Greater awareness is required to protect existence of wetlands, ponds and wildlife
Sometimes just leaving well enough alone is the answer to preserving valued friends
Published 16/08/2011 | 05:00
A storm of protest followed recent Government proposals to tighten up the legislation covering land drainage and improvement works.
The IFA was predictably the most vocal of the dissenters and while none of us would want to see a situation where the sight of a digger cleaning a ditch on a farm produces nuisance complaints to the local council, we do need to be more aware of the importance of our ponds and wetlands.
The cry of the curlew, a sound that perhaps more than any other symbolises the haunting beauty of wild, lonely places, is now virtually a thing of the past, and the disappearance of many of our wetlands is partly the cause.
Curlew nest in damp, rushy pastures and on open moorland, and, by using their long bills, they probe for food in soft areas along ditches or shallow pools where their chicks can easily find insect food.
In a survey undertaken in the early 1980s, it was estimated that there were 5,000 breeding pairs in Ireland. A further survey carried out last spring showed a catastrophic decline in the population and it is reckoned there are now as few as 200 active breeding pairs left.
It appears that curlews, along with other breeding waders, have almost disappeared from our countryside and have been suffering from a loss of habitat for many years.
Bird Watch Ireland estimates that around 80pc of the breeding population has been lost since the 1970s.
While curlews are still a regular sight along our coasts in winter, when large numbers of migrant birds from northern Europe come here to feed in our estuaries and wetlands, it is our resident breeding population that is in danger of extinction.