Monday, 9 May 2016

Ireland's 'Rough Crew' in the spotlight

Rough Crew visit 'Ireland's Eye'
April 2016
Image: M. Long 
Now that spring is well and truly here and every day seems to bring another wild flower into bloom, botanists are heading out across Britain and Ireland to record what they find for Atlas 2020

And leading the way are the plant-hunters who make up Ireland’s famous ‘Rough Crew’ – an intrepid team of botanists who scale mountains, tramp through bogs and board small boats in search of interesting plants in inaccessible places.

Spring Squill, a plant with a
very restricted global distribution
Image: M. Long
It was probably only a matter of time before these botanical heroines and heroes came to the attention of the media. 

So last month when the Rough Crew visited ‘Ireland’s Eye’ – an uninhabited island which forms part of the Dublin Bay Biosphere reserve, a UNESCO site - journalist Terry Flanagan, from the 'Mooney Goes Wild' radio show was there to find out more. 

This is Ireland’s top national radio programme about wildlife. Terry interviewed BSBI’s Irish Officer Maria Long and we’ll post you the link when the interview is broadcast - this is scheduled for Sunday 29th May.

Maria told Terry about the important work that the BSBI does, and about how it is so important to visit places such as Ireland's Eye to see plants in situ in their habitats. 

And they found some great plants on the island during the Rough Crew’s visit – more than 100 species! 


Bur parsley: uncommon across Ireland
but lots growing on 'Ireland's Eye'
Image: M. Long
Highlights included:
  • Scilla verna (Spring squill)
  • Erodium maritimum (Sea stork's-bill)
  • Carduus tenuiflorus (Slender thistle)
  • Anthriscus caucalis (Bur parsley)
  • Hyoscyamus niger (Henbane)
The botanists also enjoyed spotting some of the other wildlife found on the reserve – Maria tells me they flushed a pair of owls while plant-hunting!

Members of the BSBI Dublin local botany group were also present and Roisin offers this account of the day: “It was so nice to venture over to Ireland's Eye for the day and immerse ourselves in both its botany and ornithology. 


Exploring the old ruined church
on 'Ireland's Eye'
Image: M. Long
"In fact, it was such a fun day that seven hours felt like only a couple of hours as time ran away with us, and everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy every second of the trip. 

"It was fascinating to see how the habitats change across the island with small pockets affected by historic digging to provide water for livestock, periodic gorse fires and grazing by rabbits. As well as the more naturalised coastal and cliff habitats. 

"Even the old church was smothered in lichens! Not to get too distracted from the plants, the bird life was brimming with species, and we even heard a Grasshopper warbler and saw a Puffin!

“Spotting the delicate pink Scilla Verna (Spring Squill) amongst the grass was a real treat and we all got a bit of a surprise when we happened upon the basal leaves of the highly poisonous Hyoscyamus niger (Henbane). 


Graham Day, BSBI's County Recorder for 
Co. Down, at Dublin Bay Biosphere
April 2016
Image: M. Long   
The trip definitely left everyone in anticipation for another visit to see some of the plants found once more as they mature over the season, and perhaps to add a few more to the list! 

A really great trip, bursting with wildlife, and right on our doorstep within Dublin Bay Biosphere. How lucky are we?!”

Rough Crew members sail away from
 'Ireland's Eye' after a great day's botanising
April 2016
Image: M. Long 
I’d say very lucky but not just because of the plants and birds – there are some great people in the Dublin area working together for wildlife! 

The Dublin Bay Partnership puts on educational events, often with partners, such as this Grass Identification Workshop. Iyou will be in the Dublin area on 28th June, how about giving it a go and sending a report for News & Views? 

Meanwhile, how about a round of applause please for Maria, Rory and other Rough Crew members, for Jenni and Niamh of Dublin Bay Biosphere Partnership who organised the event, and many thanks to the Mooney Goes Wild team – we look forward to hearing the broadcast