Dara McAnulty

Posted by Sue Leonard on Saturday 19th September 2020

Dara has always been passionate about the natural world.

“I remember, when I was very small, watching pigeons for hours. My interest developed from there.”

At just 16, Dara has long been recognised for his knowledge and understanding of the natural world. Amongst many awards, he is the youngest ever recipient of the RSPB Medal for conservation.

Diagnosed with Asperger’s/Autism at five, he has always navigated the world through the written word.

“Writing was the easiest way to get my thoughts out to people – it was my mouthpiece.”

He started keeping online blogs, deciding to write about nature throughout the four seasons.

“I kept on writing one blog entry after another, and then I began going over the entries, crafting them. It was an interesting process going back over all the memories.”

The book was the natural progression.


Who is Dara McAnulty? 

Date of birth:  2004, in County Down.

“It was where the first Red Kite was released, and the people running the project spoke to us in primary school. It was one of the driving factors leading to my interest in birds.”

Education:  Shimna Integrated College, in Newcastle, County Down.

Home: Castlewellan, Co Down.

Family: Mum Róisín, Dad, Paul, Lorcan and Bláthnaid.

The Day Job: Still at school, Dara is about to take his A ‘Levels.

In Another Life: “I just love to explore and understand the world around me.”

Favourite Writers: Seamus Heeney; John Clare; Homer; Stephen Fry; Laurie Lee; Rick Riordan.

Second Novel: “I’m finishing a children’s picture book.”

Top Tip: “Write down everything that is in your brain; there is bound to be a gem somewhere; expand that, and when you something vaguely coherent, condense it down.”

Twitter: @naturaistdara


The Debut: Diary of a Young Naturalist. Little Toller Books: €17.86.


These entries, written in mature, sparkling prose, chronicle a year of Dara’s life – concentrating on his connection with nature, and his passion for spreading awareness. A family tale, it follows his struggles navigating a house move and a new school.

“I hope the book changes someone’s mind, and changes something in the world,” he says. “Then I will feel it has succeeded.” 

The Verdict: Astounding! Dara’s ability to explain the importance of nature, and the way he processes life with autism, make this a ‘must read.’


Published in The Irish Examiner on 25th July.

© Sue J Leonard. 2020 


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