Sunday, 31 August 2014

An Irish back garden

We're back at Granny and Granddad's house in County Limerick, Ireland now and there's still plenty to see. They have a big back garden, with a stream running down one side and fields at the end of the garden. There were lots of places where it looked like something had been coming through the hedge into the garden, so we set up the trail camera last night to see if we could see anything. We caught a fox on camera!

The trail through the hedge, where we set up the camera
We've spotted a few butterflies in the garden (in the brief moments when the sun has come out and the rain stopped!), most notably this Speckled Wood.

There are lots of birds around in the garden, especially Robins and Pied Wagtails (they seem to always be running around on the grass).

There are lots of Swallows flying around and sitting at very regular intervals along the telephone lines.

There are a surprising number of Rooks here. At home we might see one or two, but there are lots of them around here and you see them everywhere. There was a family of 7 Rooks digging holes in the lawn this afternoon. The parents were feeding the young birds.

#100DaysOfNature Day 39 - Parent rook feeding a youngster


Fanore beach is great for rockpooling as the rocky Burren stops right at the edge of the beach, so each low tide you get massive rockpools on top of the slabs of limestone.

Fanore Beach
Bug Mad Girl did some rockpooling, in her own special way. Wet suit on, she got in and sat in the rockpools. She found out that you can feed little snails to the Beadlet Anemones. If you drop a snail onto their tentacles, they will pull it in (presumably to their mouths), so the whole snail disappears.

We saw lots of anemones, limpets, whelks, mussels and top shells. There were patches of baby mussels, in dips in the rock, in sort of mussel nurseries.

Mussel nursery in a dip in the rock


Beadlet anemone and Top Shells

Whelk eating some Mussels
We found a Strawberry Anemone, which was similar to a Beadlet Anemone, but much brighter pink and had spots on the outside.
Strawberry Anemone
Bug Mad Girl caught a shore crab that was covered in barnacles and seaweed. When she turned it over, she realized it had a parasitic barnacle living on it (the yellow thing underneath it).

We saw a Heron fishing in the sea and then saw some Hooded Crows that were collecting Periwinkles. To crack them open, they were dropping them on a stone picnic table. They’d fly up, drop it then hunt around on the ground for it. They’d repeat this several times until they cracked it open. Clever birds!

A heron hopping between the rocks

Hooded Crow looking for the Periwinkle he deliberately dropped

#100DaysOfNature Day 38
Hooded Crows hunting for periwinkles
On the edge of the sand dunes, we saw some very curly snails and noticed that the wire fence was covered in chrysalises that all seemed to have hatched. The caterpillars must have eaten something growing in the dunes, then crawled up the fence to pupate.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

The Burren

The area where we’ve been staying for the last three days is called The Burren. It’s a very strange, rocky landscape called Limestone Pavement. There are big slabs of Limestone everywhere called Clints that look like giant crazy paving. These are full of cracks called Grykes that often have plants growing in them. For what looks at first sight like a completely rocky landscape, there are masses of flowers growing and it’s really like one massive rock garden.

#100DaysOfNature Day 36

The Burren, with the Aran Islands in the distance
We stopped at the side of the road and walked through a little gap in the stone wall. All around, there were Harebells, Carline Thistles and Eyebright growing on the rocks. There were lots of plants growing in the cracks in the rocks as well, such as Herb Robert and ferns.

I don’t think it’s the rarity of the flowers that makes this place so special, it’s more that the flowers are growing in what seems like somewhere made entirely out of rock. You also find plants living in the same environment, that you would never expect to find there, such as alpine and Mediterranean plants and woodland plants growing out in the open with no shade from the trees.

Bloody Cranes-bill

Carline Thistle

Sea Campion

Self Heal


#100DaysOfNature Day 37 - Eyebright

More Eyebright

Ferns growing in a Gryke

Maidenhair Spleenwort

The Burren is well known for all the orchids that live there. It’s a bit late in the year for most of them, but I did find a few that I think are orchids and must have flowered fairly recently.

We also saw Wild Thyme, a plant with red berries on it (maybe a type of Rose, not Beetroot as Bug Mad Girl suggested) and a red plant.
Wild Thyme

As well as the plants, there are lots of animals living on the Burren. These pretty pink and brown snails are everywhere and we’ve seen slugs and spiders. This spiders web looked silver with pools of rain water caught on it.

We’ve seen lots of birds, including seagulls (that we saw sitting around at the bottom of cliffs, face into the wind), Pied Wagtails and a Warbler (maybe a Chiff Chaff)
Herring Gulls

Pied Wagtail

Warbler (maybe a Chiffchaff?)