Wednesday 20 November 2019

Shining a light on the secret world of our wild neighbours

Urban fox and a cat face off
Urban fox and a cat face off
Ireland's Wild Cities - Squirrel
Ireland's Wild Cities - Peregrine Falcons

Paul Melia Environment Correspondent

FOXES competing with domestic cats for food, and peregrine falcons plummeting from buildings in pursuit of dinner show how wildlife is colonising our major towns and cities.

And now a television production company wants the public to help paint a picture of how we share our urban spaces with the tenacious animals which call built-up areas home.

'Wild Cities' is a new four-part TV series which will focus on urban wildlife in Dublin, Belfast, Galway and Cork, going behind the scenes to capture an extraordinary world of activity that goes largely unseen.

Crossing the Line Films, which is producing the series for broadcast next year, wants to hear from people with wildlife tales to tell.

"We are trying to find the wild animals and plants that have adapted to living alongside us in our largest cities," researcher Juanita Browne said.

"We want to find unusual nest sites. For example, we heard about a bird nesting in the pocket of a coat someone had left hanging in their garden shed, and about a blue tit nest built in a post box.

"We want to show just how flexible and adaptable our wild urban residents can be in finding homes."

It's not just parks which become home to wildlife but gardens, derelict sites, ghost estates and even graveyards. Many visitors who settle are also attracted by the abundance of food sources.

For example, the ubiquitous pigeon attracts the world's fastest animal, the peregrine falcon.

Usually found on cliff ledges, they have been spotted perched on top of Cork's County Hall and Dublin's Liberty Hall before plunging at speeds of up to 290kph in pursuit of dinner.

Terrapins are also found living in Dublin's canals and city centre ponds. Growing up to 28cm, most were probably abandoned by their owners when they grew too big. They can live for up to 40 years and hibernate at the bottom of canals through the winter, and if the summers are warm can breed.

In Belfast, a starling murmuration was filmed on the River Lagan, where slow-motion cameras were used to capture the movements of 40,000 birds performing in the evening sky before settling down for the night.

There are countless other examples too, Ms Browne added, such as garden ponds becoming home to frogs or newts each year, or a hedgehog which shares pet food left outdoors.

"Perhaps after the bell rings, your school grounds become the playground of nocturnal visitors such as badgers or foxes? Do you have bats in your attic or swallows nesting in your garage? If so, drop us a line.

"We will be following the stories of animals breeding and trying to raise their young, the challenges they encounter along the way and ultimately whether or not they survive."

The producers can be contacted at www.facebook.com/irishwildcities, on twitter @ctlwildlife or at info@ctlfilms.com.

Irish Independent

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