THE other day, I revisited a bog near the Cork/Kerry border where we used to cut turf to burn at home until about 35 years ago, writes Donal Hickey.
At the entrance, I met a man returning from a walk with two dogs. We had neighbouring banks of turf at one time, so we chatted about times past and present and he told me to expect changes in the landscape after such a long absence.
What had once been open peatland was now overgrown with trees and I was soon walking through a forest, which blocked views of the towering MacGillycuddy’s Reeks away to the west. The topography had changed beyond recognition. Once familiar turf banks were no longer to be seen. A bog that we remember as being alive with nature and human activity at this time of year was lonely and eerily silent.
Apart from the man and his dogs, there was no sign of life. A bog in which cry of the curlew, known locally as the corloon, and the skylark’s song were familiar as a musical backdrop, seemed devoid of wild birds and plants.
Tree-planting had taken over Tureenamult Bog, something that has been happening countrywide since the 1980s. And in the distance could be seen wind turbines, symbols of a new era and new energy.
On a hopeful note, however, attitudes to boglands seem to be changing. In parts of the Midlands where there was large-scale, commercial peat extraction by Bord na Móna, there are signs nature is slowly returning. Turraun Bog, in west Offaly, was the first to come out of production. Flooded in 1991, it is now said to be the most species-rich bog in the area, with 110 bird species and 270 plants.
One of the rarest butterflies in Europe has again been seen in Turraun after a 22-year absence. Bord na Móna ecologists have confirmed a recent sighting there of the marsh fritillary butterfly, described by the company’s head of ecology, Joe Lane, as a discovery of European significance.
Often criticised for destroying the bogs, Bord na Móna claims this beautiful butterfly has returned because of the extensive rehabilitation work that has taken place in Turraun and at the nearby Lough Boora Discovery Park.
More data is needed, nevertheless, and Bord na Móna is asking people to take children, families and friends to help find more examples of this and other butterflies. Photographs and details can be sent to email@example.com.
The marsh fritillary, which lives in wetlands and bog margins, is the only Irish butterfly protected at a European level. It has black, white and orange markings and adults are most active in flight from May to early July. They fly in mainly sunny conditions. Look out for them.
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