JUNE 2015 THE FEN AT THE CLOISTERS, CARRIGROHANE, BALLINCOLLIG
THE FEN AT THE CLOISTERS, CARRIGROHANE, BALLINCOLLIG
THE PLANT SPECIES WERE IDENTIFIED BY TED COOKE, GER MORGAN AND TONY O’MAHONY.
The fen at The Cloisters covers a sub-circular area of one third of an acre. This rare and valuable habitat outside Cork City, is a unique amenity in an urban setting.
A fen is a type of wetland, a residual marsh. It is fed by mineral-rich surface water or groundwater. Fens differ from bogs because they are less acidic and have relatively higher mineral levels. They are therefore able to support a much more diverse plant and animal community. Fens are frequently damaged by land drainage. The natural water flow must be maintained. Therefore it is critical that the fen at The Cloisters, as it tries to expand, must be correctly managed; this can only happen with ongoing regular advice from environmental specialists, in consultation with the local residents and the adjacent, Supernova leisure activity centre.
The Cloisters Fen supports a characteristic set of plant species. Grasses, sedges and rushes are the dominant flora. Calliergon Cuspidatum appeared to be the dominant Moss. The Bog Moss (Sphagnum) was also recorded, as well as Bog cotton (Eriophorum angustifolium). Within the fen there are many small trees such as the grey willow, and in its shade on the eastern edge, is the purple moorgrass (Molinia caerulea). Cuckoo Flower or Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis)(Plate ) flowers extensively on the pond verge in the spring, among the dense bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) cover. The moss provides a habitat for countless species of microscopic plant and animal life, which provides food for all other organisms living in the fen.
The following is a list of floral species identified by experts who have recently visited the fen:
Comarum palustre Marsh Cinquefoil
Epilobium palustre Marsh Willowherb
Galium palustre Marsh Bedstraw
Hydrocotyle vulgaris Marsh Pennywort
Lotus pedunculatus Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil
Menyanthes trifoliata Bogbean
Ranunculus flammula Lesser Spearwort
Ranunculus repens Creeping Buttercup
Succisa pratensis Devil’s-bit Scabious
Vicia cracca Tufted Vetch
Sedges, Horsedtails, Cottongrass & Rushes
Carex rostrata Bottle Sedge
Equisetum fluviatile Water Horsetail
Eriophorum angustifolium Common Cottongrass
Juncus acutiflorus Sharp-flowered Rush
Juncus effusus Soft Rush
Rosa canina s.st. Dog-rose
Salix cinerea ssp. oleifolioa Rusty
It is anticipated that in the future, the identification of the fauna or animal life of the fen will continue. Some of the more obvious animal life, who thrive on the stagnant water here, include dragonflies (Anisoptera) (Plate ), and damselflies (Zygotera). Other fauna that you are likely to come across are beetles (Coleoptera), bugs (Heteroptera), moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera), and frogs. The fen is also visited by mammals such as foxes (vulpus vulpus)(Plate I), hedgehogs (Erinaceous europaeus)(Plate II), rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) etc.
The fen is also home to many birds, including the sedge warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus), also known as the “Irish Nightingale”, who can be heard singing at night as well as day. The call is a ‘pit-pit’ and a ‘churr’. This little bird winters in Africa. Another species, the reed bunting (Emberiza hortulana), can be seen standing on the tops of reeds, or waterside bushes. Its call is a whistle ‘tsiu’, starting slowly, but with a buzzy end. The chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) is one of the commonest birds here, arriving in the autumn and the winter from central Europe and Scandinavia, where the winters are too harsh for them. Its call is a ‘pink pink’. The Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), a wild duck, whose male has a shining green head is another species who shelters in the fen. The sparrow hawk (Accipiter nisus) has been seen on a number of occasions, soaring in circles above the fen, and subsequently capturing its prey by dashing along the hedges of the nearby gardens.
Plate I. A fox (Vulpus vulpus) visits a garden in The Cloisters.
The Common Frog is the only species of frog found in Ireland, and is commonly seen here from May onwards in abundance hopping on the gardens of the surrounding housing estates. The Common Frog (Rana temporaria) species is listed as an internationally important species. Therefore frogs are protected under the European Union Habitats Directive and by the Irish Wildlife Act. The frog is an amphibian which means it can survive in the water and on the land. Tadpoles spawn in the fen. Young frogs usually double in size by the following autumn. Frogs can live for 7-8 years. The land around the breeding site or pond needs to be rough with long grass and some scrub to give cover for terrestrial foraging. One hundred frogs were returned to the fen from one garden, in The Cloisters, between May and September 2014.
Plate II. Another resident of The Cloisters is this hedgehog who takes advantage of some cat food.
AUTUMN AT THE FEN, THE CLOISTERS, CARRIGROHANE, BALLINCOLLIG
ECOLOGY OUTING AT THE FEN WITH GER MORGAN 2012