06 Oct 2022

Wild About Wildlife: Visiting Birdhill’s Pollagh Trail

Wild About Wildlife: Visiting Birdhill’s Pollagh Trail

The Pollagh was at the centre of controversy in 1881 when the boycott system was implemented by the Tenants Rights League against a local landlord

The welcoming singing of a robin greeted us as we arrived at the Pollagh trail. This beautiful walk is located near the village of Birdhill and I have been visiting with my kids for the last 13 years.
We put on our coats and hats and set off quickly as it was not a day to linger. The field hedgerow had been cut down very low and was of little benefit for birds. I think that there is an opportunity to work with the landowner and use this hedge as an example of how good management can benefit people and wildlife.
Being a nature walk this would be a great resource and natural education especially with the addition of an information sign.
At this time of the year I enjoy doing a song posts survey. Birds pick prominent trees at the edges of their territory and regularly sing there. If you hear the bird a few days in a row you can start to map out this birds unique territory.
Robins are very active now and there constant singing makes them easy to survey. We heard our first robin singing from a field hedge and he was soon joined by another robin located a short hop across the road. As we listened a wren fly low across the road and into the base of the hedge.
As we strolled along we took in the emerging plants from creeping buttercup to cow parsley. This is only the start of the natural bounty that will appear during the spring and summer.
We rounded the corner and the large oak tree had survived another storm and year. The tree had probably been helped as the ivy growing up along its trunk had been cut at the base. This had turned brown but there was fresh green shoots of ivy steading working its way up to the canopy.
There were lots of ferns growing in the damp and shade. Fern also provides shelter for small birds when they are feeding and a host of insects live among its fronds. Every plant has a use and all live together to create a healthy ecosystem.
We heard out next robin singing by the tall willow tree and we were discovering how human boundaries like hedges have been adopted by birds to form their territories.
The alder tree by the stream already had lots of purple catkins. Underneath Harstongue fern was growing and there was a robin singing from the edge of the woodland.
At the crossing point we had a good read of the fish recorded in the Kilmastulla River. Brook lamprey, perch, Rudd, stone loach, brown trout and pike have all been recorded. We saw an eel several years ago in a side drainage dyke.
These remarkable creatures spends up to 15 years in fresh water habitats before migrating to the Sargasso Sea to spawn. On their migration to sea they body changes and they develop the ability to breath in salt water.
High in a tree a song thrush was singing while down hear the ground we found a timber fence post covered in lichens and an orange fungus. In a field bordered by woodland the farmer still has silage bales. The wet meadows by the Shannon were too wet to cut early for hay and were often high summer before the ground was strong enough for machines.
These incredible wildflower meadows have all but disappeared from this walk due to excessive drainage and planting of trees. Nationally there are plans to plant millions of trees and while I welcome this it is vital that is not at the expense of outstanding meadows.

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