Inishowen Wildlife Club
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A Random Selection of Pictures from Last Years Outings, by Club Members.
Tints of Winter in Glentogher. Saturday, 5th January 2019. You could be forgiven for describing today's outing as lacklustre. The dull grey lifeless sky, the lack of spectacular wildlife and the plant-life that has yet to show its splendour did not bode well for the new season. But such an atmosphere inclines us to look for other aspects of nature. The silence only highlighted those aspects that we tend to ignore. As we moved through the wooded slopes of Glentogher our attention was drawn to the startling cries of the Wren, the squelch of our boots on the sodden mossy paths. Our eyes were drawn to the colourful buds of the common Alder, springing up like alternative Christmas trees, the colours and hues of the mosses and lichens and the ancient trees with their decorations of Ramalina. A buzzard gliding swiftly below us in search of prey caught our attention. Taking our refreshments in the open air in January lent to the special flavour of the day. As we moved through Creehennan, we stopped to watch a male Buzzard atop a conifer, surveying the sombre landscape. Birdlife was slightly more abundant as we descended towards the Foyle with a large raft of Eider on the opaque surface of the lough. Grey Heron, Black Guillemot, Curlew, Great Northern Diver and Great Crested Grebe also dotted the water. And so ended our first foray into the Natural World of Inishowen. We look forward to many more........... Thanks to Jim Toland for today's report.
Sunday 6th. January 2019. Above are pictures of a large flock of Barnacle Geese, taken late this afternoon at Mc Sheffreys Bridge near Malin Town by one of our members.
The January Bird Count. Sat. 12th. January 2019. Our assembly point on this grey storm tossed day for the purpose of doing the monthly winter count of the resident and winter visiting birds that frequent this place, where on a day more summer like than today's it's referred to as "The Lake of Shadows" But today with the grey demented waters of the Lake squirming like hosts of angry sea monsters, conjured up from some Chinese mythological story, flashing their white foamy fangs as they contemptuously bit into the sandy shore with such intensity that the little waders like Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and even the larger Oystercatcher were to be found huddled in groups on the rocks at the Buncrana Pier to avoid it's scolding outbursts. The larger species such as the variety of Gulls, that at times seamed to enjoy the windy conditions, or on other times they sat very close to Mother Earth to avoid the buffeting of the gale. ............ This was the case as we worked our way to the Fahan Creek area, and then to the the Island of Inch where our task was completed . ........ Although the day was stormy, the temperature was at most times in double figures, rather exceptional for mid January.
Winter on the Eastern Shores of the Foyle. Sat. 19th Jan. 2019. A calm midwinter day devoid of any traces of the colours from the departed Autumn, now just a fading memory. In its stead a somber picture painted from a palette of mono toned misty grey, scumbled over the landscape on the eastern shore of Lough Foyle, where with a reasonable temperature of between eight and nine degrees we enjoyed our first stop at the shoreline of Myroe, where on previous visits we recorded Short-eared-Owl, and Spotted Redshank among the many other species. On this visit a very large flock of Brent Geese was noted as it grazed contentedly on a many acre carpet of specially cultivated lush green turf. Earlier a Peregrine Falcon was only interested in securing it's prey, a Redshank that may have escaped its demise by a bit of nifty aerobatic maneuvers. ........ Further along the coast at Ball Point another Peregrine was spotted on a rock out on the tide-deserted shore as it awaited it's lunch to fly past. On the menu here were Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Redshank, Greenshank and a variety of Gulls. ....... After our tea break at the Swan Bridge picnic area it was off to the lookout at the shore near Ballykelly, here a buzzard was spotted which brought to five our number recorded for the day. Also here the now ubiquitous Little Egret foraged in the adjacent long grasses and shallow shoreline. Our botanist Anne, ably assisted by Daniel was delighted to find the rather rare plant Corn Marigold surviving the cold of the season........ The highlight of the day was our visit to the Roe Valley Country Park where colourful beds of Hellebores offered a welcoming invitation to this peaceful retreat where we wandered leisurely, amazed at the beauty of this arboreal treasure house which had the thundering river supplying a suitable musical background. ......... What a finish to our enjoyable outing. Saturday 26th January 2019. No Club outing today due to a weather forecast predicting very heavy rain, low temperatures and gale force winds, the latter didn't matererlise untill much later this evening.
The first Outing of Spring. Sat. 2nd Feb 2019. After the climatic severity of the of the past few Saturdays, today's outing was approached with some trepidation, but on this occasion the gods were in a very benevolent mood and lavished on us the gifts of bright warm sunshine delivered in a silent stillness that had the skeletal remains of last summers wild flowers, the tall umbels and grasses motionless as if transfixed by the wonder of the beautiful countryside. ...... These conditions were much appreciated at our first stop at the Malin Town Bridge, then at the Bathing box Lane Hide, where large numbers of Ducks mostly Wigeon, Teal and Mallard, congregated on the edge of a low tide, the later with their iridescent green head plumage switching on and off as they moved in the intense brightness of the morning sunlight. Also in their pristine garb Little Egrets stepped erratically as if they were treading on hot coals. After our sojourn here it was on to the Culdaff river Estuary where more Wigeon, Teal and Mallard seemed to be enjoying the warmth, then a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers raced over the surface of the calm river water with great speed and panache, while Greenshank, Redshank, Common and Black-heade Gull and Grey Heron looked on disapprovingly. Further along towards Carrowtraw Beach a male Buzzard surveyed it's domain from it's high perch on top of a tall lamp post at the Sports field. Up a little pathway on the other side of the road on a tree stump was this profile of Jim, now just a shadow of himself......... After a short stop at Bunagee we set off to Malin Head through scenic Glengad. .... On arrival at the Head, two large flocks of Barnacle Geese were spotted in the Muckla area. ........ Following our lunch, once again courtesy of Anne and Jim, we discovered the two flocks had moved from Muckla, and were grazing contentedly on the great grassy acreage at Ballyhillin where it was noticed that a number of the birds had leg rings attached. Near here the roadside was decorated with the magnificent display of the blue blossoms of Veronica hedging, this and earlier the rows of Daffodil near Malin Town all added to the beauty of the day. Now with the Sun descending towards the horizon. A short stop at Port Ronan revealed a Great Northern Diver as it drifted on the shimmering sea. We then concluded this special day with the final stop at the White Strand Bay.
Squirrels at Lisnagrath Wood. Monday 4th. February 2019. One of our members recorded the Red Squirrels enjoying the afternoon Sunshine in the company of a very large numbers of Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Chaffinch, Robin and many Jays that could be seen and heard.
Our Day at Meenyanly, Cloghada Hill and Lisnagrath. Sat. 9th. Feb. 2019. We were set to engage with what a chaotic Winter had in mind for us, with the last few days of its cyclonic rage that had instilled a sense of panic and fear as it scythed it's sward of destruction through the country. Even early this morning it was issuing it's threats, but fortunately before we set off to our first stop in the scenic countryside of Meenyanly south east of Buncrana, the gale assumed a more courteous manner to the point that it nearly disappeared completely, the rain, not to be outdone by the wind behaved in an impeccable way also by staying far off. ............ From Meenyanly we walked to the top of Cloghadod Hill from where we gazed down on a beautiful sun swept countryside with the sparkling blue water of the Fullerton Dam, and it's overflow waters cascading down over the overflow wall. ............. On our long trek back down to the cars it was great to record colourful Jays toing and froing from tree branches to feed on perhaps insects or worms on the ground. Also noticed in the area were Crossbills, utilizing the plentiful supply of fir tree cones suspended from their branches like baubles on a Christmas Tree. After our lunch break near the lofty Grainnes Gap, it was down to the rustic and tranquil setting of Lisnagrath Wood, where we relaxed in the company of those cheeky little Red Squirrels while they plyed their task of checking through the deep copper coloured litter to find a hidden treasured nut, while great hosts of little feathered angels flitted to and fro in the hope of receiving perhaps a handout from their human admirers. ....... on the southern end of the region three Woodcock did a very prompt exit from cover to find another hiding place. With some more time enjoyed in this heavenly place it was time for our merry band to make our exit.
The February Bird Count on Lough Swilly. Sat. 16th. Feb. 2019. It's that time of year again when we focus our attention on the penultimate Bird Count on the waters and shores of the great Lough Swilly. ......... We commenced our task in near perfect conditions with a temperature variation of between eight and ten degrees, with the occasional shaft of sunlight adding to our enjoyment, not what you expect for the month of February, and these ingredients remained constant throughout our exercise, during which we were rather surprised by the high number of birds and species being recorded. Figures we had expected in December and last month that were not achived, but on this occasion we were delighted to have them for today's records.. ...... Apart from the birds it was stimulating to see a few harbingers of Spring with the light cobalt blue of the Periwinkle peeping from the shelter of roadside hedges and ditches, Primroses, Crocus, hosts of Golden Daffodils the yellow blossom of the Lesser Celandine and the the bright glistening glow of the common Dandelion in the company of the deep crimson shade of wintered Ivy Leaves dangling over a stone wall on Inch Island. These treats are all part of the joys of the great outdoors.
Outing to the Culdaff and Malin Areas. Sat. 23rd. Feb. 2019. In a morning that at first Glance seemed rather colourless, but as we set off for our first stop at Malin Town Bridge our outlook was invigorated when our eyes were opened to the beautiful blossoming Forsythia, and the cup like red flowers of Camellia shrubs, the beds of Daffodils, Primroses, and multi coloured Crocuses offering from roadside gardens their cheerful message of Spring's return. ........ At the Bridge the very high tide was observed as it spilled it's excesses on to the bay side fields. Some distance out in the deep waters Goldeneye plumbed the deep, while Teal, Wigeon and Mallard enjoyed the shallows near the shore, all being observed from their lofty stances by Little Egret and Grey Heron. Out the Lagg road a very large flock of Barnacle Geese grazed nervously. ......... Past the Malin Town Parochial Hall on our way to Culdaff, a Blackthorn Bush was illuminating the pathway with it's pristine white flowers, while in the background more Teal were visible in the welcomed sunshine made possible by the parting of the cloud cover, this event gave a whole new outlook to our day. ......... At the Culdaff River Estuary, the Red-breasted Mergansers observed there a few weeks past were still present, as were good numbers of Curlew, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Wigeon and Common, Black-headed, and Black-backed Gull. .......... After passing the Sports field we took a short meander up a grass covered path where we were delighted to record and photograph a mixed flock of Brambeling, Chaffinch, Linnet, Greenfinch, Dunock and Reed Bunting, and in secluded nooks little clumps of heather and fully opened Lesser Celandine gleamed.......... After a late lunch that crowned off the most enjoyable visit to this area it was on to Malin Head via the beautiful village of Glengad. At the Head, the highlight of the afternoon was the recording of another large flock of Barnacle Geese that were occupying great areas below Bamba's Crown. But now with the afternoon on the wane it was time for us to disperse and relive the wonders of today's outing. Sat. 2nd. March 2019. The realities of the month of March were very much to the fore on this occasion when it cast it's unpleasantness of heavy continuous rain accelerated by an ever increasing gale force wind. What a change from the pleasantries endowed on the country by the extremely warn, dry, sunny weather of last month. ......... The early part of the morning started off in relatively calm, dry conditions as we planed our proposed visits to the Clonmany and Urris regions, and on our way there we made a stop at the Glasha and Straths areas of Carndonagh, where we recorded a very large flock of Barnacle Geese foraging out on the tide-empty Trawbreaga Bay. .......... On arrival at the Isle of Doagh the heavy rain started, accompanied by the promised gale force wind, but we did manage to add to our list, two Great Northern Divers, Great-blacked Gulls, a long line of Cormorants patiently awaiting the now distant tide to return, also in the area were Dunlin and Redshank. A little later a number of Ringed Plover were keeping a low profile on the grassy area near the Castles. ........ Now with visibility being greatly impeded it was time to find shelter, a hot cup of tea, and put the feet up at home for the rest of the day. All of which were duly accomplished. Sat. 9th. March. Despite our experience with the weather last week and the forebodings of the forecasters, we nevertheless spent an enjoyable day in the vicinity of Inch Island. Meeting at the Causeway we noticed how high the water was. Only a few Grebe and Tufted Duck were visible. At McGraths we watched a few pairs of Lapwing displaying in acrobatic fashion. Wigeon, Teal and Mallard hugged the shoreline. As we watched a Buzzard approach, our eyes were drawn to a Short-eared Owl as it climbed high into the sky to escape the attention of some crows. At Millbay we spotted Redshank, Greenshank and Dunlin. A climb through the trees at Lacken revealed the music of Bullfinch and Goldcrest and as we descended towards the shore we were given a noisy welcome by a flock of eighty Brent Geese. We were glad to see that the Yellowhammers were still in area and we paused for lunch. Next on to Inch Levels where the heavy rains of the last few days had created a series of new lakes in the fields around the Carpark. A Buzzard feasted on a carcass as we drove by. Large flocks of GreyLag and Pink-footed Geese along with a few stray Barnacle had taken advantage of this new environment along with Redshank and Curlew. Out on the permanent lake there were large numbers of Cormorant. At our final destination of Blanket Nook the high water yielded only a few Mallard and Goldeneye with Redshank and Oystercatchers on the seaside of the embankment. Despite the wintry showers the bursts of sunlight gave us excellent conditions to enjoy nature in Springtime. ......... . Thanks to the ever reliable Jim Toland for today's report in the absence of our regular scribe.
A Storm Tossed Ultimate Bird Count for the Past Winter. Sat. 16th. March 2019. Late last night we were faced with the prospects of an adverse weather warning, that had in it's armory, frost, heavy rain, wind and then snow for today's final Lough Swilly's Bird Count for this season. So it was decided to wait till morning to see what things might then look like. ....... Yes, there had been snow falling during the night, but by early morning it had turned to rain, and generally things had improved considerably. Now it was "all systems go" from our start at Buncrana to our conclusion on Inch Island in the late afternoon. During the whole exercise visibility was somewhat impeded by a heavy mist suspended over the Peninsula like the "Sword of Damocles" but in spite of this we prevailed in our task, and with the weather eventually improving managed to deliver a substantial result. ........ But through all the doom and gloom a light shone through with the sparkle of the blossoms on the Hawthorn, the Blackthorn bushes, and the many other wild flowers awakening from their Winter retreats to be serenaded by the vocal practices of those brave little feathered warriors, The Robin, Chaffinch, Yellowhammer, Pied Wagtail, Bullfinch and many others, all now sensing the approaching long bright days of Summer.
A Golden Outing in March. Sat. 23rd. March. 2019. Spring has laid down it's marker with some authority by the intensity of the morning light, and the rows of Hawthorn hedges flaunting their new soft green foliage, an early appearance of the beautiful Stitchwort and in the many nooks and crannies the newly awakened Dog Violets seemed to be smiling back at that great giver of life, "The Sun". Set against this background of peace and order was the clamouring hosts of Jackdaws and Rooks as they set about constructing their homes high in the branches of broad leafed Trees and chimney pots where they will rear their families during the early Summer months. ........... Our first stop of the day was at Glasha near Carndonagh where the only sound was the gentle lapping of the blue waters of a high tide on to the shore line of the placid Trawbreaga Bay. Nearby three Grey Heron were keeping their feet dry by perching with great aplomb in conveniently placed Fir Trees, while on a low bank near the shore a few Little Egrets preened their pure white plumage. ................Now it was on to the nearby Straths where a considerable flock of Barnacle Geese were contentedly grazing. Some of these birds had leg rings attached, many fitted at this location last year. During the period spent here, four Buzzards were also noted as were a sizable flock of Brent.. ............ A short time later on the Isle of Doagh an early lunch break was enjoyed, and during this most enjoyable of events a flock of Whooper Swans arrived to refuel before departing our shores until next winter. Before leaving for Clonmany, four Chuff uttered their salutations as they circled overhead. ........... Now through the town of Clonmany then down the Binnion Road, the local equivalent of the famous "Dark Hedges" where our first Spring sighting of Marsh Marigolds were recorded. ................. We had not long arrived at Binnion when the shout "The Eagle" went up. It was with great excitement that we watched for a considerable period as it soared and cavorted along and above the Clonmany Hills. We had no reports of the Golden Eagles in the area for the past two years, so this sighting was especially rewarding. ............. This special golden outing finished with a check through the Urris area, over the spectacular Mamore Gap, then home through Clonmany and Ballyliffin.
The Last Outing of March 2019. Sat. 30th. March 2019. We set off through the townlands of Creehenan and Cabry near Quigleys Point in a morning of misty greyness. Gradually as the morning progressed it spawned a day of brilliant sunshine, but at exposed positions a cool northerly breeze was presented to remind one of the approaching feature from local folklore "The Borrowing Days". ....... With a stop at Ballyargus our attention was drawn to a bird that looked like a Peregrine Falcon as it flew in the direction of Croaghmore, so we set off in that direction and to our relief and surprise we not only saw the Peregrine but also it's mate, what luck? ........ How pleasant to drive along the roads in this elevated area with their verges bedecked by the amazing displays of Daffodils and in lots of places the beautiful but invasive False Salmonberry plant, thanks to nature and the local population......... Later we descended to the main Moville/Derry road at Black Point. Here a Whimbrel was noted as it flew low along the shore line, while further out a number of Eider Duck floated on the still lough water. ............ Next at the little pier below the Redcastle Post Office where lunch was welcomed. Some members led by Botanist Anne discovered the emerging Wood Anemones and very recently formed Bluebells in their typical environment of tall sturdy trees, while in slightly more exposed places, Alexanders, Speedwell and Primroses were on show and the often overlooked but stunning yellow glow of the common Whin. .............. Now suitably refreshed it was on to the Upper Pier at Moville where we recorded our first sighting of the season of a Sandwich Tern and on the silvered surface of the water a small number of Black Guillemot dithered in a relaxed fashion. ........ Then on our way to the final stop at Inishowen Head we hit the jackpot again when we recorded another pair of Peregrines ............ When we reached our destination we were rewarded with the sighting of a Kestrel as it hovered not far from our position after which against the blue Atlantic Ocean, lines of brilliantly white Gannets flew in a orderly fashion in a westerly direction while the swell of the Ocean crashed onto the rocky outcrops far below. .............. Indicative of the arrival of Spring was the large numbers we saw today of Bumble Bees as they searched in the golden flower heads of Dandylions and Coltsfoot for their supply of nectar.
A Glorious Day Nature Watching along the Northern Shore of Lough Swilly. Sat. 6th. April 2019. The day awoke with a bright smile on it's face that exemplified the beauty and serenity of of the Inishowen hills and Countryside, and when we reached Buncrana it had charmed the waters of the glorious Lough Swilly to a silky stillness, and all of this was reflected on the large numbers of locals and visitors, suitably attired for their encounter with this beautiful April morning. That was the atmosphere that we absorbed as we set off from that iconic building known as the "Stone Jug" to meander in the direction of Fr Hegerty's Rock through pathways adorned with the colours from natures perfectly blended palette with a predominance of gold's and yellows of the Dandelion, Marsh Marigold and Lesser Celandine, some of which were embellished with petals splashed with white streaks. A perfect foil to these was the ground cover provided by the great blankets of Wild Garlic leaves, while in pathway crevices large mounds of Scurvy Grass, whose bright white flowers added to the setting. .......... All of this balanced by the striking colours of the many boys and girls of all ages out for their morning walk, and for the more energetic to run or jog. ........... Out on the water six Great northern Divers dived for their sustenance. ............. Later on our way to Stragill Strand by car we stopped under the shade of sturdy tall trees near Clagan Bridge. Here we had our first sighting of the lovely little flowers of the Wood Sorell peeping from it's sunny abode with the light blue of new Dog Violets close by, from above the canopy the mewing call of a Buzzard echoed through the quiet of early mid day. ............ At Stragill we recorded more firsts for the season when when Jim, Mary and Sinead watched as Sand Martins flew to and fro checking suitable residences to rear their families. .......... Finally at Dunree Fort where Fulmars are already ensconced in safe ledges on the the great rocky monolith our final success was to record the fly past of a Orange Tip Butterfly.. After spending some time soaking up the warm rays of the Sun it was time to return to base and reflect on a most glorious day in the great outdoors.
A Cold Dry Breezy Day in April. Sat. 13th. April 2019. A strong piercingly cold easterly breeze vented it's anger on our outing to that wonderful arena of beauty and tranquility that is Bogay, nestling in the valley below Hollywell Hill. Even here the breeze was intent on impending on our pleasure. But undaunted by this meteorological interference we were treated to many gifts from natures basket of flora, with the beautiful opposite leaved Saxifrage adorned in it's varying tones of pale green, carpets of the miniature and beautiful Creeping Speedwell, great hosts of Lady's Smock, beds of Bluebells, and at one location a pink variation of the flower. The surrounding countryside was mostly aglow in the display of Blackthorn hedges, while many of the tall sturdy trees were flaunting their display of Wild Cherry blossoms. ....... In an old forgotten garden a weather-beaten door in the garden wall was surrounded by the clinging stems of Periwinkle, clad in masses of blue blossoms, it felt that the door if opened would lead back to times long gone by. ............ Our next move was to the old slate quarry near St. Johnston where a special occasion was celebrated when Mary was presented with a Birthday Cake by Anne, to a chorus of "Happy Birthday" by her well wishers. It was difficult to estimate the age of the recipient due to the close spacing of the flickering candle light, but the celebration and the cake went down well ! Today we reordered many birds through our travels, these included Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Chiffchaff, Goldfinch, Goldcrest, Willow Warbler, Redpoll, Blackbird, Shelduck, Mallard and Buzzard. ............ Homeward bound it was nice to see the emerging forms of the Cow Parsley, that in a few weeks time will transform the country roads to a paradise of white Lace.
An Easter Saturday's Nature Watching. Sat. 20th. April 2019. Today replicated the wonderful weather of the last few days of calm, rain free and bright warm sunshine embracing the northern half of the country. The only missing constituant of the formula on this occasion was the bright sunshine, but the Weather Gods substituted this with a light gray mist to enmesh the whole countryside, that in turn impaired our ability to report on what was visible beyond a kilometer. ........... This inconvenience didn't interfere with the enjoyment of our outing that began in the Malin Town area. Then followed Culdaff, where as at Malin Town, the river estuary here, was devoid of our winter visitors such as Teal, Wigeon and Barnacle Geese, that have by now departed from our shores. ........ At a little trodden pathway in the Culdaff region we were amazed to watch a Chaffinch weaving it's magical skill of nest building in an overhanging branch of a sturdy tree, employing large amounts of spiders web, wool, feathers and twigs. Further along the pathway was the unusual discovery of the beautiful flowers of London Pride Saxifrage. A little later we enjoyed a careful wander through the Bluebell Wood, and at another location we admired the beauty of the white variety of the plant........ Nearby the often overlooked and through familiarity was the stunningly beautiful Common Daisy. ........... Dandering through the heavenly sylvan woodland of Redford with immense areas immersed in a whiteout of Wood Sorell, Wood Anemones, Bluebells, Stitchwort. Down in the damp environment of the babbling stream clumps of Marsh Marigolds beamed their golden presents upwards. This is a special place worth a visit. ............ Our enjoyable day in the area had to be curtailed due to other commitments on this Easter Saturday. Saturday 27th. April 2019. It was decided to call off today's Nature Watching activity due to the intervention of Storm Hannah, but hope to resume our usual saturday outing next week .
Our Outing to the Wonderland's of Glenveagh and the Poison Glen. Sat. 4th. May 2019. A day spent in the sun splashed wonderland's of the beautiful Glenveagh National Park, and the amazing peacefulness of the Poison Glen was the reward for the long journey by our members from the Inishowen Peninsula, and Sion Mills in County Tyrone. ............... On our arrival at Glenveagh just before midday it was soon realized that time would not allow for a visit to both places, so we split the group into two, with one group staying here, while the other went to the Poison Glen, with regular contact being maintained by phone at regular intervals throughout the day. ............... With the Sun beaming it's intensity, our first objective as the remainers was to try and record the rare and elusive Butterfly the "Holly Blue" that fortunately were found in warm and sheltered areas and not in any exposed places where a northern breeze reduced the temperature to about eight or nine degrees. As you would expect we stayed in the company of the Butterflies. ............ Later up at the stately Castle we enjoyed our lunch, followed by a leisurely dander, searching for any special Flora or Fauna that might be found on the pathways and verges on our way to the Fisherman's Lodge situated nearer the top of the Glen, and then back down again while being serenaded by the taunting call of the Cuckoo. ........... Our arrival back to the Castle was followed by a walk through the vegetable Garden, then through the heavenly creation of the more formal gardens doused in brilliant colour's of the many exotic blooms and shrubs from distant lands. Some of the gardens were adorned with statues and carvings depicting scenes from Roman Mythology, all added to by the bright sunlight. What a treat for the eye and the mind ? ............ Martin, who was part of the group that visited the Poison Glen, describing it as a beautiful wilderness that was brimful of wildlife, with large numbers of Red Deer that watched suspiciously at the members intrusion into their domain, as did a Ring Ouzel as it skulked between rocks and heather. ................ Among the birds recorded were Reed Bunting, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Stonechat and Ravens. Then we had a large count of Green Hairstreak Butterflies and a Common Lizard as it enjoyed the warming rays of sunlight in it's sheltered rock-clad abode. What a magnificent day in the beautiful Hills of Donegal.
A Special Day in a Special Place. Sat. 11th. May 2019. There's that mythological place known as the Garden of Eden where peace and plenty abide, a land of milk and honey inwrought with orderly lush vegetation, beautiful flowers and fragrances, a place that was thought to exist. But today we entered our own version of the reality with our outing to the Malin and Culdaff regions all awash in brilliant sunshine. .......... with a brief stop at Malin Town we watched five Little Egrets paddle in the shallow tidal run. .......... Next an equally brief stop at the Culdaff River Estuary where a Black-tailed Godwit followed a similar fishing technique. A short time later the gate to paradise opened with a visit to the Bluebell Wood and it's surrounding areas to reveal beauty and colours in their many and varying forms, exemplified by the delicate tints and structure of the Wild Strawberry, the equally miniature flowers of the Germander Speedwell, the reddish/tan of the well developed London Pride, the varying colour of the common Daisy. ........ At the Bluebell Wood, nature had arranged a symphony in blue with the flowers boastful in an unashamed manner, nodding a welcome in their perfect environment of dappled shade, provided by the sparsely placed tall broad leafed Trees. ............... Surely nothing could add to this experience, but after our lunch we set off for the favorite amble of ours, namely the old road to Redford Beach. Today the display of colour was breathtakingly soul lifting with both sides of the valley transformed with immense areas of what looked like great wall hangings composed with thousands and thousands of Bluebells that in some places were intermingled with the sparkling white flowers of Stitchwort, Wood anemone and Wood Sorrel. ....... In this warm and sheltered heaven Orange Tip , Speckled Wood, Large White and Tortoiseshell Butterflies flitted to and fro over their food plants, while birdsong filled the air, their choral renditions emanating from their lush hideaways of trees and bushes, while overhead buzzards circled leisurely in this extra special place.
A Grey Damp Day In May. Sat. 18th. May 2019. As the poet Robert Burns wrote "The best laid plans of mice and men often go aray" was most applicable to our outing today, when with the glorious sunshine and warmth of the past number of days it was our intension to go to the Ballyargus region of Drung on the eastern side of the Peninsula to record the recent report from this area of flurries of those sparkling emerald jewels of creative perfection, Green Hairstreak Butterflies. But with the overnight rainfall that continued this morning and later to most of the day. ........... A change in the program had to be made, which saw us seek the relative shelter in the Lisnagrath Wood near Muff, where we were welcomed by the local wildlife residents of Red Squirrel, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin and Jay set against a background of the vernal foliage of late spring. ................ The greyness of the day was a perfect foil for the brilliance and beauty of the flowering Hawthorn bushes. ........... The roadways on the edges of this wonderful Woodland, had rows of Elder Bushes flaunting their elegant blossoms, while close by Tormental, Pignut, Creeping Cinquefoil, St Patrick's Cabbage, the Common Vetch displaying their colourful presence. .............. Near here there's a large acreage of Fir Trees surrounded by a very marshy and almost impenetrable entry, and as we were to discover more difficult to exit, that was a cause of some anxiety, when one of the experienced members got a little disorientated but didn't panic, and found his way back to the great outside world. ............. Our day in the damp greyness of the outing concluded with a visit to see the large numbers of Sand Martins flying in and out their multi storied dwellings in the Birdstown area. .............. A gray day, but in other respects bright and cheerful.
A May Day in the Eastern Side of our Domain. Sat. 25th. May 2019. Another Saturday of saturated gray mist that at times draped it's cheerless presence over the mountains and countryside, but failed to dampen the spirit of our outing to last weeks intended targets of Creehenan, Ballyargus and the other ports of call. .......... After our assembly at the clochan in Glentogher, but before setting off from here we observed at close hand a female Buzzard with it's breakfast fly off with what looked like a Common Lizard securely clasped in it's powerful talons, while we were being serenaded by a combined choir of Willow Warblers, Chaffinch, Robin and Wren, with the added beauty of silver orbs of rain drops suspended on spider webs woven over sturdy grasses for support. What a wonderful start to our day?. .............Then we drove to near Cabury, Quigleys Point, then through Creehenan and on to Ballyargus where we were joined by member Daniel Moloney. Along the ditches and heather clad verges here, Milkwort and Lousewort were displaying their spectacular shades of blue and red, with the yellow of the Buttercup and the pale shade of the Dog Violet blending easily. ......... Later along the main Derry/Moville road, drifts of Red Campion cast their rays of brightness as we passed on our way to the little pier below the Redcastle Post Office. Here lunch was had. ......... Next to the Upper Pier at Moville, where some members took pictures of those most photogenic bird, the Black Guillemot, as they posed on the back wall. .............. The remainder of the outing was enjoyed with a walk along the winding bank of the Breda Glen River, a place of beauty with even a greater potential. Here we noted the large areas of Wild Garlic, Lady's Smock, Bugle, Cow Parsley, Buttercup, Bluebell and Ivy leaved Toadflax and others, too many to mention here, all set against the gurgling river water, or at times it's silent passage to the great Lough Foyle .
The First of June on the Isle of Doagh.
Sat. 1st. June 2019. Today, a welcomed day of rain free conditions after the deluge endured during the past week, was further enhanced with at times bursts of bright sunshine, and temperatures that as the day progressed reaching nineteen degrees and on a few occasions peaked at twenty two. ............ This made our Nature trekking most enjoyable, with a stop in the Tullynabratilly area where a pair of Golden Eagles were recorded last week as they circular in a leisurely manner in the warm thermals of midday. Here this morning we were being teased by the hide and seek call of a Cuckoo ............... Along a few old stone walls and ditches that at times long gone by, would have added a touch of splendor to the now crumbling remains of human dwellings "If these Stones Could Only Speak." but now various forms of Speedwell, Herb Robert, Tufted Vetch, Navelwort and Birds-foot Trefoil were prominent while from their lookout post on a nearby Whin Bush a pair of Sedge Warblers stealthily supplied food to their nestlings hidden close by. ............... After this, it was on to the Isle Of Doagh, where an enjoyable afternoon was spent watching Buzzards as they surveyed the prospect of lunch from high in the sky. At the Castles, Sea Gulls patrolled the rock lined coast, while on the great stone deposits of the beach Ringed Plover stood statue-like so as not to attract the attention of any predators to their young families. In the same area the wild flowers were starting to make an impression with the deep blue of Milkwort, mingling with the emerging flowers of Wild Thyme, then the sparkling white of the Sea Campion, Doves Foot Speedwell, the cut leafed Cranesbill, the purpley red of the Early Marsh Orchid, Sea Pink, and through the stone strewn beach Oyster Plants, that are now about to deliver their equally beautiful blue flowers, with many more forms of Flora to add to the great coverage of Bulbous Buttercup scattered over the green carpets of the nearby fields. Added to this spectacular show of Summers Floral extravagance was the number of Cinnabar Moths, Small Heath, Large White and Speckled Wood Butterflies that floated over this great festival of loveliness .
A Fine Day at Ards Forest. Sat. 8th. June 2019. A day enjoyed in the haven of peace and beauty, warm sunshine and with a friendly zephyr adding to the leisure in abundance at the wonderland of Ards Forest Park situated adjacent to the white sandy beaches of Sheephaven Bay, and near the tidy town of Creeslough. ........... After our approximately two hour drive from the equally scenic Inishowen Peninsula, we started our meander through the well maintained greens and on to the equally maintained boardwalk that allows full appreciation of the myriad and variety of wildflowers to be seen on both sides. Among these were Common Spotted and the Northern Marsh Orchid, Woodruff now coming into flower, the beautiful Burnet Rose, Sancile, the deep blue of the many outcrops of Bugle, Mountain Everlasting, Twayblade, and the charming flowering Tutson. .............. In a sheltered area of stillness Speckled Wood, Small Blue, Small Heath and the petite Wood White Butterflies fluttered with intent while in other regions, day flying Moths were flaunting their colours and designs, one of these beauties was a Clouded Buff according to our lepidopterist Mary. ............... From this point it was back to the cars through a magnificent towering Cathedral-like archway of sturdy Fir Trees reaching high into the heavens, but at times allowed shafts of sunlight to splash its rays down onto the forest floor thickly carpeted with russet Pine needles. ........... After a rather late but relaxed lunch break, a short visit to the Ards Friary concluded a special experience on a special outing. Monday, 11th June 2019. A small number of club members availed of the opportunity to visit the Island of Inishstrathhull off Malin Head in the most perfect conditions today. Jim Toland has sent the following report describing their pleasant experience: Monday, 10th June. Three members of the Club were among a party of eight who availed of the opportunity to visit the paradise that is Inishtrahull Island, lying seven miles north of Malin Head. We were in the company of personnel of Birdwatch Ireland who were there to monitor the bird population. After an uneventful crossing on a calm sea under blue skies we commenced with a survey of the West End, the site of the current lighthouse. Birds were at various stages of breeding and included Eider, Greater and Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull and Shag. Tern were still arriving and have started a new site on the south of the island. One of the two pairs of Skua patrolled the skies above us, not too happy with our presence. Wheatear watched from the summits of the the ancient rocks of Lewisian Gneiss, testament that this is the oldest land in Ireland, with cousins in The Western Isles of Scotland and Iceland. We spotted two deer, hinds, remnant of a small herd that have inhabited the island from the end of the nineteen hundreds. A small flock of Chough passed by. Fortified by our picnic lunch, we then set off to the East End, site of the former lighthouse, built in 1813 and abandoned in the nineteen fifties. As we ascended the steep path a Basking Shark was spotted feeding on the seas below us. Seals abound here, hauled out on the rocks, bottling in the sun or simply watching with idle curiosity. Gulls flourish on this end of the island where the second pair of Skua watched us intently. A small flock of Greylag Geese were circling at intervals, suggesting they may be breeding nearby. Gannet, Guillemot and Black Guillemot were feeding on the rich waters and there was evidence of the secretive Storm Petrel. As our skipper, Denis and his crew returned from their day's fishing, with a bounty of Mackerel, Pollock and Coalfish, which they duly shared with us, it was time to go. On our way to the Pier at Malin Head, we skirted the cliffs and stacks to catch a glimpse of the nesting Kittiwakes. Thoreau could not have spent a happier day at Walden Pond.
A Damp June Day on Rathlin Island. Sat. 15th. June 2019. A morning that one would dream about, with the Eye of Heaven burning brightly in a cloudless sky of ultramarine blue, augmented by the pleasant temperatures that had Nature with all of it's component parts in perfect harmony with everything around us............ Our destination on this beautiful morning was to the wonderful Island of Rathlin just six miles from the busy town of Ballycastle on the North Antrim Coast. As we joyfully made our way there conditions started to come apart as increasing blankets of mists sprinkled with light raindrops cast a sense of gloom that had the Sun hiding it's face in embarrassment. ............... After boarding the ferry and enjoying the twenty five minutes voyage we arrived at the Church Bay pier then it was all haste to the little bus to take us to the RSPB bird sanctuary at the unique "Upside Down" Lighthouse. The bus driver was a little unique also, as he entertained the packed vehicle with his interesting local history, jokes and impressions. ........... On the top and sloping sides of the tall flat-topped rocky stacks reaching high into the sky from far down in the Ocean floor, were thousands and thousands of Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin and many others that come here to breed each Spring. Looking for an easy meal while cruising overhead were various species of Gull, Raven and Skua. ............ On their long walk back to Church Bay, Jim and Anne recorded the rasping call of the Corncrake. .............. One slight disappointment of our visit here today was being unable to see the rare Spring Squill and the Pyramidal Bugle, but we did see many other wildflowers among which were beautiful white and pink varieties of Foxglove, Marsh Cinquefoil, Lousewort, Red Valerian, White Valerian, amazing displays of Sea Radish and Ragged Robin. .............. Apart from the blip in the weather a good and enjoyable day was had by all,
The Day Beyond The Summer Solstice. Sat. 22nd. June 2019. With the Summer Solstice sliding past just yesterday it seemed to have provoked the Weather Gods to awaken, and gift us all with some of their bounty, and if today is their response all will be well, as manifest by our visit to the high road at Tullynabratilly and Craigawannia districts of Clonmany. .......... At Tullynabratilly the road verges and many of the fields in the shadows of the lofty Coolcross Hill and Crockaughrm were encrusted with the twenty four carat gold of the flowering Buttercups, interspersed with towering spikes of Foxglove, offering as counterpoint their fingers of rich purple, with the many varieties of Orchid shouting for attention from their lowly beds, and in places with a background of the most beautiful Navelwort. ............. At Craigawannia with it's carpet of multi coloured wildflowers, together with the warmth of the Sun had the effect of coaxing a few Butterflies from their hiding places, with the Common Blue holding pride of place followed by Large white, Small Heath, and one Speckled Wood, at times serenaded by the choral rendition from a choir of Ravens. ............. After lunch it was on to the little hidden garden of botanic gems, to be found along the beach at Ballyliffin, then up the narrow path to the steps to enjoy the glorious view from the picnic table area at the top. .............. Next it was up and over the scenic road at Ardagh, through Clonmany village, down the wonderful tree lined road to Binnion, where a short walk was enjoyed along the white sandy beach. After this, dispersal time was upon us. Remember today is a fraction shorter than yesterday, but most enjoyable none the less.
A glorious Day at Ness Country Park. Sat. 29th. June 2019. Throughout the year our Saturday Club Outings are occasions that are looked forward to and enjoyed, some perhaps more than others but today after an absence of a number of years it was decided to revisit the Ness Country Park in County Derry. This decision was exceptional in many ways not only for the bright hot sunshine, but the paradise of arboreal grandeur that cast it's lattice of shadows and charm on the winding walkways that we leisurely wandered through, that took us along the low valley floor of this beautiful haven along the river after it's thundering passage from the high lip of the valley wall, over the protruding granite outcrops, under a magnificent towering steel stairway and bridge, newly constructed after the ravages of the storm of August 2017. It then regained it's decorum to flow quietly through the lush wild flowered meadows on it's banks where amazing forms of flora abounded. ........ This place where Buzzards floated on high, while closer to Mother Earth had, Bullfinch, Sedge Warbler, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Dipper and a Sparrowhawk with a nest full of Chicks fliting into and over the trees and bushes. .............. This perfect day had enticed Red Admirable, Painted Lady and Speckled Wood Butterflies to join us and our members Wil and Anneke all the way from the Netherlands in celebrating this glorious day, also hovering over the grasses were many of the Common Blue Damselfly. ........... There are reports of the very rare Purple Hairstreak Butterfly in this area, but unfortunately none were seen today.
Anothe Day In The Lap Of The Gods. Sat. 6th. July 2019. Today we again landed in the "Lap of the Gods" with a repeat of last weeks outing of warm, sunny, rain free conditions. This morning started with a walk along a wonderful tree lined road bordering the lower fringes of the historic Crocknakilladerry Wood, west of Carndonagh. The roadside ditches were smothered in the many beautiful and colourfull tall grasses, some of which were displayed like ornamental crystal fountains with their seed heads still heavy with the morning dew curving the slender stems in perfect symmetry back to earth. In many places tall spikes of the ubiquitous Foxgloves, some in their usual purple garb, while others were showing off their splendid creamey white attire. ............ Unashamed of their lowly position the little sparkling blue and red of the Selfheal, the more elegant Tufted Vetch and the pink of the Herb Robert were rampant, and being caressed by Painted Lady and Meadow Brown Butterflies. ............ After our brief sojourn here it was off to the high road at Tullynabratilly Clonmany, from where the stunningly scenic vista of the Isle of Doagh, the tall cliff face of Knockamany and beyond the outline of Malin Head all aglow in the mid summer Sun. What a beautiful canvas to store in the memory for the cold dark days of winter ?. ......... Next it was on to Craigawannie to check if any Butterflies had made an appearance as very few were recorded on our last visit, but on this occasion it was very different as we were swamped with the great numbers of Dark Green Fritillary, Painted Lady, Common Blue and Meadow Brown, causing confusion among the members with their busy fluttering. ................. Some time later lady members Anne and Wil conjured up a birthday celebration for Martin, and judging by the light and heat generated by the candlepower on the beautiful cake it was suggested this, together with his ailing knees that he may be getting on a bit. After the singing and laughter abated we were off to the secret garden at the Ballyliffin Shore, where more gems of floral delight were recorded. ............. so concluded a wonderful day where Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Ringed Plover. Meadow Pipet and Wheatear, were among some of the birds recorded.
A July Day along Lough Swilly Shore. Sat. 13th. July 2019. A leisurely saunter along the wildflower embellished pathway just north of Buncrana where the quiet silvered waters of the great Lough Swilly gently lapped onto the adjacent golden sandy shore, Along this narrow way there were stunning displays of the rich purple flowers of the Marsh Woundwort, the glistening golden-yellow of the Sow-thistle with its jagged leaves and stems, but countering this was the soft fragrant flowers of everyone's favorite, Meadowsweet, in turn followed by the ominous named Enchanters Nightshade. .......... Near the start of our walk we recorded a great display of the beautiful and rather rare Orange Hawkweed, also known as Fox and Cubs. Near here some time later it was great to see a couple of those amazing little piscatorial experts, Kingfishers, skillfully perform their task.. .......... As we slowly progressed to the landmark known as Father Hegerty's Rock, where displays of Angelica, Lady's Bedstraw, Wild carrot, Herb Robert interspersed with many varieties of colours and textures of tall arching grasses further enhancing the walkway for the many early morning walkers. In a nearby meadow, Birds-foot Trefoil occupied a sizable area, as did Orchids of various species with the Heath Spotted Orchid shining brighter than the rest. On a nearby hedge and path a family of young Robins were being attended to by a diligent parent ........... Our next stop was at the peaceful Stragill Beach where after some light refreshments, sparkling clumps of Bladder Campion, Fat Hen, more Lady's Bedstraw, Angelica and Creeping Cinquefoil were recorded. After a short stop at Dunree Fort, then followed by a quick trip to Pinch Hill where Ringlet Butterflies fluttered, their numbers added to the Red Admiral and Meadow Brown species recorded earlier on this enjoyable Summer's day.
A Day In Paradise. Sat. 20th. July 2019. Another day in Paradise, a Paradise wrapped in a festival of Natures miracles, with the most extravagant lush colour scheme of Wildflowers smiling their delight in the bright warm rays of the morning Sun, added to this was the input of the many fluttering Butterflies, while families of Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Willow Warbler and Whitethroat flitted through leafy hedges. Overhead Buzzards looked down from their restful soaring flight. .......... This set the scene as we ambled along the Balleelaghan Road, an oasis of peace and beauty, a short distance north west of Malin Town........... From this idyll it was on to the high road at Ballagh Hill, where a most spectacular vista unfolded from this very elevated point, with far below the glistening waters of Trawbreaga Bay, The Isle of Doagh, and in the distance Slieve Snaght, clad in a soft cloak of pale smoky grey. ......... One of our main intentions of today's outing was to call at the great Sand Dune system at Lagg to check on what Butterflies might be there, and we were very pleased with Dark Green Fritillary, Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Copper and Small Heath being recorded. .......... At this point it was past our usual lunch break time but today, as on many other occasions that very thoughtful schemer Anne, assisted by Sinead and their chauffeur Jim had organized a special tea break with a delicious Birthday Cake for one of our more senior members, so senior that he is not sure what his age is. But to paraphrase Yeats "When you are old and grey and full of sleep and nodding by the fire it's nice to get a Birthday Cake from your Wildlife Compatriots ". ..... After this it was up and over the Knockamany Bens where a sizable flock of Choughs frolicked in the afternoon breeze and where the roadsides were ablaze with great bright purple clumps of Bell Heather. Then with our very brief sojourn at Malin Head it was very rewarding to hear the call of that special visitor, the Corncrake. What a privilege to have our day in this Paradise?
A Sunny July Day at Sheskinmore. Sat. 27th. July 2019. It would be very difficult to underestimate the pleasure and enjoyment derived from our outing to the sun-soaked extraordinary Wildlife Reserve of Sheskinmore, just a few miles north west of the town of Ardara. This is an extensive acreage of high Sand Dunes, marshy environments, some with small lakes where today many Dragonflies and Damsel flies darted energetically hither and thither. Our being here on this occasion was a return visit after our trip of last August 22nd. when we were invited to a talk and workshop on the life cycle of the very rare Marsh Fritillary Butterfly in this location, one of it's strongholds. But today the Marsh Fritillary was not spotted, but in it's stead were Dark green, Silver washed and Pearl Bordered were, together with the Common Blue, Peacock, Grayling, Large and small White and Small Copper, and an invasion like number of Meadow Brown........., On this particular outing our interest was one of a more generalized type, with the local Fauna one of our objectives, and heading that list was the Bee Orchid, the O' Kelly's Orchid and others. Among the more common species recorded were, the Grass of Parnassus, Marsh Willowherb, Centaury, Marsh Lousewort, Marsh Cinquefoil, Knotted Pearlwort, the beautiful blossoms of the Musk Mallow, the Fragrant and Pyramidal Orchid. ...... With good fortune shining as brightly as the sun, we were surprised to meet our friend Michael Cunningham, leader of the South-West Birders and his companion Michelle, who pointed out where the unusual Frog Orchid was hiding. ........... They also told us the most likely places to find other wildflowers of interest........... The old expression "Time Flies When you are Enjoying your self " Proved to be true, so with late evening on the horizon it was time to take the two hour journey back home.
A Butterfly Day In August. Sat. 3rd. August 2019. Over the past week with the exceptionally high temperatures and bright sunshine, there were many reports from all over the country of large numbers of the painted Lady Butterfly being seen, resplendent in their new strong colours as if not long escaped from their chrysalis confinement, with their intensity of numbers described as being in the hundreds, and even in a few reports as clouds of these etheral creatures. The reports coincide with an official announcement that Ireland, The British Isles and Continental Europe would be the recipients of these long distant travelers from The Atlas Mountains in North Africa. .......... So with this being the case, today it was decided to check some of our local Butterfly Habitats in the Malin, Lagg, and Malin Head areas. ....... Before setting off we had a brief look in the Carndonagh region where sizable numbers of these beautiful creations had been noted recently, but on this occasion numbers were somewhat restricted from those seen during the week, perhaps due to the absence the bright sunlight and the early morning start. ....... At the Belleelaghan, and the Ballagh Roads near Malin Town the same conditions prevailed with a similar result. ............. Then it was into the Sand Dunes System at Lagg where Painted Lady, Dark green Fritillary, Meadow Brown, and Red Admiral were recorded, but in some respects the beautiful but diminutive Small Copper stole the show, together with the discovery by Jim and Anne Toland of a unique Albino Wild White Pyramid Orchid, set amid the kaleidoscopic collection of the many colourful Wildflowers. .......... After this it was up and over the magnificent Knockamany Bens. Now with the rain starting to splash it presents on the cars windscreen it was on to Malin Head and the holiday home of Jim and Anne where a very late tea break was enjoyed in the comfort of the previously mentioned members abode. ................ After a drive around the Headland it was time for home, but another surprise was in store. With Daniel almost at his residence in Ballyargus near Redcastle, was amazed to see a very rare sight indeed, with a Black Kite being mobbed by a Peregrine Falcon, then further aggression was added when a Buzzard joined in. Daniel got a few pictures on his phone of the aerial encounter. He contacted some of the club Members who made full haste to where he was parked, just in time to see the Kite head off in a south western direction. What a surprising end to our Butterfly Day.
Tuesday 6th. August 2019. Pictured is the very rare White Pyramid Orchid discovered by Jim and Anne Toland during our outing in the Malin area last Saturday. Picture by fellow member Wil Buis.
A Gray Day Enjoyed in a Wonderful Coloured World. Sat. 10th. August 2019. There was a sense on today's nature trekking event that Autumn is waiting patiently in the wings to make it's grand entrance, with the presentation of "A Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness". this was the impression derived from the gray overcast skies, that had the high peeks of The Clonmany and Urris Hills in blankets of obscurity, preventing any avian residents of these elevated regions from performing their aerobatic activities. All was not doom and gloom tho, blessed with the absence of rain, and a gentle breeze whispering it way in a westerly direction. ........... At our first main stop near the "Castles" on the Isle of Doagh, we recorded many small clumps of the varying blue tones of the beautiful Field Gentian, while close by the rare Oyster Plant was flaunting soft green foliage and its pretty little blue flowers. At where we had parked the cars, Mary Mc Laughlin and her navigator Donna Marie, discover a substantial amount of the diminutive Scarlet Pimpernel, a true gem that was trying it's best to display it's scarlet and purple beauty, even in the absence of bright sunlight. Also here a few tall stalks of the elegant Curled Dock stood sentry like on all they surveyed. ............... When trundling along on the stone strewn beach close to the partially restored ancient Castle, there was a sense among members of wonder and curiosity as to the origins of the structure and variety of the myriad of medium sized stones, polished by the relentless action of the Ocean, perhaps their creation was through great volcanic upheavals or the continuous movements of the Earths Plates. ............ As the afternoon progressed it was time for lunch at the Glen House, and on completion of that pleasant task it was off to the Urris region............ Many more plants and wildflowers were recorded in this district with the Branched Bur Reed and acres of stunning displays of Rosebay Willowherb augmented with the addition of the glorious Purple Loose strife, then softened by masses of the beautiful Angelica, and the even more beautiful Meadowsweet. Among the Birds recorded today were Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon and Whimbrel. ........... A gray day enjoyed in a wonderful coloured world.
A day of Storm, Peace and Tranquility. Sat. 17th. August 2019. With another prediction of strong gale force winds and heavy showers for today, a less adventurous group of wildlife enthusiasts would have called off their visit to the eastern extremity of our domain, that had a particular emphasis on the Moville district. ........ On arrival at our destination, the gray waters of Lough Foyle were being shredded and pulverised by the ferocity of the gale as they crashed onto the shore and the sturdy back wall of the upper pier. The prospects for today's activities didn't look great, but a miracle was about to occur when we found refuge, with the kind permission from the owner, of a world where peace and tranquility prevailed, and a warm Sun shone through a tall sylvan haven to cast their shadows on the earthen pathways, and where the only sounds were of a gurgling stream as it traced its passage to the arms of the turbulent Lough far below, together with the lulling calls of Buzzards and other species, all concealed in the dense foliage. This was indeed a visit to a special world exemplified when returning to our cars, where the gale and noises were continuing their onslaught, but at least the rain had eased ......... At Gulladuff we refueled with tea and sandwich, augmented as usual by Anne with her distribution of tasty delights. Now refortified we meandered along the tree lined banks of the local Bredagh River, where as earlier in the day many Wildflowers and Butterflies were noted. ....... Next we were off to the Inishowen Head area where we took the Ballymcarthur road, then over Craigamaddy Hill, where flocks of Linnet intermingled with Stonechat, and Whinchat, all inerupted by the appearance of a Peregrine Falcon. ..........Through Ballybane, and on to the beautiful Kinnago Bay, all places of scenic extravagance. ...........Now with the strong wind continuing but the rain long past, and the sun showing the opulence of our countryside it was time to call time on our exceptional outing.
The Approach of Summer's End. Sat. 24th. August 2019. A heavy program of places to visit today started with assembly at Gransha Hospital on the Eastern side of the Foyle Bridge. So with everyone present we set off to the beautiful Woodlands of the Muff Glen near the village of Eglinton. This park land where Red Squirrel are to be seen, as were a number of those little steeple jacks, the Treecreepers, displaying their skill as they scampered from the base of suitable trees, up to near the top, in their quest of the edible fare to be extracted from the recesses in the bark, to then return to the base of another and again continue their task. In some of the adjacent leaf laden branches the most diminutive of our native birds the Goldcrest, with Blue Tit and Coal Tit searched for their sustenance. Halfway through our dander the peace and quiet of this sylvan retreat was interrupted by the cascading water of a little stream as it splashed its way from high up on the valley wall, to then join the slow flowing river as it wandered it's way out of it's valley home. ............ Our next stop was at the shore line of Lough Foyle at Ballykelly, The sides of the pathway to the special structure from which to watch the birds was regiled with continous lines of pristine Hedge Bindweed, and where Little Egret and Wheatear were recorded, as was the unusual Corn Marigold flaunting it's sparkling cadmium yellow flowers. .................Now it was on to the final stop of the outing at another sylvan and avian wonderland at the Castlerock Country Park. Both of these parkland places are beautiful in their own way, in the latter a silent still water lake mirrored the perfect reflections of the towering broad leafed trees and the great variety of wildflowers along it's edges, with the tall forms of many plants Like Nipplewort, Sky-reaching Marsh Woundwort, Hogweed, Angelica, Enchanters Night shade, Rosebay Willow Herb and Water Mint, all of these and many more had a suggestion of Autumn's approach that add its own form of magic. What a wonderful day enjoyed by all ? Sat. 31st. August 2019. No club outing today due to a combination of circumstances, number one was the forecast of extreme weather of rain and wind, number two was many members are on holidays. All being well we expect to resume our activities next Saturday. Sat. 7th. September 2019. No Club outing today due to the circumstances encountered last week prevailing, but next Saturday's outing will certainly take place as usual. Wednesday 11th. September 2019. Nine Little Egrets recorded near Malin Town Bridge this morning as they awaited the tide to turn. Our First Club Outing Of Autumn 2019. Sat. 14th. Sept 2019. The mantle of Autumn adorned with a multitudinous spectrum of lemon, yellow, red and later, rust and brown is slowly being draped over the dying embers of Summer, to reappear next year on the palette of a resurgent Spring. This was evident when we ambled through the significant woodlands of Lisnagrath, where the leaf laden forest floor was exhibiting a great range of species, colour and sizes of life giving fungi. These mushrooms and toadstools some of which are considered as a gastronomic treat while others are very poisonous if consumed, are only the visible indicators of a very complex network that lay their myriads of power lines underground that contribute to the development and well being of their partners the sylvan giants. ........ The usual friendly Red Squirrels were most conspicuous by their absence, as were all the Cheeky little birds such as Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Blue Tit and Great Tit that usually congregate at a feeding station for a few crumbs from the Bird Watchers Table. Earlier at a clearing in the wood we had a surprising collection of birds that don't usually meet in substantial numbers, such as Goldcrest, Treecreeper, and to a lesser degree Redpoll, Long tailed Tit, Siskin and Jay. ........... After lunch break it was off to Aught, situated half way between Muff and Quigley's Point. Here we recorded Speckled Wood, Peacock and Small White Butterflies. Not far from this location a Sparrowhawk was added to our list, as were a number of wildflowers many of which seamed to be looking forward to a period of hibernation. .... So concluded our first outing for Autumn 2019.
A Summers Day in Autumn. Sat. 21st. Sept. 2019. A surreal feeling existed among our members as we commenced the first Winter Count of the birds that inhabit the waters and shores of the beautiful Lough Swilly throughout the year, and the others that come here to escape the cold of more northern and eastern regions until Spring's return. .......... From a cloudless blue sky the Golden Orb radiated it's gift of twenty degrees plus, that conjured up the feeling that we were back in the month of June or July, that allowed for the discarding of even light coats and sweaters. Then the brimming tidal dark blue waters of the serene Lough added to the illusion of Summer. ..........Another highlight of the day was when during lunch break our stalwart member Jim Toland, on the occasion of his Birthday was presented by Mary O'Mahoney on behalf of the members with a beautiful cake, decorated with an a appropriate logo. ............ The serious business of bird counting was duly complete to our usual high standard. Earlier in the morning on his way to join in the count Brian Hegarty stopped off at Blanket Nook where he recorded a rather unusual visitor, an American Golden Plover, this was in addition to the the recording of other forms of flora and fauna during the count. Then followed a while relaxing and appreciating the warmth of this wonderful day.
Sat. 28th Sept. 2019. Today we were the recipients of another wonderful Summer like occasion as we set off to the magnificent hinterland of Malin Head with its outstanding scenery awash in the glorious warm sunshine on this, the eve of Michaelmas Day........ One of the purposes of the outing was to observe if present, the large flocks of winter visiting Curlew that spend the season here, together with our own very depleted population that is at crisis point with the National total of breeding birds at about one hundred and fifty pairs. There is a proposed program starting shortly to ring as many visiting and local birds as possible during the upcoming season, the knowledge gained may help in the recovery of this iconic bird. ......... Earlier in the morning Three Little Egrets were recorded in the company of Great-black Back, and Common Gulls at Malin Town. Further on near the Lagg Presbyterian Church, a small number of Curlew were observed mingling with recently arrived Wigeon, a Gray Heron and a few Godwit as they drifted on the calm waters of Trawbreaga Bay.. ......... A short time later a flock of Chough in excess of fifty were cavorting in the gentle morning breeze, and sunshine at Knockamanny. ........... With Autumn fully installed there was a noticeable decrease in the colourful displays of the wildflowers that decorated our fields and hedges over the Summer. But a few have managed to still enchant us with their beauty and structure, such as the Mayweed, Tansy, Red Campion, amazing displays of Fuhsia in full blossom, the Orange flower heads of the reliable Montbretia and at one stop the exceptional display of the Heather with the soft tones of some of it's exhausted blossoms complementing the stronger purple of it's more recent little flowers. ................. During our drive from Bamba's Crown to the Portmore Pier we recorded Buzzard, Kestrel, Stonechat, Wheatear, Pied Wagtail, meadow and Rock Pipit and with Inishtrahull Island as a backdrop we noted Gray Heron, Mallard and Eider Duck bobbing on a restful sea. ......... As evening progressed the shadows lengthened, so we took the hint and set off home.
Fruits of Autumn. Sat. 5th. October 2019. We seemed to be in the favor of the Gods when presented with another Autumnal gift of a fine day, contrary to the foreboding of the prophets of meteorology, that predicted a morning of gray mist, interspersed with light rain and from midday on a more continuous down pouring of heavy showers. .......... After driving through Cashel, Claggan and Cloncha, our first stop was at the Culdaff River Estuary, where in a large field beside the river a flock of Curlew intermingled with a good number of Whimbrel. These birds would be here from eastern Europe to avail of our temperate Winter. Further along among other new arrivals was a flock of Wigeon, noted as they checked the shallow river edges and the low grassy banks for any edible tit bits, while Great-black Backed, Herring, and Common Gulls drifted on the slow flowing tide. A couple of Buzzards were also recorded in the area. ........... From here it was on to the wonderful sylvan shaded pathway to the shore at Redford, where Autumn is claiming it's victory over the retreating images of summer, that still managed to present it's floral gems of Woundwort, Selfheal, Yarrow, Meadowsweet and Buttercup, with a selection of the fruits of the past season, such as Glistening Blackberry, Rose Hip, Snowberry to name just a few. In the area a Peregrine Falcon was spotted. .............. After an alfresco lunch at Tramone Bay, we headed to the not to distant scenic wonder of Kinnagoe Bay where another Buzzard was recorded. From here it was off to Falmore, where in the beautiful peaceful woodland that secretly surrounds the crumbling remains of the once opulent Falmore House. A considerable time was spent here watching Flocks of Long-tailed Tits, Crossbills, as they fed on the plentiful supply of pine cones, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, and Blue Tit also abounded. ........... Soon it was time for home, and as we did so, we were met with some of the heavy rain predicted to dampen out enjoyment for all of our day.
An Outing to the Clonmany Region. Sat. 12th. Oct. 2019. A day of mixed blessings, bestowed with bright pleasant warm sunshine, and rain free until the afternoon. This was our experience when we commenced our quest to find any early signs of the usual winter visitors such as the large flocks of Barnacle and Greylag Geese, or perhaps a few Pink-footed or White-fronted. But with a visit to their customary sites at Glasha, near Carndonagh, then to Straths in the Clonmany area, all part of the large Wildlife Sanctuary of Trawbreaga Bay, none were to be seen. It was suggested that we may have been a little early, but a number of Little Egrets, Curlew, Mallard and Black backed, Common and Black-headed Gulls were recorded. A few weeks past Brent Geese, the earliest arrivals, and Wigeon were recorded in their favourite haunts not far away on the opposite shore of the Bay at Lagg. .................Later on the Isle of Doagh many wildflowers were displaying their winter beauty and at Carrickabraghy we watched as hosts of pristine Gannets, like glistening arrows piercing the smooth dark Ocean surface in pursuit of their prey close to the iconic Island of Glasheady. ......... A short time later we encountered the first rain shower of the outing, so it was decided it might be an appropriate time for lunch............ Now with renewed spirits and the sun back to its radiant best it was off to the beautiful countryside of Urris where the number of buzzards for today reached five, and also a lone Sparrowhawk. Some time later with dark ominous looking clouds approaching and raindrops splashing their rhythm on the roadway a halt was called to our wildlife activities.
The Common Night Hawk. A Visitor From the U.S.A. Monday 14th. October 2019. Yesterday our enthusiast club member Brian Hegarty went to the Ballymena area of county Antrim to check on the reported sighting of a very rare visitor to our shores from the U.S.A. courtesy of the severe storm Lorenzo. The recipient of great attention was the Common Night Hawk, a close relative of the Nightjar. Pictures by Brian.
On the 4th. July 2019. A number of Gulls including eight Lesser-black Backed Gulls were ringed and tagged on Inishstrathhuil Island, twelve miles off our north coast by members of Birdwatch Ireland, including our member, and Breeding Wader Advisory Officer Daniel Moloney. ........ The surprising result of the exercise was that one of the birds has been reported in the south of Spain at Malaga on two occasions during September. Another of the eight tagged birds is currently on the Moroccan / western Sahara border with another tagged bird. .......... There has also being one reported on the coast south of Lisbon. ....... What an extraordinary still unfinished journey, for what is referred to as just a Seagull ............ Above are some of the pictures of this wonderful achievement. Thursday 17th. Oct 2019. Latest update on the wanderings of those incredible Gulls from Daniel : Just checked on some of the Lesser Black backs Gulls this morning. Bird 1 is still in Southern Morocco. Bird 2 has recently moved across the border into Western Sahara. Bird 3 has recently moved West from Malaga and is now south of Seville and bird 4 is currently north east of Lisbon. We also tagged 2 herring gulls of which 1 is at the Giants Causeway and the other in Culmore park as of this morning Sat. 19th. October 2019. Our participation in the Winter bird count on Lough Swilly for this month got off to a rather late start, due to the anxiety of our members expecting a rewarding result from our National Rugby Team's encounter with their nemesis the All Blacks. Unfortunately by half time the realisation dawned on us that this was not to be our day, so we abandoned this painful experience and got back on track, encouraged by the perfect summer-like conditions managed to complete the much more relaxing pursuit of bird counting and absorbing the therapeutic beauty and colors of Autumn. Sunday 20th. October 2019. One of our members has reported the arrival of a flock of approximately two hundred Barnacle Geese at Lagg near Malin Town this afternoon. Wednesday 23rd. October 2019. Daniel Moloney has reported at 10am. A large flock of approximately one thousand Barnacle Geese, and about thirty Pink-footed Geese intermingled with the flock at their usual Lagg Road site.
Also today our member Brian Hegerty recorded a Great White Egret near the new hide at Inch Lake. Another rare visitor, perhaps a victim driven here by Storm Lorenzo.
A Perfect Day in A Perfect World. Sat. 26th Oct. 2019. Our adventure today to the eastern shore of the shimmering aquamarine blue waters of Lough Foyle, was enjoyed with a wonderful bright sunny welcome, somewhat blunted by a cool frost tinged north west wind during the early morning part of the day at the exposed shore line of Ballykelly, but that was soon overlooked when presented with great flocks of Brent and Pink-footed Geese, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Mallard and Wigeon, with squadrons of honking Whooper Swans touching down on the tide-deserted beach being watched by a number of Little Egrets, and exceptional large flocks of various Gulls foraging at the distant tide line. ......... As we were about to leave all the birds were in disarray as a Peregrine Falcon flew through the great throng, selected its prey and did what a Peregrine does best. ....Our next stop was along the coast at another bird watcher's favourite place, Myroe, where a number of White-rumped Sandpiper were seen recently, but with the tide having retreated far out into the Lough we were unable to locate any. ............. By now lunch time had passed, so we made a dash to that most beautiful woodland and flowing river at the Roe Valley Country Park. ........ In this place of sylvan beauty and peacefulness, what remained of our outing was enjoyed in a relaxing amble to the sound of a slow flowing river, and with the beauty of the place exaggerated by the shadow-casting low afternoon sunlight. What a perfect day in a perfect World.
Mist's and Mellow Fruitfulness. Sat. 2nd November 2019. The beautiful season of Autumn as poetically described by Keats, with it's mists and mellow fruitfulness was our experience on today's outing, but we could have done with a little less of the mistyness as we ventured through the Woodlands of Glentogher. First on the breathtakingly scenic route near the ridge of Galwily Hill. Then on to the other side of the valley at Trusk Beg Hill, where nature had blended the still leaf-laden trees and wildflowers from their earlier greens to pale yellows and gold's, and on some of the the Brambles and wildflowers outstandingly brilliant right through the red spectrum. ............ Later it was back to the main Carndonagh Road and then to the Twin Bridges area of the Illies. While here having the mandatory lunch break the Sun made it's much appreciated appearance to disperse the low-hanging cloud and mist. even the little bobbing Dipper in the adjacent river seemed to be in agreement. ............ Now fully fortified our next stop was in an area above Cabry, Quigleys Point. Along part of this bush lined road, a large flock of Goldfinches flitted from bush to bush, while Hooded Crows, Rooks and Magpies took to the wing with the improvement in the conditions. What was most outstanding here was the magnificent exhibition of the many kinds of grasses and plants artistically enhanced with the delicately placed glistening raindrops. Our final stop was at Ballyargus where the same display of nature's wizardry continued.
Colours on a Dark November Day. Sat. 9th. November 2019. Today another milestone was reached in our calendar of quests for all forms of wildlife. A day of perfect calmness but overloaded with an excess of murkiness and complete absence of sunshine throughout ..... Our task on this occasion was to record the volume of the birds on the waters and shores of Lough Swilly, that had it's tide banished to its boundary that then presented a morass of dark sand and mud upon which large numbers of birds were availing of this bountiful supply of food to be found hiding below the surface. The number of the different species were duly recorded, which had the effect of brightening our outlook on the task. ........ This was further added to by the large number of trees and bushes still adorned in their leaf's of gold by the hand of Midas, and the many forms of wildflowers often perceived to be in the throes of death, but not so, as many will reappear fully reinvigorated next Spring for our admiration.
Our local "BirdWatchIreland" representative and fellow club member Daniel Moloney, undertook a program to study the decline of our most iconic bird, The Curlew, and if any solution to its demise can hopefully be found. He applied to the Donegal County Council and received funding to set up the program that started last weekend with a team of specialists in the catching of birds by shooting a net over a flock, in this case Curlew. With his team of experts assembled on Saturday evening the event had to be called off due to the the procedure being tide dependent, this coupled with the inclement weather and earlier than expected darkness, the attempt to capture the birds was postponed until Sunday evening when conditions were much more suitable. So with the nets reset, a satisfactory result was achieved with forty two Curlew, Two Bar-tailed Godwit and one Knot caught. The Godwit and Knot were immediately released, quickly followed by the ringing of all the Curlew, eight of which also had G.E.O.L tags fitted. Among the team of helpers was Ewan Weston of the Grampion Ringing Club, a specialist in the netting of Curlew.
New Additions to Inishowen's Wildlife Sat.16th. Nov. 2019. A cool gray day with all the air in the grasp of a solemn stillness, typified by the smoke ascending unhurriedly from many chimneys in perfect vertical lines to a height of about two hundred feet to be then abruptly transformed to horizontal line of light greyness standing out against the background of a dark sky and darker mountains. .......... Our first stop of the morning was at the beautiful Woodland of Lisnagrath, with many of it's sturdy Beech Trees still clinging to their copper coloured adornments, while others stood unashamedly naked amongst their cast-offs of golds and yellows. The absence of the sounds and sights of birds or Squirrels created an eerie atmosphere, only relieved by the crunch as we tred on the myriads of discarded leaf litter. With our walk through this heavenly place fully enjoyed we decided to call to see the new "Wild Ireland" Zoo near Burnfoot, created by our good friend and animal lover Killian Mc Laughlin, where Brown Bears, rescued from a cruel confinement in an eastern european country, beautiful Wolves, Barbary Macaque Monkeys among other monkey species, Lynx, Otters, and many many more, including Owls, Geese and Ducks, all enjoying the freedom of their large enclosures. An amazing zoological undertaking to the highest standards and safety. Our enjoyable outing on this gray Autumn day concluded with a visit to the Inch Lake and Blanket Nook, where at both locations exceptional numbers and species were there to drool over for any nature lover.
. The Approach of The Dark Days of Christmas. Sat. 23rd. Nov. 2019. The dark days of Christmas have started to impact on our outings as experienced when we went to the Culdaff region this morning, but they failed to take the shine off our enjoyment on a very special day's birding when we started at Knock, then on to the Drumnagasson road area where we encountered the first of many places with exceptionally large flocks of Linnets, Chaffinch, Goldfinch flying to and fro from bushes, Ditches and fencing to a number of fields, where they were finding sustenance on what remained of the dead and dying plants, grasses and wildflowers, and from it's perch on a telegraph pole a Buzzard observed with more than curiosity in mind........ In due course, we arrived at Tirahork where among the objects of desire were Yellow Wagtails offering perfectly posed photo opportunities, while from their sheltered abodes beautiful little flowers seemed to smiled at our passing. In the failing light and considerable distance what may have been a male Hen Harrier, faded into the gloom of a plantation background. .......... Further along the way at Cambry we were amazed by the large collection of Crossbills, high in the fir trees feeding on the bountiful supply of cones. Next it was back to the Culdaff river estuary where a sizable number of Curlew checked the riverside fields, while Redshank, Greenshank, Black-backed Gulls, Mallard and Teal Duck patrolled the calm gray waters and muddy shoreline, and along the walkway to the little bird hide, the beautiful blossoms of purple heather in defiance of the cold winds of Winter cast their own rays of brightness. How nice to have back again for it's winter retreat, the American Wigeon, with its entourage of the common species in attendance. Near here a Sparrowhawk displayed it's aerobatic speed and skill as it flew over a few hedges and to then disappear. Our day finished with a dash to Malin Town and out the Lagg road to see if any Barnacle were on shore leave, but none were to be seen, then homeward bound at Mc Sheffrey's Bridge, to finish on a high, a small party of eighteen was recorded
Gems of Nature. Sat.30th. Nov 2019. What a beautiful day of bright sunshine elaborately enhanced by a peaceful calmness, but like that most beautiful of flowers "The Rose" that has in its stems those sharp barbs, on this occasion the barbs were the low frosty temperature of the day, but that was ignored as we went in pursuit of natures gems in the wonderful Malin area. ....... On our approach to the Malin Town Bridge we watched at close range a Buzzard standing on the grass hoping to find a worm peeping up to have look at the glorious day, while in this field and a few others a sizeable number of Curlew scrounged. ......... On the silken waters of Trawbreaga Bay, Great-black Backed and Common Gulls, Wigeon and Mallard floated, as they waited for the high tide to ebb, while on the shallower edges Redshank, Greenshank and Oystercatcher enjoyed an early breakfast. .......... Out the Lagg Road a flock of approximately two hundred and fifty Barnacle Geese Grazed contentedly while a number of their look-outs checked our passing. Further on at Goorey we turned off the main road, then through Glacknadrumand, Dreenagh and Tully, followed by Umgal and Mossedge to the shore at White Strand Bay, where the first of the Sparrowhawks spotted today and a Kestrel that chased small birds with unknowen results were recorded, it's intended prey was mostly Greenfinch, Chaffinch, and Rock Pippets, while the ubiquitous Mallard, Wigeon, Oystercatcher, Redshank and Eider Duck moved through the rocky areas of the shore. ....... It was here that we had hoped to encounter flocks of those little winter visitors the Snow Buntings, then later at Bambas Crown, but without success. From this elevated place we did record a large flock of Barnacle as they grazed in the fields below the tower. ...... Our last look for Snow Buntings brought us to the stone laden beach below the "Wee House of Malin" but none were found. But we were compensated later by the antics of a Peregrine Falcon as it chased it's evening meal, of elusive little Birds, that on this occasion evaded the best the falcon had to offer. On the pebble strewn beach were wonderful gifts from when time began in the form of the beautiful little gems of stone as they glistened in the tidal dampness. Now with lengthening shadows and the air temperature falling, we thought that enough was enough for today.
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