The Bawnogues and hibernation habitats

Beyond the football club and the primary health centre, there is an ancient horse racecourse track not far from the Motorway boundary. The ground here has knapweed, a signal of old wet grassland. Woody plants include ash, ivy, roses, hawthorn, blackthorn, elder and a stray oak. A hawthorn bush has a full diameter Ramalina farinacea bauble, a bush lichen on a branching shoot. A moss-covered ash trunk has some black cyanolichen in the moss sward. Collema subfurvum is a speculative option for this, but as a scarce species too needs more investigation. The whole area of the Bawnogues, gives the impression of an escapee relict of the 19th century with an occasional broc if you were lucky.

A walk around Kilcock the other day showed a few species doing reasonably well – Physconia distorta on lime – Stictis radiata on an ash and swards of moss and Xanthoria parietina on elder bushes. Some sycamores carry Parmelia sulcata while ash has some Flavoparmeia caperata. In an overall view, many of these species have modest populations on amenity trees planted in the housing estates, while the remaining hedges provide habitats for species to overwinter.

One function of hedgerows is to allow annual species to overwinter. The brutal flaying of hedgerows in winter seems to have lost the overall plot in conservation, as hedgerows are a refuge in Ireland for species that overwinter in the habitat. The law and the hedge cutters seem to have lost sight of the idea that insects lay eggs on leaves, and overwintering leaves provide shelter and warmth for many species in mid-February, where we are at now.

The number of liverworts, mosses, lichens, and macrofungi at the Bawnogues and nearby parts of Kilcock is one of the wonders of biodiversity in what humanity can dismiss as wastelands. We must be very careful with our vocabulary to ensure our message is not corrupted. Litter picking can show that these wastelands have interesting uses by humans. Once February is over, we can proceed with springtime, and it was nice to see by an ash log the emerging leaves of a Primrose plant, Primula vulgaris. Such a wild plant at the Bawnogues, shows the ancientness of this part of Kildare, and perhaps the cyanolichens species of elder and ash moss swards on tree bark need to be added to this list of indicators of ancientness in the Pale of Leinster. Thanks are due to Maria Cullen for accompanying myself and Bran on our walks in Kilcock, and to Ursula King for showing us around some highlights of Kilcock where we could do our botanical magic and provide Latin names for some of the species in the environment here.

Howard Fox

17 ii 2023

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