Mooney Goes Wild Monday 24 August 2020

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

Mooney Goes Wild - Waterways Special

They are one of our greatest geographical wonders, defining the landscape, creating an invaluable habitat for wildlife as well as enriching our own lives too. Whether it’s navigating rivers, chugging down canals or strolling along lake shores, our inland waterways are an absolute treasure trove, just waiting to be explored. With Covid-19 making holidays abroad a risky business at the moment, staycations are appealing like never before and, as Waterways Ireland celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, we embark on a fascinating journey of our own.

Starting off on this evenings show Richard Collins talks to Dr Paula Treacy, Senior Environmental Officer at Waterways Ireland.

One of the most popular past times on our waterways is angling and there's nothing better than the sight of a salmon leaping clear from the water, as it returns back to its spawning grounds after its long sojourn at sea. While there are many species of salmon, those found in Ireland come exclusively from the Atlantic and it was the thought of a glance of one clearing the water, that drew Derek to the River Bann in Co Fermanagh, where he met Edward Montgomery.

Edward Montgomery, secretary of 'The Honourable, The Irish Society' Coleridge & City it London

The Canals

We are fortunate to have two canals in Dublin, the Royal Canal and the Grand Canal. For decades, these waterways were an important means of transport for people as well as commercial goods, until they were replaced by railways and roads.

Eric Conroy, Dolphins Barn Canal Biodiversity and Clean Up Group. Stephanie Dooley,Friends of the Grand Canal with Reporter Jenny Branigan

Today, the canals are a hive of recreational activity for everything from boating to canoeing, kayaking to paddle boarding, with colourful barges a familiar sight especially at this time of year. Maintaining that picture postcard appeal, however it takes a lot of hard work. Enter the volunteers who regularly give up their Saturdays to clean up the canals and their banks. Jenny Branigan recently caught up with one of the groups on the Grand Canal in Dublin.

Terry Flanagan at Meelick Weir, along the River Shannon, in east Galway

The River Shannon is Ireland's longest river, flowing southwards for almost four hundred kilometres, through ten different counties, until it reaches the wide Atlantic Ocean.  In County Galway, it encounters 'Meelick Weir’ which lies at the foothills of the Shannon Callows. 

Terry Flanagan spoke to Eanna Rowe, Western Regional Manager for Waterways IrelandCathryn Hannon,  Regional Manager of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Donall Mac An bheatha, Senior Planning Officer at Longford County Council.

The redevelopment of Meelick Weir in Co Galway is the single biggest investment Waterways Ireland has made since the Royal Canal. Two hundred and ten years old, the Weir lies at a point where three counties and three provinces meet. It lies at the foothills of the Shannon Callows, which offers a unique ecosystem and is renowned for its wild birds and wildlife generally. In terms of historic sites, there is a Martello tower, built during the Napoleonic wars and also a church nearby which has been the longest, continuous church in Ireland.

As Western Region Manager for Waterways Ireland, Eanna Rowe oversees fifty two harbours, eight engineers and one hundred operational people.

The church at Meelick - photo Terry Flanagan

Meelick Weir, along the River Shannon, East Galway - Photo Terry Flanagan

The Royal Canal Mullingar

A stone's throw from the busy town of Mullingar in Co Westmeath, just off the beaten track, a five kilometre stretch of the Royal Canal is attracting wildlife in abundance. It's an area which, through a citizen science project, is being carefully managed to encourage biodiversity.  

Judging by results, the hard work’s certainly paying off as Eanna ni Lamhna has been finding out.

Baltrasna - Co Westmeath. Along banks of the Royal Canal. Eanna and Lesley Whiteside

Eanna and Lesley Whiteside, Baltrasna bridge, Marlinstown, Co Westmeath.

Eanna ni Lamhna and Pat Hendrick, Ribbontail Paddlers, Longwood, Co Meath - recording at Baltrasna bridge, Marlinstown, Co Westmeath. 

Lough Erne - Co Fermanagh

Our next destination is a labyrinth of channels, bays and islands, steeped in history and home to a rich variety of wildlife. Lough Erne, in Co Fermanagh has plenty of historical landmarks such as Crom and Enniskillen Castles. Sheila O'Callaghan found herself drawn to the haunting view of Devenish Tower at the lower lake, when she recently wandered along the water’s edge.

Beehives along the Royal Canal in Dublin

The beauty of our waterways is that so many of them are within easy reach. Just off the M50 motorway in Dublin, in the midst of multiple road intersections, train lines and housing developments, lies a hidden haven of tranquillity. But something even more unexpected can be found there. 

Eric Dempsey went to find out.

(l to r):

Cormac McCarthy, Heritage Officer, Waterways Ireland.

Sandra Convery, beekeeper.

Sorcha and Paul Keane, beekeepers.

Eric Dempsey.

Barry Rogers, Programme Officer Dublin Docklands at Waterways Ireland.

Beehives along the Royal Canal in Dublin.

(l to r):

Sandra Convery, beekeeper.

Barry Rogers, Programme Officer Dublin Docklands at Waterways Ireland.

Eric Dempsey.

Sorcha and Paul Keane, beekeepers.

Cormac McCarthy, Heritage Officer, Waterways Ireland.

Sorcha and Paul Keane - Sandra Convery - Eric Dempsey at beehives along the Royal Canal in Dublin

Bee hives beside the Royal Canal in Dublin. 

Amy Burns (left), Estate Manager, RSPB, Northern Ireland, Billy Flynn, ecologist, Olivia Cosgrove, founder of 'Row the Erne'. Photo taken at Trory Jetty, Lower Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

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 

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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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