Apr 052010
 

More and more killer whales are being spotted in Irish waters these days… with many of the recent sightings identifiable as members of a well known pod of whales known as the Scottish West Coast Community Group.

(Photo via the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group website, © John Dennihy)

Two of these whales were spotted from Colin Barnes’s whale watching vessel The Holly Joe not far from Galley Head, West Cork on 27th March 2010… (identity confirmed by Andy Foote from the University of Aberdeen), with a larger group of 4-5 killer whales spotted a little further west (close to Baltimore) later the same day.

Interestingly these sightings coincided with the first West Cork basking shark sightings of the season… leading Padraig Whooley, the IWDG sightings coordinator, to wonder whether the simultaneous arrival of the ocean’s apex predator and the huge but docile basking shark in Irish waters was somehow related.

Could basking shark be on the killer whale’s menu, or were they arriving together purely by chance?

There’s more information on these whale sightings on the IWDG website, and you can see details of all recent reported killer whale sightings around Ireland here.

Jan 312010
 

A humpback whale off West Cork, IrelandIn the wake of the spectacular humpback whale encounters off the Wexford coast recently, and the incredible footage shown on the RTÉ news, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) is calling for funding to help them find out more about the humpback whales that visit Ireland’s coastline every year.

We’re incredibly lucky to have these amazing animals, and other large whale species, as regular visitors to our shores, and finding out more about them is a crucial step to the conservation of these magnificent animals.

I’ll let Dr. Simon Berrow of the IWDG explain:

I hope you have all got to the see the amazing images and footage of the humpback whale off Co. Wexford. Hopefully too, some of you will be able to go and see this magnificent creature for yourselves.  It might not breach, but humpback whales are still one of the most enigmatic and popular species on the planet.

This is the 11th individual humpback whale the IWDG have recorded in Irish waters.  All previous whales have been photographed in more than one year and although this is the first time we have recorded this one, we fully expect to see this whale again !  This shows that humpback whales are returning to Ireland each year where they are spending a considerable period of time, but we do not know if they are passing through on their way to somewhere else or where they go when they leave.

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Nov 102009
 
“If you put a silk dress on a goat .... well, ...

Image by turtlemom4bacon via Flickr

Halloween is supposed to be scary. Goblins, ghouls and horrible little monsters looking for trick-or-treat goodies come with the territory. Goats… not so much.

But let’s rewind a little.

We’d been out to tackle the "spooky" Halloween Trail at Lisselan Estate just outside Clonakilty. The girls had a great time tearing around the gardens solving solving the riddles on their age-tailored clue-sheets. It was a fiver each for the children to take part in the Halloween Trail, which included a lucky-dip prize and a trick-or-treat goody bag each on completion. For once things were as they should be… refreshingly, Lisselan had opted not to charge anything for the accompanying adults.

Why is it that so many places insist on charging top whack for parents to get in to what are patently child orientated attractions? The attractions usually have zero appeal for adults, and if all you’re there for is to keep an eye on the kids, who have paid for their tickets, then I don’t really see why you should have to pay for the privilege.

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Sep 242009
 

Me rescuing Guster the woodpigeon from a watery fate Guster the wood pigeon was dead. There were no two ways about it… this was an ex-pigeon, a pigeon that had ceased to be.

The girls were sad… especially the little one. In the twenty minutes or so since they’d met (and named) Guster they’d grown quite attached to him.

When we found him Guster was in pretty bad shape. He was flapping about in the shallows of an inlet just off the path at Rineen Woods near Unionhall. He’d been attacked by a predator, probably a fox, and had feathers missing from his back and shoulders to reveal bare skin and some nasty looking puncture wounds. Floundering helplessly in the water, struggling to keep his head above the surface, he was a forlorn sight.

I sized up the situation as the girls pleaded with me to save him.

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Jul 292009
 

Grey Heron (Ardea cinera), Wildlife, Ireland

Shot from the car window in Union Hall. This fellow was feeding in the lagoon.

For such big birds (up to 1 metre in height with a wingspan pushing 2 metres) they’re incredibly nervous and skittish.

As I stopped and lowered the car window this one moved quickly away, and then took flight. This image is cropped from the full frame (handy having 12MP to play with).

The shot I’m really after is a perfect reflection of a hunting heron in glass-calm water… but it’s proving a tricky endeavour. In the meantime I quite like this shot.

Jul 102009
 

Ireland's Wildlife Facebook page, onlne Irish wildlife and nature resource If you’re on Facebook, check out my new page on Ireland’s Wildlife – and pass it on to all your friends. The page, and the twitter account on @wildireland, are the first steps in building an online community of wildlife enthusiasts in Ireland.

As time (and budget) allows I’m also working on an Ireland’s Wildlife website, sort of an online “hub” for all things wild in Ireland – a jumping off point, if you like, for Irish wildlife information, resources, links and discussion.

Wanted: wildlife content!

Core to the site will be the 200 or so species profiles I’ve written for the back page of Ireland’s Own over the years. I’m also on the look-out for potential regular contributors to the new site – so if you have relevant interests or expertise in any aspect of Irish wildlife and would like to volunteer your services / allow use of your content then please leave a note in the comments below, or drop me a line.

You can stay tuned here for updates by subscribing to the RSS Feed, become a fan of Ireland’s Wildlife on Facebook and/or follow Ireland’s Wildlife on Twitter.

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Jul 072009
 
Overhead view of a Fin Whale feeding

Image via Wikipedia

Last night on Channel 4 “Inside Nature’s Giants” showed the in-situ autopsy of a fin whale that stranded in Courtmacsherry Bay, West Cork back in January.

We all watched last week’s show, in which the team dismembered an elephant, in rapt fascination. Even the five-year-old was allowed to stay up, and was full of questions that, thankfully, the programme answered.

It was amazing – if a little on the grizzly side.

This week it was the turn of the whale.

As we’d all been up to see the unfortunate whale the day it died, the girls were incredibly excited to see the programme.

But I have to say that despite being very interesting, and revealing some astonishing facts, conducting the autopsy in the field while battling the tides and the worst of the Irish winter took the edge off the operation.

The elephant, in the controlled environment of London’s Royal Veterinary College, had been an exercise in clinical precision. The whale, in contrast, was a race against the elements – a race that meant things we could have seen, we didn’t get to see, or at least didn’t get to see as clearly as we might have.

The girls were thrilled to watch the dissection of the whale that they’d seen lying on the beach – but for me the programme itself wasn’t as engaging and informative as the elephant one the week before.

Next week it’s back to the Royal Veterinary College, where the subject going under the knife is a crocodile. Should be revealing!

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Jun 042009
 

Adult blue tit bringing food back to hungry chicksWe live in an old schoolhouse, and bisecting the garden is a six-foot stone wall — effectively separating what were once the boys and girls yards. It’s a charming throwback to a bygone era, a lovely original feature of the property, and this spring it’s also home to a family of blue tits. They’ve chosen to nest in a small hole between the stones about a third of the way up, the entrance secreted behind the leaves of a young pear tree that’s fanning across the wall.

I first noticed the parents coming and goings a few weeks ago, but thought I’d keep it to myself until I was sure the eggs had hatched. The girls love nature and wildlife, but their enthusiasm they can get the better of them sometimes, and the last thing I wanted was an abandoned nest. Once both parents were busy feeding their hungry chicks the likelihood of that happening was pretty slim, and so when I could hear the insistent cheeping that told me they’d arrived I showed the girls the adult birds’ comings and goings, the caterpillars and grubs they were bringing, and, in between the parents’ visits, I showed them the nest itself.

In the darkness of the hole you could just make out the bright yellow gapes of five hungry little mouths. The excitement was palpable.

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Apr 142009
 
Richie the donkey

Richie the donkey

Richie was born on the 15th of January 2007. On the 25th of January his mother died of blood poisoning, leaving the little fellow orphaned and alone at just 10 days old! He needed round-the-clock care, and had to be bottle fed with milk-substitute for several weeks, but he responded well, and soon started feeding from a bucket on his own.

That’s right, a bucket! Richie is a donkey: one of the residents at The Donkey Sanctuary, in Lisscarrol, near Mallow, Co. Cork, and like most of his companions at the centre he’s completely and utterly adorable. He’s young and inquisitive, with a “fluffy” brown and white coat that simply cries out for a rub, and like most donkeys he’s stubbornly single minded to the point of obstinance. They say you can command a horse, but you have to persuade and cajole a donkey. It’s part of what gives them their indisputable charm. Apart from  the “fluffy brown and white coat” bit he reminded me a lot of the girls

We loved him immediately, and while the other donkeys in the “adoption” group were also cute, and some had more distressing histories of neglect and hardship to endear them, when we met the gang “in person” Richie was an outright winner! For the princely sum of €20 per year we are now the proud “adopted” family of Richie the donkey. The adoption programme is a wonderful way to support the centre — which rescues mistreated, neglected and unwanted donkeys from all over Ireland, and relies entirely on donations from the public to fund its operation. It’s also a brilliant way for the children to connect and engage with both an individual donkey like Richie, and with the work the centre does for donkeys in Ireland as a whole.
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Feb 092009
 
Charles Darwin.
Image via Wikipedia

It’s refreshing when you see some genuinely good television.

Refreshing, but depressingly rare. Our screens are flooded with vacuous celebrity talent shows and patently unreal reality programmes. Television schedules crossed the  boundary into the banal a long, long time ago, and with the exception of a few pinpoints of light among the shadows of mediocrity, show no sign of returning to a more cerebrally stimulating norm any time soon. Little wonder that the youth of today are eschewing TV and are spending increasing amounts of their leisure time online, interacting with their peers in all sorts of ways.

As I write this, as if to reinforce the point, a mid-morning re-cap of dancing on ice is flickering across the TV screen in the other room. The off switch really is the only escape.

But despite the tidal wave of mediocrity television still has the power to enthrall and inform.

Last night I had the pleasure of watching David Attenborough present an exploration of Charles Darwin‘s tree of life — a look at the celebrated naturalist’s extraordinary journey as he struggled first to unravel the mysteries of natural selection and evolution, and then to prove his controversial theories to a sceptical world.

Attenborough, naturally, was at his seasoned and consummate best: an inimitable presenter who engages and informs with just the right amount of gravitas, but without overshadowing programme content. Who, you wonder, will take up the mantle of television’s most celebrated wildlife presenter when he inevitably hangs up his microphone? Please television gods, let it not be Bill Oddie! Continue reading »