Winter comes to Cabragh Wetlands

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Hedgehog

The Hedgehog - one of the mammals which hibernates during the winter months

Hibernation is a feature of winter for many animals 

Flicking through the 2020 Cabragh Wetlands calendar, searching for a few key dates to fill in the varied documents of an ever encroaching bureaucracy, the stunning images of a golden red sunset over Cabragh, a majestic grey heron standing proud against the sparkling blues of a Fertiana pond or a hooded family braving the rain and the wind to explore the wet meadow in front of the centre evaporate my worries and I am transported across the months of nature’s year.


The good news is that once again, Cabragh Wetlands, particularly Mary Maher and Eamonn Brennan, have produced another excellent calendar for 2021 which, if experience is anything to go by, will be sold out in a very short time and mailed forthwith to emigrants who may not be able to return for Christmas due to lockdown and quarantine, to grandparents to rekindle memories of a different time and a different landscape or to arouse the evergrowing interest in the natural world among our young citizen scientists.


As it is about the only source of funding since the March lockdown and is entirely sponsored by Tipperary Co-Op and Centenary Co-Op, each purchase will be used in total to cover the ongoing fixed costs which arise, pandemic or no pandemic. We look forward to your support.


Calendars may be purchased at Centenary Co-Op stores at Thurles or Littleton, Bookworm in Thurles, Eamon at Hickey’s Pharmacy, Brittas Veterinary, Cabragh Wetlands and from committee members. We are very grateful to our sponsors and all who have agreed to be the sale points for this vital source of funding.


Listening to the radio, I note that one of the great aids to ensuring one’s mental health during the lockdown is a walk through the nature of your locality. Here, Cabragh, less than 5Km from Thurles, is in its element.


Scientists have been looking for some time at nature as a cure, at the benefit of spending time in nature as a new form of medicine. The potential of time spent amid the likes of wetlands and lakes to generate calmness of mind has been measured over the past twenty years. It has been found that this type of activity can help with battle stress, depression etc. It will revolutionize medicine and it has also been found that we become more creative when engaged with nature.


In Japan, much work has been done to use the power of the forest to prevent sickness. Research over sixty sites show that the interaction of the five senses with nature is crucial. Sylvo therapy is the way forward based on a human DNA that has adapted to live among nature for 7m years-our bodies are made to respond to nature rather than to the hustle and bustle of urban environments. A similar set of results came from a Swedish experiment on engagement with the white landscape. The more often people go to natural environments the more quickly they recover to take the challenges of everyday life. The science of nature and health has shown that fascination with the natural environment resets our brains.


Another area that is fascinating scientists is that of hibernation particularly as they face the difficulties of space travel over periods of time that heretofore were thought impossible. Our hibernating mammals, hedgehogs and bats, literally switch off in winter when food becomes scarce, in a true hibernation. Many cold blooded creatures such as frogs and snails become torpid in winter.


Hibernation is more than a deep sleep. The body’s processes re-adjust completely, the heartbeat slows, breathing almost stops and the body temperature falls to within a few degrees of freezing. These changes ensure that the body uses minimal amounts of energy to maintain life. The body barely ticks over in a state of suspended animation. The animal is stiff and cold, almost dead. The animals do not need to feed at the very time that food is unavailable.


The price they pay is that they are totally immobile and therefore vulnerable to predators. It is essential for them to choose a protected place to hibernate. Their first winter is a difficult time for young hedgehogs. They need to weigh over 450 gms before hibernation. Otherwise, they will have insufficient reserves to last until spring. They are entering hibernation about now and they will resume their normal activity in March or April depending on the weather. Hopefully we will see them once again moving about the base of the hedgerow crunching small snails. If you would like to help their conservation, avoid pesticides or slug pellets.


Wash your hands, social distance, wear a mask.
Slán go fóill.