Television programme encourages young people to explore our unique wildlife
Encouraging children to engage with the wildlife around them is the aim of a new television series featuring school kids from across the north. Jenny Lee finds out more from Paper Owl Films creative director Grainne McGuinness
LAST autumn Paper Owl Productions hit the headlines with an announcement they were to produce a new CBeebies animation series about a character on the autism spectrum.
With Pablo currently in production, this autumn sees the Belfast production company broadcast a new wildlife show featuring a group of Northern Ireland school children helping save the planet – one action packed mission at a time.
The 12-part series, Nu Dulradóirí (Young Scientist), currently airing on TG4, visits key environmental locations such as Strangford Lough, Tollymore Forest and Portmore Lough examining our impact upon animals such as red squirrels, seals, red deer and badgers.
"The idea was not only to educate young people and their families to about the detrimental impact our actions can have at both a local and global level but to empower young people to make a difference – by observing, recording and making local spaces safer for our unique wildlife.
"There is a man who goes out once a month and counts the seals on Strangford Lough. He does that because if the seal population changes it tells us something about water quality in Strangford Lough, which might tell us something about the health of the Irish Sea or the environment around it," says Grainne McGuinness.
An Ulster University media and marketing graduate, Grainne has worked in television production for 22 and is currently creative director for Paper Owl Productions, directing the development of new ideas.
Grainne has fond memories of building dens and engaging with wildlife as a child in Donegal. The mum of two is keen to convey that no matter where you live you can access wildlife.
"Children's lives are so busy and scheduled nowadays, but we have discovered that young people love to get outside and they care an awful lot about the environment and making a difference in the world."
Nu Dulradóirí taps into young people passion and obsession with technology combining the great outdoors with the latest wildlife watching gadgets to capture wildlife – such as night vision camera and tiny GoPro cameras hidden in bat boxes and underwater in rock pools.
"It’s quite an empowering message we want to convey – today’s technology enables children to help on a much bigger scale as results can be shared across the globe in a matter of minutes. There are loads of Citizen Science websites from around the world interested in hearing observations, such as the amount of thrushes in Spring in Greater Belfast."
So how can we make a difference in our backyards, gardens and schools? "A little bug hotel is a great thing to do as you can be helping build a much healthier habitat all around you as the greater the variety of bugs and slugs you have in your environment the healthier your bird population will be," says Grainne who also suggests making our gardens hedgehog friendly.
This involves using egg shells instead of poisonous slug pellets and making sure there is no dangerous rubbish lying around such as yoghurt pots or small flowerpots that could get trapped on their snouts.
"People think they have fleas and are smelly, but actually a hedgehogs smell will keep other vermin out of your garden and they will eat up to 40 slugs a night," adds Grainne, who also warns not to feed them milk and no to touch a baby hedgehog as this would change it's smell and cause it's mother to abandon it.
Grainne was continuously amazed herself about the wildlife around her whilst making Nu Dulradóirí – from watching star fish in rock pools grow new limbs to the arrival of the Brent geese to our shores.
"At this time of the year all along the shore of Strangford Lough the Brent geese arrive from Canada and every year they make the same journey. There is a type of sea grass they feed on that grows under the water and at low tide they access every year before going further north for the winter. I don't think I will ever cease to be fascinated by that sight."
:: Nu Dulradóirí continues on TG4 on Wednesday October 19 at 5.35pm and runs until December 7.