Should Ireland be returned to the wild?
He cites rediscovery of Leinster woods by the great spotted woodpecker and the new spread of buzzards across a more tolerant countryside.
Ireland has virtually no wild habitats, except the strip between the tides (and not always then). Most of the nature we know is a human construct, both in what we’ve added over centuries and – much more often – what we’ve taken away. Even the kind of natural world we might prefer is put together from Victorian books and paintings. The line between ecological repair and much-derided “wildlife gardening” can be lost in a confusion of science and human aesthetics.
At Ireland’s size, we have no room for rewilding: there are far too many deer already, and a few introduced wild boar are now hunted as an “invasive alien species”. Conservationists can argue that bringing back kites and eagles helps to turn people on to nature, respecting and preserving the homes of lesser creatures as well as filling BBs. It heals a few scars from our gamekeepered past while ignoring, too often, the modern rise of predators – mink, rats, foxes, grey crows – that are wrecking the landscape’s natural inheritance of species.
Red kites, meanwhile, once the specialist scavengers of every European city, have been paying a high price for their reintroduction to the northern fringes of Dublin. Following the success of introducing kites from Wales to Wicklow, beginning in 2007, 39 young birds were released in Fingal in 2011 and quickly spread out between the coastal estuaries and Meath. By the end of their first winter, nine of them were dead, most poisoned by rodenticide in rats they had scavenged. Go to the Golden Eagle Trust website ( goldeneagle.ie) for advice on taking greater care.
Eye on nature Your notes and queries
Before Christmas we saw two flocks of birds on the high tide at Lacken Strand. Our bird book helped us identify them as scaup. They were dabbling and upending as ducks do. We had not seen them before.
Anne McCormick Carrowmore-Lacken, Co Mayo
They are common winter visitors from breeding grounds in Iceland and Scandinavia to this country. You find them on open coastal waters and bays.
On the Howth cliff walk on January 4th, a calm sunny day (14 degrees), I saw two red admiral butterflies on late-flowering ivy and hebe, six bumblebees and two wasps collecting pollen. Was this to feed queens or were they overwintering?
Frank Smyth Sutton, Dublin
The red admirals overwintered. The bees and wasps were queens enticed out of hibernation by the mild weather.
The moth in this photograph came to a light at my door on New Year’s Eve.
Brendan O’Donoghue Straboe, Carlow
It was a male early moth (Theria primaria) which flies January to March. The female is wingless.
Michael Viney welcomes observations at Thallabawn, Carrowniskey PO, Westport, Co Mayo, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a postal address