Annual Report 2019-20

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This report covers the 19-month period since the last AGM, which was held on 27th April 2019.  During the period from the AGM until March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the club to suspend its activities, the Dublin Naturalists’ Field Club held a total of 50 events: 10 of which were Praeger Centre events, held in the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin; and of the remaining 40 events, 24 were held within the County Dublin boundary, and the other 16 were held further afield, mainly in the surrounding counties.

Many thanks to our Honorary Vice President, Declan Doogue, for organising the series of Praeger Centre events on the first Saturday of each month. During the period up to March these ranged from workshops on plant identification; to map use and mapping; how to use the Viewfinder App; converting transparencies to a digital format; interpreting old botanical records; and books on birds. An in-depth look at water plants was led by Dr. Chris Preston over two days at the beginning of August 2019. From August until October 2019, a group of Members met on the first and third Wednesdays of each month to record the flora of Howth. A ladybird identification workshop, held in early September 2019, heralded the start of a new Field Club project to record ladybirds in the urban environment.

Our field outings covered a wide range of interests, including woodland flora, coastal molluscs, a wildflower meadow at Mount Merrion, parkland management at Raheny, habitats and land forms in the Dodder Valley; bryophytes at Glencullen and Glencree; peatland flora at Mongan Bog, Fin Lough and Six Mile Fen; geology at Portrane & Donabate, Glendalough, Howth and Bohernabreena and the use of stone in Dublin city centre; and bird watching at Ireland’s Eye, Lough Boora, Kilcoole, Bull Island and on the Little Brosna, the last in association with the Offaly Naturalists’ Field Club. A tour of the Herbarium at the National Botanic Gardens, led by Dr. Colin Kelleher, was arranged for late November 2019; and the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club invited members of DNFC to join them on a visit to the Edward Worth Library and to the National Museum at Collins Barracks in August 2019.

The Club also organised a very successful and highly enjoyable Federation of Irish Field Clubs (FIFC) outing to County Offaly, which ran from the 9th to the 13th of June 2019, and was attended by a total of 51 members from different Field Clubs. Sites visited included the Shannon callows, Clonmacnoise monastic site, mushroom stones at Shannon Harbour, Clara Bog, St. Mary’s Church at Pollagh, Lough Boora Discovery Park, St. Brendan’s Cathedral at Clonfert, the fortifications at Banagher, Kinnitty Forest and Birr Castle. In the evenings the group enjoyed presentations on the ‘Geology and Landscape of Co. Offaly’ by Dr John Feehan; and on the ‘Birds of the Shannon Valley’ by Stephen Heery; and they also enjoyed a walking tour of Birr, led by Brian Kennedy of the Birr Historical Society.

Members’ Day was held on Saturday 2nd November 2019.  In the morning we enjoyed presentations covering the outbreak of crayfish plague in Ireland, the range of Irish moths and their importance as pollinators, an overview of the Dublin Ladybird Project and a talk on how Carl Linnaeus helped bring order to plant nomenclature, that was delivered by Tom Miniter as his Presidential Address.  After lunch, members enjoyed a wide range of exhibits, including: aerial photographs of Irish peatlands from the 1950s, butterflies from the summer of 2019, paintings by Michael Viney, insects from Ireland and Scotland, the False Widow spider, ladybird paintings and identification charts, and a number of  botanical books and maps of historical interest. Many thanks to our President and to our Events Programme Secretary, for organising a varied and interesting programme, and also to all members who spoke or exhibited on the day.

Since the last AGM the DNFC Board has met on 7 occasions, with 4 meetings held in person, one held online by email response, and two by teleconference using Zoom. A DNFC WhatsApp Group was established by the President, and this has proven to be an invaluable means of maintaining communications between Club Members during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Secretariat produced a Club Newsletter that was circulated to all members in July 2020; and the Board is currently drawing up a COVID-19 Protocol, which will contain guidelines for leaders organising outings and workshops, and for Club Members attending such events.

Two meetings of the Federation of Irish Field Clubs Executive Committee were held: one in Dublin on 2nd November 2019, in association with the DNFC Members’ Day; and one by Zoom teleconference on 28th May 2020, when preparations for next year’s proposed FIFC outing to West Cork were discussed.

During the period since the last AGM the Board approved the application of 29 new members to join the Club, along with 3 former members who wished to re-join; and at the end of calendar year 2019 we had a total of 163 members.

I would like thank all of those who led outings, conducted workshops, gave presentations or worked behind the scenes and contributed to making 2019/20 a successful year up until our activities had to be suspended because of the COVID-19 virus. I would also like to thank all those members who actively contribute to the WhatsApp Group, who share their knowledge and help to keep the educational traditions of the Club alive in a time of social distancing and isolation.

Charles Shier

Hon. Secretary