One of the most crucial things that we can do as conservationists is not conserve species, measure trends, manage habitats but simply make everybody else aware of what we already have! I’m not talking about the national parks or AONB’s even though these places often need shouted about too. I’m talking about the little pockets, the hidden gems that have existed behind an invisible curtain of unawareness. One of the things that I keep finding out about us is that we often miss what’s right under our nose and Forthill Park in Enniskillen (bottom left of the above picture) is one of those things. TCV is currently supporting the local council to submit a bid to Grow Wild to reinvigorate Forthill Park and connect it with 2 other sites close by. I helped out with a children’s fun day at the park a few days ago and thought it would be a great opportunity to ask people about how the park could be improved or any events they would like to see held in it. People were really enthusiastic about the place and told me how much they loved the big trees and open spaces, they wanted to see more events being held here like traditional music or dancing! One or two people told me how they had lived in Enniskillen for years and never been to the park before until this event. Those were the people I loved talking to most because you could see how pleased they were that they had come and they had found this place.
Just to clarify exactly how I was helping with the event it involved sea shells, a jaw bone, dandelion heads and feathers which seams more like a witches broth than anything else. I brought along a couple of feely boxes which the children went ballistic for (possibly because I put lollies into one of them). This was a chance for kids to use their sense of touch rather than relying on their sight to try and see the world in a completely different way. I took a group on a walk learning about the trees in the park which contains some amazing specimens of oak, hawthorn, yew and monkey puzzle. They learnt about the Oak King fighting the Holly King, the bows made from yew trees and the fact that a lone hawthorn in an Irish field means there’s an entrance to the fairy otherworld nearby. That then lead to this drawing!
That was only one day though! Last weekend I took a group of people on a dawn chorus walk around a beautiful nature reserve in Lisnaskea. Even with drizzle and wind I had a few hardy attendants. I am completely bias because I love birds but nobody can argue that the sound of birdsong is one of the most beautiful and powerful things that anybody ears can perceive. From the loud and fruity blackbird to the melodic fluid of a skylark there is little else in the countryside that can affect somebody so profoundly. On the day we heard plenty of birdsong but what I really took away from it was that one man saw 3 species of bird he had never seen in his life including long tailed tits which never fail to raise your spirits on a rainy morning.
Running up to the event I visited a number of local schools to teach them about why birds sing, how they sing, and hopefully to get them thinking about bird song a bit more. The level of knowledge was what impressed me most. I had a picture of a hen harrier to show them a type of bird that doesn’t sing and one pupil began to tell me about how they pass food to each other in the air! Song thrush, Greenfinch, Coal tit were just a few of the names being shouted out as I played bird songs for them to guess. The fact that these words are in their vocabulary means they are miles ahead of where I was at that age. This gave me real hope for the future of Northern Irelands natural world.
Iv also been going to a number of training events such as the John Muir award, walk leader training, invertebrates and their food plants and bumblebee identification. The last was really interesting because bees are one of those things that we see all the time but constantly fail to see the variation that this group contains. In the coming weeks there will be more events, more training, survey work and I bet no two days will be the same!