Nature & Biodiversity Blog


Swords Tidy Towns members are actively participating in different courses, workshops and talks throughout the year. Many of them are aimed at encouraging biodiversity in our communities, discovering and protecting local wildlife. In this blog we will be sharing our discoveries, tips and lessons learned from those events. We will also keep you updated on all our big and small projects in this area.

Coronavirus epidemic has changed our ways of doing things and has also curtailed our opportunities to attend workshops and courses in person, however that also led to many of those events being moved online and transformed into webinars. Below you will find a long list of brilliant webinars and visual materials from around the country with lots of valuable information on biodiversity related topics. Enjoy!


Reduced Mowing Natural Meadow

One of our volunteers has dedicated the green area outside her house for the pollinators. She has reduced the mowing regime to once a year, have some pollinators friendly spring bulbs planted and All-Ireland-Pollinator sign installed. The area is located just in front of the local primary school and proves to be very popular and educational with the pupils of the school. A photo gallery below shows some of the different stages of the meadow throughout the year.

Swords Biodiversity Assessment Report

In February 2020, Swords Tidy Towns had commissioned a combined Biodiversity Management Plan and Point Source Investigative Assessment of the Ward and Broadmeadow Rivers running through Swords. The goal of this investigation was to have a record of the wildlife in and surrounding the rivers running through Swords; get recommendations on how to manage and enhance biodiversity in the area; to learn of the sources of pollution flowing into the rivers in Swords, and to receive recommendations of possible mitigating actions.

Biodiversity walk with Ballyboughal Hedgerow Society

We were delighted to welcome Ann Lynch from the Ballyboughal Hedgerow Society and their biodiversity course group for their field trip in Swords. Thanks to John Ducie for sharing his knowledge with us. Was really lovely to meet and chat with members from other Tidy Towns groups.

Gardening for Butterflies

This webinar with Jesmond Harding looked into how we should protect butterflies, as well as what we should be growing in our gardens to help them survive as a species. This event was organised by Irish Environmental Network as a part of the National Biodiversity Week 2021.

Biodiversity Day 2021

Swords Biodiversity Plan Meeting

What a better day for such a meeting than the Biodiversity Day! We have met with Donna and Brian from Wildlife Surveys to have a walkabout Swords to show the good and bad and make some plans for the future to improve the biodiversity in our town. Our meeting was attended by many of our own volunteers, also joining us was FCC Biodiversity Officer Deborah Tiernan, our local Councilor and a member of Swords Woodland Association – Joe Newman, and a member of Ashton Brock Residents Association. The walk was very productive and enjoyable. More meetings to come as our biodiversity plan progresses.

Actions for Birds Webinar

In May 2021, Birdwatch Ireland hosted a very interesting and educational webinar “Actions for birds”.

“In the video below Ricky Whelan, Urban Birds Project Officer from Birdwatch Ireland (BWI), presents information on what actions communities can take to assist bird populations in Fingal such as Barn Owl, Swifts, Grey Wagtail, Swallow, Sand Martin and House Martin. Join us for a great opportunity to link with BWI and the BWI Fingal Branch.” (https://www.fingal.ie/birdwatch-ireland-video)

Bird Songs from BWI Fingal

“With more people discovering nature on their doorsteps we thought it would be a good time to introduce some common bird songs. It can be daunting trying to identify the all birds singing in the Dawn Chorus, but if you learn some of the more common ones you can gradually add more.”

Reimagining Irish Rivers – Day 2 session 2 (Part 3)

Achieving for Rivers with Small Resources – Presentations:

1. Developing support tools for citizen scientists – Michelle Walker (The Rivers Trust)

2. Citizen science in freshwater conservation and management across Ireland – Mary Kelly Quinn (UCD) & Simon Harrison (UCC)

Reimagining Irish Rivers – Day 2 Session 2 (Part 2)

Achieving for Rivers with Small Resources – Presentations:

1. Geasail Tidy Towns

2. Castleconnell Fisheries Association

3. Friends of the Camac

4. Cloughaneely Angling Association

5. Suircan Environmental

6. Killkenny Leader Partnership

Reimagining Irish Rivers – Day 2 Session 2 (Part 1)

Achieving for rivers with small resources – presentations:

1. Integrating communities into catchment management – Fran Igoe (LAWPRO)

2. Proactive community engagement for scalable river restoration – Ruairi O’Conchuir (LAWPRO)

Reimagining Irish Rivers- Day 2 Session 1

Catchment Management Through Partnership Working – Presentations:

1. Catchment Partnerships – Maigue and Inishowen Rivers Trusts

2. Bride EIP Report – Donal Sheehan

3. Mulkear EIP Report – Carol Quish

4. Allow EIP Report – Maura Walsh

5. Duncannon EIP Report – Eoin Kinsella

Reimagining Irish Rivers – Day 1 Session 3

Tacking Biodiversity Threats in our River Catchments – Presentations:

Invasive Species- Threats and Responses – Colette O’Flynn (NBDC)

River Loobagh Giant Hogweed Control – Fran Giaquinto (Ecologist)

Biosecurity and Conserving Endangered Crayfish – Brian Nelson (NPWS)

Reimagining Irish Rivers -Day 1 Session 2

Managing River Flows – Presentations:

1. Hydromorphology – What Does A Natural River Look Like – Hamish Moir (cBEC)

2. Natural Flood Management: The Potential, The Process – Dan Turner (The Rivers Trust)

3. The Irish Context for Natural Flood Management – Conor Galvin (OPW)

4. Dam and Weir Removal: Practical Examples and Procedural Issues – Alan Cullagh (IFI).

Reimagining Irish Rivers – Day 1 Session 1

Keynote: Rewilding – Pádraig Fogarty (Irish Wildlife Trust)

Riparian Management – William Cormacan & Sam Birch (NPWS)

The Beauty of Trees

“Limerick City and County Council hosted “The Beauty of Trees” webinar with Mary Keenan to celebrate National Tree Week 2021 Mary has a degree in Horticulture and has a wealth of experience with trees. She was a lecturer in the Botanic Gardens before joining the Parks and Landscape Department of South Dublin County Council. She was President of The Tree Council of Ireland and later its Director. Mary was on the board of the Heritage Council for 10 years, runs Gash Gardens and since leaving South Dublin County Council, she is now the editor of the Irish Garden magazine. Mary is also a National Tidy Towns adjudicator.”

Wildflowers Masterclass

Fingal County Council has sponsored a free online class that was open to all residents in the Fingal area who were interested in planting a wildflower area in their community. The class was thought by Aoife Munn and has covered everything Wildflowers including planting techniques, wildflower mixes, different planting methods, where to buy your seed and much more. Many of our Swords Tidy Towns volunteers availed of this opportunity to gain more knowledge on the subject.

Below is a summary that was provided by Aoife Munn after the class. It covers the most important points to remember.

Nature in the City

“We’ll be talking about the importance of biodiversity in Dublin including the importance of trees and green space, the value of water ways and some of the plans to enhance nature in Dublin. Our capital city has a surprising amount of nature but we need more! Speakers include Alma Clavin of UCD, Patrick McCabe of REDscape Landscape & Urbanism and Lorraine Bull, biodiversity officer with Dublin City Council.”

Spotting and Recording Spring Flowers

A very interesting presentation by Oisín Duffy from the National Biodiversity Data Centre on their Spring Flowers project.

Nature and Biodiversity in Your Locality

“Nature and Biodiversity in Your Locality featuring importance of pollinators is the 1st in a series of Tidy Towns Webinars from Limerick City and County Council. Guest speaker Dr Fiona Mac Gowan, free lance ecologist and national Tidy Towns adjudicator.”

Tree Diseases

“Tree diseases such as ash dieback threaten to decimate our tree population and radically alter our countryside for the worse: reducing its visual attractiveness and its biodiversity. They can also have serious economic consequences. This webinar on invasive tree diseases looks at why and how they are threatening all our native trees, and the actions we can take to help prevent their arrival and spread. This webinar is presented by Dr Frances Gianquinto, ecologist and expert on invasive species. This webinar is hosted by Limerick City and County Council as part of its European Green Leaf 2020 program of events.”

Climate Ambassador Webinar on Biodiversity

This is the third Climate Ambassador webinar in their Culture Night series. Guest speakers include Dr. Thomas McCloughlin from DCU, Hans Visser a Biodiversity Officer at Fingal County Council and Clare Patten from Green-Schools Ireland.

River Life in Ireland

This webinar was a European Green Leaf 2020 event. “In this webinar, Professor Ken Whelan will introduce you to the magical world of underwater animals and plants, highlight some the threats they face and advise on small steps all of us can take to keep our rivers and streams healthy and productive. Ken works as an environmental and fisheries consultant. He is also an Adjunct Professor in UCD’s School of Biology and Environmental Science and Research Director with the Atlantic Salmon Trust. Ken is best known internationally for his work on the Atlantic salmon. He has also produced, presented and scripted many films and videos on various aspects of Irish fisheries, wildlife and angling. He is a regular radio contributor to the Mooney Goes Wild programme on RTE Radio1.

East Coast SSCS Course

In July 2020, two of Swords Tidy Towns members have completed the East Coast SSCS (Small Streams Characterisation Course) with Ken Whelan. The funding for this course had been received through the Local Authority Waters programme. It has been very valuable and enjoyable experience for our volunteers.

Tidy Towns and Biodiversity: Webinar with Janice Fuller

Dr Janice Fuller is a botanist and ecologist with an in-depth knowledge of the Irish flora and habitats based on many years’ experience of field survey and research. She also has a particular interest in community development and has facilitated the production of numerous local biodiversity action plans for Tidy Towns groups around the country. As a national Tidy Towns adjudicator, she has experience of a wide range of community-led biodiversity projects and initiatives around the country. She regularly delivers biodiversity training for community groups, local authorities and for the outdoor recreation sector. Janice is passionate about communicating the importance of the natural world in our everyday lives.

What’s the Buzz

“Limerick’s own bumblebee expert, Liz Gabbett, will take you on a pictorial tour of Limerick’s beautiful Corbally Road Meadow and point out the wonderful blossoms and bugs you likely to come across there. She will also introduce you to What’s the Buzz, an online learning tool which will teach you all you need to know about our most common bumblebees. This webinar was hosted by Limerick City and County Council and is a European Green Leaf 2020 event.”

Everyday Invasives

“Invasive species are all around us: in our countryside, in our gardens on our river banks. We are all familiar with some of the common ones, but in this webinar you will hear about other non native invasive species that have found their way here, along with some garden plants which we all love, but which represent a real threat to our environment, when they escape from our gardens. You will also hear about the ground breaking work on the River Loobagh to tackle a particularly nasty invasive called giant hogweed, without the use of chemicals! The webinar is presented by Dr Frances Giaquinto, Ecologist and expert on invasive species. This is a Limerick European Green Leaf 2020 event.”

Introduction to Grass Identification

Recording of the first webinar from the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland as part of the Irish Grasslands Project, supported by NPWS and CEDaR. “Expert botanist Fionnuala O’Neill takes us through the key features for identifying grass species. Fionnuala’s talk is one hour, followed by Q&A with Fionnuala, Maria Long (Grassland Ecologist with NPWS) and Sarah Pierce (BSBI Ireland Officer). For more on the project, visit bsbi.org/irish-grasslands-project.”

Vegetative Grass Identification – part 1

Recording of the second webinar from the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland as part of the Irish Grasslands Project, supported by NPWS and CEDaR. “Expert botanist Lynda Weekes introduces Lynda’s talk is approximately one hour, followed by Q&A with Louise Marsh (BSBI Communications Manager) and Sarah Pierce (BSBI Ireland Officer). For more on the project, visit bsbi.org/irish-grasslands-project.”

Vegetative Grass Identification – part 2

Don’t Mow Let it Grow Webinar

This webinar is a European Green Leaf 2020 event and was hosted by Limerick City and County Council on the 11th of June 2020.

“Don’t Mow, Let It Grow is an exciting project which focuses on the management of road verges and amenity grasslands across the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council area. It looks at different ways of managing these areas to show how small changes in management give big benefits to biodiversity and ecosystem services.”

Virtual Bat Walk Limerick EGLA

Limerick Environment Limerick City and County Council in collaboration with the Vincent Wildlife Trust have launched Ireland’s first virtual bat walk in Coillte’s Curraghchase Forest Park on the Limerick EGLA2020 YouTube Channel on June 5th, 2020.

Gardening for Biodiversity

A webinar “Gardening for Biodiversity” took place on the 29th of May, 2020. Watch a recording of this event below.

You can request your own copy in the post by emailing heritage@fingal.ie or you can download the pdf version here:

Biodiversity in our backyards: Webinar with Juanita Browne

“One third of our 99 bee species are threatened with extinction from Ireland. This is because we have drastically reduced the amount of food (flowers) and safe nesting sites in our landscapes. The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan is about all of us, from farmers to local authorities, schools, gardeners and businesses, coming together to try to create an Ireland where pollinators can survive and thrive. This talk will introduce the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, its approach as a shared plan of action across many sectors, the resources available, and will give a breakdown of actions for Biodiversity you can take in your garden.”

The following videos are part of “Gardening for Biodiversity” series (6 videos altogether) based on the book “Gardening for Biodiversity” written by Juanita Browne and published in 2020 by Laois County Council. The videos cover topics like build a garden pond, creating a wildflower meadow, planting trees and hedgerows for wildlife, creating a log pile and improving your garden for birds. These videos are presented by John Lusby, produced for Laois County Council by Crow Crag Films. Scientific Advisor Juanita Browne.

Preparing a Fine Tilth and Sowing Wildflowers

Notes from Sustainable gardening course with Aoife Munn, February 2020

  • Soil preparation for wildflowers meadow: remove the turf – clear the weeds – leave for 3-4 weeks – sow the seeds (stale bed)
  • Yellow rattle can help when sowing seeds into existing grass. However, to germinate yellow rattle needs 6 weeks of cold and that doesn’t always happen in Ireland. Yellow rattle lasts one year and is not able to kill or suppress the scutch grass. To sow the yellow rattle pull the grass with your finger back and plant the seed right under the roots of the grass, choose a few different spots. Use seed bombs only when you see the yellow rattle grow and only in those spots. 
  • If planning to grow wildflowers on the slope, it’s better to sow them in trays and replant in patches from there, otherwise most seeds will be washed down with rain. 
  • you can buy native Irish wildflowers at http://www.wildflowers.ie website
  • Seedbombs are not generally recommended, but if you’re looking for them http://www.seedbomb.ie is a good choice that sell native Irish seeds.

To read more about wildflower meadow creation and seed collection click here:

Dividing Perennial Plants

Notes from Sustainable gardening course with Aoife Munn, February 2020

Digging Without Damaging Your Back

Thank you to Aoife Munn for teaching us the proper way to use garden fork while digging so we do not get our backs hurt. A very important tip – invest in a longhandled fork as it allows for better leverage whilst saving from back strains.

Sowing Seeds

Notes from Sustainable gardening course with Aoife Munn, February 2020

All seed should have a best before date on it. If it does not it might not be viable. Cheap seed without a best before date is not a good investment.

Sowing:

  • Fill a pot almost full with compost and gently firm down, but do not make soil too compacted as the seed will not be able to put a root in to it if too compacted.
  • All seeds are sown to twice their size in depth. This means they are only lightly covered and no deep holes.
  • Water gently and keep inside till seed germinates if necessary
  • To harden plants off put the pot outside during the day and in at night for 3 days.
  • Plant the pot in to the soil so that the soil in the pot is level with the ground.

Plant cucumber, pumpkin and big flat seeds on their side.
Annuals are plants that complete their lifecycle in one year and are often great for wildlife. Many are hardy and can be planted outside very quickly after germination such as sweetpeas. Poppies and cornflowers can be sown out directly in to the soil.

Keep seed packets for accurate information. Keep a diary of your garden
adventures.

How to Make Newspaper Seedling Pots

Making your own seedling pots is quick, affordable, environmentally friendly and fun to do with children. These pots are fully biodegradable and so the seedlings can be replanted ouside without being removed from the pot.

Pollinator Friendly Planting Code

Click on the picture below to read/download/print the pollinator friendly planting code guide that will help you pick the plants that benefit wildlife the most.

Climate Change & Environmental Awareness Video

This video is the brainchild of Swords local Lorcan Farrelly Poet/Singer and Swords Tidy Towns. Lorcan particularly wanted local youth to be involved, as his lyrics are about the future they face.

Listen to Fingal Community College choir performing the song and also to FCC students sharing their concerns about climate change and its impact to our wildlife, as well as the importance of raising awareness about the environmental issues.

Wormery

Here are some instructions kindly shared by Craig Benton from Stop Food Waste on how to start your own wormery.

You can get the pre-cut materials to build a wormery yourself, call Fiona at Larry’s DIY in Drumcondra in Dublin for the worm box.  The pre-cut timber, hinges and screws are under 120 Euro. All you’ll need to do is screw it all together. Then you’ll need to paint the bin on the outside to make it last longer. 3-4 coats of a water based exterior paint should do it. White or a light colour would be best to reflect sunlight as the worms don’t like too much heat. The worm bin should be placed in a shady location. 
Worms can be purchased from Michael Dolan at Johnstown Recycling in Mullingar. He’ll mail them to you (40 Euro). The contact email is: info@johnstownrecycling.com
Please note that the construction fact sheet below was written for American sized materials so the assembly instructions are a bit off. So here is how you should build it using the instructions as a guide for each part but follow the steps below for assembly of the parts. Also below are instructions for setting up and operating the wormery. 

Construction Instructions:

1. Construct the bottom and drill holes in bottom for drainage as shown in attached plans

2. Construct the top

3. Put 2 x 4s on back panel as shown in the instructions

4. Put 2 x 2s on front panel as shown in the instructions

5. Screw in the back and front into the bottom piece making sure the ends are flush with the edges of the bottom.

6. Screw in sides, squaring up with front panel (to form a right angle) first then attaching to back (note that the sides are not quite wide enough to create a perfect right angle in the back so screw into 2 x 4 in back- the sides will not square up with the back panel of plywood but that is ok and you will have a zig zag or stepped corner in the back)

7. Attach lid using hinges with the 1.5″ deck screws instead of the hinge screws (the deck screws are longer) so that the screws go into the 2x4s

8. Drill hole in 2×4 on lid as shown in attached plans as well as in one of the sides for the rope to keep the lid from going back too far. 

9. Paint outside of bin with white exterior paint (water based is best for clean up) 3-4 coats

Leaf Mould

Leaf mould is fantastic for wildlife – writes Kate Bradbury an editor of Wild London magazine in her article “Leaf mould: good for wildlife, good for the garden“. She explains that “in woodland, leaves fall from trees, and hedgehogs, small mammals, amphibians and countless insects shelter among them, while fungi slowly break the leaves down. Blackbirds and thrushes peck through them, looking for grubs, worms and insects. Left beyond winter, leaf litter offers nesting opportunities for hedgehogs and bumblebees, as well as a habitat for detrivores such as worms and woodlice, which feed on the decaying matter. Ground beetles, amphibians and other predators may use the heap to hunt the detritivores.”

Leaf mould cage is one of the ways to recreate this process in your gardens. There are many ways to build a cage, but the easiest one is using fencing wire. This method also provides easy access for worms, beetles and other invertebrates. For the same reason it is recommended to place the cage on either soil or grass.

Please see the gallery below for assembly instructions and some photos of the cages we have installed recently in Swords. Most of them are based in different schools in Swords and one at our tunnel, however, there is one leaf mould cage installed on Dublin Road beside our bug hotel and is publicly accessible for those who would like to have a closer look.

Biodiversity Swords Talk

In February 2019 Swords Tidy Towns organised a Biodiversity Swords Talk – “Understanding, protecting & enhancing local biodiversity”, which was presented by Nuala Madigan, B.Agr.Env., M.Ed., Environmental Education Officer with the Irish Peatland Conservation Council. You can find the slides from the workshop below.

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