Tag Archives: Ireland

Homage to Heritage Week

Today, Sunday, 27th August makes the end of Ireland’s 2017 Heritage Week. Thank you to all those that attended the three events I was involved in over the last nine days. Yesterday, we enjoyed our pollinator walk along the River Glore. While Carder bees were plentiful other bees were very scare. But we did see lots of peacock butterflies, one speckled wood and one red admiral.

Lots of us got up close and personal with some great minibeast at the Country Life Museum, at our biodiversity event and the children all went home with some flower seeds potted up to help our pollinators next year.

Last weekend we saw plenty of wild flowers along the banks of the River Moy at the Riverfest.

This post was my own little homage to the Heritage week.  It is a great way to get people out and about exploring their own local heritage, be it nature, built heritage, geology, what ever it is. While I look forward to doing it again in 2018, it is important that we all continue to get out and explore the wonderful heritage Ireland has to offer. One thing you can do is Make a Pledge for Nature. The Heritage Council is asking each of us to make a small pledge to help nature in our gardens, or communities.

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Street art with a difference

Last weekend, we attend the Foxford Riverfest, a celebration of fishing and nature based around the River Moy, in Foxford, Co Mayo. There were lots of fishing competitions, wildlife walks, crafts, civil defense rescue boat, and lots of fun activities for the children.

But the things which seem to have caught everyone’s attention were these knitted and crochet items on the street corners.

The aptly named “Yarn Bombing” was a street art initiative organised by the men and women of Foxford as a means of brightening up their town for the Riverfest. More of the wonderful creations can be seen on the Riverfest facebook page.

Tourmakeady woods

Today, our amble was at Tourmakeady Woods in County Mayo. It is a lovely woodland walk. We took the path along the River Glensaul, then followed the red walk loop that goes around the lake, past Tourmakeady Lodge.

The sun was shining and there were lots of butterflies about, but the stars were the Silver-washed fritillary, of which we saw seven. These large butterflies are often seen in deciduous woodland. The caterpillars feed on violets.

Silver-washed fritillary

Silver-washed fritillary, hiding in the falling leaves

The woodland, was one of sixteen chosen to be part of the People’s Millennium Woods to commemorate the new century. The project involved the planting of 1.3 million native Irish trees.

Tourmakeady Woods

Tourmakeady Woods

Not having been there before, and only reading up on the site on our return, I see that we missed what is supposed to be a lovely waterfall which was on another path than the one we took!! Never mind, something to see the next time we visit.

Peacock

Peacock, determined not to show it’s beautiful colours!

 

 

The Great Yellow Bumblebee Hunt

On Saturday last, we attended part of the Annual Bee and Butterfly Recorders weekend held on the Belmullet Peninsula here in Co Mayo and organised by the National Biodiversity Data Centre with BirdWatch Ireland hosting.

Belmullet is a special place. It’s wild and windswept and much of it is surprisingly flat, which means the Atlantic winds just howl across it.

There are many treasures on the peninsula including Erris Head which I wrote about last year. But for the recorders weekend the habitat we were most interested in was Machair. Machair is a flat, specialised and rare, sandy habitat formed from windblown calcareous sands.

Looking for bees

Looking for bees

Looking at the photo you may think that it is nothing special,  but a closer inspection reveals a mass of flowers! And of course that is what the bees (and butterflies, but it was so windy they were out of sight) were there for.

Machair

Machair

We were looking, in particular, for the Great Yellow Bumblebee.  I hadn’t seen this bumble before as it is now restricted to just a few areas on the west coast. The species is listed as endangered in Ireland. Well, we did see it! And while it may not quite live up to it’s name – it was indeed yellow (with a single black band), but ‘great’ – well pretty small really. Still it was amazing to see it.

Great Yellow Bumblebee

Great Yellow Bumblebee

To make the day even better, we saw two other bumblebee species that I have not seen before. The Large Carder bee, a beautiful blond and ginger bee. And the Red-Shanked Carder bee, which is black with a red tail and red hairs (quite hard to see) on its hind legs. The Red-Shanked bee is also rare and listed as having a vulnerable conservation status. While the Large Carder is listed as near vulnerable.

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Red-shanked carder bumblebee

Like all threatened species, it is important that we learn as much as we can about these species, so that proper conservation management strategies are put in place to ensure their survival.  Dr Tomás Murray, Project Co-Ordinator, for the NBDC had earlier emphasised the importance of monitoring this species (and all bees and butterflies).  Anyone interested in bees or butterflies can become involved in monitoring, for more information follow this link.

I would like to express my gratitude to all dedicated professionals and amateurs involved. I learned so much on the day.

 

Teach Saileach – Willow Room

On a sunny day last week, I got a sneak preview of the new Teach Saileach or Willow Room at the Country Life Museum in Turlough, Co Mayo.

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Sunshine through willow of Teach Saileach

On Sight 2017, was a community arts project, funded by Mayo County Council, in partnership with the National Museum. The Willow Room is one of several willow sculptures created in the grounds of Turlough Park, by the talented Mayo Art Squad. The artists used local willow and traditional basket making techniques.

Willow House

Willow Room

I was privileged the following day to be the first person to use the Willow room as an outdoor classroom for a group of pupils from a local primary school. We used the space as our classroom before exploring the wood for bugs and other mini-beasts.  The bug hotel is also a new addition to the woodland.

The room made a wonderful outdoor classroom. Pictured below are just  a couple of the other willow sculptures that can be viewed as part of the Willow trail.

The artists involved in the project were: Mick Smyth (coordinator), Brendan Timlin, Kevin MacNeely, David McInerney, Saw Tun, Sanita Vecbrale, Paul O’Driscoll and Aidan Crotty

Hoverflies

Hoverflies are important pollinators of our crops. There are about 180 species of hoverfly in Ireland. Some like the one below resemble wasps or bees. They don’t have stings, but by pretending to a species that does they can perhaps avoid predation!

Chrysotoxum bicinctum

Chrysotoxum bicinctum