Feb 212011
 

… but hey, it’s a start!

Just spotted this on the Birdwatch Ireland Facebook page. It’s a post from the warden of the Cape Clear Bird Observatory, Steve Wing, confirming that they saw the first swallow of the summer pass by yesterday, 20 February.

image

Typing this with frozen fingers, looking out the office window at the lashing rain, it doesn’t feel much like summer, but with the frogs a spawning, swallows arriving and bumblebees on the wing (saw my first one on Saturday) nature is certainly hinting that the winter is well and truly on its way out.

So chin-up, and look on the bright side… we might not get much dry weather, but at lease we have warmer rain to look forward to!

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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!

Apr 182010
 

I love cephalopods (squid, octopuses and cuttlefish). They’re among my favourite marine animals.

When I was studying Marine Biology at The University of Liverpool, we rescued an octopus that ended up in the wet lab with some Nephrops norvegicus (scampi or langoustine).

We kept him for a while, in one of the tanks at the marine lab. I spent a long time just watching him… and the changes in skin colour and texture never ceased to amaze me.

Amazing footage of the cryptic and behavioural colour changes in cephalopods in the second half of this TED talk.

Apr 082010
 

For me one of the most satisfying parts of photographing wildlife (or at least attempting to) is how even our most familiar wildlife species can offer the opportunity to capture truly spectacular images.

Whether it’s a robin in your back yard, a fox visiting your garden, or a couple of blackbirds squabbling in the local park… there’s action and drama all around you. More common species, are, by definition, more accessible, and are often easier to get close to… improving your chances of capturing that winning shot.

This Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) was hanging around Lough Ine, near Skibbereen on 06 April. I had the camera with me, and took a few shots as it came in to land

 Herring GullHerring Gull (Larus argentatus) on the wingHerring Gull (Larus argentatus) coming in to land

Nikon D90, Sigma 28-200 Zoom (300mm 35mm equivalent) @ f5.6

Mar 192010
 

Barn Swallow in flight I got an e-mail from Cepa Giblin a few days ago. Cepa’s a fan of the Ireland’s Wildlife page that I run on Facebook, and is a producer with Crossing the Line Films.

She asked me if I’d give her latest venture a shout. It’s a wildlife series for RTÉ called Wild Journeys, which hits the screens on RTÉ One, Sunday night at 6:30pm. If you’ve seen the trailers running on RTÉ you’ll know it looks likely to be a cracking programme.

The series follows the long haul travellers of the Irish wildlife scene – from true leviathans in the form of the humpback whales and basking sharks that visit Ireland’s coasts every year, to the deceptive fragility of the beautiful painted lady butterfly – which somehow manages the mammoth journey from north Africa to Ireland.

The series will follow some of Ireland’s most iconic serial voyagers, like the Barn Swallow the Atlantic salmon and the European eel, as well as some less well known, but no less extraordinary, ones.

Here’s a summary of the wildlife feast that awaits in what promises to be a real feast not just for wildlife enthusiasts, but for everybody (taken from the CTL Films press release):

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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.

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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 092009
 
Nathusius' pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus nathu...

Image via Wikipedia

I was sitting watching telly the other night when a movement outside the window caught my eye. I took a closer look, but couldn’t see anything, so turned my attention back to the television.

There it was again. This time I looked for a bit longer, and sure enough I saw a tiny creature emerge from the eaves of the house, silhouetted briefly against the darkening sky.

The bats were back.

Irish bats hibernate through the winter, and stir into life again the following spring. In summer the expectant females set up maternity roosts in old buildings, attic spaces, under bridges and other suitable locations, where they give birth to and rear their young. Despite their small size the bats I was watching were adults, leaving the roost to feed on nocturnal insects.

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