Wednesday, 31 October 2012

November 6th - Green Drinks Sustainable clothing

This month IWT Dublin Branch's Green Drinks talk was about sustainable clothing. Lynn MacPherson, creator of eco-clothing label Salty Philip spoke about the idea of reducing the negative impact of conventional fabric production on the environment and the people who make it. By making beautiful contemporary clothes, Salty Philip aims to banish the idea that eco is dull, and bring life to each garment.

Lynn talked about some of the facts and figures around clothing production. Europeans alone generate about 14m tonnes of textile waste each year, of which only 5m tonnes is recycled. This is a great pity as over 90% of textile waste can be re-used in reprocessed fibres, packing and insulation. Another important issue is buying organic. Cotton in particular cannot be grown without heavy use of pesticides that can cause cancer, blindness and fetal deformities. They are also very expensive, leading many farmers into financial ruin. In India alone, 25,000 farmers have committed suicide because of debt problems! Luckily organic cotton can now be bought in many chain stores. Fair Trade products are also important as it ensures that those involved in making clothes receive a living wage and fair labour standards. 

There are also alternatives to conventional clothing. Bamboo can be made into a fibre and grows quickly without the need for much fertiliser, pesticides or water. However, strong chemical are needed in the process of making the bamboo fibres so this is an option that needs to be considered carefully. Another option is fish skin leather, which is simply discarded at the moment, but can be used to make items such as shoes, belts and purses. A potentially exciting new source of organic clothing that has recently been developed is the option of making clothes out of milk! Some of Lynn's wares were on display at the talk and attracted great interest, and everyone present certainly had their minds opened to the other options that are out there.

Lynn and some of her clothes

Thursday, 25 October 2012

October 27th Phoenix Park Deer rut

On the 27th of October 2012 the IWT Dublin Branch met at 9am in the Phoenix Park to witness the annual Deer Rut. Despite the early start and the chill in the air there was a great turn out.  We started off at the Papal Cross car park and we walked towards the forest. Dr. Favel Naulty who has studied the Fallow Deer in the Phoenix Park for 10 years gave a very informative talk on the history and the behaviour of the deer. We saw a large group of deer emerging from the forest. We witnessed the males fighting with their antlers and heard the squeals of the young fawn’s callings for their mothers.  Dr. Favel answered many questions from the group and gave a great insight about the Fallow Deer. Thank you again to Dr. Favel and to all who attended.

Misty morning in Phoenix Park

Dr Favel Naulty explains about the deer

Face off in the Phoenix Park

Fallow Deer Phoenix Park

Thursday, 18 October 2012

21st October - Creepy Crawly Event

The Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch held a Creepy Crawly Workshop and Walk in the Phoenix Park on the 21st October to coincide with the scariest time of the year – Halloween!!

We started out by setting up some pitfall traps the day before. They were loaded up with some rotten fruit and meat in order to attract as much insects and bugs as we could! These were covered over with some wood to prevent any rain or small mammals from getting into the traps.

The day of the Workshop was bright and dry. Perfect weather for some bug hunting! We had a great turn out with over 20 kids attending along with their parents (who were just as interested as the kids!). The children were given a bug viewer, an insect colouring book, an insect key and a Badger Club magazine to kick start their creepy crawly interest. We started off with Kevin Delahunty explaining all the equipment that we were going to use and how they all worked. The kids were very interested in the beating trays, pooters, pitfall traps and sweep nets that we had to show them.

The first stop was to the pitfall traps (which we had emptied beforehand into a tray so they were free of rotten food!). The kids all gathered around to see how they worked. We then showed them what we had found in the trap which included some slugs, a ground beetle, some small spiders and even some eggs which a fly had laid on a piece of the meat. We then moved on to the beating tray and the children had a fun time shaking branches to see what fell out onto the beating tray. They were given pooters to suck up the insects to identify them. This was followed by a sweep net demonstration in some tall grass. The children then spread out to search for some insects on their own using their bug viewers and some borrowed pooters. They found a huge range of insects including several species of spiders, a harvestman, a millipede, several species of snails, some worms, a 7-spot ladybird, a cranefly and lots of froghoppers and woodlouse. Overall it was a great day and everyone enjoyed themselves and hopefully we sparked some lifelong bug interests in the children (and maybe some of the adults).

Friday, 5 October 2012

Spirit of Folk Festival

The IWT had a presence at the Spirit of Folk Festival in Navan on 21- 23 September last. We arrived at the festival early Friday morning and to a warm reception from the staff,  which included a couple of the many friendly dogs on site, who were roaming around in crew and security jackets. The staff campsite was filled with trees and two donkeys who were only too happy to relieve us of any juicy apples we may have had.  After dropping off our camping equipment, we began setting up our stall in the main area. We hadn't even  finished when someone shouted and pointed up to the sky. To add to the excitement of day one of a festival, we saw not one but an entire family of buzzards! Two adults soared overhead with two juveniles with them. 

The atmosphere among the group was of sheer joy. The music was great with friendly faces all around. Our species sightings board also became full quite fast, with all sorts of wildlife from squirrels to frogs and shield bugs to donkeys! We were all surprised by the sighting of Ireland's native Smooth Newt, not near the water as you might expect but rocking out at the main stage beside one of the benches! The weather during the day was warm although as the day progressed to night this began to change first to slightly chilly and then to absolutely freezing! It was time to wrap up as much as possible and attempt to get a good night sleep in preparation for day two.

Once the stall opened there was a steady flow of interested people coming up to ask general wildlife questions. Some people showed a keen interest in gaining some new knowledge about Irish wildlife with particular interest being shown in our badger campaign. The children were very interested in our arts and crafts and many “Super Bugs” were made out of clay, beads and shells. Our animal quizzes proved a great source of fun and humour as the kids tried to name all the animals to win some free sweets. These quizzes were of particular interest to some children, who became very familiar faces over the course of the weekend and managed to charm us out of many sweets and lolly pops.  We had some people coming back to tell us what they had found in the woods and even some people talking about the wildlife in their area and around their homes. Our design-your-own wooden medallions were very popular and before long almost every child at the festival could be seen with one around their neck.

IWT Stand

The wildlife event of the day took place at 2PM when Tim Clabon led a very informative wildlife walk through the woods and around the pond. There was a great turn out leaving the stand and although we lost some people along the way, we were joined by others as well. After a short walk through the woods describing the different shrub and tree species and the corvids (crows) overhead it was time for some sweep netting and collection of insects with the use of a pooter. There were many species collected including orb spiders, harvestman, beetles and some parasitic wasps. The inspections under moss covered logs brought up centipedes and millipedes and the pond dipping also proved fruitful with the addition of water beetles and pea cockles. We rounded off the day watching a blind date show involving some people from the festival and some questionable karaoke.

After a second chilly night we were up early to start the day back at the stand answering more questions and losing more sweets to children. We all took some time off to visit the falconry display. The falconers involved us in holding and feeding the birds of prey including Harris Hawks and a beautiful Eagle Owl. The involvement of children in the display was done very well and everyone seemed to be really enjoying themselves. After this display it was time to bring on the awareness of Ocean2012 and sustainable fisheries. We rounded up a huge group of people to make a fantastic fish shape and followed this with a talk by Kevin Delahunty on the problems of overfishing and how it is affecting you. There was a good turnout for the talk and a good few questions asked and answered throughout and after it. As the sun began to sink in the sky it was time for our own Conn Flynn to give a talk in one of the tents about the IWT's badger campaign. The talk was attended by some farmers, some of who disagreed with all of the points brought up and there was an enjoyable discussion to follow. After the talk it was time to begin packing up. It was dark as we left the festival and headed home for a much needed rest. 

Roisin Mary Kearney & Kevin Delahunty

Conn's Talk

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

October 7th National Trails Day Cliff Walk

On Sunday October 7th the Dublin Branch celebrated National Trails Day  with a scenic cliff walk from the Waterside Hotel, Donabate to Portrane. It was a gloriously sunny morning with a great turnout of about eighty people, to walk along what is considered one of Dublin’s most scenic walks, with a great view of Lambay Island, Howth and the rugged coastline itself. 

The first birds we saw were oyster catchers and turnstones running along the rocks, and as the tide was in, waders like curlews and godwits feeding in the fields to our left. A lone heron also was hunting in the field - perhaps looking for mice! We were also joined by a solitary grey seal who observed us at various points as we walked along.  A nice variety of seashore wildflowers was also visible on the path as we walked along, like the sea spurrey in the picture blow. 

The best birdwatching was found when the group reached the shoreline under the Martello Tower in Portrane. Along with a few cormorants sunning themselves with outstretched wings on the rocks, we also saw a guillemot in its winter plumage. This confused some of us initially as the chocolate brown summer head colouring is replaced with much more white in the winter. With the aid of a telescope the group also identified a red throated diver out in the water. Various species of gulls and terns were also spotted overhead, and visible in the distance was the island of Rockabill near Skerries, where most of northern Europe's population of roseate terns go to breed. A stonechat with its orange breast was also glimpsed on the rocks around the group, which was a good thing to see as their population has crashed due to the two very bad winters we had recently. 

As the group headed back to Donabate the sky clouded over, but the rain held off and overall, everyone was happy to have seen some of the amazing birdlife that Dublin's coastline has to offer!
Photo courtesy of Joy

Sea Spurrey - courtesy of Joy

The shore below Portrane Martello Tower - courtesy of Joy