A very Happy New Year to all our listeners! We visit the Albert Bridge in Belfast and witness the magnificence of nature’s ballet that is the starling murmuration. Eanna ni Lamhna hears how modern cities can provide nature-based solutions to 21st century problems. And John O’Halloran visits Fota Island Nature Reserve in Co Cork to meet some adorable Red Panda Cubs – and much more besides!
One of nature’s most wonderful phenomenons is the mesmerising aerial ballet that is the starling murmuration. Thousands and thousands of birds flock together and literally dance across the sky in a sublime, twisting and swirling collective - which moves like one single, shape-shifting cloud. In fact it’s one of the world’s great mysteries – as to why they don’t bump into each other and knock each other out of the sky.
Compilation of starling murmuration photos by listener Edward Delaney
The best time to see these wonderful exhibitions is around dusk during the autumn and winter months. So whilst in Belfast recently, Derek thought he’d drop over to one of his favourite spots in the city, the Albert Bridge, where he’d previously witnessed murmurations of tens of thousands of starlings. There he met up with Claire Barnett, Senior Conservation Officer with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in Northern Ireland...
Derek also took a trip down to Lough Ennell, in County Westmeath, where he joined Eugene Dunbar of BirdWatch Ireland's Westmeath branch, to admire the starling murmurations there...
And if your appetite for spectacular murmurations has been whetted, then you'll enjoy this video from one of our listeners, Liz, who contacted us on Facebook to say:
Dear Derek, I thought you might like to see a video I made of a starling murmuration. I am a regular visitor to the starlings of Lough Carra in County Mayo because I'm only 10 minutes drive from there. This particular murmuration was spectacular. It was a good 20 minutes in total - I took a few snaps, then recorded the last eleven minutes. I'd estimate there were about 40,000 starlings, which is a big increase from last year. Please feel free to share it! Best wishes, Liz
Cork is a place with an abundance of natural beauty and attractions, which draw tourists from all over the world, as well as visitors from our own national and local population. Fáilte Ireland's latest Visitor Attitudes Survey was released recently. It ranked Fota Wildlife Park at number 9 in the top 10 visitor attractions in the country – beaten only by the likes of the Guinness Storehouse, the Cliffs of Moher and the Book of Kells.
Fota Wildlife Park is home to a wide variety of animals such as Cheetahs, Lions and Gibbons and many more besides – each with carefully tailored environments for their species, replicating their natural habitats in the wild. The care and attention given to this is reaping dividends – and the birth of twin Red Panda cubs in Fota this June highlighted once again the success that zoos and wildlife parks are having in breeding endangered species.
Fota's Red Pandas
The Red Panda twins have been named Koda and Lionel after the band Kodaline who filmed their latest music video, for the song Ready To Change, in the park.
Professor John O’Halloran, of UCC, went along to talk to Sean McKeown, the Director of Fota Wildlife Park...
Left: Emu; middle: John O'Halloran (l) with Sean McKeown (r); right: Giraffe
Urban parks and green roofs tend to be associated with trendy European cities such as Stockholm, Barcelona and Paris. But the good news is that a recently launched multi-million euro, pan-European project, co-ordinated by a research team in Trinity College Dublin, hopes to expand the idea elsewhere - by exploring how 21st century cities can benefit and support nature-based solutions.
The project, which is funded by the European Union and the cities involved, is headed by Dr. Marcus Collier, Assistant Professor of Botany at the School of Natural Sciences in Trinity College. Whilst nature-based solutions are pretty thin on the ground here in Dublin, there is one in Pelletstown, next to the Phoenix Park, which is where Eanna ni Lamhna met up with Dr. Collier...
Left: Eanna ni Lamhna; right: Marcus Collier
To find out more about the SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage System) project, click here, for more information about Trinity's involvement, click here, and to learn more about Connecting Nature, visit www.connectingnature.eu.
Hedgerows: 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.
UPDATE: February 29th 2016 - 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 (www.npws.ie) 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.
To contact your local wildlife ranger, click here for contact details. To read the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, click here.
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