Blog and photographs by Gustavo Zoladz

Mid-March 2020:
The world was heading towards a global pandemic. Significant changes and very hard times lay ahead of us. In the overall context, one of the least severe changes was the implementation of the 2km travel restriction.

I consider myself fortunate when I look at my 2km. I’ve got a few nice parks, reserves, access to the sea, views of the mountains, woodlands...really nice options to enjoy nature. Although on reflection, I think I would be hard pressed to find a 2km radius in the country that is not pretty.

However, 2km would start feeling tight soon, in particular when your favorite activity involves crossing the length and breadth of the country looking for creatures.

From when these restrictions were announced, the feeling was that it was not going to be a three week thing. So I had to stretch my 2km as much as I could. Keep it interesting, find new spots to discover, almost invent reasons to go and explore them over and over again with a "looking forward to..." feeling.

We all probably tried the same tricks: walked more slowly, changed our walking routes regularly, spent more time visiting places within our 2km that would have not have been prioritised in previous times...everything counted to find something different within the boundaries of a territory that we all thought we knew very well.

One of my lunchtime walks, about two weeks within the first lockdown, found me walking along The Grove, the An Taisce owned wildlife sanctuary, located on Morehampton Road. I had checked out The Grove before and spent some time observing its wildlife, primarily consisting of the usual garden birds, and sometimes a fox. The site is not open to the public, but there are good views from the footpath. Although the constant traffic noise can become a nuisance after five or ten minutes.

While thinking how to make my 2km last, I was suddenly interrupted by a familiar noise: "ki, ki, ki, ki, ki, ki, ki....". I stopped on the spot hoping I hadn't imagined it, and a few seconds later I heard the same call again.

I grabbed my binoculars and started scanning the canopies of the trees, and could not believe my luck when I found a stunning female sparrowhawk roosting undercover. Sparrowhawks are not necessarily rare in Ireland. They are actually widespread. However, getting good views of one is not easy due to their elusive nature. And finding one just before the pick of the breeding season meant that the best was yet to come.

The Grove became then a fixture on my walking route, and a few days later, I spotted the Male performing his "pass the food" routine with the female, nest-building, mating, nesting and eventually fledgling three chicks (2 x females, 1 x male). What a privilege!

Some time later, I was pleased to be granted access by An Taisce to find out more and explore that amazing piece of wilderness in the heart of the city. 

Perhaps the highlights are the frogs that come to spawn every year, attracting one or two Grey Herons looking for some treats and a resident fox who paired up and had 2 cubs last spring, using as a den what used to be a badger sett up to 3 years ago, according to local residents.

When everything we had always taken for granted was taken away from us, nature and wildlife were always there. And they became one of the most powerful coping mechanisms during these difficult times. 

The Grove is a piece of truly undisturbed wilderness and watching it evolve and transform, driven by nature, has been an unforgettable experience. Not only by me, but also by newly met neighbors who were amazed to discover the life hidden in this other world just a stone thrown away from their residences.

Below is the list of species I recorded over the last year and selection of some of my photographs. On my wish list I have the Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, and Hedgehog. However, the absence of a wildlife corridor connecting neighboring gardens with suitable habitat makes the occurrence of the mammals somewhat unlikely.

Robin, Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Sparrowhawk, Redpoll, Siskin, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Herring Gull, Grey Heron, Hooded Crow, Jackdaw, Magpie, Bullfinch, Fox, Grey Squirrel, Common Frog, Mouse.

European Badger

Red Fox


Grey Heron

Blue Tit



Coal Tit

Now more than ever we need to act to protect nature and create a better future for us all.

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