Wild About Wildlife: Winds of change in Westbury

Albert Nolan

Reporter:

Albert Nolan

Wild About Wildlife: Winds of change in Westbury

Some of the group in Westbury during the nature walk

A cutting wind greeted us, as we started a nature walk in Westbury Estate last weekend. An Taisce Living Limerick, joining up with Westbury Community Group, to discover the wildlife living on their doorstep. Also discussed was different projects that the residents can do, to encourage more wildlife, to make its home, in the estate. A large crowd of families and adults, turned up, and it was brilliant, to see the interest in the natural world. Thanks to Maura for organising the walk, and inviting us into the community.

First we showed a few moths, to the group that I had caught, the previous night. Moths are a vital source of food for bats, and their caterpillars, feed a whole summer of chicks.

Having an awareness of the plants, already growing in the estate, and their importance for wildlife, is a great starting point. Sean explained, how important the humble dandelion is. It is packed full of pollen and nectar, for pollinators, and can be made into a kidney stimulating tea. Limerick City and County Council, have recently signed up to the pollinator plan, and are leaving areas of wildflowers grow, throughout the city and environs. All communities can sign up, and there is brilliant advice online, at the pollinator webpage.

Next we found lots of plants that are beneficial for wildlife. Bumblebees use their long tongues, to reach natures treat, in the flowers of red dead nettle. Daises are excellent for butterflies, and I was really surprised during the week, in a girl’s school, when most of the students, had never made a daisy chain.

Ivy tumbling over a wall, is a home for birds and insects that also eat the berries and flowers. The blossoms of willow, are also packed full of pollen for bees. A few of the gardens, had left their grass uncut, and these were full of flowers for insects. Heather is one of the best early plants for insects. Later we caught a queen red-tailed bumblebee that created awe and panic in equal measure. I was about to tell the story, about how I found a queen bee in my bed, but was stopped by Maura, who reminded me that kids were present.

The community have a beautiful pond, with resident mallards. We tried pond dipping, but only found a few blood worms. The ducks are fed too much bread, and this is probably contaminating the water. We suggested giving the ducks a diet of grains, seeds and greens.

A large nettle patch was a haven for mini beasts. Seven spotted ladybird, peacock butterfly spiders and weevils all provide food for birds. This is an area not to be tided up, and we need more corners like this, through estates in Limerick.

Maura helped the kid’s plant some wildflower seeds, and also had some of the excellent nature swatches on sale. These are brilliant pocket sized guides, available from the national biodiversity centre online shop.

The residents are planning to develop some of the grass areas, into wildflower patches, and also shrubberies for birds. They are also considering a community orchard that is beneficial for people and wildlife. Myself and Sean are looking forward to returning soon, to workshop on building bat and bird boxes.

Upcoming event

Explore the wildlife of Curraghchase on Wednesday, April 24 from 11am. Seán Hartigan and Albert Nolan will be looking and listening for birds, if we're really lucky we may even hear the woodpecker which has returned to Curraghchase after an absence of 300 years. The event is suitable for children and adults who want to learn more about the wonders of nature. Meet at the carpark at 11am. There is no charge for the event but you may need €5 in coins to bring your car into Curraghchase.

For More

albert.nolan@rocketmail.com or 089 4230502.