Young Nature Blogger began in 2020 as an initiative by UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man. This year, Dublin Bay and Kerry Biospheres have joined in; running their own local challenges, with entrants aged 21 and under invited to submit up to 500 words on their own favourite place, animal or experience in nature. The Kerry Biosphere competition closed on September 24th after receiving 70 entries from all over Ireland.

Three winners were selected from the entries, in first place, Lissi Nickelson from Midleton, County Cork, in 2nd place Calum Wynton and in 3rd Aoibhinn O’Sullivan both from Foilmore, County Kerry.
Elaine Grandfield, teacher in Foilmore National School where both runners up are in 4th class said ‘the competition appealed to us as a kickstart to our Biodiversity Flag Campaign. It was a great opportunity to get the children focussed on their special place and we were delighted to find that they all chose places right on their doorstep. It is wonderful that children are gaining such an appreciation for their locality. The children really enjoyed the project and loved sharing their stories with their classmates.’

Prizes were awarded to the overall winner and both runners up on Saturday at Killarney House. Each winner received a certificate of their achievement, a goody bag from Killarney National Park complete with t-shirt, hats, notebooks, a copy of the ‘My Kerry Biosphere’ 2022 calendar and more.

Malcolm Noonan T.D., Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform said of the Young Nature Blogger competition “Ireland’s Biosphere Reserves work to connect people of all ages to our natural and cultural heritage. Biospheres are places where we can work towards sustainable development and one of the first steps on this journey is to understand and connect with the natural world around us.”
“This competition invited young people to do just that. The Young Nature Bloggers competition offers young people the chance to share their passion for nature through creative writing. With three Biospheres taking part, including the Kerry and Dublin Biospheres, we look forward to hearing you share your love of nature, of your wonderful adventures in the wild and why we should all care for these beautiful places.”
“In many ways our young people have led the charge in highlighting impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss and this competition is an opportunity to celebrate this passion and share it with our neighbours in the UK.”

The entry from our overall winner Lissi Nickelson, who wrote a piece about an encounter with an otter has now been forwarded to the Isle of Man Biosphere Team who are co-ordinating the international element of the competition. Judging of this takes place in the coming weeks, so fingers crossed for the Kerry entry.

Pictured above from left are Mary Toomey, Project Ecologist with the MacGillycuddy Reeks EIP project and Katie O' Donoghue, author of childrens book 'The little squirrel who worried'. Katie and Mary completed the difficult task of judging the entries to the competition and selecting the overall winner. Also pictured is Mary Sheehan, Conservation Ranger with the National Parks and Wildlife Service working in Killarney National Park, Mary awarded the prizes kindly donated by the National park to the winners at Killarney House and shared some of her knwoledge on the amazing animals that are found here and some of her favourite nature expereinces too. Last on the right is Eleanor Turner, Biosphere Officer for the Kerry UNESCO Biosphere Reserve working with South Kerry Development Partnership who organised the competition.

The winning entries are included below!

The otter

By Lissi Nickelson, Age 11, Cork

Even before my sister, Emma and a friend wrote the amazing guidebook ‘Irelands Seashore’, I was deeply fascinated by nature.
My aunt and uncle lend their house in Tousist, Kerry to my family sometimes. The house is overlooking a beach in Kenmare Bay.
A pebbly beach it is, with many rockpools holding wondrous creatures; a lot of them I would research in Emma’s book, including sea hares, pipe fish, broad-clawed porcelain crabs, and eels. My cousin Toto adores eels. I sometimes walk down the beach with him, and we search for one to look at. And with any luck, we usually find one and Toto’d be in his element. I adore that beach. It’s almost magical.

One afternoon, I was sitting in a rockpool taking in my beautiful surroundings when a massive crab seemed to make its way towards me. I was fascinated by it. I picked it up for closed inspection. He was extremely cute to me, maybe not so much to other people though. After deciding the best name for him would be George, I sat and observed him.

Suddenly, I heard the sound of shuffling close by. I turned around. There she stood, staring at me. I was sitting, in a rockpool, holding a crab, and staring face-to-face with a Eurasian otter. I was convinced she was part of my imagination, but deep down, I knew she couldn’t be. Her spotted nose, her deep black eyes, her arched back. I couldn’t imagine something like this.

She leapt down from the rock and swept into the very rockpool I was sitting in. I didn’t dare move. Then she started to perform a strange action: rolling around. I would never have expected this. Which lead to my realisation, she was hunting by stirring the seaweed. She was putting her trust into a human who she’d never met. I was so glad I didn’t do something silly like trying to scare her away. I looked at the otter again. She had to be named, she was a special otter.
‘Púca’ I said under my breath. She looked at me and then went back to hunting.

I had decided upon that name because of how she’d appeared out of nowhere like a ghost, ‘Púca’, in Irish.
She suddenly arose from the luscious rockpool and clambered up onto a nearby rock. I was probably never going to have this opportunity again, so I decided to follow her while keeping a good distance. I was taking notes in my head about how otters hunt on the coast. She looked back at me again and then slid into another rockpool. She didn’t consider me a threat.

After continuing the process of twirling around, Púca climbed up out of the pool and into another except this one was connected to the sea. I wondered if she would swim away but she didn’t. Suddenly, she came out of the pool with a large fish in her mouth. She lay down on a rock and started chewing.
I watched her in awe. Ten minutes passed. I could tell she was ready to go home. She had moved about ten metres away. My family came over to see what I was doing and when they saw her, they looked just as stunned as I was when she first approached me.
When the time finally came, Púca looked back at me one more time, and then she disappeared into the water.

‘Good luck’ I whispered.


Coonanna Harbour
By Aoibhinn O’ Sullivan, Age 9, Foilmore, Kerry

Coonanna Harbour is in South Kerry it is near my house it is about 2km away. It is between Filmore and Caherciveen. When you are there you can sometimes see seals or swans, you can hear the waves and birds, you can go fishing or swimming and jumping off the pier and you can smell seaweed and the fresh salty breeze.
I like it because I can go swimming with my cousins and friends. I love diving down to the seafloor when I am swimming. I remember one time in the summer with my cousins we went jumping off the steps and we saw a baby seal. It was so much fun. You can also see jellyfish sometimes there are clear ones, brown ones or pink ones, they are cool.


The walk by the Old Dromid School
By Callum Wynton, Age 10, Foilmore, Kerry

It is located in Dromid near Srugreana in South Kerry. You can see birds, trees, thorns and bushes and a bridge. You can also look for fish in the water. You can whittle sticks (I am very good at that), play pooh-sticks (you throw the sticks off one side of the bridge then you run to other side. The first stick out wins!) and listen to birds. Their sound is very nice. You can smell wildflowers and blackberries (in autumn).
I like it because it is very serene. No noise, no traffic, no cars, just the sound of silence and nature. One time in autumn (last year I think) we collected lots of acorns. They were everywhere! I collected 32 and Christopher collected 26.


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