spot you can see from your window, that is well away from the house. Feeding foxes near the house is asking for trouble. 

Foxes are inquisitive animals and an open door or window will be explored, it's not unheard of for foxes to take up residence inside houses or to become trapped in a basement or even an attic! Also never feed foxes by hand, someone will end up getting bitten and the foxes will pay the price. 

You can feed foxes any type of food. They will eat meat, vegetables, fruit etc., scraps will do just fine. Don't over-feed them, remember a lot of your neighbours are probably doing the same thing. 

I Have a Den in My Garden
A lot of urban fox dens are located in disused gardens or overgrown shrubberies. Foxes mate in January/February. At this time of year you may hear the vixen screaming in the night. Often these calls can be quite like a child and it's not unknown for the Gardai to be called out to investigate such screams! 

In March/April the vixen gives birth to, typically, four or five cubs in the den. The cubs are born blind and have a chocolate coloured coat, at this stage they look very un-foxlike. Around June they emerge from the den looking like mini-foxes, with a coat like the parents. During the summer they will spend a lot of time above ground, lying up in bushes and long grass. 

The cubs are playful and inquisitive, so expect flowerbeds to suffer a bit and toys, balls, shoes etc. to get chewed upon. From late September on the cubs begin to disperse to find their own territories and your garden will become peaceful once more. 

How Do I Get Rid of Them?
Some people love them and others (especially keen gardeners) just hate them. Foxes may do damage to lawns and flowerbeds as they root around for grubs and insects. Try to remember that the foxes are getting rid of pests such as beetles, slugs and grubs as well as rats and mice. Try to be patient. 

If you absolutely can't stand them then ask for professional advice rather than trying to solve the problem yourself. Never-ever try to poison your foxes with rat poison. This results in terrible suffering to the fox and you may find yourself on the wrong side of the law if found out. 

Killing foxes will not solve the problem and you risk a terrible fallout with neighbours who may be feeding them. For every fox you kill, there are ten more in the neighbourhood waiting to move in, so you'll only get a few weeks relief at most. This is why councils in England gave up fox control, it cost a fortune to kill the foxes and it made little or no impact on the population. 

One solution often offered by some welfare groups is to re-locate the foxes to the countryside. This may sound like a good idea, but it is cruel to the fox. A relocated fox will find itself in an alien environment, without a territory and will probably die as a result of the relocation. 

Urban foxes (and, incidentally, urban hedgehogs) belong in the City. If you wish to get foxes out of your garden then it's best done using repellents. For more information: The Urban Fox Project Tel: 087 2977931. 

Remember that even if you succeed in getting the foxes to move den, you will always have foxes passing through your garden. It is virtually impossible (bar electric fencing or a big fat Rottweiler) to keep foxes out of an entire garden. Noise and smell repellents will only work for a short time before the fox becomes used to it. You may be able to protect a small area of garden using smelly repellents, but even this may not work for long. 

A fox ate my cat/gerbil/rabbit/hamster etc...
Often I get reports of foxes killing cats. Most are found to be untrue on further investigation. Foxes may indeed kill kittens or very old or ill cats (it's worth mentioning here that cats may kill fox cubs too). However, in the vast majority of cat-fox interactions the cat wins. 

I've seen cats frightening foxes away from their meals through hissing and the odd well-placed scratch. Foxes may be found to be in possession of cat remains but these are most probably the scavenged remains of cats killed on the roads. 

Foxes will kill rabbits, rodents and birds. I have heard of pet owners complaining of losing gerbil after gerbil to the local fox. If you know the fox is in the area then more fool you for re-stocking its dinner plate! The only safe way to keep small pets outside, where you have foxes passing through, is to build a fox proof run. 

Ideally you should build a run that totally surrounds the hutch/living quarters and the feeding/exercise area. The run should be built from heavy chainlink fence or weldmesh (with chicken wire on the inside to keep the pets in). Chicken-wire alone will not keep a fox out. You should bury the chainlink to a depth of 12inches and roof the enclosure with the same chinking fencing. Otherwise keep the pets indoors. 

Do Foxes Carry Disease?
The simple answer is yes, but probably nothing worse than an average dog or cat. The main exception to this is mange. Urban foxes suffer greatly from mange and it spreads quickly from fox to fox. Fox-mange can infect dogs but not cats. In very exceptional cases it may infect humans, but in all my years working with mangy foxes, I've never caught it. 

Infected dogs can be successfully treated with injections and a medicated soap. Dublin vets are seeing an increased number of cases of dogs infected by fox-mange. Treating the foxes themselves is harder but it can be done successfully. A sympathetic vet is needed and the process involved baiting sausages or chicken with Ivomec and feeding this to the infected foxes. The success rate is quite high but it requires time and patience to ensure the medicine only gets to the infected foxes. 

Do Other Irish Cities Have Urban Foxes?
Yes, foxes have been reported from Belfast Cork and Shannon.

A Fox Bred With My Dog.
No chance mate! Foxes and dogs have different numbers of chromosomes and are incompatible for breeding. 

I found a fox cub... What Do I Do?
Unless it is in immanent danger (e.g. on the road) then leave it be, the mother will be near by waiting for you to go. If it is in danger then move it to a safe place near by and leave it, the mother will find it when she returns. If you find a cub and are sure it has been orphaned (e.g. if you find the dead vixen close by or the den is in the garden and you haven't seen the vixen for a long time) then call the Urban Fox Project or the DSPCA

Never be tempted to raise a fox yourself, they are a lot of work and the smell will decimate your circle of friends to just those with chronic nose blockages or who work in a piggery! 

Second Chance Sundays

Over the coming weeks, we'll be giving you another chance to hear some of our Mooney Goes Wild programmes uncovered from the radio archive here in RTÉ. Please tune into RTÉ Radio 1 on Sunday nights at 6pm. Click the links below for more information. 

24th March 2019, (6pm), The Dance of the Cuckoos - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

31st March 2019, (6pm), The Blue Whale - Mooney Goes Wild Special

07th April 2019, (6pm), Feathers - Mooney Goes Wild Special

14th April 2019, (6pm), Bergen Whale - Mooney Goes Wild Special

21st April 2019, (6pm), Sparrows  - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

28th April 2019, (6pm), Wildlife Film Makers - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

05th May 2019, (6pm), The Common Swift - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

E-mail: mooney@rte.ie        Facebook: facebook.com/rtenature          Twitter: @NatureRTE

On Mooney Goes Wild tonight...

On Mooney Goes Wild tonight...

We hear all about your sightings of swallows, a red-light thrush family and how you've been saving starlings.  As researchers at the University of Manchester create a way for seawater to be turned into drinking water, marine biologist Ken Whelan explains what impact that might have on our salmon. And  the sight of thousands of Grunion fish tumbling onto shore on wave after wave of Pacific surf is a truly extraordinary thing to witness – and is sometimes referred to as a “Grunion Invasion”. It's long been on Derek's "bucket list" - and recently, in California, he got to see this incredible phenomenon for himself. He tells us about his experience...

Swallows & Other Birds

Thanks to all who’ve been in touch about spotting swallows – from Fairview in Dublin to Multyfarnham in County Westmeath.  If you see a swallow or hear a cuckoo, please do contact us and let us know - and if you can record the birdsong or take a picture, so much the better!  E-mail your sightings to mooney@rte.ie, and don't forget to record it on Spring Alive (www.springalive.net/en-ie) too!

Paul O'Sullivan is a bus driver in Limerick and he called to let us know about a thrush that was nesting in a red traffic light at the entrance to the University of Limerick.  The story made it into the Limerick Leader newspaper - visit www.limerickleader.ie/news/home/243029/bright-idea-thrush-raises-young-in-limerick-traffic-light to read the article and see the fabulous picture – and since then we’re reliably informed that the birds have well and truly flown.

And finally, well done to Packie Collins of Celtic Warrior Boxing Gym in Blanchardstown in Dublin.  He pictured himself with a little starling and tweeted: “Unexpected visitor to the gym! All tangled up in twine. Untangled and unharmed – he’s free as a bird!!!”.  Fair play Packie!  And if you’d like to learn more about Starlings, check out our Starling Documentary - visit www.rte.ie/radio1/mooney/programmes/2015/0102/669979-mooney-friday-january-2nd-2015.

Desalination Through Graphene

The ongoing row over water, and its prominence on our domestic news agenda, reminds us what an incredibly precious and valuable commodity water is.  Despite the fact that our oceans are deep and wide – and that water is in fact one of our most abundant resources – we all know that the salt content in sea-water makes it undrinkable.

The growing risk of worldwide water shortages is worse than scientists previously thought.  According to the international campaign End Water Poverty, some 663 million people around the world have no reliable access to clean, safe water year-round.  And two-thirds of the world’s population face water scarcity for at least one month every year.

All this really puts into context news announced this week by researchers at the University of Manchester, who have invented an efficient way to literally sieve the salt out of seawater – raising the real possibility that we could be on course to turn seawater into clean drinking water.

To chat about the significance of the impact it will have not only on ourselves, but on the birds and fish that deal with salt and fresh water, especially species such as salmon, we're joined in studio by Dr. Richard Collins, Eanna ni Lamhna, and marine biologist Dr. Ken Whelan...

To read more about the remarkable graphene sieve, visit www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/graphene-sieve-turns-seawater-into-drinking-water.
 

Going For Grunion

Do you have a "bucket list" made out?  A list of things you want to try or experience before you die?  Mooney Goes Wild presenter Derek Mooney has one, and somewhere near the top of that list was to observe a 'grunion run' - something he managed to achieve on a recent holiday in California!  But what is a grunion?

Grunion

Two grunion fish; the female is longer than the male

A grunion is a sardine-like fish, with have an unusual mating ritual which sees them act on a seemingly suicidal desire to breed out of water.  They were the very first species to feature in the BBC’s iconic series The Ascent Of Man – where Jacob Bronowski traced the development of human society through its understanding of science.

Perhaps this is why, over the years, the grunion has captured the imagination of all kinds of artistes fascinated by this weird fish – and by the human habit of taking to the beaches at full moon to go fishing on what’s known as a “Grunion Run”.

The sight of thousands of grunion tumbling onto shore on wave after wave of Pacific surf is a truly extraordinary sight – and is sometimes referred to as a "Grunion Invasion".  That provided rich pickings for – of all things – sixties U.S. sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, where the Grunion inspired the plot for no fewer than THREE episodes!

Clockwise from top left; Derek with some grunion collectors in California; Dr. Karen Martin; Derek marks 'observing grunion run' off his bucket list; William Pon & Megumi Ito collecting Grunion

This was something that Derek absolutely HAD to see – so a few weeks ago whilst on holiday in the States, he met up with Dr Karen Martin, Professor of Biology at Pepperdine University in California...

For more information on the work being done on grunion at Pepperdine, visit http://grunion.pepperdine.edu/.

Hedgerows

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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE

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 www.irishwildlifematters.ie

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Presenter: Derek Mooney

Series Producer: Ana Leddy

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