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Bird of prey harries massive EUR74m wind farm out of the sky, Independent, Tuesday, June 2nd, 2004

The presence of the rare hen harrier, which is found only in parts of Kerry, Cork and Limerick, has stopped the construction in Co Cork of a giant wind farm, like the one above. The landmark ruling deemed that the construction would destroy the harrier's habitat and will be seen by conservation groups as having wider implications for other planned windfarms.

A LANDMARK ruling protecting a rare bird of prey has stopped construction of a giant EUR74m wind farm and could scupper plans for hundreds of similar developments nationwide. Bord Pleanala, in the first ruling of its kind, shot down a massive wind farm with 29 turbines planned for Co Cork because it could interfere with the habitat of the protected hen harrier. The landmark planning decision on the project - which had been due to dominate the skyline and span seven townlands at Knockacummer, Co Cork - is set to lead to a flood of similar objections anywhere wind farms are planned in the species' habitat.

The presence of the bird was the sole reason for refusal by the planning authority, signalling a tough new approach to wind farm developments impacting upon protected bird species. The hen harrier, an internationally protected species, has fewer than 150 pairs left in Kerry, Cork and Limerick. Killing or disturbance of the birds or their nests at any time is forbidden.

The South Western Services Group, representing five co-ops in West Cork, had got permission from Cork Co Council to build a wind farm of 29 turbines soaring 120m into the skyline. The turbines are 80m high, but with a blade diameter of 80m they reach to 120m in height. Bord Pleanala upheld an appeal by the Bruach Na Carraige Cultural and Heritage Centre against the decision because of the presence of the hen harrier. In its ruling, the board said the proposed development was located on a site identified as a nesting and foraging habitat of the hen harrier, a species listed for protection in the EU Birds Directive. The site was also being considered by the Government for designation as a Special Area of Conservation for the birds, the board said.

The Government is proposing to designate nine special conservation sites to protect the birds. Bord Pleanala said it was not satisfied that the development would not have "significant and adverse impacts on the hen harrier". The giant turbines would disturb and displace the birds and wipe out their habitats. The board said it took the decision to refuse permission after considering the size and scale of the proposed wind farm in an area of national importance for the conservation of the hen harrier. It also took account of the fact that a number of wind farms were already operating in the area. One of these was given permission on the basis that it was small and its operators would monitor the effect on the hen harrier. "The proposed development would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area," said Bord Pleanala.

A spokesperson for the SWS group said yesterday they were "incredibly disappointed" at the ruling and insisted the council had designated the area as suitable for wind farm development. There has been widespread opposition from farmers to the proposed protected designations, as they fear they will deprive them of income from windfarms and forestry in upland areas. But bird lovers and environmental groups are actively campaigning against any developments that negatively impact on the habitats of protected bird species. A dead hen harrier was recently posted to the Kerryman newspaper at the height of controversy over the planned designations. The male bird, pale grey with distinctive black wing tips, is smaller than the female. This allows him to specialise in feeding on small birds. The dark brown female tackles larger prey, mainly rabbits. Their habitat is heather moorland, blanket bogs, upland farmland and young plantations.


Visiting anglers are warned thay could devastate Lough Corrib, By Frank Farragher, The Connacht Tribune, Friday, April 30th, 2004
Not a bird topic, but it illustrates how our actions can sometimes have unforeseen effects and the dangers that invasive alien species can pose.

Visiting anglers and boat users to galway have been warned in the run-up to the peak Mayfly season to take precautions ensuring that they don't spread the devastating Zebra Mussel to Lough Corrib and other western lakes over the coming weeks.

The Zebra Mussel - a native of the Black and Caspian Seas - which has already colonised the Erne and Shannon waterways is highly destructive to various fish species including the world famous wild brown trout of Lough Corrib.

Fears are growing this week - in the days before the Mayfly invasion of anglers - that some visiting anglers and boatmen who randomly descend on the Corrib may be using vessels or other equipment which they had previously used on the Shannon or the Erne waterways. In total about 50 Irish lakes have been colonised by the mollusc.

This week both the Western Regional Fisheries Board and Galway County Council have issued warnings over the ecological disaster which the spread of the Zebra Mussel would wreak on the 'Great Western Lakes' - Lough Corrib, Mask, Conn and carra - all so far free from the invader.

The inedible Zebra Nussels attach themselves 'by the million' to soild surfaces such as stone, wood or concrete - the limestone bed of Lough Corrib would provide an ideal habitat for this shellfish.

In recent weeks concerns have been expressed by local angling interests, boat operators and landowners over what they describe as the 'random forays' onto the lake from some visitors who just take their boat on the lake from the most convenient place to them.

"The Zebra Mussel is my single biggest fear for the future of these great lakes over the coming years. These lakes are now recognised as being the best in the country, but that more and more people are coming to fish them every year," said Greg Forde, Chief Executive of the Western Regional Fisheries Board.

He added that there was no law or byelaw to control people coming onto the lake and there was the possibility that people unwittingly would take a boat or engine they had used on the Shannon system and bring it onto one of the western lakes.

"Any boat or engine which has been used on the Erne or Shannon waterways in the previous month should not be brought onto our western lakes. We want people to get this message loud and clear," said Greg Forde.

He said that such visiting anglers had the option of hiring a boat locally and he added that there were also concerns about people just randomly accessing the lakes via land owned by local people.

Anglers should use the designated slipways and if possible join the local angling club where for a small contribution they could access the lake propoerly as well as being well informed.

He warned that the spread of the Zebra Mussel to the western lakes would be devastating as this species is a prolific coloniser. Mr. Forde said that the species removed practically all of the plankton from the water which would spell the end of a particular kind of brown trout known as 'sonaghan'.

According to a statement issued by Galway County Council they warn that the Zebra Mussel is on of the most damaging non-native species ever to be introduced into Ireland's rivers and lakes.

"Currently, approximately fifty lakes are infested, including the lakes of the Shannon system. The Western Lakes have escaped infestation to date but they are under threat. The Zebra Mussel is highly destructive to the ecosystem and to the fish life of any river or lake that it infests," the Council state.

The Zebra Mussel can tolerate a wide range of conditions and is extremely adaptable. Zebra Mussels remove microscopic organisms and plankton from the water. This results in a reduction in the amount of food sources availablt to native fish and freshwater invertebrates.

"The key to preventing the spread of the Zebra Mussel lies in preventing boats being transported from infected waters to the Great Western Lakes. Zebra Mussels are spread by attaching to boats, engines, nets, weeds and diving equipment.

"Galway County Council recommend that visiting anglers who wish to fish in the Corrib, Mask, Carra and Conn should leave their boats at home and rent locally," the Council state.

Zebra Mussels, were first documented in Ireland in 1997 in Lough Derg and other parts of the lower Shannon estuaries. Scientifically they are categorised as 'freshwater bivalves' which attach to hard substrates via a thread network.


EU chides Ireland over wild birds, By Tim King in Brussels, Irish Times, Friday, January 30th, 2004

Ireland ranks second from bottom in the European Union at protecting the habitats of wild birds, the European Commission announced yesterday. The Corncrake, the Chough and the Hen Harrier are among the species the Commission judges to be "poorly protected".

The Commission announced yesterday that it was taking Ireland to the European Court of Justice for its continuing failure to protect the ahbitats of wils birds. According to the wild birds directive, The EU's oldest piece of nature conservation law and dating to 1979, Ireland should have designated special protection areas for migratory birds and vulnerable species.

Only France has a smaller network of SPAs, measured as a proportion of its territory, a Commission spokeswoman said. Irealnd has designated 3 per cent of its territory, compared to an EU average of 8 per cent.

The Environment Commissioner, Ms. Margot Wallstrom said: "Member States have committed themselves to halting the loss of biodiversity in the EU by 2010. If this objective is to be achieved, they must reinforce their national legislation and upgrade their nature conservation practices."

Around 140 sites in Irealnd have been identified by Birdlife International and its member organisation BirdWatch Ireland as being of importance to the conservation of Europe's wild birds. Of these, the Commission complains that the Government has so far failed to designate one third of them as SPAs and that some of the other sites have been only partially protected.

"A lot of sites have to be increased in size in order to comply with the directive," a Commission official said.

The Commission wants to see areas of the Shannon Callows near Athlone designated because they are a stronghold of the Corncrake. The Dingle and Beara peninsulas are important for Chough. Areas to protect Hen Harrier should, the Commission believes, be designated in parts of Clare, north Cork and Limerick.

Similarly there are parts of Cork Harbour and Dublin Bay where the Commission believes designation should be extended so as to better protect migrating geese and ducks.

A Government spokeswoman said the number of SPAs would soon be increased. She said: "There are more than 20 statutory instruments which are due to be finalised shortly. We are making progress."

BIRDWATCH IRELAND PRESS STATEMENT 15th May 2003

RE: DEAD HEN HARRIER SENT TO KERRY NEWSPAPER


Birdwatch Ireland condemns the apparent illegal killing of a Hen Harrier in Co. Kerry and the sickening act of sending the body parts through the post to a newspaper, in a clear attempt to intimidate those who are working to preserve our wildlife heritage. We request that a Garda investigation take place and if the bird was indeed shot, prosecution should follow.

The Hen Harrier is an internationally protected species with fewer than 150 pairs left in Ireland, and the law forbids the killing or disturbance of the birds or their nest at any time and under any circumstances. This action was taken during the breeding season, when the birds and their young are at their most vulnerable.

This action has taken place against a background of continuing conflict between the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government over the designation of certain areas of our countryside as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the EU Birds Directive. Birdwatch Ireland believe that the objectives of sustainably developing our uplands and the protection of our environment need not be in conflict and we advocate reasoned analysis of all options in order to achieve an outcome that benefits all parties.

We call on the IFA to promptly and publicly condemn this maverick action.


Birds a barometer to nature (Connacht Tribune, 28th March 2003)

BirdWatch Ireland (formerly the Irish Wildbird Conservancy), was established in 1968 with the primary objective of conserving wild birds and their habitats in Ireland. It has since become the largest, most experienced independentnature conservation organisation in this country. With 25 branches countrywide and more than 8,000 members they are a powerful lobbyist on conservation issues.

Birdwatch Ireland (BWI) is the Birdlife International partner in ireland. As a member of Birdlife International, BWI represent Ireland's bird interests worldwide.

Birds act as a barometer of change in our natural environment, hence the organisation's most important task is to conduct extensive research and surveys on birds. The ensuing results provide the information on which conservation is based.

Currently thousands of volunteers are partaking in survey work regarding our Wetlands Birds (I-Webs); Endangered Species- Corncrake, Barn Owl, Golden Eagle etc.; Garden Birdwatch; Countryside Bird Survey and many other very worthwhile and satisfying surveys. Migration Watch began on the 1st of March this year, the survey is designed to the arrival and flow of migrant species into and through this country.

BWI also manage nature reserves- places where birds can breed and feed without disturbance and where people can have the opportunity to watch wildlife in its natural surroundings.

The Galway Branch was founded in the late 1960's and since then has been active in promoting ornithology and conseravtion in the city and county. The Branch has about 300 members and is very active in the community, encouraging members to get involved at alocal level; to meet people with similar interests and to enjoy various activities within the local network.
The Branch organise talks, outings and various projects, the programme including regular member meetings, film shows and lectures, exciting outings (to Wexford Wildfowl Reserve last month), plus the counts and surveys.

Since 1976 Branch members have carried out regular winter counts of the birds of Inner Galway Bay. Also, members have participated in all the national and international bird censuses.

The Branch has also been instrumental in in recent publications: 'The Birds of Galway and Mayo' (1977) and 'The Birds of Galway' (1990). It is hoped to update the latter in the near future.

The recently acquired (courtesy of the O'Malley family) Rusheen bay Bird Sanctuary near Barna is owned and managed by BWI. Regular guided outings are a feature here. Two birdwatching hides are also worthy of mention, one at Belclare Turlough and the other at Rostaff near Headford.

Galway is blessed not only with an active and vibrant Birdwatching Society, but also with the Galway Bat Group, Galway Naturalists' Field Club and a general interest from Cetaceans to Lepidoptera and Flora and Fauna.

BirdWatch Galway

12th November 2002: Make your time COUNT for birds this Winter!

Why not join BirdWatch Galway members on the branch's regular winter bird counts? You do not need to be an expert at bird identification, just to be able to identify the commoner bird species (and there will always be others present who can help with ID). Data from our counts is useful in detecting changes in wintering bird populations and in showing the particular value of specific sites for birds. All counts are arranged for a Saturday or a Sunday.

We will be counting inner Galway Bay in November, December, January and March; we will also be counting Lough Corrib. Watch out for news on our Events page, or contact Marianne for more details. In addition other counts are held (as part of the Irish Wetland Birds Survey, I-WeBS) at a variety of sites (both on the coast and inland) monthly up until next March. Perhaps you will be able to count a site near you that is not presently covered? If you are interested in I-WeBS counts, please contact Neil Sharkey.

17th August 2002: Plaque unveiling and presentation to the O'Malley family

Members of BirdWatch Galway gathered in order to acknowledge the generous donation of the Small Wood by the O'Malley family to BirdWatch Ireland. It was a pleasure to be able to entertain Eoin and Úna O'Malley at the reserve. A commemorative plaque was unveiled and flowers presented as thanks were expressed to the O'Malleys on behalf of both BirdWatch Ireland and the Galway Branch. In return the O'Malleys expressed their satisfaction at the improvements that have been made to the accessibility, viewing points and fabric of the woodland on site. Special mention was made in regard of this to the efforts of Michael Davis of Fás, Galway Civic Trust and BirdWatch Galway.


Left to right: Pat Finnegan, Úna O'Malley, Peggy Sharkey & Neil Sharkey after the unveiling of the commemorative plaque

February 2002: Galway goose site saved from development

Plans for a major housing project in Oranmore, Co Galway, have been scaled down significantly to avoid damage to an important site for Greenland White-fronted Geese. Duron Construction Co Ltd applied for permission in April 2000 to build 150 houses on seven hectares in Oranhill. The site extended into Creganna Marsh, an important area for Greenland White-fronted Geese in winter and part of a proposed Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Natural Heritage Area (NHA).

Creganna supports Ireland's third largest wintering flock of Greenland White-fronted Geese, after the Wexford Slobs and Shannon Callows flocks. The 200-strong flock moves back and forth between Creganna and Rahasane near Craughwell.

The BirdWatch Ireland Galway Branch, supported by head office, objected to the proposal, expressing concerns at the site's overlap with protected areas. Dúchas the Heritage Service and a residents's association also lodged objections.

Dúchas objected to the development in roughly half of the proposed site on the grounds that the presence of people would disturb the geese. It also expressed concerns that both noise and visual intrusion would result in the geese abandoning the site. A revised plan for 140 houses was submitted in April 2001, and in November 2001 the developers scaled its proposal down further to 81 houses.

Just before Christmas 2001, Galway County Council granted permission for the revised proposal, but instructed the developers to avoid any transgression into the protected areas. Other conditions called for measures to prevent disturbance to the geese during construction, and screening to reduce visual and noise impact.

Neil Sharkey of the BirdWatch Ireland Galway Branch said the result was very positive, with strict conditions imposed. However, he expressed fears for the future of the marsh, saying "It will now be overlooked by housing, and the continued expansion of Galway's urban area could eventually surround it. There is pressure to develop Oranmore as it will soon be serviced by the Mutton Island sewage plant in Galway Bay".
Wings Magazine, Spring 2002

15th September 2001: The Mayor of Galway Councillor Dónal Lyons officially unveiled new facilities in the Small Wood. The Small Wood, which is located in Barna (a few miles West of Galway City), is owned and managed by Birdwatch Galway. The two and a half acre site, adjoining Lough Rusheen and Silver Strand, was handed over to Birdwatch Galway in 1997 by Dr. Eoin O'Malley. As well as woodland habitat, the site provides viewpoints from which gulls, terns, waders and duck may be seen. The opening of the facility was made possible by Galway Civic Trust, which has been working on the accessibility of the site for the past 18 months as part of a Fás Community Employment Scheme. Local people also contributed materials for the improvement of the site.

© BirdWatch Galway 2004