A wildlife conservation project is a tourism success story for Cahir
Cahir is no stranger to celebrities and regularly hosts celebrities at its iconic castle, but some locals top the list when it comes to tourist affections.
A particularly pampered range of poultry have taken up residence in Ireland’s largest and best-preserved medieval castle, winning the affection of locals and visitors alike.
Councilor Andy Maloney, a herd champion as one of their daily feeders, believes their star power is a huge asset to the town.
“As soon as the tour buses arrive the drivers know they are there to let people know, so as soon as the gates open they head straight for the river to see the geese and ducks. They are a huge attraction.
Crowd delights have been brought to the town through an initiative by Cahir Tidy Towns, Cahir Anglers and Cahir Gun Club with the aim of reintroducing more wildlife to the River Suir and the town of Cahir.
A brood of mallards were the first to be introduced into a pen in Inch’s field and were soon joined by a flock of geese.
There are currently 37 birds residing near the castle, with a group of dedicated feeders tending to their diet of rolled barley, pellets and flour.
While the public tends to feed the birds bread, they are encouraged to switch to the healthier option of boiled oats.
Geese are a common domestic barnyard goose, derived from a swan goose and a grey-legged Icelandic breed that gives them their unique gray hue.
The domesticated group has become extremely familiar with the city. If there is a delay in feeding times, a herd has been known to head up Castle Street in search of breakfast.
Tidy Towns member John Cummins is one of the herd’s daily feeders and believes the conservation project has not only been successful, but has added a new asset to the town’s tourist circuit.
“They are a big attraction for the city. I often see that when I feed them, there are people taking pictures of them in the early morning and early evening. I could be 100 yards away and once I start whistling they start gagging.
Cllr Moloney drives his van through the parking lot every morning and some members of the group have become a little too familiar with the vehicle, with one choosing to jump in the back of the van to access the lunch bag, and another in taking advantage of an open door and was spotted behind the wheel.
Poultry maintains a largely positive relationship with the curious public always amazed by its tame and friendly personalities.
Like all stars though, they can have their moments.
“They can spit, it’s not bad sometimes, it’s just them protecting each other,” Andy said.
“What people don’t understand is that they could come and see them, but they could have a dog on a leash.
“They don’t realize that ducks fear dogs.”
Once a dog decided to take a goose, only to be chased by the bird who stood his ground.
The people of Cahir all tend to the herd, with bouncers in town known to keep an eye on them at night.
Ducks and geese also tolerate the canoes they encounter on the dam.
The herd has made headlines a few times, such as when Bruce the Goose was the victim of an unfortunate hit-and-run.
Other notable absences include some of the Icelandic grey-legged geese that have migrated along the Suir, with some ex-members now being spotted in Ballybrado and beyond.
In recent years the herd has grown in number due to the good care it receives from a number of dedicated feeders and fans.
“We’ve relocated some of them, but we’re not interested in relocating too many because there are some good characters in there,” Andy said.
The conservation project has been a resounding success, with mallard numbers increasing across Tipperary as a result of the initiative.
Not only did wildlife explode around the Suir as a result of their introduction, but the birds also brought unusual benefits.
Running near the castle, the Doctor’s River had nearly closed before the birds were introduced.
Ducks and geese have now reopened the river by clearing vegetation and scooping up large deposits of silt, saving locals the daunting task of clearing the way with shovels.
Along with the conservation project, the popular Inch Field has also been developed with new walkways and paths installed.
As staunch members of the locality, the ducks and geese needed to be consulted before the castle planted pollinator-friendly borders.
“A bag of seeds of each potential flower was left next to the geese and whatever they ate was left unsown.
“The result is that we planted pollinator-friendly lavender, red robins and Australian grass shrubs,” Andy explained.
The herd has become a particular hit on social media, with many tourists quacking to take in their photogenic presence in the sun on the parking lot tarmac or sitting along the weir.
“The number of strangers who get off the buses and want to take their picture, or if I feed them and they see them eating out of my hand, they ask for a piece of food so they can take a picture of them eating feed the geese,” Andy said.
“They are a huge tourist attraction. Everyone wants to come to Cahir to feed the geese. They interact with you and due to their nature they are accessible. »