Jun 232011
 
Umbrella with raindrops

Image via Wikipedia

Summer in West Cork tends to follow a familiar pattern – occasional brief periods of glorious sunshine when you really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world, but for the most part soggy, wet dull… and bloody cold!

There’s a song that could easily be the West Cork summer anthem. Its pretty much perpetually stuck in my head from the end of May until mid-September. As soon as the familiar scattered showers of spring elongate into the protracted solid periods of unrelenting rain that are the hallmark of a West Cork Summer, it’s there.

I guess I should at least be thankful that the song is bearable.

Here Comes The Rain Again by The Eurythmics–could this be the ideal West Cork summer anthem.

I LOVE living and working in West Cork… and feel very privileged to do so… but please, please, please can we have a little bit of sustained sunshine, and some slightly warmer evenings. Lighting the fire at the end of June because you’ve got frostbite in your extremities is frankly no fun at all!

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May 042011
 

After much deliberation and procrastination I’ve finally set the Ireland’s Wildlife Website free into the wilds of cyberspace.

image

It’s still very early days, and it’s a bit thin on content (I’m working on it… so please bear with me), but I think there’s a great foundation to build an online wildlife hub and resource for everyone who’s interested in Ireland’s wildlife, the places they live, and the people who work with the,

Take a look, and let me have your feedback, thoughts, ideas and suggestions.

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Feb 222011
 

No really, it isn’t… although in all fairness you could be forgiven for thinking it was morphing into one of late. That’s just a reflection of me rekindling an interest that’s been there since I was a wee nipper.

Inevitably life gets busy, and things fall by the wayside, but they’re always there, to be picked up again when time allows. That’s what’s happening now.

I’m enjoying re-acquainting myself with the common and not so common birds around me, brushing up very rusty fieldcraft and ID skills and generally re-calibrating the bird-radar.

It’s also seems to be rekindling my enthusiasm for this blog, which is no bad thing.

Where am I finding the time for this real life stuff? To be honest I’m mostly slotting it in around all the other stuff. It’s amazing what you can do with a spare ten minutes here, quarter of an hour there.

So… I hope you’re enjoying the wildlife and birding related posts, and I will get back to writing about other things soon.

Oct 182010
 

home energy saving tipsWe’re constantly being told to cut back on our energy usage these days. Climate change is an ever present spectre, energy prices are heading through the roof, and the typical Irish household has less money to play with, making efficient energy usage more of a priority than ever.

I know these tips are hardly ground-breaking, but I do think they’re worth revisiting as we enter  the colder months.

Easy steps to improve home energy efficiency

Insulate your home

Insulating your home properly is perhaps the single most important step you can take to reduce your energy consumption this winter.

  • Insulating your attic effectively can save up to 20% of your annual home heating costs according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. If your insulation is less than 200mm thick, consider adding layers.
  • Fit a lagging jacket to your hot water cylinder if you don’t have one — it will keep your water hotter for longer, and will typically pay for itself within 2-3 months.
  • Fit a factory insulated cylinder if you’re replacing your existing one — the insulation is more effective and durable than a lagging jacket, and can’t be knocked out of place.
  • Insulate behind radiators, especially on external walls. Use reflective foil to direct heat out into the room.
  • External wall insulation can often be improved — the most popular options are insulated dry lining on interior walls, blown mineral, cellulose fibre or polystyrene beads into the wall cavity, or rigid external insulation. Continue reading »
Sep 242010
 

Back in February last year Cork County Council came up with the brilliant plan of charging people to recycle their rubbish.

It appears that nothing much has changed — because the same short- sighted civil servants who decreed that charging people to do their recycling was a stellar way to encourage responsible waste management, now seem hell bent on making things more difficult in Skibbereen too.

Reduce, reuse, recycle? Not in County Cork!

Reduce, reuse, recycle? Not in County Cork you don't!

I arrived at Skibb recycling centre this afternoon to be greeted by an array of perfectly serviceable recycle bins — all seven of them cordoned off, with a liberal sprinkling of warning signs around the periphery.

Wondering what was going on I asked one of the yellow-clad attendants. It seems that the powers that be in charge of waste management have decided that they don’t need seven recycling bins (even though they’re filled to bursting point on a weekly basis, and there are often crowds of people waiting to deposit their recycling).

Instead, they’ve decided, the people of Skibbereen and the surrounding area can make do with a waste crushing / compacting machine, depositing their recyclable waste through a single, relatively small grill.

If you’ve used Skibbereen Recycling Centre at all you’ll know that it can get very busy. The “old” way provided fourteen different locations to get rid of your recycling (seven bins, a slot on each side). The “new and improved system”, with it’s single point of entry, was congested today with only four of us there. Imagine what it will be like when twenty people turn up.

The "New and Improved" recycling system in Skibbereen.

The "new and improved" recycling system in Skibbereen.

It’s madness!

It also makes me wonder what exactly is happening to our “recycling”. Plastic, cardboard, paper, etc. all gets bundled into the crusher together and is presumably compacted into a unified mass of different materials. Is that really being un-compacted, sorted and recycled… or is it going straight to landfill or into an incinerator somewhere?

There’s no way to tell for sure… but talk about fanning the flames of doubt.

My main concern here is that, again, this is making it less convenient for people to recycle their waste… which means that people on the waste management margins — the ones the County Council really should be encouraging to recycle more — will be put off.

Illegal dumping and backyard burning are real problems, and seem to be on the increase around rural Cork. It’s something Cork County Council should be addressing. Stunts like this though — that make recycling more difficult — only add to the problem.

Unfortunately, in the race against waste Cork seems to be heading in the wrong direction!

Aug 192010
 

Whale Watch Ireland, Galley Head, Cork Whale Watch Ireland is an annual all-Ireland land-based whale watching event run by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG). This year’s watch will take place on Sunday 22 August between 2pm and 5pm at 15 headlands around the Irish coast.

This is a completely free land based watch (no boat-trips involved), and experienced IWDG guides / spotters will be on hand to give you the best chance of spotting some of the 24 cetacean species encountered around the Irish coast.

IWDG Sightings Co-ordinator Padraig Whooley showing children a whale jaw-bone at Whale Watch Ireland Some of the species you’re most likely to spot include harbour porpoise, common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, minke whale, if you’re lucky you may see fin whales blowing offshore, and if you’re REALLY lucky perhaps a humpback will put in an appearance.

As with all wildlife related events, there are no guarantees you’ll see anything – but the anticipation and uncertainty all adds to the excitement… and it’s a fabulous, free family outing at some of Ireland’s most spectacular natural locations.

Here’s a list of Whale Watch Ireland 2010 locations from the IWDG site:

Location Meeting Point Watch Leader
Howth Head, Dublin Balscadden Car Park Brian Glanville
Bray Head, Wicklow Pitch & putt car park Dinah Boyne
Hook Head, Wexford Hook Lighthouse Kevin Mc Cormick
Ardmore, Waterford Ram Head signal tower Andrew Malcolm
Galley Head, Cork Lighthouse Pádraig Whooley
Garranes, Beara, Cork Dzogchen Beara Ctr Patrick Lyne
Slea Head, Dingle Penisula, Kerry Slea Head Shrine Nick Massett
Brandon Point, Kerry Car park Mick O’Connell
Loop Head, Clare Lighthouse Aoife Foley
Black Head, Clare Lighthouse Joanne O’Brien
Downpatrick Head, Mayo Car park Conor Ryan
Mullaghmore Head, Sligo Mullaghmore lay by Fiona Farrell
Lough Swilly, Donegal Fort Dunree Dermot Mc Laughlin
Portstewart Head, Derry Harbour Hill Jim Allen
Larne, Antrim Larne Town Park, Glenarm Rd Ian Enlander

So get yourself to a headland near you on Sunday to find out more about the whales and dolphins around Ireland, and hopefully see a few for yourself.

I’ll be at the Galley Head watch in Cork… if you’re in the vicinity come say hello!

Nov 272009
 

Flood waters submerge a West Cork road during November's floods

Best wishes and condolences to everyone in West Cork, Cork City and further afield whose homes and businesses were affected by the recent flooding….

In Ireland we don’t do climatic extremes very well.

Maybe it’s the inevitable consequence of a climate that consistently under delivers. We don’t get long, baking hot droughts, we don’t get bone-chillingly cold winters with lots of snow and ice, we don’t get anything extreme on the weather front, really… just a perpetually dreary middle ground.

As a result we’re rubbish when it comes to dealing with weather-related problems. In the summer we moan about the rain, but on the (very) rare occasions when the sun does shine for more than a few days the council starts running out of water. If it has the temerity to snow the entire country grinds to a shuddering halt until things thaw out again, and anything more than a stiff breeze has us running indoors to take refuge from falling trees.

But if there was one type of weather you’d expect the Irish to cope well with it would be rain. If Ireland had an official national weather, then rain would be it! And yet here, too, we fail miserably at the faintest whiff of extremity.

Last week it rained hard for a few days, and highlighted just how flimsy our drainage systems, flood defences and coping mechanisms really are. Huge swathes of West Cork and a substantial chunk of Cork City sank beneath the rising flood waters, thousands of homes were damaged, hundreds of vehicles stranded and countless commuters failed to make it home to their families.

Continue reading »

Nov 102009
 
Carbon dioxide

Image via Wikipedia

Global warming… or climate change as I prefer to call it (given that there’s been scant evidence of any actual "warming" going on in Ireland over the last few summers), is a serious issue for sure. But am I the only one worried by a recent spate of publicity that’s painting carbon dioxide (CO2) as a noxious chemical we need to eradicate?

One TV ad that targets children and parents is particularly disturbing, not because it deals with the sobering subject of climate change… but because it’s built around misinformation and blatant scaremongering. The ad I’m talking about shows a father reading a bedtime story to a little girl… a dreadful story about how the nasty CO2 monster, growing ever larger, is wreaking havoc with the climate and killing the planet. If you haven’t seen it you’ll find it below.

 

Continue reading »

Oct 122009
 
Amethyst Deceiver

Image by Dave W Clarke via Flickr

Amethyst deceiver is an ominous name for a fungus… and the purple colour, while pretty, does little to suggest that this mushroom is anything other than seriously poisonous. The truth is that it’s not only harmless, but is also edible and apparently tastes quite good. Looking at it, you’d swear blind it was deadly… but that’s the trouble with fungi… they’re tricky little so-and-sos.

On Sunday we went to the Irish Natural Forestry Foundation’s (INFF) headquarters at Manch Estate, near Dunmanway in West Cork, for their second-last open day of the season. The estate is open to the public on the first Sunday of the month from March to November. These open days involve talks on sustainable native forestry, a chance to see craftsman utilise traditional woodland skills like charcoal making, wood-turning, woven hazel fence construction, gate making, birch broom making and more. There are also activities to keep the kids occupied, like woodland "treasure hunts" and nature art. But the highlights are the guided walks along the 20km of woodland, meadow and riverbank of the estate.

This month Cork nature writer and fungus aficionado Damien Enright was leading a walk dubbed "Fungi in the Woods". We love looking for fungi. We also love the concept of foraging for wild food, be it picking blackberries, catching fish or whatever. So far though we haven’t had the courage to combine the two — other than the odd occasion when we come across a patch of field mushrooms.

Continue reading »

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.

Continue reading »