As we look ahead and look forward to the time when we can all be back out again enjoying ourselves (all of us) and after a while reverting to old habits (me) about the amount of pre judging TT work to be done, its good to remember what we were doing this time last year!
As well as all the weeding (sorry, i'll drop it now) we were also right in the middle of planning for our Bioblitz event in conjunction with Offaly County Council which took place over a Wednesday and Thursday morning at the end of May 2019.
We first heard about the idea at a Tidy Towns network meeting the previous autumn and it sounded like something we definitely wanted to get involved in. A Bioblitz event basically brings expert and volunteer recorders from all around the country together in one location to spend 24 hours over two days recording as many plants, animals, insects, birds etc etc as they can! It is a great way of raising awareness locally and maybe even nationally about what wildlife exists in our community and how we can better protect and enhance it. The records all go into a national database managed by the fabulous people (massive shout-out) in the #BiodiversityDataCentre in Waterford.
Organising it was a task in itself, as we hadn’t done anything like this previously but with the invaluable support of Offaly County Council and Biodiversity Ireland we were able pull together a calendar of events running over an entire day and evening and to reach out to specialist recorders from all over the country to participate. We had bird ringing events, Bat walks, Field walks, Dusk Chorus walks and so much more. Of course, our staunchest allies - the staff and pupils of Geashill National School were very much included in the events and planning!
After about 3 weeks of constantly dry weather of course the morning of the event dawned damp and raining steadily! Not at all ideal conditions for recording. Our recorders arrived however enthusiastic to go and an amazingly talented group of people they are. Some of the finest botanists, ecologists and entomologists in their fields had travelled from all corners of the country to take part.
The day itself passed almost in a blur but what a fantastic day it was! Despite the rain our recorders found 40 different species of birds, everything from Jackdaws to Buzzards to Ducks, 17 different types of ferns, almost 500 different types of plants with fantastic common names like ‘Bread-Wheat’, ‘Cat’s Ear’, ‘Floating Sweet-grass’, ‘Prickly Sow-Thistle’ and ‘Yorkshire Fog’. Seventy-seven different moth species were found in and around our village which we understand is a very high number and much higher than our experts expected. They also have the most amazing names, including ‘Heart & Dart’, ‘Ruddy Highflyer’, ‘Flame Carpet’ and ‘True-Lovers Knot’. Our recorders also found bumblebees, spiders, frogs, Fallow Deer, Pine Martens and much more. In total close we found 811 different species and all within a 1km radius of Geashill Village!
We also were incredibly lucky as literally the clouds parted just as the first of our evening walk and talk series began and we had the most incredible evening. We listened to John Feehan talk so passionately about the plants all around us, their history, uses and importance to us all. Richard Jack brought us on a fantastic dusk chorus walk in the Glebe Walk. Declan Manley amazed us all showing us how he safely rings and records birds and made a few peoples day allowing them to safely release the birds. Finally Alison Delaney whose talk and subsequent walk in almost darkness watching bats fly overhead was just magical.
The next morning we had great fun with the kids of the school who came into our ‘HQ’, did some bird ringing and releasing of their own and finally performed their beautiful song ‘Where have all the Wildflowers Gone’ created by Heritage in Schools specialist Nessa Darcy.
All in all it was a magical 24 hours, made even better by the surrounding of the old school and the AMAZING (and I stress AMAZING) food provided and served so willingly by our fab Tidy Towns committee and friends and which our experts and visitors really appreciated.
There are so many people to thank and so many people who helped out Amanda Pedlow and Offaly County Council,Ben Malone & staff @ Biodiversity Ireland, All of our recorders who gave up their time so generously - Rachel McKenna, Fiona Devery, Valerie McCartney, George Smith, Myles Nolan, Ken Bond, Phillip Strickland and Tim O'Rourke,. To Louise, Paula, Lizzie and Helen for feeding us so well, Micheál Hyland and staff and pupils of Geashill N.S for their participation and amazing song, Nessa Darcy Creative Entomologist, John Feehan, Declan Manley, Richard Jack & Alison Delaney for their workshops and talks.
Here's to the next one!