FERMANAGH naturalist, Dara McAnulty was determined Aspergers and anxiety would not get the better of him when he had the chance to make two recordings for Radio 4’s Tweet of the Day earlier this month.
The 13-year-old wildlife blogger was invited to talk about his experiences with two special bird species we are lucky to have here in Fermanagh.
And although a sensory overload threatened to get the better of him when he took up position in the studio at BBC NI headquarters, with the help of his mum, Róisín, Dara overcame his anxiety and tackled the recordings like a pro.
The feature with Radio 4 is just one of a long line of huge opportunities to come knocking at Dara’s door in recent times.
The young conservationist has also been published in prestigious literary quarterly, The Curlew.
Published in Wales but distributed worldwide, The Curlew is devoted to nature writing and illustration.
Dara’s featured essay is about a walk to the Big Dog Forest and an encounter with wild whooper swans.
Explaining the background to his Radio 4 recordings, Dara says: “I was contacted by the producer from Tweet of the Day through the contact section in my blog. She really enjoyed my blog and wondered if I had a special story about a favourite bird.
“I was invited to talk about some experiences that I had with two special bird species which we are lucky to have here in Fermanagh. 
“The first was the winter migrant, The Whooper Swan and the Hen Harrier, a majestic Raptor, which although is a protected bird is persecuted throughout the UK and Ireland. We are incredibly lucky here in Fermanagh to have two iconic species. 
“I was invited to record my thoughts for Tweet of the Day, a Radio 4 series which is usually presented by top celebrity Naturalists such as David Attenborough, Chris Packham and Kate Humble.
“This series will focus on the special experiences of the public and I was honoured to record two episodes in BBC NI - sitting in Stephen Nolan’s chair! We hooked up with the producer in the Natural History Unit in Bristol to record it.”
On the day, Dara needed a bit of encouragement from his mum. “I was experiencing sensory overload,” he explains, “People with Autism get this a lot. I get this a lot. The surroundings, the sound of my own voice, the fact that Maggie [the producer] was a voice and not a person, my nervousness, my ability to process the questions all became too much.
“Mum and I took a break and we did some breathing exercises, she took me back to those experiences I had with the birds and nature and I was able to feel them again. We rehearsed what I had written, the way an actor might and did some voice exercises. We went back in and mum let me squeeze her hand really tightly and I think I made a really good job of it. I felt the feelings I have when I write my blogs and it became less rehearsed and more natural. In the end it only took about 10minutes to record!”
On reflection Dara says he is proud of the achievement. “Sometimes it’s really hard to push yourself forward but I really wanted my story to be heard and I wanted Tweet of the Day to have a Fermanagh story because we live in such a special but underrated place. In the end Fermanagh and nature are the things I love most and I really want a wider audience to know how amazing Fermanagh is. I was proud to do that for a worldwide audience.”
His mum, Róisín, and father, Paul, are incredibly proud of Dara’s determination and desire to get his message out there - ‘wildlife is beautiful but needs our help and protection’. 
“Dara’s mission is a really difficult one, as many people are not exploring, learning about and really enjoying their natural environment,” says Róisín, “This is reflected in the feedback Dara gets from his blog, people are learning and feeling more confident in knowing what they are looking at, whether it’s a bird, insect, butterfly or flower. Dara overcame a great obstacle in recording for Radio 4 for the greater good - to promote Wildlife and Fermanagh. We are so delighted that he is continuing his journey with just as much determination and enthusiasm as the other, more famous Naturalists who have also presented this wonderful piece of radio.” Dara’s two recorded episodes are expected to be broadcast later in the year.