The Biodiversity event organised by the Kilkenny Association of An Taisce took place on Sunday 22nd May. Over 20 attendees were introduced to the local history of the medieval city of Kilkenny in the context of the River Nore on which it is built. The walk, guided by Pat Durkin, was a unique opportunity to learn about the rich biodiversity to be found right in the heart of Kilkenny and of the ecological relationships at play among the species inhabiting the Nore Valley.

A number of different habitats were explored on the day as the walk progressed from meadows to alluvial woodland and on to newly planted woodland. Participants were spoiled by the visual delights of flowering vetches, meadow buttercup and ribworth plantain in the meadows, while the alluvial woodland boasted numerous white willow, crack willow osier, complemented by oak, hornbeam and others in the upper storey. It was great to see while hawthorn and blackthorn growing to full height in the mid-storey with a luxurious herbaceous layer of grasses, sedges and cleavers to be found in the understorey, along with a rich mix of flowers, such as Lady's smock, violets and oxeye daisy.

Among the flowers which support such a diverse range of invertebrates, the group observed carder bee (Bombus pascuorum), the buff tailed bumble bee (Bombus terrestris), the seven-spotted ladybird and male and female orange-tip butterflies. The Park is also superb for ornithology and despite the bad weather we did spot kingfisher, swift and buzzard about the site. The songs of many birds were heard including blackcap, willow warbler, wren, chiffchaff, blackbird, robin, chaffinch, blue tit, long-tailed tit and coal tit. Many of the birds were seen on the river side trees. The tits delighted us by nesting in at least three overhead lamposts and making frequent feeding trips. Larger rooks and magpies searched the mowed verges of the river bank and meadow for grubs. Pat guided the identification of bird song by playing ‘bird voices’ to help us isolate the individual songs of local birds.

Participants were encouraged to incorporate some native species in their gardens, such as the small trees hawthorn, rowan, buddleia and guelder rose, low growing herbaceous plants at the margins of vegetable beds like speedwell and taller herbaceous plants like the vetches and a few nettles at the base of hedges. If there is space for a small area of wildflower meadow it could include a few dandelions, lady’s smock, vetches and speedwell. Reduced frequency of lawn moving allows time for many wildflowers to bloom but unless they are allowed to reseed they may die out in time.

The weather was very challenging on the day and those who endured were treated to a memorable exploration of the nature to be found on the doorstep of Kilkenny City.