Thursday, 13 September 2018

Green Drinks Tues 4th Sept - Bees and other pollinators, a vital role

Orla ní Dhúill of the Irish Wildlife Trust and DCU gave a talk on the role bees and other pollinators play in maintaining a healthy environment around us. The declining numbers of bees internationally has starting to break into mainstream news stories, but many people do not know much about the various species of bees and pollinators that are effected or what's causing these declines. This is of vital importance to us humans, as most of the plants we grow for food rely on bees to pollinate them.

Orla talked more about what's going wrong and what can be done to help. Habitat loss is a major factor, and we can all do our part. First we can grow lots of flowers that bees like, but also we can preserve habitat for our bumblebees who are all under pressure. Leaving a grassy bank or piece of earthen bank free for the bumblebees to make their nests would be a great help. Having things too tidy leaves no room for our bumbles!

Know your bumblebees: the following diagrams can help you to identify them.

Rockpooling Event - Sept 2nd

There was a great turnout for the IWT Dublin Branch's rockpooling event in Portmarnock. The weather was sunny and the kids (and adults too) saw lots of little sea creatures, including lion's mane jellyfish, barnacles, limpets, winkles and whelks, shrimps, crabs and brittle stars. A lovely day out!

Lions Mane jellyfish

Monday, 30 July 2018

Bull Island Wildflower Walk - July 8th

The Dublin Branch held its annual Bull Island Wildflower Walk on July 8th led by branch member Niall Mac Coitir. The walk was very successful despite the drought, and as usual lots of wildflowers were seen. The elusive bee orchid evaded us this year as well, but several other species of orchid were spotted. Thanks to Brendan for the photos.

Marsh Helleborine

Common Spotted Orchid


White Pyramidal Orchid

Haresfoot clover with its fluffy flowers

Green Drinks July 3rd - Ireland's Rarest Tree

For the July Dublin Branch Green Drinks talk, Daniel Buckley, a former IWT Chairperson and currentNPWS conservation ranger, spoke on the topic of Black Poplar conservation in Ireland. Daniel is enthusiastic about native tree conservation and has been doing his own research on black poplar which is Ireland's rarest tree.

It had been thought that the black poplar was introduced to Ireland, but populations have been found around lakes in the west which are varied enough to suggest that it is a native tree that has been reproducing here naturally. The Black Poplar is an unusual tree in that it has separate male and female forms, and that it needs particular conditions beside lakes and rivers to reproduce. Ireland has populations of both sexes of tree, which suggests a natural population, as the female tree with its messy fluffy seeds is not generally planted deliberately. Further research, including DNA testing, will be needed to confirm its native status. In the meantime, Daniel is working to raise awareness of this unusual part of our flora.

Black Poplar - Populus nigra

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

10th & 17th June 2018 - Trips to Ireland's Eye

For the eighth year in a row, the Dublin branch organised two trips to Ireland’s Eye. As in previous years, both outings were fully booked up and on both occasions participants fully appreciated the charm of this unique little island north of Howth Harbour. Fortunately, the weather also played its part and grey seals popping up in the water added to our enjoyment.

In order to reduce disturbance to nesting seabirds, Fingal County Council put up sign posts to the main sights and also started to form paths across the island by just strimming the vegetation. These simple measures appear to work well as most visitors we met seemed to stick to the paths.

It was thrilling to be close up to so many seabirds, including different species of gulls, terns and auks, fulmars, cormorants and shags, oystercatchers, and, of course, the star bird of the island, the gannet, nesting on the spectacular rock, the Stack. But what people enjoyed most were the many chicks running around already making a lot of noise and life difficult for their parents. Thankfully, John Fox (Birdwatch Ireland) was with us and answered the many questions people had in regard to the birds’ nesting, feeding, migration, behaviour and lifespan. 

Photos courtesy of Brendan and Sam

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

June 5th Green Drinks - Return of the Wolf?

This month's Green Drinks invited Kilian Murphy, a student of TCD along to talk about the controversial question of whether the wolf could ever return to Ireland. Thanks to rural depopulation and legal protection the wolf has returned to many of its old haunts across Europe, and now every country on Mainland Europe, including Belgium and the Netherlands, is home to wolves. Not everyone is pleased about this of course, and compensation schemes are in place to ensure farmers are not out of pocket when their livestock are taken by wolves. Changes to farming practices, such as better fencing and using sheepdogs can also reduce much of the predation caused by wolves.

Kilian talked about the situation in Ireland and whether the wolf could ever return here. His belief is that conditions are not right at the moment, but there are suitable habitats in remote areas of the west of Ireland where the wolf could return, provided there was a proper management scheme in place. But it won't be happening anytime soon, and a big part of the problem is that people need to be educated about the true nature of wolves. They are not the vicious man eaters of popular myth, but intelligent, social animals that pose no threat to humans.

May 26th Biodiversity Walk on Grand Canal

The Dublin Branch went on a Biodiversity walk on the Grand Canal with Larry Gordon, of the Grand Canal Biodiversity and Cleanup Group  The Grand Canal is a wonderful artery of wildlife from central Ireland right into our capital city, and Larry explained the flow of biodiversity traffic along it. For decades bats, birds, otter and fish have all use the Grand Canal to find food and navigate within our urban landscape. The group have been given charge of a section of the canal to manage it organically for wildlife with the result that it hosts a wide variety of wild plants and flowers. The walk was very successful with about 40 people attending and everyone learned a lot about the beauty and diversity of the canal. 

Monday, 16 April 2018

April 3rd Green Drinks - Sustainable Fisheries

This month Dublin Green Drinks heard Debbi Pedreschi of the Marine Institute talk about 'Real-time incentives fisheries management' . Debbi is working to develop a new way of managing fisheries, that takes the ecosystem into account, and would use smart technologies to improve the information coming from fishing activity to help make the science more accurate, while keeping the system simple to use and understand and provide incentives for sustainable activities and methods.Providing real time information to fishermen on where they can catch the correct species of fish should help to reduce wasteful by catch, and help fishermen fill all their more effectively.

In this project the team are working together with fishermen to co-design the system, to make it work practically for them, and to gain their insights, opinions and ideas. They have also started to work with eNGOs to incorporate their ideas and gather their thoughts. For more information on this very useful and potentially 'game-changing' initiative see

Thursday, 5 April 2018

March 24th Wicklow Woodpecker Walk

On Saturday March 24th the Dublin Branch met at the bridge at Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow, bright and early at 8am to go on a woodland walk. What brought us out at such an ungodly hour was the chance to  hear one of Ireland's newest arrivals, the Greater Spotted Woodpecker drumming, and perhaps even to see one. The walk was led by author Declan Murphy, whose recent book 'A Life in the Trees - a personal account of the Great Spotted Woodpecker in County Wicklow' has been praised by many.

Our efforts were successful, as we did indeed hear the woodpeckers drumming. Woodpeckers are small birds and difficult to see high up on the trees, but we saw some fluttering in the trees that was probably them. The woodpecker is an extraordinary bird, with muscles in its head extending all the way down its back. This allows it to peck at the wood with its beak without getting the mother of all headaches! All in all the group was satisfied with its encounter with this amazing bird. Photos courtesy of Brendan (except for the woodpecker picture, which is Wikimedia commons).

March 6th Green Drinks - Folklore of Irish Trees

The March Green Drinks Talk was given by Branch member and author Niall Mac Coitir about the myths, legends and folklore of Irish trees. Did you know that the birch tree was the best tree to make a cradle out of, as it would protect the child from the fairies; while the elderberry tree is the worst, as the fairies would come and pinch the baby black and blue? Or that the oak tree was associated in ancient Ireland with royalty and kingship and an oak tree often stood outside the rath or dún of the chieftain in Gaelic times? The oak tree was also sacred to the druids, and some Christian sites were probably located at sacred groves of oak trees, such as Derry - Doire Colmcille 'the oak wood of Colmcille' and Durrow - Darú - 'the oak plain'. Another important tree is the ash, which is of course used to make hurleys. A mature tree is needed to make the hurley, and Ireland is now so denuded of mature broadleaf trees that ash has to be imported from Europe to make them! All in all, a very interesting and informative talk.


Tuesday, 30 January 2018

January 7th - Birdwatching Bull Island

The Dublin branch of IWT went birdwatching again on Bull Island, and despite cold weather some 40 people turned up for the event. Led by our ever knowledgeable guide John Fox, lots of different birds were seen, including the following: Grey Heron, Little Egret, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Shelduck, Pintail, Brent Goose, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Kestrel, and Peregrine Falcon. The usual suspects such as Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull and Hooded Crow were also in evidence. All in all a very interesting day.