TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

Western Ireland
The Burren & Aran Islands

Saturday 28 May – Saturday 4 June 2005


Leaders:

Stephanie & Jim Coghlan


Saturday 28 May
Sunny and windy

The leaders arrived at 3.00pm, and were met by the group who had all arrived before us. So we quickly located Marty our driver, and went out to the Shannon lagoon. There was a very strong wind so bird watching was difficult but there were 32 Mute Swans, 2 Grey Herons and a few Mallards. Small birds flicked in the reeds, but were hard to see. We did find a Stonechat family feeding. Out on the estuary, we found a Curlew, a Bee Orchid and Western Marsh Orchids, and some distant Black-tailed Godwits.

We set off for Lisdoonvarna in the sunshine and passed through Ennistymon, where we called at the Falls, which were in spate, due to the heavy rain in the last few days, but hopefully the weather was changing for the better, as we had had a good day. At Kincora House Country House Inn, Doreen and Diarmuid Drennan gave us their usual welcome. The dining room and house had displays of Doreen’s paintings everywhere.



Sunday 29 May

Sunny

We had an early morning walk and saw Whitethroat, Cuckoo, and Wren well, and set off after a large breakfast to Kilfenora, where we watched a video and visited the Burren Information Centre. We walked around the village to see the Cathedral and the High Crosses, but despite the new glass roof the Cathedral was not yet open and the two main crosses were away for conservation. Only the West Cross remained. We got stamps and postcards and then went to Noughaval to see the Market Cross and watched Willow Warbler feeding young and had good views of a Cuckoo.

At Corkscrew Hill we stopped at the view point and while looking at Early Purple Orchids, Steve demonstrated how to get tangled in barbed wire and had to be skilfully extricated. We lunched at Monk’s in Ballyvaghan harbour on Seafood Chowder and Brown Soda Bread, while a Rock Pipit displayed and a Great Northern Diver was seen in the harbour.

We spent the afternoon walking around Abbey Hill. We immediately found Skylark displaying and Cuckoos called, both male and female and we saw them being chased off by Meadow Pipits. There were plenty of Early Purple Orchids as well as Fly and Twayblade along the path, as well as our first Burnet Roses, Spring Gentians and Mountain Avens, and we got back to the bus at 5.00pm there was so much to see.

The coach was waiting for us and took us round to Corcomroe Abbey where we admired the flowers carved in the capitols and had very good views of a pair of Bullfinches displaying to each other. We tried the Guinness before dinner and we held a checklist afterwards.



Monday 30 May

Sunny and clear. No wind

We left at 9.15 and went to Doolin Pier to catch the ferry, only to discover we could not land at Inishmann, so we went to Inishmor instead. We arrived about 11.50am and were offered an island tour, so we went out to Dun Aonghasa. And we had a soup and sandwiches lunch before getting our tickets and walking up to the Fort, which was very impressive with its cliff top setting and its 3 high walls. Back on the bus we came back on the shore road and passed the seal colony and the loch. The Atlantic greys were ‘bottling’ in the sea, and the loch had Common Sandpiper and Mute Swans with 6 cygnets. We were back at Cill Ronain by 3.00pm and had tea and scones before catching the Ferry back to Inisheer. The sun still shone and the sea was flat. We walked up to Brid Poil’s to be met with tea in the garden in the last of the sunshine and we had a huge meal of prawn salad, roast lamb and pavlova. We walked up to see the sunset at O’Briens castle and walked out towards the lighthouse. On our return the Choughs were roosting on the Signal tower with the Jackdaws.



Tuesday 31 May

Cloudy, mild, no wind

We heard the Cuckoo calling all night. Some were out for early morning walks as it was a lovely morning and then we had a huge breakfast before setting off to explore the east of the island. At Loch Mor, the Mute Swans had 8 cygnets this year, and there were a pair of Little Grebes with 2 young, as well as Stonechats, Linnets, Skylarks and Wheatears. We paused opposite the Plassy Wreck, which was wrecked on 8th March 1960 on the Carraig na Finnise reef. All the crew were saved. Heavy seas later moved it up to where it is now resting.

We found Babbington’s Leeks, orchid spikes, not yet in flower, Irish saxifrage and broomrape. We wended our way back through the lanes for a large lunch of salad and smoked salmon, scones and homemade jam and had a rest in the afternoon

In the afternoon we set off to walk the Inisheer Way and went through the village, where a dog joined the party and out to St Gobnait’s Chapel and the Fisherman’s harbour. We saw plenty of flowers, but the Tern colony was quiet. We later heard feral cats had been a serious problem. We walked back via the main harbour and had another large meal of salmon with masses of everything and plenty of courses. We held the checklist, after which Steve invented a new circular game of Scrabble for 10 players. Brid offered Hot Irish for us to try. Cloves in a slice of lemon, a good shot of whiskey, a spoon of brown sugar and top up with hot water is the recipe. Good for colds, or just chasing away aches and pains, or cheering us up as cloud had rolled in.



Wednesday 1 June

Low cloud. Dull and windy later

We awoke to rain and the Cuckoo still called intermittently. We had enjoyed another huge breakfast and hung about for news of the ferry. We set off for O’Brien’s Tower and The Church in the Sand. At the Fisherman’s Cottage we had soup and sandwiches and as the weather was dry we walked to St Enda’s Well or to the beach. We saw Ringed Plover, Wheatear and Red-billed Chough really well. The ferry came at 4.00 and we had a fairly rough ride back to Doolin, with good birds like Kittiwake, Fulmar, Gannet and Guillemots and Razorbill very close, but we were glad it was only a short crossing. We were welcomed back to Kincora to our old rooms and had a good dinner and held the checklist. And yet more Guinness.



Thursday 2 June

Cloudy Heavy Showers

We set off in low cloud to the Poulnabrone Dolmen. We passed the site where the Gleninsheen collar was found. At the Dolmen, a Whitethroat sang but we had to return to the bus as the first showers rolled in. At Burren Perfumery we looked at the herb garden, had some coffee and scones and watched a slide show about the plants of the Burren while the rain cleared. At Keelhilla NNR, we found plenty of orchids and other flowers and Skylarks and Meadow Pipits sang. As we returned to the bus the rain came again so we picnicked in the bus at Lough Bunny, while we bird watched on the lake. There were Great Crested Grebes, Common Gull and some distant waders. At the waters edge we found Dropwort in bud and just one Lesser Butterfly Orchid. At Mullach Mor, we found Fly Orchid, Shrubby Cinquefoil, and Bog Thistle. We returned via Leamanagh House and Ennistymon to Lisdoonvarna.



Friday 3 June

Sunny am. Cloudy later. Then rain

We started at the Cliffs of Moher and admired the nesting Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Fulmars and a few Puffins, as well as Raven and a Chough. We went on to Poll Sallach. Here we were soon looking at Hoary Rockrose, Hemp Agrimony, Golden Rod and Heath Spotted Orchid while we heard and saw Wheatears and Ringed Plovers. In the grykes there were Sea Spleenwort, and many different plants.

We had lunch at Bridies and then we walked in the Caher valley, where there were lots of flowers, and still plenty of Spring Gentians. At Fanore Dunes there were Pyramid Orchids coming, Dodder, as well as Thyme and the usual masses of Birdsfoot Trefoil.

At the Pinnacle Well, we found the Fairy Foxglove was still in flower. We walked down to the Rine, but a squall came in and drove us back to the bus. So we returned to Lisdoonvarna and visited the Smoke House to stock up on our supplies of smoked fish and cheese to take home.



Saturday 4 June

Sunny

We left at 9.25 and were met by our guide at Craggaunowen who showed us around the Woods with Wild Boar, the Brendan Boat, the Togher, an Iron Age Road, Ringfort and Ancient cooking place as well as The Tower Castle. We found Tufted Ducks on the Lake and Little Grebe and saw Treecreepers in the woods as well as Goldcrest. We picnicked in the car park and then left for the airport, where we said our farewells.

BIRDS
Great Northern Diver
1 off Ballyvaghan 29th May.
Little Grebe 2 at Loch Mor on Inisheer with young and 2 at the lake at Craggaunowen on the nest.
Great Crested Grebe 2 at Lough Bunny 2nd June.
Northern Fulmar Large numbers on the cliffs of Moher and singles from the Aran islands.
Northern Gannet Singles off the ferry from Inisheer.
Cormorant Small numbers seen daily from 29th.
Shag 100 + on 30th May at Inishmor. Seen in small flocks at Doolin and Inisheer.
Grey Heron Two at Shannon lagoon, Single on Inisheer, singles near Mullach Mor.
Mute Swan 32 at Shannon lagoon on 28th A pair at Inishmor with 6 cygnets. A pair on Inisheer, Loch Mor on Inisheer with 8 cygnets.
Common Shelduck 40+at Shannon Lagoon and single at Inishmor, and 2 at The Rine.
Mallard 3+ at Shannon lagoon and on 4+ Loch Mor Inisheer.
Sparrowhawk Seen twice over the garden at Kincora House at 8.30am.
Buzzard One seen from the bus near Burren Art school on 2nd June.
Moorhen 2 at Loch Mor, Inisheer.
Oystercatcher 12+ on Inisheer and 2 in roost at Crab Island, Doolin 1st June.
Ringed Plover and another pair at Poll Sallach, and near Inisheer airstrip on 2.6.
Eurasian Curlew One off Shannon Estuary 28th May.
Common Sandpiper Singles and pairs seen at Inish Mor and Inisheer.
(Ruddy) Turnstone Small flocks on Inisheer on 31st May.
Common Gull 1 at Loch Mor 31st May, and several at Lough Bunny June 2nd.
Great Black-backed Gull Recorded daily 1-3 by the coast.
Herring Gull Common
Black-headed Gull Recorded in small numbers at Shannon lagoon and inland at Lisdoonvarna.
Kittiwake Common at the Cliffs of Moher and at sea off Inisheer.
Sandwich Tern 2+ off Inishmor and Inisheer.
Common Tern 4+ at Shannon lagoon. Small numbers between Inisheer and Inishmaan .
Guillemot Large numbers at the Cliffs of Moher on and at sea around the Aran Islands.
Razorbill Large numbers nesting on the Cliffs of Moher on and at sea .
Black Guillemot Seen in harbour at Doolin and near Aran Islands and off Black Head.
Puffin Recorded at the Cliffs of Moher on 3rd June.
Wood Pigeon Singles daily.
Collared Dove Seen daily at Lisdoonvarna.
Cuckoo 1-5 heard daily in the Burren, and very common on Inisheer and Inishmor.
Swift Only recorded on Inisheer on 30th May.
Skylark Heard singing almost daily.
Sand Martin Seen at Shannon lagoon and Roadford bridge, Doolin.
Barn Swallow Common daily, breeding.
House Martin Small numbers seen daily and 10+ at Pinnacle Well on 3rd June.
Pied Wagtail Common recorded daily
Meadow Pipit Common recorded daily.
Rock Pipit Common along the coast.
Dipper Irish race Recorded on the R. Aille.
Wren Recorded daily. Very common on Inisheer and Inishmaan.
Dunnock Common.
Blackbird Common
Song Thrush Common recorded daily.
Robin Common
Stonechat Common pairs breeding daily.
Northern Wheatear Breeding in small numbers in the Burren uplands and on Aran islands, and at Poll Sallach.
Willow Warbler Common where suitable trees and scrubland was available around Lisdoonvarna, at Noughaval, Corkscrew Hill, and Corcomroe Abbey.
Common Whitethroat Regular at Lisdoonvarna, Abbey Hill and Poulnabrone Dolmen.
Spotted Flycatcher One in Lisdoonvarna Park on an early morning walk.
Goldcrest Seen and heard in the woodland at Lisdoonvarna Park & Craggaunowen.
Coal Tit Seen at Lisdoonvarna and several in woods at Craggaunowen.
Great Tit Common
Blue Tit Common
Treecreeper Seen at Lisdoonvarna and Craggaunowen.
Magpie Common, except on Aran Islands
Red-billed Chough 2 on Inisheer at the Signal Tower, and near St Enda’s Well. One at Cliffs of Moher.
Jackdaw Common.
Rook Very common
Hooded Crow Common
Starling Common, small flocks daily.
Yellowhammer Seen near Burren Perfumery and at Lough Bunny.
Reed Bunting A pair 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 common on the Burren and at Corcomroe also seen at Lisdoonvarna
House Sparrow Recorded daily at Lisdoonvarna, Inishmaan and Inisheer.

MAMMALS
Red Fox
One near Poulnabrone.
Stoat One on Inishmor
Harbour(Common) Seal One off The Rine.
Grey Seal Several in the sea off Inishmore
Irish (Mountain) Hare One seen below Abbey Hill. 2 seen in a field on the way to Poulnabrone.
Rabbit Several below Abbey Hill and several on Inisheer.

AMPHIBIANS
Common Frog
Recorded from Shannon Point, Abbey Hill and Loch Bunny.


REPTILES
Viviparous (Common) Lizard
One photographed below Abbey Hill.

FISH
Pollock
A 3lb one caught by a fisherman at Fisherman’s Harbour, Inisheer.

BUTTERFLIES

Small White Common
Orange-tip Abbey Hill
Brimstone Abbey Hill
Small Blue Abbey Hill, Poll Sallach
Common Blue Common almost everyday.
Peacock Abbey Hill
Speckled Wood Inisheer, Lough Bunny
Wall Brown Abbey Hill, Inishmor, Inisheer.
Marsh Fritillary InishMor.
Dingy Skipper Abbey Hill, Inishmor.

MOTHS

Cinnabar Moth Common
The Lackey Caterpillars at Shannon, Abbey Hill and on Inisheer.
Garden Tiger Woolly Bear caterpillars on Abbey Hill and Inisheer.

OTHER INSECTS
Aran Bee
Bombus muscorum smithianus Seen on Inishmor and Inisheer.
Rose Chafer Cetonia aurata Seen on 30th and 31st.
White-tailed Bumble Bee B. leucurom Common
Red-tailed Bumble Bee B. lapidaries Common
Red-tailed Bumble Bee B. pescuorum
Garden Chafer Phylopartha horticola
Mayfly Ephemera danica Seen at Lough Bunny.

OTHER TAXA
Common Jellyfish
Aurelia aurita Many in the sea as we sailed to the Aran Islands.
Compass Jellyfish Chrysaoroa isosceles Seen with the shoals of common jellyfish on the 29th May.

FLOWERS
28 May Shannon lagoon

Bee Orchid
Bird's Foot Trefoil
Bush Vetch
Cats Paw / Mountain Everlasting
Daisy
Dame's Violet
Flax
Gorse
Hop Trefoil
Lady's Smock
Marsh Marigold
Milkwort
Mountain Avens
Ox-eye Daisy
Quaking Grass
Red Clover
Salad Burnet
Silverweed
Slender St John's Wort
Smooth Hawksbeard
Teasel
Thrift
Tormentil
Western Marsh Orchid
Yellow Wort

29 May Kilfenora, Noughaval, Ballyvaghan, Abbey Hill, Corcomroe Abbey

Bird's Foot Trefoil
Bloody Cranesbill
Brittle Bladder Fern
Brooklime
Bush Vetch
Cats Paw / Mountain Everlasting
Common Fumitory
Common Scurvygrass
Creeping Buttercup
Cut-leaved Cranesbill
Daisy
Dame's Violet
Fineleaved Cotoneaster
Fly Orchid
Germander Speedwell
Gorse
Hart's Tongue Fern
Hawthorn
Hazel
Heath Dog Violet
Herb Robert
Honeysuckle
Hop Trefoil
Ivy-leaved Toadflax
Juniper
Kidney Vetch
Lady's Bedstraw
Lady's Smock
Maidenhair Spleenwort
Mountain Avens
Mouse-eared Hawkweed
Parsley Piert
Pellitory of the Wall
Pignut
Polypody Fern
Poppy
Quaking Grass
Red Clover
Ribwort Plantain
Rueleaved Saxifrage
Rustyback Fern
Scarlet Pimpernel
Sea-Milkwort
Sea Plantain
Seslaria / Blue Grass
Shining Cranesbill
Silverweed
Spring Gentian
Stag's Horn Plantain
Thrift
Thyme
Tormentil
Tutsan
Twayblade
Valerian
Wall Pennywort
Wall Rue
Wild Columbine
Wild Madder
Wood Sage
Yellow Flag
Yellow Wort

30 May Inishmor, Inisheer

Babbington's Leek
Bird's Foot Trefoil
Bloody Cranesbill
Common Scurvygrass
Dove's Foot Geranium
Early Purple Orchid
Gorse
Mouse-eared Chickweed
Hart's Tongue Fern
Herb Bennett
Herb Robert
Honeysuckle
Hop Trefoil
Lesser Celandine
Ox-eye Daisy
Primrose
Sea Campion
Thrift
Wood Sage

31 May Inisheer

Alexanders
Babbington's Leek
Bird's Foot Trefoil
Bloody Cranesbill
Broomrape sp.on Bedstraw
Burnet Rose
Bush Vetch
Common Scurvygrass
Cowslip
Creeping Buttercup
Daisy
Dame's Violet
Dove's Foot Geranium
False Oxlip
Fools Watercress
Fineleaved Cotoneaster
Germander Speedwell
Groundsel
Hart's Tongue Fern
Heath Dog Violet
Herb Bennett
Herb Robert
Honeysuckle
Hop Trefoil
Irish Saxifrage
Ivy-leaved Toadflax
Kidney Vetch
Lady's Bedstraw
Lady's Smock
Lords and Ladies
Maidenhair Spleenwort
Ox-eye Daisy
Pellitory of the Wall
Pignut
Polypody Fern
Poppy
Primrose
Pyramidal Orchid
Ramping Fumitory
Red Clover
Ribwort Plantain
Rustyback Fern
Scarlet Pimpernel
Sea Campion
Sea Plantain
Sea Spurge
Selfheal
Shining Cranesbill
Smooth Hawksbeard
Stag's Horn Plantain
Storksbill
Thrift
Thyme
Tree Mallow
Twayblade
Valerian
Wall Lettuce
Wall Rue
Western Marsh Orchid
Wild Madder
Wild Strawberry
Wood Sage
Mouse-eared Chickweed

1 June Inisheer, O’Briens Tower, Church in the Sand, Doolin, River Aille

Alexanders
Babbington's Leek
Bird's Foot Trefoil
Bloody Cranesbill
Broomrape sp.
Brookweed
Common Scurvygrass
Creeping Buttercup
Daisy
Dame's Violet
Golden Samphire
Hemp Agrimony
Herb Robert
Sea Beet
Sea Plantain
Yellow Rattle

2 June Poulnabrone Dolmen, Burren Perfumery, Lough Bunny, Mullagh Mor

Bird's Foot Trefoil
Bloody Cranesbill
Bog / Meadow Thistle
Bugle
Burnet Rose
Bush Vetch
Butterwort
Cats Paw / Mountain Everlasting
Common Spotted Orchid
Daisy
Dame's Violet
Dropwort
Early Purple Orchid
Fly Orchid
Gorse
Greater Spearwort
Guelder Rose
Hart's Tongue Fern
Hazel
Heath Dog Violet
Heath Spotted Orchid
Hemp Agrimony
Herb Robert
Holly
Irish Eyebright
Lesser Butterfly Orchid
Lesser Stitchwort
Lousewort
Maidenhair Spleenwort
Milkwort
Mountain Avens
Mouse-eared Chickweed
O'Kellys Orchid
Ox-eye Daisy
Primrose
Rustyback Fern
Sanicle
Shrubby Cinquefoil
Spring Gentian
Tormentil
Twayblade
Wall Lettuce
Wall Rue
Water Avens
Wood Sage
Yew
Yellow Rattle

3 June Cliffs of Moher, Poll Sallach, Fanore Dunes, Caher River, Pinnacle Well, The Rine, Ballyvaghan

Bird's Foot Trefoil
Bloody Cranesbill
Brookweed
Burnet Rose
Bush Vetch
Butterwort
Cats Paw / Mountain Everlasting
Common Dog Violet
Common Scurvygrass
Creeping Buttercup
Daisy
Dodder
Early Purple Orchid
Fairy Foxglove
Germander Speedwell
Golden Rod
Golden Samphire
Hart's Tongue Fern
Hazel
Heath Spotted Orchid
Hemp Agrimony
Herb Robert
Hoary Rockrose
Honeysuckle
Hop Trefoil
Irish Eyebright
Irish Saxifrage
Ivy-leaved Toadflax
Kidney Vetch
Lady's Smock
Maidenhair Fern
Maidenhair Spleenwort
Marsh Marigold
Milkwort
Mountain Avens
Mouse-eared Chickweed
O'Kellys Orchid
Primrose
Pyramidal Orchid
Quaking Grass
Red/White Clover
Ribwort Plantain
Rock Samphire
Rustyback Fern
Sea Aster
Sea Beet
Sea Campion
Sea Holly
Sea Mayweed

4 June Craggaunowen
Yellow Water Lily
Yellow Flag
Sea-Milkwort
Sea Plantain
Sea Radish
Seslaria / Blue Grass
Sea Sandwort
Sea Spurge
Silverweed
Spring Gentian
Squinancywort
Stag's Horn Plantain
Stone Bramble
Thrift
Thyme
Tormentil
Wall Rue
Wood Sage
Yellow Flag
Yellow Wort

Stephanie and Jim Coghlan June 2005.



© The Travelling Naturalist 2005