Saturday, May 14, 2022

Anna and Sarah Rothwell pictured at the launch of the book ‘Saving Swifts’ at Abbeyleix Library. The book is a joint publication of BirdWatch Ireland and the Local Authority Heritage Officer Network.
Picture: Alf Harvey

By Joe Barrett

To coincide with Biodiversity Week which begins on Monday 16 May a range of events and resources are available for anyone in Laois with an interest in learning about the natural world.

Encouraging people to get involved over the week the Heritage Officer with Laois County Council Catherine Casey said the event is all about connecting people with nature and communicating the importance of biodiversity and motivating people to play their part in protecting it.

She said: “We are hoping that people will have some fun, and that will inspire them to learn more about the natural world around us and how we can help it.”

Those with an interest in urban birds are invited to a walk to explore swifts with Ricky Whelan of BirdWatch Ireland. The event begins at 7pm on Tuesday 17 May from the Market House in Stradbally. The walk will end at the library and will be followed at 8pm by a Dusk Chorus walk with Des Finnamore from the Laois branch of BirdWatch Ireland Branch.

The swift walk is part of an ongoing commitment to swifts by Laois County Council which has seen swift nest boxes installed in public buildings across the county, following the survey of swifts in Laois in 2018, and with the support of the Heritage Council and the Local Biodiversity Action Fund.

The most recent action for swifts in Laois has seen swift bricks installed during the construction of the new library in Portlaoise, with the help of BirdWatch Ireland.

County Librarian Bernie Foran said: “We were delighted to work with BirdWatch Ireland to provide suitable habitat for swifts to nest in our new library. The historic centre of Portlaoise is a stronghold for these birds, and having had nest boxes on the existing library, we were aware of how important it is to provide for them in the new building. We were grateful to Ricky Whelan of BirdWatch Ireland for his advice and support in installing the swift bricks at the new library site”

The Swift Project Officer with BirdWatch Ireland Ricky Whelan said: “It’s fantastic to see Laois County Council and local communities collaborate to help this charismatic and endangered bird. The swift bricks installed at Portlaoise Library will increase nesting opportunities for swifts in the area and we hope that this this has a positive impact on the population locally”.

The swift project is just one of a number of biodiversity projects ongoing in Portlaoise, as the town’s Town in a Garden project goes from strength to strength.

The Chairperson of Portlaoise Tidy Towns Gerry Browne said: “We have already done a lot of planting for biodiversity in Portlaoise, including pollinator-friendly planting on our roundabouts and roadsides, and the planting of 10,000 native trees. This year we are working on a three-year biodiversity plan for the town, and we look forward to seeing the benefits of that in the years to come.”

The focus on wildlife living closely alongside humans continues with an online talk on wildlife in buildings with John Lusby of BirdWatch Ireland on Wednesday 18 May starting at 8pm.

The talk celebrates the launch of a new book and documentary on the topic, created by BirdWatch Ireland in partnership with Heritage Officers from Laois, Tipperary, Clare and Donegal County Council and the Biodiversity Office of Kerry County Council.

Wildlife in buildings can often be harmed during works due to a lack of awareness of their presence or indeed knowledge of how plan renovations and works in order to avoid disturbance, which is usually always possible. The loss of old stone structures due to demolition, dilapidation or renovation is linked to declines in species such as Barn Owl and Swift, which are dependent on these structures. Modern buildings do not provide the same opportunities for wildlife. However, there is a lot that we can do to improve modern buildings for wildlife to ensure that we continue to make space for nature.

The new book can be downloaded, and the film viewed here

The Heritage Office of Laois County Council has focused on producing high quality material for children and schools as well as for adults in recent years and all of this material is free to download from their website here 

Details of all events and resources for Biodiversity Week in Laois are available here 

For events happening across the country see here


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