Wednesday 16 November 2016: Mr Ralph Sheppard: Living with Nature
Ralph’s love of nature began at the age of 7 when for the first time he saw birds in flight. Until that time he had impaired vision and his first pair of glasses opened a whole new world to him. After a career in England as a lecturer in ecology he settled on a farm in Co Donegal and planted 10 hectares of broad-leaf woodland using native species. In 2005 his enterprise was awarded the title “All-Ireland Forest of the Year” and is now home to over 900 different species of moths, butterflies, birds and plants. With his love of nature Ralph soon became involved in studying and recording what was happening in other parts of the County. This includes a monthly check on the 25,000 birds that live on Lough Swilly and forays to the Bloody Foreland on days when a strong on-shore winds bring in-shore sea birds that normally spend their lives out at sea. The number and variety of birds to be found on the Atlantic Coast of Ireland is greatly increased each summer by migrants from the Arctic, the South Atlantic and Siberia. Ralph has a particular interest in moths of which there are over 1,500 varieties in Ireland. Using ultra-violet light to lure moths he can trap up to 300 specimens in a single evening. He concluded his talk by reflecting on the increasing rate at which the planet is losing species and the biodiversity essential to the maintenance of healthy ecosystems.