Monday, 23 November 2015

November 15th - Birdwatching Bull Island

On Sunday November 15th IWT Dublin Branch went birdwatching on Bull Island, led by Sean our ever knowledgable guide. Despite the blustery weather and works to the sea wall at the causeway (don't mention the war!), the branch got to see quite a few birds. There were the pale bellied Brent geese, mallard, shelducks, shovellers, teal and wigeon, along with little egrets, curlews, herons and of course some hooded crows. An interesting fact that Sean shared is that there will always be lots of birds where streams come out into the sea, because believe it or not, the birds like to wash the salt off their feathers. So, at the point where the Naniken river comes out into the lagoon, there were indeed lots of birds gathered. Altogether an enlightening afternoon.  Photos courtesy of Brendan and Stephen.

Brent Geese


Monday, 9 November 2015

Green Drinks 3rd November - Community Energy

The November Green Drinks, on Tuesday, November the 3rd, saw Kate Ruddock of Friends of the Earth Ireland talking on Community energy - how small local community groups can together use energy and resources most efficiently, and in a way that does least ecological damage. This has been slow to take off in Ireland compared to other countries, for various reasons, including a difficulty in selling excess energy onto the national grid. However, with enough determination, communities can achieve successful projects that provide them with self sufficiency in clean renewable energy.  

One of the most hopeful projects is happening on the Aran Islands, where the islanders are aiming to make the islands completely self sufficient in energy using wind power by 2022. Another place where this has been done is in Templederry, Co. Tipperary where the Templederry Community Group have constructed a windfarm.

The government is also going to introduce a White Paper for a scheme to allow local communities to form co-ops and invest in windfarms. It is hoped that this will chart a way forward for local communities and also help to lay to rest some of the controversies that have sprung up around windfarms in recent times. Progress towards renewables is happening, even if the pace of change is often frustratingly slow.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

October 24th - Deer Rut Phoenix Park

Dublin Branch went for its by now traditional trip to Phoenix Park on Saturday October 24th to see the deer rut - when the stags face off against each other to see who is going to get to mate with the females. The weather was good, with the sun shining, and our guide Favel Naulty was very informative. Everyone got a good look at the stags doing their thing, and learnt a lot about deer behaviour. Photos courtesy of Joy and Eoin.

Monday, 5 October 2015

26th September Bat Walk Corkagh Park

We had a beautiful Autumn evening for the small but enthusiastic crowd who came to Corkagh Park for our Bat Walk led by Sean Meehan, Conservation officer with the IWT. A full moon sharpened the anticipation of seeing the bats which Sean assured us would be there. Sure enough, with the aid of two “bat detectors” which he had brought, they announced their presence as they emerged to feed. The best sightings were over the man-made lake and as darkness fell, Sean used his torch to facilitate our viewing. Sean provided a good deal of information on the different species and we were fortunate to observe members of four species, both the Common and Soprano Pipistrelle as well as the Leisler and Daubentons bats. After a couple of hours, a happy group made its way to the park entrance and as if to make up for there being no vampire bats we were treated to the banshee like screeches of a heron who objected to having its evening repose disturbed!!

Photo courtesy of Sean

Gathering in Corkagh Park as dusk fell

Monday, 14 September 2015

5th September - Rockpooling in Portmarnock

On Saturday 5th September 2015 IWT's Dublin Branch went on a rock pooling session in Portmarnock, to find out more about the marine ecosystem along our coasts and the animals that live in them. There was a good turnout, and glorious weather. Lots of seashore creatures were seen, such as anemones, sea snails and shellfish like mussels, and a great morning for all the family was had.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

18th July - Bull Island wildflower walk

On Saturday 18th July Dublin Branch member Niall Mac Coitir led a walk on Bull Island to see some of the many beautiful wildflowers in bloom at this time of year. The group saw four orchids on the walk - common spotted orchid, pyramidal orchid, marsh helleborine and twayblade, a little green orchid with delicate pale green flowers. Also to be seen on the walk were many species of the pea family, which can grow on poor sandy soils like the Bull Island because they can make their own nitrogen from the air - flowers such as rest-harrow, birds foot trefoil, hares foot clover, and meadow vetchling. There were also many other species to be seen such as ladies bedstraw, fairy flax and centaury.  All in all a good day was had by those attending, and even though the weather was a bit blustery it stayed dry. Photos courtesy of Brendan.


Common Spotted Orchid comes in a variety of shades

Marsh Helleborine front left and Common Spotted Orchid on right

The aptly names Hares Foot Clover in centre, with yellow Ladies Bedstraw around it

Monday, 13 July 2015

7th July - Green Drinks The folklore of Irish Plants and Herbs

This month on Green Drinks Dublin Branch member Niall Mac Coitir spoke about the customs and stories about our native plants and flowers, including their herbal uses. Some of the plants he talked about included well-known 'weeds' or wild flowers such as dandelion, also known as 'piss-a-bed' because of its diuretic properties, and lesser celandine also known as 'pilewort' from the belief in its power to cure piles or haemorrhoids. Other folk uses included eating the young leaves of nettles, in broth or soup on account of their vitamins, and using the older leaves to sting those suffering from arthritis or rheumatism! Another interesting plant is meadowsweet, which was used to cure fevers, coughs and colds, and which contains salicylate, the same substance that is found in aspirin. 

A fact that emerged from the talk is that it is fair to say that practically every plant that grows wild  has some herbal use or other. A lively debate ensued, during which it was agreed that our native Irish plants a huge and nowadays neglected resource of cures and herbal remedies.

Prunella or self-heal, widely used in Irish folk medicine
to heal wounds, and in a tea as a pick-me-up

Lesser Celandine or pilewort


7th June - Ireland's Eye Trip

Saturday 7th June saw the Dublin Branch head for its regular trip to Ireland's Eye. A great turnout as usual and the weather stayed fine - lots of birds were seen, including various types of seagulls and gannets. John Fox led the way and gave the us benefit of his birding knowledge.

Unfortunately the trip on the 21st of June had to be cancelled due to an outbreak of fire on the island. Fire is an increasing hazard with our drier summers thanks to climate change, and can be avoided if simple precautions are taken. The government has issued a simple Fire Safety Guide for us all to bear in mind when out in wild areas.

Spot the chicks

Sunday, 7 June 2015

June 2nd Green Drinks - Pollinators - why we need them

On Tuesday June 2nd the Dublin Green Drinks talk was by Dara Stanley of TCD Botany Department about how pollination by bees, hoverflies and other insects is being increasingly recognised as a important wildlife service with real economic value. However these services are being threatened by a range of human activity. Dara is involved in the SYMBIOSYS project which is looking at all these threats in Ireland and how our changing land use is impacting on our pollinators. Dara's talk was very interesting and received an enthusiastic response and a good turnout. Dara also passed on the following links which will be of interest to those wishing to pursue the topic further:

National Biodiversity Data Centre Irish pollinator initiative

All Ireland Pollinator Plan

Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Count flowers for bees

Limerick’s buzzing

Thursday, 28 May 2015

May 23rd Biodiversity Walk St. Anne's Park, Raheny

On Saturday May 23rd the Dublin Branch celebrated Biodiversity Week 2015 with a walk in St. Anne's Park, Raheny with Dublin Branch member Niall Mac Coitir. The weather was bright and sunny and a there was a good turnout to hear Niall talk about some of our native trees, wild plants and birds - and some creepy crawlies too! Among the plants Niall showed the group was wild garlic, lords and ladies or cuckoo's pint, (Arum maculatum),  herb robert (used as a traditional cure to stanch bleeding), primroses and wild bluebells. Trees such as the yew, beech and hawthorn were also featured.

The walk took in the old pond to look at the ducks, and followed that with a visit to a wooded part of the park to see a heronry, and hear the little egrets make their strange bubbling or 'gobbling-like-a-turkey' calls. Finally an old log was turned over to see lots of woodlice, black beetles and centipedes scurrying about - a big hit with the small kids who were present!

Wild garlic with its pungent smell

Look mammy - creepy crawlies!

Monday, 11 May 2015

5th May Green Drinks - Abbeyleix Bog Project

On 5th May last the Dublin Branch of IWT heard about the Abbeyleix Bog project (ABP)  for its Green Drinks meeting in May. Chris Uys from the Projectoutlined how this innovative community project is saving a local bog for future generations. The ABP stemmed from a local action group known as AREA (Abbeyleix Residents for Environment Action) which was established in 2000 to conserve and protect the bog which was threatened with harvesting for peat moss. Following negotiations with Bord Na Móna a lease was signed in 2010 which handed the bog over to the local community to manage for a period of 50 years with a primary focus on conservation.

A huge amount of work has been done on the bog to date, blocking drains to rewet it, building a walkway so that people can enjoy the bog without damaging it, and removing invasive species like rhododendron. as a result the bog is regenerating and the number of species of wild plants and animals is rising all the time. According to Chris, local involvement is absolutely key to the project's success, with local people giving their time and energy to progress the bog's restoration as a local amenity. Truly an inspirational project!

Abbeyleix damsel fly

Monday, 20 April 2015

April 12th - Hedgerows in Ballyboughal

At our last ‘Green Drinks’ meeting on 7 April, Lorraine Bull raised our awareness of the importance of hedgerows for the farm land, for nature conservation and for biodiversity. On Sunday 12th April we were given the opportunity of taking a close look at plenty of hedgerows in Ballyboughal, where our excellent local guide, Ann Lynch, explained how these “living boundaries” work. We visited fields and meadows protected by a lovely mixture of trees, shrubs and a wide variety of other plants. Plenty of birds and early insects were spotted and an abundance of primroses and violets.

Beautiful Primroses

Primroses and Violets

And something a little more earthy!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

29th March - Walk in Knocksink Woods

Knocksink Wood: it’s a knockout

On 29 March, despite unpromising weather conditions IWT Dublin Branch  had some thirty people for our guided tour through this wonderful nature reserve set in a river valley just outside Enniskerry. Sean Meehan gave us the benefit of his expert knowledge by identifying the various trees, shrubs and wildflowers of this mixed woodland. We were thrilled to see carpets of lush green wild garlic, white-flowering wood anemones, blue violets, yellow primroses and a curious red cup fungus from which the wood fairies drink. Sean stressed the importance of this reserve both nationally and internationally. He said, “Knocksink Wood contains two priority EU habitats; alluvial woodland and petrifying streams. Covering an area of approximately 80 hectares, it is a significant stand of broadleaf woodland, an all too rare habitat type in Ireland”. It is fantastic to think that we have this on the door step of our capital city. Thank you Sean for the excellent guidance.


A good turnout despite the weather

Wild garlic by a woodland stream

Red cup fungus

Sean with some red cup fungus

Saturday, 14 February 2015

8th February 2015 - Bull island bird Watching

A perfect winter’s day greeted 25 people who attended the IWT Dublin Branch's bird-watch outing on Bull Island on Sunday 8th February. Blue skies, a blue sea and a great variety of birds were seen, in respect of which, Sean Hogan (of Birdwatch Ireland) provided a great deal of information and answered the many questions posed to him. Thank you, Sean and thanks also to John Fox.

In addition to the many waders and Brent geese, we saw the Grey Heron and Little Egret, now about to don their breeding plumage. No fewer than six varieties of ducks crossed our path: Shoveler, Wigeon, Pintail, Shelduck, Mallard and Teal. There was also a large flock (six to seven thousand) of knot with a large number of black tailed Godwit behind them. A very informative and engaging morning.