Why is it that we’re so ready to lay the blame at nature’s door when things go awry in the countryside?There are plenty of examples out there. Bovine TB is perhaps the biggest that springs to mind at the moment. It’s a dreadful disease in cattle that has serious implications for dairy farmers, their families and entire rural communities. It’s a problem that needs to be … [Read more...] about Natural born scapegoats…why do we always blame wildlife?
Irish Independent Column
All over Ireland gardeners are on a mission to eradicate weeds... but is there a different approach that can help the gardener AND help Ireland's wildlfie?****Weeds!The very mention of them can send gardeners into spasm. Throughout summer well into autumn we fight a never-ending battle with weeds. It’s a futile exercise, because we know the seeds released this year … [Read more...] about Give weeds a break in your garden
The female marsh harrier rose over the reed bed. For a fleeting moment she was master of the air... and then the wind hit her. Any illusion of aerial mastery was shattered as the Atlantic squall buffeted the hapless bird. It was all she could do to stay airborne.This was my first time seeing a marsh harrier in Ireland, so despite the fact that she wasn’t at her elegant and … [Read more...] about On course for a whale of a time
I was out for a routine tramp around the patch about a month ago when something dropped out of a big clump of ivy in the top of a hawthorn tree. It hit the ground with a thud and, curiosity piqued, I headed over to investigate.As I approached the tree a rustling in the ivy caused me to look up. I was fully expecting to see a woodpigeon. When ivy rustles there’s generally a … [Read more...] about Barn owl encounter
A few weeks ago the annual television wildlife extravaganza that is BBC Springwatch hit our screens. This three-week long wildlife-fest celebrated the best of native British wildlife, bringing fantastic shots, engaging stories and interesting wildlife facts to a public with a seemingly insatiable appetite for all things wild.I look forward to Springwatch and Autumnwatch … [Read more...] about Live wildlife: the last word in Reality Television
Life these days is a bit of a dizzy whirlwind. With work pressures, children, ever-present household chores and sundry other demands on our finite sliver of attention, it can be hard to find time for nature. But I find taking even a little “time out” to connect with the natural world around me, even if its just outside my back door, helps put the world in perspective, improves … [Read more...] about A natural remedy for a hectic lifestyle
It was Monday night. I sat half-watching a painful American TV show (just because it was on) and half-reading the latest updates to the Ireland’s Wildlife page on Facebook, when a movement outside caught my eye. The long stretch in the evening meant that while it wasn’t exactly light it wasn’t really dark either. I could still see quite clearly; mostly I could see that there … [Read more...] about Batty about Irish bats!
It was a glorious morning on Toe Head in West Cork. The sun was shining, and the April breeze, while still a bit keen, wasn’t at all uncomfortable. At my feet was a stunning vista spanning from Galley Head to the east all the way around to the Fastnet Rock to the West. But I wasn’t here to admire the view... not this morning... this morning I was on a mission.I scoured the … [Read more...] about West Cork humpback adventure
How often do you think about lichens?Most people rarely give them a second thought, even though they encounter them every day. Lichens are everywhere -- encrusting growths on rocks, walls and tree trunks, more leafy or feathery forms clinging to rocky outcrops and dangling from branches -- lichens are among the most fascinating life forms on the planet.Not one organism … [Read more...] about Book Review: Lichens of Ireland
I still remember the sense of wonder I felt when, as a little boy, I used to turn over boulders in the rockery. My Dad -- a keen gardener -- was far less keen on my impromptu re-arrangement of his hard-landscaping, but I was more interested in the fascinating world unearthed beneath the hastily relocated rock. Beetles, millipedes, woodlice, earwigs, spiders, and if I hit the … [Read more...] about Awesome minibeasts
“Look up!” is the catch phrase coined by celebrity UK birder David Lindo, the self-styled “Urban Birder”, and it is, by and large, pretty sound advice. If you find yourself wandering the city streets with time to kill, glancing periodically above your head can reveal some truly remarkable things.David gained prominence on the BBC’s flagship early evening TV programme “The … [Read more...] about Don’t just look up: look everywhere!
The phone beeped, a message flashed across the screen and five minutes later me, my binoculars and my field guide were in the car. A local birder had spotted a red-flanked bluetail in a garden near Galley Head... and that was just a twenty minute drive away.From the end of March to early May birders around Ireland are on tenterhooks. This is spring migration season and … [Read more...] about Incoming!
It was one of those calm spring days where you feel anything is possible. The Atlantic, while not quite flat, had only the tiniest of swells. Gazing out over a vast expanse of blue, a distant haze towards the horizon was the only impediment to otherwise perfect visibility. You got the sense that at any moment the peace could be shattered by... well... anything.Sitting on a … [Read more...] about Anticipation Junkie
The problem with routine, apart from the fact that doing the same thing over and over soon becomes incredibly dull, is that you can’t turn it off!Take waking up at exactly the same time every morning. Most of us do it as a matter of course: we rise to an alarm set to make sure we get the kids up for school or that we get to work on time. There’s no doubt that routines … [Read more...] about Dublin: a Fair City for wildlife
It was Sunday morning, and it was raining. Not just any kind of rain... it was that sneaky, endemically Irish drizzle that saturates you before you realise you’re getting wet. It was misery incarnate. Miserable or not, we had a job to do. I grabbed the gear, threw it in the car and off we went. We only had a quarter of an hour drive to the small inlet on the West Cork coast. … [Read more...] about Stranding: learning from the death of a harbour porpoise
Round ones, square ones, big ones, small ones, wooden ones... even ones made from recycled election posters: nest boxes, just like the birds that use them, come in all shapes and sizes. They’re a great wildlife win-win -- giving birds a safe, secure place to raise their young, and giving us the opportunity to watch all the drama unfold without disturbing them. At this time of … [Read more...] about Giving birds a leg up on the property ladder
There’s nothing like getting out into the wilds and experiencing nature first hand, raw and unspoilt. Here in Ireland we’re fortunate to have some fantastic wild places, and no matter where you live nature is never far away. That said, there are times when even the most ardent nature fanatic has to stay indoors. Life’s incessant demands and the vagaries of the Irish climate … [Read more...] about Welcome to the jungle; it’s closer than you think
This column was first published in the Weekend Magazine of the Irish Independent on Saturday 04 February 2012.One of the things I like most about living in Ireland is the changing seasons.The tropics are over rated. Don’t get me wrong, a bit of predictable sunshine now and again certainly wouldn’t go amiss, but you’d soon grow tired of the sameness of it all. … [Read more...] about Unseasonal shenanigans