Western Ireland

The Burren & Aran Islands

Sat 25 May - Sat 1 June 2002

Christy Browne, Stephanie Coghlan

Saturday 25th May Rain, heavy with clear periods

We assembled at Shannon Airport with everyone's flight being two hours late, all for different reasons, so after some lunch in the Estuary Bar we went out to Shannon Lagoon in a break in the rain and found many Mute Swans, a flock of Black-tailed Godwit and a smaller flock of Dunlin, and there were many Shelduck as the tide was full. At 4.30 we collected the last arrival and set of through Ennis and Ennistymon to Lisdoonvarna where we had a warm welcome and settled in.

Sunday 26th May Showers with bright periods

We had an early morning walk to the Spectacle Bridge and after breakfast we began our tour at the Interpretative Centre at Kilfenora. We enjoyed a video and the new information display and emerged steeped in the Burren.

We walked round to see the High Crosses but the Cathedral was being reroofed. We did not see Swifts over the town but whether this was due to the poor weather or the reroofing we were unable to say.

As the weather improved we stopped at Noughaval and Cahermacnaughton and then ate our lunch in sunshine at Gregan's Wood where we heard Willow Warblers and found Meadow Thistle, called Bog Thistle in Ireland. In the afternoon we walked round Abbey Hill and found our first orchids, listened to the Cuckoo and had excellent views of Stonechat, while we saw Twayblade, Dryas octopetala and Gentiana verna among the flower highlights.

We went round too Corcomroe Abbey and admired the Cistercian stonework with its 12th century flower carvings as well as its peaceful setting before driving back over Corkscrew Hill. We enjoyed another good dinner and retired hoping the weather would keep up its improvements.

Monday 27th May Sunny periods and dry

The early morning walkers found a path by the river and a field full of orchids in the old recreation ground. After breakfast we bought stamps and then set off for the Clare coast.

Our first stop was Poll Sallach and we were soon spotting orchids in the grassland and a variety of rarities in the grykes. We continued on to Fanore and looked at the Dunes but the cool weather had delayed the flowers there. Our lunch was taken at Bridies, and we enjoyed soup and scones; afterwards we left to explore further north. We walked down to the Fullacht Fia past mares with foals and the new animals on the Burren, alpacas.

Our next stop was at the Pinnacle Well where the Fairy Flax was in full bloom and then we walked down to the Rine and found Wood White butterfly as well as Green veined White. There were Red-breasted Merganser on the sea and Sandwich Terns were feeding in the bay, but it was very quiet for waders. At Whitethorn we watched the tide come in and the Common Seals on Gall Island and enjoyed a cup of tea. We held the log and enjoyed another excellent dinner of real Irish Stew or local smoked fish from the local Smokehouse.

Tuesday 28th May Sunny morning but heavy showers in the afternoon.

We left at 9.00 and after posting more cards set off towards Ballyvaughan. Our first stop was the Earthen Ring Fort, and we later saw the site where the Gleninsheen Collar was found. At the Poulnabrone Portal Dolmen there were lots of people, but they were soon returning to their coaches so we were able to enjoy the site, where there were Early Purple Orchids and a pair of Wheatears nesting, as well as Bullfinch and Whitethroat.

We crossed over to Carran where we stopped at an independent hostel to use their loos and we found House Martins building on the house, not common in the Burren. Owing to all the rain the Carran Depression was full of water. We drove further east to Keelhilla NNR, past the Burren Perfumery, and we walked on the pavements and found Fly Orchid and Dense- flowered Orchid amongst all the other flowers.

At St Colman's Well there were leaves of a helleborine, and flowers of Sanicle and Yellow Pimpernel. We ate lunch back at the bus but a short sharp shower drove us into shelter. Our next stop was the Round Tower and many churches at Kilmacduagh, where we again dodged the rain, but we were not so lucky at Lough Bunny.

On Mullaghmore we found a few flowering Shrubby Cinquefoil Potentilla fruticosa and another Dense-flowered orchid, and we could hear a Common Sandpiper. We enjoyed the remoteness of the place and the silence apart from the larks and pipits and we drove home via Lemanagh House and heard about Maire Rua's exploits there and again found some Swifts. At Kincora House we enjoyed another good meal and retired to pack and sort our belongings for the trip to the islands tomorrow.

Wednesday 29th May Sunny, high cumulus Force 6 wind.

We drove down to Doolin to the ferry, and we were informed that the ferry was running but we probably could not land on Inishmaan due to the high seas.

Secondly Christy had to stay behind as he had a domestic crisis. So at 10.15 we set sail and sat tight in a wave tossed boat and we were glad to get off at Inisheer. Our arrival was brightened by a Great Northern Diver in summer plumage and several Black Guillemots in the harbour. We walked up to our Guest House via the shop and were warmly welcomed.

We recovered our land legs and settled in and Brid provided a lovely spread for lunch. In the afternoon we walked to the Logh and around to the Plassy Wreck which was wrecked in 1960 and now provides a home for the Red-billed Choughs. We found Cormorants there as well but there were no waders on the seaweed perhaps due to last week's high winds. On our return Brid produced tea and then a wonderful evening meal featuring Roast Lamb.

Thursday 30th May Sunny, High Cumulus, Heavy showers and windy.

The early morning walkers went up to the tower and looked for the Red-billed Choughs but we could only see Jackdaws, although we were sure we could hear young Choughs. After breakfast we set off on the Inisheer Way to explore the island, and came via the church down to the heritage home of Dara o' Conaola and to the fishermen's harbour. We looked at the splash zone on the rocky shore but the tide was rising. We returned by the harbour and saw Common Terns and Black Guillemots.

Our final morning destination was the Church-in-the-sand and St Cavan's Grave. As we left a heavy shower soaked us so we arrived back for lunch a little wet, but we were soon revived by homemade soup and another lunch spread. After a rest to digest that lot we walked across the island towards the lighthouse and we found lots of Early Marsh Orchids at the well and saw yet more Cuckoos and Skylarks, which seemed to favour that end of the island. After another fine meal of salmon then we were entertained by poetry reading and some songs from Lasairfhiona o' Conaola (pronounced Lasareena). We finished the log and went to pack as we had decided to go for the earlier ferry, because of the low tide.

Friday 31st May Sunny and clear. Cloudy later.

After another substantial breakfast, we sailed across to Doolin, on a much flatter sea. Christy met us with the bus and some rain, so we went to Doolin Crafts for coffee until it stopped. We looked at the very fine garden and the elegant things in the shop but they were a bit out of our league.

At Doolin Bridge we found lots of interesting plants growing on the bridge itself, and the Dipper was flying back and forth to the bridge.

We arrived at the Cliffs of Moher and found plenty of nesting seabirds including Fulmar, Kittiwake, Guillemot and Razorbill. There were a few Puffins resting outside their burrows and we had close views of a Raven.

We had lunch at Liscannor and then went down to Ennistymon and walked along the River Inagh to the Cascades. We found more Dippers and a variety of other birds in the woodland but nothing in the reedbeds as usual.

Our final call was at the Spa Wells at Lisdoonvarna where some were bold enough to taste the water while we enjoyed some of Brid's scones as she had sent us away with a food parcel. There were Song Thrushes and Chaffinches in the park. Our final destination was the Smokehouse where we saw a video about how to prepare the fish. We went on to Kincora House again and reclaimed our rooms. After another good dinner, we retired to pack all our purchases.

Saturday June 1st Sunny and dry

We left at 9.15 having said goodbye to Lorna who was flying out on a morning flight. We were met by Margaret our guide to Craggaunowen and she took us to the main sites and reconstructions, in the Souterrain of the Ring Fort we found a roost of six Pipistrelle Bats, while we saw Goldcrest and Blue and Great Tits and a Treecreeper in the car park, where we had lunch before we set off for the airport, where some flights were taking place, but Aer Lingus was not flying. We said our farewells to Christy and the rest of the group.


Great Northern Diver: 1 in breeding plumage off the harbour, Inisheer 29th May

Fulmar: Large numbers on the cliffs of Moher

Gannet: Singles on 26th and 27th off the N. coast and off Innisheer on 29th

Cormorant: 3+ 29th at Loch Mor, Inisheer and from the ferry on 31st May.

Shag: 6+ Off Whitethorn on 26th and 10 off the North coast on 27th..

Grey Heron: At Shannon Lagoon and Fergus estuary on 25th. Then singles recorded daily until 28th.

Mute Swan: 61+ at Shannon Lagoon on 25th. A pair at Loch Mor on Inisheer with 7 cygnets on 29th May. A nesting pair on Gall Island, Whitethorn and one at Mullachmor on 28th

Shelduck: 36 on Shannon Lagoon on 25th and 2 off the Rine 27th May.

Mallard: 20+ at Shannon Lagoon and on 10+ Loch Mor Inisheer.

Red-breasted Merganser: 2 off the Rine and off Whitethorn on 27th May.

Kestrel: One at Kilmacduagh 28th May.

Pheasant: Heard at Pinnacle Well on 27th and Kilmacduagh on 28th.

Moorhen: 2 at Shannon Lagoon, Singles at Loch Mor and at Craggaunowen Lagoon.

Coot: 5 at Shannon Lagoon on 25th May.

Oystercatcher: Heard on Inisheer 27th, 2 on Logh Mor on Inisheer 29th May.

Ringed Plover: 1 near Inisheer airstrip on 30th May.

Black-tailed Godwit: 30+ at Shannon Lagoon on 25th May.

Common Sandpiper: 1 heard at Mullach Mor 28th May.

Dunlin: 20 at Shannon Lagoon on 25th May.

Common Gull: 10+ in a field on 28th May.

Lesser Black-backed Gull: Small numbers daily.

Great Black~backed Gull: Recorded daily 1-3 by the coast.

Herring Gull: Common

Black~headed Gull: Recorded in small numbers.

Kittiwake: Common at the Cliffs of Moher.

Sandwich Tern: 1 at Shannon Lagoon, and 10+ in Galway Bay on 27th. 1 on 30th May off Inisheer.

Common Tern: 2 at Shannon Lagoon. The Gall Island colony off Whitethorn had disappeared. The Inisheer colony had also gone. 6+ there near the Fisherman's harbour.

Guillemot: First recorded on 29th and large numbers at the Cliffs of Moher on 31st.

Razorbill: Recorded from 29th, around the Cliffs of Moher on 31st May.

Black Guillemot: 6+ off Inisheer on 29th and 30th.

Puffin: Recorded the Cliffs of Moher on 31st May.

Wood Pigeon: Singles daily

Collared Dove: Several

Cuckoo: Heard daily in the Burren, and on Inisheer 10+ on 30th.

Swift: 4+ at Kilmacduagh 28th May and over Inisheer on 29th.

Skylark: Heard singing daily on the Aran Islands and the Burren.

Barn Swallow: Common daily.

House Martin: Small numbers on 26th and 28th but not on the Aran Islands.

Pied Wagtail: Common

Grey Wagtail: Recorded on R Aille and R Inagh on 31st May.

Meadow Pipit: Common

Rock Pipit: Common along the coast.

Dipper Irish race: 2 Recorded on the R. Aille and R. Inagh on 31st May.

Wren: Recorded daily. Common on Inisheer.

Dunnock: Common.

Robin: Common

Stonechat: 2 at Shannon Lagoon and Abbey Hill and on Inisheer.

Northern Wheatear: Breeding in small numbers in the Burren uplands.

Sedge Warbler: Seen and heard at Shannon Lagoon 25th May.

Blackbird: Common

Song Thrush: Common; recorded daily.

Mistle Thrush: One at Lisdoonvarna on 27th May.

Common Whitethroat: 3+ 26th May, several on 27th and 28th.

Willow Warbler: Common where suitable trees and scrubland was available.

Chiffchaff: Heard at 1st June at Craggaunowen.

Goldcrest: Heard in the woodland at Craggaunowen.

Long-tailed Tit: Flock of 6+ at Lisdoonvarna

Great Tit: Only recorded on 26th.

Blue Tit: Common

Treecreeper: One in car park at Craggaunowen.

Jay: Seen from the minibus on 1st June.

Magpie: Common

Red-billed Chough: 3+ on Inisheer at Plassy Wreck, and 2 on Abbey Hill 28th May.

Jackdaw: Common.

Rook: Very common.

Hooded Crow: Common

Raven: 2 on 28th May at Keelhilla NNR. One on 29th and 30th May on Inisheer and 31st at Cliffs of Moher.

Starling: Common

Yellowhammer: One on 28th May at the Carran Depression

Reed Bunting: 2 males at Shannon Lagoon on 25th May.

Chaffinch: Common in small numbers.

Greenfinch: Recorded in small flocks.

Goldfinch: Small flocks from 26th May to 28th May.

Linnet: Small flocks recorded at Abbey Hill, Inisheer and the Burren.

Bullfinch: Pairs seen at Lisdoonvarna on 26th May, 27th May and 28th. .

House Sparrow: Recorded daily.


Green-veined White: 26th - 28th May.

Orange-tip: 2 on 26th May.

Wood White: The Rine on 27th May.

Common Blue Polyommatus icarus mariscolor: The Irish race is larger and brighter than British race. 29th May on Inisheer.

Speckled Wood: 27th May on the Rine.

Wall Brown: 29th May and 30th May on Inisheer.


Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae: Common

Yellow Shell Camptogramme bilineata : The Rine

Lackey Moth Malacosoma neustria: Caterpillars on Inisheer.

Garden Tiger Arctia caja: Caterpillar on Inisheer.


Buff tailed Bumblebee Common

White tailed Bumblebee Common

Red tailed Bumblebee Common

Aran Bee Bombus muscorum smithianus: One on Inisheer.

7 Spot Ladybird Coccinella 7-punctata: Common


25th May Shannon Lagoon

Field Mallow Milkwort Ox eye Daisy Tormentil Red/White Clover Ragged Robin Bird's Foot Trefoil

26th May Noughaval, Cahermacnaughton, Abbey Hill.

Irish Saxifrage Heath Dog Violet

Herb Robert Silverweed Spindle

Shining Cranesbill Mountain Avens Tutsan

Hart's Tongue Fern Yellow Flag Woundwort

Maidenhair Spleenwort Wall Rue

Creeping Buttercup Wall Pennywort

Rustyback Fern Wall Lettuce

Alexanders Bog/Meadow Thistle

Burnet Rose Mouse-eared Hawkweed Spring Gentian

Greater Spearwort Water Avens

Twayblade Irish Eyebright

Fine-leaved Cotoneaster Wild Madder

Herb Bennet Wood Sage

Cowslip/Oxlip Lady's Smock Primrose

27th May Poll Sallach, Fanore, Fullacht Fia, Black Head, Pinnacle Well, The Rine.

Hoary Rockrose Golden Rod Sea Spurrey

Sea Spleenwort Heath Spotted Orchid Sea Campion

Opp. leaved Golden Saxifrage Thrift Golden Samphire

Butterwort Fairy Foxglove Valerian

Pyramidal Orchid Dodder Lords & Ladies

Thyme Yellow wort Honey suckle

Hemp Agrimony N. Marsh Orchid Quaking grass

28th May Keelhilla NNR, Lough Bunny, Kilmacduagh, Mullach Mor

Heath Speedwell Sanicle

Heath Dog Violet Slender St John's Wort Bugle

Shrubby Potentilla Marsh Thistle

Heath Speedwell Mouse-eared Hawkweed

Early Purple Orchid Water Mint

Guelder Rose Hazel

Spring Sandwort Fly Orchid Dense-flowered Orchid

29th May Inisheer

Babbington's Leek Bloody Cranesbill Figwort sp.

Irish Saxifrage Early Purple Orchid Dove's Foot Geranium

White-ramping Fumitory Broomrape sp.

Ox-eye Daisy Primrose Sea Spurge

Cut-leaved Geranium Common Storksbill Gorse

Tree Mallow Shining Cranesbill Storksbill

Smooth Hawksbeard Field Madder Alexanders

30th June Inisheer

Bloody Cranesbill Salad Burnet Marsh Marigold

Irish Eyebright Kidney Vetch Hemlock Waterdropwort

Broomrape Sp. Polypody Fern Hedgerow Geranium

Maidenhair Fern Wall Rue Dame's Violet

Ivy-leaved Toadflax Cut-leaved Cranesbill Wild Strawberry

Oxlip Spiked Speedwell Early Marsh Orchid

Sea Sandwort Scurvygrass Salad Burnet

Woody Nightshade Rock Samphire

Sea Campion Thrift

Poppy Dove's foot Cranesbill

31st June Inisheer, R. Aille, R. Inagh.

Marsh Thistle Red Clover Polypody Fern

Common Burdock River Watercrowfoot

1st June Craggaunowen

Water lily


Common Pipistrelle: 6 in roost at Craggaunowen.

Stoat: One crossing the road with prey in its mouth on 31st May. Originally identified as a weasel but they are not present in Ireland.

Otter: Spraints at the Rine on 27th

Common Seal: 10+ at Gall Island off Whitethorn.

Brown Hare: One at Shannon Lagoon on 25th May.

Irish Hare Lepus timidus hibernicus: One recorded on 28.5. near Poulnabrone Dolmen.

Rabbit: Recorded on 26th at Abbey Hill and on Inisheer on 29th.

Feral Goats: Recorded at several sites over the Burren.

Stephanie Coghlan

June 2002

© The Travelling Naturalist 2002