The Irish Farmers Journal is launching an exciting new mini-series featuring the Footprint Farmers programme. This series will offer a unique glimpse into how Irish farmers around the country are working to build environmental, social and economic sustainability into their farming systems.

Each episode invites you to join one of the eight Footprint Farmers out and about on their farms, where they will showcase the sustainability actions they are undertaking and share practical tips based on their own experiences.

Join Ciara Kinsella on her farm

This week, we’re sharing footage from Ciara Kinsella’s farm in Co Wexford. Ciara shows us some of the many actions she’s undertaking on her farm, including diversifying farm enterprises to include honey production, increasing sheep prolificy, planting multispecies swards, reducing fertiliser use, managing native woodlands and creating new wildlife habitats.

Visit the video section of the Irish Farmer’s Journal website to watch Ciara’s video.

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Wildlife photography competition

The other Footprint Farmers are also busy recording life on their farms – they’ve been competing to see who can capture the best wildlife photograph.

Back in February, each farmer received a wildlife/trail camera to help them to find out what different species of wildlife might be up to around their farms.

These trail cameras have in-built motion sensors – when something moves within the camera’s range, the movement sensor triggers the camera to take a photograph or record a short video.

This means they are great tools for remotely capturing footage of wildlife around the farm – although care must be taken when positioning cameras to ensure that wildlife and their habitats are not disturbed (more details below).

Check back on the Irish Farmers Journal website in a fortnight’s time, when we’ll reveal both the best photos and the overall competition winner. For more on measuring biodiversity on Footprint Farms.

Trail cameras are a fun and easy way to learn about what wildlife gets up to on your farm while you're not around. \ Emma Hart

Top tips for placing a wildlife/trail camera

  • Avoid disturbance: disturbance by humans can cause stress to many species of wildlife, potentially causing them to move on or even to abandon territories or young. For this reason, it is illegal to photograph a bird on its nest without a licence from the National Parks and Wildlife service (NPWS).
  • Although there is usually no flash, wildlife cameras still make a quiet click when they take a photo – this unusual sound can disturb wildlife. Avoid placing cameras close to birds’ nests, animals’ burrows, etc, where they might cause disturbance.

  • Do a trial run: before leaving the camera out for a long period, make sure the batteries are full, the camera is on photo capture mode, the memory card is storing photos and the time and date are set correctly.
  • Ensure good placement: a good starting point is to place the camera about a metre off the ground, tilting slightly downwards and pointing along a path or trail. Like us humans, most animals follow predictable routes along the same trails every day.
  • Place near water in summer: during dry spells, a camera placed at a pond or other water source can be great for photographing wildlife coming in for a drink.
  • Watch out for wind: anything that moves can trigger the camera’s sensor. Make sure that nothing is in the camera’s range – for example long grass or the branches of trees – will trigger the motion sensor by moving in the wind.
  • Experiment with different placements: often it takes a few practice goes before you find a good position and angle for the camera – and the best results can often be from cameras left in position for a few weeks or more – so don’t give up too soon.
  • Footprint Farmers receive trail cameras

    The Footprint Farmers each received an Irish Forestry Products (IFP) Sentinel 4K Trail Camera. These cameras cost €130 and can capture both 4K Video and 30MP imagery. They have infrared sensors, so they also work well at night and are rated as IP66 waterproof – so can stand up to heavy rain.

    Wildlife to look forward to in May

  • The cuckoo returns from overwintering in central Africa in April, and can be heard calling in the Irish countryside in May. For many, the return of the cuckoo each year heralds the start of another summer and a deep connection with generations past.
  • Whitethorn is beginning to flower in hedgerows across the countryside, while yellow flag iris is brightening wetter ground and early-purple orchids, twayblades, milkworts and speedwells are adding colour to hay meadows.
  • The dawn chorus reaches a crescendo in May. Returning migrants like willow warblers, blackcaps and chiff-chaffs join our overwintering songbirds like blackbird, robin and thrush – their heartfelt performance is worth an early morning stroll before the business of the day begins.