With 71% of Irish Curlew breeding on peatlands, IPCC believe that both peatland habitat restoration and awareness raising activities are essential to ensure a future for these iconic birds in Ireland.
With major backing from Seacology, an international organisation committed to protecting island habitats and assisting local communities in their efforts to protect wildlife, IPCC is confident of making a difference for Curlew.
Drain Survey, Drain Blocking and Sphagnum Restoration
Earlier in Spring, IPCC undertook extensive ground surveys of Lodge Bog to determine how wet the bog is and to devise a plan of work on areas which we felt we could make even wetter. This field work identified that IPCC would need to construct a little over 20 dams in the drains on Lodge Bog with the aim of increasing the wetness of the site. A soft wet bog with bog pools provides ideal foraging areas for Curlew adults and chicks and the wetter the site is the better, as it ensures their ground nest is protected by the inaccessibility into very wet and quaking bogland territory.
In late summer and early autumn IPCC began to train volunteers and organise conservation work camps on Lodge Bog. Volunteers were then able to block drains on the bog so as to help increase its wetness.
|Surveying drains and the effectiveness of dams in blocking them on Lodge Bog.||The first steps in drain blocking. Sheets of interlocking plastic lumbar are driven into the bog drain using a mallet.|
|Completing the insertion sheets of plastic lumbar into a drain on Lodge Bog, Co. Kildare||Restoring a peat borrow pit on Lodge Bog as the end process in drain blocking.|
The process of drain blocking involves the construction of a dam across the drain. This is made from two rows of plastic lumbar with a layer of peat sandwiched between them. The dam holds back the water in the drain which allows for the surrounding bogland to rewet. Peat used in blocking the drains is taken from the edge of the drain. The pit remaining after the peat is removed is restored through its inoculation with Sphagnum mosses. The moss fragments are laid on the dam peat and covered with straw which helps to keep them moist until they begin to grow. Within two to three years, the straw melts away and the low hummocks of Sphagnum moss have taken root and begin the process of forming peat again.
Curlew Breeding Success 2017
During the breeding season for the Curlew from April through to July, we worked very closely with BirdWatch Ireland’s local Kildare branch. With the help of expert birders we were able to control grey crow predators of Curlew eggs and their was great joy when one chick fledged the nest and was seen on the bog and in the surrounding farmland. One local farmer even delayed cutting his meadow to allow the Curlew chick to clear the area.
The Curlew nest position is marked by a black letter X on the map inset. Four eggs were laid but only one hatched. The map inset also shows a series of blue dots each one representing a sighting of Curlew during the season 2017. As can be seen the birds concentrated on the intact raised dome of Lodge Bog. They also spent time feeding on the agricultural land to the west and north west. We particularly noticed a lot of feeding behaviour when they first arrived. After the chick hatched it was spotted in the surrounding meadows feeding with the parent adult birds.
Curlew nest with three eggs on Lodge Bog Spring 2017. The remains of the egg shell that hatched can be seen in the nest.
During the autumn and spring terms of the school academic year 2017/2018, IPCC’s education staff will be meeting with locally based school children to teach them about the ecology of bogs and the unique features of bogs upon which the Curlew depend to complete their life cycle. The education programme for schools includes a visit to Lodge Bog during which children explore the living ecology of the bog, including the specially adapted plants living in the bog, how the bog forms peat, the hydrology of the bog and the life of bog pools. The images below show school children walking across Lodge Bog on a boardwalk and demonstrating their love for the Curlew.
Lodge Bog – part of the Bog of Allen
Lodge Bog is a small remnant of the Bog of Allen – an extensive peatland area that stretches across the Midlands of Ireland but which has largely been lost due to the demands from local communities for a source of fuel to warm their homes and to provide energy for cooking. With the extensive loss of suitable breeding habitat, Ireland has recorded a dramatic decrease in breeding Curlew.