The kick-off time for Cabragh Wetlands’ Bioblitz is 5.00pm this Friday (7th June), with the following 24 hours busy with experts and amateurs combing acres of reedbed and meadow, stream and woodland, hedgerow and pond, to see how many species of life can be identified.
We’ll start with three hours of identification and at 8.00pm come indoors for a brief talk by noted local botanist Ann Lloyd on Wild Flowers and their Pollinators. After that we’ll set the overnight insect traps, see what’s around and then as darkness sets in, there will be an Owl Walk and Bat Search to keep us busy up to the midnight hour.
Ornithologists from Birdwatch will be out and about from sunrise, and will be happy to help those of us less able to distinguish between reed buntings and willow warblers. We hope that they will do a bit of ringing, and they will be based at the top of the main bird hide. At the bottom of the hide the entomologists will set up shop, with butterflies, moths, beetles, spiders, caddis flies and countless other small insects to spot.
Have you ever seen an otter in the flesh? An early start of 6.30 on Saturday 8th will give you a great chance, as Jimmy Duggan leads our Otter Walk from the Wetlands Centre along the Suir to Holycoss, where we will arrange transport to bring you back to the start. From 10.00 we’ll open the overnight insect traps and see what we can identify, and there will be teams out searching both the Killough and Suir Rivers during the day. At 11.00 there will be a Pellets, Pooh, Footprints and Spraints Walk, where the children can get down and dirty and see just what giveaway signs might be left by birds and mammals as they tour the wetlands in the small hours.
At the Wetlands Centre there will be owl pellets to break open and analyse for bones of their victims, pond and river dippings to analyse and a myriad of underwater creatures and plants to identify. The microscope will open your eyes to the wonders of lichens, mosses and fungi. And of course there are the plants and flowers of the wetlands to study, with Roger Goodwillie, the non-pareil of botanists, on hand to advise on identification. A brave volunteer will be heading into the depths of the nettles and undergrowth to see how many tree species we have – not least he will attempt to identify our subspecies of willow, which are known to be hybridising at Cabragh. Perhaps we’ll discover a brand new salix cabraghiensis?
We want you and the children to come and have fun, to engage with the natural world and improve your identification skills. Bring wellies and of course be prepared for rain. This is a day for public awareness as well as species grabbing. We hope that as a result of our Bioblitz you might reconsider the significance of wetlands, which in a prime agricultural and food-producing county like Tipperary were long-deemed to have no value. If a wetland could be drained, it had farming potential and could make money. Undrained land was dismissed as valueless – once again mankind has confused price and value, too easily assuming they mean the same thing. Wetlands often ended as dumps or our waste, a fate that loomed over Cabragh wetlands in the early 1990’s.
Today, with real worries about biodiversity loss, and concerns about the threat to groundwater quality through careless disposal of human detritus, attitides are beginning to change, with wetlands seen in a new light. Some experts estimate that there is 50 times more biodiversity in a wetland than in so-called “good” farming land. In areas of intensive farming, it is especially important to retain pockets of natural landscape for wildlife. Wetlands are natural recycling mechanisms for ground water. The soil and plant life have adapted to purify water which has become contaminated.
The Bioblitz gives us an opportunity to celebrate wetlands. Though far too much has been drained, we have a new appreciation of their value in our landscape, and we must work together top preserve what remains. This weekend gives you a chance to see just how many species and how much life depends on wetlands. Support our Bioblitz!