Wednesday, 28 November 2012

December 4th Green Drinks - Green Christmas

This month the Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch Green Drinks heard about green, ethical, sustainable and wildlife friendly gifts and options for Christmas, and even had a chance to purchase some of the items. Who says it aint easy being Green?

First Ursula from Klee Paper told us about their 100% recycled and Irish made wrapping paper, cards and toys. Kleepaper source the material for their products from waste or buy locally or through fairtrade. As well as Christmas gifts, Kleepaper make a range of paper, envelopes, notebooks, pads and wooden products like rulers and pencils. All of their products are certified by Blue Angel, European Eco-label, or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). One of Kleepaper's customers, Natasha was also on hand to tell us about her range of homemade Christmas Star decorations made from hawthorn twigs sourced in County Meath.

Next Kaethe Burt O'Dea from the LIFE project talked about LifeLine Soaps and give us a brief project update. The soaps are made from high quality leftover cooking oil, and contains scented herbs locally grown from compost or foraged from the locality (like rosehips). Finally Andreas Birk from spoke about the CarbonStory project which is all about how people can offset their carbon footprint. The project works by calculating the carbon footprint of each member and allowing them to buy credits by contributing to an environmental project - either renewable energy, carbon capture, reforestation or greater energy efficiency projects. Food for thought and a different Christmas gift.

Games from Kleepaper

Saturday, 10 November 2012

15th November Dublin Branch Pub Quiz!

The Dublin Branch of IWT held a pub quiz on the 15th November last at the Lombard pub, right next to Pearse Street station. There was a fantastic turnout on the night with over twenty tables - so competition was fierce! Topics ranged from science to entertainment to geography, to match the quote with the famous person, and the penalty for sneaky googling on the mobile phone was €5, so brainpower only could be used. Along with free food there were cool spot prizes throughout the night (like free Starbucks coffee) for knowing important stuff, like the names of all the Bond Girls, or who wrote the theme music for Father Ted! There was also a raffle for more cool things (we got a few singular donations) and the winning team got loads of food and drink to help them stock up for Christmas! A great night was had all round and an amazing total of €860 was earned for the IWT! Well done to organizers Kate and Debbi!

11th November Killiney Strand Walk

On Sunday 11th November about 30 people from Dublin IWT turned out on a crisp November day to join marine and wetland expert Tim Clabon for a strand walk on Killiney beach. Tim first showed the group how the seaweed oar wrack can cling tightly onto the smallest rock, using a kind of adhesive and a network of tiny roots. He also showed the group several species of crab, including velvet swimming crab, edible crab and porcelain crab. Other creatures encountered were leaf worms, and a gunnel - a kind of eel-like fish. Tim also found a dead sponge, cracking it open to show the gooey, decaying middle complete with tiny worms. Some of the adults were less than impressed by this, but the kids loved it! A dead dogfish, complete with aroma, completed the day. The dogfish is a member of the shark family, and the resemblance can be seen in its shape. The group then returned to the DART station, considerably better informed, and a few new members were signed up - so a good day all round!

Tim showing how oar wrack clings to rocks 

Tim with velvet swimming crab

Tim with sponge

Dead dogfish. Dogfish is a kind of shark

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

November 6th - Green Drinks Sustainable clothing

This month IWT Dublin Branch's Green Drinks talk was about sustainable clothing. Lynn MacPherson, creator of eco-clothing label Salty Philip spoke about the idea of reducing the negative impact of conventional fabric production on the environment and the people who make it. By making beautiful contemporary clothes, Salty Philip aims to banish the idea that eco is dull, and bring life to each garment.

Lynn talked about some of the facts and figures around clothing production. Europeans alone generate about 14m tonnes of textile waste each year, of which only 5m tonnes is recycled. This is a great pity as over 90% of textile waste can be re-used in reprocessed fibres, packing and insulation. Another important issue is buying organic. Cotton in particular cannot be grown without heavy use of pesticides that can cause cancer, blindness and fetal deformities. They are also very expensive, leading many farmers into financial ruin. In India alone, 25,000 farmers have committed suicide because of debt problems! Luckily organic cotton can now be bought in many chain stores. Fair Trade products are also important as it ensures that those involved in making clothes receive a living wage and fair labour standards. 

There are also alternatives to conventional clothing. Bamboo can be made into a fibre and grows quickly without the need for much fertiliser, pesticides or water. However, strong chemical are needed in the process of making the bamboo fibres so this is an option that needs to be considered carefully. Another option is fish skin leather, which is simply discarded at the moment, but can be used to make items such as shoes, belts and purses. A potentially exciting new source of organic clothing that has recently been developed is the option of making clothes out of milk! Some of Lynn's wares were on display at the talk and attracted great interest, and everyone present certainly had their minds opened to the other options that are out there.

Lynn and some of her clothes

Thursday, 25 October 2012

October 27th Phoenix Park Deer rut

On the 27th of October 2012 the IWT Dublin Branch met at 9am in the Phoenix Park to witness the annual Deer Rut. Despite the early start and the chill in the air there was a great turn out.  We started off at the Papal Cross car park and we walked towards the forest. Dr. Favel Naulty who has studied the Fallow Deer in the Phoenix Park for 10 years gave a very informative talk on the history and the behaviour of the deer. We saw a large group of deer emerging from the forest. We witnessed the males fighting with their antlers and heard the squeals of the young fawn’s callings for their mothers.  Dr. Favel answered many questions from the group and gave a great insight about the Fallow Deer. Thank you again to Dr. Favel and to all who attended.

Misty morning in Phoenix Park

Dr Favel Naulty explains about the deer

Face off in the Phoenix Park

Fallow Deer Phoenix Park

Thursday, 18 October 2012

21st October - Creepy Crawly Event

The Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch held a Creepy Crawly Workshop and Walk in the Phoenix Park on the 21st October to coincide with the scariest time of the year – Halloween!!

We started out by setting up some pitfall traps the day before. They were loaded up with some rotten fruit and meat in order to attract as much insects and bugs as we could! These were covered over with some wood to prevent any rain or small mammals from getting into the traps.

The day of the Workshop was bright and dry. Perfect weather for some bug hunting! We had a great turn out with over 20 kids attending along with their parents (who were just as interested as the kids!). The children were given a bug viewer, an insect colouring book, an insect key and a Badger Club magazine to kick start their creepy crawly interest. We started off with Kevin Delahunty explaining all the equipment that we were going to use and how they all worked. The kids were very interested in the beating trays, pooters, pitfall traps and sweep nets that we had to show them.

The first stop was to the pitfall traps (which we had emptied beforehand into a tray so they were free of rotten food!). The kids all gathered around to see how they worked. We then showed them what we had found in the trap which included some slugs, a ground beetle, some small spiders and even some eggs which a fly had laid on a piece of the meat. We then moved on to the beating tray and the children had a fun time shaking branches to see what fell out onto the beating tray. They were given pooters to suck up the insects to identify them. This was followed by a sweep net demonstration in some tall grass. The children then spread out to search for some insects on their own using their bug viewers and some borrowed pooters. They found a huge range of insects including several species of spiders, a harvestman, a millipede, several species of snails, some worms, a 7-spot ladybird, a cranefly and lots of froghoppers and woodlouse. Overall it was a great day and everyone enjoyed themselves and hopefully we sparked some lifelong bug interests in the children (and maybe some of the adults).

Friday, 5 October 2012

Spirit of Folk Festival

The IWT had a presence at the Spirit of Folk Festival in Navan on 21- 23 September last. We arrived at the festival early Friday morning and to a warm reception from the staff,  which included a couple of the many friendly dogs on site, who were roaming around in crew and security jackets. The staff campsite was filled with trees and two donkeys who were only too happy to relieve us of any juicy apples we may have had.  After dropping off our camping equipment, we began setting up our stall in the main area. We hadn't even  finished when someone shouted and pointed up to the sky. To add to the excitement of day one of a festival, we saw not one but an entire family of buzzards! Two adults soared overhead with two juveniles with them. 

The atmosphere among the group was of sheer joy. The music was great with friendly faces all around. Our species sightings board also became full quite fast, with all sorts of wildlife from squirrels to frogs and shield bugs to donkeys! We were all surprised by the sighting of Ireland's native Smooth Newt, not near the water as you might expect but rocking out at the main stage beside one of the benches! The weather during the day was warm although as the day progressed to night this began to change first to slightly chilly and then to absolutely freezing! It was time to wrap up as much as possible and attempt to get a good night sleep in preparation for day two.

Once the stall opened there was a steady flow of interested people coming up to ask general wildlife questions. Some people showed a keen interest in gaining some new knowledge about Irish wildlife with particular interest being shown in our badger campaign. The children were very interested in our arts and crafts and many “Super Bugs” were made out of clay, beads and shells. Our animal quizzes proved a great source of fun and humour as the kids tried to name all the animals to win some free sweets. These quizzes were of particular interest to some children, who became very familiar faces over the course of the weekend and managed to charm us out of many sweets and lolly pops.  We had some people coming back to tell us what they had found in the woods and even some people talking about the wildlife in their area and around their homes. Our design-your-own wooden medallions were very popular and before long almost every child at the festival could be seen with one around their neck.

IWT Stand

The wildlife event of the day took place at 2PM when Tim Clabon led a very informative wildlife walk through the woods and around the pond. There was a great turn out leaving the stand and although we lost some people along the way, we were joined by others as well. After a short walk through the woods describing the different shrub and tree species and the corvids (crows) overhead it was time for some sweep netting and collection of insects with the use of a pooter. There were many species collected including orb spiders, harvestman, beetles and some parasitic wasps. The inspections under moss covered logs brought up centipedes and millipedes and the pond dipping also proved fruitful with the addition of water beetles and pea cockles. We rounded off the day watching a blind date show involving some people from the festival and some questionable karaoke.

After a second chilly night we were up early to start the day back at the stand answering more questions and losing more sweets to children. We all took some time off to visit the falconry display. The falconers involved us in holding and feeding the birds of prey including Harris Hawks and a beautiful Eagle Owl. The involvement of children in the display was done very well and everyone seemed to be really enjoying themselves. After this display it was time to bring on the awareness of Ocean2012 and sustainable fisheries. We rounded up a huge group of people to make a fantastic fish shape and followed this with a talk by Kevin Delahunty on the problems of overfishing and how it is affecting you. There was a good turnout for the talk and a good few questions asked and answered throughout and after it. As the sun began to sink in the sky it was time for our own Conn Flynn to give a talk in one of the tents about the IWT's badger campaign. The talk was attended by some farmers, some of who disagreed with all of the points brought up and there was an enjoyable discussion to follow. After the talk it was time to begin packing up. It was dark as we left the festival and headed home for a much needed rest. 

Roisin Mary Kearney & Kevin Delahunty

Conn's Talk

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

October 7th National Trails Day Cliff Walk

On Sunday October 7th the Dublin Branch celebrated National Trails Day  with a scenic cliff walk from the Waterside Hotel, Donabate to Portrane. It was a gloriously sunny morning with a great turnout of about eighty people, to walk along what is considered one of Dublin’s most scenic walks, with a great view of Lambay Island, Howth and the rugged coastline itself. 

The first birds we saw were oyster catchers and turnstones running along the rocks, and as the tide was in, waders like curlews and godwits feeding in the fields to our left. A lone heron also was hunting in the field - perhaps looking for mice! We were also joined by a solitary grey seal who observed us at various points as we walked along.  A nice variety of seashore wildflowers was also visible on the path as we walked along, like the sea spurrey in the picture blow. 

The best birdwatching was found when the group reached the shoreline under the Martello Tower in Portrane. Along with a few cormorants sunning themselves with outstretched wings on the rocks, we also saw a guillemot in its winter plumage. This confused some of us initially as the chocolate brown summer head colouring is replaced with much more white in the winter. With the aid of a telescope the group also identified a red throated diver out in the water. Various species of gulls and terns were also spotted overhead, and visible in the distance was the island of Rockabill near Skerries, where most of northern Europe's population of roseate terns go to breed. A stonechat with its orange breast was also glimpsed on the rocks around the group, which was a good thing to see as their population has crashed due to the two very bad winters we had recently. 

As the group headed back to Donabate the sky clouded over, but the rain held off and overall, everyone was happy to have seen some of the amazing birdlife that Dublin's coastline has to offer!
Photo courtesy of Joy

Sea Spurrey - courtesy of Joy

The shore below Portrane Martello Tower - courtesy of Joy

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

2nd October Green Drinks - GM Foods

IWT Dublin continued with our monthly Green Drinks on the first Tuesday of the month where we tackled the controversial issue of Genetically Modified foods. Conor McGee, postgraduate researcher at UCD bravely took on the task of talking about GMO's and handling the debate that ensued. Conor, although not currently working with GMO crops is very familiar with the issue, and was speaking from a pro-GMO stance. Conor explained the difference between trans and cis modification - transgenesis is where genes are inserted from a non related species, and cisgenesis is where genes are inserted from a closely related species (i.e. one with which it could be conventionally bred). Conor further explained his point of view by highlighting that the GM potato trials being undertaken by Teagasc at the moment would take about 17 years to do using conventional methods - whereas using GM methods, it will take only a couple of years. Furthermore, if this trial is successful it will reduce the need for the current 15 pesticide sprays a year to avoid blight, to just two!! 

Conor also highlighted to us that using radiation to cause mutation in food organisms has been ongoing for years and is accepted as a standard practice. However anti-GMO groups do not seem to complain about this method, even though it is far more uncontrolled and we don't know how many genes are affected at a time. Conor concluded by saying that he believed the future lies in taking the best practices from GM crops, conventional breeding and organic farmers and blending them to find the best way forward. 

At this stage some of our Green Drinkers joined the conversation to point out that organic farmers manage to produce crops without any pesticide application at all and a lively debate ensued!!! Some visiting American students gave their opinion that the debate between organic vs GM crops is somewhat redundant as it is a debate for the first world - this is not a realistic issue, nor is it a choice for the areas where food is shortest and where these techniques can really be of benefit - they need more resistant crops with higher yields, and they need them yesterday

Overall, it was a lively Green Drinks with over 50 attendees - which served to entertain and inform, as many differing opinions came together to open an important discussion. IWT's Green Drinks organiser, Debbi Pedreschi rounded off the evening by asking the attendees to raise their hands to show if they were pro, anti, or undecided when it came to GMO's. Although the majority were still undecided, we were surprised to learn that the next largest category were pro-GMO!!! It was generally agreed by the audience that research into topics such as GM crops needs to be tightly regulated and should be carried out through public funding, rather than large multinational companies that will use the data for profit, instead of tackling rising issues such as climate change and the worsening global food crisis. 

The issues driving the GM debate

A humorous look at public fears of GM

GM foods have the potential to be more drought resistant

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Sept 4th - Green Drinks Enda Reilly's Songs

On Tuesday Sept 4th IWT Dublin Branch assembled in Messrs Maguire pub for its monthly Green Drinks to hear singer songwriter, Enda Reilly perform some of his educational, informative and very witty songs about the environment and climate change. Enda normally sings these songs in schools as part of his Climate Change Songs Workshop Initiative, which brings fun educational songs in English and as Gaeilge into schools. Everyone present was greatly entertained by a medley of songs suitable for all ages. 

Highlights included 'Chewing the cud' about a cow digesting his meal to make milk - and lots of methane! -, and 'The Polar Bear Song' about a poor polar bear losing his home as the ice melts.  Also good was the 'Oxygen song' about how 21% of our atmosphere is oxygen, and it might be a good idea to keep it that way! We all sang along to the chorus of 'inhale, exhale' with appropriate deep breaths and heard about Enda's unique idea for renewable energy - harnessing all the people peddling 'in gyms around the world!' 

As if that wasn't enough excitement for one night, Green Drinks Dublin and the Irish Wildlife Trust also launched their new Logo!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

19th August - Heritage Week Walk Carrick Gollaghan

Dublin Branch IWT Celebrates Heritage Week – 19th August

A group of Dublin branch members and non-members arrived at Carrick Gollaghan Hill to explore the built heritage and natural heritage of the area. Thankfully the weather held for us most of the afternoon and we just had a few light showers. We headed first for the tunnels and chimney of the Ballycorus Leadmines where we explored a short length of the now protected Ballycorus Leadmines complex. The main purpose of the tunnels and chimney was to convey the fumes up to high ground and be expelled into the air at higher altitudes away from the smelting works below in the valley.

From these structures, we meandered through the neighbouring Coillte forest, walked along a short length of the Dublin Mountains Way. We took a small detour before climbing up the mount of Carrick Gollaghan by walking along a forest path that appears on the old 1830s Ordnance Survey map. Doing what thousands had done before for maybe 200 years seemed fitting for the occasion.

A few mushrooms were looked at but none tried. It was too early for blackberries and too late for fraochan. With bottles of water and snack eaten we gently climbed to the 927 feet altitude. Various mountains of north Wicklow, and Dublin were pointed out. In the heather vegetation, swallows darted in and out. After a much needed rest, we made the descent and returned to the car park.

Scots Pines

Entrance to leadmine tunnel

Leadmine chimney

Lichen showing the air is clean now

Carrick Golloghan mount

7th August - Green Drinks - Fracking

This month Dublin Branch Green Drinks heard Ineke Scholte of talk about the controversial issue of fracking. At the moment exploratory licences have been granted to companies in Ireland north and south of the border to look at possible sites for fracking. This has generated local opposition from those opposed on environmental grounds, but proponents of fracking say that it will reduce our reliance on fuel imports and generate much needed local employment.

So what is fracking? Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing which involves pumping a mix of water, sand and chemical under huge pressure into gas bearing rocks. The first step in the process involves drilling a shaft to reach the shale layer, sometimes as deep as 2.5km. Small explosions are then set into the shale layer fracturing it. The water, sand and chemicals are then pumped in at high pressure to enlarge the cracks and release the gas. Supporters of fracking say that this can be done safely and has been done in many places before. Opponents of fracking say that it is an inherently risky process and can contaminate ground water and destabilise local geology, and that it has never been done in a country with a geology like Ireland's.

After Ineke's presentation, a lively and sometimes heated discussion followed between those in favour and those against fracking. The arguments for and against fracking involve very technical issues, and also the broader issue of whether fracking can act as a bridge to tide us over until renewable energies come on stream, or whether it is actually a distraction, helping to postpone action on renewables. The discussion ended without agreement except that people should inform themselves further on this very important issue.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

12th August - Beach Safari and Snorkelling

On Sunday the 12th of August the Irish Wildlife Trust held a beach safari led by Kevin Delahunty at Portmarnock beach. The beach safari was based mainly around the rock pools and began at 10:30 as the tide was low, making the rocks pools easily accessible. There was a brilliant turn out with lots of parents bringing their children along to learn about the different species we have on our rocky shores.

We began by investigating what creates the small casts along the beach and discovered that they are created by lugworms. After digging one up and explaining their life cycle to the children, we were off to the rock pools in search of other species. And we were in no way disappointed!

We found lots of different species as the rock pools in Portmarnock contain a huge amount of wildlife. We very quickly found a number of common gobies and common prawns. One young wildlife enthusiast even caught a flounder in his net! We also collected many shore crabs from tiny to quite large.

Kevin talked about the different molluscs we had on our shores as we examined limpets, mussels, periwinkles and dog whelks. We were treated not only to beadlet anemones with full tentacle extension but also to some tube anemones as well. 

IWT was also to team up with CFT for the event in order to include a snorkel and discover what other species we have under the water as well as above. However do to bad weather conditions and a very rough sea the snorkel had to be cancelled. This will be rescheduled at a later date so keep checking the blog and our facebook page to find out when!

Many thanks to all who came out and made it a really great morning on the beach.


Shore Crab

gone fishing

28th July - Bray Beach Clean-up

On 28th July the national SEA LIFE Centre and IWT Dublin Branch held a Beach Clean on Bray Beach to raise awareness of marine pollution and the detrimental effects it can have on marine animals and raise awareness for OCEAN 2012. There was a good turnout of least 40 people and a lot of good work was done cleaning the beach - at least judging by the many plastic sacks that were collected afterwards. Important work was done too in recording the type of material washed up on the beach, which will help conservationists to understand the problem of pollution better.   After the beach clean, volunteers were invited into SEA LIFE for a tour of the aquarium for a small donation to our conservation fund and then gathered on the beach to make another FISH SHAPE for OCEAN2012 Fish Weeks. A fun packed day was had by all!


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

7th July - Trip to Ireland's Eye

Boat trip to Ireland’s Eye: Saturday, 7th July
Wow, what a wonderful day we had on our second visit to the island this year:  the trip turned out to be just perfect. We were blessed with beautiful sunshine and were fortunate to see scores of gannets, kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots and razorbills in all their splendour, but most importantly we were able to admire some puffins, Ireland’s most colourful seabirds.
We were lucky, too, to have Sean Hogan lead the walk because he drew our attention to many seabirds and their chicks which would otherwise have gone unnoticed. He shared with us his admirable knowledge of the importance of the island’s seabird colonies, their habitats, breeding sites and migration patterns and he taught us how to differentiate between the various gulls on the island.
We were fortunate also to have some enthusiastic photographers among the participants, who beautifully captured some of these spectacular birds. Thank you Ed Kealy for your stunning  photos.      

A Beautiful Day on Ireland's Eye



Puffins or 'sea parrots'

Protective Parents

Juvenile Gull

Thursday, 28 June 2012

3rd July Green Drinks Ocean 2012

IWT's summer of sustainable seas continued on 3rd July at its monthly meeting of Green Drinks with Mike Walker from OCEAN2012 ( coming to speak about overfishing and the OCEAN2012 campaign. OCEAN2012 is an alliance of organisations dedicated to stopping overfishing, ending destructive fishing practices and and delivering fair and equitable use of healthy fish stocks.

Mike outlined to the meeting some of the shocking facts and figures associated with overfishing. Currently, 63% of fish stocks in the Atlantic are overfished, 82% in the Mediterranean, and four out of the six stocks for which scientific advice is available in the Baltic. Over 20% of fish stocks are being fished beyond safe biological limits, meaning their very future is threatened. North Sea fish catches have declined from 3.5 million tonnes a year in 1995 to 1.5 million tonnes in 2007, and the larger fish at the top of the food chain are dying out as we literally eat our way through them. For example, North Sea cod reach spawning age at four years old, while the average age of cod caught in the North Sea is 1.6 years, meaning that 93% of cod are caught before they can reproduce. This means that there are virtually no large mature cod left. The difference between the cod caught in the past and the cod caught today can be seen in the two images below

At present, not only is the EU fleet is estimated to have the capacity to fish two to three times the sustainable level, but much of the fishing fleet is sustained by subsidies, meaning we are paying twice for our fish. The EU's Common Fisheries Policy needs to be changed urgently to bring about a sustainable fishing industry. Review of the Policy is underway at present, but vested interests opposing change mean it is vital to keep the pressure on policy makers.

Cod in the past

Cod today

Fish Shape outside Messr Maguires