Monday, 17 October 2011

8th October 2011 Marlay Park Tree Walk

Niall Mac Coitir of the Dublin Branch of the IWT led a tree walk around Marlay Park in Rathfarnham on Saturday 8th October, to mark National Tree Day which fell on the previous Thursday  6th October. The weather was lovely for the event, a fine autumn day with a mild breeze and sunshine and over twenty people turned out. Niall took people on a circuit around the park, showing some of the fine trees, both native and non-native, that Marley Park has to offer. 

The walk included a stop at a particularly fine mature oak tree. The oak is the backbone of Irish forests, supporting a whole ecosystem of native Irish life. The walk heard how there are very few native woodlands left – around 1% of the land of Ireland. A widespread story has it Irish oak forests were all cut down to supply the British navy. While this was a factor in the destruction of Irish woods, the main factor was that the island had to support a population of eight million at one stage and every square metre of ground was farmed. Another important factor is that many oak woods were cut down to provide charcoal. Oak makes very good charcoal, which was needed in ironworks as part of the smelting process.   

Niall also spoke about the rowan or mountain ash, and how its red berries were traditionally seen as a powerful deterrent to the fairies and other bad influences. A magical rowan tree featured in a story about the lovers Diarmuid and Grainne, which involved poor Diarmuid fighting a fierce giant to get some of the berries of the tree for Grainne. The berries of the tree had the property that whoever ate them would stay forever at thirty years of age. Hearing that, some of the older members of the group cast a longing eye at the berries hanging from the tree before them, but unfortunately it was time to move on!  Niall also showed the group a fine specimen of an ash tree and pointed out that a well grown tree is needed to make a hurley, as it must be cut from the part of the tree where the trunk curves into the root. This is so that the grain of the wood will curve naturally from the handle into the bas of the hurley.

Another tree mentioned was the chestnut tree which is not native to Ireland, but comes from Turkey and the Balkans. Before it arrived in the last few hundred years as an ornamental tree  to Britain and Ireland, children would play the game of conkers with snail shells – hence the name ‘conkers’ which comes from the Latin concha or shell. Among the other trees seen on the walk were scots pine, birch, beech and yew, and by the end of the talk everyone had learned a little more about some of the trees that can be seen on a walk through our parks and woodlands. (photos courtesy of Chris and Joy)

Oak tree

Under the chestnut

Ash tree

4th October 2011 Green Drinks - Vegetarianism

Great News ! The IWT Dublin Branch has teamed up with LeafLiving  ( to bring back the ever popular Dublin Green Drinks. Green Drinks is a simple idea that’s gone global. Once a month in 448 cities around the world people with an interest in green issues get together to chat, share ideas and raise a glass to a brighter future.  Dublin Green Drinks is on the first Tuesday of every month at 6pm in Messr Maguires pub on Burgh Quay, near O’Connell Bridge. The first event was a great success, with a good attendance of over thirty people and a lively discussion ensued.

Martin O’Sullivan of the Vegetarian Society of Ireland was the guest speaker for the evening and spoke about the benefits of vegetarianism while exposing some popular myths. For example, Martin spelled out that it is not true that a vegetarian diet is automatically lacking in vitamins or protein. This only happens if a person stops eating meat and does not broaden their intake of various vegetables to compensate. A properly planned vegetarian diet will provide all the vitamins and minerals that a person needs. There are also the environmental benefits of not eating meat, as growing crops to eat uses less resources, not to mention the issues of animal cruelty. Adam, another member of the Vegetarian Society spelt out the Society’s ethos, which is about promoting vegetarianism as much as possible, but not about trying to ban everyone from eating meat. Debbi Pedreschi  of the Dublin Branch of IWT also spoke as a failed vegetarian about the difficulty of sticking to a meat free diet, especially when living with meat eaters, and how devious tactics were sometimes necessary, such as sneaking meat substitutes into stews and curries!

There then followed a lively debate about various issues, including whether quorn or other meat substitutes really taste as nice as meat, the evils of factory farming and whether eating meat was really so bad for the environment. Some of the IWT members in fact thought that part of the problem was that people should eat a wider variety of meats  –not something the vegetarians present agreed with! However in the end everyone agreed that we eat too much meat in general, and that the environment and our health would benefit if we could cut back on eating meat in general and focussed more on organic and locally produced food.  After that , meat eaters and vegetarians alike, tucked into the delicious vegetarian snacks provided free at the event and had a few drinks to round off the evening. (Photos courtesy of Niall)



17th September 2011 Woodland Walk in Carrickgollogan Woods

A small crowd of Dublin Branch IWT members met at Carrickgollogan Woods car park. The weather thankfully behaved itself for most of the walk. We ventured into the Leadmines tunnel and clambered over brambles and gorse as we exited back into daylight. A cheeky buzzard rewarded us with its acrobatic flight as two ravens tried to chase it off. From the locally famous Leadmines Chimney we viewed the surrounding area of Dublin.
The forest paths were dotted with a range of fungal delights including the poisonous but colourful red-and-white fly agaric, Amanita muscaria (familiar from a thousand children’s story books) and the prized cep or penny bun Boletus edulis. We identified some of the heathland wildflowers including heath milkwort, Polygala serpyllifolia and tormentil, Potentilla erecta.
Sadly, no red squirrels gave us the pleasure of their company. By the time we reached their territory, the weather had turned windy. However we did see evidence of squirrel activity with chewed pine cones littering the ground. Whether these belonged to red or grey no one knows as they both eat cones in the same way.
The last stage of the walk took us up to the top of the hill. During the ascent we were treated to hot chocolate from the flask of one of our members. This sugar fix, I suspect, was much needed and gave us the energy to get to the top. Unfortunately, the weather turned both wet and cold. On arrival to the summit we all agreed that the wind was too strong and we quickly headed back to our cars. (photos courtesy of Sarah and Niall)

Cep or Penny Bun


June & July 2011 Ireland's Eye

This summer saw an IWT Dublin Branch adventure to north Dublin's best kept wildlife secret - Ireland's Eye.  The demand for this trip was so high we had to run it twice! Over these two trips we were guided by wildlife experts Dr. Rory O'Hanlon, Conn Flynn and Sarah Rubalcava who showed us the wonderful flora and fauna present on this uninhabited wilderness.

Our troop of 30 people, young and old alike started the day off by taking to sea via boat from Howth Harbour. These boats brought us around ‘The Stack’, a large rock formation at one end of the island, before heading around to view multiple bird species on the seaward side, including huge colonies of Comorants, Shags, Kittiwakes, and nesting Gannets before landing on the island itself. We were even lucky enough to spot the elusive Puffin and some Razorbills! Irelands's Eye is of national importance for many of these species. There is also a seal colony in the area, and these could be seen bobbing in the waves. 

Once on the island we were able to explore the colonies up close, and to learn a bit more about the island and plant species found there. We stopped for lunch with the sun shining upon us and birds shrieking overhead, before continuing on our trek to the opposite side of the island to meet our boat. Before our journey back we had enough time to have a look around the Martello Tower, shale beach and ecclesiastical ruins which date back to 700AD.

Variable weather, and landing points not being the easiest  only seemed to add to the adventure and an excellent time was had by all. We hope to be able to offer these trips again in 2012, so if you haven't yet managed to see this gem on our doorstep, watch this space!!!! (photos courtesy of Chiara and Joy)


Herring Gull


Spring 2011 Whale Watch

The IWT Dublin Branch and the Irish Wildlife Trust have jointly led a number of Whale Watch events this year. Debbi Pedreschi lead groups up on to Howth and Bray heads where she demonstrated how to whale watch, how the public can get involved in the IWDG sighting and stranding schemes, the importance of them and the IWDGs work, how IWT members can get involved and contribute to these vital recording efforts.
As with much of the natural kingdom, whale watching often involves a lot of sitting around and patience, sometimes without much reward. Sightings of minke whales and pilot whales are possible off Howth Head, and a humpback whale was even seen in the Irish Sea off Dublin this year! Although none of these were seen by us on our trips, all of our trips this year managed to provide at least some sightings of porpoises, and some produced some great sightings of bottlenose dolphins for durations of up to 20 minutes at a time.
These events were great successes with endless enthusiasm being the order of the day. Some of the events even became extended by a couple of hours as the pleasant weather and company led participants to hang on in the hopes of spotting some more cetacean action. Here’s hoping next year gives us as many happy sightings! (photos courtesy of Tristan)