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Inishowen Wildlife Club

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A Random Selection of Pictures from Last Years Outings.
 
Our First Outing for 2018.
Saturday 6th. January 2018. Out first club outing for 2018 was an exceptional event, greatly appreciated by all members, with it's continuous bright sunshine that alleviated the effect of a cool north-easterly breeze. The overall atmosphere suggested the the great festival of Spring was preparing it's entrance in the not too distant future. ..... This lovely day of excesses began in the area known as the Big Isle, near Manorcunningham, where the underfoot conditions were to say the least a bit on the sodden side due to the heavy rains of the past while, and the low draining and flat layout of the region. But the display's of the massive flocks of birds soon overcame the underfoot problem. ........... With an estimate of over one thousand White Fronted Geese recorded, and the many hundreds of Greylag and Brent, and flocks of Lapwing displayed their shimmering flight in the bright morning light, while great numbers of Golden Plover added to the enjoyment. ...... On the heavily berry laden hedges and bushes Redwing, Fieldfare and Blackbird gorged on the bonanza of ripe fruits, among the smaller birds were the prominent colours of the male bullfinch. Also spotted was a peregrine, feasting on what appeared to be it's kill of a Golden Plover. ...... It was our intention to explore more of this amazing place, bur someone suggested we should have a look at the Glossy Ibis discovered a few days ago by our member Brian in the Lifford area, which we duly did, and to our delight, like any celebrity it presented itself for a photo shoot. ..... After our fortifying tea and the usual tit-bits, we made a few more stops along the banks of the Foyle. A highlight at the last stop before setting off home was to note twenty Goldeneye, and record the sixteen Buzzard seen through our most enjoyable day.
 
First Lough Swilly Bird Count for 2018.
Saturday 13th. January. 2018. Our task today was to participate in the first Bird Count on Lough Swilly for the 2018 season. A day painted in monochromatic tones of dismal grey, that was introduced early in the morning by an overture of raindrops as they beat their staccato rhythms on the windscreens of our cars, but fortunately on arrival at our starting point of Buncrana it ceased. That allowed the count to get off to a great start. ....As the day progressed a very cold South-easterly wind injected its venom that had a slight paralyzing effect, but undeterred we continued with great diligence and concluded with a very satisfactory count in the numbers and species of Birds recorded, after which the vision of a roaring fire and a hot meal was now foremost in our minds.
 
A preview of Spring.
Sat 20th. January. 2018. As Birdwatchers our club outing today was the beneficiary of the glorious miracles of Mother Nature, with her preview of the tantalizing riches of Spring, which today had bright sunshine that banished the frost and snow of the past week with the intensity of it's warm breath, and added that special glow of beauty and tranquility over the countryside that was reflected off the silent stillness of a slow seeping tide at Straths near Carndonagh. ..... Across the water on the adjacent Isle of Doagh a large flock of Barnacle Geese grazed contentedly in a field of rich fresh grass with their relations the Brent pilfering the shallows near the shore. In the air, Lapwing in considerable numbers sparkled, and Golden Plover in perfect v formation patrolled continuously, while many Goldeneye, Mallard and Wigeon drifted slowly with the tide. Near the shore numbers of Redshank and few Greenshank foraged, while Little Egrets in good numbers flopped from one place to another. A considerable time was spent here enjoying the joys of the morning. ........ Next it was on to Glasha where the previous scenario was repeated . ....... Now it was to Malin Town with a stop at the bridge, and along the estuary near the Parochial Hall, where more Wigeon, Mallard, Redshank, Herring and Black-backed Gull and the now ubiquitous Little Egrets toiled in the pleasant conditions. .......... With the day rapidly changing from forenoon to afternoon it was off to Malin Head to enjoy the hospitality of our Dutch Member Wil and her husband Martin in their beautiful and comfortable house that overlooks the wide Atlantic with the Island of Inishtrahull and the Garvan Isles gracing the horizon while to the East the snow capped peaks of the Inner Hebrides "The Paps of Jura"glistened in the evening light. Our normal lunch was substituted by mouthwatering cakes and pastry served with mugs of hot coffee. ... From the comfort of the dinning room, we were entertained by a pod of Dolphins as they frolicked near the shore below our vantage point. Also from this position more Barnacle were recorded. After overstaying our visit we concluded our glorious day with a drive around "The Head" as it is referred to locally and recorded more Barnacle and an Iceland Gull.
 
A Grey Windy January Day.
Sat. 27th. January. 2018. Our weather can be fickle at times but must never be ignored, and today's outing was no exception, when the Weather Gods cast down a day of winter greyness, augmented by a gale of force eight intensity that made standing still especially when looking through binoculars a very difficult task, but they also displayed their generosity by alloying a temperature of eleven degrees without the addition of any rain, both of the latter are rather exceptional for the month of January...... So it was as we set off to the eastern side of the Peninsula through the windswept landscapes of of Gortyern, Effishmore and Baskil, with very little to report on the avian front at this point, with the exception of a Sparrowhawk as it maneuvered low over the hedges to avoid the elements and to ambush it's prey. But with regards to the flora at this time of year, as we passed through the Carrowmore Glen now denuded of all of it's spring and summer floral displays, the only exception was the reappearance of that wonderful member of the mint family Yellow Archangel, just awakening from it's slumbers through the cold of winter. ...... Next it was on to the Culdaff Estuary where large numbers of birds were to be seen, with flotillas of Teal Mallard, Wigeon, Curlew, Redshank, Grey Heron, Common, Black-headed, Herring and Great-black- Gulls were noted. That Presidential styled rarity the American Wigeon with his entourage, as expected was seeking the limelight as it sallied to and fro on the more sheltered water of the Estuary. ......... After this it was all haste to Redford where we walked down through the beautiful pathway with it's many moss cocooned trees and stone walls to soften the harshness of this canvas of winter, added to with the musical gurgling of the little stream on the left side of the road that accompanied us to the shore. It was here that we recorded the first Lesser Celandine flower emerging in the company of a Dandelion, and a few clumps of Opposite-leaved Saxifrage. ........ With the afternoon well established it was on to the peaceful and sheltered cove at Kinnagoe Bay where a late tea break was had. ........ Our day concluded with a stop at Tirahork and Cambry with the hope of perhaps seeing a Buzzard or a Hen harrier. But it was not to be today, however we did record another Sparrowhawk near here. ..... Earlier at Falmore we recorded flocks of Goldfinch, Linnet and Reed Bunting feeding in fields specially planted to help maintain little birds through the winter months. .... Finally when homeward bound near Malin Town a sizable flock of Barnacle and a couple of Little Egrets were added to our list.
 
A Cold Winter's Day in February.

Sat. 3rd. Feb. 2018. On Saturday 20th. January our travels took us in a northerly direction. Then last week's adventure was to an easterly compass setting, but for today's outing it was thought that a westerly direction would be appropriate. So on this the coldest day of winter to date, we had our first stop at Straths where we were rewarded by the sight of a large flock of Barnacle Geese estimated at five hundred plus, A number of them had the bonus of having white leg rings attached with the letters ZUL, ZFX and ZXU clearly visible on them. Intermingling with the Geese and also well dispersed were many Curlew, while near the shore line were a couple of Little Egrets and Oystercatchers. ......... Then in an effort to avoid the very cold wind it was back to the cars and on to Tullynabratilly where we took the high road that leads near to the base of Coolcross Hill and Crockaughrim from where we could see the dark ominous colours of rain showers lining up from their arctic base to distribute their downpours on our position, but they were out maneuvered when we took to the cars again and set off for the beach at Binnion. Hear at the corner of the river before it entered the angry wave encrusted Atlantic a small flock of Brent Geese shared an islet of green with a couple of Great-black-Backed Gulls and a bulky Glaucous Gull. ........ Some time later on our way to Urris a Peregrine Falcon was noted. It was inspiring to see a few Primroses smiling from their snug sheltered abode, while in a more exposed position a single Daffodils braved the cold and storm from it's position on a roadside verge....... By now our priority was to find some place of shelter for the tea break, which was duly achieved. So fully fortified we proceeded along the cold windswept road near Dunaff Head to Lenan, then up the magnificent Mamore Gap where at the top for a very brief few seconds before disappearing was what appeared to be a Golden Eagle. Another cold day of bird watching was coming to a close with a drive down through the Hillside to Tunduff, from there over Pinch Hill then Clonmany, Ballyliffin to dispersal at base camp.

 
Our Penultimate Winter Count of the Wetland Birds on Lough Swilly.
Sat. 10th. Feb. 2018. Our penultimate winter count of the wetland birds of the extensive Lough Swilly was undertaken in conditions well beyond expectations, which at times had occasional shafts of sunlight filtering through the light veils of high clouds that were not offering any threat of their dispensing rain on our activity. That was reserved for later in the evening after our task was satisfactorily completed, and we were ensconced at home to muse on the pleasures of the day. ........ What was deemed as being exceptional with our count was the very high number of birds recorded at this time of the year, as usually their numbers have peaked during December and January. ......... While traveling from one viewing point to another there were signs of that welcome visitor "Spring" with the emergence of some little blossoms and foliage of early plants, and also flitting to and fro were large flocks of Wagtails, Chaffinch, Sparrows and a few Yellow Hammer. ........ The day concluded with a sighting of three Little Egrets and the silken glide of a Buzzard as it surveyed it's domain from the now changing sky.
 
Outing to Straths, Binnion, and Urris.
Sat. 17th. Feb. 2018. Today's Outing to the Straths and Glasha shorelines near Carndonagh, followed by a visit to the golden sand dunes of Binnion Beach, and then to the Urris region of Clonmany, with a special emphases on the heather mantled lofty mountains was somewhat of a double edged sword in it's purpose. ....... Our first stop of the morning in the Carndonagh area was to ascertain if there were any Barnacle Geese present, and if so in what numbers, and if any were bearing white leg rings. This was in conjunction with a proposed further scientific ringing operation of the local Barnacle population in the near future........At Glasha a small flock of Barnacle together with Brent were noted, but around the corner at Straths a large flock in excess of six hundred were recorded, among them were six birds with the appropriate leg tag attached and with the codes ZUL, ZUS, ZUJ, ZXF and ZXU inscribed in black. ........ This was followed by a brief stop at the scenic Craigaleen on the western end of Tullagh Bay. From here a couple of Great Northern Divers were added to our list. ...... Our special observance of the the hills from Ballyliffin, Clonmany to Urris was to check if there might be sightings of the great majestic Golden Eagles that should be soon performing their mating rituals. but unfortunately not on this occasion. ...... Our day in the great outdoors finished with a check in the Hillside area, then over Pinch to Clonmany, followed by home.
 
Outing to Lisnagrath and Eastern shores of Lough Foyle.
Sat. 24th. Feb. 2018. Our today's adventure commenced in the wonderland of Lisnagrath Wood, a place of special beauty and peacefulness, where the bright sunlight penetrated the maze of towering trunks and leafless branches, described by the great W.S. as the " Bare Ruined Choirs Where Last the Sweet Birds Sang." On these were hosts of small birds, all availing of the plentiful food left at their disposal by their admiring nature lovers. A few little Red Squirrels scampered over the russet carpet of Beech leaves to conceal their trophies of hazel nuts laid out by our own Brian Hegerty. But their nemesis, the dreaded Gray made a fleeting appearance to cast a cloud of gloomed over the joy of our visit. ........... On leaving the shelter of this heaven we became aware of the piercingly icy cold wind blowing all the way from freezing Siberia, that even with the influence of the bright sunshine could not diminish, but in the warmth and comfort of the cars on our journey to our next stop at Ball Point on the eastern shore of Lough Foyle was a chance to regain the heat lost. ...... At this destination a number of Buzzards were recorded as were Whooper Swans, Curlew, Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Black-headed Gull and Redshank.. ..... Now with breakfast a distant memory it was back up to the Swan Bridge rest area where we refueled with hot tea and other types of energy replacements. ....... After this respite it was on to the Netherlands type of coastal fortification at Myroe, where we were alerted to the presence of a Spotted Redshank in the area, but good fortune did not smile on us with a sighting. ....... In it's stead we recorded a flock of approximately four hundred Brent geese that had a number of birds with blue and yellow leg bands attached. During the considerable time spent in the area we noted a pair of Carrion Crow, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Shelduck, Little Egret, and in the air flocks of Golden Plover and Curlew performed their flight pattern. ...... As we moved on a Peregrine Falcon caused a bit of a kerfuffle among the Brent by diving at great speed through the flock and actually knocked one goose to the ground, but it manager to escape it's near death experience to fly another day. ......... On our way home a very short stop was made at Ballykelly, but with the cold intensifying we soon moved on. Among the small birds today were Tree Creeper, Goldfinch, Linnet, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Blackbird, Chaffinch and Sparrow. Our Day was added to as we drove home by the joy derived from listening to the commentary on Ireland's victory over Wales in the six Nations Cup.
 
A Few Pictures from today' Netting and Ringing Programe.
Sat. 3rd. Mar. 2018. The venom of winter dispensed by it's very enthusastic cohort, the Month of March, that injected it's extream frost and snow laden winds during the first few days of it's reign, and especially today when we joined with a member of the R.S..P.B. with a local connection, namely Kendrew Colhoun, leading the other birding enthusiasts from places as diverse as Australia, Iceland, Scotland and England. ...... The purpose of this assembly was a scientific exercise in gathering as much information on the numbers and behavior of Barnacle and Brent Geese in the area. This involves the difficult and arduous procedure of netting and ringing of as many of these wary geese as possable. ...... Unfortunately the birds weren't in a cooperative mood, so the cannon wasn't fired on this occasion, but it's hoped that success will be achieved tomorrow. The results of our endeavors will be reported as soon as they are achieved. ....... How wonderful still feeling the effects of today's cold, to get into a warm house and enjoy the resurgence of life engendered by a hot dinner, after an encounter with the Beast from the East. ...........P.S. Sunday 4th. An account of today's activity as promised in yesterdays report. Very large numbers of Barnacle, estimated at near three thousand recorded, but as yesterday, no birds netted or ringed.
 
Sat. 10th. March. 2018. A day entombed in a cool grey mist and intermitting light rain that encapsulated the beautiful Peninsula of Inishowen and beyond while clasped in it's dreary grip, but this gloom was swept away to allow a great swell of metaphorical light and joy to flood the morning with Song Thrush and Blackbird projecting their musical vocal renditions against the joyful sounds of Jackdaws and Rooks as they readied themselves for their nest building activities. ........ Such was the scene as we started our final count of the birds of Lough Swilly. At our stop to count at the Fahan Marina region, the approach of spring and the warm day's of summer, unlike today's conditions were very much in the air, with many of the not so ancient mariners having their great crafts lifted with the aid of a mammoth crane from their safe winter land bases to the smooth waters of the marina. ........ Our task continued as we worked our way to Inch Island, where with great diligence we concluded the count and celebrated with a hearty tea break, followed by a look at the devastation caused by the removal of trees and bush-lined ditches of the area surrounding the Inch Lake. What a disaster!!!.
 
Saturday 17th. March 2018 . Due to our revered National Holiday coinciding with the usual Saturday Outing, and to facilitate the members and their family's to attend the many national and local events it was decided to call off our quest of nature until next week
 
Pictures from The Wildlife Research Program.
Sat. 24th. March 2018. Our involvement in what turned out to be an outstanding wildlife research program of netting, bagging, weighing, measuring and ringing that resulted in a record number of the wonderful but wary Barnacle Geese that come to the northern region of our Inishowen Peninsula to enjoy the milder winter conditions, due in part to the proximity of the Gulf Stream that flows close to our coastlines. With some of our club members, namely the Moloney Boys and Brian Hegerty on site before six a.m. today with organisers from the Irish Brent Goose Research Group with assistance from members of the RSPCA, BIRD WATCH IRELAND and enthusiasts from many parts of Ireland, North and South. Also present was an observer from Exeter University. ....... All of our members were involved in various tasks through the six hour period. .......... The duo of Martin and Daniel Moloney had also spent many days checking the movements of the various flocks, and spreading crushed barley to entice the birds to frequent the eventually selected site. ...... As this early morning of beauty and stillness was warmed by ever increasing sunshine it engendered a feeling of well being and joviality among the twenty seven wildlife lovers that had flocked to this special place on this special occasion.
 
Some Pictures From Today.
Sat. 31st. March 2018. Today with the season of Spring showing no signs of releasing it's firm grasp on the cold, grey, wet weather inherited from it's predecessor the season of Winter, we set off on an outing to the Inch Lake area near Burnfoot. On the silent bird laden waters of the Lake the usual residents that included Mute Swans, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Tufted, Shell and Shoveler Duck, Greylag and Canada Geese together with a plethora of waders busied themselves in the greyness of the day. ... With the rain now causing somewhat of a nuisance it was considered advisable to find shelter elsewhere. So back to the cars and on to the Blanket Nook, where we were delighted to find that the rain had ceased, and to add to our delight a sizeable flock of Knot were flying ghost-like to and fro before setting down on a little bank a short distance from the shore, even more satisfying was to record four Ruff in the process of changing into their breeding plumage. ...... Another highlight of the outing was to hear our first song of the Chiffchaff. ....... We also had a very reliable report of a Wheatear in the Slieve Snacht area yesterday. .... Due to it being the Easter holiday weekend, our day in the great outdoors had to be curtailed somewhat, with the many attractions and events organized that might also need out attention.
 
Sunday 1st. April 2018. Club member Brian Hegerty took this picture today of a Goosander one of three birds on the river near the Village of Victoria Bridge in county Tyrone .
 
Pictures From a Special Spring Day.
Sat. 7th. April 2018. A sun soaked morning saw us set off from our assembly point at the Clochan Glentogher, and from there up the Creehennan Road a short distance before turning in the direction of Cabry, where we recorded our first sighting of a Buzzard as it flew low from a fence post on the right side of the road, to the other side to perch up in a Fir Tree a short distance away. From here it was through roadsides bedecked with great drifts of gently nodding Golden Daffodils, surely the emblem of Spring. On our way to the silvered waters of Lough Inn glistening in the increasing rays of the morning sunlight a stop was made to admire the pink variations of the emerging flowers of the False Salmonberry bushes, that as the season progresses will merge with the beautiful Fuchsia hedges in this area. Next it was at our usual stop at Ballyargus, where in a few weeks time we will be on the lookout for the small but beautiful Green Hairstreak Butterfly. .... From here it was down the most scenic roadway to the main thoroughfare at Black Point where three more Buzzards were recorded drifting serenely high above the mountain ridge we had just left. On the far side of a field near the road a large bank of pristine Wood Anemone peeped from it's dapple shaded environment. ...... More of this magic was on show about a mile further on near the pier below the the Redcastle Post Office. At this place of natures treasures were carpets of Germander Speedwell gleaming like the precious lapis lazuli, perhaps strewn by Angeles in the early morning light, while a early Dog Violet looked out from it's snug sun facing abode. In many sheltered places Lesser Celandine was unashamedly showing off its twenty four carat beauty. ...... meanwhile on the stillness of Lough Foyle a great raft of Eider Duck that numbered seventy two, were enjoying the temperature, now well into double figures, then further to the right of the pier a pair of Mergansers cruised contentedly. ......... Our penultimate stop of the outing was at the upper pier Moville where the warmth of the afternoon was such that some coats were dispensed with, and where a small flotilla of Brent Geese checked the shallows for tit bits, while further out a Sandwich Tern was recorded sitting on a float as a pair of Black Guillemot glided close by. Our exceptional day enjoying this warm sunshine of Spring concluded at Inishowen Head where Fulmar nested in secure shelves among the rocks, and entertainment was provided by a pair of Kestrels as they demonstrated their ariel breeding display, then a Peregrine made a very brief appearance to complete our enjoyment.
 
A Few Pictures from Culdaff and Malin Head.
Sat. 14th. April 2018. The joy of Spring was very much in evidence as we made our way in warm bright sunlight from Malin Town through the sleepy little village of Crackna, then past the church at Aughaclay and up to the summit of Doonmore Hill from where we gazed down on the beautiful landscape of Culdaff and beyond, with the prominent headland of Dunmore set against the shimmering waters of Culdaff Bay. At this elevated position the sighting of Swallows, one of the seasons emissaries as they cavorted in joyous flight high above old farm buildings, perhaps requisitioning their previous nesting sites. Also displaying their flying ability though in a more leisurely manner were three Buzzards, and to their annoyance was a family of equally impressive Ravens. .......As we descended to Bunagee Pier by a sheltered little roadway the first appearance of three of those miracles of beauty and fragility Peacock Butterflies were noted with great joy as they fluttered over the high banking abounding with wildflowers and grasses and where the songs of Chiffchaff and Blackcaps formed a perfect background melody. ....... Later, where the Culdaff River enters the sea, Wigeon were preparing for departure and in their midst was our old faithful the American version. further out an Arctic Tern was recorded as were a couple of Male Eider. ....... Next it was on to Malin Head where we had our well earned break while enjoying the comfort of Jim and Anne's residence, and wishing our old mucker Mary best wishes on another "Twenty One" birthday. Feeling rejuvenated we set off to complete our great outing that got really exciting when the keen eyed Daniel Moloney spotted a very rare Leucistic Great Northern Diver, only two confirmed sightings of such a bird ever reported in Ireland. This with the many sighting of Buzzards, Mountain Hares, Kestrels and Whearers to name just a few, completed this wonderful day in Spring.
 
Enjoying the Riches of Nature.
Sat. 21st. April 2018. On another Saturday of warm sunshine, enhanced by the embrace of natures extravagance that had the sparkling jewels of Flora and Fauna on a display of abundance, especially as we drove on our way from Buncrana to Stragill a few miles north along the coast of Lough Swilly, through a magical glen of towering broad leafed giants that had the resounding melody of gurgling water being carried on the gentle morning air. ...... It was here that we saw our first Bluebell's of Spring, and where close by newly awakening Wood Sorrel blossoms were having their eyes opened by the warmth of the sun, while being observed by the equally beautiful Wood Anemone now aware of it's world for the past number of weeks. ......... Overhead a pair of Hooded Crows were causing a bit of confusion as they evicted a Buzzard from their patch. ...... A little further on towards Stragill Beach the happy songs of Jackdaws and Rooks could be heard as they prepared for their bounty of Spring. Then at the Beach we were treated to a display of avian joy with the sighting of Wheatear, Sand Martin, Skylark and Linnets, while in the calm water Great northern Diver and Red-throated Diver checked what might be available beneath the surface. Near the beach a golden blanket of Rape Seed glitter in the bright sunlight .......... After a few more stops to admire the works of nature, it was on to the Dunree Fort where lunch was consumed while enjoying the stunning scenery of the shimmering waters of the Lough and the surrounding mountains in their transitional spring colours, while families of Fulmar's with some members ensconced in their nest with their partners performing their effortless hypnotic flying routine. ........ With some of our members involved in other activities later in the afternoon it was time to depart after enjoying a day of natures best.
 
A Few Pictures From Today's Outing.
Sat. 28th April 2018. Today a rather reduced number of stalwards carried the flag for the other club members who had commitments in other fields. But all was not lost due to the following report received from the reliable team of Jim and Anne Toland.
Usually our outings are memorable because of an unusual sighting but today as Spring moved towards Summer it was the variety of nature that held our attention. The environment was the eight kilometers walk around Inch Lake. The early plants of Celandine, Primrose, Coltsfoot, Marsh Marigold, Wild Bluebell, Periwinkle, Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage were now joined by Cuckoo Flower, Wild Garlic (now in flower), Dog Violet, Forget-Me-Not, Ribwort Plantain, Bush Vetch and Field/Corn Pansy. In fact a total of twenty-six  plants were recorded during our two hour stroll. As regards the birds, the residents, such as Mute Swan, and Black Swan, Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Great Crested Grebe, a few straggler Whooper Swans and Greylag Geese were in evidence. The Bar-Tailed Godwit was showing off its Summer plumage. Cormorants, Black-Headed Gulls and newly arrived Sandwich Terns noisily shared the Island on the southern  end of the Lake. A Mallard was spotted with a brood of eleven in tow (a sure sign that summer is near). In all a total of twenty-six birds were spotted. Green-veined and Orange-tipped butterflies were on the wing. And on the fields beside the Lake we spotted three hares frolicking in the short grass. Summer is at last on the way. We look forward to it.
 
A Colourful Day in Glenvaigh National Park.

Sat. 5th. May 2018. The Glittering flight of those little jewels of heavenly dust, the Holly Blue Butterflies was indicative that we were in the majestic surroundings of the Glenveagh National Park, and about to set off on a quest for the other wonders that abound here. With the input of bright warm sunshine we strolled on a pathway through the giant fir trees at the start of the most scenic Derrylaghan Trail, then through a section of holly bushes and whin, where more little Butterfly's and clumps of deep blue Dog Violets and Wood Anemone were recorded. This was followed by a steep walk to the higher point of the ramble with areas of moorland and heather-mantled mounds from where Ravens protested at their peaceful habituate being invaded, where Larks rose from the heather to fly in cheerful song, higher and higher to then drop back to mother earth. As we reached the tall fir trees at the end of our ramble our keen eyed Daniel spotted a number of Crossbills gorging on the seed bounty within the large pine cones. At one stage a Sparrowhawk demonstrated it's aerobatic skills against a background of blue. .....Our next stop was up at the Castle where refueling was the order of the day, which was followed by a tour of the garden where more Butterflies made short flights before disappearing in the lush vegetation, these were the more common kind such as the Large White and Peacock. ........ Next it was into the exotic lawn where the eclectic collection of trees, shrubs, plants and flowers formed a great palette of stimulating colours to lift the mind to a higher level, added to by the song's of the many birds being led in chorus by the brilliant Blackcap and the little Whitethroat. ........ With the temperature reaching twenty degrees some time was enjoyed relaxing in the warmth and pleasant atmosphere created by the large number of visitors from many parts of the world. ...... But now it was time to get the bus back down to the Visitors Center, and to our cars and home.

 
A beautiful Day on the Cusp of Spring.
Sat. 12th. May 2018. The clarion call from that lovable rogue the Cuckoo, reverberated through the stillness of this May morning at Creehennan near Quigleys'Point, was proof, if proof was needed that Spring had arrived with great authority, having the face of the countryside melt into a smile with the wealth of beauty at it's disposal, and the miles of gold-plated Whin bushes adorning the boundary lines of farm land while close by a sprinkling of Marsh Violets and Bog cotton enjoying the conditions provided by damp bog, but the Bluebells, Dog violet and Primrose preferred their warm sheltered abodes on the roadside verges and ditches. ........ In the great blue yonder Buzzards floated gracefully, and from many of the low bushes Willow Warbler's added their musical voices. ......... There was a great sense of expectancy as we set off for our stop at Ballyargus, as the time was just right to see another masterpiece of natures craftsmanship in the form of the diminutive Green-hairstreak Butterfly, and we weren't disappointed as they demonstrated their shimmering iridescence, in this sun-soaked environment, adding to the joy was the large fluttering of Orange-tip Butterflies. ....... After a brief stop at the main road at Drung where a tall steep banking in a roadside field was bedecked in a beautiful floral wall hanging of Bluebells, Greater Stitchwort and Primroses, What a joy. ........ At the wonderful little beach near the Redcastle Post office a much enjoyed tea break was had, while availing of the increasing sunshine, the stillness of the silvered Lough Foyle, and the song of a little stream as it gurgled it's way from high up the brae to blend with the waters of the great Lough, along it's shore line our Botanist Anne added Creeping and Meadow Buttercup, Bush Vetch, Pignut, Herb Robert, Slender Speedwell, Thrift and Wood Rush to her list. ........... Now it was on to the Upper Pier at Moville where we watched and photographed the very sociable Black Guillemots parading for our attention. ....... With the Day progressing into the afternoon we set off for the Inishowen Headland area, where we renewed our connection with the pair of Kestrals we encountered on our last visit here. Today we added Chough, Stonechat, Reed Bunting to our list before calling it a day. But what a Beautiful Day !.
 
Tuesday 15th. May. 2018. There will be no report this Saturday as we are off to the Inner Hebrides to see the wildlife on the Isle of Skye for a few days but on our return a report of our odyssey will be published early next week.
 
Our Odyssey to the Isle of Skye.

Sunday. 20th. May. 2018. The cache of pleasures and joy encountered on our expedition to the wonderful Hebridean Isle of Skye safely secured in our memory banks, began long before reaching our destination. With the drive from the airport at Inverness along the roads bordering the beautiful shoreline of the magical Lough Ness and surrounding countryside, all awash in blazing Sunshine. ..... On arrival on Sky with it's towering Alpine like mountains many of which still retaining the snow's of Winter clinging to peaks and valleys had all of the ingredients for a spectacular adventure. ..... Our meeting with the affable Wildlife guide Andy Mc Lean next morning was the start of an amazing few days. Recording of Eagles for our time on the Island had twenty six, that included Golden and White-tailed, we stopped counting Buzzards due to their high numbers. Other Raptors included Kestrel, Sparrowhawks, Hen Harrier and Merlin. On returning from Portree to our base camp at Uig on Friday evening, a considerable time was enjoyed watching a pair of Short-eared Owls as they hunted and carried food to their nestlings...... The flora was catered for with a prominence of Buttercup and Bluebell with the beautiful and aromatic Mayflower/Hawthorn reaching maturity, among others entered on our list were Water Avens, Early Purple Orchids, Butterwort and Bogbean. With the latitude of the Island many plants are only starting to show. This also applied to the Butterfly population with the the Green-veined white the only species making an appearance. ..... On the homeward drive yesterday, after our sunny and rain free odyssey on this land, formed by what must have been cataclysmic volcanic activity many million of years ago, it was great to have Red Kite and Peregrine added to our records.

 
A Serendipitous Day.
Sunday 27th. May 2018. The setting of Muff Glen with its dappled shades, babbling brook and birdsong was the background to a sylvan stroll. Squirrels, both Red and Grey darted across the leafy canopy. There also we spotted a Wood Warbler, while through the opening above the path a trio of Buzzards glided effortlessly. Nearer the ground a family of Grey Wagtails was feeding as a Dipper followed the trickling stream. We sat riveted as we watched a Willow Warbler furtively visiting its well concealed nest in the undergrowth. Among the emerging plant life we saw white Bluebells, Woodruff, Bugle and Yellow Pimpernel. A lone Speckled Wood was recorded.
After our usual refreshments we set off to the dizzy heights of Binevenagh, overlooking the magnificent expanse of Magilligan and Inishowen. On our way we stopped to watch the smooth quartering of a male Hen Harrier before he dropped his catch to the nesting female. We found Mossy Saxifrage, Kidney Vetch and a single Early Purple Orchid. On our final stop beyond Coleraine where we sat among the proliferation of white butterflies, Small White, Orange Tip and Green Vein, Wood Avens, Wild Strawberry and Harestail Bog Cotton were observed as we watched two Cuckoos fly on the horizon. Siskins and Crossbills fed on nearby Conifers.
Beautiful weather, Nature at its best and good company all contributed to a very pleasant outing. ... (Yesterday's report contributed by Jim Toland.)
 
The Joy's of Summer.
Sat. 2nd. June 2018. Out of a morning of cool moist mist, slowly emerged a wonderful day of increasing warm sunlight to reveal a vision of a countryside saturated in a soft vernal lushness, speckled with an extravagance of colour from many wildflowers recently provided by the sunshine and heat of the last few weeks, aided and abated by the welcomed rains of last evening that regaled the hedges and wild places with their exciting colour combinations. .......... This was our experience when we made a return visit to the Cabry, Creehennan and Ballyargus areas, where Orange Tip, Green-veined White, Large White and Small Heath Butterflies fluttered in rhythm to the gentle morning zephyr, Buzzards circled lazily in an ever increasing blue sky, the call of the Cuckoo resounded from many directions and Cross-bills extracted the seeds with great dexterity from the cones of adjacent fir Trees, while Heath and Germander Speedwell, Brooklime, Common Spotted Orchid, Ox-eye Daisy, Cats-ear, Sanicle, Orange Hawkweed flourished, while in damper places Yellow Flag Iris added to the spectacle. .......... Our final act of the day was a stop at Moville where the discovery of a magical place of beauty and peaceful escapism in the shadowed laced lattice of the tree lined river walk through Seamus Canavan's estate, where the ear is caressed by the exotic renditions of Song Thrushes and their fellow songsters and the whispering waters of the Bredagh River as it eases it's way to enter the arms of the great Lough Foyle a little further on..
 
A few Pictures From Our Outing to the Ards Forest Park.
Sat. 9th. June 2018. We arrived mid morning at our destination, the wonderful Ards Forest Park near the neat village of Creeslough and almost in the shadow of the great monolithic mountain of Muckish, and to the north the waters of the beautiful Sheephaven Bay lapped gently on the miles of golden sandy beaches that created an illusion of some tropical paradise. ........ now with pleasant temperatures, and the complete absence of rain, and to a lesser degree not a lot of hot burning sunshine, we set off to discover the many treasures Mother Nature had on display for our visit. These consisted mainly of a botanical nature with a predominance of sweet scented Burnet Roses, Northern Heath Spotted and the Common Spotted Orchids, with the stunning blue of Bugle and Milkwort, followed by Tutson, Woodruff, Sea Campion and Sanicle. Then we hit a bit of a problem when one plant in particular caused a certain amount of confusion, but that was soon resolved to everyone's satisfaction by our knowledgeable Botanist Martin who declared it to be the Two-spined Acaena. What a relief !. .......... Apart from the shortage of bright sunshine, the other disappointing aspect of our visit was the absence of the usual great collections of the many species of Butterflies to be found here, but Small Heath, Speckled Wood, and Large White were recorded. ......... The Avian list compiled today included Siskin, Linnet, Redpoll, Gannet, Terns, Razorbill, Black Guillemots and pipits. ............. Our visit to Ards concluded with an early evening saunter on the shore and woodland paths at the Monastery, then it was back to our paradise of Inishowen.
 
An Eclectic Collection of Pictures From Today.
Sat. 16th. June 2018. Out of a forlorn sky came a bombardment of heavy showers, delivered on our position with military precision at intervals of about fifteen to twenty minutes, that had us seek shelter in our cars. That was what welcomed us to the beautiful Isle of Doagh this morning. But undaunted by this setback we continued our nature watching activity, and for our persistence Mother Nature relented and parted the overhead greyness to allow a stream of warm sunshine to brighten our outlook. ........ This transformation commenced at the place known as the Castles at the northern end of the Isle. Here we got close to a pair of young Chough, as they protested at the slowness of their breakfast delivery. ......... Below their vantage point immense deposits of dairling stones beautifully ground and polished by those great master craftsmen time and tide, as employed for many thousands of years, and further enhanced as they glistened in the rain of the passing showers. .......... In from the shore line a great mosaic of wild flowers randomly dispersed and stretching into the distance had the purple of the Northern Marsh orchid, the sapphire blue of Tufted Vetch, the yellow of the emerging Lady's Bedstraw, the pink of the Wild Thyme, and the large daisy-like flowers of Sea Mayweed, the pale blue of the Sea Aster and the Oyster plant all set on a background of lush Green. On a sleeping Atlantic a raft of male Eider Duck bobbed gently. ......... At Lagacurry a Snipe perched on a post near a field covered in a cloth of golden Yellow Flag Iris, and where a Wheatear observed it's surroundings from an overlooking rock. ............. Our next stop was the high road above Tullynabratilly where a pair of Buzzards hovered over the heather clad hillside in search of their afternoon sustenance. With the countryside awash in sunshine we finished out adventure with a visit to the recently re-opened walkway to the Glenevin Waterfall at the Glen House, where many tourists trekked to see the iconic spectacle, and to watch Grey Wagtails as they flitted after flies and moths that are associated with little streams. A wonderful day after a dark, dank, morning.
 
A Summer Solstice Time.
Sat. 23rd June 2018. The festival of Summer opened last Thursday with the arrival of it's Solstice that had the happy smiling face of the Sun beaming down on our country of verdant loveliness. Then from the same source a promise of more fine weather to be augmented by high temperatures, even higher than those experienced today when enjoying the fruits of the season in the wonderland that is the Malin and Culdaff regions, as viewed from the lofty heights of Doonmore Hill. ....... The many byroads traveled today were emblazoned with kaleidoscopes of colours from the great hosts of wildflowers that had in their midst, Bog Cotton it's pristine white heads in the morning breeze frothing like surf crashing on to a sandy beach, tasty and succulent Bilberries, fragrant Sweet Rockets and Feverfew, the red fingers of Foxglove, the tined flower heads of Common Valerian, drifts of Red Campion, the small but beautiful Scarlet and Yellow Pimpernel. All of these and the extravagant displays of Buttercups that carpeted many fields and roadside verges. .......Then followed by the most satisfying sighting's of the day, when the number and species of Butterflies noted were those conspicuous by their absence from their favourite habitats since last year, that included Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood, Dark Green Fritillary and the old reliable Small Heath . ..... How fortunate to be in the great outdoors on a wonderful day like today.
 
Sunday 24th. June. Sand Matins at Lagg
 
A Leisurely Day in the Hot Sunshine.
Sat. 30th. June 2018. In the minds eye we usually associate the end of June with a bit of sunny weather, but on this occasion our wishes far exceeded our expectations when we assembled at the well known landmark "The Stone Jug" Buncrana, situated at the edge of what looked like a great lake of the highest quality silver, shimmering in the crucible of the morning that had a large proportion of the local population and others from further afield availing of the perfect conditions by toing and froing to the well traversed pathway leading to Father Hegerty's Rock, or perhaps even to the Stragill Beach. ........ After checking on the well-being of the rather rare plant the Orange Hawkweed, we set off by road through a countryside aglow in the joys of of the season, to the beautiful previously mentioned beach at Stragill, and the surrounding area. At one particular place large clusters of Tufted Vetch, Lady's Bedstraw, Common Spotted and Heath Spotted Orchids, had their colour's blending perfectly with a skill that only nature can achieve. Also nearby Bog Pimpernel, Bog Asphodel, Hedge Mustard, Sheeps-bit and Shepard's Purse were added to our list. A White Throated warbler, and large numbers of Sand and House Martins, Swallows. Meadow and Rock Pipits, were some of the birds recorded here. Also adding to our pleasure was the Fluttering of a small number of Butterflies that included Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood and Painted Lady...... A little later, availing of the shade cast on the roadside by the overhanging trees near what was once a convent, but now a beautiful private residence a special tea break was engineered by the ladies in the group that produced a special cake adorned with an unknown number of candles to celebrate Martin's Birthday. His reply of gratitude was spoken in his County Clare accent, and then in his mumbling of Dutch, especially for the benefit our very good friends and members Will and Antonia over from the Netherlands. ........ As the day progressed we arrived at the historic Dunree Fort, where we enjoyed a welcomed respite, before setting off up through the sylvan setting of Hillside where the temperature reached at one time thirty degrees. From their snug, hidden sites, many stone outlines of ancient human habitations peaked out from the shadows of the overgrown vegetation. A little further on Buzzards and Ravens floated on the strong rising thermals while Peregrine and Kestrel searched for their prey . ......... Next it was onwards and upwards to the Alpine-like Pass of the towering Mamore and Urris Hills, and to gaze down on the Urris Plane far below, with the heat-hazed background of the great Atlantic Ocean. ........ What a finish to a very beautiful and special day.
 
Another Glorious Summer's Day.
Sat. 7th. July 2018. With the holiday season impacting on our usual Saturday outing reducing the number of regular members by half, but for the rest of us, brave enough to face the hazards of the unusual weather conditions that threatened more hot, bright, sunshine from a cloudless sky with very little prospects of rain, one could not be blamed for imagining that we were in some exotic tropical destination but eventually realizing that it was the even more beautiful heaven of Inishowen. ....... With the first stop at Glentogher, from where we journeyed through Creehennan, then to Ballyargus where meadows and roadsides were adrift with the beguiling beauty of the ermine-like flowers of Meadow Sweet while at other locations great swathes of blood-red Digitalis, Rosebay Willow Herb and Purple Loosestrife held dominance. ....... From hedges and bushes, Chaffinch, Blackbirds, Thrushes, Sparrow, Grey and Pied Wag tails, Blue Tits, Robins, Linnets and Redpolls, were labouring tirelessly to attend to their fledglings needs. but the big surprise of the morning was when a number of Buzzards, a Peregrine Falcon and then a male and female Hen Harrier made their entries and exits, what a start to the day. The Butterfly population has not blossomed to any great extent as yet, but a few of these fluttering creatures of beauty were recorded. ........ From our elevated position on the hills overlooking the glistening blue waters of Lough Foyle, someone suggested that a cruise on the Ferry to the equally scenic countryside of County Derry might be a nice way to enjoy a few hours in the afternoon, which was duly achieved with visits to some of the local beauty spots after which it was back to the Ferry and Home.
 
A Few Pictures of the Flora and Fauna on Inishtrahull.
Friday 13th. July 2018. We switched from our usual Saturday Club Outing to today, that enabled us to avail of an opportunity to visit the Island of Inishtrahull situated twelve miles off Malin Head from where we set off this morning on a silken sea of serenity and silence, interrupted only by the humming rhythm of our vessel, and the excited chatter of our members. Overhead hosts of Gannets, Herring Gulls, Great-black Backed and Lesser-black Backed Gulls floated in a Cloudless sky, while Guillemots, Manx and Sooty Shearwater disturber the surface of the still ocean, and also the occasional Seal popping to the surface only to disappear again. .......... After a voyage of about forty five minutes we landed on the pier at the northern side of the Island to be greeted by a considerable number of Seals to this place where the outside world can be forgotten for a while, and where a time and lifestyle of centauries past can be contemplated, assisted by the remains of what would have been sturdy human dwellings, while nearby the faded outlines of where they would have set their potatoes and vegetables are barely perceivable. ........ Our group dispersed in different directions, some to check the rich Flora, some to check on the variety of Fauna, while others just to enjoy the special atmosphere of this place. Those checking the birds on the Island were amazed at the increase in the Tern population, both Arctic and Common over the past couple of seasons, added to these the Great Skua breeding population has trebled. Along the rocky shore line many families of Eider Duck and their little ducklings find shelter in the narrow spaces between the the jaggy inlets. The other most common birds recorded today were the Great-black Backed and the Lesser-black backed Gull, Cormorant, Shag, Razorbill, Oystercatcher, Starling and Whearear. ......... The richness of wildflowers had the beautiful pink Centaury, the delicate structure and lovelyness of the Sea Thrift, the flowering lace of the Angelica. while large areas dazzling in the show displayed by the Sea Campion and Sea Mayweed, competing for the attention of pollinating insects with Ragwort, Creeping Buttercup, Spear and creeping Thistle, the common and Heath-spotted Orchid, Bog Pimpernel plus many many more . ........ On our homeward cruise we watched as porpoises frolicked on the flowing tide. A slight detour by our master mariner Dennis Glackin brought us close to the great rock structure known as the The Stook where many Razorbill, Common Guillemot, Fulmar, and Kittiwake watched from their precarious positions as we sailed off to Malin Head Pier after our very rewarding outing to the lovely Inishtrahull.
 
A Random Selection of Pictures from Last Years Outings.
 
Our First Outing for 2018.
Saturday 6th. January 2018. Out first club outing for 2018 was an exceptional event, greatly appreciated by all members, with it's continuous bright sunshine that alleviated the effect of a cool north-easterly breeze. The overall atmosphere suggested the the great festival of Spring was preparing it's entrance in the not too distant future. ..... This lovely day of excesses began in the area known as the Big Isle, near Manorcunningham, where the underfoot conditions were to say the least a bit on the sodden side due to the heavy rains of the past while, and the low draining and flat layout of the region. But the display's of the massive flocks of birds soon overcame the underfoot problem. ........... With an estimate of over one thousand White Fronted Geese recorded, and the many hundreds of Greylag and Brent, and flocks of Lapwing displayed their shimmering flight in the bright morning light, while great numbers of Golden Plover added to the enjoyment. ...... On the heavily berry laden hedges and bushes Redwing, Fieldfare and Blackbird gorged on the bonanza of ripe fruits, among the smaller birds were the prominent colours of the male bullfinch. Also spotted was a peregrine, feasting on what appeared to be it's kill of a Golden Plover. ...... It was our intention to explore more of this amazing place, bur someone suggested we should have a look at the Glossy Ibis discovered a few days ago by our member Brian in the Lifford area, which we duly did, and to our delight, like any celebrity it presented itself for a photo shoot. ..... After our fortifying tea and the usual tit-bits, we made a few more stops along the banks of the Foyle. A highlight at the last stop before setting off home was to note twenty Goldeneye, and record the sixteen Buzzard seen through our most enjoyable day.
 
First Lough Swilly Bird Count for 2018.
Saturday 13th. January. 2018. Our task today was to participate in the first Bird Count on Lough Swilly for the 2018 season. A day painted in monochromatic tones of dismal grey, that was introduced early in the morning by an overture of raindrops as they beat their staccato rhythms on the windscreens of our cars, but fortunately on arrival at our starting point of Buncrana it ceased. That allowed the count to get off to a great start. ....As the day progressed a very cold South-easterly wind injected its venom that had a slight paralyzing effect, but undeterred we continued with great diligence and concluded with a very satisfactory count in the numbers and species of Birds recorded, after which the vision of a roaring fire and a hot meal was now foremost in our minds.
 
A preview of Spring.
Sat 20th. January. 2018. As Birdwatchers our club outing today was the beneficiary of the glorious miracles of Mother Nature, with her preview of the tantalizing riches of Spring, which today had bright sunshine that banished the frost and snow of the past week with the intensity of it's warm breath, and added that special glow of beauty and tranquility over the countryside that was reflected off the silent stillness of a slow seeping tide at Straths near Carndonagh. ..... Across the water on the adjacent Isle of Doagh a large flock of Barnacle Geese grazed contentedly in a field of rich fresh grass with their relations the Brent pilfering the shallows near the shore. In the air, Lapwing in considerable numbers sparkled, and Golden Plover in perfect v formation patrolled continuously, while many Goldeneye, Mallard and Wigeon drifted slowly with the tide. Near the shore numbers of Redshank and few Greenshank foraged, while Little Egrets in good numbers flopped from one place to another. A considerable time was spent here enjoying the joys of the morning. ........ Next it was on to Glasha where the previous scenario was repeated . ....... Now it was to Malin Town with a stop at the bridge, and along the estuary near the Parochial Hall, where more Wigeon, Mallard, Redshank, Herring and Black-backed Gull and the now ubiquitous Little Egrets toiled in the pleasant conditions. .......... With the day rapidly changing from forenoon to afternoon it was off to Malin Head to enjoy the hospitality of our Dutch Member Wil and her husband Martin in their beautiful and comfortable house that overlooks the wide Atlantic with the Island of Inishtrahull and the Garvan Isles gracing the horizon while to the East the snow capped peaks of the Inner Hebrides "The Paps of Jura"glistened in the evening light. Our normal lunch was substituted by mouthwatering cakes and pastry served with mugs of hot coffee. ... From the comfort of the dinning room, we were entertained by a pod of Dolphins as they frolicked near the shore below our vantage point. Also from this position more Barnacle were recorded. After overstaying our visit we concluded our glorious day with a drive around "The Head" as it is referred to locally and recorded more Barnacle and an Iceland Gull.
 
A Grey Windy January Day.
Sat. 27th. January. 2018. Our weather can be fickle at times but must never be ignored, and today's outing was no exception, when the Weather Gods cast down a day of winter greyness, augmented by a gale of force eight intensity that made standing still especially when looking through binoculars a very difficult task, but they also displayed their generosity by alloying a temperature of eleven degrees without the addition of any rain, both of the latter are rather exceptional for the month of January...... So it was as we set off to the eastern side of the Peninsula through the windswept landscapes of of Gortyern, Effishmore and Baskil, with very little to report on the avian front at this point, with the exception of a Sparrowhawk as it maneuvered low over the hedges to avoid the elements and to ambush it's prey. But with regards to the flora at this time of year, as we passed through the Carrowmore Glen now denuded of all of it's spring and summer floral displays, the only exception was the reappearance of that wonderful member of the mint family Yellow Archangel, just awakening from it's slumbers through the cold of winter. ...... Next it was on to the Culdaff Estuary where large numbers of birds were to be seen, with flotillas of Teal Mallard, Wigeon, Curlew, Redshank, Grey Heron, Common, Black-headed, Herring and Great-black- Gulls were noted. That Presidential styled rarity the American Wigeon with his entourage, as expected was seeking the limelight as it sallied to and fro on the more sheltered water of the Estuary. ......... After this it was all haste to Redford where we walked down through the beautiful pathway with it's many moss cocooned trees and stone walls to soften the harshness of this canvas of winter, added to with the musical gurgling of the little stream on the left side of the road that accompanied us to the shore. It was here that we recorded the first Lesser Celandine flower emerging in the company of a Dandelion, and a few clumps of Opposite-leaved Saxifrage. ........ With the afternoon well established it was on to the peaceful and sheltered cove at Kinnagoe Bay where a late tea break was had. ........ Our day concluded with a stop at Tirahork and Cambry with the hope of perhaps seeing a Buzzard or a Hen harrier. But it was not to be today, however we did record another Sparrowhawk near here. ..... Earlier at Falmore we recorded flocks of Goldfinch, Linnet and Reed Bunting feeding in fields specially planted to help maintain little birds through the winter months. .... Finally when homeward bound near Malin Town a sizable flock of Barnacle and a couple of Little Egrets were added to our list.
 
A Cold Winter's Day in February.

Sat. 3rd. Feb. 2018. On Saturday 20th. January our travels took us in a northerly direction. Then last week's adventure was to an easterly compass setting, but for today's outing it was thought that a westerly direction would be appropriate. So on this the coldest day of winter to date, we had our first stop at Straths where we were rewarded by the sight of a large flock of Barnacle Geese estimated at five hundred plus, A number of them had the bonus of having white leg rings attached with the letters ZUL, ZFX and ZXU clearly visible on them. Intermingling with the Geese and also well dispersed were many Curlew, while near the shore line were a couple of Little Egrets and Oystercatchers. ......... Then in an effort to avoid the very cold wind it was back to the cars and on to Tullynabratilly where we took the high road that leads near to the base of Coolcross Hill and Crockaughrim from where we could see the dark ominous colours of rain showers lining up from their arctic base to distribute their downpours on our position, but they were out maneuvered when we took to the cars again and set off for the beach at Binnion. Hear at the corner of the river before it entered the angry wave encrusted Atlantic a small flock of Brent Geese shared an islet of green with a couple of Great-black-Backed Gulls and a bulky Glaucous Gull. ........ Some time later on our way to Urris a Peregrine Falcon was noted. It was inspiring to see a few Primroses smiling from their snug sheltered abode, while in a more exposed position a single Daffodils braved the cold and storm from it's position on a roadside verge....... By now our priority was to find some place of shelter for the tea break, which was duly achieved. So fully fortified we proceeded along the cold windswept road near Dunaff Head to Lenan, then up the magnificent Mamore Gap where at the top for a very brief few seconds before disappearing was what appeared to be a Golden Eagle. Another cold day of bird watching was coming to a close with a drive down through the Hillside to Tunduff, from there over Pinch Hill then Clonmany, Ballyliffin to dispersal at base camp.

 
Our Penultimate Winter Count of the Wetland Birds on Lough Swilly.
Sat. 10th. Feb. 2018. Our penultimate winter count of the wetland birds of the extensive Lough Swilly was undertaken in conditions well beyond expectations, which at times had occasional shafts of sunlight filtering through the light veils of high clouds that were not offering any threat of their dispensing rain on our activity. That was reserved for later in the evening after our task was satisfactorily completed, and we were ensconced at home to muse on the pleasures of the day. ........ What was deemed as being exceptional with our count was the very high number of birds recorded at this time of the year, as usually their numbers have peaked during December and January. ......... While traveling from one viewing point to another there were signs of that welcome visitor "Spring" with the emergence of some little blossoms and foliage of early plants, and also flitting to and fro were large flocks of Wagtails, Chaffinch, Sparrows and a few Yellow Hammer. ........ The day concluded with a sighting of three Little Egrets and the silken glide of a Buzzard as it surveyed it's domain from the now changing sky.
 
Outing to Straths, Binnion, and Urris.
Sat. 17th. Feb. 2018. Today's Outing to the Straths and Glasha shorelines near Carndonagh, followed by a visit to the golden sand dunes of Binnion Beach, and then to the Urris region of Clonmany, with a special emphases on the heather mantled lofty mountains was somewhat of a double edged sword in it's purpose. ....... Our first stop of the morning in the Carndonagh area was to ascertain if there were any Barnacle Geese present, and if so in what numbers, and if any were bearing white leg rings. This was in conjunction with a proposed further scientific ringing operation of the local Barnacle population in the near future........At Glasha a small flock of Barnacle together with Brent were noted, but around the corner at Straths a large flock in excess of six hundred were recorded, among them were six birds with the appropriate leg tag attached and with the codes ZUL, ZUS, ZUJ, ZXF and ZXU inscribed in black. ........ This was followed by a brief stop at the scenic Craigaleen on the western end of Tullagh Bay. From here a couple of Great Northern Divers were added to our list. ...... Our special observance of the the hills from Ballyliffin, Clonmany to Urris was to check if there might be sightings of the great majestic Golden Eagles that should be soon performing their mating rituals. but unfortunately not on this occasion. ...... Our day in the great outdoors finished with a check in the Hillside area, then over Pinch to Clonmany, followed by home.
 
Outing to Lisnagrath and Eastern shores of Lough Foyle.
Sat. 24th. Feb. 2018. Our today's adventure commenced in the wonderland of Lisnagrath Wood, a place of special beauty and peacefulness, where the bright sunlight penetrated the maze of towering trunks and leafless branches, described by the great W.S. as the " Bare Ruined Choirs Where Last the Sweet Birds Sang." On these were hosts of small birds, all availing of the plentiful food left at their disposal by their admiring nature lovers. A few little Red Squirrels scampered over the russet carpet of Beech leaves to conceal their trophies of hazel nuts laid out by our own Brian Hegerty. But their nemesis, the dreaded Gray made a fleeting appearance to cast a cloud of gloomed over the joy of our visit. ........... On leaving the shelter of this heaven we became aware of the piercingly icy cold wind blowing all the way from freezing Siberia, that even with the influence of the bright sunshine could not diminish, but in the warmth and comfort of the cars on our journey to our next stop at Ball Point on the eastern shore of Lough Foyle was a chance to regain the heat lost. ...... At this destination a number of Buzzards were recorded as were Whooper Swans, Curlew, Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Black-headed Gull and Redshank.. ..... Now with breakfast a distant memory it was back up to the Swan Bridge rest area where we refueled with hot tea and other types of energy replacements. ....... After this respite it was on to the Netherlands type of coastal fortification at Myroe, where we were alerted to the presence of a Spotted Redshank in the area, but good fortune did not smile on us with a sighting. ....... In it's stead we recorded a flock of approximately four hundred Brent geese that had a number of birds with blue and yellow leg bands attached. During the considerable time spent in the area we noted a pair of Carrion Crow, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Shelduck, Little Egret, and in the air flocks of Golden Plover and Curlew performed their flight pattern. ...... As we moved on a Peregrine Falcon caused a bit of a kerfuffle among the Brent by diving at great speed through the flock and actually knocked one goose to the ground, but it manager to escape it's near death experience to fly another day. ......... On our way home a very short stop was made at Ballykelly, but with the cold intensifying we soon moved on. Among the small birds today were Tree Creeper, Goldfinch, Linnet, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Blackbird, Chaffinch and Sparrow. Our Day was added to as we drove home by the joy derived from listening to the commentary on Ireland's victory over Wales in the six Nations Cup.
 
A Few Pictures from today' Netting and Ringing Programe.
Sat. 3rd. Mar. 2018. The venom of winter dispensed by it's very enthusastic cohort, the Month of March, that injected it's extream frost and snow laden winds during the first few days of it's reign, and especially today when we joined with a member of the R.S..P.B. with a local connection, namely Kendrew Colhoun, leading the other birding enthusiasts from places as diverse as Australia, Iceland, Scotland and England. ...... The purpose of this assembly was a scientific exercise in gathering as much information on the numbers and behavior of Barnacle and Brent Geese in the area. This involves the difficult and arduous procedure of netting and ringing of as many of these wary geese as possable. ...... Unfortunately the birds weren't in a cooperative mood, so the cannon wasn't fired on this occasion, but it's hoped that success will be achieved tomorrow. The results of our endeavors will be reported as soon as they are achieved. ....... How wonderful still feeling the effects of today's cold, to get into a warm house and enjoy the resurgence of life engendered by a hot dinner, after an encounter with the Beast from the East. ...........P.S. Sunday 4th. An account of today's activity as promised in yesterdays report. Very large numbers of Barnacle, estimated at near three thousand recorded, but as yesterday, no birds netted or ringed.
 
Sat. 10th. March. 2018. A day entombed in a cool grey mist and intermitting light rain that encapsulated the beautiful Peninsula of Inishowen and beyond while clasped in it's dreary grip, but this gloom was swept away to allow a great swell of metaphorical light and joy to flood the morning with Song Thrush and Blackbird projecting their musical vocal renditions against the joyful sounds of Jackdaws and Rooks as they readied themselves for their nest building activities. ........ Such was the scene as we started our final count of the birds of Lough Swilly. At our stop to count at the Fahan Marina region, the approach of spring and the warm day's of summer, unlike today's conditions were very much in the air, with many of the not so ancient mariners having their great crafts lifted with the aid of a mammoth crane from their safe winter land bases to the smooth waters of the marina. ........ Our task continued as we worked our way to Inch Island, where with great diligence we concluded the count and celebrated with a hearty tea break, followed by a look at the devastation caused by the removal of trees and bush-lined ditches of the area surrounding the Inch Lake. What a disaster!!!.
 
Saturday 17th. March 2018 . Due to our revered National Holiday coinciding with the usual Saturday Outing, and to facilitate the members and their family's to attend the many national and local events it was decided to call off our quest of nature until next week
 
Pictures from The Wildlife Research Program.
Sat. 24th. March 2018. Our involvement in what turned out to be an outstanding wildlife research program of netting, bagging, weighing, measuring and ringing that resulted in a record number of the wonderful but wary Barnacle Geese that come to the northern region of our Inishowen Peninsula to enjoy the milder winter conditions, due in part to the proximity of the Gulf Stream that flows close to our coastlines. With some of our club members, namely the Moloney Boys and Brian Hegerty on site before six a.m. today with organisers from the Irish Brent Goose Research Group with assistance from members of the RSPCA, BIRD WATCH IRELAND and enthusiasts from many parts of Ireland, North and South. Also present was an observer from Exeter University. ....... All of our members were involved in various tasks through the six hour period. .......... The duo of Martin and Daniel Moloney had also spent many days checking the movements of the various flocks, and spreading crushed barley to entice the birds to frequent the eventually selected site. ...... As this early morning of beauty and stillness was warmed by ever increasing sunshine it engendered a feeling of well being and joviality among the twenty seven wildlife lovers that had flocked to this special place on this special occasion.
 
Some Pictures From Today.
Sat. 31st. March 2018. Today with the season of Spring showing no signs of releasing it's firm grasp on the cold, grey, wet weather inherited from it's predecessor the season of Winter, we set off on an outing to the Inch Lake area near Burnfoot. On the silent bird laden waters of the Lake the usual residents that included Mute Swans, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Tufted, Shell and Shoveler Duck, Greylag and Canada Geese together with a plethora of waders busied themselves in the greyness of the day. ... With the rain now causing somewhat of a nuisance it was considered advisable to find shelter elsewhere. So back to the cars and on to the Blanket Nook, where we were delighted to find that the rain had ceased, and to add to our delight a sizeable flock of Knot were flying ghost-like to and fro before setting down on a little bank a short distance from the shore, even more satisfying was to record four Ruff in the process of changing into their breeding plumage. ...... Another highlight of the outing was to hear our first song of the Chiffchaff. ....... We also had a very reliable report of a Wheatear in the Slieve Snacht area yesterday. .... Due to it being the Easter holiday weekend, our day in the great outdoors had to be curtailed somewhat, with the many attractions and events organized that might also need out attention.
 
Sunday 1st. April 2018. Club member Brian Hegerty took this picture today of a Goosander one of three birds on the river near the Village of Victoria Bridge in county Tyrone .
 
Pictures From a Special Spring Day.
Sat. 7th. April 2018. A sun soaked morning saw us set off from our assembly point at the Clochan Glentogher, and from there up the Creehennan Road a short distance before turning in the direction of Cabry, where we recorded our first sighting of a Buzzard as it flew low from a fence post on the right side of the road, to the other side to perch up in a Fir Tree a short distance away. From here it was through roadsides bedecked with great drifts of gently nodding Golden Daffodils, surely the emblem of Spring. On our way to the silvered waters of Lough Inn glistening in the increasing rays of the morning sunlight a stop was made to admire the pink variations of the emerging flowers of the False Salmonberry bushes, that as the season progresses will merge with the beautiful Fuchsia hedges in this area. Next it was at our usual stop at Ballyargus, where in a few weeks time we will be on the lookout for the small but beautiful Green Hairstreak Butterfly. .... From here it was down the most scenic roadway to the main thoroughfare at Black Point where three more Buzzards were recorded drifting serenely high above the mountain ridge we had just left. On the far side of a field near the road a large bank of pristine Wood Anemone peeped from it's dapple shaded environment. ...... More of this magic was on show about a mile further on near the pier below the the Redcastle Post Office. At this place of natures treasures were carpets of Germander Speedwell gleaming like the precious lapis lazuli, perhaps strewn by Angeles in the early morning light, while a early Dog Violet looked out from it's snug sun facing abode. In many sheltered places Lesser Celandine was unashamedly showing off its twenty four carat beauty. ...... meanwhile on the stillness of Lough Foyle a great raft of Eider Duck that numbered seventy two, were enjoying the temperature, now well into double figures, then further to the right of the pier a pair of Mergansers cruised contentedly. ......... Our penultimate stop of the outing was at the upper pier Moville where the warmth of the afternoon was such that some coats were dispensed with, and where a small flotilla of Brent Geese checked the shallows for tit bits, while further out a Sandwich Tern was recorded sitting on a float as a pair of Black Guillemot glided close by. Our exceptional day enjoying this warm sunshine of Spring concluded at Inishowen Head where Fulmar nested in secure shelves among the rocks, and entertainment was provided by a pair of Kestrels as they demonstrated their ariel breeding display, then a Peregrine made a very brief appearance to complete our enjoyment.
 
A Few Pictures from Culdaff and Malin Head.
Sat. 14th. April 2018. The joy of Spring was very much in evidence as we made our way in warm bright sunlight from Malin Town through the sleepy little village of Crackna, then past the church at Aughaclay and up to the summit of Doonmore Hill from where we gazed down on the beautiful landscape of Culdaff and beyond, with the prominent headland of Dunmore set against the shimmering waters of Culdaff Bay. At this elevated position the sighting of Swallows, one of the seasons emissaries as they cavorted in joyous flight high above old farm buildings, perhaps requisitioning their previous nesting sites. Also displaying their flying ability though in a more leisurely manner were three Buzzards, and to their annoyance was a family of equally impressive Ravens. .......As we descended to Bunagee Pier by a sheltered little roadway the first appearance of three of those miracles of beauty and fragility Peacock Butterflies were noted with great joy as they fluttered over the high banking abounding with wildflowers and grasses and where the songs of Chiffchaff and Blackcaps formed a perfect background melody. ....... Later, where the Culdaff River enters the sea, Wigeon were preparing for departure and in their midst was our old faithful the American version. further out an Arctic Tern was recorded as were a couple of Male Eider. ....... Next it was on to Malin Head where we had our well earned break while enjoying the comfort of Jim and Anne's residence, and wishing our old mucker Mary best wishes on another "Twenty One" birthday. Feeling rejuvenated we set off to complete our great outing that got really exciting when the keen eyed Daniel Moloney spotted a very rare Leucistic Great Northern Diver, only two confirmed sightings of such a bird ever reported in Ireland. This with the many sighting of Buzzards, Mountain Hares, Kestrels and Whearers to name just a few, completed this wonderful day in Spring.
 
Enjoying the Riches of Nature.
Sat. 21st. April 2018. On another Saturday of warm sunshine, enhanced by the embrace of natures extravagance that had the sparkling jewels of Flora and Fauna on a display of abundance, especially as we drove on our way from Buncrana to Stragill a few miles north along the coast of Lough Swilly, through a magical glen of towering broad leafed giants that had the resounding melody of gurgling water being carried on the gentle morning air. ...... It was here that we saw our first Bluebell's of Spring, and where close by newly awakening Wood Sorrel blossoms were having their eyes opened by the warmth of the sun, while being observed by the equally beautiful Wood Anemone now aware of it's world for the past number of weeks. ......... Overhead a pair of Hooded Crows were causing a bit of confusion as they evicted a Buzzard from their patch. ...... A little further on towards Stragill Beach the happy songs of Jackdaws and Rooks could be heard as they prepared for their bounty of Spring. Then at the Beach we were treated to a display of avian joy with the sighting of Wheatear, Sand Martin, Skylark and Linnets, while in the calm water Great northern Diver and Red-throated Diver checked what might be available beneath the surface. Near the beach a golden blanket of Rape Seed glitter in the bright sunlight .......... After a few more stops to admire the works of nature, it was on to the Dunree Fort where lunch was consumed while enjoying the stunning scenery of the shimmering waters of the Lough and the surrounding mountains in their transitional spring colours, while families of Fulmar's with some members ensconced in their nest with their partners performing their effortless hypnotic flying routine. ........ With some of our members involved in other activities later in the afternoon it was time to depart after enjoying a day of natures best.
 
A Few Pictures From Today's Outing.
Sat. 28th April 2018. Today a rather reduced number of stalwards carried the flag for the other club members who had commitments in other fields. But all was not lost due to the following report received from the reliable team of Jim and Anne Toland.
Usually our outings are memorable because of an unusual sighting but today as Spring moved towards Summer it was the variety of nature that held our attention. The environment was the eight kilometers walk around Inch Lake. The early plants of Celandine, Primrose, Coltsfoot, Marsh Marigold, Wild Bluebell, Periwinkle, Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage were now joined by Cuckoo Flower, Wild Garlic (now in flower), Dog Violet, Forget-Me-Not, Ribwort Plantain, Bush Vetch and Field/Corn Pansy. In fact a total of twenty-six  plants were recorded during our two hour stroll. As regards the birds, the residents, such as Mute Swan, and Black Swan, Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Great Crested Grebe, a few straggler Whooper Swans and Greylag Geese were in evidence. The Bar-Tailed Godwit was showing off its Summer plumage. Cormorants, Black-Headed Gulls and newly arrived Sandwich Terns noisily shared the Island on the southern  end of the Lake. A Mallard was spotted with a brood of eleven in tow (a sure sign that summer is near). In all a total of twenty-six birds were spotted. Green-veined and Orange-tipped butterflies were on the wing. And on the fields beside the Lake we spotted three hares frolicking in the short grass. Summer is at last on the way. We look forward to it.
 
A Colourful Day in Glenvaigh National Park.

Sat. 5th. May 2018. The Glittering flight of those little jewels of heavenly dust, the Holly Blue Butterflies was indicative that we were in the majestic surroundings of the Glenveagh National Park, and about to set off on a quest for the other wonders that abound here. With the input of bright warm sunshine we strolled on a pathway through the giant fir trees at the start of the most scenic Derrylaghan Trail, then through a section of holly bushes and whin, where more little Butterfly's and clumps of deep blue Dog Violets and Wood Anemone were recorded. This was followed by a steep walk to the higher point of the ramble with areas of moorland and heather-mantled mounds from where Ravens protested at their peaceful habituate being invaded, where Larks rose from the heather to fly in cheerful song, higher and higher to then drop back to mother earth. As we reached the tall fir trees at the end of our ramble our keen eyed Daniel spotted a number of Crossbills gorging on the seed bounty within the large pine cones. At one stage a Sparrowhawk demonstrated it's aerobatic skills against a background of blue. .....Our next stop was up at the Castle where refueling was the order of the day, which was followed by a tour of the garden where more Butterflies made short flights before disappearing in the lush vegetation, these were the more common kind such as the Large White and Peacock. ........ Next it was into the exotic lawn where the eclectic collection of trees, shrubs, plants and flowers formed a great palette of stimulating colours to lift the mind to a higher level, added to by the song's of the many birds being led in chorus by the brilliant Blackcap and the little Whitethroat. ........ With the temperature reaching twenty degrees some time was enjoyed relaxing in the warmth and pleasant atmosphere created by the large number of visitors from many parts of the world. ...... But now it was time to get the bus back down to the Visitors Center, and to our cars and home.

 
A beautiful Day on the Cusp of Spring.
Sat. 12th. May 2018. The clarion call from that lovable rogue the Cuckoo, reverberated through the stillness of this May morning at Creehennan near Quigleys'Point, was proof, if proof was needed that Spring had arrived with great authority, having the face of the countryside melt into a smile with the wealth of beauty at it's disposal, and the miles of gold-plated Whin bushes adorning the boundary lines of farm land while close by a sprinkling of Marsh Violets and Bog cotton enjoying the conditions provided by damp bog, but the Bluebells, Dog violet and Primrose preferred their warm sheltered abodes on the roadside verges and ditches. ........ In the great blue yonder Buzzards floated gracefully, and from many of the low bushes Willow Warbler's added their musical voices. ......... There was a great sense of expectancy as we set off for our stop at Ballyargus, as the time was just right to see another masterpiece of natures craftsmanship in the form of the diminutive Green-hairstreak Butterfly, and we weren't disappointed as they demonstrated their shimmering iridescence, in this sun-soaked environment, adding to the joy was the large fluttering of Orange-tip Butterflies. ....... After a brief stop at the main road at Drung where a tall steep banking in a roadside field was bedecked in a beautiful floral wall hanging of Bluebells, Greater Stitchwort and Primroses, What a joy. ........ At the wonderful little beach near the Redcastle Post office a much enjoyed tea break was had, while availing of the increasing sunshine, the stillness of the silvered Lough Foyle, and the song of a little stream as it gurgled it's way from high up the brae to blend with the waters of the great Lough, along it's shore line our Botanist Anne added Creeping and Meadow Buttercup, Bush Vetch, Pignut, Herb Robert, Slender Speedwell, Thrift and Wood Rush to her list. ........... Now it was on to the Upper Pier at Moville where we watched and photographed the very sociable Black Guillemots parading for our attention. ....... With the Day progressing into the afternoon we set off for the Inishowen Headland area, where we renewed our connection with the pair of Kestrals we encountered on our last visit here. Today we added Chough, Stonechat, Reed Bunting to our list before calling it a day. But what a Beautiful Day !.
 
Tuesday 15th. May. 2018. There will be no report this Saturday as we are off to the Inner Hebrides to see the wildlife on the Isle of Skye for a few days but on our return a report of our odyssey will be published early next week.
 
Our Odyssey to the Isle of Skye.

Sunday. 20th. May. 2018. The cache of pleasures and joy encountered on our expedition to the wonderful Hebridean Isle of Skye safely secured in our memory banks, began long before reaching our destination. With the drive from the airport at Inverness along the roads bordering the beautiful shoreline of the magical Lough Ness and surrounding countryside, all awash in blazing Sunshine. ..... On arrival on Sky with it's towering Alpine like mountains many of which still retaining the snow's of Winter clinging to peaks and valleys had all of the ingredients for a spectacular adventure. ..... Our meeting with the affable Wildlife guide Andy Mc Lean next morning was the start of an amazing few days. Recording of Eagles for our time on the Island had twenty six, that included Golden and White-tailed, we stopped counting Buzzards due to their high numbers. Other Raptors included Kestrel, Sparrowhawks, Hen Harrier and Merlin. On returning from Portree to our base camp at Uig on Friday evening, a considerable time was enjoyed watching a pair of Short-eared Owls as they hunted and carried food to their nestlings...... The flora was catered for with a prominence of Buttercup and Bluebell with the beautiful and aromatic Mayflower/Hawthorn reaching maturity, among others entered on our list were Water Avens, Early Purple Orchids, Butterwort and Bogbean. With the latitude of the Island many plants are only starting to show. This also applied to the Butterfly population with the the Green-veined white the only species making an appearance. ..... On the homeward drive yesterday, after our sunny and rain free odyssey on this land, formed by what must have been cataclysmic volcanic activity many million of years ago, it was great to have Red Kite and Peregrine added to our records.

 
A Serendipitous Day.
Sunday 27th. May 2018. The setting of Muff Glen with its dappled shades, babbling brook and birdsong was the background to a sylvan stroll. Squirrels, both Red and Grey darted across the leafy canopy. There also we spotted a Wood Warbler, while through the opening above the path a trio of Buzzards glided effortlessly. Nearer the ground a family of Grey Wagtails was feeding as a Dipper followed the trickling stream. We sat riveted as we watched a Willow Warbler furtively visiting its well concealed nest in the undergrowth. Among the emerging plant life we saw white Bluebells, Woodruff, Bugle and Yellow Pimpernel. A lone Speckled Wood was recorded.
After our usual refreshments we set off to the dizzy heights of Binevenagh, overlooking the magnificent expanse of Magilligan and Inishowen. On our way we stopped to watch the smooth quartering of a male Hen Harrier before he dropped his catch to the nesting female. We found Mossy Saxifrage, Kidney Vetch and a single Early Purple Orchid. On our final stop beyond Coleraine where we sat among the proliferation of white butterflies, Small White, Orange Tip and Green Vein, Wood Avens, Wild Strawberry and Harestail Bog Cotton were observed as we watched two Cuckoos fly on the horizon. Siskins and Crossbills fed on nearby Conifers.
Beautiful weather, Nature at its best and good company all contributed to a very pleasant outing. ... (Yesterday's report contributed by Jim Toland.)
 
The Joy's of Summer.
Sat. 2nd. June 2018. Out of a morning of cool moist mist, slowly emerged a wonderful day of increasing warm sunlight to reveal a vision of a countryside saturated in a soft vernal lushness, speckled with an extravagance of colour from many wildflowers recently provided by the sunshine and heat of the last few weeks, aided and abated by the welcomed rains of last evening that regaled the hedges and wild places with their exciting colour combinations. .......... This was our experience when we made a return visit to the Cabry, Creehennan and Ballyargus areas, where Orange Tip, Green-veined White, Large White and Small Heath Butterflies fluttered in rhythm to the gentle morning zephyr, Buzzards circled lazily in an ever increasing blue sky, the call of the Cuckoo resounded from many directions and Cross-bills extracted the seeds with great dexterity from the cones of adjacent fir Trees, while Heath and Germander Speedwell, Brooklime, Common Spotted Orchid, Ox-eye Daisy, Cats-ear, Sanicle, Orange Hawkweed flourished, while in damper places Yellow Flag Iris added to the spectacle. .......... Our final act of the day was a stop at Moville where the discovery of a magical place of beauty and peaceful escapism in the shadowed laced lattice of the tree lined river walk through Seamus Canavan's estate, where the ear is caressed by the exotic renditions of Song Thrushes and their fellow songsters and the whispering waters of the Bredagh River as it eases it's way to enter the arms of the great Lough Foyle a little further on..
 
A few Pictures From Our Outing to the Ards Forest Park.
Sat. 9th. June 2018. We arrived mid morning at our destination, the wonderful Ards Forest Park near the neat village of Creeslough and almost in the shadow of the great monolithic mountain of Muckish, and to the north the waters of the beautiful Sheephaven Bay lapped gently on the miles of golden sandy beaches that created an illusion of some tropical paradise. ........ now with pleasant temperatures, and the complete absence of rain, and to a lesser degree not a lot of hot burning sunshine, we set off to discover the many treasures Mother Nature had on display for our visit. These consisted mainly of a botanical nature with a predominance of sweet scented Burnet Roses, Northern Heath Spotted and the Common Spotted Orchids, with the stunning blue of Bugle and Milkwort, followed by Tutson, Woodruff, Sea Campion and Sanicle. Then we hit a bit of a problem when one plant in particular caused a certain amount of confusion, but that was soon resolved to everyone's satisfaction by our knowledgeable Botanist Martin who declared it to be the Two-spined Acaena. What a relief !. .......... Apart from the shortage of bright sunshine, the other disappointing aspect of our visit was the absence of the usual great collections of the many species of Butterflies to be found here, but Small Heath, Speckled Wood, and Large White were recorded. ......... The Avian list compiled today included Siskin, Linnet, Redpoll, Gannet, Terns, Razorbill, Black Guillemots and pipits. ............. Our visit to Ards concluded with an early evening saunter on the shore and woodland paths at the Monastery, then it was back to our paradise of Inishowen.
 
An Eclectic Collection of Pictures From Today.
Sat. 16th. June 2018. Out of a forlorn sky came a bombardment of heavy showers, delivered on our position with military precision at intervals of about fifteen to twenty minutes, that had us seek shelter in our cars. That was what welcomed us to the beautiful Isle of Doagh this morning. But undaunted by this setback we continued our nature watching activity, and for our persistence Mother Nature relented and parted the overhead greyness to allow a stream of warm sunshine to brighten our outlook. ........ This transformation commenced at the place known as the Castles at the northern end of the Isle. Here we got close to a pair of young Chough, as they protested at the slowness of their breakfast delivery. ......... Below their vantage point immense deposits of dairling stones beautifully ground and polished by those great master craftsmen time and tide, as employed for many thousands of years, and further enhanced as they glistened in the rain of the passing showers. .......... In from the shore line a great mosaic of wild flowers randomly dispersed and stretching into the distance had the purple of the Northern Marsh orchid, the sapphire blue of Tufted Vetch, the yellow of the emerging Lady's Bedstraw, the pink of the Wild Thyme, and the large daisy-like flowers of Sea Mayweed, the pale blue of the Sea Aster and the Oyster plant all set on a background of lush Green. On a sleeping Atlantic a raft of male Eider Duck bobbed gently. ......... At Lagacurry a Snipe perched on a post near a field covered in a cloth of golden Yellow Flag Iris, and where a Wheatear observed it's surroundings from an overlooking rock. ............. Our next stop was the high road above Tullynabratilly where a pair of Buzzards hovered over the heather clad hillside in search of their afternoon sustenance. With the countryside awash in sunshine we finished out adventure with a visit to the recently re-opened walkway to the Glenevin Waterfall at the Glen House, where many tourists trekked to see the iconic spectacle, and to watch Grey Wagtails as they flitted after flies and moths that are associated with little streams. A wonderful day after a dark, dank, morning.
 
A Summer Solstice Time.
Sat. 23rd June 2018. The festival of Summer opened last Thursday with the arrival of it's Solstice that had the happy smiling face of the Sun beaming down on our country of verdant loveliness. Then from the same source a promise of more fine weather to be augmented by high temperatures, even higher than those experienced today when enjoying the fruits of the season in the wonderland that is the Malin and Culdaff regions, as viewed from the lofty heights of Doonmore Hill. ....... The many byroads traveled today were emblazoned with kaleidoscopes of colours from the great hosts of wildflowers that had in their midst, Bog Cotton it's pristine white heads in the morning breeze frothing like surf crashing on to a sandy beach, tasty and succulent Bilberries, fragrant Sweet Rockets and Feverfew, the red fingers of Foxglove, the tined flower heads of Common Valerian, drifts of Red Campion, the small but beautiful Scarlet and Yellow Pimpernel. All of these and the extravagant displays of Buttercups that carpeted many fields and roadside verges. .......Then followed by the most satisfying sighting's of the day, when the number and species of Butterflies noted were those conspicuous by their absence from their favourite habitats since last year, that included Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood, Dark Green Fritillary and the old reliable Small Heath . ..... How fortunate to be in the great outdoors on a wonderful day like today.
 
Sunday 24th. June. Sand Matins at Lagg
 
A Leisurely Day in the Hot Sunshine.
Sat. 30th. June 2018. In the minds eye we usually associate the end of June with a bit of sunny weather, but on this occasion our wishes far exceeded our expectations when we assembled at the well known landmark "The Stone Jug" Buncrana, situated at the edge of what looked like a great lake of the highest quality silver, shimmering in the crucible of the morning that had a large proportion of the local population and others from further afield availing of the perfect conditions by toing and froing to the well traversed pathway leading to Father Hegerty's Rock, or perhaps even to the Stragill Beach. ........ After checking on the well-being of the rather rare plant the Orange Hawkweed, we set off by road through a countryside aglow in the joys of of the season, to the beautiful previously mentioned beach at Stragill, and the surrounding area. At one particular place large clusters of Tufted Vetch, Lady's Bedstraw, Common Spotted and Heath Spotted Orchids, had their colour's blending perfectly with a skill that only nature can achieve. Also nearby Bog Pimpernel, Bog Asphodel, Hedge Mustard, Sheeps-bit and Shepard's Purse were added to our list. A White Throated warbler, and large numbers of Sand and House Martins, Swallows. Meadow and Rock Pipits, were some of the birds recorded here. Also adding to our pleasure was the Fluttering of a small number of Butterflies that included Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood and Painted Lady...... A little later, availing of the shade cast on the roadside by the overhanging trees near what was once a convent, but now a beautiful private residence a special tea break was engineered by the ladies in the group that produced a special cake adorned with an unknown number of candles to celebrate Martin's Birthday. His reply of gratitude was spoken in his County Clare accent, and then in his mumbling of Dutch, especially for the benefit our very good friends and members Will and Antonia over from the Netherlands. ........ As the day progressed we arrived at the historic Dunree Fort, where we enjoyed a welcomed respite, before setting off up through the sylvan setting of Hillside where the temperature reached at one time thirty degrees. From their snug, hidden sites, many stone outlines of ancient human habitations peaked out from the shadows of the overgrown vegetation. A little further on Buzzards and Ravens floated on the strong rising thermals while Peregrine and Kestrel searched for their prey . ......... Next it was onwards and upwards to the Alpine-like Pass of the towering Mamore and Urris Hills, and to gaze down on the Urris Plane far below, with the heat-hazed background of the great Atlantic Ocean. ........ What a finish to a very beautiful and special day.
 
Another Glorious Summer's Day.
Sat. 7th. July 2018. With the holiday season impacting on our usual Saturday outing reducing the number of regular members by half, but for the rest of us, brave enough to face the hazards of the unusual weather conditions that threatened more hot, bright, sunshine from a cloudless sky with very little prospects of rain, one could not be blamed for imagining that we were in some exotic tropical destination but eventually realizing that it was the even more beautiful heaven of Inishowen. ....... With the first stop at Glentogher, from where we journeyed through Creehennan, then to Ballyargus where meadows and roadsides were adrift with the beguiling beauty of the ermine-like flowers of Meadow Sweet while at other locations great swathes of blood-red Digitalis, Rosebay Willow Herb and Purple Loosestrife held dominance. ....... From hedges and bushes, Chaffinch, Blackbirds, Thrushes, Sparrow, Grey and Pied Wag tails, Blue Tits, Robins, Linnets and Redpolls, were labouring tirelessly to attend to their fledglings needs. but the big surprise of the morning was when a number of Buzzards, a Peregrine Falcon and then a male and female Hen Harrier made their entries and exits, what a start to the day. The Butterfly population has not blossomed to any great extent as yet, but a few of these fluttering creatures of beauty were recorded. ........ From our elevated position on the hills overlooking the glistening blue waters of Lough Foyle, someone suggested that a cruise on the Ferry to the equally scenic countryside of County Derry might be a nice way to enjoy a few hours in the afternoon, which was duly achieved with visits to some of the local beauty spots after which it was back to the Ferry and Home.
 
A Few Pictures of the Flora and Fauna on Inishtrahull.
Friday 13th. July 2018. We switched from our usual Saturday Club Outing to today, that enabled us to avail of an opportunity to visit the Island of Inishtrahull situated twelve miles off Malin Head from where we set off this morning on a silken sea of serenity and silence, interrupted only by the humming rhythm of our vessel, and the excited chatter of our members. Overhead hosts of Gannets, Herring Gulls, Great-black Backed and Lesser-black Backed Gulls floated in a Cloudless sky, while Guillemots, Manx and Sooty Shearwater disturber the surface of the still ocean, and also the occasional Seal popping to the surface only to disappear again. .......... After a voyage of about forty five minutes we landed on the pier at the northern side of the Island to be greeted by a considerable number of Seals to this place where the outside world can be forgotten for a while, and where a time and lifestyle of centauries past can be contemplated, assisted by the remains of what would have been sturdy human dwellings, while nearby the faded outlines of where they would have set their potatoes and vegetables are barely perceivable. ........ Our group dispersed in different directions, some to check the rich Flora, some to check on the variety of Fauna, while others just to enjoy the special atmosphere of this place. Those checking the birds on the Island were amazed at the increase in the Tern population, both Arctic and Common over the past couple of seasons, added to these the Great Skua breeding population has trebled. Along the rocky shore line many families of Eider Duck and their little ducklings find shelter in the narrow spaces between the the jaggy inlets. The other most common birds recorded today were the Great-black Backed and the Lesser-black backed Gull, Cormorant, Shag, Razorbill, Oystercatcher, Starling and Whearear. ......... The richness of wildflowers had the beautiful pink Centaury, the delicate structure and lovelyness of the Sea Thrift, the flowering lace of the Angelica. while large areas dazzling in the show displayed by the Sea Campion and Sea Mayweed, competing for the attention of pollinating insects with Ragwort, Creeping Buttercup, Spear and creeping Thistle, the common and Heath-spotted Orchid, Bog Pimpernel plus many many more . ........ On our homeward cruise we watched as porpoises frolicked on the flowing tide. A slight detour by our master mariner Dennis Glackin brought us close to the great rock structure known as the The Stook where many Razorbill, Common Guillemot, Fulmar, and Kittiwake watched from their precarious positions as we sailed off to Malin Head Pier after our very rewarding outing to the lovely Inishtrahull.
 
A selection of Martin's Pictures from today's Outing.
Saturday 20th. July 2018. We set off on our outing today to the shores of Lough Foyle without some of our regular members in attendance.  Our expert botanist Anne Toland was badly missed as there was an array of flora on display.  As we walked along a little bog road on top of Binevenagh we recorded Creeping Buttercup, Herb Robert, Self Heal, Eyebright, Meadowsweet, and Yarrow to name a few.  Birds here included:  Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, Raven, Hooded Crow & 2 Kestrels.   The beautiful Rosebay Willow Herb, lined the roadsides making them look like great pink corridors.   At the Barmouth hide we saw Sandwich Terns with their young as they sat relaxing on some fence posts which protruded out into the bay.   On the opposite shore the constant din of the terns resounded around the area.  There were lots of waders on view including Redshank, Dunlin, Greenshank and Common Sandpiper.  Grey Herons and Shelduck added to the rich diversity of birds on view in the bay while a Sedge Warbler scolded us as we passed on our way out of the hide.  The highlight of the day was when we saw a female Hen Harrier as she watched over her newly fledged chicks.  Other raptors recorded were: Sparrowhawk, 2 Buzzards & a Merlin.  A few of our hawk eyed members spotted a young Cuckoo, as it sat on a dead tree stump and proceeded to fly off followed out of the area by it's probable 'adopted' parents Meadow Pipits.  After a thoroughly enjoyable day we made our way home.......... Thanks to Martin for his report and pictures from today's adventure.
 
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