Donal Hickey: No better time to be outdoors

It’s National Biodiversity Week and there’s hardly a better time for enjoying the outdoors. The Irish Environmental Network has helped organise over 50 free events across the country over nine days, May 19-27. All about encouraging people to connect with nature and celebrate the wildlife, plants and habitats on our doorsteps.

Donal Hickey: No better time to be outdoors

It’s National Biodiversity Week and there’s hardly a better time for enjoying the outdoors. The Irish Environmental Network has helped organise over 50 free events across the country over nine days, May 19-27. All about encouraging people to connect with nature and celebrate the wildlife, plants and habitats on our doorsteps.

Also timely is the launch of a manual by the EPA helping identify Irish wetlands, which include bogs, marshes, flood plains, wet woodlands and springs and other important areas in which nature can thrive. The curlew is among birds whose survival is threatened due to loss of wetland habitat.

The manual is published on behalf of the Ramsar Convention, an international agreement for cherishing wetlands, and is intended to aid non-specialists identify wetlands. Many such areas have been damaged, or lost, in recent years due to land drainage, commercial turf-cutting, road building and urban developments.

Rather than looking at obvious rivers, lakes and ponds, the manual focuses on wetland habitats which are more difficult to define, using plenty of photographs. A field survey form is also attached.

Biodiversity Week kicked off with a tour of Abbeyleix Bog, Co Laois, on Saturday (May 19), led by environmental broadcasters Éanna Ní Lamhna and Anja Murray. Over 550 species are recorded on the bog, including hen harrier, curlew, short-eared owl and red squirrel. Not too far away, five curlew were recently recorded at Lodge Bog, Co Kildare.

Meanwhile, following our recent column on the cuckoo and the Scaraveen weather phenomenon, we received reports of the bird being heard in many areas. Its call was heard coming from the Comeragh Mountains in the early days of days May by Jim Butler while golfing in Clonmel, Co Tipperary.

“This is an annual event which we look forward to. My playing partners commented we could hear two cuckoos in different sides of the mountain,” he adds.

From Ennis, Co Clare, Tom Lynch reports the call echoing in the Burren, while noting the limestone rock there offers the cuckoo excellent camouflage. “The Clare Cuckoo Survey 2006 received around 960 records of calling cuckoos throughout the county. That might seem like a lot, but it was only a few decades earlier when the corncrake was heard all over the county. I wonder if the survey was carried out again 12 years on would the number of records be as high?” he says.

Finally, a number of events have been organised in counties Tipperary and Waterford as part of the inaugural Rhododendron Walking Festival over the June bank holiday weekend.

Activities start on Friday at 7pm in Clogheen Community Centre. See www.vee.ie

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