TWO birds we remember from days in the bog, many years ago, we rarely see now.
The curlew, with its long, bending beak and lonesome cry, has been declining for decades. The skylark, which we recall as a songbird that would almost suspend itself in the air over a turf bank, has been suffering the same fate.
Experts believe their situation is due to loss of habitat, caused mainly by bog drainage, land reclamation and forestry. But there are hopes the population of these and other endangered bird species can be increased. Coillte, for instance, has a major project to restore 685 hectares of wetland habitat.
Alex Copland, BirdWatch Ireland’s senior conservation officer, told a recent conference the project has benefits for birds that use bog habitats, also including the meadow pipit, teal, and snipe. As the restored habitats stabilise over time, these areas should become increasingly valuable for such species, and wildlife in general, into the future.
Those attending the conference visited Schohaboy Bog, near Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, where a boardwalk, bog bridge and viewing platform with uninterrupted views of the bog were constructed as part of the raised bog restoration project to increase public awareness of the conservation work and the value and beauty of the raised bogs.
This work was done under an EU Life Nature project, which is coming to an end, but Coillte is continuing to manage these sites through its biodiversity programme.
On sites across seven counties, trees have been removed and bogs ‘rewetted’ to create the conditions for the restoration of active, peat-forming habitats, as well as helping to enrich plant and animal life.
The €2.1m project, Demonstrating Best Practice in Raised Bog Restoration in Ireland, will implement best practice restoration techniques developed in previous Coillte raised bog restoration projects.
These sites are of international ecological importance as Ireland is among the last European countries where a range of peatlands still exists, according to Ciaran Fallon. The rewetted bogs will become a more diverse habitat for rare species of plants, insects and birds, while also creating a sink for atmospheric carbon, he added.
Goodbody Economic Consultants have estimated the economic value of nature and biodiversity on the Coillte estate to be €322m per annum, highlighting the major stake that Coillte holds of Ireland’s “natural capital”. Coillte is the leader in bog restoration and has been involved in the restoration of more than 3,200 hectares of bog since 2002.
The curlew has been removed from Ireland’s huntable species list, which is to be welcomed, but loss of habitat is the real issue.
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