TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

Western Ireland

The Burren & Aran Islands

Saturday 24 - Saturday 31 May 2003


Leaders:
Christy Browne
Stephanie Coghlan

Trip Diary

Saturday 24th May 2003 Overcast, cold wind.

In the afternoon we arrived at Shannon airport where we met Christy Browne and went out to the lagoon and found many Mute Swans, as well as many Shelduck as the tide was full, but no waders this year. At 5.00 we collected the last arrival and set off through Ennis to Lisdoonvarna where we had a warm welcome at Kincora House and settled in, and met the two members who had come by ferry.

Sunday 25th May AM Sunny intervals. PM Sunny and clear.

We had an early morning walk to the Spectacle Bridge and after breakfast we went to 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 and the Cathedral, which is still being renovated. We stopped at Noughaval and Cahermacnaughton Ring Fort and heard about the Market Cross and the Brehon Law School and looked at our first flowers and heard the first Cuckoo. Then ate our lunch at picnic tables at Gregan's Wood where we heard Willow Warblers and found Yellow pimpernel, Greater Spearwort and Meadow Thistle, called Bog Thistle in Ireland.

In the afternoon we walked round Abbey Hill and found orchids, listened to the Cuckoo and had excellent views of Whitethroat, while we saw Twayblade, Mountain Avens Dryas octopetala and Spring Gentian Gentiana verna among the flower highlights. The sun shone all afternoon. Mary met us with the bus at New Quay Church. In the evening we held a log to catch up with two days records, enjoyed another good dinner and retired to sleep.

Monday 26th May Overcast and heavy rain in the afternoon.

The early morning walkers followed the path by the river through a field full of orchids in the old recreation ground, escorted by a large golden labrador.

After breakfast we posted cards 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 stopped for coffee in Fanore and we continued on to the Caher River and drove up the valley and walked down back towards the church. We found many flowers and a sheet of Spring Gentian and Butterwort as well as Grey Wagtail, Dipper, Pied Wagtail and Stonechat. Our lunch was taken at Bridie's where we enjoyed soup, sandwiches and scones. Our next stop was at the Pinnacle Well where the Fairy Flax was in full bloom and then we walked down to The Rine in the rain but we were rewarded with two close Great Northern Divers, one in breeding plumage and one in winter plumage and found possibly otter droppings and a Holt. Sandwich Terns were feeding in the bay, but it was very quiet for waders. We enjoyed a cup of tea back at Kincora and put the drying room to good use. We held the log and enjoyed another excellent dinner.

Tuesday 27th May Overcast, Steady rain pm.

We began our tour of the deeper Burren at Mullach Mor which was so quiet and peaceful. We found Leopard Orchid as well as Fly and Dense Orchids flowering in profusion this year. The Shrubby Cinquefoil was just coming into flower but the waters were too deep on the turlough for the Fen Violet. We returned briefly to Corofin to visit the Heritage Centre for the loos and then we stopped at Lough Bunny for lunch. There were plenty of flowers and birds to see.

Our next stop was the Round Tower and many churches at Kilmacduagh. We drove through the lanes to Keelhilla NNR and walked on the pavements looking for flowers and listening to the birds. We decided to drop in to the Burren Perfumery on the way back to use their loos and we were delighted to discovered that they had opened a teashop. We also had time to view a slide show about the flowers of the Burren.

Wednesday 28th May Overcast, Light showers Sunny PM

We began our day at the bridge at Doolin, where we found Dipper. At the cliffs of Moher where we found Puffins as well as Guillemots, Razorbiills, Kittiwakes and Fulmars. We drove down to Doolin Pier and we took the Ferry to Inishmaan. The weather was improving and fortified by tea and freshly made cake we set off in sunshine to explore. We walked to the fort, Dun Conchubhuir, seeing common but tame birds like wrens and robins everywhere. There were lots of orchids, mainly Marsh Orchids and Babbington's Leek. We returned via the Inishmaan Woollen Factory where there was an outbreak of shopping. In the late afternoon we gather at the quay with a local Collie Dog, who had escorted us around the island and had to be persuaded to remain behind. We sailed in sunshine amidst some Sandwich and Common Terns to Inisheer, where we were met by Padar and his tractor to take the luggage up to our guesthouse and we enjoyed the views across to the mainland. We were welcomed with large meals and those still with strength went up to see the sunset at the O' Brians Tower

Thursday 29th May Sunny and very hot.

We assembled after a huge breakfast and set off to explore the east of the island. We found Skylark, Wheatear, Rock and Meadow Pipits at the airport and Otter tracks on the Fisherman's beach. At Logh Mor the Mute Swans had three cygnets, and we found Common Sandpiper and Wheatears. At the Plassy Wreck we glimpsed a pair of Chough entering the wheelhouse, but later three birds perched closer so we could see them well.

After lunch we set off on the Inisheer Way to explore the island and came via the church down to the heritage home of Dara o' Canaola and to the Fishermen's harbour. We looked at the splash zone on the rocky shore but the tide was rising. Our final stop was at the atmospheric chapel dedicated to St Gobhnait, before we bought some wine and climbed back to another of Brid's excellent meals. We held a log and some went out for walks to enjoy the evening light, the views and to listen to the Cuckoos calling.

Friday 30th May Sunny, light cloud.

Our final morning destination was the Church in the Sand and St Cavan's Grave. We walked along the footpath behind the airport and found a variety of seabirds including Little Tern, Shag and Cormorant, Black Guillemot, Ringed Plover and Rock Pipit. We had lunch at the pub when some had sandwiches and tea and some had another traditional drink, Guinness. The ferry came at 1.30 and we again enjoyed the sunshine as we sailed back to Doolin. We were met by the coach and we drove across to the Poulnabrone Dolmen and down to Whitethorn, where we found Harbour (Common) Seals on Gall island and a Red-breasted Merganser. Our final destination was the Smokehouse where we saw a video about how to prepare the fish and them we went on to Kincora House again and reclaimed our rooms. After another good dinner then we retired to pack all our purchases.

Saturday 31st May Sunny and dry

We left at 9.00 we drove across to Craggaunowen where we were met by John our guide who took us to see the reconstructions, including a Fullacht Fia or an ancient cooking place, Souterrain of the Ring Fort, and St Brendan's Boat, made of Oxhide and Irish Oak and Ash, which had sailed across the Atlantic in 1996 and 1997, in the woods we saw Goldcrest and Little Grebes at the lake. We had to set off for the airport, at 11.45 to arrive at 12.30. We said our sad farewells to Christy and the rest of the group.

BIRDS

Great Northern Diver 1 in breeding, 1 in winter plumage off the The Rine 26th May

Little Grebe Two at the lake at Craggaunowen, and possible one near Poulnabrone.

Great Crested Grebe 1 on Lough Bunny 27th May.

Fulmar Large numbers on the cliffs of Moher and singles from the Aran Islands.

Gannet Singles from the ferry to the islands and off Inisheer.

Cormorant Small numbers seen daily from 26th and from the ferry.

Shag Small numbers on 28th, 29th and 30th.

Grey Heron First at Shannon lagoon and Fergus estuary on 24th. Then singles recorded daily until 31st.

Mute Swan 50+ at Shannon lagoon on 24th A pair at Bell harbour 25th, and Loch Mor on Inisheer with 3 cygnets on 29th May. A pair nesting at the lake at Craggaunowen

Shelduck 60+ on Shannon lagoon on 24th, one over Abbey Hill 25th and 6 off the Rine 26th May.

Mallard 10+ at Shannon lagoon and on 10+ Loch Mor Inisheer.

Red-breasted Merganser One male off Whitethorn on 30th May.

Kestrel One on 25th May.

Pheasant Singles seen and heard 27th-31st May.

Moorhen Singles at roadside pools, 24th- 27th Loch Mor and at Craggaunowen lagoon.

Coot Singles at pools and wetlands 25th - 28th May..

Oystercatcher Six at Poll Sallach 26th , on Inisheer 28th-30th May.

Ringed Plover A pair on the Rine 26th, and near Inisheer airstrip on 30th May.

Common Sandpiper 1 seen at Loch Mor, Inisheer.29th May.

Turnstone 1 single on the seaweed near the Plassey Wreck on 29th May.

Common Gull A few at Mullach Mor 27th May.

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 and at sea off Inisheer.

Sandwich Tern 10+ in Galway Bay on 26th. 3+ on 29th May and 30th May off Inisheer.

Common Tern 6+ at Shannon lagoon. The Gall Island colony off Whitethorn had disappeared. The large Inisheer colony has also gone. 6+ there near the Fisherman's harbour between Inisheer and Inishmaan.

Little Tern 1+ off Inisheer on 30th May

Guillemot Large numbers at the Cliffs of Moher on 28th and at sea around the Aran islands.

Razorbill Nesting on the Cliffs of Moher on 28th May and at sea 30th May.

Black Guillemot 8+ off Poll Sallach, Black Head, and singles off Doolin Pier and Inisheer.

Puffin Recorded at the Cliffs of Moher on 28th May.

Wood Pigeon Singles daily

Collared Dove Several at Lisdoonvarna

Cuckoo Singles heard daily in the Burren, and very common on Inisheer and Inishmaan.

Swift Recorded daily 24th-27th on mainland.

Skylark Heard singing at Mullach Mor, Lough Bunny and on the Aran Islands.

Barn Swallow Common daily, breeding.

House Martin Small numbers on 24th and 25th but not on the Aran Islands.

Pied Wagtail Common

Grey Wagtail Recorded on R Aille and R. Caher.

Meadow Pipit Common

Rock Pipit Common along the coast.

Dipper Irish race 2 Recorded on the R. Aille and R. Caher.

Wren Recorded daily. Very common on Inisheer and Inishmaan.

Dunnock Common.

Blackbird Common

Song Thrush Common recorded daily.

Mistle Thrush One at Lisdoonvarna on 27th May

Robin Common

Stonechat Common pairs breeding daily.

Northern Wheatear Breeding in small numbers in the Burren uplands and on Aran islands.

Willow Warbler Common where suitable trees and scrubland was available

Blackcap Recorded around Lisdoonvarna on morning walks.

Common Whitethroat 3+ on Abbey Hill 25th May, several on 27th.

Goldcrest Seen and heard in the woodland at Craggaunowen.

Great Tit Only recorded on 26th.

Blue Tit Common

Coal Tit Seen at Lisdoonvarna and Craggaunowen

Magpie Common; not on Aran Islands

Red-billed Chough 3+ on Inisheer at Plassy Wreck and 3 together on a rooftop and at the signal tower on Inisheer, possibly the same birds on 29th

Jackdaw Common.

Rook Very common

Hooded Crow Common

Raven Seen and heard over Abbey hill on 25th May also recorded on 26th and 27th

Starling Common

Reed Bunting Several males at Shannon lagoon on 24th May and 27th at Lough Bunny.

Chaffinch Common in small numbers.

Greenfinch Recorded in small flocks at Lisdoonvarna.

Goldfinch Small flocks around Lisdoonvarna.

Linnet Small flocks recorded in Caher Valley, Inisheer and the Burren.

Bullfinch Pairs seen at Shannon lagoon and Lisdoonvarna

House Sparrow Recorded daily at Lisdoonvarna, Inishmaan and Inisheer .

BUTTERFLIES

Large White 229th Inisheer

Small White 29th May Inisheer

Green-veined White Abbeyhill 25th May.

Brimstone Lough Bunny on 27th May, and on 28th at

Wood White Lough Bunny on 27th May.

Small Copper Cahermacnaughton Fort 25th May.

Holly Blue reported on Inisheer 29th May

Common Blue Polyommatus icarus mariscolore The Irish race is larger and brighter than British race. Seen on 29th and 30th May on Inisheer.

Red Admiral Inisheer 29th May

Painted Lady 2+ on Inisheer 29th and 30th May

Small Tortoiseshell Inisheer 29th May

Meadow Brown Abbey Hill 25th, Inisheer 29th and 30th May

Small Heath Inisheer 29th and 30th May

Wall Brown 25th Abbey Hill, 29th May and 30th May on Inishmaan and Inisheer.

MOTHS

Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae Common

Yellow Shell Camptogramme bilineata The Rine

Speckled Yellow Pseudopanthera macularia on 27th on Mullach Mor, feeds on wood sage.

Lackey Moth Malacosoma neustria Caterpillars on Inisheer.

6-spot Burnet Moth Zygaena filipendulae Many cocoons on grass stems on Inisheer on 30th.

OTHER INSECTS

Buff tailed Bumblebee Bombus terrestriis Common

White tailed Bumblebee Bombus hortorum Common

Red tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius Common

Aran Bee Bombus muscorum smithianus Misidentified; further research suggests they were Red-tailed Bumblebee.

7 Spot Ladybird Coccinella 7-punctata Common

Damsel sp on 27th.

FLOWERS

Please note these are some of the highlights noted each day and are not a complete list:

24th May Shannon lagoon

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

Hop Trefoil Common Vetch Bush Vetch Oxeye Daisy

Marestail Smooth Hawksbeard Daisy

25th May Noughaval, Cahermacnaughton, Abbey Hill.

Irish Saxifrage Heath Dog Violet Rue leaved Saxifrage

Herb Robert Silverweed Spindle

Shining Cranesbill Mountain Avens Tutsan

Hart's Tongue Fern Yellow Flag Woundwort

Maidenhair Spleenwort Wall Rue Heath Speedwell

Creeping Buttercup Wall Pennywort Juniper

Rustyback Fern Wall Lettuce Brittle Bladder Fern

Alexanders Bog/Meadow Thistle Early Purple Orchid

Burnet Rose Mouse-eared Hawkweed Spring Gentian

Greater Spearwort Water Avens Seslaria-Blue Grass

Twayblade Irish Eyebright Quaking Grass

Fine leaved cotoneaster Wild Madder Wood Sage

Herb Bennet Smooth Hawksbeard Yellow Pimpernel

Cowslip Lady's Smock Primrose

Mossy saxifrage Mouse-eared Chickweed Bugle

Salad Burnet Cats Paw/ Mt. Everlasting Kidney Vetch

Honeysuckle

26th May Lisdoonvarna, Poll Sallach, Fanore, Caher Valley, Black Head, Pinnacle Well, The Rine.

Hoary Rockrose Golden Rod Sea Sandwort

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

Sloe Pyramidal Bugle Heather

Stag's Horn Plantain Sea Milkwort Sea Beet

Shining Cranesbill Marsh marigold Early Purple Orchid

Oysterplant Heather Pignut

Lousewort Brooklime Sanicle

Bittercress Hawthorn Horsetail sp.

Common Scurvygrass Irish Saxifrage

27th May Mullach Mor, Lough Bunny, Kilmacduagh, Keelhilla NNR,

Wood Sage Bluebell Lesser Meadow Rue Heath Dog Violet Slender St John's Wort Bugle

Shrubby Potentilla Marsh Thistle Dropwort

Heath Speedwell Mouse-eared Hawkweed

Early Purple Orchid Water Mint Marsh Lousewort

Guelder Rose Hazel Hairy Rockcress

Spring Sandwort Fly Orchid Dense-flowered Orchid

Dark-red Helleborine (leaves only)

28th May Doolin Bridge, Cliffs of Moher, Inishmaan, 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

Lesser Stitchwort Northern Marsh Orchid Common Valerian

29th May Inisheer

Bloody Cranesbill Salad Burnet Marsh Marigold

Irish Eyebright Kidney Vetch Fools Watercress

Broomrape Sp Polypody Fern Hedgerow Geranium

Maidenhair Fern Wall Rue Dame's Violet

Ivy-leaved Toadflax Cut-leaved Cranesbill Wild Strawberry

Heath Speedwell Sea Sandwort Common Scurvygrass

Salad Burnet Rock Samphire Tree Mallow

Storksbill Bulbous Buttercup Fumitory

Sea Campion Thrift Poppy

Dove's foot Cranesbill

30th May Inisheer, Poulnabrone Dolmen, Whitethorn

Common Valerian, Sea Mouse-ear Red Clover

Polypody Fern Bittersweet/Woodynightshade Common Fumitory

Common Burdock Lords and Ladies Heath Bedstraw

31st May Craggaunowen

Yellow Water Lily. Yellow Flag.

MAMMALS

Hedgehog One dead on road on 31st.

Common Pipistrelle Seen on evening walks at Lisdoonvarna.

Fox One dead on road near Ennistymon 31st

Otter Spraints at the Rine on 27th and a Holt. Footprints on the sand at the old fisherman's beach, Inisheer fitted the measurements for otter.

Common Seal 10+ at Gall Island off Whitethorn.

Grey Seal One off the airstrip, Inisheer 30th May

Rabbit Recorded on 25th at Abbey Hill and on Inisheer on 29th.

Feral Goats Recorded near Abbey Hill.

AMPHIBIANS

Common Frog Adults and juveniles recorded on 25th Gregan's Wood and 27th at Keelhilla NNR..

REPTILES

Vivaparous(Common) Lizard spotted by Rosemary on 27th and 29th at Mullach Mor and on Inisheer.

Stephanie Coghlan

June 2003


© The Travelling Naturalist 2003