Support barn owls, donate a tree, rescue wild animals: last-minute presents for nature lovers

Game Changers: These Christmas gifts to nature can be bought at the tap of a button

I stand in pyjamas and a warm jacket in the garden holding my phone in the air these mornings when the light takes so long to come. There is a persistently joyful robin heralding the dawn. I know it’s a robin because the Merlin app on my phone has identified it. The distinctive song sparks charcoal scatterings out of the grey sonogram each time it opens its beak. The Merlin app is free. Download it on to a family member’s phone, show them how to use it and give them the daily gift of birdsong.

It’s the easiest gift at this stressful stage so close to Christmas. We need things that can be bought at the tap of a button and don’t need to be delivered to the house. So it’s a perfect time to buy something for nature.

Google “gift for nature” and you invariably get it through a human lens – stuff “for nature lovers” ranges from bee hotels to secateurs, all fine but still made with resources that are extracted, shipped and added to the world of human belongings that has taken so heavily from the wild world. So here are my choice of gifts for nature to say thanks to the creatures, such as my friend the robin.

Support barn owls

Barn owl populations are recovering slowly. “Barn owls have returned to parts of the country that they had been absent from for many decades, and their numbers are increasing for the first time in more than 50 years,” according to Birdwatch Ireland. You can help that continue by supporting its work. birdwatchireland.ie

READ MORE

Protect habitats

There is a ripple effect that can happen when people understand the urgency of action for nature and are given the agency to do something, whatever their space. Thanks to Wildacres near Arklow, in Co Wicklow, a brilliant project by nature nuts Gilly Taylor and Brian O’Toole, wildlife ponds are being dug in back gardens and back fields, native trees and shrubs planted along rivers and pollinator habitats protected. Their nature calendar is a lovely and educational gift and vouchers can be redeemed against tours, walks, workshops, courses and hive produce. wildacres.ie

Donate a tree

Struck by the lack of nature in plans for the national park in Wicklow, Danny Alvey and his siblings set up ReWild Wicklow to co-ordinate volunteer efforts to restore nature in this beautiful part of the country. You can support the work with a donation, or buy a gift of trees from rewildwicklow.ie, the support for the trees marked with a personalised certificate decorated with Wicklow-based artist Emily Robyn Archer’s beautiful illustrations.

Membership of the Irish Wildlife Trust

This comes with a subscription to their always-interesting magazine so you get to read about projects and work throughout Ireland to support the Trust’s advocacy and work on behalf of struggling wildlife. iwt.ie

Rescue wild animals

Kildare Wildlife Rescue has a hands-on mission to help heal wounded and distressed animals before releasing them back to the wild with a network of volunteers who bring the wild animals to safety. idonate.ie/cause/Kildarewildliferescue

Sponsor a forest

The Burren pine project by the Burrenbeo Trust is bringing back Clare’s Scots pine forests using trees grown from the seed of a stand of pines genetically linked to Ireland’s oldest pollen record of this tree. burrenbeo.com

Go wild next year

If you own a lawn let some or all of it go. You can mow paths through it, or leave the edges to grow to wavy frondy seedy grasses that wave in the breeze around a hidden centre. Expose some soil and sow yellow rattle in spring to make space for non-grasses. Yellow rattle is known as the meadow maker thanks to its bullying tendencies towards the roots of grasses. If you don’t own a lawn, talk someone you know who owns one into a wilder approach for 2024.