A pair of swans huddled together in a small hole in the ice on the Lough.

Lough-ing after the birds

According to UCC lecturer Dr Simon Harrison, who specialises in freshwater research, although ice on the Lough isn’t normally a huge concern, it can lead to certain issues arising.

“The main problem is for the birds. If they can’t get access to liquid water, and if they’re confined to a small area of open water surrounded by ice, there may be intense competition between them,” Dr Harris told the Cork Independent.

Dr Harris said that foxes may also be a problem as the ice can give them rare access to the ‘island’ at the centre of the Lough where many birds roost.

For the fish species that make their home in the Lough, Dr Harrison said that ice preventing oxygen from diffusing across the water could be a cause for concern if a freeze was to last for longer than usual.

UCC Professor John Quinn, who specialises in ornithology, told the Cork Independent that although freezes are a perfectly normal part of any eco system, a prolonged freeze could have a detrimental impact on many bird species at the Lough.

“We’ve had some cold winters in the past back in the ‘60s when a freeze went on for so long that it did affect the bird species,” said Prof Quinn.

He added: “Some species can leave the country, but a lot can't and they are stuck living on their fat reserves for a few days.”

Prof Quinn said that birds at the Lough may move to nearby rivers or the Lee estuary if conditions became too bad and that even birds who may not be particularly good flyers will move if needed.

According to Stephen Scully of the Parks & Recreation Department at Cork City Council, the freeze did make feeding more difficult for many bird species.

Mr Scully highlighted that visitors play an important role in feeding green vegetables and seeds to the animals. He also urged anyone visiting the Lough not to feed bread to the birds as it damages their digestive systems, affects plumage and waterproofing of swans, and interferes with the water quality.

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