herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Now they're spending €40k to count birds

THE Government is planning to spend almost €40,000 on counting birds in Ireland.

It means over €100,000 has been allocated by the Department of the Environment to calculate the number of frogs and birds in the country.

The department originally sparked controversy when it was revealed that it had inked a deal with Queen's University Belfast (QUB) to count the number of amphibians.



WASTE

Representatives from the department said it hoped that the €70,000 study would provide an "up-to-date understanding of frog distribution" and will be carried out by the Quercus biodiversity unit at QUB.

But opposition parties said that it amounted to a waste of taxpayers' money at a time when there were more than 400,000 people unemployed.

"What is the pressing evidence that required Minister Gormley to come to Cabinet and say he must commission a consultancy report to count the number of frogs in the country within the next two years?" Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny asked.

The latest tender for a merlin pilot breeding survey, issued by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, approaches an estimated total value of €35,700 and will cover the areas of Donegal, Roscommon, Galway and Wicklow.

The merlin is an Irish bird of prey, feeding mainly on small birds and is the smallest type of falcon.

Meanwhile a further €36,204 is expected to be spent on monitoring the productivity of hen harrier sites in the Slieve Aughties SPA, Co Clare and Galway.

There is currently a joint project under way between National Parks and Wildlife Service, Irish Raptor Study Group, University College Cork and COFORD where hen harriers are tagged to follow their movements and breeding patterns.



SCIENTISTS

The researchers hope to identify information for the conservation of the bird of prey.

The nationwide frog counting survey will be carried out by Bohola-based ecologists Dr Karina Dingerkus and her husband Dr Richard Stone.

They will be joined by scientists from Queen's University in Belfast, National Parks and Wildlife officers, and the British-based Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust.

clairemurphy@herald.ie

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