Monday, 16 December 2013

December 3rd - Green Drinks Antarctic Adventure

This month the Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch heard the wonderful Eimear Carlin come to talk to us about her adventures to the ends of the earth! Eimear was selected as the only Irish participant on the 2041 Antarctic Youth Ambassador Programme in 2013. The present Antarctic Treaty which states that Antarctica is to be used only for scientific and peaceful purposes expires in 2041, and the aim of the programme is to create an international coalition of youth defenders who will champion renewable energy as the path to saving the continent in the future.

In March she completed an expedition to Antarctica with representatives from major oil and gas companies, and 18 young future leaders from around the world. The aim of this expedition was to raise awareness about the Antarctic Treaty and the importance of protecting the continent for future generations. In June, Eimear also travelled extensively in the Canadian Arctic and saw first-hand the effects of climate change, and intensive destruction of natural resources on Indigenous populations and the natural environment in the North. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

17th November - birdwatching for beginners at Booterstown Marsh

The Dublin Branch of IWT went birdwatching for beginners at Booterstown Sanctuary on Sunday, 17 November. Once again we were fortunate to have Sean Hogan (Birdwatch Ireland) as our guide for this event which attracted some 20 IWT members. As ever, Sean had everything well prepared; with background information about the marsh and its history, handouts containing information about the species in residence and good advice about bird identification guides and the best binoculars to use. We were very lucky to spot many of the birds that Sean had highlighted in his handout. All in all a very enjoyable few hours with very positive feedback from those in attendance.


Eoin leads the way

Looking out over Booterstown Marsh

I wonder where the birdies are?

Sean gives us the benefit of his wisdom

Monday, 18 November 2013

12th November Green Drinks - Granby Park

On Tuesday November 12th the Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch gathered in J.W. Sweetmans (formerly Messrs Maguires on Burgh Quay to hear Annemarie Ní Churreáin a, writer, arts worker and co-founder of the non-profit voluntary arts collective that is the wonderful Upstart! The mission of Upstart is too highlight the importance of creativity and ingenuity in solving society's problems, and in particular by bringing arts to the community. Upstart's first project was to put 1,000 images of public art to the streets of Dublin during the last general election, which turned into one of the biggest public arts projects in the history of the state.

Upstart 'election' poster

This year, Upstart transformed a vacant space on Dominick Street, in the center of Dublin city, into a pop-up park over four weeks from August to September. Granby Park consisted of up-cycled, recycled, donated and found material and featured some of the city’s most talented artists, architects, performers and planners contributing to making an empty space a playground for all. For four weeks the park hosted free arts events, an outdoor theatre and cinema, live music and educational activities and a pop-up café. The park was made possible by collaboration with Dublin City council, planners, landscape planners, architects, designers, research and education groups and most importantly, the local community. The aim of the project was to show how vacant spaces in the city could be used creatively and to bring something special to Dublin city and its residents. It also aimed to provide a lift to people's spirits and counter the apathy and negativity so prevalent in these austerity times.

Panoramic View of Granby Park

Music event on the stage made from pallets

Monday, 7 October 2013

October 1st Green Drinks - Exotic Pets

This month the IWT Dublin Branch heard Kayleigh Keegan, founder of Kayleigh's Sanctuary for Exotic Pets, talk about the weird pet fads created by cartoon classics, and the disastrous environmental effects that follow.

A lot of fads for exotic pets start from films. A love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films brought a mania for terrapins, and  the Harry Potter films created an urge for owls. But what happens when the films end? Buyer beware: Michelangelo will live for 40 years, Hedwig will not nip you affectionately, and Babe is listed as one of the worst invasive species in the world.

The most common exotic animal to be sold is the terrapin. So many are being bought and then dumped that populations have become established in many places, like Dublin's canals and St. Anne's Park in Raheny. Terrapins are tough animals and can hibernate in cold weather, so many are able to survive for years. More worrying still, if we have a hot enough summer, they could breed successfully in Ireland. There are unconfirmed reports of breeding populations, and if Irish summers become hotter due to global warming it is only a matter of time. Terrapins feed on fish, small frogs, newts and ducklings, so their impact on local wildlife could be devastating. Another successful invasive species is the last thing we need!

 Kayleigh explained how so many people buy terrapins, because many pet store are less than honest in what they tell people. The favourite ploy is to say that the cute baby terrapin will never grow any bigger, and that all it needs is a tiny little plastic 'pond' to survive. In fact the terrapin will grow to the size of a dinner plate, will live for decades and needs a specialist tank with a heat lamp, a UV lamp and a dry land area for sunning itself. Oh and it also needs proper food, clean water changed regularly, etc. The result is that a lot of people realise that terrapins are a much bigger commitment than they had realised and end up dumping them in a local pond or river, where most will die.  Fortunately there are sanctuaries in Ireland that take in unwanted terrapins and Kayleigh is happy to provide details if the sanctuary is contacted.

To sum up: Next year's release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could become the ecological crisis of the decade.

I may be cute but I need lots of long term care!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

12 October - Royal Canal Day Clean up

The Dublin Branch of IWT helped out on October 12th, Royal Canal Day when there was a massive-scale clean-up along the length of the Royal Canal from the city centre all the way out to Blanchardstown – a distance of 10km! Dublin Branch members met at 9:45am at Broombridge railway station to begin the clean up which will took about two hours. In total we gathered seven large plastic sacks full of rubbish, plus several large pieces of wood, plastic, and of course a large trolley! The event was very well organised by the Dublin City North Volunteer Centre who supplied us with gloves, plastic sacks and litter pickers. They even had the Civil Defence out on boats along the canal to pick up that hard-to-reach rubbish out in the water.

Afterwards, we all headed to the Brian Boru pub in Phibsboro for some welcome tea, coffee and finger food where we were entertained by a local choir. The Dublin Branch also had a stand there where €46 worth of merchantise was sold, a new member was signed on, and the badger petition received about twnety signatures.

In the afternoon there was a Family Friendly Walk with Botanist Doogue, a Walking Tour with historian Pat Liddy and a Social Cycle along the Canal w/ Dublin Cycling Campaign.

Lastly it would be wrong to forget to mention that all who took part in the clean up got goodie bags, with a cool Irish Waterways water bottle, a Mars bar and lots of interesting info - including about the IWT!

Niall & Roisin with furry helper

Barbara and Roisin beside our trolley packed with rubbish bags

Kate and Sarah at the Dublin Branch stand

Thursday, 12 September 2013

September 3rd - Green Drinks - Eco Cement

DID YOU KNOW that if the construction industry reduced their construction emissions by 50%,4,000,000 tonnes of CO2 could be saved annually?

At the September meeting the Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch and Dublin Green Drinks heard Susan McGarry, Environmental Manager with the innovative Ecocem Ireland talk about the importance of embodied carbon in the built environment; how we need to shift our focus on to the embodied carbon of construction materials rather than the operational energy of buildings, and how low carbon, long-lasting, recycled materials like Ecocem's cement replacements can make a huge difference. Embodied carbon means the amount of carbon that is used making the material, as opposed to operational carbon that is emitted to produce energy.

Susan talked about Ecocem's low carbon cement which is based upon iron slag and as such is based on a 100% recyclable material. It therefore creates far fewer carbon emissions in its production than ordinary cement. This base also makes their ecocem GGBS cement very long lasting and durable, generally doubling the life of structures made from it, in comparison to similar structures made from ordinary cement. This of course reduces the amount of carbon emissions overall. Most of the carbon footprint of any structure is made during its construction, so if this is reduced there is a significant saving. 

Climate change concerns us all. Despite repeated warnings, and its effects being felt around the world, we have yet not managed to do very much about it. Ecocem products at least offer one way we can help to reduce carbon emissions.

Its durability means GGBS ecocement can be used for structures like seawalls
- useful at a time of rising sealevels. 

Monday, 26 August 2013

August 18th - Walk on Howth Head

On August 18th, the Dublin Branch celebrated Heritage Week when a strong group of 35 people, led by Sarah Rubalcava, joined together to explore and learn about the rich heritage of Howth Head. We followed one of the way-marked trails named the Black Linn looped walk. This takes in the cliffs, the summit and heathland areas.

Howth Head is one of Ireland’s Special Areas of Conservation, designated under the EU’s Habitat’s Directive. Two important habitats are found on Howth Head, one being dry heathland which is mainly found in the most western areas of Europe and secondly sea cliffs which provide essential areas for sea birds.

Howth Head’s dry heathland protected under EU
 Habitat’s Directive. Ireland’s Eye in background. 

We came across recently burnt areas of gorse, which the NPWS has identified as one of the threats facing this area. It was interesting to see areas that had previously been burnt slowly recover. Other threats include recreation and the spread of invasive species. The importance of using and protecting the long used paths now managed and maintained will help the natural vegetation in the long run. The two hour walk was interspersed with amazing views of Ireland’s Eye, a popular yearly destination organised by the Dublin Branch, views of Baily Light House, sea birds on the cliffs. One of the highlights though was visiting the goats.

Grace O'Malley, Maggie May and Delilah of the Goats for Howth Head Project 
managing the birch/bracken/gorse scrub

The ongoing encroachment of bracken, birch and gorse is also seen as a threat to the heathland habitat. In 2012, Fingal County Council with the help of Heritage Council funding, and Newbridge House and farm introduced goats onto Howth Head. In their second year now, it is hoped that they will help to keep the birch/bracken/gorse scrub under control. It is early days yet and one project worth following!

Many thanks to Thomas Byrne for taking the photos.

For more information on the goats:

Howth Walks :

Monday, 22 July 2013

13th July Irelands Eye Trip

On 13 July the Dublin Branch of IWT we had wonderful and memorable trips to Ireland’s Eye. Some sixty people turned out in glorious sunshine to hear Conn Flynn talk about and identify the numerous bird species as well as some of the flora and fauna. The beautiful weather added to the magic of seeing the bird parents and their noisy little chicks.

blackbacked gulls and sailboats
Lunchtime al fresco

I wish I could fly

Monday, 8 July 2013

July 7th Bull Island Wildflower walk

On Sunday 7th of July, members of the Dublin Branch gathered at the causeway on Bull island for a wildflower walk led by Dublin Branch member Niall Mac Coitir. In glorious sunshine many different wildflowers were spotted, including four kinds of orchids (early purple, common spotted, pyramidal and marsh helleborine), various members of the pea family (restharrow, birds foot trefoil, kidney vetch, and meadow vetchling) and many other flowers including yellow rattle, eyebright, centaury, haresfoot trefoil and ladies bedstraw.  For the two months of June and July the grasslands on Bull Island between the dunes and the golf courses are a riot of colours, for those who keep their eyes open. As one person on the trip put it: 'this is as good as the burren!' Indeed it is, and we should be proud in Dublin to have such a jewel in our crown.

Photos courtesy of Joy and Eoin.

mind your feet!

Birdsfoot trefoil
Lotus corniculatus 

Pyramidal orchid
Anacamptis pyramidalis

Marsh helleborine
Epipactis palustris

Early purple orchid
Orchis mascula

Common spotted orchid
Dactylorhiza fuschsii

Centaurium erythraea

Ladies bedstraw
Galium verum

Ononis repens

Monday, 1 July 2013

July 2nd - Green Drinks Wild About Products

On Tuesday 2nd July the Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch heard Fiona Falconer tell us all about her company - "Wild about " . Wild about is an innovative new Irish company making hand crafted Artisan foods from the wealth of native, seasonal and wild ingredients. Based in Co. Wexford Fiona and Malcom grow an array of wild native fruits, berries and herbs on their smallholding permaculture farm. "What we don't grow we get from neighbouring farms, we don't import anything that grows commercially here in Ireland, instead we work seasonally and we specialize in native wild ingredients like rose hips, haws, sloes, elderberries and my absolute favourite Nettles !"

Fiona was evangelical about the rich variety of foods and flavours that can be found in our native hedgerows and about how healthy and full of vitimins and minerals they are. If we all ate more of the bounty on our doorstep we would have far less need to buy expensive health foods and supplements from across the globe. Who needs goji berries when you have nettles and elderberries? The key to making the most of our native resources is accepting that they are seasonal, and our demand to have every kind of fruit and vegetable available 365 days of the year is what is environmentally unsustainable. That might seem limiting, but the point is - if you know your native plants well enough you realise that there is always something in season...

Wild about's products include Sloe margaritas, Nettle pesto, saucy haws adult ketchup ! . . . .

June 29th - Ireland's Eye Trip

Saturday June 29th saw the first of two of the Dublin Branch's annual trip to Ireland's Eye led by Sean Hogan. As usual a large number of people turned out for the short boat ride, and the weather was perfect. Lots of seabirds were seen including puffins, kittiwakes and great black backed gulls. However, along with the enjoyment of seeing so many amazing birds in their natural element there was the distressing sight of a herring gull with fishing tackle stuck in its mouth and foot. Although it is unpleasant, after a debate it was agreed to show the picture to highlight the issue of discarded fishing tackle causing death and injury to seabirds. Photos are by IWT member John Fox.

Puffins, also known as sea parrots


Great Black Backed Gull 

Herring Gull with fishing tackle caught in its mouth and foot

Monday, 17 June 2013

June 26th Dublin Branch Pub Quiz

On Wednesday June 26th, there was a big turn out for the Dublin Branch IWT quiz in Doyles Pub, opposite Trinity College. About twenty teams with names like 'The Nudey Newts' and the 'Guilty Badgers' competed  to win a variety of great prizes, including a raffle. Everyone also sampled the tempting food that was on offer. As well as general knowledge questions like 'what popular chain of stores is named after the first mate in Moby Dick?' (Starbucks) and (of course) lots of nature questions like 'what is the oldest breed of dog?' (greyhound) there was also a Simpsons round to separate the men/women from the boys/girls . Questions like 'what is the name of Mr Burns teddy bear?' (bubu), 'what does Smithers collect?' (barbie dolls) and 'what is Principal Seymour Skinner's real name?' (can't remember this one) kept the competition fierce. A lot of fun was had by all and €242 was raised for the IWT - so all in all a good night's work.

June 4th - Green Drinks - turf cutting

This month the Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch heard Andrew Jackson, An Taisce's Natural Heritage Officer talk about the 'History and the Future of EU nature conservation policy'. Andrew also discussed the controversial topic of the turf cutting ban in raised bog SACs, attempts at resolving the conflict, and the light this dispute sheds on the future of EU biodiversity policy. In 2012 at least a third of the protected 53 raised bog Natura 2000 sites were cut, and the indications are that cutting is continuing in 2013. Efforts to enforce the protection of the bogs are still failing and matters are urgent at this stage. 36% of the remaining raised bog was lost between 1994 and 2005 and it is estimated that one third of the remaining 1% of the original raised bogs will be lost in the next ten years.

An Taisce, The National Trust for Ireland is one of Ireland’s oldest environmental and NGOs which serves to protect Ireland’s built and natural environment. Those of you familiar with IWT will know that this fits wonderfully into our Turf cutting campaign and our SAC watch program.

Turf Cutting at Monivea, Co. Galway Picture - Friends of the Irish environment

Monday, 20 May 2013

May 7th Green Drinks - Green Divers

On Tuesday May 7th the Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch gathered in the top floor of J.W. Sweetman (formerly Messrs Maguires) to hear Seamus Heffernan talk about the Green Divers initiative. Green Divers aim is to encourage the protection of coastal areas and raise awareness of Irish marine life, and to organise monthly underwater and shoreline clean ups in the Dublin area. Most people may not realise that as well as litter on land, there is also a lot of litter underwater, both from boats and litter washed out to sea, and  that marine litter is a major problem along our coasts. The Green Divers initiative aims to do something about this by encouraging divers to do a bit of litter picking when they dive and take some litter ashore with them. This involves a monthly shoreline and underwater clean up in a scenic coastal area, with a barbeque afterwards where the hard working volunteers can unwind. The litter that is removed is recorded so that the kinds of litter can be better known and the impact of marine debris better understood.

Seamus went through all the different types of litter that can be found on the sea floor, and also talked about the amazing diversity of Irish marine life found in the Irish sea.  As well as the usual problems from glass and plastic bottles and drink cans, a major source of littering comes from old car tyres, which are used by boats to prevent damage from bumping into harbour walls and each other. Inevitably many become detached and are lost overboard. It was once thought that dumping old car tyres would help to create underwater reefs, but this idea didn't work and now in places like Florida, millions of old car tyres litter the sea floor and have to be expensively removed. Old fishing lines and nets are also a major problem as they become a major problem for wildlife. 

To save us all from getting too depressed, Seamus interspersed his pictures of litter with some of the amazing and colourful wildlife to be seen around our coastline. As well as unusual fish like the butterfish and common dragonet, Seamus' passion for wildlife made us see the beauty in creatures like sponges, worms and echinderms (starfish, sea-urchins etc). And who knew that the octupus was a kind of mollusc! Everyone was much better informed about our marine wildlife, and those of you familiar with IWT will know that the Green Diver initiative fits wonderfully into ourSustainable Seas and Pretty Litter Campaigns

Some litter from 40 foot clean up

Double spiral worm

Seamus explains Green Divers to RTE

Monday, 8 April 2013

April 2nd Green Drinks Dublin Cycling Campaign

This month Green Drinks heard Muireann O'Dea from the Dublin Cycling Campaign tell us why cycling is good for both you AND the environment, what the Dublin Cycling Campaign has been doing on the behalf of cyclists for the last 20 years, and new initiatives that will make cycling in Dublin even better!

The Dublin Cycling Campaign is an independent voluntary lobby group that has been campaigning for a decade and a half to make Dublin city a better place for cyclists. Among their campaigns are for 30km/h speed limits between the canals, as international research shows that lower speeds are a major factor in increasing road safety; much better enforcement of existing laws on speeding and dangerous driving, with a much greater garda presence; and cycle-friendly traffic calming measures, such as ramps and barriers that can be bypassed by cyclists. The campaign also wants redesign of large junctions where 75% of accidents occur, and the provision of more cycle lanes that conform to best practice. Some of the cycle lanes provided at the moment are substandard and actually worse than nothing because they provide no additional safety at all, but can lull riders into a false sense of security. Cycle lanes on footpaths are also unacceptable as they make conditions worse for cyclists and pedestrians.

The campaign has achieved some notable successes, such as restrictions on heavy vehicles in the city centre, better public bicycle parking provision in the city centre, and the establishment of the cycle forum for Dublin City. The Dublin Cycling campaign also works to promote the benefits of cycling to the public, trying to get across not only the environmental and health benefits, but  that cycling can be incredibly cool and stylish!

Dublin Cycling Campaign Logo

On Yer Bike!


March 24th - Woodland walk in Massey Woods

On March 24th the Dublin Branch of IWT brought 70th Porterstown Beaver Scouts on a woodland walk in Massey Woods. The scouts really enjoyed themselves and their leaders sent the Dublin Branch this report telling us about all the nature they saw:

Despite the cold, once we started the hike all the young minds were focused on the wonders of the woods with some general chit chat with their friends! With the cold weather the air borne insects and birds ( we did see one robin!) mostly stayed at home but we found some mayfly larvae and shrimp bugs on the river bed using kick sampling method. We also found some spiders living on the branches of trees using the beating trays and the pooters. We learned about some of the fantastic trees in the woods ( hazel tree - no sign of any nuts - the squirrels did a good job taking the nuts into storage for the winter); king of the forest - sessile oak, the silver birch, the olde Yew tree, the Monterrey pine, the redwood/ sequoia trees and the 'kind of bearded' lime trees ( not to be confused with the ones that actually produce limes) and found out lots of interesting things - there was a dead deer on the path - most likely died of natural causes as deers don't have any predators; red squirrels eat the acorns from pine trees not preferred by grey squirrels, and much more.

We all had a great time - thanks to Roisin, Claire, Niall and Phil for making it so interesting and fun for the Beavers and the 3 cubs who joined us on the hike. Some parents joined us on the hike too - we were all heartened and impressed with the Irish Wildlife Trust Volunteers spending their time with us on a cold Sunday afternoon.

Many thanks.

Yours in Scouting,

Friday night Beaver Scouts - 70th Porterstown

talking about trees

Under the old oak tree

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

5th March Green Drinks - Sustainable Seas and Badgers

This month Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch heard about the Irish Wildlife Trust's key campaigns for sustainable seas and an end to the cull of Irish badgers.

Sustainable Seas – a lot done more to do
Pádraic Fogarty, IWT Campaigns Officer, outlined the situation so far. The good news is that European fisheries ministers have agreed to end the practice of discards, the wasteful practice of fishermen being forced to throw away any fish they catch for which they do not have a quota. As much as 80% of what a fisherman can catch has to be discarded this way, so banning discards is a big step forward.

The devil is in the detail however, as there are still issues to be worked out. For example, paying fishermen for the discarded catch would create a market, leading to even more overfishing, so the best (or least worst) option is for the fisherman to simply 'donate' the fish free to the state for research. Also, a blanket ban on discards in all circumstances means that a fisherman would have to bring ashore protected species of fish that were still alive, instead of returning them to the sea.

Already the impact of the decision is being limited by the proposed ban only focussing on edible fish species, even though inedible marine life caught up in trawling can be equally important to a healthy marine environment. There has been significant progress towards ending overfishing since the IWT first started our Sustainable Seas campaign in 2010 – but we’re not there yet.

Typical net of a prawn fisherman -
everything that is not prawn has to be discarded
- even though it is most of the catch

Ireland's Badgers - fighting a losing battle?
Fintan Kelly explained the IWT's campaign to end the culling of badger in Ireland, which is meant to prevent BovineTb (Btb). Despite almost continuous culling of badgers for many years, the level of bovine Tb remains stubbornly high. Fintan explained how the level fluctuated more with the intensity of farm inspections than with any change in badger culling, yet despite this the IWT faces an uphill struggle to convince the government to change course in favour of a vaccination programme.

Government lack of action is partly due to hostility from farmers, who are firmly in favour of culling, and partly because trying to achieve pressure at EU level has so far proven to be ineffective.This is despite  Ireland's total disregard for the Bern convention, the failure of the Bern Standing Committee to carry out its mandate to protect the badger, and how the issue is being tackled by our nearest neighbours.

Fintan gave an example of how the Bern convention is being disregarded. While the convention does allow a protected species to be culled if it is a threat to agriculture, it specifies that this must be done with the minimum disturbance to the species. Yet despite this badger culling in Ireland continues all year round, even in breeding season, meaning that adult badgers are being caught, leaving their young to die of starvation underground.

At present 6,000 snares are set for badgers every night. The snares are legal because they do not kill the badger (usually), but they can cause injuries and do cause distress. Hours later in the morning the trapper then comes and shoots the badger. The war on Btb and badgers has always been an emotive issue. It has pitted farmers and conservationists against each other since Btb was first discovered in badgers in the early seventies and no early resolution is in sight.

Badger by Jaroslav Vogeltanz