Monday, July 17, 2006

Natives and Aliens in South Tyrone

Bert holds signal crayfish (alien)

From left red fox (native), river otter (native) and mink (alien)
We saw all of these in the Blackwater valley. Sightings of the otter and mink were very brief but we spent an enjoyable ten minutes watching Foxy attempt to cross a field of cattle. The cattle kept chasing him off. Next morning Paddy and Rosie went off on the scunge to dig him out of his foxhole. As usual they did not succeed.
Thanks to Jaffs I now know a lot more about crayfish than ever before. The specimens we found in the Blackwater at Annaghroe Bridge are signal crayfish. They're aliens brought in from the USA to farm and, as is often the case, made their escape to the wild. They threaten the native white-clawed crayfish and the river environment too.
Incidentally Annaghroe Bridge where we camped doesn't actually cross the river. Bert said that when he stayed in Caledon (remember this was during the Troubles) the British Army kept blowing it up. The locals would patch it and then the Army would blow it up again. Annaghroe and Knockaginney Bridges are the only two of 104 border crossings closed during the Troubles that remain closed to this day. Both should cross the Blackwater. There's a well-used sheep bridge at Knockaginney but no vehicle access. Questions have been asked in parliament but despite extensive lobbying, the NIO continue to refuse to complete rebuilding at the two sites on the grounds that the budget allocated for reopening border roads has already been exceeded (An Phoblact, February 2000)
It's hard on the farmers who have land on either side of the border. But the foxes and otters and minks and crayfish don't care one bit.

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