Explore Wildlife as you Ramble
By Tom Lynch
A song called “Amhrán na Mianach” (The Miner’s Song) written by a man who left West Kerry to work in the mines in Butte, Montana in the 19th century contained the lines:
“Is mó rud a chífeá id’ aice
Nára feacaís id’ dhúthaigh féin”
(It’s many a thing you see near you that you never saw in your own locality.)
In light of present circumstances I feel this could now read:
“Is mó rud a chífeá id’ aice
Atá le feiscint id’ dhúthaigh féin”
(It’s many a thing you see near you, visible in your own locality) because up to now you never looked closely enough, had time to look properly or had time to find a name for what you are looking at.
As you ramble along at this time of year, you are almost certain to drop across Primroses, Dog Violets, Lesser Celandine, Buttercups, Herb Robert, Lords and Ladies, Cowslips, Greater Stitchwort, Cat’s Ear, Sanicle, Garlic Mustard, Foxglove and many many more wildflowers.
If there is a little sunshine, butterflies such as Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Brimstone, Painted Lady, Red Admiral and Green-veined White will be on the wing, fluttering along going from flower to flower or chasing one another.
Bumble Bees and Honey Bees will no doubt attract your attention with their buzzing sound as they busily collect nectar from roadside flowers. Wasps are at work around flowering shrubs and hedgerows.
The sound of the Grasshopper is also close by if you listen out for the clickety click in the long grass. The quietness these days serves to highlight their joyful sound which was once so familiar.
Colourful Ladybirds always lift the heart with their various number of spots, as they devour greenfly and other garden pests.
Every stretch of road will have some mature trees or hedgerow. Look for Horse Chestnut, Ash, Sycamore, Oak, Rowan, Hawthorn, Blackthorn Willow, plus several other type of trees and all the wildlife that live on them.
Without doubt, bird song from Blackbirds, Robins, Wren, Song Thrush, Chaffinch and Cuckoo (if you are lucky) will keep you company as you amble along. Dawn Chorus, Dusk Chorus or indeed bird song to listen out for throughout the day.
If water is nearby, check for trout, perch, pike, roach, stickleback etc., swimming just beneath the surface. Close by also will be newly hatched Dragonflies and Damselflies.
Those lucky enough to be beside the sea can enjoy nesting seabirds such as Fulmar, Guillemot, Razorbill and Gannet along with the sound of waves lapping the shore or crashing off the rocks
If you look closely at the rocks or the bark of trees, you will see a variety of brightly coloured Lichens. The more you see, the healthier the air you are breathing.
From time to time a mammal such as a Fox, Red Squirrel, Stoat, Badger, Hare, Rabbit or Wood Mouse may cross your path. Always a special moment.
As the day draws to a close and dusk descends various Moths and Bats fly around you and their colours and activity always arouse curiosity.
There is so much to see when you really look! If you wish you can put your observations to good use by recording them on www.biodiversityireland.ie. Indeed a lot can be learned from this wonderful site.
It is also worth looking online at “A Donegal Hedgerow” to see how much it has in common with the hedgerow in your area. A truly unique site.
Many books are available to help you identify what you are looking at. Below are a few which are excellent:
The Wildflowers of Ireland-A Field Guide by Zoe Devlin.
The Birds of Ireland by Jim Wilson
The Complete Field Guide To Ireland’s Birds by Eric Dempsey and Michael O Clery.
Day after day your store of knowledge will increase and you will look differently at the wonderful nature in your locality.
Tom Lynch, a native of Dingle, taught in Ennis CBS for most of his career. He is secretary of the Clare Branch of Birdwatch Ireland and he is also a member of Dingle Fife and Drum Band.