Annual bat study in full swing

Shining a light on bats.
The sun had been out all day and in the dwindling light I met up with Kilkenny tidy towns for a bat walk. Our meeting place was in front of the Hurling Statue, with the high walls of the castle above us and the broad sweep of the River Nore inviting us to discover nature. On first view this looked like an excellent habitat to discover bats.

Canal square in the evening

Gathering for a bat study on Canal square

The walk is a well-used meeting point for the community. A few people were heading off on an evening stroll, while kids played on their skateboards while under the watching eye of their parents.

Soon a small and socially distanced group has assembled. Two ladies arrived late as Johns Street was closed and they had to take a longer route.
We started off with an introduction to bats. Bats are mammals like us. They are warm blooded and give birth to live young that are fed on milk. Bats are often found in our houses and one of the main reasons for this is the massive changes in our landscape.
In other parts of Europe bats use old trees with natural cavities and these are rare in Ireland. Also a lot of older buildings that are natural bat roosts have been renovated so use our attics instead. One man commented that he had bats in his attic years ago but they moved on of their own accord. Attics are especially important as maternity roosts where the females will have their one pup.
Bats have a very slow rate of reproduction and this means that it takes years for the population to build up. Bats mate in the autumn, but the female can delay fertilisation till spring. With plenty of insects around she can produce milk for her pup. Bats can eat up to 3500 insects each night and moths, mayflies and beetles are also caught.
Bats are fully protected by Irish and European law and it is illegal to disturb their maternity and roosting places. If you do need to carry out works, consult with the local wildlife ranger and they can offer sensible and practical advice on how the works can be carried out.
There are many myths around bats and they are not flying mice and don’t fly into your hair. When we are out walking we radiate heat from our head and also breathe out Carbon dioxide. This attracts insects and the bats fly around us trying to catch them.
Before we started the walk I demonstrated how to use a bat detector. This converts the normally inaudible calls of a bat, into a sound that we can hear and with a bit of experience identify the specie of bat. Thanks to Kilkenny Co.Co for providing additional detectors and this meant there was one for everyone in the group.
This is a tense moment for me as bats on occasion have not performed for a group. Thankfully we were blessed and it was not long before we heard the first of many bats. When bats first emerge they are starving and there is also loads of banter as they discuss where the best feed spots are.

The calls of the Common pipistrelle came through very clearly and everyone was really excited to hear the bats. Occasional we saw a bat and many commented that they will never view the walk in the same way again, after experiencing the thrills of bat watching. After a few minutes the activity level dropped off and this is natural, as bats disperse to wider feeding grounds.

While we waited we discussed the best place to put up a bat box. Boxes should be located at least four meters of the ground with no obstructing branches that will hinder the bats flying in. While birds have the ability to fly straight out of a box, bats have to drop down making them vulnerable to attack by cats. Other dangers is the long term Impact of powerful lighting that drives away bats. This is especially true on old bridges and churches and who is going to be looking at them at 3am. Thankfully the canal walk is well balanced in terms of lighting. Habitat loss like the removal of hedgerows destroys the bats green highways.

Bats are not blind and there eyesight is as good as ours during the night. Bats use echolocation to build up a picture of the night-time landscape. This allows then to hunt tiny flies and larger moths in the pitch dark. But insects like moths are not passive prey and each year an evolutionary arms race goes out in our gardens and towns. Bats can live for up to 30 years and with age they become more experienced hunters. Moths defences are constantly been upgraded. The hairs on the bodies of some species can sense the echolocation calls of the bats. The moth can then drop like a stone to the ground to escape or distort the bats signal. The worrying decline in insect populations is a major concern for the future health of bats. Leisers bats are Ireland’s biggest species and we did hear the social and mating calls of the males in the trees above the heads. These were located near the love seats built into the walls long the canal walk  for human occupation.

On the way back we examined the plant community growing on the walls. Navelwort, Pellitory of the wall and ivy leaved toadflax all support wildlife. Dog rose, ash, Horse chestnut and lime trees lined the path and can be home to roosting bats especially if they are covered in ivy.  Bats are interesting part of Kilkenny City wildlife and I really enjoyed discovering them on the walk.

Comments/Questions to albert.nolan@rocketmail.com or 089 4230502. Albert is also available to give walks/talks to schools, tidy towns, youth and community groups.

Winter planting and cleanups

This is the time of year for bare root planting of trees and bushes,  planting winter bedding plants,  being cruel to be kind with the trimming of bushes,moving / dividing plants around,  annual cuting of wild flower areas, removing hard to get at  blown  non biodegradable plastic from under bushes and hedges (it’s about time that  25c is put on every plastic bottle, can , coffee cup etc  so that they have a value)  and countless other jobs…..

planning the next projects with St Kierans TY tidytowns

River Breagagh runs higher again

cleaning

Planting

New mural with a busy bee

bee friendly whitethorn planting under way ….

winter berries

St Kieran’s Ty students lend a hand!

it goes on ….

Balsam removal campaign 2019

Congratulations to all who came out to  work on  the balsam removal campaign 2019, there will be further regular  evenings  during  May, June and July. The programme has been extremely successful with almost total removal of balsam throughout the city from Talbot’s inch to Ossory Bridge. The  areas previously cleared  will also be checked for any new growth and the 2019 campaign is to extend the area cleared to the south-east of Ossory bridge. Congratulations to all who have taken part so far this year. To take part, please contact us and also monitor our events page. Balsam is an invasive species and it’s removal encourages the growth of native species of plants along the riverbank.

 

Big Hello in Kilkenny on the river Nore walks

Community in action, the big Hello  with KKB highlighting the wonderful riverside walks in Kilkenny, a great day was had at Riverside /entrance to the riverside Nore walk.  The event was sweetened by great cakes from Cakeface cafe, and washed down with tea, coffee and chat.  KKB reuseable cups were also showcased.  All the  faithful dogs being walked  were not forgotten about  with treats also  being enjoyed.   The message   is to protect the environment,  Keep Kilkenny Beautiful and collect after your dog.

Plant for the Planet and treeplanting week

KKB and Dukesmeadows residents  participated in a UN-backed global initiative which is being spearheaded in Ireland by the charity Crann, Trees for Ireland through their easy treesie project. With support from Kilkenny County Council, children are assisted in planting native and naturalised trees in their local area. Kilkenny City  was selected for a ceremonial tree planting in advance of Earth Day next Monday . This project will assist in providing a shelter belt and wildlife corridor, capture carbon and of course beautify our area.The fruit trees are also very important for our wildlife and pollinators.

Fruit tree planting at Dukesmeadows

Many children around the country have already had a chance to join in this environmental learning opportunity, planting over 14,000 trees in their local parks, community gardens, roadside verges and hospitals as part of the challenge for Ireland’s children to plant a million trees by 2023.

The trees have been specially selected by the team of specialists in easy treesie – Crann. Joining in this activity ties in with many curriculum objectives at local schools and will assist in their winning the International Green Flags.

There was a presentation at Dukesmeadows during the planting on the subject of trees and their importance for our city  by Orla Farrell of Crann . A great planting was has by all.  Our  children will have the opportunity to benefit from the fruit of their labours for many years to come.

KKB have been working with many groups throughout Kilkenny over the last number of years to plant  hundreds of fruit trees and bushes  suitable for their location.A number of community orchards have already been established and additional orchards are being planned. This action  continue over the next number of years. Residents associations and voluntary groups who would like to participate in this action are more than welcome to contact KKB for the next planting season.

The environment needs protection.

The environment needs protection.

For the past week, a group of 27 young environmentalists from 15 different European countries – have gathered in Kilkenny to learn about grassroots movements.

The network Youth and Environment Europe (YEE) organized a seminar ‘know your grassroots’, which brought them  together.

Today the group  joins Keep Kilkenny Beautiful, you could too!

 

 

Zoe Devlin presents “Wildflowers of Ireland- a personal Record”

A large crowd attended a very interesting presentation by Zoe Devlin titled ” Wildflowers of Ireland  – a personal record”  which recently took place in Kilkenny. The event was coordinated by Bird watch Ireland Kilkenny branch. Zoe reviewed Ireland’s rare flowers and also some of  the not so rare flowers including flowers growing in  Kilkenny. Invasive species were also reviewed.

The importance of pollinator species was discussed. The event ties in to the theme of improving habitat for our bees in Kilkenny. The importance of many plants to specific insects and  having adequate food for birds  was noted.

Rothe House Garden and KKB – open garden day

Saturday May 28th : Presentation at Bee friendly Rothe House garden  1pm-3pm.    There will also be the identification  of bee/pollinator  friendly plants. All are welcome.  Entry to the Gardens is free  to all on the day.  Arranged by KKB and Rothe House gardens.

We also welcome Tanguy de Toulgoët   a bee keeper to explain the art of bee keeping. He uses a French system using a  vertical divisible hive. The small boxes suits very well the size of the bee cluster especially during the winter. It is a great hive to keep bees naturally. They organise their nest in their own way and the surplus honey is harvested (if any) around August. The honey is stored in the higher boxes. The honey will be pressed or can be eaten in the comb. A full box is always left for the bees for the winter.

Rothe house gardens

Rothe house gardens