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  05.10.11, 8.32amhrs  |  reported by admin1
  Mickey washed ashore

Mickey Washed Ashore

Councillor Mickey Grant got a shock last week when he was discovered lying on the shore near Malin head. The councillor or his name sake had been attached to a 6 meter basking shark which was feeding at the bottom of Inishtrahull trench for a number of days before releasing itself and floating to the surface. The Timed Depth Recorder Tag was one of 10 sponsored by the Inishowen Development Partnership and Councillors Mickey Grant, John Ryan and Charlie McConalogue.

The prototype tags were developed and deployed by the Inishowen based Basking shark study group in partnership with Queens University Belfast marine lab. The locally based shark research team have been investigating the movements of the iconic sharks off Malin Head for the past number of years and in that time Malin head has been established as an international shark ‘hotspot’.

The newly developed tags are looking at aspects of the shark’s behaviour which has puzzled scientists for decades. Why do the huge sharks ‘Bask’ at the surface? and what are they doing at a depth of 90m in Inishtrahull trench? Getting three tags back is like winning the Lotto for the research team who are busy conducting analysis on underwater path the sharks took when the tags where attached.

There are still 9 tags floating around out there, including the ones named after councillors Ryan and McConalogue. With a 50 euro reward offered for their return be sure to keep a keen eye out for the 2 foot long yellow floats on Inishowen’s beaches.
To find out more information and see underwater video of the tagged sharks log onto www.baskingshark.ie
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  05.10.11, 8.20amhrs  |  reported by admin1
  Bat Dimensions

Bat Conservation Ireland are making a call to anyone with the ability to measure Bat Dimensions ( alive or dead!) to assist them with a new study.

Bat Conservation Ireland is seeking data on biometrics of Irish bat species collated in the last 10 years. BCIreland are proposing to compile an Irish Bat Identification Card based on Irish bat data i.e. forearm length, weight etc. I am contacting all potential sources of such data and would greatly appreciate your support in this project. We are seeking data on all 9 resident species and are aiming to collate data on a minimum of 100 individuals per species with a good geographical range across the island. We are seeking this data as soon as possible (or an indication of what data is available from your sources) as we applying for a Heritage Council Grant to determine if field work is required in 2012 to collect further measurements for particular species. All sources of data will be acknowledged in all BCIreland publications in relation to this project.

If you have such information, please send to info@batconservationirleand.org
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  05.10.11, 7.56amhrs  |  reported by admin1
  Chough Watch

Calling all chough watchers

The NI chough family are on the move! Last Thursday 29th they were sighted on Rathlin as usual however by Saturday they had moved to Fairhead!

We’re making a special effort this year to try and track their movements in an attempt to determine their over wintering nest site. So if you’re out and about please keep a special eye and ear out for our chough and report any observations to me. I’ll add them to our database of sightings and with your help we may be able to discover where our birds spend their winters!

Numbering typically one breeding pair, Northern Ireland’s chough are just managing to keep a foothold in Northern Ireland. Whilst a great deal of work has been on-going in an attempt to maintain or enhance this population on the North Antrim coast one piece of information has so far evaded us. Each year, from the early autumn the breeding pair and whatever offspring were produced disappear from Rathlin Island. We suspect these birds join chough in the species strongholds to the west (Donegal), the the north (Islay) or to the south-east on the Isle of Man. But we do not know.
Having some colour-ringed birds affords the opportunity to locate these birds in possible wintering grounds – e.g. through searching through flocks in Islay and other sites; but as the numbers are small and reading colour-rings on chough a fairly hard task it is not surprising that we have not managed to locate our birds’ wintering location using this method.
As part of our strategy to conserve this vulnerable population we would greatly appreciate any observations of chough in Northern Ireland. Particularly observations off Rathlin Island and especially in the late summer and winter. From previous records, we believe they will be on the move towards their wintering site sometime in the next two weeks! Records of the number of birds, location, date/time and if possible the direction of flight would be very valuable in trying to solve this mystery. If you are close enough to observe legs do check for leg rings – at least one of our northern Irish birds has a pair of leg rings.

If you think you can help we’d really appreciate some information as soon as possible after your observation. Please contact Donnell Black at RSPB anytime by any of the following means: Mobile: 07540 013185; Landline: 028 90 699091 or e-mail: donnell.black@rspb.org.uk
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  05.09.11, 7.59amhrs  |  reported by admin1
  Spot the Alien

A call for help to Spot the Alien

The National Biodiversity Data Centre has launched the “Spot the Alien” recording scheme and nature and garden lovers are being asked to report sightings of three invasive alien species which may have been seen in their area. The three species targeted are the New Zealand flatworm, the harlequin ladybird and the distinctive red lily beetle in its programme.

Data centre schemes co-ordinator Colette O’Flynn said sightings provided by the public can provide valuable data to help understand the level of invasion, distribution and spread of these species in Ireland.

Ms O’Flynn added that the New Zealand flatworm kills our hard-working native earthworms in large quantities and the harlequin ladybird has been dubbed “the most invasive ladybird on Earth”. This ladybird is highly variable in looks but is larger than most of our native ladybirds, which it eats. It can winter in houses in the hundreds of thousands as it has done in England.

Ms O’Flynn said the distinctive red lily beetle damages lilies and fritillary plants but is noticeable by its vibrant red colour with a black head, legs and antennae.

It is widely recognised that invasive species are one of the world’s greatest threats to biodiversity and have socio-economic impacts. Recent reports have shown the cost of alien invasive species in Europe is over € 12 billion per year and costs the British economy £1.7 billion per year. Failing to prevent invasive species being introduced into Ireland, we must now detect their presence as a matter of urgency.

Heritage Council Wildlife Officer Cliona O’Brien said the data provided by public recording schemes was very valuable. “The importance of every record you submit should not be underestimated. I urge everyone to get involved in spotting these species and submitting their sighting to the invasive species database,” she said.

Sightings can be submitted to http://invasives.biodiversityireland.ie where more information on Spot the Alien is available. The public is also asked to submit photographs, if possible, to assist verification.
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  04.08.11, 7.58pmhrs  |  reported by admin1
  Lough Swilly Book Launch

Rathmullan 2011

Donegal County Council cordially invites you to the launch of
Lough Swilly - A Living Landscape. This impressive publication
has been written by experts in their field, and edited by Professor
Andrew Cooper from the Centre for Coastal and Marine Research
in the University of Ulster. The beautifully illustrated publication
discusses the values, uses and issues surrounding the marine and
coastal environment of Lough Swilly.

Tom Mac Sweeney, Marine correspondent, former presenter for RTE and
author of Seascapes, will launch Lough Swilly - A Living Landscape
On Thursday the 8th of September in Rathmullan House at 7pm.
Light refreshments will be served on arrival.
Copies of the publication will be available for purchase on the night
at a discounted price.

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  04.08.11, 1.49pmhrs  |  reported by admin1
  Trail of a Whale

Malin head 2011

The Inishowen based basking shark research team sighted a larger than normal Minke Whale during the recent marine activity off Malin head. “At first we taught it was a fin or some other larger species, it was massive”, said Donal Griffin a researcher on board during the encounter. The research crew followed the whales trail for a number of hours recording its activities and areas of feeding as well as its interaction with basking sharks.

The Minke whale is one of Ireland’s smaller whales and probably the most common in Northern waters. They grow up to 12m in length and have distinctive white marks on their pectoral fins. A telling identification clue is the fact they have no water blow, you can hear their blow when they surface but usually don’t see the plume or small cloud associated with the larger whale species blow.

The shark team have had three half day whale encounters this summer and believe that the whales are following the same food as the basking sharks, Plankton. During July they have encountered over 40 basking sharks and a large number of porpoise as well as a possible Pilot whale. “The Malin head coastline has had a huge influx of jelly fish in July, including lions mane and pelagia species, they are all favourite of pilot whales, leatherbacks and sun fish added, Donal who was happy to have captured the whale on camera. In the picture above Donal captured the whale resting low on the surface between dives another unusual habit for Minke whales.

August and September are usually the best months for Turtle and Sunfish sightings so the best is possibility yet to come for 2011.
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