AN 11-year-old budding naturalist from Barefield has won a top environmental award after dedicating years to researching natural habitats in Clare.
James Madigan, now a fifth-class pupil of Barefield National School, was awarded the top prize in his category of the Sherkin Island Marine Station environmental competition for primary school pupils in Munster.
James’ project explored the natural habitats and eco-systems of Loop Head and compared them with those around Barefield.
For the project, James and his mother, Carmel, went on hundreds of field trips over the past four years, recording the wild flowers of Loop Head and Barefield. The project spanned over 140 pages of writing and photographs. It has recorded 150 species to date and remains ongoing.
James said he was delighted to have done so well in the competition. “I was very surprised when my principal, John Burns, came in during class and showed me on the internet that I had won,” he said.
He explained he has always loved nature and he hopes to become a naturalist in the future. “I’ve always been interested in nature. I always watched nature programmes and found them very interesting. I just think nature is so beautiful; it’s not man-made. It’s wonderful, magnificent and I really love it,” he said.
Explaining where the idea for the project came from, he said, “I won a book voucher in a competition in school and I decided to get a book about flowers. That’s where the whole project started. We went out to identify the flowers in the book and spent the last few years gathering the information.”
He recalled one of his favourite events while researching. “I was out around Barefield and I found a huge orchid, it was absolutely huge. I’ve never seen a bigger flower in my life. It was the common spotted orchid and it was amazing.”
His mother, Carmel, who accompanied him on his field trips, said she is very proud of her son.
“As an artist I’ve always had an interest in nature but I was happy just to observe. It’s great that James has done this and we’ve both learned a lot. He’s a born naturalist. He has always been interested in the environment and glued to David Attenborough.
“He has put a lot of work into this project, out in the fields and hedgerows and around Loop Head. We would be camped out during the summer holidays and he would be out first thing in the morning with his camera.
“After he got the book for flower spotting he spent a few years collecting the information but it was only last Christmas that he decided to do something with it. Then he spent another few months putting all of the research together into a book of 140 pages after his homework. He decided to compare the flowers in Loop Head with those around Barefield and he discovered there was about a 50% crossover. The project is very interesting.”
After winning the award, James was presented with his prize, The Natural History Book, by John Burns, principal of Barefield National School.
It hasn’t stopped there for James, who said he is now working on a project exploring the Atlantic coastline of West Clare.