Paris Agreement on Climate Change & Energy White Paper

I couldn’t let the Paris Agreement on Climate Change go without some comment in a category with ‘carbon’ in the title. It may not be perfect but to quote Barack Obama it may offer the best chance to save the one planet we have. However, I’m very afraid that COP21 will translate into Irish as cop-out. Enda Kenny’s speech in Paris was bland in the extreme, most likely a simple cut-and-paste job for a speech writer. It also confirmed George Lee’s (RTE environment correspondent) comment that without Europe we’d be doing nothing.

I found it general and vague, just like the Energy White Paper published yesterday which to me read more like a text book on energy rather than a plan with goals and milestones – ‘big on vision but lacking the how and the when’ as Kate Ruddock of Friends of the Earth put it. I actually heard the Minister for Energy Alex White say something about decarbonising our economy by 2100 – 2100!! I reckon that as of today my house is carbon neutral – see my post ‘Expansion of Domestic Photovoltaic (PV) System’. Things do move slowly. We (i.e. my former energy consultancy company/partnership ENTRAC) provided technical support to the Oireachtas Parliamentary Committee on Energy which produced its report in 2006 and informed the last Energy White Paper published in 2007 – I don’t think much has progressed in the interim apart from studies and reports?


Expansion of Domestic Photovoltaic (PV) System

Mike and John from Elementary Energy expanded my photovoltaic (PV) system today adding 9 x 95W Solibro thin film panels, a Mastervolt Web 1000 inverter and an ImmerSUN controller. This is an almost 60% expansion of my PV system bringing the total up to 2355W. This should make me 100% self-sufficient in electricity now (balanced over a year).


2015/16 Garden Bird Survey underway

Birdwatch Ireland’s 2015/16 Garden Bird Survey is underway. I always look forward to it and there’s always something happening.

This is my week one count: Collarded Dove 2, Wren 1, Dunnock 1, Robin 1, Blackbird 2, Song Thrush 1, Blackcap 1, Goldcrest 1, Coal Tit 2, Blue Tit 4, Great Tit 2, Magpie 2, Starling 10, House Sparrow 30, Chaffinch 7, Greenfinch 5, Goldfinch 4, Bullfinch 2 & Redpoll 10 (abundance 88, species 19).

I won’t put my counts up every week but this is a fairly typical count and similar to last season’s first count. Numbers don’t tell the full story either; the 2 bullfinches were two beautiful males on some old raspberry canes and I only saw them once. At the same time a Song Thrush and Dunnock were just beneath them in the undergrowth and a Wren was flitting around – I tried to get them all in one shot but had to settle for the Song Thrush (from inside the house).


6 January 2016. A Sparrowhawk flew into the garden yesterday and landed in an apple tree. It cleared the garden of birds more effectively than any cat! This is only my 7th time to record one and it’s three years since I last saw one in the garden. I was in my conservatory but when I tried to sneak into the house for my camera it flew away. I’m kicking myself now that I didn’t observe it for longer while I had the chance. Here’s a link to a video I took (from inside the house) four years ago of one that did linger.

11 January 2016. Four Siskins on the peanut feeder today, the first of the winter.

29 January 2016. A beautiful Goldcrest appeared briefly in my berberis, the first since week one. Still haven’t seen a Long-tailed Tit this winter.

12 February 2016. Watching two nice female Bullfinches today. One of them was playing around with a dried leaf – I wonder if her nesting instincts are starting to kick in? I am amused these days watching the Blackbirds in my garden trying to sort out their pairing arrangements for the summer. Got a couple of nice shots of a Siskin and a Wren – the latter in particular has proved elusive to me over the years as it never stays still for more than a second.


Garden Bird Survey updated to 2014/15

I’ve carried out two more Garden Bird Surveys since my last update. Here are two graphs which is a good way to highlight the main trends (note the two different scales). Siskins had one more good season but there was virtually no sign of them last winter. I finally got a Nyger feeder and even though I only put it up in January the dramatic effect it had on Goldfinch and Redpoll numbers is evident.

Graph of 4 species of interest 2015


Graph of 4 abundant birds 2015

Oran O’Sullivan coordinates this survey for Birdwatch Ireland and it was great to meet him last year at a talk he gave in Naas for our Kildare branch. In his analysis of the 2014/15 results (Wings No. 79) he noted that ‘the winter had no snow events, no cold snaps, and hence fewer noticeable movements of birds into gardens’. He confirmed the scarcity of Siskins – due mainly to a good seed harvest in conifer forests – traditionally, Siskins make a late-winter appearance in gardens when the cone harvest in plantations is depleted. He also noted the huge movement of Goldfinches into gardens from an occurrence in just six gardens in 1994/95 to 588 gardens in 2014/15. I shot this video in January 2013.

Daubenton’s Bat Surveys

Kildare Bat Group members also participate in the All Ireland Daubenton’s Bat Monitoring Scheme – Lucy and I have a transect on the Royal Canal between Maynooth and Kilcock west of Jackson’s Bridge. The Group was given a map of all the survey sites in Kildare a few years ago (by Bat Conservation Ireland) which was a bit hard to interpret, as there are so many waterways in Kildare, so I superimposed the waterways by hand which helped to put it in a different perspective. We’re hoping that we might be able to get a student from Maynooth University to take this on as a nice GIS project sometime.

Kildare has two major rivers, the Liffey and the Barrow, plus tributaries such as the Rye. It also has the three major canals, Royal Canal, Grand Canal and Barrow Line, plus branches such as the Naas/Corbally branch and the Milltown Feeder which flows out of Pollardstown Fen. I have very fond memories of some of these waterways.

There are also some wonderful aqueducts – the eagle-eyed out there might be able to spot the locations of three of them even from this imperfect map. This is something I hope to return to especially if I can get some good photos.

Kildare Daubenton's - waterways imposed


Kildare Bat Group

Kildare Bat Group is a small enthusiastic bunch of people, headed up by the irrepressible Anna Collins, which punches way above its weight. I am not one of its more active members so I’m not claiming any of these plaudits for myself! Its activities range from the community to the technical. On the community side, it hooks up with three Tidy Towns groups every year (liaising with Kildare County Council) providing them with support, public bat walks are held and promotional activities are undertaken. The technical activities include workshops, carrying out bat counts and erecting and monitoring bat boxes. In the photo below, Tina is erecting a bat box in Donadea in January 2012 with lots of willing helpers.