Saturday, 10 October 2015

Loughill,Exploring Loghill,Co.Limerick.Shannon Estuary Irelands' Wild Atlantic Way

I am standing on a busy bridge overlooking the Shannon estuary and marvelling at the dramatic power of nature. After all the recent rain the white river is living up to its name and thousands of gallons water are been pushed through the narrow arches of the bridge creating a swirling cascade at the other side. I gently lean over but quickly retreat as I much prefer the feel of solid ground beneath my feet. The noise is deafening and who would think that such as important thing as water could be so forceful.   
The beautiful town of Loghill is nestled between Foynes and Glin and forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way

This town dates to the 12th Century and once had extensive Iron works. Today it is a lot more peaceful and the only sounds are the thunder of the water flowing beneath my feet and the haunting calls of the waders feeding out on the mudflats. I feel the excitement of exploring a new location and head of to discover more wildlife.

I walk down the path by the river and the fruits of the season are evident. An Elderberry bush has a bramble growing through its branches. Both have berries and they can be made into wine, jams, tarts and ketcup. The Sycamore tree arrived in Ireland during the 12th century. It was incorrectly named as its leaves resemble the true Sycamore that is found in Palestine. A more appropriate name would be the Great Maple but like old habits familiar names take a long time to change.

Deep in the tree two Wrens are singing and hopefully this winter will be mild as these tiny birds can suffer terrible during prolonged cold spells. The red berries of Lord and Ladies are ripening underneath a Holly tree. Its flowers give off a smell of urine and this attracts flies who pollinate the flowers. Also the phallic shape of the plant has led to many interesting names and the more printable ones are Sentry in the box and Kate come down the lane and jump up and kiss me. A Robin appears briefly on a branch, utters a quick song and retires to the safety of the trees.

Beech trees are taking on their autumn colours and can hold onto their leaves well into the winter till the first storm stripes them bare. Nettles like rich soil and where the leaves of the Beech have rotted down they are thriving. All these native plants have been complemented by the planting of Pyracanthas and wild roses. These are excellent shrubs/climbers for wildlife producing flowers for bees and berries for birds.
I reach the end of the path as the rain arrives. An old boat is located at the edge of the mudflats and it provides a dry place and also the birds are well used to this feature. I peek out the window and see a Cormorant flying overhead. These are excellent at fishing and dive under the water to catch their prey. In some countries fishermen raise the chicks and    they are trained to catch fish and bring their catch back to their boats.

 A Grey wagtail is flying upstream. Despite its name they have bright yellow on the body and the tail. I am joined briefly by a wasp who flies around for a few minutes and investigated all parts of the boat including myself. I keep perfectly still as he crawls over my hand and if you don’t panic and react they general leave you alone. With nothing of interest in the boat he flies out the window.

The large mudflats have attracted hundreds of birds. When the woods have gone silent the  mix of calls is an autumn chorus not to be missed. One bird in particular stands out and I can see a Curlew in the distance. It is easy to identify with its long de-curved beak, bulky body and streaked brown plumage. The female is bigger than the male and she also has a longer beak. This is a unique adaptation as this means that males and female don’t compete for the same food. Unfortunately the Curlew has nearly disappeared as a breeding bird and its future hangs very much in the balance.

Time is moving on and as I extract myself from my hide I see the lovely pink flowers of the Sea Aster. I head up to Kilteery Pier and the long winding road in has beautiful views of the sea. A pair of grey hooded crows are searching for seafood while a massive Greater Black backed Gull is resting on a rock. Through the open window I can hear a Jackdaw calling and a lone Swallow is flying along the edge of the sea.
A fabulous few hours spent discovered the amazing wildlife of this hidden part of the Shannon estuary.  

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