Birds, bees and many weeds on the hills

SINCE the EU introduced regulations leading to a huge reduction of sheep on the hills we’ve been hearing complaints about uncontrolled vegetation that can result in fires that sometimes get out of control. At certain times of the year, farmers set fires to burn off scrub to allow fresh grass grow.

Birds, bees and many weeds on the hills

In times past, grazing sheep did a lot of that scrub-control work and some breeds of cattle can do the same.

The practice is called ‘’conservation grazing’’ and native cattle such as Dexters and Kerries, which are light and hardy, are ideal, according to scientist Kilian Kelly.

The Youghal, Co Cork, native is currently researching the plant and wildlife of upland areas and how grazing animals can influence and conserve that habitat.“Native cattle can do well in such a habitat. Smaller than the type of cattle we see on farms these days, they were often known as ‘the poor man’s cow’ and had a dual purpose — milk and beef production,’’ he says. “In summertime, they would graze the uplands and the lowlands in winter. They helped prevent the development of scrub in the uplands.’’

Kilian, who is doing a biodiversity doctorate on the subject at the Institute of Technology, Tralee, will outline his findings at the first of the annual series of autumn talks under the aegis of Killarney National Park, next Thursday night. His study is based at the Mount Brandon Nature Reserve in the Dingle Peninsula.

The second talk, on October 16, will be on an entirely different subject. State underwater archaeologist Connie Kelleher will concentrate on what lies beneath the waves. She has carried out a number of studies on shipwrecks, including the Spanish Armada. An expert in that area, Connie works with the National Monuments Service and is the holder of doctorate from TCD.

It’s been a great year for creepy-crawlies and former UL associate professor John Breen will unfold a mine of information on the hairy wood ant in Ireland, during his talk, on October 23, while Aoife Mac Giolla Coda, from Tipperary, will share her knowledge of the relationship between plants and honeybees, on October 30.

The ‘’upstairs-downstairs’’ nature of the life in the big house will come under the microscope when Killarney journalist Breda Joy takes the podium on November 6.

The talks, all of which will be in the Killarney Plaza Hotel, at 8pm, will conclude on November 13, with Cormac Foley taking on the topic, Great Gardens Along the Gulf Stream.

Now retired, Cormac spent a lifetime working in the national parks service and has first-hand knowledge of gardens — an interest which seems to be growing in popularity.

More in this section