Saturday, 2 June 2012

Reintroduction and rewilding the Comeragh/Knockmealdowns.

Re-introduction programmes like those already being carried out with the Red Kite in Wicklow mountains,White tailed Sea Eagle in Co.Kerry and Golden Eagle in Co.Donegal should be seriously considered for our rich and varied mountain ranges of the South East from the sub-alpine plateau of the Comeraghs to the high lying forests of the Knockanaffrin ridge,Monavullaghs and Knockmealdowns.

The bleak and remote Comeragh plateau viewed from the Nire valley ;

Possible candidates for re-introduction.
 The Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus)
These grouse live in regions usually on Tundra and  high elevations where natural cover  is scarce.They undergo a stunning transformation in appearance through the year.Summer plumage is mottled brown while Winter plumage is white enabling them to merge into the snowy landscape.When snow is on the ground ptarmigans feed on buds and twigs of shrubs such as willow,which somehow manage to grow in this area above the treeline,in normal snowfree conditions their diet consists of leaves,berries and other plant matter.The nest is a scrape in the ground lined with vegetation.Their current distribution is in polar regions,Iceland,Scottish Highlands,northern Scandinavia,the Alps,Pyrenees,far north Asia,North America and Greenland.The Comeragh plateau(pictured above and below) could possibly be a suitable habitat for this bird which is thought by some to have once dwelled on Irish mountain tops.
The Comeragh plateau.
Capercaillie (Tetras urogallus)
Once native to Ireland it also became extinct from Scotland but has since been re-introduced from the Swedish population.They dwell in coniferous and deciduous areas with a shallow scrape on the ground for a nest.They feed on buds and shoots.Recent evidence from Scotland suggests this beautiful bird is breeding successfully and increasing in forestry managed for timber production, so this adds to the case for a similar re-introduction programme in Coillte managed forestry of which our mountains have plenty!

                                   Forest and lochan on Knockmealdown northern slopes.

A middle sized wild cat that was once native to much of Europe and has been re-introduced to some areas in the last thirty years.Feeds mainly on small prey like rodents,rabbits,hares and fish.Its preferred habitat is woods on rocky ground mainly in mountains.
 European Wild Cat
Stouter,longer body and longer limbs than normal domestic cat with a squarish robust head,a thick bushy tailwith black rings and a blunt black end.Fur generally long,soft and thick,yellowish-grey and always with black vertical stripes.Range includes much of Europe including a small population in Scotland.Preys on mainly small mammals,rabbits and hare.Birds and occasionally fish and insects also eaten.Its habitat includes thick woodlands and rocky mountainsides where its den will be located among rocks or in a hollow tree.
 Wild Boar
  A large hog with bristly,pale grey to blackish hair,muzzle ending in mobile snout,canines curve outwards and upwards to project as defensive tusks.Open deciduous woodland is its preferred habitat.Has been found to be beneficial in cultivation of ground for forestry and in tests carried out in Scotland( it has helped with the control of Rhododendron which despite having a lovely flower for three weeks evey year can take over entire hillsides killing all native plant species under its evergreen canopy of leaves.For a look at Rhododendron in action one need go no further then the banks and slopes surrounding Bay Lough in the Vee Pass in the Knockmealdowns.
Scottish rewilding

Trees for life who are a group working to restore the Caledonian forests in Scotland to some of their former glory advocate the reintroduction of some of these  species and larger ones too in due course, as they each play an essential role in the ecosystem, and there will never be a healthy self-sustaining forest in the Highlands until all the constituent species, especially the large mammals, are back again.         Forest on northern slopes Knockanaffrin ridge;
 Now it is important to point out that we have nowhere near the amount of wilderness to play with that they have in Scotland however it could still be possible to introduce some of the species who feed on smaller prey.

Deer over-population in Comeragh's;There have been recent newspaper reports regarding a problem with deer over-population in the Comeragh mountains area and calls have been made for a cull.Seen as most of our politicians want to be seen as the good boys in Europe and act on everything they say perhaps those same people making the calls for a cull should also take note of this recent study on the matter.
A recent study carried out by the European Commission states "Hunting is not an effective tool for reducing damage caused by deer to managed forests in Europe, according to a recent assessment. Forests will be better protected through 'close-to-nature' management techniques, says the study, which evaluated the effects of different control mechanisms on deer populations and behaviour, including the influence of wild predators, such as wolves, and forest structures."
 English rewilding;
 The Wild Ennerdale project in the Lake District are currently using Galloway Cattle to prepare the ground for tree seedlings in replanting programmes.Cattle are also less selective in grazing and help control Bracken.
Galloway cattle already in the Knockmealdowns; 
We already have a farmer with a herd of Galloway in the Knockmealdowns and this gives us a head start in that regard if any rewilding project is to happen in the area.To contact the farmer for more information on the cattle,what they graze?,or if you have an interest in rewilding our own mountains and are looking for advice and assistance:
Coillte can also be contacted with regard to re-wilding the Comeragh/Knockmealdown area;
Golden Eagle Trust;
The organisation responsible for re-introductions of Red Kite,White Tailed Sea Eagle and Golden Eagle in Ireland can be contacted here;
Why not leave them a comment like we have urging them to consider Ptarmigan and Capercaillie re-introductions in the Comeragh and Knockmealdowns. 
                                         Loch Mohra,Knockanaffrin ridge,Comeragh mts.
The above mentioned are just another alternative view that in most cases excluding the boar haven't been tried out so far in Ireland so the Knockmealdowns and Comeragh's could be a first. It is also worth pointing out that where re-introductions programmes have taken place in Ireland the local areas have benefitted from tourism B&B's,Hotels,Pubs etc. as birdwatchers came from all corners of Ireland to catch a glimpse of the subjects!
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1 comment:

  1. Rewilding in the Comeragh/Knockmealdowns is an exhilarating idea. Slowly but surely we beginning to see some signs of rewilding projects in Ireland such as on Bord na Mona former peat bogs and most impressively at the Wild Nephin project in Mayo by Coillte. There needs to be a real push for habitat restoration and then as that takes off there can be re-introductions. In the Comeragh/Knockmealdowns we need more natural vegetation on the foothills and in sheltered spots higher up. This means more broadleaf and Scots pine forest and less sheep.

    What we really need is donations to buy land for this restoration. The land would then serve the public good rather than a few landowners. Many Irish environmental charities will say they have limited resources to assist with this but maybe if a larger and more public fundraising project occurred that could change.