BirdWatch Ireland Flies On


BirdWatch Ireland is the largest independent conservation organisation in Ireland. Established in 1968, this registered charity has in excess of 15,000 members and supporters, as well as a local network of over 30 branches nationwide. If you become a member of BirdWatch Ireland, you’ll receive a glossy quarterly magazine and invites to conservation events all over Ireland. Family membership includes a smaller magazine that’s dedicated to encouraging children to get involved in learning and appreciating nature. Despite the funding challenges posed by Covid, BirdWatch Ireland continues its mission, believing that their work is more vital than ever. This week Dermot McNally takes a look at some of the work going on at BirdWatch Ireland. All images courtesy of BirdWatch Ireland.

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Magnetoreception is a sense which allows organisms to detect magnetic fields and use them to align themselves. This sensory system is used by a range of animals for orientation and navigation. The idea that animals perceive earth’s magnetic field was once dismissed as impossible by physicists and biologists – they argued that it is much too weak for an organism to detect and there are no biological mechanisms capable of converting magnetic-field information into electrical signals used by the nervous system. Over time, however, evidence showed that animals can perceive magnetic fields. It is now clear that many species utilise information in earth’s magnetic field to guide their movements over distances both large and small. What has remained mysterious is exactly how they do this.

South African Quantum Physicists, Betony Adams and Francesco Petruccione, share some current theories, including how birds use magnetoreception to navigate during long-distance migration. This article first appeared in ‘Quest: Science for South Africa’ in January 2022.

A group of Mute and Whooper Swans photographed in the Ballybay Wetlands. Whooper Swans (Eala Ghlórach) are migratory visitors to Ireland from Iceland, where they nest during the summer months.
Photo credit: Fearghal Duffy.
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The Afterlife of Trees


“Dead wood provides one of the two or three greatest resources for animal species in a natural forest ecosystem,” says Charles Elton in ‘The Pattern of Animal Communities’. Although it is quite often removed in an effort to keep things tidy and make space for living trees, dead wood is actually a vital element in woodland ecosystems. Wood decomposition is one of a woodland’s essential recycling processes and a natural part of every tree’s lifecycle. Dead and decaying wood also provides a nutrient-rich habitat for fungi, a nursery for beetle larvae and a larder for insectivorous birds and other animals. Incredibly, forests worldwide produce and decompose 150 billion tonnes of wood every year! This article is adapted from an article by the Woodland Trust that can be found on their website (

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Polar Ice Caps


Greenland (near the North Pole) and Antarctica (South Pole) are home to most of the world’s glacial ice, including its only two ice sheets. Glaciers and ice sheets have been appearing in the news quite frequently in the past few years as they are increasingly unstable due to global warming. Just before Christmas it was reported that the Thwaites Glacier in the Antarctic, which is the widest glacier in the world and is sometimes referred to as the ‘Doomsday Glacier’, could collapse in as little as five years. Candice Moen has a closer look at our earth’s ice.


There have been many ice ages on earth, most of them long before humans made their first appearance. These ice ages would have ranged from “comparatively mild” to “so severe that the entire Earth froze over for tens or even hundreds of millions of years”. Looking back over the history of these ice ages, the planet seems to have three main settings: ‘greenhouse’, when tropical temperatures extend to the poles and there are no ice sheets at all; ‘icehouse’, when there is some permanent ice, although its extent varies greatly; and ‘snowball’, in which the planet’s entire surface is frozen over. During the different greenhouse, icehouse and snowball there was ice present in various different locations across the earth’s surface.

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Farm Diversification Enhances Nature in Monaghan

The Barker home place near Derryvalley, Co Monaghan is enjoying a wonderful renaissance under the thoughtful stewardship of owner (and well known Toastmaster) Charlie Barker. A few intrepid members of Transition Monaghan took a visit to see and learn how diversification and respect for nature are paying dividends. Dermot McNally explains all.

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Water Quality Video with Síolta Chroí and LAWPRO 2021/2022

Transition Monaghan are involved in a Water Quality awareness video project on Monaghan water quality. The project is led by Siolta Chroi, supported by Transition Monaghan and funded by LAWPRO). At this stage in late 2021, a lot of the footage has been taken and a few interviews have been done. There are a few more interviews to do before the footage can be edited to make the final video. 

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Why Keeping Honeybees is Now Needed More Than Ever

MEG member and novice beekeeper Liam Murtagh says that our ecosystem including many farm crops are at risk due to the decline in the number of bees, so he is encouraging more people to consider keeping honeybees.


Top bar beehive with a removable viewing window cover

Have you seen many bees so far this year? Most likely you will have seen only a few bumble bees, as the weather has not been favourable for the honeybee. In fact many colonies of honeybees have not survived the winter and in my own case I lost one of my two colonies. Many fellow beekeepers in Ireland have had significant losses as have beekeepers throughout Europe.

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“Time to rejuvenate our hedgerows”

As Spring approaches and our hedgerows are about to burst forth into growth, experienced hedge layer John McKeon considers the value of our hedgerows and how we should look after them.  John is a committee member of the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland and he will be running a one day training course on hedge laying in Castleblayney on Saturday 8th February. Tel 087 1462790 for details.      

Eamon Mc Loughlin of the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland secures a newly laid hedge with traditional wooden gabhlógs at a hedge laying demonstration.

Eamon Mc Loughlin of the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland secures a newly laid hedge with traditional wooden gabhlógs at a hedge laying demonstration.

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Sustainable Tourism – holidays that benefit the visitor, the local community and the planet.

During these early weeks of the January many of us make plans for a summer holiday.  Given the increasing awareness of the damage that certain types of tourism have on communities and on the planet, there is an emerging interest in ecotourism, responsible tourism and sustainable tourism. These alternative options are worth exploring,  whether we are booking our holiday in Ireland or abroad or if we happen to be a local tourism provider.           

Canoeing on Lough Muckno, Castleblayney on a sunny summer’s day in 2013. According to the Castleblayney Town Development Plan, the “special character and serenity of Lough Muckno derives from its combination of tranquil lakes, drumlin topography, wooded parkland and integral location within Castleblayney”. The lake and surrounding park, now a top coarse fishing destination, have considerable potential for a range of ‘sustainable tourism’ activities.

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Rossmore Park Clean up, this Sat, 12th Aug at 11AM 2017

by Laura Hannon

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Volunteers pictured taking a break at a recent clean up at Rossmore Park

Rossmore Forest Park in Monaghan Town is a wondrous place for many – spending childhoods fumbling around between tree roots and over stepping-stones. A lot of us hold Rossmore so dear because of the nostalgia it resurfaces any time we visit. For these reasons, the people of Monaghan are very passionate about protecting and nurturing the park.

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