Bread – Like Takeaway for Ducks

‘Feeding the ducks’ with leftover bread has been a traditional pastime for generations. Recently, wildlife conservationists in the UK have started a campaign against this seemingly harmless practice. Jennifer Mc Aree of Transition Monaghan looked into why the campaign was launched and if we really have to stop feeding ducks altogether.

ducks             Feeding the ducks (and swans) is familiar to us all    Source: Jennifer Mc Aree                       

We’re all familiar with the idyllic scene. Families at the lakeside tearing up bits of stale bread and throwing them into the water, watching while excited ducks swoop in and gobble up the pieces with their little beaks in a flash. It’s that seemingly innocent pastime we have all enjoyed at some point in our lives, especially as children.

In recent times however conservationists have been striving to warn the public that such well-intentioned activity is not so harmless after all. The UK’s Canal and River Trust launched a campaign twelve months ago pleading with people not to feed ducks bread. They reported that in England and Wales alone, 6 million loaves were fed to ducks in 2014. To date the Trust has made great progress, with an estimated 80,000 less loaves being chucked into lakes and rivers, but they are still struggling to spread the message.

Bread is like junk food for ducks. It’s the equivalent of us humans feasting on greasy takeaways from the chip shop every day. Birds are not wired to eat bread on a regular basis (many would argue that people aren’t either, especially the white variety – but that’s a topic for another day). Bread is devoid of the nutrients ducks and other bird species can obtain from their regular diet. It fills them up quickly and because it is so plentiful, overpopulation has become an issue in certain areas. Bread causes ducks to gain weight quickly and easily and discourages them to search for their own natural food sources. Excessive bread intake over time can also stimulate the onset of a horrible condition called ‘angel wing’, leading to deformity of the birds’ wings and affecting their ability to fly.

Ducks and other waterfowl such as swans and waterhens often defecate in the area where they are fed and uneaten food can drift to the edges or base of lakes. Thus, bacteria can build up rapidly, incubating diseases for birds and fish, causing algal blooms and attracting rats. Wet, uneaten bread also supports a mould called aspergillus. If this enters birds’ lungs it can prove fatal.

The good news is that we don’t have to stop feeding ducks completely! But we must change the type and quantity of food we give them and where. Conservationists recommend moving around the lake/river/canal and feeding the birds at different points, while limiting food to small amounts. The following list suggests what is safe for ducks to eat:

  • Oats, wheat or barley
  • Defrosted peas
  • Cracked corn
  • Rice (cooked or uncooked)
  • Birdseed
  • Grapes
  • Earthworms/mealworms
  • Chopped lettuce or other greens/salad mixes
  • Chopped vegetable trimmings or peels
  • Duck pellets

Here’s what you should avoid feeding ducks (most of which we should steer clear of too!):

  • Bread
  • Chips
  • Crackers and biscuits
  • Popcorn
  • Sugary food – sweets, chocolate

So, feeding the ducks is fine when we follow a few simple guidelines. Bonding with nature is a good thing and should be encouraged from a young age if we are to appreciate and conserve all the wonderful wildlife we still have. In this relentlessly busy digital world we now inhabit, it is a simple way to relax and take stock.

*Did you know? Mallard ducks are the most common duck species in Ireland. They are present all year round, but come to winter here in greater numbers from Iceland, Scandinavia and other parts of Northern Europe. The male (drake) is the more glamorous of the two sexes with his green head, bright yellow beak and multi-coloured feathers. During the summer moult however his colours tend to fade. The female (hen) is dowdier, with mottled brown feathers. She tends to be louder than her male counterpart however, and makes the famous ‘quack’, while he has a softer call. (No sarcastic comments here please).

April events can be found here

TTIP- Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: The Prostitution of Ireland

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) involves ongoing talks on trade between the EU and the USA. If passed it could have some very serious negative repercussions for Europeans, including the Irish. Many people don’t know of TTIP’s existence however, due to the secretive discussions that take place around it. Janette Lambe of Transition Monaghan explains the issues in more detail.

TTIP – Some of you may already be aware of it but worryingly, others may have never heard of it. For the latter:  TTIP stands for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership which has been in discussion between trade representatives of the EU (including Ireland) and the US since 2013. If you have not heard of TTIP it may be because all discussions take place in covert.


  Anti-TTIP protestors outside the Dáil.  Source:

The most commonly mentioned aim of the partnership is to loosen trade barriers between the US and EU. According to TTIP advocates this would boost our economy by increasing international business and in turn create more jobs. However, Ireland already has a very healthy trade relationship with the US, so why the need for a trade agreement?

TTIP has a very sinister flip-side. If passed it leads to the standardisation of regulations in areas such as the environment, food quality, government policies, health care, employees’ rights etc. European standards would be lowered to meet those of The US.

In Europe and in Ireland especially, we pride ourselves on our rigorous food safety and health regulations. Stateside however, it is not uncommon to find chlorinated chicken on the supermarket shelves or meat pumped full of cancer-causing hormones. An overwhelming 70% of US food is genetically modified. European food standards keep GM foods to a minimum.

The American meat industry processed 33.2 million cattle in 2013. In contrast Ireland currently only has the capacity to process 1.1 million per annum. If TTIP goes ahead, it is probable that our beef industry will be stifled by the American beef market. Also the sheer volume of beef the US can process is an indication of the emphasis on quantity, not quality there. It also raises questions about the level of compassion shown towards the vast majority of livestock that are slaughtered.

Another objective of TTIP is the establishment of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) which permits international corporations to sue governments if their policies inhibit the potential for corporate profit. The ruthlessness of ISDS has been witnessed in various parts of the world including Uruguay (under the similar Trade in Services Agreement – TISA). As part of a decision to increase health awareness, the Uruguayan government enlarged the health warning graphics on cigarette packaging. ‘Philip Morris USA’, the American tobacco corporation is now suing the Uruguayan government for millions of dollars, as the enlarged health warnings discourage potential purchasers of ‘Philip Morris’ brands. In effect this is suing an elected government for trying to promote better health to its populace. Since then Uruguay has left TISA after strong protests from its citizens.

TTIP would have detrimental effects on our environment. If Ireland agrees to the partnership, the probability of fracking will become imminent. Ireland has the second smallest forest coverage in Europe and fracking would have the potential to destroy what natural beauty we have left. Our water would be at high risk of gas contamination, natural habitats could be obliterated and our democratic nation would be powerless to prevent it. To change environmental policy would inhibit corporate profit and to inhibit corporate profit is to be sued. Where is the democracy in that?

I am both perplexed and saddened by the Irish government’s show of support for TTIP.

To quote the noble words of Seathrún Céitinn:

“A Fhódhla phráis…                                                            “Oh brazen Ireland…

Deór níor fágad I gclár do bhrollaigh mhínghil    not a drop was left in the surface of your smooth white bosom

Nár dheólsad ál gach cránach coigríche.”           That wasn’t sucked by the litter of every foreign sow “

These words were written in the 1700s. Three centuries later and little has changed!

This is merely the ‘tip’ of the iceberg. There is a plethora of TTIP material online. There are also many online petitions you can sign to show your opposition. I urge you to write letters to TDs, start a petition, write an article – make your voice heard. Help us hold on to our democracy. As we are being reminded daily through this year’s 1916 centenary celebrations, we fought for it for long enough.


March and April noticeboards can be found here and here


What a load of Rubbish!

Transition Monaghan member Dearbhla Lenehan writes about the new pay-by-weight waste collection system due to come into effect later this year and how this could have a knock on effect on illegal dumping in the county.

A planned pay-by-weight waste collection system is proposlittered to come into effect in July this year.  This new system has a higher charge per kg of waste destined for landfill, with lower charges for compostable and recyclable waste.  This is designed to increase recycling rates and reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill, however, there are concerns that the increased bill for those who refuse to change their ways could result in increased cases of illegal dumping.

Illegal dumping – Source: Monaghan                                                                                                                   County Council Litter Management Plan

A study by the Department of Environment found that this is a very effective method for waste prevention and recycling and that in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown immediately after the introduction of this system there was a 20-25% reduction in the amount of waste.  It is believed that this new system will divert up to 440,000 tonnes of rubbish from landfills every year.

Many of the items we currently send to landfill sites are recyclable and take years, decades or even centuries to decay in a landfill site.  For example, a normal aluminum can if recycled will be back on our shelves within 60 days however it can take 500 years for it to  decompose in a landfill site.  Plastic bags can be recycled and turned into composite lumber which can then be used in wooden structures like door frames, window frames and outdoor decks to name a few.  Recycled plastic bags can also be used to make resin that is then used to produce new plastic bags, crates, pallets, containers and pipes.  Unfortunately, a lot of our plastic bags end up in landfill sites and can take up to 100 years to degrade.Hopefully this new pay-by-weight system will encourage users to recycle more.


In November 2015, Cllr. Padraig McNally expressed fears that the prevalence of illegal dumping will only be exacerbated by the introduction of the pay-per-weight waste disposal system.  County Monaghan already has many cases of illegal dumping and the Council spends approximately €1 million every year cleaning litter up off our streets.  Monaghan has been deemed moderately littered in the 2015 Irish Business Against Litter survey, dropping nearly 20 places from finishing 12th in 2014 to finishing 31st last year.  Cllr Paudge Connolly believes the main reason for our drop in position was due to littering on private property in the town, which the council has no control over.

In a bid to tackle the litter problem along the N2 road, CCTV cameras have been installed to deter dumping and catch the culprits.  In one litter picking operation organised by Monaghan County Council and undertaken by volunteers last year, three tonnes of waste were collected on the Castleblayney bypass.  That’s the equivalent of three years of household waste!

Not only is illegal littering extremely unsightly and often accompanied by a pungent smell, it is also damaging to our environment.  Improper dumping can pollute wildlife habitats and lead to the death of fish, birds and small animals.  Some of the waste we dispose of is toxic if consumed by animals and if these toxins end up in water bodies they can kill off aquatic life.  Broken glass or rusty nails found on footpaths and roads can also be a significant hazard,especially for children.

There is currently an on-the-spot fine of €150 for leaving or throwing litter in a public place and a maximum fine of €3000 if convicted by the District Court of a litter offence. If you would like to report littering / illegal dumping please contact the Environment Section of Monaghan County Council in confidence on Freephone 1800 2000 14 or email: with exact details of the location of the litter or illegal dumping.  Alternatively, you can report it to the 24 hour National Environmental Complaints line on 1850 365 121 who will pass the information on to the local authority, the Gardaí or the Environmental Protection Agency.

March and April noticeboards can be found here and here

Tree Week (6th – 13th March): Celebrating and Planting Trees for a Sustainable Future

ESB Tree Week, organised by the Tree Council of Ireland  is a week long programme of events to tree councilcelebrate trees. To be part of ESB Tree Week, the Tree Council of Ireland invites individuals and groups  to organise one or more events for the week. Tree Week runs from Sunday, 6 March until Sunday, 13 March and is sponsored by the ESB in association with Coillte.


In Ireland we need a lot more trees planted for their economic, environmental and amenity benefits. With greenhouse gas emissons and climate change becoming a major issue,  growing more trees can help  storig carbon. Tree week can bring  a focus on trees at a time when many more people venture out of doors after the winter.

As well as tree planting ceremonies, there are a range of events of events that can be organised. These include forest and woodland walks, nature trails, workshops, woodturning displays, talks, tree climbing, broadcasts, launches, poetry readings, exhibitions,  competitions and tree planting events where communities are challenged to plant a target number of trees on a designated local site over a fixed time period. You can register your event so that other people can come and join you!  See

In schools, typical activities for tree week might be planting a tree, drawing pictures or making leaf prints or bark rubbings of trees, read or write poems or stories about trees, learning  how to measure the height and spread of a tree and producing  a class drama about trees. Organisations such as local residents association, tidy towns groups, youth clubs, sports clubs or other local organisation could get their members involved in a tree planting or tree maintenance project such as a clean-up of a local woodland in the local area. Individuals could organise a community tree-planting event or organise a walk or trail to showcase local trees.

Monaghan County Council Support Tree Week

Monaghan County Council will have a number of saplings (mixed native species) to give to community projects during Tree Week. Contact Fionnuala Mulligan, tel 047 73720 email To see events already planned to take place in Co Monaghan see listing of events at

tree week

Planting native trees in Castleblayney recently were members of Castleblayney Community Gardeners. From left: Liam Murtagh, Máire Breheny, Eilish Stewart, Dympna Fee and Francis McElroy.

Events in March can be found here

Climate Change should not have been the ‘Cinderella’ Issue of the Election

“A quite extraordinary effort at reality denial for this crunch issue to have been completely john Gibbonsoverlooked by all the main parties as well as the mainstream media” This view of the treatment of the climate issue in the election debates up to this week was voiced by An Taisce’s spokesperson John Gibbons. This week we focus on his views and also on how some other environmentalists view the election.         


                                                                                                                                   John Gibbons, climate change                                                                                                                        writer and spokesperson for An Taisce

We have had the two flagship Leaders’ Debates, hosted by TV3 and RTE. In both debates, climate change – the biggest issue facing humanity – was ignored by the presenters and by the politicians made no mention of climate change or environmental issues.  As RTE had flagged its first Leaders’ Debate as being about the “issues that really matter” John Gibbons says that the fact that RTE ignored the issue “speaks volumes for the station’s deepening crisis in both the quality and paucity of its climate coverage.” The climate change issue was also not one that was put to the candidates at the RTE Election Debate that took place at the Facebook headquarters on Sunday night.


As An Taisce’s spokesperson on climate, John Gibbons points out that while the outgoing government makes “much play of having introduced a Climate Act, its real priorities were made clear with the announcement this week that the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has just awarded 14 new licences for offshore oil and gas drilling. Given the imperative for all economies to rapidly decarbonise their energy systems in order to avoid the IPCC’s projected ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible’ impacts of climate change, how does the Irish government justify more drilling for oil and gas at the very time we need to fully commit to a low-to-zero carbon energy future?”


The climate change elements of various manifestos have been considered in further detail by John Gibbons. (See News & Events at Elsewhere environmental scientist Cara Augustenborg has published on her own website an in-depth analysis she has undertaken of the climate and climate related commitments in the various manifestos.  (See News at   While some positive commitments on climate were identified in many of the manifestos there were also significant gaps and even contradictions in quite a few of them.


Many environmental groups including An Taisce have called on the political parties to make various commitments on implementing specific climate and environmental policies when elected. One of these groups is the Irish Forum on Natural Capital.  The Forum says “We are losing nature’s services: stable climate, productive soils, clean water, pollinators etc. We need to sustain what sustains us”. The Forum is calling for the next Government to take an integrated approach to managing nature’s capital and ensure our commitment to account for natural capital by 2020 is met.

In John Gibbons’ own blog ( he assesses the performance of the outgoing Government on the climate challenge. His ‘Climate Report Card’ comments conclude as follows “Little real engagement on climate. Promised little but delivered even less… Avoided a ‘fail’ by scraping in Climate Act”.

As we head towards the election of TDs and then the election of a Taoiseach it is important that the words of the Taoiseach when speaking at the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Change Summit in New York in September 2014 are recalled: “The hand of the future beckons, the clock ticks and we have no time to waste…Global warming is a stark reality that can only be dealt with by a collective global response. We are all interdependent and interconnected … we share a common humanity… and each of us must play our part.” John Gibbons concludes as follows:  “We have no time to waste if political rhetoric is to be translated into real action commensurate with the existential crisis posed by climate change. Supporting parties who are sleepwalking into the catastrophic reality of climate change is probably the riskiest step any voter can take next Friday”.

(This above article was written in advance of the RTE One TV election debate on Tuesday, 23 February)

March event can be found here