Welcome to this weeks Ballincollig Tidy Towns Newsletter. There is plenty of news although I must admit I have let others do the talking for the most part and have had a somewhat easier week, some might even say lazy!!
We are all looking forward to restrictions being lifted so that we can get back out there and bring Ballincollig forward to the next level. We are posting lots of information on our website  to pass the time so be sure to read the various articles. Many of these will be useful in the coming months.
So, for now sit tight, stay within your 5km and keep safe. Make sure that you take the time to look out for others and do what you can to keep Ballincollig looking its best.
This week several of our Volunteers picked litter while out for their exercise within their 5km.
Kitty’s haul was ten bags of Litter, one bag of Glass, two bags of Cans and one bag of Plastic.
Ferghal collected one bag of Litter and there was also one bag of Litter from Nathan.
We collected three bags of Litter from a person living close to Maglin Bridge who also carried out a Litter Pick.
We also collected one bag of litter from Donal Flavin from his twice weekly Litter Pick, and one bag from a Litter Pick in Rosewood.


Sheila collected one bag of Litter from the Leecourt, Leesdale, Coláiste Choilm area.
Two bags of Litter were collected this evening following a Litter Pick by Margaret, covering Station Road and the back road as far as Limeworth Traffic Lights.
We are so grateful to everyone who carries out Litter Picks especially during the lockdown.
‘Penpal Cork’ is a new Instagram Page created by Tara Thornton from Innishannon. She is encouraging people to pair up with a ‘Penpal’ in a Nursing Home or Long-Term Care Facility in order to help them feel connected to the outside world.
Although the Coronavirus has changed all our lives and we are in lockdown and subject to restrictions those in our Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care Facilities are bound to be feeling these effects the most.  Although our movements are restricted to within 5km, we are in the enviable position of having some freedom and we get to chat with people as we exercise or do our weekly shopping. However, these people remain within the confines of their grounds and have limited visitors if any at all.
So why not take this unique opportunity to reach out and connect with others.
For more information email penpalcork@gmail.com
New guidelines have been published to help Sports Clubs become more Biodiversity Friendly. With approximately 15,000 clubs across the island, sports clubs can play a vital role in the conservation of our biodiversity. The newest publication from the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, ‘Pollinator-friendly management of Sports Clubs’ offers 10 actions to help pollinators, ranging from reduced mowing on off-pitch grass to planting a native tree walking trail.
This guide is aimed at those who have responsibility for managing Sports Clubs and their surroundings. All these actions are evidence-based, i.e. scientific studies show these actions have a positive impact on pollinators.
Pollinators need food, shelter and safety and fortunately, many of the land management changes required are really simple. They are also often ‘do-not’ actions rather than ‘do’, so that there is no cost and nature itself does the hard work. There are actions for all types of clubs, and both rural and urban, regardless of how much outdoor space a club might have.
Some useful ways to make your local Sports Clubs biodiversity-friendly:
a) Manage some off-pitch grass for pollinators by reducing mowing to every 4 to 6weeks or long-flowering annual meadows.
b) Manage existing native hedgerows for biodiversity by allowing native hedgerows to flower each spring.
c) Plant biodiversity-friendly trees, shrubs and flowers. Consider planting additional pollinator-friendly trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs around the grounds. They provide vital sources of food, particularly    in spring and autumn.
d) Reduce use of herbicides. Perhaps adopt a pollinator-friendly pesticide code and protect local water sources. Consider strimming instead of spraying around fencing, goals and lights. Avoid spraying the      base of trees or hedgerows.
e) Provide nesting places for wild bees such as hedgerows, mud banks, drilled wood and bee hotels.




FEED THE BIRDS                                                                                                                  Girl, Feeding, Birds, Silhouette, Child
(Beautifully written piece by Billy Flynn an independent Tidy Towns Adjudicator)
January can be a cruel and unforgiving month for birds. While we complain about the supposedly most depressing Monday of the year and struggle with keeping our resolutions, the trials of Veganuary or a ‘dry’ January, many of our birds are struggling for their lives.
Much of the food that nature provided last year is now exhausted. Berries are a vanishing resource and there are very few insects out there for the taking. In order to keep their metabolisms active, our native breeding birds will have to forage harder for dwindling resources. Add to that the weather – at time of writing it is just below zero here in Co. Monaghan. It’s bright and sunny but while the sound of songbirds is very cheerful this morning, these are all species that are finding it harder to get at the food that’s out there.
One of the most useful tasks humans can undertake at this or any time of year is to lend the birds a helping hand and providing them with some supplementary food. It has to be said that this is far from pure altruism as the rewards that the human receives are great. You get to see close-up some of the most fascinating creatures we have on our island. Put out the right grub and you’ll get a real-life wildlife documentary in your garden or yard. Last Saturday, the author counted 7 species of native birds around the two feeders closest to the window over a 10-minute period. The best thing is – that’s nothing remarkable – you might easily get another half dozen or more species by providing nothing more than the right food in the right way.
So, what food? This used to be a subject of debate and more than a little misinformation was knocking around. Now we have the Internet and for all its shortcomings, it allows us to access information from expert sources. This author recommends the websites of Birdwatch Ireland (www.birdwatchireland.ie) and the RSPB (www.rspb.org.uk) for best advice. Time was when throwing breadcrumbs outside was the height of what we did for bird-feeding.
Now we know that high-energy, fat and protein-containing foods are what best benefits birds. Once only, to be found in pet-shops, they are now also widely available in supermarkets, garden suppliers and hardware shops. It is highly recommended that you take time to examine what’s on offer as the cheapest is rarely as good as the pricier options. Take the fat-balls. Go for the least expensive of these and you may find that birds discard a lot of the material as it is of no use to them. Some brands bulk up the balls with inedible material, even sand! Think cheep, not cheap. Look for brands with an endorsement from a bird conservation organisation like RSPB or Birdlife International. This will mean that not only is the food of good quality but it is more likely to have been sustainably produced. The brilliant Niall Hatch of Birdwatch Ireland once educated this author on the perils of purchasing seeds or nuts from unknown sources. He explained that in some instances, native birds in the food’s country of origin were exterminated in order to produce crops we end up feeding to Irish birds. Talk about unintended consequences… I spend a little more on bird food now.
Peanuts are a good, reliable source of fat and protein and they will not break the bank, especially if you buy in bulk. Large tubs of peanuts produce less waste than plastic bags and leave you with a useful tub for other tasks. Birdseed mixes are now very common and a good quality mix should list what is in there. Look for mixes with sunflower seeds or hearts, niger seeds, millet, oats and kibbled maize. Mixes may also be ‘high-energy’ with added suet. Some may come with bits of mealworms – if you don’t mind that and the birds surely won’t. You can of course feed kitchen scraps to the birds, if you know which ones.
Breadcrumbs are okay but not in huge quantities. Cooked sweetcorn and peas will also be happily devoured. Chopped up bacon rind and other animal fats are also a great source of energy. Make sure not to leave this on the ground where four-legged visitors – including cats – will get at it. Don’t feed them butter or soft greases because they won’t be able to clean this from their feathers.
In terms of bird feeders, there is now a wealth of choice. Most are good quality and suitable. Only use a specific peanut feeder for whole peanuts as birds will benefit most by being able to peck little pieces of nuts from a mesh. Don’t go for the less expensive plastic mesh feeders, stick to a more durable steel mesh. Don’t use plastic mesh bags for these or indeed any bird food as it may become hazardous for the birds. Again, spending a little more on an approved feeder will pay you back in durability and safety.
You’ll see all sorts of birdfeeders in some outlets. It’s advisable to go simple on these. Also look to see how readily the feeder may be dismantled which will be important for cleaning it out. Better feeders tend to be easier to clean, a task you should take on as the feeder gets used. Washing it out every few weeks with boiling water will help to keep it free from bacteria and other nasties that might harm the birds. It’s the same with bird tables – as we are causing birds to congregate in quite small areas, we are increasing the risk of bird-bird infections. So, make sure to keep your bird table clean. A kettle is your best friend for this job. There are also specific feeders for fine seeds like Niger or pinheads. Don’t mix n match the uses of these. Having once accidentally bought crumbed peanuts, I got home to find that I had no suitable feeder for them. A bird table or a similar flat surface is really the best place for food like this as well as for the kitchen scraps. You’ll find bird tables for sale but these might be plastic that won’t stand up to frosts and thaws. Wooden platforms are easier to keep and repair and best of all, you can easily make your own.
Locate your birdfeeders wisely. Don’t have them miles out in the open as birds are wary of exposing themselves to predators. At the same time, don’t hang them on a tree branch that will allow predators – including your beloved cat – to conceal themselves and pounce. We have most of ours suspended under one of the low eaves so the birds have cover getting to them, they aren’t wind-blown and best of all they are out of cat range.
We discovered (when our youngest was in her play-pen) that birds would happily feed from feeders attached to the ground floor windows. Our toddler got to see Siskins, Red Polls and Goldfinches close up and the birds didn’t seem to mind her close scrutiny. Wherever you put them, make sure that it’s somewhere that you will get the benefit of watching the diners. It’ll also make sure that you can see when they are empty or in need of repair. In sight, in mind etc.
On the subject of when you should be feeding birds, both Birdwatch Ireland and the RSPB are in firm agreement that if you put up a feeder, you should keep it fed year-round. Pay no heed to stories about birds feeding their young the ’wrong food.’ This is nonsense. The parents know what they are doing. Feeding year-round brings challenges for TidyTowns groups. Never more so than in these COVID-restricted days. So, when putting up feeders consider carefully how these will be maintained and who’ll be doing it. One wonders how many Green Schools’ feeders may have been unattended, through nobody’s fault, since December last.
Yes, there is planning and effort involved and (like so much of TidyTowns work) there’s always more that needs doing. It’s not the cheapest either, ‘Tuppence a Bag’ won’t get you much these days but it’s really, really worth it.