Blanket bogs are one of our oldest natural environments and provide a sense of wilderness with their open, bleak landscapes. They are also important to many animals such as hares, badgers and foxes. Foxes find a widely varied diet on the bog and will eat small mammals, birds, berries and even the big black beetles which scurry beneath the heather. A sick or weak lamb may be taken by a fox but generally most sheep farmers tolerate foxes and recognise that they are a key part of Ireland’s wildlife.
Anybody walking on a bog in Summer will soon realise that the bog has a thriving population of insects. Clouds of biting midges can turn a pleasant walk into an ordeal. Pond Skaters and Whirligig Beetles zoom about on the surface of bog pools while Dragonflies whizz overhead hunting flies or moths.
Some of the birds which live on the bog will be heard before they are seen. A plaintive whistle can reveal the presence of a rare Golden Plover with its black, white and gold summer plumage. Golden plovers along with other wading birds such as Snipe step delicately over the wet bog probing in the peat for food.
Greenland white-fronted geese are a rare bird species and fly in from the Arctic to spend the winter on Irish bogs. In the past the skies over many parts of Ireland were filled with these wonderful birds but, sadly, as the bogs have been destroyed, their numbers have greatly reduced and the Cuilcagh blanket bog is one of their few remaining refuges.
Ireland and Scotland once contained 25% of the world’s total of blanket bogs but, unfortunately, around 90% of Irish bogs have been destroyed by land use such as peat cutting, land drainage, grazing by too many sheep and forestry operations. Blanket bogs are now protected by European laws designed to save these beautiful, wild lands and their fascinating plants, animals and insects.
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