Report on Mell Quarry by Tony Conaghy

Tony Conaghy has produced an excellent report on the ecology and threats to Mell Quarry - in our scientific publications section.


Closed Season now in force

The National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is reminding the public the cutting, grubbing, burning or other destruction of “vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch” between 1st March and 31st August is prohibited.

The prohibition is contained in section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976 . Suspected breaches are investigated by the NPWS and An Garda Síochána. The NPWS took 31 section 40 prosecution cases in 2021 and it hopes that fewer will be necessary this year.

In Ireland, our relatively low cover of native woodland makes our hedgerows exceptionally important for biodiversity. Hedgerows provide botanical diversity as well as food and shelter for animals, most notably birds. They also act as corridors connecting habitats. Untrimmed, thorny hedges are favoured by birds, but birds may nest in any hedge.

The prohibition outlined above does not apply (unless done by burning) in a number of circumstances set out in the Act. For businesses, landowners and the general public the most notable of these exemptions are:

  • The destruction, in the ordinary course of agriculture or forestry, of any vegetation growing on or in any hedge or ditch. In the Act, “agriculture” is defined as including horticulture. Since horticulture includes gardening, the summertime trimming of hedges in the ordinary course of gardening falls under this exemption;
  • The clearance of vegetation in the course of road or other construction works or in the development or preparation of sites on which any building or other structure is intended to be provided;
  • The felling, cutting, lopping, trimming or removal of a tree, shrub, hedge or other vegetation pursuant to section 70 of the Roads Act 1993.

Otherwise, hedgerows are particularly vulnerable. If you have any concerns the first port of call is probably the Biodiversity Officer in Louth CC. For tree felling the forestry Service may be helpful:


Seawatching Clogherhead

Many thanks to the folks who showed up for the deferred seawatching event at Clogherhead last Sunday.  On the day we had a pair of harbour porpoises who put up a bit of a show. Quiet otherwise except for a few guillemots, terns and a lone common scoter. 


Seagulls in Drogheda

A public meeting has been organised to discuss the problem of seagulls in Drogheda. Former councilor Frank Godfrey, who is organising the meeting, said: “The seagull problem is going from bad to worse as the year goes on. This summer for some unknown reason there seems to be thousands of them. I’ve been talking to a lot of traders and this is a problem that seems to be getting worse as the years go on, We all know they are noisy, but they are picking rubbish out of bins and making the streets look filthy, not to mention the bird droppings all over the streets and our historical buildings.

Mr Godfrey went on to say: "I’m not saying we harm them in any way, but I know some businesses have installed wild birds calls to chase them off, so maybe we need more of that in the town centre."

The two species concerned are Herring Gulls and to a lesser extent Lesser Black Backed Gulls. In summer particularly in June/July, Herring Gulls come into Drogheda to breed on the roofs of high building along the river and elsewhere (a favorite place is the roof of the Lourdes Hospital). This is because the high buildings are reminiscent of their normal habitat, which is sea cliffs. Gulls are also attracted to urban areas near the sea because of the huge feeding opportunities. Herring Gulls feed on fish in their natural habitat, however the species on which they feed have been largely fished out through over-fishing, making herring gulls red-listed in Ireland; so they need to find food elsewhere. They are also notable scavengers doing a great service in removing dead fish/mammals and the like from the shore. This means that they can survive very well on human rubbish, particularly discarded fast food (the location of McDonalds is very handy).

During breeding in June/July, Herring Gulls may become quite aggressive, defending nests and young but it is largely intimidation; gulls cannot really harm an adult, their beak cannot break skin etc. One way to deal with them is to intimidate them back by staring : .  Gulls are fascinating to study and are very intelligent: Observing gulls can be a great way to introduce people to wildlife in an urban. A study by NPWS suggested up to 360 herring gull nests and 24 lesser black backed gull nests in Drogheda:

The obvious way to deal with the "problem" is to reduce the amount of rubbish available to them. Despite all their intelligence they cannot open properly closed wheelie bins. Burgers and chips should be put in bins with closure systems.

The meeting is at the d Hotel on Monday June 26. 


Comma caterpillar found in Drogheda

Billy Clarke found a comma caterpillar in his back garden in Drogheda feeding on elm leaves. Commas are a recent arrival to Ireland largely driven by climate change. this is one of the most northerly confirmed breeding of the species in Ireland.


Mournes, Slieve Gullion, Strangford Lough awarded full UNESCO global geopark status

Northern Ireland’s second ever UNESCO Geopark has been officially unveiled as Mourne Gullion Strangford covering three areas of outstanding natural beauty within Newry Mourne and District Council – Mourne, Ring of Gullion and Strangford Lough and Lecale. This was approved at a meeting of the UNESCO Executive Board in Paris last month. With a rich geological history across 400 million years, the new park has been described as ‘A Tale of Two Oceans,’ with the dramatic landscape formed by the appearance and disappearance of oceans, colliding continents and ‘tumultuous volcanic events’. A geopark is defined as a single unified geographical area that is managed holistically, in this case stretching from the waters of Strangford across the Mourne Mountains to the Ring of Gullion.

The mystery in this story is why the Cooley mountains are not included in this Geopark, since the Cooleys are an integral part of this geological system!



We have has several incidents of para motoring over the little tern enclosure. Paragliders may not be aware of the impact this may have on the ground nesting birds, who may be incubating eggs or brooding young. This may impact breeding success and if regular may cause birds to abandon a nest..

We would ask them to please avoid the beach area just north of the Boyne over the summer months, noting that it is a criminal offence under the Wildlife Act to disturb birds in a nesting place. 


Return of the Osprey

The NPWS is working with the Golden Eagle Trust to reintroduce the osprey (Iascaire Coirneach - is the Irish name (meaning 'tonsured fisherman') to Irish waterways and lakes this year. Osprey are a magnificent fish-eating bird of prey that became extinct in Ireland many years ago. The NPWS has been researching and preparing for the potential reintroduction of these birds for a number of years and now expects to reach a significant milestone with the arrival of the first 12 Osprey chicks in July. The reintroduction programme aims to establish a viable, free-ranging Osprey population that eventually breeds in Ireland. Over the next five years 20 to 30 chicks from Norway will be reintroduced.


Bird Flu Unlikely to Affect Humans

A bird flu epidemic has been circulating the globe for the last two years, decimating wild birds, particularly colonial seabirds. According to a report by the BBC  poultry workers who were exposed to bird flu in the UK adn even tested positive for virus in their nasal cavity, did not get infected or experience any symptoms.

Nevertheless care should be taken if handling potentially affected birds, such as face mask and gloves. It is known that a proportion of birds survive the disease (if gannets their blue irises turn black).

If you come across any cases please report to the department:


Bird News

A couple of recent unexpected visitors to the Boyne estuary were a common scoter and a garganey. 


Coastwatch fieldtrip

Join us for this Biodiversity Week fieldtrip on the protected Boyne Estuary. Discover its unique history, status today and opportunities for restoration of this biodiverse blue carbon site.

Coordinator, Karin Dubsky will be joined by experts including Brendan McSherry, Heritage Officer, Co. Louth and Aina Walsh.

Meet at the gate of The Haven at 2pm, follow road past golf club.

Please bring wellies, appropriate clothing such as anorak and water.

We wish to thank the Irish Environmental Network for their support for this event.

Coastwatch is piloting a new theme - Cool Biodiverse Blue Carbon (CBBC) into its 2023 Biodiversity fieldtrips and events around UN World Biodiversity Day May 22nd

From May 18th to 28th we will be exploring the coastal rim from barely land through intertidal to shallow sublittoral. It includes our beautifully flowering saltmarshes and rare coastal wet woodlands and bogs, intertidal mudflats and peat, mussel and seagrass beds and meadows, kelp forests.

Join us for a free fieldtrip near you to identify these habitats, look into their biodiversity and carbon storage value, share observations on habitat health and historic presence, consider pressures, protection and restoration. Results from fieldtrips will be pooled to draft a first CBBC leaflet for Irish shores. Participant local and traditional knowledge on wise use and protection is particularly welcome.


Coke is the thing

A big thank you to the local Coca Cola operation for their generous donation to the Louth Nature Trust, in support of the Little Tern Conservation Project! 


First Swallows

The first swallows arrived on Saturday 5th of April, across the county, about bang on time vis-à-vis previous years. Other arrivals were sandwich terns, chiffchaffs, willow warblers, and first wheatear in a wave at about the same time.


Cattle Egret visitor

A rare cattle egret has been putting on a show along the Castletown rive in Dundalk over the last week or so. First found by Gerry O'Neill, the bird is best seen at low tide around Dixons/Applegreen on the Castletown river bridge. Cattle egrets used to be a great rarity bus t in recent years have been showing up more often, and like their cousins, the little egrets, they are harbingers of global warming. Normally they can only tolerate Mediterranean climate but with the lack of frost in Ireland they are increasingly able to survive early in spring, and likely will soon breed.


Louth Nature Trust AGM 2023

The AGM was held on the 13th March 2023 with the full board in attendance and Eanna Ni Lamhna chairing. 

All members were reelected and the auditors were reappointed.

Draft financial results up to end 2022 were reviewed. The Trust continues to receive good funding front the Heritage Council, and donations from others, in particular Coke Inc and The Dublin Zoo.

The Baltray little tern report was reviewed, as well as other conservation operations, in particular new nesting boxes for black guillemots made of MgO plates and installed at Greenroe breakwater experimentally. the little tern season was particularly successful on a number of fronts. 

Acknowledgement was made of the enormous work contributed by out team of volunteers, without whom these projects could not happen.

Once again we would welcome anyone who may be interested in joining the board and getting more involved in Louth wildlife conservation.

Breffni Martin



Louth Bird News February 2023

Notable were some Russian white fronted geese in Ardee, cattle egrets same location. A firecrest was reported in Dundalk. A black necked grebe adn slavoinain grebes showed a few times in dundalk bay, along with a few long tailed ducks. An Iceland gull and two Siberian chiffchaffs were found in in Dundalk. S spotted redshank continues to be regular at the docks, along with several ruff comin


Restrictions on Cutting Hedgerows, Weed-killer, and Burning 1st March 2023

Restrictions on cutting hedgerows are set out in Section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976 as amended by the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 and the Heritage Act 2018. These Acts stipulate that it is an offence to destroy vegetation on uncultivated land between the 1st of March and the 31st of August each year.  This information has already been circulated to local authorities.

There are exemptions to this restriction and these can be read at the link below to the Consolidated Version of S40 of the Wildlife Acts.

f you wish to make a complaint in relation to illegal damage to vegetation please do so in writing to or contact your local Garda station. 

If you wish to make a Report in relation to illegal damage to vegetation please do so in writing to with the Subject Heading “Hedge Cutting” or you can contact your local Garda station.  If you don’t have access to email and wish to make your Report in writing, please mark them “Hedge Cutting” and post/drop in to:

Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage
National Parks and Wildlife Service
90 King Street North
Dublin 7
D07 N7CV


January 2023 bird news


Rivers - Declan Cooke IFI - ORCCA evening talk

ORCCA presents an evening information session with Inland Fisheries Ireland's national habitat development manager Declan Cooke.

The talk will take place on Tue, 7 March 2023, 19:30 – 21:00 GMT at the Spirit Store Dundalk Docks


Biodiversity Officer

Great to see that LCC has received funding for a Biodiversity Officer, which will supplement the work currently often undertaken by our Heritage Officer. This is extremely welcome news because Louth has been without a NPWS wildlife ranger for a few years now.  The programme is being delivered by the Heritage Council and the County and City Management Association (CCMA) with the support of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The announcement follows a commitment in the Programme for Government to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis, following the Dáil’s declaration of a Biodiversity Emergency in 2019, and the Citizens Assembly on Biodiversity Loss in 2022.

A good step towards halting the loss of biodiversity in the county, now at crisis level.


Ardee rare birds

At the beginning of February we had an unusual record in Louth with the appearance of a small flock of Russian white-fronted geese, who were joined by a barnacle goose and several graylags. These appear to be roosting in Cortail lough. The a pair of cattle egrets turned up in the same area.


Observations from the Louth Nature Trust in regard to planning application 21424 – Dawn Meats

Dawn Meats proposes to discharge treated waste water into the Boyne - see The application seeks to allow discharge of partly treated wastewater into the River Boyne from the Dawn Slane Beef Abattoir site at Greenhills, Beauparc, Co. Meath and will involve construction of a seven kilometre pipeline to discharge partially treated wastewater into the River Boyne at Cotton Mills/ Ardmulchan below the weir at Stackallen. The Louth nature Trust would refer to the submission made by Sonarte submitted to Meath County Council Planning Office on the 8th March 2022.

We would agree with the observations made by Sonarte and would identify a risk in addition to those stated in that submission. Specifically, it is known that abattoir waste is heavily contaminated with multi drug resistant bacteria capable of causing many human and animal diseases. These bacteria are capable of contaminating fish such as salmon and trout, thus entering the human food chain, as well as ground water, potentially contaminating wells. Given the velocity of flow in the river Boyne the plume containing these bacteria will reach the uptake point for drinking water within two hours of discharge; many of these bacteria are capable of living in water for several days. Furthermore, the fundamental concept of using the assimilative capacity of the river Boyne to essentially treat the waste water is equivalent to using the Boyne to dilute it, prohibited under EU legislation.

These risks are further exacerbated by two risks stemming from global warming. Firstly the treatment system may be subject to torrential deluges in the future, overwhelming the capacity of the system and forcing the discharge of untreated waste. This is a well-known problem in any waste treatment system. Secondly in the situation of an extreme drought, the “assimilative capacity” may be greatly reduced to the point where it may overwhelm the assimilative capacity.

Breffni Martin


Louth Nature Trust


Funding opportunities

  • Community Water Development Fund 2023

The Department of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage funds LAWPRO to provide the Community Water Development Fund which will be launched for another year at the Community Caring for Water Conference 2022. This fund supports community groups to enhance the quality of local streams, rivers, lakes, and coastal areas and has been in place since 2017, with growing interest year on year. Check out this Guide for Community Groups working with water, biodiversity and climate for inspiration.

Further information: Funding - Local Authority Water Programme (

  • Habitats & Conservation Funding Call 2023

Inland Fisheries Ireland has activated the Habitats and Conservation Funding Call for 2023. Grant funding is available to Inland Fisheries Ireland and to eligible third parties throughout the Republic of Ireland to support sustainable fisheries habitats and conservation.

Further information: Habitats & Conservation Funding Call 2023 | Inland Fisheries Ireland


Water Quality in Ireland

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published the Water Quality in Ireland Report 2016-2021 which provides the latest assessment of the quality of Ireland’s rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal and groundwaters. Water quality in Ireland has further declined. While improvements are being made in some areas, these are being offset by declines in water quality elsewhere. At the current level of progress, Ireland will fail to meet the EU and national goal of restoring all waters to good or better status by 2027.


Birds Facing Extinction

Forty-nine percent (49%) of bird species are in decline, according to a definitive report by BirdLife: The State of the World’s Birds report, published every four years, shows that the expansion and intensification of agriculture is putting pressure on three quarters of all species. Logging, invasive species, exploitation of natural resources and climate breakdown are the other main threats. At least 187 species are confirmed or suspected to have gone extinct since 1500. Most of these have been endemic species living on islands, although there is an increase in birds now going extinct on larger land masses, particularly in tropical regions, but also in Europe and North America. Not only species are affected but overall bird abundance is declining sharply. Since 1970, 2.9 billion individual birds (29% of the total) have been destroyed in North America. The picture is just as bleak in other parts of the world – since 1980, 600 million birds (19%) have been destroyed in Europe, with previously abundant species such as the common swift, common snipe and rook among those slipping towards extinction. Europe’s, and particularly Ireland's farmland birds have shown the most significant declines: 57% have disappeared as a result of increased intensification.


Short beaked common dolphin in Carlingford Lough

For the last few weeks a short beaked common dolphin has been see in Carlingford Lough, often following the sea truck container vessels and other boats. this species is noted for its acrobatic breaches, often 10 or more meters. He joins Finn the bottlenose dolphin who is still regular, thouth at thei time of the year seems to spend more time along the channel near the lighthouse.


Hebble Sands disaster

The Hebble Sand will be familiar to anyone who frequents Dundalk Docks, where it resided for many years until the scaling down of Dundalk Port. It then moved around a bit before ending up mainly dredging Drogheda port at the bar and along the channel. Its a 750-tonne grab hopper dredger, meaning that it uses a grab to pick up substrate and drop it into the hull, where it is subsequently discharged at sea, or "beneficially reused". Anyway its been tied up at drogheda for several years where it has been a noted eyesore, though according to the Drogheda independent "In October last year Independent Councilor Kevin Callan asked Louth County Council to communicate with Drogheda Port Company to ask that it be removed from the centre of the town. “I had received a number of complaints from local people who commented on the way the vessel looks from one of our town’s hotels and also the fact that it is covered in rust” Councilor Callan told Drogheda Life. In his response, Paul Fleming, the Chief Executive of Drogheda Port, said that the Hebble Sand belongs to “a customer of the Port” but did not identify that customer. “While I understand, and indeed appreciate, that the vessel may appear a little unsightly, this is only cosmetic” he wrote. Anyway the chickens finally came home to roost when it sank, now refloated, but still no confirmation as to what will be done. Diesel residues stemming from this can still be found along the channel and at Baltray; doubtless other contaminants (eg PCBs) are invisible. Hopefully the fees that Drogheda Port received for lodging the vessel it can be used in the eventual cleanup.


Ongoing planning issue regarding Dawn Meats discharging into the Boyne

The Louth nature Trust would like to express their dismay at the decision of an Bord Pleanala not to hold an oral hearing in relation the discharge of waste stemming from meat processing into the Boyne in county Meath. Save the Boyne group website provides a lot of background: Holding an oral hearing is critical so that the public can be made aware of the basis of environmental decisions affecting them; this is a fundamental principle of Arrhaus, to which Ireland is now fully signed up: We would also have a concern that the overall impacts of this discharge over the coming decades has not been properly assessed in the light of climate change and diminishing water levels.


National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP) - public consultation.

Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, has launched a public consultation for the fourth National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP). Members of the public are encouraged to submit their views to the consultation at before 9 November. The consultation is run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), a division of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and follows from a period of engagement with stakeholder groups, including government departments, agencies, businesses, and representatives of the Biodiversity Forum. The Louth nature Trust will be making a submission and would welcome comments from anyone in County Louth with any specific concerns - please email