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Fingal Branch reaches out to help asylum seekers enjoy Rogerstown reserve



`Sanctuary in Nature’ is a new project initiated in 2017 by a BirdWatch Ireland member, the writer Paddy Woodworth. It is an offshoot of the Dublin City of Sanctuary organisation. Last October, for the first time, volunteers from the BirdWatch Fingal Branch helped out in organising a Sanctuary in Nature outing.  


This project seeks to use the natural world as a meeting point for asylum seekers, refuges and economic migrants and Irish people, and to create a refuge for those living in ‘direct provision’ from the stress and tedium often inherent in their predicament. There is compelling evidence worldwide that direct contact with nature is vital for physical and mental health.


The fifth Sanctuary in Nature excursion took place on Saturday October 20th, with 13 Syrian guests,  and was rated a big success by all who took part.


Two partners provided invaluable support:  Sonairte/The National Ecology Centre -- who secured a very welcome 450 euro grant from Meath Co Council for us – and BirdWatch Ireland Fingal Branch, who kindly provided three volunteers to guide us around Turvey Nature Reserve.

Cormac Crowley and Jim English of Fingal BW greeted the group at the entrance to the reserve, and Jim gave a guided tour walking to the hide. The day was very sunny. We picked blackberries and rose-hips, and discussed the hawthorn as a fairy tree. We saw mallard, a swan, gadwall, a jay and buzzards on or near a little lake en route. Our guests took great interest in the birds.  

At the bird hide, we were greeted by Liam Kane, who had provided photos for publicising the excursion. He pointed out a variety of birds, egrets, golden-eye, lapwing and curlew especially. Again, our guests showed a great deal of interest. We commented on how very few geese and duck were there, compared to the hundreds or thousands usually at this time of year. Climate change…they are waiting further north, migrating more slowly.
We then drove to Sonairte, where lunch was waiting for us outdoors, with a band playing, and a number of local people also enjoying the Sonairte Úlla festival, in celebration of the apple harvest. A visit to the orchard sparked memories from our Syrian guests on the rich fruit harvest in their country at this time of year.  

A comment from Liam Kane sums up the whole event well:
“What a wonderful day! Our visitors made the most of their short time in the hide, when they viewed all the other birds in the estuary. It was just wonderful to meet those people from Syria and other countries. The visiting group were very enthusiastic and very courteous, and also enjoyed the Cúpla Focail that we all had in the different languages. Roll on our next group of visitors that visit Rogerstown Estuary to view the birdlife.
Slán Go Fóill!”



Paddy Woodworth