I have been lucky enough to experience elusive otters in Ireland twice so far. Once at very close and unexpected quarters gliding majestically and silently on the river Laune near Killarney and another time out of my hotel window in the Ice House Hotel in Sligo.
The first time otter swam close roughly 5 metres from me as I walked along the bank, calmly viewing me before it sank silently amid the tangled mass of submerged tree roots. I was immediately addicted to this elusive mammal and sought to try to view more in the wild.
After another encounter of an otter from my glass panorama of my hotel bed in the Ice House Hotel in Sligo, I was hooked.
When I first started working on the Dodder Otter survey for the IWT Dublin, our team of volunteers spent hours walking the banks around the bridges along the Dublin river recording typical signs of otters such as spraint and tracks.
We found definitive evidence of otters amongst us in our urban area. My commitment this time was driven not just by my affinity with this mustelid but by the need to record solid data about their presence on the river. Why did I feel this way?
At the time, a proposed cycle track was being proposed for the Dodder and I quickly realised that our hours spent scouring the banks and soft mud of the river could be used as data in an EIS in relation to a planned cycleway. What we were doing on a volunteer basis could affect a larger scheme of development.
It should be an epiphany for all conservationists, that the passion we have for nature and the data we can collect can be utilised and be part of a collaborative effort to monitor and protect our natural heritage. What we do individually does make a difference. I am inspired by Fergal Ó Cuinneagáin whose one man battle has helped preserve the precarious Corncrake on his farm in Mayo. As Ghandi said, 'Be the change you want to see in the world.'
I now have bought a trail camera and am attempting to record otter activity at known sprainting sites along the Dodder.
I am happy to report that today, I captured my first image of an otter under a famous Dodder bridge. What next for my ongoing search for this beautiful elusive creature? Perhaps, I will follow the work done by Galway branch IWT in taking samples of spraint and getting genetic analysis done. My great otter adventure is clearly just beginning.
The Mammal Atlas maps almost a quarter of a million sightings of 72 species of marine and terrestrial mammal. It brings together data from 57 different datasets, and includes more than 15,000 records that were submitted directly to the Data Centre from 2,400 different recorders over the five years of the data collection phase. All of these records have been extremely valuable in building up a comprehensive picture of the distribution of mammals in Ireland. It has been a very large collaborative project, and would not have been possible to produce without the contribution and support of a large number of people and organisations.
The Mammal Atlas runs to over 200 pages and has chapters on the Origins of mammals in Ireland, Mammal research in Ireland, Legislation and wild mammals in Ireland, Advances in mammal studies using genetic analysis, and Future outlook for mammals in Ireland. The main part of the Atlas are the Species Accounts of 72 terrestrial and marine mammals, written by 42 leading experts in Ireland. They provide information on the identification, distribution, habitat, ecology and population of each species, and presents two distribution maps showing the pre 2010 and 2010-2015 distribution. Other features include a chart showing the distribution of sightings broken down by month, and the Red List Status. I attach an example of both a terrestrial and marine mammals to give you an idea of what the final publication will look like.
The number of records that were submitted for inclusion in the Mammal Atlas far exceeded our expectations, but we now have a very solid baseline of mammal distribution in Ireland and its marine waters, to serve as a benchmark against which future changes can be tracked.
National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Heritage Council have contributed very generously to the publication costs of the Atlas, so we are able to keep the cost of the A4 hardback Atlas to €25 (plus postage and packaging). This can be ordered directly from the Data Centre
December is a time when most us in Ireland retreat indoors to take shelter from the long dark evenings. Outdoors much of nature is doing the same thing, although some hardy species brave the elements and stay active in the depths of winter. Light-bellied Brent Geese actually travel to Ireland intentionally in winter for our fine weather and abundant goose food. These northern visitors reach our shores from Canada via Greenland and Iceland and can bee seen in Ireland feeding on estuary mudflats. We must also spare a though for our resident bird species who stick out the winter on our island finding food in hedgerows, farmland and gardens across the country. Why not help them out by providing food with a garden bird feeder.
Meanwhile many of our fellow mammals are cozying up under shelter for a long winter sleep, this includes familiar Irish animals such as hedgehogs, bats, badgers and squirrels. Bats will move from their summer roosts to sheltered locations with stable temperatures such as caves and cellars where they will hibernate for the winter. Our hedgehogs, once fattened up as much as possible, will take shelter to hibernate under piles of sticks and leaves, an important resource for them at this time of year. Less familiar are the winter habits of our amphibians and reptiles who also seek winter refuge. Frog can actually bury themselves in the mud at the bottom of ponds to overwinter, lowering their energy consumption and breathing through their skin while our cold-blooded Irish lizards and newts seek refuge under piles of stones, logs, turf and in our outhouses – anywhere where they can get out of the winter wind and frost. Whichever technique you are using to overwinter this year we hope you enjoy this festive season and get out to see some of our winter wildlife.
An Overview of Dublin City’s Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the variability amongst living organisms from all sources which includes diversity within and between different species, and ecosystems. Dublin City’s biodiversity consists of the wildlife and habitats located at North Bull Island, and also along the city’s coastline. Dublin biodiversity further includes Phoenix Park, rivers, canals and their riparian zones. Dublin supports à lot of legally-protected habitats along its coastline.
Invasive species of diverse living organisms, climate change issues such as global warming, the loss of habitats, environmental pollution, and anthropogenic activities, all collude to threaten Dublin’s biodiversity. Preserving Dublin’s biodiversity would require a combination of various approaches such as direct and appropriate management of the city’s biodiversity at both local and regional levels, as well as being able to identify and protect conservation high value areas in the city. This methods would also require going ‘green’, and stimulating awareness amongst the citizenry as regards their orientation towards biodiversity.
Dublin has over 750 public parks and green spaces, covering an estimated 1400 hectares of land. Private gardens make up one-quarter of the city’s land mass. Due to its propensity for harbouring invasive species as a result of too many pathways that lead into the city, the Dublin City Council is saddled with the responsibility of monitoring and controlling the influx of invasive alien species of living organisms. The National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC), is the national organization in charge of collating, managing, analyzing, and disseminating data on Ireland’s biodiversity.
In line with the outcome of UNESCO’s review of the Dublin Bay Biosphere sometime between 2012 and 2014, the Dublin Bay Biosphere Partnership has been established for the management of the Dublin Bay Biosphere Reserve. The Partnership/MOU consists of Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Dublin Port Company, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
In all, the Dublin City Biodiversity Action Plan is not just restricted to the preservation of biodiversity in Dublin City alone. It is actually part of a grand objective to conserve the global biodiversity.