Monday, 15 December 2014

December 7th - Dodder Walk

On Sunday December 7th the Dublin Branch went for a walk along the Dodder in the company of John Fox the ornithologist. It was a gloriously sunny day, but freezing cold, and everyone who went was glad they were well wrapped up. The birds didn't seem to mind however, as John identified quite a few species such as herring gulls, mallards, little grebes or dabchicks, herons, swans and a little egret.

Along the way, the Dublin Branch ran into Paul Hughes, writer of a recent book about the wildlife along the Dodder: Doorstep Wilderness: a wilder side of Dublin (the book is a great read, and well worth considering as a stocking filler). Paul was able to fill in to the group about all the wildlife he had seen along the way, including otters, foxes, herons and many different birds. Unfortunately flood defence works meant that much of the vegetation along the river had been taken away, even since the book was written, but the group still managed to see a wide variety of birdlife, and Paul assured us that the wildlife still found its way along the banks.

Paul Hughes with his new book Doorstep Wilderness

Thursday, 13 November 2014

November 9th Broadmeadow Estuary

On Sunday 9th November IWT Dublin Branch  went to Broadmeadow Estuary in Swords  to learn about all the winter feeding birds that come to our shores; how to identify them, what equipment to use and when to observe them. Our expert, Sean Hogan, of Birdwatch Ireland, led this event, and despite the tide being high on the estuary, a lot of different birds were seen.

As well as the usual swans and mallards, Sean identified lapwings, golden plovers, red breasted mergansers, crested grebes, scaup, brent geese redshanks, curlews and many more. The rain managed to hold off and the group of about twenty five people were happy with all that they saw. Once again we were reminded of the great variety of birdlife to be found all along Dublin's coastline.

One of the people at the event, Tim O'Brien provides a great overview of the day on his blog Tim's Fotos. Thanks Tim!

November 4th - Green Drink - Save Our Sharks!

On Tuesday, November 4th the Dublin Branch of IWT had its monthly Green Drinks meeting to hear Dr Sarah Varian of Marine Dimensions talk about the Purse Search Ireland project, set up to monitor Ireland's shark and ray species.

In 2007, Purse Search Ireland was set up in a desperate effort to save our critically endangered sharks and rays, by encouraging the Irish public to report their observations of mermaids’ purses around Ireland’s coastline. Mermaids’ purses, which are actually the eggcases of sharks, skates and rays, sometimes wash up on the seashore, indicating that there's a nursery close by. It was hoped that the public’s participation could be used to provide information necessary for fisheries conservation management, while at the same time raising public awareness for Ireland’s marine wildlife and environment.

Sarah informed the meeting that the response to the project has provided a lot of valuable information on the distribution of shark and ray species, which will be useful in devising conservation strategies. Several 'hotspots' have been identified, including Tralee Bay, which for some reason has a wide variety of ray species. It is in finding out this kind of information and figuring out the reasons for it, that the project will prove its worth.

A spotted ray purse found in County Mayo this year

Monday, 13 October 2014

7th October Green Drinks -the red squirrel

This month's Green Drinks heard Denis O'Meara, Project Officer for the Mammals in a Sustainable Environment (MISE) project talk about the history of the red squirrel in Ireland. Red, charming, and so very Irish, red squirrels were once the most iconic Irish species, inhabiting trees across the country. After a series of lost battles with the American grey squirrel and haphazard reintroduction programmes, they're now one of the rarest. Denise took us on a journey through time, bridging historical records from the fur and live animal trade to the modern technology that's bringing them back. It seems red squirrels were introduced numerous times into Ireland, and may have gone extinct in the past, due to habitat loss and hunting pressures. In other words, the red squirrels we have were all introduced from Britain in historic times. That does not mean however, that they are not worth preserving!

MISE is a scientific outreach and education project based at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), Ireland, that aims to increase awareness of mammals in Ireland and Wales through the organisation of wildlife surveys and events. Denise has been surveying for pine marten, otters, stoats, squirrels, bats and small mammals using non-invasive survey techniques complimented with DNA verification of field evidence such as faeces and hair. During her PhD project (completed at WIT), she developed and optimised a DNA toolbox that can be applied to hair-tube surveys of red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris). You can follow Denise on her own blog at

Friday, 5 September 2014

31st August - Heritage Week talk in Carrick Gollaghan Woods

Dublin Branch was over the moon with the large numbers who expressed an interest in our 2014 Heritage Event on Sunday 31st August. We took to the hills and forests of Carrick Gollaghan Woods and the old Ballycorus Leadmines and Chimney. We walked some of the Dublin Mountains Way, and travelled back in time to walk a length of the old Leadmines tunnels, and delved into the Valley of Death. The age of the group ranged from young children to mature years and this was ideal, given this year’s theme was families. Nearly all who joined us for the walk managed to walk the length of the tunnels helped by flashlights.

Along the way we snacked on blackberries generously picked by one of the attendees. As planned, we climbed the Carrick Golloghan to admire the views, discussed the role of pine marten in red squirrel conservation, the make-up of the local ground rock (quartz and granite), and the pros and cons of mixed broadleaf and coniferous woods. Upon reaching the dizzy heights (276m) we were overcome with the swarms of midges and within 10-15 minutes the decision was made to make a quick retreat downhill and return to our cars. Nevertheless a very rewarding day was had by all.


A great view from the top

Ballycorus Chimney

Monday, 18 August 2014

Green Drinks 5th August - Fracking

This month the Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch heard Richard Curtin from No Fracking Dublin explore the dangers of fracking and how this could have the potential to come to Ireland very soon as part of our energy mix.

Fracking has being hailed by the fossil fuel industry as one of great technical development in recent years, championed as the answer to energy independence for the US and Europe as well as the bridge fuel to the low carbon economy as well.

But fracking has many dirty secrets, everything from water and air pollution, human and animal health impacts, to false economic of the how process works, to the negative impact it has on the climate change.

Richard outlined the plans to bring fracking to Ireland, north and south. Initially the border region of Sligo/Leitrim and Fermanagh is being looked at, but there is the potential for more areas if fracking is allowed there first. However there is hope, as fracking is creating substantial opposition north and south. In Northern Ireland in particular, where proposals are more advanced, it seems that fracking may not proceed just yet, as a recent proposal from Fracking Company Tamboran has been turned down. An issue to keep a close eye on!
How fracking works 1

How fracking works 2

Monday, 30 June 2014

June 7th & 15th Trip to Ireland's Eye

As in previous years, the Dublin Branch of IWT held two trips to Ireland's Eye off Howth. As usual, this year’s two trips (both booked out) were a real adventure. When we got there, the cow parsley was so high that we could have done with machetes. People lolling on the beach stared in wonder as the group emerged from the undergrowth. Gulls and gannets flew around warning us to stay away from the chicks, and to top it all, three peregrine falcon chicks sat like three Musketeers at the very peak of the Stack. Every so often one would fly up but was immediately “buzzed off” by the gulls. An amazing day out both times. Heartfelt thanks to our leaders Conn Flynn and John Fox. Roll on next year!


An oystercatcher happy in the sun

Careful - mind my eggs!

A graceful gannet

More gannets perching perilously
On the beach Conn shows the way

Through the cow parsley

Wow! A clear view at last

Monday, 9 June 2014

3rd June Green Drinks - Misunderstood Moths

On Tuesday 3rd June the Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch gathered in JW Sweetmans to hear Catherine Bertrand of Butterfly Conservation Northern Ireland discuss moths, one of the most misunderstood creatures in our backyards.

Moths to many of us as small, brown, boring, jumper-munching pests. Come along to find out just how marvellous moths are, how many hundreds of species surround us and the strange and unique roles they play in our ecosystem. Do you know your Brimstone from your Brimstone moth? Your Swallow-tail from your Swallow-tailed? Catherine filled in the audience about how moths come in all shapes, sizes and colours, from the spectacular Elephant Hawkmoth in shades of brown and purple to the black and red cinnabar moth, with its black and yellow striped caterpillars. Contrary to popular belief, many moths fly in the daytime and can be seen in our gardens and meadows.

Altogether moths are far more interesting than most people think, and you can see some of the wide variety of our native moths with the  following link to a leaflet produced by Butterfly Conservation NI


May 25th Bull Island Biodiversity Walk

On Sunday May 25th to celebrate Biodiversity Week 2014, (the theme of which is islands), IWT Dublin Branch had a walk on Bull Island to look at some of the diversity of creatures to be found in Dublin City's own UNESCO biosphere reserve. The walk was lead by Niall Mac Coitir and a variety of wildlife was found. There were wild flowers such as dove's foot cranesbill, and early purple orchid, and there were also birds such as meadow pipits and especially skylarks which put on a fine display with their singing.

Above all there were lots of creepy crawlies. The group saw the brightly coloured caterpillars of the white satin and yellow tail moths feeding on some of the native willow trees on the island, and the bright green beetle psilothrix cyaneus feeding on some oxford ragwort. A small pond along the way also revealed tadpoles, mayfly larvae, and whirligig and diving beetles. The walk ended with a short stretch along the seahore where some common seashells such as mussels, limpets, barnacles, razorshells and cockles were found. All in all a great example of biodiversity was on display!

Checking out the creepy crawlies on the native willow trees

A young IWT member holding a 'hairy Molly'
or 'Woolly Bear' caterpillar of the Tiger Moth

Looking at some wild flowers right beneath our feet

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

11th May - Wildflower Walk

The IWT Dublin branch held a guided wildflower walk on Sunday, the 11th May by ecologist and IWT volunteer, Sean Meehan through the mature woodlands at St Catherine's Park, Leixlip.

The walk followed the woodland path and there were plenty of opportunities to stop and talk about the plants and ecology of the site. Among the plants encountered were lords and ladies (or cuckoo pint) and wild garlic (or ramsons). Sean also explained the ecology of the woodland, and talked about the threat posed by some of the invasive species in the woodlands, such as rhododendron ponticum and cherry laurel.

Some wild garlic growing under the trees in St. Catherines

Monday, 19 May 2014

6th May Green Drinks - Return of the Eagle!

This month's topic was a dramatic one! The IWT Dublin Branch heard Ronan Hannigan talk about how in 2001, 100 years after the extinction of native raptors, the Golden Eagle Trust launched an ambitious reintroduction programme to bring birds of prey back to Ireland. The plan has met with widespread public support but also poisonings, shootings, opposition and setbacks. After a century, have raptors finally returned to the Irish skies? And are they here to stay? There are three programmes going on at the moment, reintroduction of the golden eagle to Donegal, of the White-tailed eagle to Kerry and the red kite into Wicklow.

Ronan Hannigan, who is Chairman of the Golden Eagle Trust, gave a funny, informative and eye opening talk about the two charities he established, the reintroductions he works on, and how two of our species of Eagle and the Red Kite are returning to Ireland after a long absence. Despite the setbacks, Ronan is optimistic that the reintroductions will succeed in the long term.

Monday, 5 May 2014

27th April - Booterstown Marsh Clean Up

What a Load of Old Rubbish 

(Booterstown Nature Reserve and Beach clean-up)

On 27 April, a sunny Sunday, the IWT Dublin Branch teamed up with An Taisce for their National Spring clean at Booterstown Nature Reserve, an event that was also registered as one of Surfriders’ Ocean Initiatives 2014. Approximately 18 hardy volunteers (men, women and children) turned up to tackle the waste at the coastline and the marsh area around the Bird Sanctuary. Some twenty giant rubbish bags were filled over a two-and-a-half hour period. The most notable item was a suitcase filled with stones - what crime had it committed!

Many thanks to all who showed such good humour and high spirits while carrying out this task. Thanks also to the providers of the lovely selection of buns, cakes, biscuits and refreshments. Photos courtesy of Barbara

Thirsty for tea

Thursday, 1 May 2014

April 13th - Massey's Wood Walk

On Sunday April 13th the Dublin Branch of IWT held a walk in Massey's Wood, Rathfarnham. The weather was overcast but dry and about 15 people showed up to follow Branch members Niall and Karen as they explored some of the trees and flowers to be seen in the wood. Quite a few wildflowers were spotted in the walk including wood sorrel, primrose, lesser celendine, and wild violet. Niall explained some of the background to the flowers to the group. For example, another name for lesser celendine is 'pilewort' because it was believed by medieval herbalists to be a good cure for piles. This is on account of its bulby roots which resemble piles. An infusion of primrose flowers was also believed to be a good tonic for soothing the nerves.

Growing profusely along the way was cherry laurel, an invasive species that is present in large parts of the wood. Karen explained to the group that plants with shiny, waxy leaves like that (and others such as rhododendron) could never be native to Ireland because they had evolved in drier environments where it is necessary to conserve water. There was also many native trees to see however, such as holly and willow, and a very fine native oak, which is at least several hundred years old. As the group were walking back to the entrance of the wood, the sun came out to liven things up. Photos courtesy of Karen

Wood Sorrel

A fine example of native Irish oak, several hundred years old

Massey's Wood as the sun came out

Green Drinks 1st April - Energy Efficiency in the Public Sector

This month the Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch heard Anna Heussaff from Dublin Friends of the Earth talking about the huge savings that could be made by making the public sector more energy efficient. Imagine saving at least €120 million a year in public spending without pay cuts, reductions in services or redundancies. Let’s also imagine saving over 2,000 GWh and 500 Kt of CO2 emissions equivalent at the same time, as part of Ireland’s contribution to stop climate change becoming a catastrophe.

Let’s say that all this can be done within two years. Sounds too good to be true? It’s actually government policy, but like many other policies, it’s short on urgent action.

Anna explored some examples of good practice in saving energy, and the results of research which highlights the widespread lack of action and energy wastage across the public sector. Many of the savings could be from simple things, like not leaving lights on all night, ensuring buildings are properly insulated and installing solar panels on buildings.

Monday, 10 March 2014

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4th March Green Drinks - invasion of the pitcher plants!

Pitcher Plants Invade Our Precious Peatlands!

The Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch continue to bring you the very best of green issues with Green Drinks Dublin on the first Tuesday of every month! This month, we heard Louise Duignan, wildlife biologist, ecologist, and graduate of Trinity College Dublin speaking about her research on an invasive bug-eating pitcher plant that was introduced to Ireland from just a handful of seedlings in the early 1900's. Since then it has managed to spread throughout our delicate peatlands creating huge colonies of this beautiful but damaging plant. While it is beautiful, the pitcher plants from North America crowd out native flora, and even have an effect on the native fauna, by destroying sources of food and shelter.

The plants were originally placed in the bog in various parts of Ireland by commercial growers who wanted to grow them for garden centres and saw the bogs as a convenient source of 'vacant' wasteland, and later by individuals who wanted to 'improve' the bogs. Once established the plants are impossible to eradicate as they set thousands of tiny seeds that last for decades. This means that unfortunately there is no point in attempting to remove established colonies, but the focus must be on preventing them from spreading further.

Pretty but invasive

Saturday, 8 March 2014

23rd February - Visit to National Museum

We were treated to a wonderful tour of the Treasury in the National Museum. Our tremendously knowledgeable tour guide, Dr Edel Bhreathnach, showed us the unique treasures of early medieval Ireland, discussing the development of Irish art from the Iron Age to the impact of the Vikings. She focussed on figures of animals that appear in the works on display and drew our attention to the remarkable skill with which they were executed. Of all the beautiful objects we examined, of course, the most outstanding were from the period of peak achievement: the Ardagh Chalice, the Derrynaflan Chalice and the Tara brooch. The feedback from all the participants was very positive.


Monday, 17 February 2014

Green Drinks - 4th February Pedagogy Plant

This month the Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch at its Green Drinks Dublin event, came along to hear Adrian Bannon, author, entrepreneur, lawyer and founder of multiple initiatives such as the wonderful Pedagogy Plant, an initiative aiming to connect creative people, companies, industries and colleges all over the globe through collaborative tree planting. Inspired by the famous copper beech 'Autograph Tree' in Galway, a tree home to the signatures of many of Ireland's greatest artists, writers, thinkers and activists, Adrian aims to inspire us into positive movement and change.

The goals at Pedagogy Plant are 'TREEFOLD': Awareness, Creativity and Talent (A.C.T):

1. to encourage schools, community colleges, universities, CEO's of companies and other creative institutions in several countries to plant their own AUTOGRAPH / ALUMNI TREES (a single copper beech tree or other suitable tree ) that will house the 'autograph' signatures of those college achieving students' and employees' in 10, 20, 30, 40 and 100 years time.

2. to have citizens, friends, families, groups and pro-active communities , grass-roots developments to plant trees to celebrate their LOCAL creativity, milestones and successes and take PHOTOS / VIDEOS of the planting to send it to Pedagogy Plant on Facebook or via email.

3.apart from local creators to also have a national Pedagogy Plant Facebook Page for every country in the world.

As well as Ireland Pedagogy Plant have helped to create tree planting in Spain, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon and India among other places. Truly a GLOBAL initiative!