Lakes and Lakesides

Lakes add greatly to the wildlife value of a park. Natural streams including the River Poddle and Camac, and tributaries of rivers, have been used to develop lakes and other water features. In many of South Dublin's Parks, including Ballymount, Rathcoole and Sean Walsh Park, lake systems support rich freshwater communities. The Wellington Lakes in Tymon Regional Park, have been allowed to colonise naturally and possess a diverse lakeland ecology. The Limekiln lakes, also in Tymon Regional Park, have been planted with native waterside species, including the Flowering Rush and Bulrushes.

This native aquatic vegetation provides a habitat for the Common Frog. Frog's fertilised eggs are known as frog's spawn. Fully aquatic tadpoles hatch from this spawn. The tadpole evolves limbs and the tail reduces to form a frog. Frogs feed on insects, slugs, worms and other invertebrates, which are caught by the frog shooting out its sticky tongue from the floor of the mouth with great speed and flicking it back in again with the prey adhered to it.

The Common Blue Damselfly, Blue-Tailed Damselfly and the Brown Rod Dragonfly are distinctive insects that are often found in the vegetation around the lake margins from early summer to autumn. They are very good fliers and can catch and eat flying insects while on the wing. The larval stage is known as a nymph and is entirely aquatic. The Brown Rod Dragonfly (Snáthaid Mhór) is 54-60 mm in length. They feed on many insects, including large butterflies and other dragonflies. Damselflies are smaller and more delicate than dragonflies. Resting or egg-laying dragon and damselflies can often be seen on Yellow Water Lilies (Buí Duilleog Bháite) that grow in the deeper water towards the centre of the lakes. Water lilies root in the sediment, but the leaves and flowers have to float on the water to obtain enough light for photosynthesis and to allow insects to reach their flowers for pollination.

Other plants growing in the marshy margins of the lakes include the highly aromatic Water Mint (Mismín Dearg), Wild Angelica (Bliúcán) and Yellow Flag Irises (Feileastram). These plants provide habitats for invertebrates and small fish. Visiting birds are attracted to the lakeside to feed on this vegetation and the invertebrate life associated with it. The lakes of Tymon and Sean Walsh Park attract over 20 species of birds. Mallards, Coots and Mute Swans nest in the thick waterside cover of Alder, Osier, Willow, Ash and Hazel.

Mute Swans (Eala Bhalbh) are the largest breeding birds in Ireland, probably introduced by the Normans. They feed on grasslands and on various water plants that are pulled up from the river bottom. Mute swans gather in large, sociable groups on the lakes in winter, but in summer they become quite territorial. Their nests are large and are often hidden in waterside reeds and rushes.

Coots (Cearc Cheannann) are black birds with a distinctive white bill. They can be seen diving into the water or grazing on land close by. They eat a variety of invertebrates, aquatic plants, grasses and seeds.

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