Wednesday 26 June 2019

Project to turn church yards into wildlife havens

Hope to bring biodiversity plan to all churches in the diocese

Oran O’Sullivan erecting a bird box on church grounds
Oran O’Sullivan erecting a bird box on church grounds

Myles Buchanan

When Rev Brian O'Reilly, the Rector of St Saviours Church in Rathdrum, decided efforts were needed to improve living conditions for local wildlife, he knew exactly who to approach - Oran O'Sullivan.

Oran had 25 years experience with BirdWatch Ireland before venturing out on his own and establishing Irish Garden, which provides anything required to feed and watch garden birds.

A look around the churchyard behind St Saviour's revealed a quiet oasis - ideal conditions for wildlife to thrive. Rev O'Reilly's idea is to roll out Actions for Biodiversity in Churchyards (ABC) across the Diocese of Glendalough, involving over 30 properties in County Wicklow.

They have already trialled the plan in three churches in the parish: St Johns Church in Laragh, Glenealy Church and St Saviours in Rathdrum. Each church property is different but typically feature mature trees, including native yew trees, and, in the case of St Johns in Laragh, mature oak and ash. Old stonework is also important as it provides a home for smaller creatures that birds depend on for food.

With suitable habitats already present, the project will work to enhance conditions for bees and birds to thrive and provide nesting boxes in carefully chosen positions on the grounds.

'We are really looking forward to rolling out this project across the county and we hope it can compliment the efforts of local Tidy Towns groups,' said Oran.

'By working with the local community, we can ensure the boxes are maintained and recognised as a biodiversity action that can be included in the competition to earn all-important marks for Tidy Towns.'

A busy summer programme lies ahead as Rev O'Reilly and Oran traverse the county to assess the enormous potential to assist wildlife in towns and villages. Oran will be able to use his extensive experience to decide on the best options to assist different wildlife.

'Bees prefer sunny, south-facing nest holes, linked closely with flowering plants that provide nectar. Hole nesting birds prefer north or east facing boxes and, in some cases, they require cover from ivy around the box, to conceal themselves from predators,' explained Oran.

Visit for lots of information on wildlife and nesting boxes.

Wicklow People