Cabragh Wetlands: Let me out of here!!!

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The years 2020-2030 are a Decade of Action to restore nature and the next Biodiversity Action Plan will be instrumental in turning around the fate of our natural heritage. It is now or never in this minute to midnight scenario.

 

It’s probably a sign of the times that I am paraphrasing a current television advertisement for dental care: “I know how to look after the economy, but how do I look after the environment?”


It’s a question that must resonate following the publication of an audit of the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021 that shows that limited progress has been achieved to halt the decline of biodiversity in Ireland.


The indicators still show a very disturbing picture of losses and declining trends with two thirds of wild bird species being subjects of conservation concern, one third of wild bee species are threatened with extinction and 85% of internationally important habitats are unfavourable.


Halting the losses of wildlife populations and ecosystems and restoring them in the coming years is critical to prevent wildlife extinction and as we have seen from our Covid experience, critical for our own well being.


Restoration of habitats like peatlands and woodlands would cut greenhouse gas emissions. Restoring the health of wetlands, rivers, lakes and seas would mean improved water quality and fish populations.


Restoring semi-natural grasslands will help pollinators. Policy coherence is critical. Sectoral policies in agriculture, forestry and fisheries are liquidating wildlife populations and ecosystems.


The years 2020-2030 are a Decade of Action to restore nature and the next Biodiversity Action Plan will be instrumental in turning around the fate of our natural heritage. It is now or never in this minute to midnight scenario.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch, or in my case, looking out on a moss covered lawn, a pair of blackbirds enthral. The adult is jet black with a golden beak, the young still brown and the beak not quite golden. Both captivate with “the way they might look at you”.


So many have spoken this year about the uplift that spring brings. When you imagine the arrival of spring you want it to be a big spread of fresh green leaves, an orchestra of birdsong and of course sunshine.


But that’s the chocolate box cover. In fact, it’s the little things that catch you- not so much the daffodils as the dandelions or the surprise of a freshly opened primrose on an earthen sunny bank.


We know that living in nature is good for mental health and mood but to get more out of it you must deliberately focus. So, one morning, you might just listen to birdsong, for example, the stonechat “singing” with pebbles in its throat on the hawthorn bush at Cabragh.


Another morning might be spent looking at wildflowers in close up such as Lords and Ladies at the base of the hedgerow at Cabragh, that palette of dull brown set against the palest of the forty shades of green.


The antidote to these exceptional times is nature- reliable and predictable. Many people managed to find an appreciation of nature’s tiny details last year for the first time. They started posting on social media about all the birds they were hearing and the flowers they were finding. Those birds and flowers had always been there and if we are careful and sensible, will continue to be there.


People will not forget that sensation of wonder and appreciation that they learned for the first time last spring. Most of us will hang onto it but we also know that although nature is remarkable it won’t stay that way for long if we don’t look after it.
So what would the waiter recommend? The spring bird that will really inspire is the song thrush - the smaller of the thrushes with the speckled breast and a clear sweet song- a real Covid pick me up!


The spring flower to watch out for is the Lesser Celandine. The kidney shaped leaves are everywhere and they open on the ground like little stars. They are the most brilliant yellow with very shiny petals as if they are made of glass. They open and close with the sun and when the light comes through the trees they light up the woodland floor.


The best woodland in spring within 5Km. is Killough Hill and whether you like rustling leaves underfoot, mosses and a Tolkein experience or a closing canopy of Ash and Hazel you will have been in a nature heaven.


Of course the best nature reserve to visit is Cabragh Wetlands. Soon a well equipped bird hide will add so much to your enjoyment and while the marsh paths are closed for bird nesting, the ponds and Cosmic Walk will bring you into emerging spring and healing nature.


Stay safe, hold firm!
Slán go fóill.