Mooney Goes Wild Sunday 12 July 2020

Hedgerow Cutting Restrictions - The National Parks and Wildlife Service

Restrictions on cutting hedgerows are set out in Section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976 as amended by the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 and the Heritage Act 2018. These Acts stipulate that it is an offence to destroy vegetation on uncultivated land between the 1st of March and the 31st of August each year.  The Heritage Act 2018 includes provisions to allow for managed hedge cutting and burning at certain times within the existing closed period on a pilot two year basis.

For further information Click Here

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Mooney Goes Wild

Mooney Goes Wild

Derek Mooney and guests explore the natural world in all its forms.

Mooney Goes Wild Seabird Special

On today's programme we’re going to celebrate Ireland’s abundance of seabirds.

As an island nation we have a coastline that measures 3,171 kilometres – with no fewer than 246 offshore islands – perfect habitats for the 24 species of seabird that are with us for most of the year – and who breed and raise their young on our spectacular cliffs and islands.

So we will be criss-crossing the country finding the wondrous places they choose to make their home – the struggles they face and the challenges they overcome to survive and thrive in frequently hostile environments.

We will be hearing about the puffins on Co. Kerry’s Skellig Michael, Razorbills on the Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare, Kittiwakes on Rathlin off the coast of Co. Antrim, Breeding Eider on Inishmurray in Co. Sligo and many more besides.

To accompany Derek on his expedition he is joined by Niall Hatch – Development Officer for BirdWatch Ireland.

Rockabill Islands

Rockabill is a group of two islands lying north east off the coast of Skerries in Co. Dublin.

In 1989 Birdwatch Ireland wardens replaced the Lighthouse Attendants as caretakers of the Roseate Terns after their numbers had plummeted to only 500 pairs. – A strategic conservation effort was required to ensure the survival of the species at European level.

Dr Stephen Newton on Rockabill 'ringing' a Roseate Tern - Photo - Derek Mooney

And it's a great success story – because since then the population has steadily risen to 1,600 pairs – the largest Roseate Tern colony in Europe.

Emma Tiernan BirdWatch Ireland warden on Rockabill - Photo - Derek Mooney

These are elegant birds - slender with pointed wings, a long forked tail, a white body with a dark cap and bright red legs. In the summer breeding season their plumage is very pale with a faint rosy tinge.  Thus the name "Roseate" Tern.

Derek was very keen to get a closer look at these beauties – so he sailed over to Rockabill and spoke to BirdWatch Ireland’s Senior Seabird Conservation Officer - Dr. Stephen Newton.

You can vote for the Roseate Tern project in the Natura 2000 Awards at

Mooney Goes Wild - Seabird Special

On today's programme we're going to celebrate Ireland's abundance of seabirds. As an island nation we have a coastline that measures 3,171 kilometres - with no fewer than 246 offshore islands - perfect habitats for the 24 species of seabird who breed and raise their young on our spectacular cliffs and islands.

Skellig Michael

And now we go west to Skellig Michael that awe-inspiring, mystical rock that rises 218 metres above sea level off the County Kerry coast.  It's an annual vacationing spot for Puffins – who spend their summers on the island. They have black backs and white underparts, a distinctive black head with large pale cheeks and a tall, flattened, brightly-coloured bill. But more of that in a while.

In the 12th century - Skellig Michael was the chosen destination for a small group of monks who withdrew from civilisation to this magnificent, remote rock - and some time between the sixth and eight centuries they founded a monastery there. And the rest as they say is history.

It’s long been renowned as an exceptional place in terms of history, culture and the environment – and in 1996 it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status because of its outstanding universal value.

Those in the know have been visiting the island for many years. Following a visit in 1910 literary giant George Bernard Shaw described it as an 'incredible, impossible, mad place’  and ‘part of our dream world’.

Puffins on the Skelligs - Photo - Getty Images

This might have been what attracted the STAR WARS movie producers to set their sights on filming iconic scenes there for "Episode 7 – The Force Awakens" in 2015.

Since then Skellig Michael has gained global recognition not only for its magnetic historical attraction but for the phenomenal richness of its wildlife. Because Skellig Michael is also one of Ireland’s most important sites for breeding seabirds both in terms of size of colonies and diversity of species.

Kerryman Des Lavelle is an expert on all things Skellig both above and beneath the sea. Boatman, diving instructor, photographer, author and guide. He was on Valentia Island when Derek spoke to him with a spotlight on PUFFINS.

The Cliff of Moher: Razorbills and Guillimots

The Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Co. Clare are one of Ireland's most breath-taking natural wonders. They're a true jewel in the Wild Atlantic Way’s crown – and at 214 metres high - have towered majestically above the Atlantic Ocean for more than 350 million years.

Guillimots - Photo - Terry Flanagan

The cliffs are one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations attracting more than a million visitors annually. - They’ve featured in many movies – including "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", provided the back-drop for many music videos – including Westlife’s "My Love" – and British pop and soul singer Dusty Springfield – originally called Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien – had her ashes scattered there after her death in 1999.

Black Guillimot - Photo - Terry Flanagan

The site is – of course – a very important Bird Area.  At peak season, there are an estimated 30,000 pairs of birds living on the cliffs - representing more than 20 species. These include Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Atlantic puffins, which live in large colonies on the cliffs. But today we want to hear about the Razorbill.

The Razorbill is a black and white seabird with a distinct breeding plumage. From a distance it can be confused with the Guillemot - which also breeds at the Cliffs of Moher.

It's a species of Auk – and there are about 7,000 there at the moment. Actually they’re only found on land during the breeding season – which is right now.

Mike Marron - Photo - Terry Flanagan

Terry Flanagan spoke to Ranger Michael Marron from the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre

Inishmurray - Eiders

We're heading to Co. Sligo now and Inishmurray roughly opposite Mullaghmore – about 16 kilometres out to sea. It was an early Christian site and is now a wildlife sanctuary. The last residents moved off the 9 square kilometre island in 1948 and it’s been uninhabited ever since.

Which makes it a particularly hospitable spot for Eiders to breed in.

Common eider (Somateria mollissima)

The Common Eider is the largest of the four Eider species and the largest duck found in Europe. It’s a colourful character and can fly up to 113 kilometres per hour.

Most people will be aware of the use of their feathers in pillows, duvets – and quilts known as "Eiderdowns" – and they have a very particular sound – like a pantomime dame – or more specifically – the British comedian Frankie Howerd.

Derek spoke to local Sligo Naturalist - Michael Bell.

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



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Twitter: @NatureRTE

Presenter: Derek Mooney

Series Producer: Ana Leddy


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