Pádraic Ó Flaithearta
Pádraic Ó Flaithearta runs a small suckler farm on Inis Mór, Co. Galway, consisting of 7 suckler cows, 7 followers and a stock bull. The farm is predominantly composed of orchid-rich calcareous grasslands and machair, two priority habitats under the EU Habitats Directive, as a result 51.78ha of his 55ha holding is designated as a Special Area of Conservation. In ‘Farming for Nature’ Pádraic’s management is responsible for the conservation of some of the best examples of calcareous grassland in Ireland. Pádraic manages the machair part of his farm to ensure the breeding success of ground nesting birds as well as maintaining species diversity of this special habitat which only occurs on the west coasts of Scotland and Ireland and is at the most southern limit of its distribution on the Aran Islands.
The machair is home to a significant number of breeding lapwings as well as three species of terns, plover, wheatear and skylarks. Not only has Pádraic managed his grazing regime to minimise disturbance he also actively monitors the populations of these bird species as well as the negative influences such as predation by hooded crows and overgrazing by rabbits. Pádraic was instrumental in AranLIFE erecting a bird sign at the start of the machair, which highlights the importance of the habitat as well as the sensitivity of the bird species that nest there. Pádraic is currently assisting the NPWS in tackling the issue of predation by hooded crows at this site.
Pádraic manages the species-rich grassland to maximise species diversity addressing the many negative influences that can reduce species diversity, this includes active scrub control, targeted grazing and minimising nutrient input. He cleared over a hectare scrub from his land in the last couple of years. The small rocky fields means this work is very labour intensive and can only be done with hand tools such as a strimmer but is vital work in maintaining the plant diversity and preventing loss of habitat.
(Nominator: Amanda Browne, Scientific and Technical Officer, AranLife)