Minister Malcolm Noonan, Caroline McDonald, Anna Collins (Kildare Bat Group), Ricky Whelan (BirdWatch Ireland). Martina Malone, Virginia Teehan (Heritage Council) – photo: Heritage Council
BirdWatch Ireland were delighted to be part of the award-winning team that hosted the “Bats About Rooks” event as part of Heritage Week 2022. Our own Ricky Whelan was on hand at the Royal College of Physicians Ireland last week to co-accept the Biodiversity Award.
The Awards honour those organisers who created the most engaging and inspiring events and projects for National Heritage Week 2022.
This Biodiversity award is presented to the event that successfully encouraged a greater appreciation of our natural world or a consideration of the variety of plant and animal life in the area, and/or conservation of native species and natural landscapes, and/or that considers a resilient and sustainable future for the environment.
Ricky was centrally involved in the BirdWatch Ireland project, which was carried out, in association with Kildare Bat Group and Laois Heritage Office. The team organised ‘Bats about Rooks’, a walk for all ages through the People’s Park in Portlaoise to hear all about its bird and bat life.
BirdWatch’s Ricky led the crow aspect of the event, introducing attendees to the ecology of our native crows, their intelligence, and their complex societies! With the Rooks happily at roost, Kildare Bat Group expert Anna Collins gave a talk about bats, leading the audience after dark along the River Triogue bank to observe bats foraging all around.
The event on Friday, August 19th started at the rookery at the Downs beside the Park and brought to life the antics of the Rooks and Jackdaws that call Portlaoise their home. Portlaoise not only has one of the fastest growing populations in Ireland, but it also has the largest known roost of rooks in the county.
Anna Collins spoke about the bat life of the Park, showing adults and children alike how to use bat detectors to make the echolocation calls of the bats audible to human ears, and helping everyone to adjust the frequency on the detectors to actually identify the different bat species flying above the group, purely by the frequency of their calls.
One of the highlights of the event was when the group was treated to the sight of two Daubenton’s bats, possibly a mother and young, flying together low over the park’s lake, feeding on the insect life.
Ricky Whelan from Bird Watch Ireland leading the Rook tour at the Bats and Rooks Walk in Portlaoise Town Park for Heritage Week. Photo: Alf Harvey
Ricky commented on winning the award.
“We are blessed to have such natural spectacles on our doorsteps and at the centre of our county town. To be able to see upwards of 4000 Rooks come to roost each winter evening is truly wonderful, it’s a privilege to observe their behaviours, politics and social structures right in the middle of town. Add the wonder of echolocating and foraging bats to the equation and you have a truly special event,” he said.
The National Heritage Awards honour those organisers who created the most engaging and inspiring events and projects for National Heritage Week 2022, as well as Ireland’s Heritage Hero. This year National Heritage Week celebrated the return of in-person events, while continuing to showcase digital projects, which proved popular over the last two years.
More than 1,800 events and projects took place around the country in August during National Heritage Week, as communities and individuals answered the Heritage Council’s invitation to explore this year’s themes of sustainable heritage and biodiversity.
Entrants were also encouraged to use environmentally friendly practices to ensure the sustainability of their events and to share heritage with everyone in the community, including those who are new to heritage, those who do not have local roots or those who have additional accessibility needs.
Award winners chosen from entries under six heritage categories received their awards from Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD.