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'If gardening - watch for birds nests' -Albert Nolan

'If gardening - watch for birds nests' -Albert Nolan

Time for a nature walk with the family

WITH social distancing in place, I have been keeping in touch with friends and family by phone. This is very important for my own mental health and away from the hectic schedule of schools and workshops I now have the time and energy to make space for the relationships that matter. Also with the kids and home and being a single parent it is good to talk to other adults and see how they are coping with the kids been around all the time.

I was recently speaking to Councillor Sean Hartigan, who is also co-ordinator of An Taisce Living Limerick. Like me he is very busy working on behalf of his constituents, family, nature and sowing vegetables. The latter is really important and people we have spoken to have been busy converting lawns by sowing seeds as minds are focused on food security. Even in the smallest space, like a window box or bucket, you can grow a selection of root and salad crops.

Sean recounted a story about protecting the most vulnerable creatures in nature. He was clearing a few sheds that had the clutter of twenty years. As he was moving a larger sofa he found a bucket and inside was a pile of moss. He was just to dump when he looked more closely and saw two chicks staring back up at him.

While it is brilliant to see everyone cleaning and tidying at home, birds are nesting and be extra vigilante when out and about in the garden. Cutting down vegetation in your garden can easily expose a nest to predators and it is not just hedgerows that we need to leave alone.

Robins are known for their most unusual choices for nesting locations, like the pockets of gardener’s coats, to even working farm machines. They can start nesting early in the year, depending on the availability of food and the first brood can be small. Over the years Sean with the help of his sons Jack and Tommy have planted lot of trees, shrubs and flower for wildlife. All of these provide insects, seeds and fruit for hungry creatures.

The two chicks were well feathered and nearly ready to fledge and parents were off foraging. For the first few weeks of life the male gathers the food for his family. The female only gets the occasional break and when the chicks are big and feathered enough to keep themselves warm, she joins the male in hunting. Sean carefully placed the bucket back and these chicks had a lucky escape.

In a good summer robins can have up to three broods, but many of the chicks are lost to predators and hungry. Robins and birds like blackbirds that feed on worms and insects living in the soil are benefiting for the increased digging in gardens across the country.

Young robins look nothing like their parents and the first time I saw one I was equally confused as to what species it could be? They are specked brown on their breast and the orange glow slowly develops over the winter months.

Cats are a major issue as robins tend to nest in sheds and other manmade structures where cats are usually found. I was recently chatting to a local farmer and he was very surprised that I kept cats since they kill countless birds.

Being a responsible pet owner is very important. We are now in the breeding season for cats and soon there will be thousands of unwanted kittens. Neutering is very cost effective with many animal charities proving support. Also placing bells on the collar of your cat reduces the success of hunts by up to 50%. There are also reports of swallows flittering in and let me know if you see one.

Exciting new fun online opportunity with St Marys Aid and An Taisce Living Limerick. Tune in every Thursday at 10am for our gardening for wildlife online series. Delighted to have Albert and the support of Limerick City & County Council Community Action Fund to introduce us to the wonderful local flora and fauna that surrounds us. Get involved and have some fun with us! Take pictures or videos and share your learning with us!

For More or 089 4230502.

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