Events Report


Day 7 Saturday 22nd - International Day for Biological Diversity

Pine Marten encounter - Cunniger Walk and beach mosaic - Annestown Mosaic

International Day for Biological Diversity was celebrated in the Southeast of Ireland with three special events involving hundreds of people enjoying the outdoors and its inhabitants.

Giant Starfish washed up on Annestown Beachannestownmosaic1

With temperatures hitting 25 degrees the people of Waterford weren't going to stay in watching television - even if there were biodiversity movies on! The word had got around that there was something happening at Annestown Strand (one of the many beautiful sandy coves around the Copper Coast that the people of Waterford have managed to keep secret. Families converged on the beach to make a giant starfish. This was to celebrate International Biodiversity Year through exploration of the dualities/dichotomies - art and nature/ nature and art/ art in nature/nature in art / art of nature/nature of art / art without nature/nature without art. Mediating between the sea and the stones were artist Sinead Driver and geologist Tina Keating of the Copper Coast Geopark. While sea-creatures may be washed up on a beach and slowly decay- ultimately disappearing, this celebration of biodiversity conjured a creature out of the sea, beach and cliff - a starfish!


Sea Creature found on the Cunniger

The Cunniger protrudes from Gaeltacht na Rinne into the sea towards Dungarvan. On it and from it, several ecosytem can be explored. Local guide Eugene Burke brought the flora and fauna into sharp focus with his commentary and by sharing binoculars and scopes. Assisted by several local ornithologists and his expert sons he introduced whimbrels, egrets, warblers, shelducks, grey plovers, oystercatchers and many other local residents. Eugene also added in a documentary-style narrartive of the history of the Cunniger and Dungarvan and its seafaring heritage.

After the walk in blistering sunshine (at least for Ireland in May), we returned to the start of the spit in Rinn Ui gCuanach to construct a mosaic on the Strand. All the young hands got busily to work collecting stones, seashells and other materials (including a washed-up washing-up glove!). Under the direction of Rayleen Clancy, all the young artists set to work laying out their troves on the sand constructing a sea-creature.


CSI - Pine Marten

The day started in Portlaw, if not early in the morning, early for a Saturday morning. Late on Friday night the intrepid biodiversity researchers from Waterford Institute of Technology were busy conducting auditions for Ireland's shyest mammal, the pine marten. As part of a leading biodiversity research programme an adult pine marten was trapped to obtain DNA samples*. This beautiful animal was presented to the quiet and awe-struck group following a brief talk about the pine-marten's life and habits. None of the participants had seen a pine marten alive before and not only could people, particularly the young attendees, see this wonderful animal up close they were able to see its release back into the wild.


* This research team under Dr Peter Turner have devised an ingenuous system for obtaining DNA samples. They have fastened tubes to trees, which they bait with chicken. When an animal enters it leaves behind a few hairs on double sided tape on the inside of the tube. This enables the team to determine not only the identity of all pine martens in the area, but also their relationships.

Day 6 Friday 21st

Bat Walk - Tallow

A large crowd convened at the old Church of Ireland, Tallow in the west of county Waterford to hear Bat Expert Pat Smiddy talk about bats. Over 50 people attended the event, but unfortunately a lot of the younger following couldn't stay up until the bats actually came out after 10 pm. Those that could stay on not only saw bats, but also heard their echo-location with Pat's electronic translator!


Plandaí agus an todhchaí

Mar chuid d’fhéile eolaíochta “Bealtaine 2010” chaith an tOllamh Liam Dolan as Ollscoil Oxford an tráthnóna le micléinn Ghaelcholáiste Phort Láirge.  Rinne sé cur i láthair den teideal “Plandaí agus an Todhchaí”.
Bhí na micléinn agus an t-ollamh ag plé cé chomh tábhachtach agus atá plandaí i saol an duine  sa lá atá inniu ann. Tugadh le fios go bhfuil muid uilig ag braith ar phlandaí fá choinne bia, breosla agus foscaidh.
“Chuir cumas na macléinn iontas orm. Ní amháin gur chuir siad an oiread sin ceisteanna suimiúla orm ach ba léir go raibh tuiscint mhaith acu ar ábhair éagsúla”, dúirt an tOllamh Dolan.  “Tá an t-ádh dearg ar na micléinn  seo go bhfuil Seán Ó Cathain mar mhúinteoir eolaíochta acusan. Beidh saol eolaíochta na tíre slán sabháilte lena leithéid de mhúinteoir.  Ní mór dúinn ar fad cuimhneamh go bhfuil todhchaí na heolaíochta ag braith ar na múinteoirí ata ag teagasc sna meánscoileanna inniu”.
De réir mar a bheas caitheadh ag teacht ar an aimsir  beidh an duine daonna ag braith níos mó  agus níos minice ar phlandaí éagsúla chun teacht i dtír. De bharr seo is cinnte go mbeidh caomhnú na plandaí éagsúla an-tábhachtach, go háirithe sna tíortha atá ag forbairt leo.
Ba mhór an t-iontas a bhí ar na micléinn nuair a chuala  siad go raibh fasach te ar fud  Phort Láirge tuairim agus 410 milliúin bliain ó shin agus go raibh na céad phlandaí simplí ag fás san áit ina bhfuil siadsan ina gcónaí anois.  
Nach tráthúil go bhfuil Dé Sathairn beag seo luaite mar “International Biodiversity Day” ar fud an domhain!  Bimis ag súil go mbeidh aimsir trá againn don deireadh seachtaine  atá romhainn.



Plants and the future

Liam Dolan, the Sherardian Professor of Botany from the University of Oxford, spent the afternoon with students at Gaelcholáiste Phort Láirge.
Professor Dolan discussed the significance of plants for humanity – we are dependent on plants for food fuel and shelter. He demonstrated the role of plant science in dealing with future challenges such as food security and climate change.
“The students were amazing” Dolan said.
“They bombarded me with questions. In fact one of the students gave me an idea to try out when I get back to the lab in Oxford“.
Referring to their science teacher Dolan said “if every teacher is as good as Seán Ó Cathain, the future of Irish science is safe”.
Since Saturday is “International Biodiversity Day” Professor Dolan highlighted how crucial it is to conserve biodiversity not only in Ireland but also in the developing world.
The students were a bit shocked to find out that Waterford was covered in a hot desert when the first land plans evolved over 400 million years ago. While we are looking forward to a warm weekend we hope it won’t be that hot.

Day 5 Thursday 20th

The Sun was still obliging for events at the People's Park Waterford, Lismore  and Dungarvan.

At WIT we stayed in out of the sun, but it was worthwhile to hear Prof. Liam Dolan explain about the world of plants. Liam is a Professor at Oxford University and holds the prestigious Sherardian Chair of Botany. Senior cycle students from the Ursuline in Waterford and Rosbercon in Wexford were brought on a 460 million year journey following the development of plants from their emergence onto land to the present day. Professor Dolan outlined the present and future challenges to the world in providing food for the growing population. He revealed the tools that plant scientists have developed that may help us. Professor Dolan finished by asking these young students to take up the challenge to not only uncover more about the workings of nature but to discover ways of preserving and enhancing nature to help or fellow man. Professor Dolan gave another talk at 3pm to the Staff and postgraduates at WIT on his research. This work which has lead to an understanding of mechanisms of how plant roots grow has been a major contribution to plant science.

Ella Ryan led another group of young nature detectives from St John of God School around the People's Park in Waterford.

Meanwhile in lovely Lismore a group of intrepid explorers from Bunscoil Bothar ns Naoimh guided by the Lismore Heritage Centre discovered the secrets of trees and plants and the bird and insect life they support

A resolute group assembled in the Carpark at Bunmahon. The fog which has clung about the Copper Coast all week was persisting. However our guide Sean O'Connor made everything clear about the geology and life of the area. The fog didn't deter our explorers venturing the cliffs around Knockmahon Strand and really just added an atmospheric insular feeling enveloping this ancient landscape and its respectful intruders.

liamdolan1a knockmahon

Further along the coast, Dungarvan fared better with the sun. It was standing room only at Dungarvan Library for an illustrated talk from wildlife photographer Mike Brown. The audience were treated to a great talk on Irish wildlife  and landscape sumptuously illustrated by Mike's stunning photographs. Mike's wonderful book -Wild Water Wild Light - was in big demand on the night.

Day 4 Wednesday 19th

The sun has come out again today obliging the field trips to the Comeragh Mountains, Fenor Bog and the People's Park in Waterford. WIT's Jack Bergin led a group from Presentation Convent Clonmel on a walk in the wonderful Comeraghs exploring the landscape, flora and fauna. Greg Fewer led an archaeological field trip of ancient sites in Co. Waterford. Meanwhile at WIT  Nick and Seamus continued their series of bird box workshops. Finishing an amazing sixth workshop which means that six classes and almost 200 young people learnt about birds and built a total of 30 birdboxes for robins and blue tits.

birdbox PENS

Passage East National School at the Birdbox Workshop

Field Trip at Fenor Bog

The Ursuline Primary School enjoyed the fine weather at Fenor Bog. Under the guidance of Alan Walsh the girls learnt about the plants and animals in the bog and then collected all sort of mini-beasties.

People's park field trip

Ella Ryan, Waterford City's Environment Awareness Officer, helped young people from Kilmacow NS discover the wonderful world of nature at the People's Park in the centre of Waterford City.

peoples park2

Day 3 - Tuesday 18th

Another busy day in the festival with activities in People's Park Waterford City; Kill, Tankardstown and Lismore in County Waterford and at Waterford Institute of Technology.

The weather which has been so benign this week certainly disappointed this evening for the Walk at Tankardstown to Stage Cove with local expert Bruce McDonald to explore the industrial heritage, geology and flora at the heart of the Copper Coast.

Tankardstown sheila and bruce

Bruce McDonald of the Copper Coast shows Calmast's Sheila Donegan a sample of copper bearing rock at stage cove.

Waterford City Council's Heritage Officer, Ella Ryan led a group from Slieverue NS on an investigation of animals and plants in the People's Park. Meanwhile St Paul's Community College went on a field trip with WIT's Dr Michael Breen investigating a river ecosystem near Kill. In the west of Waterford, Lismore heritage Centre organised a magical woodland walk through The Towers Wood for a group of eager nature detectives from Bunscoil Bothar na Naomh.

At Waterford Institute of Technology Piltown NS, St Mary's CBS Clonmel and Waterford Educate Together all attended a participative presentation about bridges. The presentation spanned from the oldest bridge in Ireland at Curraghmore Estate to the new Waterford Bridge. The children helped WIT Engineering Lecturer Eoin Gill build portals, corbels and arches. The presentation ended with the construction of a model cable-stay bridge over which some of the children walked.

arch photo

Dr. Nick McCarthy ran several workshops building bird boxes with groups from Newton Junior School and Bigwood NS. Nick helped these groups build bird boxes for blue tits and robins.

newtown girls and birdbox 1

Above: Girls from Newtown Junior School and their Birdbox.
Below: Boys from Newtown Junior School and their Birdbox.

newtown boys and birdbox 2

Day 2 - Monday 17th

A busy day for school groups with 8 schools participating.  Marchstown National School in Wexford explored the world famous Wexford Wildfowl Reserve under the guidance of Dierdre Toomey who is the Educational Officer at the reserve. Meanwhile, in Waterford, St John of God's National School discovered the amazing variety of living things in the middle of Waterford under the guidance of Waterford City Council's Ella Ryan at the people's Park.

Even though the festival is about outdoors we have many events indoors in which we learn about our natural and built heritages. The festival was delighted to welcome Eric Dempsey to the Waterford Institute of Technology. Eric is the best known bird watcher in the country and at this time every year flies south from Dublin to Waterford to talk to young people at the Bealtaine Festival of Outdoor Science.  Eric always manages to amaze and enthrall his young audiences with his show which is called the Wonderful World of Feathers. He uses feathers of different species to illustrate so much about birds and their adaptations to their environments. He has a particular admiration for the ultra-distance birds - swallows, swifts and terns which he imparts to his audience.

Eric is very busy at the moment as he has a family of Blue Tits about to hatch. Eric thinks they might hatch tomorrow (Tues 18th) or Wednesday (19th)  - check out the Mooney Cam Blue Tit Nest Click the Image to watch them.

RTE Blue Tit WebCam Link

feather2 lo res

A young ornithologist from St Saviour's National School, Waterford examines a peacock feather under the guidance of Eric Dempsey (Photo John Power)

Day 1 - Dawn Chorus Day Sunday 16th May

Hundreds of people attended Dawn Chorus Events around the Southeast Region.

Birdwatch Ireland's Kilkenny Branch were out early at 4.30 am in Jenkinstown Wood. We were greeted by a crowing cock which seemed to wake all the birds who resounded in chorus. There was some difficulty for us inexperienced visitors in distinguishing the different residents of the woods, but the experts with every group were on hand to interpret. The woods are well worth a visit at present as they are carpeted with crowds of bluebells. We were all spiritually uplifted with the morning walk and the event ended with a short ecumenical prayer service.

bluebells jenkinstown

Bluebells, Jenkinstown Woods, Co Kilkenny, Dawn Chorus Day 15th May

Meanwhile in Stradbally Co. Waterford a large crowd assembled for the Dawn Chorus under the expert leadership of Dr Paul Walshe of Birdwatch Ireland and Denis Cullen of the Irish Wildlife Trust.

At Fenor Bog Alan Walsh of the Copper Coast hosted an eager group of early risers and perhaps not unexpectedly but a treat nonetheless they were welcomed by a variety or warblers.

fenor bog dawn chorus