As a heritage specialist with the wonderful Heritage in Schools scheme I get to visit some fabulous schools in some amazing places. One of the most interesting recent visits was to the school on Bere Island off Castletownbere in West Cork.
As always it was a privilege to talk to the children (and their teachers) about their local wildlife, and to get out and show them some of the wildlife around their school. They get so enthusiastic — and that innate curiosity and connection children seem to have with nature, particularly the younger ones, is heartening to see.
We saw all sorts of things, from ants and hoverflies, to wildflowers and of course birds. It was lovely to see marsh orchids in flower on the island. Ireland has some fabulous orchid species (check out this book for details) and now is the best time to get out an look for them.
Little did I know, but another Irish orchid — an extremely rare one called the narrow-leaved helleborine — was also flowering that very day not far from where I was. Unfortunately I didn’t find out about it until later that evening when I found this post on the Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve facebook page:
[fb_embed_post href=”https://www.facebook.com/GlengarriffWoodsNatureReserve/photos/a.235281396670356.1073741834.226861057512390/359390320926129/?type=1&permPage=1/” width=”550″/]
I actually called into Glengarriff Woods briefly on my way back from Bere Island, but because of an unexpected delay (more on that shortly) I was short on time and decided not to call in to the lodge, and so missed out on the helleborine that day.
The delay I mentioned was an impromptu boat trip out to see the fabulous white-tailed eagle pair which are nesting just off the Glengarriff coast. I’d stopped to watch the eagles through my scope from a lay-by on the Beara road out of Glengarriff, when a local pulled in and started to chat.
He was amazed at the views I was getting through the scope, and asked if I’d like to get out for a closer look. It turns out his name was Kevin-Jer O’Sullivan, and he runs boat trips to Garnish Island and around the bay on a lovely little boat called the Lady Ellen. Naturally I jumped at the chance.
We got lovely views of the male bird, perched on a branch not far from the nest itself. It was good to see that Kevin-Jer didn’t get too close, and never stopped — he just kept the boat moving slowly past the site, and the eagles showed absolutely no sign of disturbance whatsoever. It was a truly awe-inspiring experience to see this magnificent bird up close. As a bonus, on the way back in we got some stellar views of the local common seal colony hauled out on the rocks. These guys are well used to the comings and goings of boats and simply lounge about, letting you get really close to them.
It was another fantastic day of wildlife watching on the West Cork coast — and that’s something everyone can enjoy. All you need is a bit of time and enthusiasm, and a willingness to keep your eyes peeled, your ears open and take a closer look at what’s around you.
Whether you choose to explore for yourself, or join one of our guided nature and wildlife experiences, there’s a wealth of wildlife to discover all over Ireland — and we’d love you to share some of your experiences, photos and videos with us over on our Facebook page, via twitter, or by emailing us using the contact form.