World Tourism Day 2009

Sunday September 27 is World Tourism Day.

I hope to be passing it on a boat off Kerry on a whale watching trip. Check out if you are ever interested in going out to see what dolphins and whales you might find off Ireland’s west coast. The best season is just now – late Sept and early Oct, as the migrating whales pass Ireland.

This year’s World Tourism Day theme is “Celebrating Diversity”. The diversity of marine life is what I hope to celebrate.

‘Kerry’ and ‘diversity’ also bring to mind the continuing efforts to re-introduce White Tailed Sea Eagles back into Ireland. What a wonderful and beautiful project. I think, to date, over 30 birds have been brought from Norway. This re-introduction project is one arm of Ireland’s attempts to enhance and protect native biodiversity, under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Convention, which dates from 1993, has three objectives :

1. To conserve biological diversity.

2. To use biological diversity in a sustainable manner.

3. To share the benefits of biological diversity fairly and equitably.


Beached Minke Whale at Enniscrone

I took a spin up to Enniscrone this morning to see the unfortunate dead Minke Whale, washed up on the brilliantly named Diamond Valley Beach at Enniscrone.

The whale measures 8.7 m and will remain there until at least this evening and maybe even until tomorrow morning, according to Sligo County Council’s local office.

Minkes are quite common off Ireland’s West coast and are the smallest baleen whale. They have white spots on their flippers and their dorsal fin is quite small and quite far back along the back.

Great Weekend in Mayo

What a weekend’s weather we’ve just had in Mayo. We had a really nice group for our walks this weekend, with everybody in the kind of good mood you’ll get with beautiful weather and surroundings.

Take a look at some pictures below. Highlights of the weekend, from a fauna point of view, were around 6 Bottle Nosed Dolphins off the west side of Iniskea South, 9 Grey Seals in ‘Seal Cove’, a Kestrel at Sheskin and, without doubt the highlight for me, 2 Otters at Sheskin also.

I was crouching down on the forest track in Sheskin, looking at the Kestrel that had landed on a nearby conifer, when I heard a “glub, glub” sound coming from the very small, shallow and narrow ditch behind me. I waited for the sound to get just past me, then stood up and saw a beautiful adult otter moving along the ditch. I was able to witness him for a good 10 metres as he pottered along minding his own business, seeing what he could catch for an early dinner. Ten minutes later, another came along in the same direction.


Thursday Trees – Rowan (An Caorthann)

The Rowan, also known as the Mountain Ash (although it is not a relative of the Ash tree), is a broadleaf, native to Ireland.

Roawn tree on the slopes of Nephin Beg mountain.

Roawn tree on the slopes of Nephin Beg mountain.

The Rowan is peculiar among Irish broadleaves for its tolerance to relatively high altitudes, up to 900 m. For this reason, it is often found up high with the plantation forests of conifer non-natives. It is also quite tolerant of waterlogged locations. Demanding of light, the tree is seen at the edges of conifer plantations, where it is employed to partly disguise the monotonous plantation. It is often seen standing alone on boggy mountain slopes.


Rowan tree,  along The Western Way.

Rowan tree, along The Western Way.

The main attraction of the Rowan are its wonderfully bright orange / red berries, which appear in autumn (as early as early August). The tree has leaves that are similar to those of the Ash, though of a smaller size. They are pinnate and divided into between 5 and 10 leaflets. In autumn, they turn a nice golden yellow colour.

Ballycroy National Park

Visitor Centre, Ballycroy National Park.

Visitor Centre, Ballycroy National Park.

Ballycroy National Park has existed for 11 years, pretty much without anybody knowing. However, last month saw the opening of its visitor centre at Ballycroy village, midway between Mulranny and Bangor Erris on the little travelled N59.

Ballycroy is Ireland’s sixth National Park, after Wicklow, Glenveagh, Killarney, Burren and Connemara.


Boardwalk through Bog, Ballycroy NP.

Boardwalk through Bog, Ballycroy NP.

The NP has 11,000 hectares of more or less Atlantic blanket bog landscape, with the wonderful Nephin Beg mountain range as its central spine. The Bangor Trail goes in and out of the NP for much of its journey from above Newport to Bangor village.

Animals to be found in the Park include Fox, Badger, Otter, Pine Marten, the invasive Mink, Red Deer and birds, like the White Fronted Goose, Skylark, Merlin and maybe the odd Peregrine Falcon.

The Bangor Trail, which I have walked many times, is a great old highway from northern Mayo down towards Newport and Westport beyond. In days of old, when there was no true road from the Bangor area southwards, this was the only way. Nowadays, it is in mostly poor condition. Some parts are reasonably covered in loose stones and rocks. Much of it is not. The parts which are not are being reclaimed by the bog, particularly the stretches north and south of the bothy / refuge below Corslieve.

To walk the Bangor Trail is a real experience. And that is exactly what I mean – a real experience. It is tough going, but hugely rewarding. Will you get wet ? Definitely.