After a very mild winter, with all three months recording above average air temperatures, the first week of Spring has seen rain, sun and showers with air temperatures of 8°C to 10°C.
The Light of Spring, the Majestic Mulkear River, March 2012 (Image: Ruairí Ó Conchúir)
The past winter was a dull, grey, wet affair with a noticeable absence of any prolonged cold, dry, settled period. Thankfully, for the most part, it was exceptionally mild with air temperatures above normal by between 1.2°C and 2.0°C.
New bud growth on trees along the riparian zone, March 2012 (Image: R. Ó Conchúir)
In the Mulkear Catchment, aside from a few days of cold in early February, the winter was extremely mild throughout the area. This resulted in exceptional levels of grass growth and general growth. Met Éirean has reported that Spring is four to five weeks ahead of schedule in most parts of Ireland. All signs of winter are rapidly fading, there is good stretch in the evenings and mornings are now bright from before seven am.
Ladybird on flowering furze bush, Mulkear River, March 2012 (Image: Ruairí Ó Conchúir)
Spring is an extremely busy time for a great many throughout the Mulkear catchment. Farmers involved with MulkearLIFE are busy calving, while others in the upper catchment are busy lambing. While many cattle are still indoors, owning to super saturated land, most will be out of their winter housing within a matter of weeks.
Trees in catchment are budding new shoots and many are in the early stages of leaf. Birds (blue tits, long-tailed tits, chaffinches, wrens and robins) are busy searching for mates, food and nest materials. Along rivers and riverbanks dippers, grey wagtails and kingfishers are equally busy.
Dipper collecting nest material, Killeengarriff River (Image: Ruairí Ó Conchúir)
It is also an extremely busy time of planning for MulkearLIFE. A considerable body of work is planned for the year. Already the project has mapped out with project partners, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Limerick County Council, Office of Public Works and co-financing colleagues, National Parks & Wildlife Service, work that will keep us all extremely busy until the winter sets in again. This includes exciting instream works on the Mulkear and Newport Rivers which will greatly benefit Sea Lamprey and Atlantic Salmon.
The Light of Spring – Spring-time arrives (Image: Ruairí Ó Conchúir)
It is going to be an extremely important year for the LIFE programme across Europe and MulkearLIFE has been busy planning events to mark the major milestone of the 20th Anniversary of the LIFE programme in May 2012. MulkearLIFE events include an Amateur Photo Competition which is themed ‘Exploring the Biodiversity of the Lower Shannon’. The second major event planned is entitled ‘A Mural of LIFE’. This will coincide with the 20th Anniversary of the LIFE programme on the 21st May and will mark the official launch of MulkearLIFE’s mural at Annacotty and the unveiling of site signage and related habitat work. Much work has already been completed on site this past number of weeks. The third event on the 26th May will see MulkearLIFE host a field trip entitled ‘The Magical Mulkear: A Field Trip Of Discovery’. This event promises to be a very enjoyable day out visiting a range of exciting sites, with a focus on the rich biodiversity of the Mulkear catchment. A great many other events are planned the details of which will be posted in due course.
Sunlight on river water vegetation, Clare-Annagh River (Image: Ruairí Ó Conchúir)