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24/09/2021

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: Summer work over for Lullymore's conservation donkeys

With the Irish Peatland Conservation Council

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: Summer work over for Lullymore's conservation donkeys

Conservation donkeys Daisy and Ruby. Picture: Nuala Madigan

Last week the Irish Peatland Conservation Council said farewell to the conservation donkeys on Lullymore West Bog.

Daisy and Ruby, a mother and daughter duo, have been busy over the past five weeks feeding on the variety of grasses on the reserve. Their purpose was to create structure across the vegetation. A site of tall grasses limits light to the surface and those grasses can become dominant, taking over areas once filled with wildflowers.

Annual grazing allows nectar rich wildflowers to thrive by reducing sward height. The donkeys’ presence also tramples emerging young tree saplings preventing them from becoming established, and overall the conservation donkeys create conditions ideal for the butterflies — in particular the Marsh Fritillary.

While cattle are the recommended option for grazing, this is not possible on Lullymore West Bog due to the size of the site, the uneven terrain and the presence of a pond which poses the potential risk of liverfluke to the cattle.

Lullymore West Bog is open to the public all year and at this time of year it is the variety of butterflies that you will encounter on your visit that is the real treat. Butterflies are important indicators of our environmental quality. We know so much about their short lifecycle that changes in their populations can be identified quickly and often indicate changes in our environment.

If the Irish Peatland Conservation Council and the conservation donkeys permanently left Lullymore West Bog, which is an abandoned cutaway that has regenerated as wet grassland, and did nothing, in a few years the site would first be invaded by scrub and later this would establish as a birch woodland. While butterflies enjoy both sun and shade, the tree canopy would prevent the summer wildflowers from blooming and in turn the site would loose the butterflies it is known for.

We hope to welcome Daisy and Ruby back to the reserve in 2022 and take this opportunity to thank their owners.

If you would like help identifying local wildlife or indeed to share your images of local wildlife encountered to be used in a future Wildlife Watch contact me on 045 860133 or bogs@ipcc.ie.

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