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It’s only July; where has the rest of the LOG gone?

Never fear; it’s HERE. We have had to split the Log into two halves. Follow the Link for July - Dec. 2014


New Format: LABlog:14 now includes both Biodiversity and Environment Quality reports for all of 2014!

Locations: The Location Maps are as before and are copied here:

This year for practical reasons (workload and worrying ongoing signs of water quality issues) the daily Log for 2014 incorporates both Biodiversity and Water Quality issues in the same Log. The WaterLog kept for the last year and a half is discontinued. That Log remains on site and can be viewed HERE. There is a huge amount of material in that file that may be linked from this Log — hopefully as Lough Allen gets cleaner and certain issues are addressed and remedied.

Recording Water Quality issues: We are incorporating the handy Yellow / Orange / Red warning scheme in a banner that will appear at the top of any day’s Log entry where there have been Environment Quality concerns.


Environment Issue

YELLOW Alert: Unsightly

ORANGE: Potential Risk to Habitat

RED Alert: Real risk to Animals and People

A sample is shown below on LABlog:14/1. Actually there were no serious issues on this occasion. Normally only one colour bar will be shown. A Red warning would relate to such issues as CyanoBlooms (‘blue-green algal blooms’) which may necessitate a Swimming Ban and special care for Dogs and other animals. Hopefully these will not recur this year but we need to be prepared in light of problems in November 2013. Orange Warnings will probably relate to contamination where there appears little possibility of harm or health problems but where a condition may be damaging to wildlife in the area or limit the amenity value of the Lake. Yellow warnings will solely describe situations which may be unsightly and which should be eliminated. We anticipate there may be several Yellow Bars in the Logs below during 2014!

Where is the next Record?

We have had to split the Log this year. The next 6 month’s LOGs (July - December 2014) can be found HERE

NOTE: LOGS 22... 23... and so on are in LabLOG14b

21. Some spectacular sights...

Date and Times: 24th June 2014 : Morning

Locations/Conditions: near Lough Allen

Summary/Purpose: This was a site we visited late last year and saw some very large dead orchids. Today we went back to see them in their prime... and we got a little surprise too. (That’s why the details in this header are a bit sparse.)


Yes, the large Orchids were present and spectacular. This specimen was close to 90cms. tall with the flowering head being close to 15cms. A big straight perfect plant. One of our most beautiful Orchids...

So, what is it? This is the Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii), the everyday orchid of disturbed ground or roadsides. But given some wet sheltered conditions they can grow into magnificent specimens such as this. So to see Ireland’s best orchids watch out for the roadsides. If they are there and there is a wild marshy or fen area behind the roadside wall, have a look over it and you may find these magnificent specimens growing in June.



The Surprise!

Before we could study or photograph these great orchids we became aware that there was another important inhabitant in this habitat — Ireland’s fastest bird!


This bundle of sticks high up on a cliff could only be one of two things, a Raven’s nest or....

A Peregrine!


This is one of the birds that quickly emerged. There were two but one quickly disappeared. This bird circled around in flat level fast flight following an oval path over the nest.




After a while this bird appeared to become alarmed and we moved off a short distance to observe our orchids. Happily this placated the Peregrine and we could work without causing them undue disturbance.

Occurrence at Lough Allen:

We often come across Peregrines but frequently it is only a glimpse high up or beating along the shoreline. We know two possible breeding locations. This is a species which was badly affected by pesticides 50 years ago and faced extinction. Today, this beautiful bird has recovered and is often seen around the country, especially areas with steep mountains or cliffs.

A beautiful species! Nice to have them in our environment along with Hen Harriers and Buzzards, Long eared Owls and Barn Owls. Though, sadly, we haven’t seen either of these owls for far too long. They may be the birds of prey that are now most vulnerable. We’d love to hear of any Owl records for Lough Allen!



20. Some pictures of Terns...

Date and Times: 18th June 2014: 0915 - 1245

Locations/Conditions: Cormongan, West shore of Lough Allen and down to Inishfail and visiting the Islands and The Spit on the way back. Wind: NE Force 2. Temp: 16.5 - 22.5°C. Water: 18 - 22°C, Quite a swell in mid lake (50cm.) but easing as we headed south and around Inishfail where it was calm. Level 2.26m.

Summary/Purpose: Bird check on the south end of the lake.

Common Terns:

Common Terns (Sterna hirundo) are a beautiful and exciting part of Lough Allen’s biodiversity. They are present here most years and bred last year. They have probably also bred in the past but we do not know. They are fish eating birds so these bright sunny days with fairly calm flat blue water suits them admirably. Below we have just collected some of our best pictures from today’s field trip. There are at least 2 pairs on the lake at present, possibly more but they do cover a large range. One of these pairs is based on The Spit and are displaying territorial and courtship behaviour...

A pair of Common Terns greeting one another on The Spit, Cormongan


Terns in general (and there are many species) may be superficially like Gulls — black and white, often sea birds, fly over water, and scream a lot! However, their nature is quite different mostly being fish eaters which they catch by diving steeply into the water.

This feeding pattern has made them agile with many adaptations for twisting and turning which they also use in display and driving off enemies. They are much faster and more agile fliers than gulls, and also considerably smaller. To see a battle between Common Terns and the Lesser Black-backed Gulls is an interesting spectacle with the larger gull often being mercilessly attacked by the aggressive terns.

RIGHT: A pair, female at back, male fishing and dropping back to say Hello! ‘Courtship feeding’ is a routine common to many species where the male will bring back food titbits to his mate!


Greeting as male arrives...

Wings formally placed as part of a bow!


Are they breeding on Lough Allen and can their numbers be increased? As a very attractive species dependent on a good supply of small fish, this is a very useful bird to have expanding its distribution in Lough Allen. With birds like these, and many others species, we have an automatic watch dog for water quality. They seem to be increasing in numbers; the water is also very clean at present! Most Terns are marine; the Common Tern has taken to nesting in inland waters.

No tangible difference in appearance between the sexes. We know that the bird in the foreground (LEFT) is a male — the bearer of gifts! Possibly his head and beak are slightly sturdier? A related species, the Arctic Tern, is very similar but with a bright red beak and does not occur inland.


Male in front; are there any differences?

Mate gone. Time for a preen and a ruffle!

Breeding Behaviour:

At this time, it is all about courtship. They typically arrive at Lough Allen in early June. (Earlier in lakes further south.) The first indication of their arrival is often a very long strident ‘keeeeharrrrrr’ sound from high in the sky. Then two fast moving long-tailed birds can be seen powering their way across the sky. These are the Swallows or the Peregrines of the seabird world.

They will explore the whole lake for a short period with The Spit, Gull Isl (Corry), Rossmore, Spencer Harbour and Cartron Bay being some of their favourite spots. When the female feels broody she will start to occupy a place near to a nesting area and the male will bring small fish to her. Unfortunately, in this case he got tired waiting and ate it himself!


A tempting small Rudd...

Both preening; male in background after eating fish!

An unusual visitor.

One other species must be displayed from this exciting trip. We were travelling north from Inishfail in a slight breeze and on blue water when this seemingly very large raptor flew over head. There is something special in seeing Buzzards from a boat! We have only done it twice and only seen Buzzards occasionally around Lough Allen.

This fine specimen was flying out of Inishfail, a fine breeding habitat for them, and across to the eastern shore south of Cormongan, where it was attacked by a pair of Common Gulls. Many smaller less predatory birds will mob a bird of prey when it comes into their breeding territory.

Buzzards are becoming common elsewhere in Ireland but remain scarce around Lough Allen. There are plenty of suitable wooded areas for breeding on the shores but one of their favourite foods, the Rabbit, is in short supply. But there are plenty of Hares (Leverets) and they might also take small birds and will eat dead meat.

Another welcome addition to rich birdlife of Lough Allen should they come and breed here...

Buzzard flying over Inishfail Sound at south of Lough Allen.


Mergansers: 4 single Male  at Cartron Bay, Arigna Isl, Srabraggasn and Jenny’s Isl. with 1 female also alone on Long Island.

Common Terns: 2 on The Spit

Common Gulls: 20 on The Spit preparing to nest. 3 at Arigna Isl., 1 sitting on nest.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls: 4 at The Spit and 2 at Srabraggan Rock where they were defending themselves against a very persistent Grey Crow.

Common Sandpipers: on every island including The Spit, though these could have been moving between islands.

Black-headed Gulls: 8 in groups of 4 at Gubcormongan and on the north shore of Inishfail.

Buzzard: 1 flew from Inishfail towards the east shore where it was mobbed by 2 Common Gulls.

Hooded Crows: 7 nests on Long Island, having had none until recently. Also another harassing a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls breeding at Srabraggan Rock.

Finally, for this trip, a closing view along the south shore of Inishfail where we explored in the woods. Inishfail has a stunning collection of varied mature trees. Mostly, not native, but an important arboretum which attracts many breeding woodland birds. Jays and Buzzards being the most exciting to date. This would be another valuable site on the Wildlife Tourism Trail of Lough Allen, if only the huge amount of work needed in managing and preserving this interesting collection of exotic trees could be undertaken in some work-generating way?

South Shore oh Inishfail with sparkling blue water and ‘swimming’ Alder trees, a stunning and interesting place!

19. Species and Habitats.

Today’s field trip seemed to confront us with the concept of change. Species will move and habitats will change or be changed. To enhance our richness of Natural Diversity we need to preserve one and attract the other. Photographs from today demonstrate how a species may naturally change its distribution or even die out or re-appear in a particular site. Habitats can also be altered, perhaps by changing weather, or more often through the intervention of man. e.g. Lough Allen is widely perceived locally to have become less clean and more polluted over recent years. It is very hard to quantify this and we do not have any health warning up for today either. This makes it 6 Logs without a warning; that does seem an improving situation?

Two species are emphasised, both birds, the Lesser Black-backed Gull and the Merganser. Their habitats, and also one other habitat are compared, to look for signs of natural change and the unfortunate impact of thoughtless intervention.

Date and Times: 17th June 2014 : 1730 - 2215

Locations/Conditions: NE corner from Corry to Yellow River, all islands and inlets. Wind: Northerly backing westerly. Force 1 - 3 later. Temp: 24 -14.5°C. Water: light ripples to choppy with moderate NW swell from 2100 onwards. Temp: 20.5 - 22.8°C coolest in deeper more southerly stretches and warmest in inlets.  Level: 2.26m.

Summary/Purpose: General survey of Birds. Because of what was observed this trip focussed on breeding water birds and their habitats with an aside to shoreline floral habitats!


Corry Shoal, the risky breeding site for many of Lough Allen’s uncommon breeding Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

The life of Species, their Habitats and Movements.

Lesser Black-backed Gull:

Not everybody may be sympathetic to this species. It can be very attractive and it can be very aggressive. However it is an Amber List species and it does have a significant presence in Lough Allen. Funnily enough, for a big powerful predatory bird, it is showing signs of pressure and it is occasionally found dead. By what predator, or by its own species, is not known. But in 2008 its population was largely confined to Round Island. This is one of three small islands, and a stony shoal (The Spit) off Cormongan. Whereas The Spit was the main breeding area for smaller (gentler) gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls rarely bred there. But they did make regular trips from their colony on Round Island to The Spit hunting for eggs of the smaller gulls. They were a serious nuisance especially to the Black-headed and Common Gulls and regularly used to have violent arguments with any Common Terns seeking to breed there.

But Round Island is now abandoned by Lesser Black-backed Gulls and they breed more dispersedly on much less suitable locations. Why did they abandon such a safe site?


A very big Gull, though not the biggest, this stunning portrait shows its striking bright yellow legs and eye, its sharply hooked beak, and its dark grey back. This may sometimes appear black like its commoner cousin, the Great Black-backed Gull. It is a freshwater loving gull widely seen around Ireland on passage but is a Summer visitor mainly and then not  a common breeder.

It is Amber listed for Ireland because of its localised breeding sites on the west coast and some inland lakes. Lough Allen is unusual as a breeding site in being so far from the sea.


The main habitat for Lesser Black-backed Gulls in Lough Allen is now Corry Shoal, pictured ABOVE. This is a totally unsuitable habitat yet the Gulls show great allegiance to it. It is often completely invisible, or only the top of a few stumpy surviving Alder trees being the only sign of its location in Winter. With changing Summer weather it often gets flooded in the breeding season and, since they have moved there, the breeding success has been poor with egg laying delayed until sufficient areas are exposed or even the eggs being flooded during incubation. Fortunately, once the chicks hatch, they float and can survive remarkably.

By contrast, Round Island, off Cormongan on the east shore, seems more or less an ideal habitat with tall trees for shelter and a small grassy patch on the south west corner where the Gulls used to nest. However, since 2010 the Gulls have upped camp, have not bred here in the past 4 years, and are rarely seen nearby. It’s like they got scared of the location and, indeed, several dead Gulls were found here. Perhaps the trees were its problem enabling predators to approach easily. Grey Crows are a problem on Lough Allen, breeding on all the islands and persistently looking for eggs to feed on. The Lesser Black-backed egg is a good prize!


This picture attempts to place this species in Lough Allen. In the foreground is Gull Island (near Corry Strand), with Church Island behind and The Playbank in the distance.


This is a powerful flyer that will patrol its area regularly and will take eggs of other gulls. It will threaten humans or cattle and try to drive them away from nesting areas. This individual was found in Druminalass and took offence to our presence by immediately flying out and circling our boat at a low height, all the time giving its 3-note alarm call (Wah... wah... wah). This is another area seemingly unsuitable for this species and we were surprised to see them acting territorially here.

It seems as if this species is unsure of its place and is actively exploring all new locations. It is puzzling to see a strong predator faring less well than its smaller cousins?



Another Species... another Habitat.

The Red-breasted Merganser


We always seek to publish pictures of this species whenever we come across them. This year has been a surprisingly good year for them, with relatively clean water at a reasonably constant level. The main environmental problem that concerns this species is variable water level.

Lough Allen is a prime location for Mergansers and part of the reason for this is the Alder Carr for which this lake is renowned. Not being a limestone lake the main tree species that grows is a water tolerant and nutrient tolerant species. i.e. the Alder can grow in areas with poor nutrients and will tolerate a very high level of flooding over a long period. This means that they grow ‘with their feet in the water’ and this provides ideal nesting habitats for these sensitive ducks.

They like to nest where they can quickly and unobtrusively slide off their nest and into deep water without being seen. It is almost impossible to find their nests but reasonably easy to detect where they may be breeding — a solitary male may often be seen on watch in the water nearby!



Breeding or non-breeding:

At this location, on Fahy Shoal, two females were seen, one (ABOVE) starting to moult and part of a pair and, the other, seen quietly resting on a rock enjoying the evening sun. Female Mergansers love to take the sun — it seems they do it more so than the males. Perhaps they need more rest?

It is likely that neither of these females were breeding this year. However, elsewhere around the lake males are much more commonly seen than females. This may imply that there are many females quietly sitting on eggs on remote islands or on sheltered parts of the mainland shore?

Breeding success of Mergansers only becomes apparent in late Summer when the females will be seen accompanied by their broods of typically 5 - 8 ducklings. 2014 is looking like a good year for them with presence of birds on most islands and many suitable shores, rivers, streams, and other remote Alder coasts.

A vital Habitat link:

A very self-reliant species, these ducks simply need to be left alone and their habitat left undisturbed. In regard to plants there is a protection measure known as the ‘Flora Protection Order’ which protects both rare plant species and their habitat, making it illegal to deliberately harm or alter the place where they grow.

No such facility exists for animals (apart from designated conservation areas of which Lough Allen has none). However the Mergansers have a very strong similarity to one of our rarer plants — Alders are very important to it (as they are for Spiranthes) and their abundance here is probably one of the reasons why the Mergansers makes Lough Allen one of their main nesting areas in Ireland. They probably would not be here if the Alder Carr was not here!

Leaving an Alder fringe intact along large areas of shoreline is the single best way of managing land for this rarish and very attractive fish eating duck.

Habitat Protection for Plants.

Spiranthes shoreline:

Damaged Habitat:

LEFT: This is a small bay in north east Lough Allen. It faces south west and in strong winds or heavy rains it can collect foam deposits (of an unnatural kind) and heavy littering from waste drifting down the Shannon and being blown easterly. This happened last Winter and was due to exceptionally high water levels flushing even the best stored waste plastic into public waterways. Now, once more, this bay is pristine with crystal clear water.

There are two very rare plants in this bay. One is a Rush, the other Spiranthes romanzoffiana, the rare American orchid Lough Allen is famed for. This Orchid is protected by a Flora Protection Order which prevents deliberate action to either damage it or its habitat.

RIGHT: Unfortunately such damage was done some years ago, probably under the guidance of Agriculture officials and without awareness of the presence of this Orchid in this remote spot. This whole bay had a band of Alder at the water’s edge. In the area in front of the boat these small trees were pulled up with associated soil removal leaving bare shallow ponds instead of small Alder bushes around which the Spiranthes used to grow. This is a classic example of the need for protection of the Habitat of a Flora Protected species. Work is ongoing in this regard!

A clean healthy Environment.



Lough Allen’s rarities: Species / Habitats.

This is NOT pollution!

On approaching this locality today, panic struck us — well me; my wife remained cool. A small area of the inlet to Druminalass was speckled with what we have come to assume to be brilliant white speckled foam of a synthetic origin, or so it seemed!

Thankfully, this was not pollution and, thus, we complete another field trip with no concerns for water quality. This is pleasing as with reduced surfactants and reduced persistent bubbles there will be a reduced risk of a Cyanobloom (a bloom of toxin producing blue/green Cyanophyceae) which are harmful to both people, wildlife and the physical environment.

This material seems to have been from the heads of Bog Cotton blowing off the mountains in a steady NE breeze. Last month it was Willow catkins and Spruce pollen! These are naturally occuring plant waste that will do no harm. Pollution is, of course, disaster for any habitat and the wildlife and people living there. Long may Lough Allen’s water remain clear and blemish free as it was today!

Mergansers / Alder Carr and Boulders on mainland or islands.

Lapwing / Undisturbed flat grassy shores with rich insect fauna.

Curlew / Bogs or blanket bogs, upland grazing.

Sandpipers / Sandy secluded bays with shingle, stones, alder.

Common Terns / secluded nesting sites, adjacent shallow fishing water, islands or offshore.

Spiranthes* / wet pasture, Alder shores, flat shorelines... always close to water.

Small White Orchid* / Dry hillside unimproved traditional pastures with dry stone walls.

* These species are protected under the Flora Protection Orders and alteration of habitat for grant purposes not appropriate!



13 Mergansers (9 males, 4 females). 1 pair at Gull Isl. 1 pair Church Isl. A single male at Kilgarriff was displaying but partner not seen! 2 Males and a female swimming off Fahy shoal and a short distance away 1 lone female (Below) resting on the shoal. 3 males on Fahy Island. Finally, 1 male at Yellow River beach maintaining some attachment to Yellow River where Mergansers are suspected of breeding.

24 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. 8 on Corry shoal, 2 on nests. 8+ on Gull Island were agitated and vocal. A pair at Druminalass. 2 on shore at Fahy and 4 more on Fahy shoal. 8 Common Gulls were seen. 2 pairs nesting in trees on Gull Island and 1 pair at Rossmore. 2 pairs on Fahy shoal.

1 Common Tern (?2) ranging widely around Yellow River. Finally 2 Herons, 6 Common Sandpipers and 2 Cormorants completed this tally. The Sandpiper numbers seem to have dropped or else are less visible?

18. Spiranthes research progresses well.


Our long study of over-wintering Irish Lady’s Tresses is going very well. We have prepared a large PDF with numerous illustrations of these 4 plants from last August up to today. All have survived. Two are now producing buds on the main stem surviving from last year. All are well protected and those with buds should go on to flower again this year. Please follow this LINK to view the history of these 4 little plants. It will bring you to the PDF chart with the photographs initially showing as small images. However you can zoom in 4-fold. Just use Zoom on your Browser or press Ctrl +

RIGHT: New bud developing on plant that survived Winter

Date and Times: 7 June 2014 : 1500 - 1700

Locations/Conditions: Derrintobber. Wind: Southerly Force 3-4. Temp: 18°C. Mixture of sun and shade at start, dry but with thunder and rain approaching at end of visit. No Water data as this was a walking trip

Summary/Purpose: Regular survey, photographing, and update of Spiranthes Winter Life Cycle chart. SummaryOfTrip!


The large image (on the Right) shows a new flowering bud starting to develop in the heart of a Spiranthes plant that also flowered last year. This plant produced a flower on a raised bank in the Derrintobber area of south Lough Allen. No sign of fertilisation was seen but the dried up stalk and flowering head remained into October.

While this old flower was dying, at it’s base a pair of very small new ‘leaves’ started to emerge. We are reluctant to call these a rosette or ‘lateral bud’ as they just seemed a normal continuance of a perennial plant. The big debate is... how long can orchids keep flowering from one single stock? The initial new pair of leaves survived through the Winter and went through a period of submersion as the lake water rose to a very high level. The original pair of leaves can be seen dried up and brown at the base of this plant.

From April onwards this plant, and the three others we are observing, have thrived. On our last visit, today, we saw signs of new buds forming in two of these specimens. As these specimens are well protected there is every hope this flower bud will go on to produce another magnificent flower this year.

We say ‘magnificent’ as it is unknown to see a healthy plant in bud at this stage of the year. It is growing strongly and the weather is kindly. This plant is now quite visible, not least of all because it is surrounded by a protective structure. There should be other specimens in the general area that have not been watched over Winter, and these should also be visible. We have searched assiduously in many locations as it would be very valuable to the conservation of this species if the young plants could be seen before heavy grazing commenced.

We have also looked in other areas such as Rossmore at the north end of the lake. Here many orchids emerged but were damaged by a herd of cattle moving onto the shore just at the wrong time. This year, local voluntary co-operation from the farmer(s) in the area has enabled us to reach agreement that cattle will be kept off the shore during the vital late Summer period.

However, even though the ground is now fairly bare, and we know the exact locations, we have not been able to identify any new (or old) plants growing or re-emerging in that site.

A possible interpretation of this is that... Spiranthes will survive, over-winter and go on to produce another flower from the same stem as in previous years — but only if that plant has not been damaged in previous years. If it has been damaged an orchid may not re-grow in that spot. The thickened root may survive underground but may not produce a new shoot. Other roots may produce a flower nearby or in-coming seed may have settled years previously and matured underground to a stage where it can now flower. This would explain the pattern of Spiranthes flowering in known areas but not always flowering in exactly the same spot. More observation of over-wintering plants is needed but the work described here has been an encouraging start in the conservation of this very rare plant at Lough Allen. More encouraging even is the enthusiasm and active support from the local landowners. Hopefully, that enthusiasm for a protected species can quickly be established within Agriculture Grant Schemes also?

It is all very exciting and rewarding. To see the life history of these plants during the past winter please do go HERE and follow the link to our Image Display.

17. There is something about White Orchids?

Date and Times: 5th June 2014: 1500-1800

Locations/Conditions: Mountains north east of Lough Allen.  Wind: Variable Force 2-4. Temp: 17°C. Water: Not relevant.

Summary/Purpose: To look for Small White Orchids and record them if found.

It’s all about white orchids this week. Firstly the Dense-flowered Orchid (not in Lough Allen), now the Small White Orchid and, soon enough, the Irish Lady’s Tresses will be out. All white with hints of cream or yellow or green in their flowers. Today also we encountered a very nice white Heath Spotted Orchid... reproduced below. However, the main theme today is the small population of Small White Orchids found in the hinterland of The Shannon in Co. Cavan. As a river basin leading into Lough Allen we think it is fair to record this species as a species occurring in the Lough Allen Basin!

In the fields and mountains and drumlins of the Shannon River as it meanders through Co. Cavan before entering Lough Allen ... can be found this charming little orchid. It is very small, quite rare and very fussy about where it lives. It flowers in June



Small White Orchids

Pseudorchis albida



This is one of Ireland’s rarest orchids, probably after the other two ‘white ones’ named above.

It is a small plant but tends to stand out when you are in the right country at the right time. If the sward tends to grow more strongly,  such as happens when the land is improved, the newer stronger growth may force this species out.

It favours sloping high ground with short vegetation and possibly a limey soil. A marginal species in Ireland, it is being threatened by changes in farming methods.


Most of these specimens photographed today varied from 10 - 20cm and seemed fairly new flowers. They have narrow long leaves in several whorls up the stem.


The dainty delicate freshly opened flower of this
rare orchid is such a joy to see in the foothills of
the Leitrim Cavan mountain range on the east Shore
of Lough Allen. There is only one species in this group
of orchids.

Numbers near Lough Allen


They are only known from this one large area but within that area sites have been identified further west of the main original location.

All these images are taken within two close colonies or, if you like one large dispersed colony. c. 30 were seen and mapped. However, it is early in their season and many more may yet emerge.

Part of this area has been improved (ie. drained and fertilised), the other part has not. Orchids are still present in the improved section but in lower numbers than in previous years.

Numbers are very good in the higher section. This is unimproved, probably slightly drier, and higher up in the foothills. All these factors are probably playing a role in the occurrence and distribution of these orchids.



The best specimen seen today. However this is still quite a small plant. They can grow at funny angles but always seem to like to have their spikes held very straight up. Most of the specimens are now found on humps or low banks or walls with some grass, mosses, and other associated flowering plants.




Close up of flower from specimen on left. Light was very
variable and there was an occasionally stiff breeze today so
these short flowers were jiggling around a lot. Hopefully, a
better close-up will be obtained in days to come.


Habitat and Associations

This is an upland species. It is said to be lime loving but  limestone would be a scarce rock where it is growing and increasing amount of acid loving plants such as Sphagnum spp. would seem to be invading some of the traditional meadows that has been its preferred habitat. This is Upper Carboniferous geology but with little limestone. However there are some calcareous shales and mudstone in between the bands of sandstone.

In the past few years this plant has occured almost entirely on slightly dilapidated dry stone ditches which are now very low and no longer act as field barriers. The vast majority of specimens recorded today were found in linear colonies along these former boundaries.

It seems that this could be another species being affected by changing weather conditions. They need the dryness and warmth of the ditches to flower. In the lowest of several meadows half of the specimens recorded were found in the traditional site in the middle of the field — but all near to raised humps as if favouring drier ground as opposed to the adjacent rather wet and rush riddled sloping rough pasture.



A row of three growing in a line along an old field partition.

Other Orchids:

These fields contain many orchids. In some flushes where springs seem to occur there are numerous Heath Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata) indicating that the soils are largely acidic?

No lime loving Common Spotted orchids were seen in these meadows.

These meadows contain abundant plants of the Lesser Butterfly Orchid (Planthera bifolia) though these were only emerging and yet to flower. In 2012 both the Small White Orchid and the Butterfly orchids emerged at the same time... a sign of differing weather conditions, perhaps?


LEFT: Heath Spotted Orchid

This was a very pretty almost white and very pointed specimen in among an array of pinks and reds.




This page is reports one day’s visit to the area. We hope to update it later in the month. These orchids may be just as vulnerable to change as the Irish Lady’s Tresses, which we are directing a lot of conservation effort towards. It is nice to have them growing in good numbers not too many miles apart — though at much differing seasons.

One of the main differences is that the Spiranthes is not found elsewhere in Europe and Asia apart from Ireland and Scotland, whereas the Dense Flowered Orchid and the Small White Orchid have populations throughout Europe.

All species need stable, very specific, conditions and tend to disappear with even the slightest change in Habitat. All three species and their habitats are protected under Flora Protection Ordres of the Wildlife Act.

It would be very interesting to hear of records of Small White Orchids from Leitrim. You can contact us HERE.

16. Fabulous Mergansers and warm clean water!

What a joy to be out on Lough Allen today. The delightful Mergansers were seen in good numbers, settled and reasonably tame to photograph. The light was good and practically everywhere we went the water was warm clear and clean. Because of the ideal photographic conditions the Red-breasted Merganser must take pride of place today. It is one of the stunning species of Lough Allen and it is thriving. Hope you enjoy the following pictures!

Habitat of Mergansers: This is the sort of area they like to breed in. Very relaxed female was sunbathing and her mate was nearby!

Date and Times: 29th May 2014 : 1600-2000

Locations/Conditions: Corry to Rossmore/Rossbeg, Gull Island, Shannon estuary, Kilgarriff, Druminalass, Fahy and Church Island. Wind: NE Force1-2 occasionally 3. Temp: 12.5-14.5°C. Water: slightl ripples to small waves during episodes of stronger breezes. Temp: 14.3 - 16.1°C in Druminalass. Level: 2.38m.

Summary/Purpose: To study and photograph Mergansers and... Boy, did we succeed!

Summary Of Trip! Mergansers: Mergansers were abundant and attractive. 1 pair and a single male at Corry Point flew to Diffagher River. Another pair in Rossbeg Bay (the outer bay to Rossmore) flew south. 1 male off Kilgarrif flew to Fahy shoal, another flew from outside Druminalass channel and over that inlet. A pair were seen on Fahy shoal and these flew to Church Island where they were observed and photographed. One last female was seen flying off from the south tip of Gull towards Corry strand. This amounts to a minimum of 10 individuals in a restricted north east corner of the lake. 3 other non breeding males were reported from Lecarrow about the same time and several more probably occurred along the western shore between there and Tarmon?

Other Species: Apart from Mergansers the following were seen. 6+ Lesser Black-backed Gulls in Corry area. 20 Common Gulls, many nesting, in discreet suitable locations that we visited. 9 Black-headed Gulls on Corry Shoal and 3 at Gull Island. No waders (nor Lapwing) at all apart from Sandpipers... 6 at Gull Island, Church Island and Rosbeg. First pair of Common Terns were busily feeding around Gull Island and around Rossmore. These always seem to arrive about this time. 4 Cormorants and only 1 Heron, even though we spent a lot of time around their former(?) colony at Church Island

Portrait: Female Merganser.


This beautiful female was seen on the south shore of Church Island (Inishmcgrath), along with her partner. They were very settled and peaceful and allowed our boat to drift close to them — hence the good photographs.

Most Mergansers seen today were in male/female pairings and staying around areas suitable for them to breed in. After eggs are laid the female almost disappears off the scene and a lonely male is often seen ‘on patrol’ in water nearby. So this pair may not have laid yet but there is every possibility that they will. Breeding has been proven on this island before but on the northern shore.

It is not all that common to see Mergansers out of water and their sheer bulk is striking. When on the water they can sink their bodies so only a small portion of their back  and long thin neck shows. But they have powerful bodies and legs. They are, after all, deep divers and very strong flyers.

The massive structure of their feet can be seen here, much bigger and sturdier than dabbling species of ducks that do not need push so forcefully in the water. That strength is also evidenced when they are seen running along the water with powerful strides as they become airborne!

Too close!

A view of their strong and long body. Legs are placed fairly far back and Mergansers never like to be far removed from water and prefer to bask out on rounded boulders right beside water deep enough for an escape.

Female Mergansers remain striking birds right through the breeding season. The green headed males of Winter and early Spring are very flashy but the subtle longer lasting colouration of the females is beautiful.


Mergansers belong to a group of ducks called Sawbills. One other member, the Goosander was seen in Lough Allen during the Winter but they do not breed here.

The upper mandible has a long series of backward pointing teeth designed to hold a wriggling fish firm until they can be swallowed. No specific information on what they fish on has been obtained in Lough Allen; it is actually very rare to see a Merganser on the surface with a fish in its beak.


These two can be assumed as a pair either breeding or likely to start soon. The green of the male has gone and they have a rather tattered dark brown head dress, not as attractive as the female. ‘Brownheads’ can be either these paired males that are breeding or else young males in early Spring that have not yet gained their green heads.

Portrait: The Male

Here is a close-up of the somewhat anxious male staying in the water as his mate comes ashore and dries out.

The green head and white collar are well gone and won’t reappear until Autumn. Males are reputed to abandon females after they start to incubate but we have often seen them staying near by. The females, undoubtedly, sit very tight and their nests can be established in a shallow dry gap under big boulders or fallen tree trunks. They will not budge until you more or less stumble on them!

Males are also seen in Lough Allen accompanying females with their young. But both parents do leave their young and migrate back to the sea. Young birds without parents can congregate together and have been seen on Lough Allen as late as October.


Numbers and Distribution:

This years seems a good one for Mergansers. Birds arrived early in small numbers, then increased and good counts were obtained both at the north and south ends of the lake.

Numbers of young hatched is hard to estimate. Some may be seen if one happens to be in the right place at the right time. Mothers with broods will keep under the protection of Alder roots and other dark vegetation until the young are good swimmers and flyers.

Non breeding birds may be seen in larger groups (i.e more than 2) in all parts of the lake. Breeding pairs will cling tightly to suitable nest locations, i.e. like the area shown above. Mergansers can regularly be seen flying up rivers as this is the safest way to get from fishing areas into safe breeding areas, e.g. Yellow River.

By far the favourite breeding location is among boulders or Alder roots on isolated islands with the female on the eggs and the male swimming around in open water nearby. How and when the female feeds, is not known.

The best indication of breeding success comes in the Autumn when the young birds are big and active and the adult birds have migrated back to the sea. Discrete flocks of siblings can be seen separately at first and then merging into a bigger group.

Our two ‘stars’ swimming near their resting/breeding area. These are high up; when they swim faster they sink the rear of their bodies as in other picture above.

Calm clean clear... and warm water!

All around the north end of the lake today the water was looking very good. We have numerous parameters we use as indicators of contamination in the water. However, little sign was seen of anything wrong. The flecking on the surface of the water in the picture above, looks like feathers, but is in fact small pieces of dried up willow catkins, as described in Log below.

Interesting water fact! (NOT a problem...)

We are not recording any negative observations regarding water quality but just an interesting observation. Today the water was excellent, almost totally devoid of any suspicious scum or any persistent reaction to agitation by us, the boat, or dogs! Any bubbles formed disappeared in an instant. The other unusual factor was a persistent gentle north easterly breeze. If you look at the maps above you will see that this parallels the direction of the Shannon estuary so, today, there was no Shannon ‘rip’ caused by wind and water going in opposite directions. However having left Rossmore and heading across to Church Island we did notice a slight evidence of surfactants in play. This was curious... why did these signs not appear in the Corry area or (later) at Kilgarriff or the east shore?

We surmised that the north easterly wind, which is unusual for this area, was adding to the flow of the river and bringing any pollutant in it straight down south through Lough Allen. Whereas, the more usual south westerly winds would have taken material pouring south with the Shannon and dispersed it to the northern shore either to the west or east of the estuary or perhaps even both? To test this theory we took a series of trips roughly east-west or west-east across the mouth of The Shannon. At a constant speed, a small amount of persistent bubbles where produced by our passage every time we left the shelter of either shore and entered the main course of the river. Because of the north east wind the water containing this contaminant was not turned back on either headland but travelled unimpeded down the centre of the lake.

This appears to indicate the The Shannon is a specific source of surfactant that is causing the foam formation that has been a problem in Lough Allen for the past 5 or 6 years? Other local sources may also be playing their part and today, it must be emphasised, the level of persistence was not measurable by any of the quantifying measures we developed in 2013. Simply to conclude, The Shannon is a factor and wind direction is also important especially when it is blowing back on Corry Strand or the east shore of Lough Allen.

15. Natural organic material on Lake water.

Location: Afternoon of 28th May 2014. Shoreline 1km south of Drummans Island. No wind, calm water and a warm overcast afternoon.

At this time of year there is always considerable natural plant material floating on the water. We always associate it with calm water and a busy period for Mergansers establishing their relationships and nesting locales. The main component of this waste material is large dried up catkins falling off Goat Willow (Salix capra) and drifting like feathers on the water surface. This is an entirely natural process and of no concern as regards the water quality of the lake at present. However it can cover large areas of water and form a deposit when it drifts onto the shore. If excessive amounts were to develop in a restricted area, or if it was to be assimilated with foam causing detergents or other natural material like Spruce pollen, then the digestion and fermentation of this material might have localised impact on water quality and attractiveness. But water quality on the lake is of a very high quality at present!

West shore of Lough Allen south of Drummans Island.


Here we can see a localised pocket of plant material being washed up on a rocky shore.


Sample of material being collected for laboratory examination though it seemed quite clear what the material was. The yellow tint suggested Spruce pollen and so it proved on microscopic examination. The Willow material, forming the mass of the deposit, was mixed with a significant amount of Spruce pollen. This has been found in various parts of the lake in the past month (May 2014). If it is present on its own it makes a bright yellow band along the shore.

No other pollen was found, not even Willow pollen!


A close-up of the floating material. It was clear from looking at the fibrous texture of the material and examining the trees nearby that this was largely composed of old catkins from the Goat Willow (Salix capra) which, along with the Alder, is the commonest shoreline tree around Lough Allen.

Dead catkins could be seen on the trees, dotting any calm water in the area and, then, getting broken up and amalgamated and washed up on the shore.




14. Lapwings: a Reserve for Nature.

Unlike other birds shown here, this bird was just passing through and had no clear attachment to The Spit where this photograph was taken.

In the past, Lapwings have bred widely in Ireland. In recent years, both here and in Europe, they have suffered a dramatic decline. It seems that, here in Lough Allen, Lapwings have suffered a serious decline in the first part of this century but seem to be holding their own in the past few years. While breeding is still very hit and miss, they are spending time in habitats that seem to suit their needs and when they are undisturbed or encouraged they may well go on to breed. This raises the question of Lough Allen as a breeding Reserve for this rare and attractive species.

Date and Times: 27th. May, 2014 : 0800 - 1130

Locations/Conditions: Cormongan to Yellow River and then south to all the Cormongan Islands including Jenny’s Island. Wind: southerly F2-3 later calming. Mist at south, clearing at Yellow River with some calm sunshine. Temp: 11-14°C. Water: Medium swell in mid lake due to persistent stiff southerly breeze but easing by 0900 as weather cleared. Temp: 13.5-14°C Level: 2.38m.

Summary/Purpose: A survey particularly of the eastern shore of Lough Allen but also including the southern islands around Cormongan. Many feature of this trip was the Lapwings. They were obviously settled around Yellow River and also seen passin through at another location!

Lapwing rising up and flying quietly away from a possible nest site.


This was the scene that met us at Yellow River (RIGHT)after an hours journey northwards from our launching place at Cormngan. The stiff southerly breeze coming up the lake, and an accompanying swell, had eases as we beached at a shingle spit south of Yellow River. This is a site that has attracted a consistent small number of Lapwings over the past few years as well as this year. Initially site seemed deserted but on going ashore 3 lapwings rose up and were soon followed by a fourth. To see a small group like this was pleasant; to observe them actively calling and ‘peewit-ing’ as they displayed courtship and territorial flight, was highly significant. This is breeding behaviour and these four birds were clearly attached to this location and may already have laid eggs.

It is important to record breeding in this declining species but it is also important to allow them to ‘get on with it’ and not overly disturb them. If they do successfully rear young this will (probably) become evident in due course. The bird shown on RIGHT was on low level flight away from and area of wet grass and rushes having been out of sight as we approached by boat. Coming into a site in this manner causes the minimum level of disturbance. The image below shows a bird in a somewhat more excited state, calling and flying slowly near its nest site — assuming there was one. The 4 birds were continually calling and dancing in the sky. After a few quick photos we left the area and two of the birds quickly settled back down in among the high grass. This location is shown in the landscape view below and it is an open sandy meadow at the back of a south west facing bay, with some bushes at it’s back but few trees higher than medium Alders, Lapwing like an open vista where they can watch out for possible predators such as Foxes and Grey Crows. This may not be an ideal site for Lapwings but it is one that seems to appeal to them.

Lapwing have shown a preference for nesting in larger groups. Small outposts such as this one may not be viable and they will congregate in larger sites with greater security and no bounding trees or other high points where predators may threaten the birds or their offspring.

Lapwing flying slowly in a head-up position as it watches over its territory.


We feel that it would be important work to try and foster this species here in Lough Allen, as is being done with good results in other locations. It is an iconic species and it seems to respond well to management of land for wildlife purposes. Lough Allen has a collection of rare and interesting species and a Reserve made up of several plots of land specialising in protecting various important floral and faunal elements of Lough Allens unique biodiversity — seems to be an idea worth developing?

Other Images:


Conservation Strategy:

Behaviour at Breeding Site.

Here is another example of a bird flying slowly over and around its breeding area.

It is important to balance time spent at essential recording and studying work with the need to protect the birds and not expose them to predation or damage to any possible eggs while the parent is off the nest.



Hear Lapwings call... and interact with one another on a breeding colony? Lapwings make a very evocative call when breeding.

Hear HERE!
(Remember to turn on
your speakers.)

This is the Sound and Sight of our small group of Peewits at the Yellow River. But, sadly, it is not our work but comes from the excellent Avibirds.com website

Could the Lapwing be conserved at Lough Allen?

Here’s what other people say... Birdlife International shows the worldwide distribution of this species and the sheer numbers globally.

It is not an endangered species but it is a declining species in Ireland due to changing farm practices and reducing suitable areas of undisturbed farmland.

“The global population is estimated to number c.5,200,000-10,000,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while national population estimates include: < c.10,000 individuals on migration and > c.10,000 wintering individuals in China; c.50-10,000 wintering individuals in Japan and c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in Russia (Brazil 2009).”

EU Status In the EU Management Plan for the Lapwing 2009-2011 you will find a considerable amount of data including records of numbers present 20 years ago in Ireland as compared to our now much reduced stock.

This is a substantial document but contains many useful insights into the reason for population decline, such as abandonment of land, change of land management, and poor reproduction rates due to these and other factors.




A Handsome Bird!


These photographs were a bit hard to obtain. The sky was quite cloudy and this tended to attract camera focus away from the birds. Shooting was best when they flew in front of a blue sky!

Perhaps the qualities and charm of this species is best shown by the non-breeding bird shown at the top of this Log.

They have a striking crest (some times not apparent when  they are worried), lovely floppy broad black and white wings with a sheen of green on the back, white chests and a flash of orange on their bellies.

However the most charming thing about this species is the way they call and squeak in courtship display using their well known ‘Peewit’ call and rolling and tumbling in evident excitement on a bright Summers day. Long may they survive at Lough Allen!

Farmland Conservation of Lapwing.


Ireland: Farming to enhance Wildlife, Teagasc.ie Teagasc in association with Birdwatch Ireland describe the present status of Lapwings very succinctly as follows...

“They have suffered significant declines in their breeding numbers as a result of the more intensive management of grasslands, with changes such as drainage, re-seeding, increased fertiliser use and the loss of winter stubbles all leading to the severe loss of nesting and feeding habitat. They are now therefore becoming very restricted in their range.”


Switzerland www.Vogelwarte.com has an interesting Recovery Program for the Lapwing and has suffered declines mirroring what we are seeing in Ireland but from marsh recalmation as well as mechanisation

“In Switzerland, the Lapwing originally inhabited marshlands and reed meadows. After the conversion of many of these habitats into farmland Lapwing populations plummeted. The species somehow succeeded to colonise acres and meadows, which resulted in a population increase: more than 1000 breeding pairs were estimated to occur in 1975. However, the mechanisation and the accompanying intensification of agricultural land use again led to dramatic declines in Switzerland”


Finally a view of the place these birds call home. This is somewhat different from land often used by Lapwings for breeding. They often nest in tightly grazed fields with very good visibility. Here the ‘breeding’ bird was seen dropping into a wet patch hidden behind large bunches of rushes. Conventional wisdom suggest that they like a good view around their nest so they can see any approaching danger. They evidently didn’t see us! Also, we do not have any proof of breeding yet and they may have only been resting here! But why so quick to return to one specific spot.

Lough Alen has many isolated places like these which would ideally suit a variety of our Top Dozen rare species. Here is a preferred location of lapwing, the Islands are much loved by Mergansers, and the eastern shores are the favoured location for Spiranthes romanzoffiana. Possibly a diverse Nature Park including many small parcels like these might benefit the local community as well as ensuring the survival of several key species that seem under threat at present.

The Habitat favoured by Lapwings near the Yellow River.

Other Species:

5 Mergansers were seen, 2 at Cleighran More (near Yellow River) which flew north indicating that they belonged to the northern population, and 3 at Cormongan. But it was latish by the time this area was covered and it can be expected that others may have been lying up quietly in sheltered areas. It has proved by far the best to survey this species in the early morning or late evening? 11  Sandpipers seen along the east shore. Small numbers of Common Gulls starting on The Spit with a few Black-headed Gulls seen at Yellow River. It can be expected that these numbers will increase given good weather and Common Gulls will nest in colonies or as isolated pairs scattered around the lake.

13. Among the Wildlife

Date and Times: 15th May, 2014 : 0700 -1000

Locations/Conditions: East side of lake from Gubcormongan down to Corlough near Drumshanbo. Wind: SW Force 2. Temp: 11 - 13°C. Water: Choppy at first, small ripples only south of Inishfail. Temp: 13.5°C Level: 2.44m.

Summary/Purpose: To check up on apparently good numbers of Summer breeders on Lough Allen at present. Numbers holding up for Mergansers and Sandpipers but Lapwings not seen in such good numbers as on Trip 11. But they may have been elsewhere or the weather was keeping them low?!

A grey and misty early morning photograph of a solitary brown-headed male.

If you can live nearby to Lough Allen and have the time when conditions warrant it to take a boat out and potter among the islands and the tree clad shores, then you are lucky! And we do appreciate it. This was such a day, calm, dry, warmish — but the Sun didn’t quite live up to expectations, especially for the early part of the day. And this had to be early; we are determined to accurately assess the numbers of Mergansers now on the lake. So, today, was the day for the south end of the lake... tomorrow, for the north end. Mergansers at this time of the year seem active at the start of the day, a bit of fishing, a lot of pairing, and then hide away quietly for the heat of the day! Hence the 7am. start. The early start was well rewarded with parts of the south end of the lake positively crowded with Mergansers.

Two Merganser pairs, males in slightly different plumage?

Red-breasted Mergansers.




It always seems strange that a lot of our Merganser males are brown-headed. This is sometimes described as non-breeding but in fact they may (some or all) be breeding. Mergansers are present in Ireland throughout the year; in Winter they are found in coastal salt water areas. In Summer they visit some western lakes for breeding purposes.

At sea the males are always beautifully green-headed and that is the classic picture of this species. We saw some of them here about a month ago. Today, the males were looking definitely more shabby. In the two pairs shown above the male on the left is looking good with a large crest, distinctive white colour, and a large red breast. Is the second male in this foursome then one of last years young? A similar couple is shown again on the right.

FAR RIGHT: An Otter making its way from the mainland out to Jenny’s Island at the south of Lough Allen. Not often seen

Photos: A quick apology. Though the wildlife was good the weather in the early morning today was quite dull and grey, unfortunately. This meant high ISO’s and low speeds on the camera which, with a long lens, means slightly soft and noisy photographs. However, the number and activity seen in the wildlife does merit recording.

-a dark Otter in dark water -
Seen sunk deep in silky water as we approached
this Otter was intent on reaching Jenny’s island
and quickly disappeared when it landed there!





Mergansers were wild and excited and very mobile this morning. Mergansers are fast flyers and can get from one side of the lake, or the middle to the bottom in about 10 minutes. While breeding they remain anchored to one spot but, at other times of the year seem to enjoy taking long flights. This makes it hard to be sure of numbers. Today, definitely, many birds were packed together and we can be sure there 11 around the islands off Cormongan (including Jenny’s Island.)

The distribution was as follows...

1 male left slip at Cormongan and moved over the pier at Cormongan. 1 male flying from the bay northwards around Gubcormongan. 1 further male west shore of Long Island. The two pairs pictured were found together on the north side of Round Island. These flew eastwards behind Long Island. Immediately after that another two pairs together were encountered on the west shore of Round Island. These flew and landed at The Spit. 1 further male also left Jenny’s Island and flew westwards into Mountallen Bay. It would be easy to assume that there might be another at least 4 birds on the west shore south of Tarmon. That makes a definite 12 birds with a male/female ratio of 2:1 Possibly other females are skulking and there could possibly be 20 birds in the southern end of the lake.


Common Sandpiper:

This bird sings, dances, poses, and has a very specialised flight pattern — low and level — but altering rapid wing beats with intermittent glides. That and its song are typical of wilderness areas around Europe. You always feel at home when you hear a Sandpiper singing.

Numbers are good this year but birds are also moving around a lot and are pairing and performing courtship flights in a very excited manner. In the area of Spiranthes Islands 3 birds were continually singing and displaying for hours during a later trip on 17th of May.

The numbers present indicate that good food stocks are available reflecting, perhaps, warmer conditions than the very cold May of last year. Also, they seem unphased by any foam on the shore, even picking insects from it!


Other Species:

6 Common Sandpipers were seen but many more would have been present. 1 Lapwing displaying on The Spit. 12 Common Gulls settling on The Spit. Two pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls on The Spit and also on Round Island, which they haven’t colonised for 3 years? 2 Great-crested Grebe near Inishfail.

PS. (PreScript) The promised next day survey of the north end was not successful due to a growing squall and up to 1 m. waves. It will be done some other day!

12. Natural Pollution?

Date and Times: 9th May, 2014

Locations/Conditions: Office based Research

Summary/Purpose: To process samples taken on last Field Trips, reported below


For many people their eyes will already have told them — this is Pollen season. It has not personally been a problem in the past but now, living beside a forest, it is! Also at this time in 2010 ‘pollen stalactites’ were a feature of pollution we were then becoming familiar with in Lough Allen.

Pollen is evident in the water of Lough Allen since the end of April. The photograph (RIGHT) was taken on the 30th April, 2014 as the first evident display of pollen in large quantities starting to affect the quality of the water. Here, it is combined with the artificial brilliant white fine-bubbled pollution that is now marring this environment. We have not logged a health warning this time as the foam was in small amounts and we  wished to focus on the Pollen.

At time of writing, Pollen does not seem to be a major contaminant this year and is not as abundant as it was in previous years. Conifers are notorious for having varying degrees of success in cone and seed production. Prolific cone production is unusual but such a year was 2011. This was the year after the last major episode of Pollen on the lake. That Autumn was also followed by large influx of Crossbills — birds from northern Europe who tend to explode in numbers and expand their distribution southwards. They are avid conifer seed eaters!

This Pollen is from Sitka Spruce.



Shoreline near Yellow River on the east coast of Lough Allen

This is a valuable habitat which we often explore. It is good for Lapwings and other wading birds, for Goldeneye in Winter and Mergansers (both ducks) in Summer, for Mussels etc.

It is uncertain still whether this year is going to be a good one or a bad one for water problems. However, today’s record, and the one from the previous trip, do not carry any health warnings. There are two elements at play in the image shown Right — a white foam and a yellow foam.

The white foam is the familiar artificial contaminant which has sprung up around Lough Allen in the past 6 - 8 years.

The yellow foam is pollen — a natural product. This article is headed ‘Natural Pollution’. This is because the source of this pollen is not native to Lough Allen!


Pollen is interesting! Apart from affecting human health and causing major discomfort to millions of people, pollen also comes in many forms and appearances. Pollen seasons are known by the trees or plants that release the irritant.

Pollen grains from a male tree will release male gametes to fertilise a female cone if it successfully lands on one. This leads to seed production which ensures the survival of the species and provides much food for Squirrels, Birds and even Humans!

Pollen grains often have very hard and armoured shells, also devices aimed at dispersal of pollen either by wind or water. All species of pollen have different appearances. This, plus the protected skin, means that pollen will endure for millennia and can be used by archaeologist to study the habitat and foods of ancient Man in differing parts of the world.

The Pollen in Lough Allen is Spruce Pollen. Spruce is an imported species and this may yet be the most striking example of an introduced plant damaging an environment to which it does not belong. The Lough Allen area has been heavily planted and many plantations are reaching maturity now.

Pollen Grains.

The pollen of Spruce is readily recognisable and quite different from other common plants in the region which one might have considered as sources.

The grains have two rounded lobes or bladders. This cause them to be dispersed and float on water!  Unlike many other species, they do not have distinctive protuberances. Also their colour is a very pale yellow and, even though tiny, when present in great numbers they can produce visible yellow bands in the water.

To confirm identification we have also checked Willow pollen (Salix capra) as this is a very common species all around the lake and it is characterised by having brilliant golden catkins carried abundantly in March and April. However a sample examined shows a totally different shape. (See photo Below.)

RIGHT: A small sample of Spruce stained and observed under the Microscope.

Pollen as a Pollutant?

An excess of alien products in a particular place can cause unexpected effects. The widespread planting and clear felling of American conifers may contribute, to some degree, to the pollution we are now seeing in Lough Allen — though we still believe the nature of the foam indicates man-made detergents as the probable main source.

The occurrence of foam and pollen together may be purely coincidental. They both occur on the surface of the water and they both will drift in whatever direction the wind pushes them. So if there is surfactant in the water or pollen in the breeze they will both be washed up downwind of that air or water movement. Decomposition of pollen will probably affect the water in some ways but we are not convinced of the concept of ‘natural surfactants’, or of them causing increasing pollution problems in recent years. However, conifers are clearly the biggest introduced risk of the last half century?

RIGHT: Comparison of Willow (Left) and Spruce pollen




11. Lapwings, Mergansers and Sandpipers...

This Log is a compilation of 3 dates, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. The details given below refer to Tuesday 29th and other details will be mentioned in the main text.

Date and Times: Tuesday, 29th April, 2014 : 0915 - 1215

Locations/Conditions: Boat trip on south end of Lake but starting at Cartron Bay on the mid west shore. Wind: ESE Force 1-2. Temp: 12.5 - 13.5°C. Weather: Clearing haze at first and then largely sunny. Water: Very small waves topped with ripples. Temp: 13 - 14.8°C. (Higher temps. in shallow bays.) Level: 2.06m.

Summary/Purpose: Today... Visiting known sites of iconic breeding water birds. This was very successful! Update of Spiranthes Conservation Project work was done on 28th and a shore based survey of the north end of the Lough was conducted on the 30th, both with interesting results that are incorporated below.

A beautiful male Red-breasted Merganser disturbed sun-bathing near Cartron Bay.


- Red-breasted Mergansers -


Merganser numbers are now very good in Lough Allen. Probably higher than seen in the past 6 years. Factors helping here may be clean water, mild and fairly sunny Spring weather, low water level. The downside to low water is that Mergansers will lay eggs close to it and if the rains come and the lake floods those nests will be lost!

There are now around 26 Mergansers identified on the Lake, north and south. Today, 11 were spotted, 2 females and 9 males! On our last boat trip to north Lough Allen (now getting difficult to access as there are inadequate launching facilities at the north end of the lake during periods of low water) 13 were recorded, 8 males and 5 females. Subsequently a pair was seen at Spencer Harbour.

Some males have been seen on their own ‘on watch’ close to shore. If this is near a habitat (see Below) suitable for breeding then we suspect the male may be holding territory or protecting a female that is invisible onshore. This would explain the disparity in numbers of males and females and also would bring the likely total of birds on Lough Allen to over 30!


- Lapwings -


- Irish Lady’s Tresses -

Lapwings too are present in good numbers (13 at 3 locations) and also showing territorial intent and courtship display. They twist and tumble in the sky calling out their enigmatic Peewit call. A very important species, a very traditional species, present in declining numbers but did breed in 2013. No flight pictures were obtained but the one shown (LEFT) was taken from the boat with a long lens and shows a bird particularly attached to one spot on The Spit. Maybe thinking of laying but this would not be typical habitat for Lapwing breeding.

Spiranthes romanzoffiana

This extraordinarily rare plant (aka Irish Lady’s Tresses) of Ireland and Scotland is doing well here at Lough Allen. This image is one of 4 specimens being protected and monitored with the active support of the landowner. These pictures form part of a unique series we are compiling showing how this species, often associated with high Summer, is surviving and managing through the long, partly wet, Winter. Scientists have various theories on how this plant survives, disappears and reoccurs. These images are the first that we are aware of showing that this plant does survive above ground (maybe underwater) right through the Winter!

Merganser Habitat and Breeding...


Cow meets Mergansers!

This ‘perfect’ pair of breeding Mergansers, him with that green sheen to his head and herself with the lovely tan coloured crest, seemed to be catching the attention of a long term local resident. ‘Where did you come out of?’ he seems to be saying. In another photograph the female Merganser seems to be staring back at the cow assertively. It is sometimes strange to think of the relationships animals have with one another and not just with us Humans. Cattle would impact little on Mergansers as they like to breed in the remote tree-lined areas (such as shown below) which would be inaccessible to livestock. Cattle can swim, but they can’t fly too well!

Mergansers are Summer visitors to Lough Allen; maybe they seem new or surprising to other animals? They are here in good numbers this Spring. It is naive to assume that this may be due to  clean water? More likely it is a good Spring actively encouraging both species to do their things, be it grazing or mating and breeding.

Cattle do have an important role in encouraging the orchid shown above, to survive here in Lough Allen. They keep the vegetation low which encourages the orchids to grow unimpeded in the Spring and Summer. Farmers are helping now by grazing known sites short and then placing animals in other locations in late Summer when these rare orchids flower. It is practical conservation very much in line with the newly proposed GLAS Grant scheme.


Shooting out of a River!

This male and female pair were seen shooting out of the Yellow River on Wednesday 30th. This is behaviour seen before. Yellow River has a broad straight deep course for c. 200m. before it forms an area of gravelly shoals as it enters Lough Allen. At the top of this straight stretch there is another gravel bank and a pool surrounded by Alders.

This is ideal habitat for Mergansers. Perhaps a safer habitat than on islands or shores of Lough Allen as being some distance upstream they will be protected from some rise in water level of the lake — though obviously could suffer damage if heavy rain turned the river into a torrent. Mergansers nest close to water so they can slip into the water under the cover of trees and have deep water close by for the purpose of fishing.

This pair and other pairs (same pair?) seen in previous years, chose to emerge from this habitat by flying low and fast down the wooded channel and are not seen until they suddenly appear in front of an observer on the shore. This is probably a means of escaping fast from a potentially dangerous area and also in some conditions they would not be able to swim across the deposits at the mouth of the river. They would have to walk — something Mergansers are reluctant to do!

Breeding behaviour: There are some comments in the literature re. behaviour of Mergansers which vary from our observations. Observations on Lough Allen indicate that males may stay around with their partners for a lot of the breeding period. Maybe some distance away but keeping watch. Males are not always green headed and may have distinctively chocolate brown heads during the breeding season. They may have lost courtship plumage, be young or non-breeding males, but they can be easily recognised by the differing wing patterns shown on image (LEFT). Males do not seem to migrate to the sea much earlier than the females. Males and females are often present in similar numbers so any imbalance in numbers seen may mean that the females are sitting on eggs and not likely to be seen due to the remote places they build their nest. Young do stay after their parents have migrated and families may associate. Well, 2 broods together is the biggest we have seen.





Yellow River Habitat.

Taken with a zoom lens this image compresses the distances. The shoal at the top of the straight is further away, and the hills in the background are on the east side of the Dowra road which itself is about 1 km. from the Lough Allen shore at this point. This is a valuable habitat for several species. As regards the Mergansers, all we know is that they fly in and out either as a pair or the male alone often. They pass over the gravel bank at the end. It is assumed that they are exploring this area for possible nesting.

Other habitats are the islands. Mergansers are always found around all the main islands of Lough Allen in the Summer time. They need good weather in May to encourage them to breed. If it remains very cold they seem to abandon any hope of breeding and single birds can be seen lolling around on their own. This is probably triggered by low water temperature and reduced food availability? Very often in May and June a lone male can be seen waiting offshore. This is a good indication that a female may be sitting on a nest nearby. However, it is best not to search or disturb these areas though female Mergansers are very good mothers and will not break cover until you practically walk on them.

The best proof of breeding is seeing young Mergansers out on the lake either as young ducklings with their mother or as older independent young Mergansers often banding together with any other broods that may have hatched out. A breeding site on Church Island was discovered in 2011 by accident and these eggs were successfully hatched and reared.

Apart from islands Mergansers will prospect along many wooded shores especially where these shore are inaccessible to both animals and people. They prefer shores where the trees, or dead trees, occur right down into the water. This normally means Alder trees as no other tree will regularly survive with its feet in water. This year single males have been conspicuous in two ‘Alder swamps’, south of Gubcormongan, and east of Spiranthes Islands. Both of these areas had a deep channel which the ducks can swim up, leading into an area of tangled wood. We will maintain a discreet watch on these sites.

Other Species:

Yellow River habitat is important for Lapwings, a farmland species that badly needs to be protected and encouraged in Ireland. They successfully bred here, or near here, last year. Other waders such as Greenshank, Redshank, Curlew and Whimbrel, Snipe and Jack Snipe, Ringed Plovers, all pass though here on migration. Mussels grow well in the sheltered water of the bay and attract Goldeneye in Winter time if the water level is low enough. Finally this is the place where we saw the first pair of Little Egrets recorded for Lough Allen. This is an expanding Mediterranean species which breeds further south, is very well attuned to this watery habitat, and which would make an attractive addition to our changing biodiversity. This quiet area is a very important place for Lough Allen.

Common Sandpiper.

Sandpipers are back in good numbers (22). They were first seen at Mount Allen on the 21st of April and seen widely by boat and walking in the past two days. No photographs were obtained as the birds are newly arrived, may be moving on, and are very lively indulging in much courtship display. This all makes them difficult to photograph. This is another characterful and significant species of Lough Allen which we can take for granted. Safe food supplies and ‘normal’ weather are all they need. Being invertebrate feeders along the water’s edge they would be susceptible to anything that harmed that food source or was even harmful to the Sandpipers themselves. Thankfully this log of 3 days work is completed without the need to place an Environmental Quality warning at the top; Lough Allen is looking well. But, then, we always get periods like this?

Environment Issue!

YELLOW alert: Some small patches of foam on shore.

ORANGE alert: Large area of Scum and lowered water surface tension west of Cormingan [MORE]

10. Largish numbers of Mergansers prospecting!

Date and Times: April 18th, 2014 : 9:30 am - 3:30pm

Locations/Conditions: Whole lake north of a line from Arigna to The Spit, firstly along the west shore and then the north shore and all its inlets, finally returning off shore off Yellow River and landing at Stoney River and exploring area around Cormongan for Mergansers. Wind: Calm on leaving Cormongan but slight variable breeze ranging SE - SW Force 1 - 3. Temp: 7.5 - 14.5 °C. sunshine most of the day. Water: Smooth and calm off Cormongan aided by some contamination and then mostly small waves on west shore and some waves 30 - 40 cms. around Shannon estuary and Yellow River. Very calm with light ripples by early afternoon. WATER: Temp: 10.9 - 11.3°C. Level: 2.14 Metres

Summary/Purpose: Biodiversity study was planned to try, in particular, to see if we could record increased Merganser numbers since they were first seen in small numbers a month ago.

This goal was achieved but only after a fairly arid time and some concerns regarding water quality at the south end of the lake. (See Environmental Issue panel!). However it was good to see reasonable numbers of Mergansers actively prospecting for mates and nesting sites on the north and east coasts of Lough Allen. The whole lake was surveyed in one continuous boat trip apart from the area near Drunshanbo south of Inishfail. It is not often we can survey both ends of the lake in one go but falling water levels make it difficult to launch our angling boat north of Cormongan and it was easiest to cover the territory in one long circular survey.

Red-breasted Mergansers: (13 in total)

Moving west across the lake and then north past Spencer Harbour, no Mergansers were seen in their usual haunts among the shore line Alders, or flooded Alders, that this species enjoys on the western side of the lake. A pair were seen off Gull Island at the north end of the lake, then a further three were seen suddenly flying out of a sheltered part of Rossbeg. These two males and one female (in picture ABOVE) also flew past Gull Island. Two pairs in full breeding regalia were seen together in Kilgarriff Bay. Note, all the males seen at this stage were in full green head display plumage. This is hard to show in photographs as they are often seen against the light and the colour is very much a sheen. The last pair was seen on a shoal off the Yellow River. Two single males were finally seen at Gubcormongan and at The Spit.

Observations: Mergansers




A pair flying out of Kilgarriff, male in front. Apologies for some of these photographs; the birds are still very lively and shy and moving around large areas of the lake. When they get more settled the males tend to lose their lovely bottle green heads — typical eh?


A female on the shoal at Yellow River. Mergansers pull out of the water to rest and preen. They are quite bulky birds when seen like this. As very strong flyers and divers they have to be strongly muscled. Also, they can dramatically lower themselves in the water when they wish to remain unobserved.

This female was in close partnership with a male in the water nearby. This shoal would not be a suitable breeding place for Mergansers but they have been regularly seen flying up the Yellow River which is straight at first and then turning as it goes into trees possibly suitable for nesting?.

Other Birds: The Mergansers were the best part of a quiet day on biodiversity. But 2 Lapwings, 1 Curlew and various Gulls were also found. The distribution of these species will be reported in more detail when full facts are know. It would be particularly good to encourage Lapwings back as a common breeding species in Lough Allen. They show regular interest in various locations, such as the Yellow River, Mountallen, and The Spit at Cormongan.


Male Merganser at Gubcormongan. This male was hovering around very attentively but no female was seen. However, when he did fly off he circled and landed at the headland not far away — typical behaviour of the male of a breeding pair, The habitat, shown in this picture, of tangled Alder and Willow overhanging narrow deep channels is the ideal location for nesting. If all these birds seen behaving territorially were to breed this then might be a good year in Lough Allen for this charismatic species.


Canada Goose. Not a native species, can be a bit of a pest, and is now turning up in Lough Allen on a regular basis. They have overrun parks in Britain and are very strong agressive birds that can breed rapidly. They would not be a benefit or a welcome addition to our fauna.





Much spectacular flora is now in bloom, but they are common species (like we have shown in previous Log) with a few other more elusive plants such as the Marsh Violet and Early Purple Orchid.

Early Purple Orchid.

Nationally, a frequent orchid but not all that common around the exposed shores of Lough Allen. This is basically a woodland species and can occur in gardens and along hedges. Three freshly flowering specimens were found at Druminalass on a hill above the channel facing into the afternoon sun. Not long flowering they were spectacularly dark, looking almost black in the strong light. The specimen on the left has been lightened a little to show off features of its anatomy with a large striped labellum (lower lip), a large spur (curving to the rear of the flower), and twisted flowering stems.

(Lough Allen’s rarer orchids, the Irish Lady’s Tresses, will be flowering in late July and August and protection measures are now being put in place to prevent these plants from harm.)


Marsh Violet.

This gorgeous little violet, not so well known, is becoming increasingly visible around Lough Allen, occurring in damp areas of grass, moss, and rushes. It tends to occur as individual plants rather than the big clumps of the Dog Violet. It also grows its leaves in tight coils which then open out to very rounded kidney shaped bright green leaves. The coiled leaves can be seen emerging below and to the left of the flower.

The colour of these flowers is unique — and beautiful!

9. Quiet and beautiful: a photographers dream!

Come to Lough Allen with your Camera or your Easel! It has a very varied landscape and equally varied weather. Always interesting, often stunning, and always different. Today was an unexpectedly quiet day form the Biodiversity point of view — just one routine task to be done. As the scenery was particularly magnificent here is a collection of images from Lough Allen today.

Anyone seeking advice on where to go or what to look for is very welcome to CONTACT US.

Date and Times: 14th April 2014 : 12 pm - 6pm

Locations/Conditions: South eastern quarter of the Lake.  Wind: Calm at first with slight breeze later, Force 2. Temp: 13.5 °C. Water: Silky smooth at the start and then small waves later. Temp: 10.1 -10.5 °C Level: 2.24 Metres

Summary/Purpose: Implementing conservation measures in the area but we got distracted by how well the lake was looking. Hope you enjoy these images! Pictures shown today are chosen for how well they reflect the quality of Lough Allen. There is no Biodiversity record published today nor are any of the plants shown particularly spectacular — just chosen for their beauty and to practice our photographic skills. The main technical problem we had today was too much sunshine!

Some Landscape Pictures:

Characteristic Lough Allen:

Because it is navigable, these markers are a feature of Lough Allen. Perching posts for Cormorants and Gulls, this post and its reflection contrasts with the distant misty western and northern shores.

A Lake of many Islands:

Lough Allen was formed by Glaciers passing through it during the Ice Ages. Many of these islands are the moraine remnants of those times. This is Round Island and along with many of the southern islands of Lough Allen its boulder surface may be flooded in Winter. Used to be main breeding colony for Lesser Black-backed Gulls but several years ago they left and have never returned. Why?

Silky smooth water:

Today was a quiet day but a pleasure to be out. The whole lake was looking its very best and while a delayed warm spell may have delayed colonisation of the lake with breeding birds and rare plants, the place is now ready for them with water level exposing all traditional areas.

Bird Breeding colonies:

The area in the foreground is The Spit where many ‘sea’ birds breed. It has 3 species of Gulls breeding and Terns and Waders often visit here before breeding elsewhere.

Inishfail Channel?

This is an area where the lordly Shannon is compressed and forced to the surface as the water shallows prior to leaving the lake through the sluices a little further south. Today it was beautiful. Sometimes rising water can carry contaminants and blooms have occured here!


Flowering Plants and Trees...

a few bursts of colour livening up a previously dry season — just for show not science (this time!)


Bluebells are not fully out yet. The climate in Leitrim, this year, is a good month behind more southerly parts of Ireland or Britain! This is most obvious in Flowers but animals are also delayed though good numbers of migrants are arriving... no Cuckoos yet though!


Nice detail showing in this new Marsh Marigold bloom. From being recently flooded, these plants are now high and dry and rushing to flower. This is more a photographers photograph though! Bright yellow flowers and full overhead sunshine used to be the photographers nightmare. Better and better cameras allow us to get away with difficult photography that would have been nigh impossible in film days. As can be seen the background is heavily underexposed to compensate for the brightness of the foreground. Together with modern sensors and Active Dynamic lighting it is possible to reduce the ‘burn-out’ of pale objects in such bright sunshine.





Goat Willow (Salix capra) is a common little noticed tree of ditches but it has two interesting features — a huge array of catkins in lovely shades of yellow completely covering a branch or the whole bush at this time of year. Also, the Goat Willow cannot stand drought and can go brown as early as July in dry Summers. This specimen was taken at the mouth of the Yellow River after it had drifted downstream and become lodged on a gravel bar at the edge of the lake. We think of plants migrating by seed (eg. the Spiranthes orchid) but not normally moving location as a whole tree!


Just Gorse and Blackthorn  with Alder behind. Just an attractive scene of a profusion of blossoms and plenty of visitors (Bees) coming to enjoy them. (These photographs are shown small but are big files and we may try and show them karger later.)





One of the first Lady Smock we have seen. In a formerly wet area behind a mossy log and with some yellow flowering Golden Saxifrage in the background — just another pleasing image to practise your photographic skill on. This one was blowing somewhat in a light breeze so the image was taken handheld and using continuous focus to try and catch a sharp picture. This was the best one we got!


A single Blackthorn flower. They have been absent during a cool Spring but are now bursting out along all the ditches only soon to be gone. LoughAllenBasin.com is now using SLR cameras and a variety of lenses to depict Lough Allen’s biodiversity. This image is largely in focus but with the background pleasantly blurred. For technical purposes it is important to keep all the botanical subject as sharply focussed as possible to help in identification of rarer plants.

8. Biodiversity starting to arrive!

Environment Issue!

YELLOW alert: Impressive clean water apart from problem below. Small lining of white foam on Holly Island opposite Hotel,

ORANGE alert: Severe big bubble areas off Gubcormongan and north of Long Island... MORE

Date and Times: 4th April 2014 : 9am - 12:30pm    

Locations/Conditions: Southern end of Lough Allen.  Wind: Initially calm then Force 2 SE. Temp: 9 - 10.5 °C. Water: Only slightly ruffled at first with isolated flat calm patches on lake north of Long Island. Later, small waves were affected by SE breeze. Temp: 8.9 - 10.1 °C.  Level: 2.56 Metres

Summary/Purpose: Looking for Mergansers. At this time of year we are keen to determine how many Mergansers have arrived, where they are located, and whether they are likely to be breeding pairs. Along with the report in LabLog14/5 there are now at least 5 birds on the lake. Other species are also arriving but still not in the quantities seen formerly. As customary, we also keep an eye on water quality (fine white foam on shores, persistent bubbles in boat wake) as we travel!




Summer/Winter visitors


Mallard. Scattered pairs flying together in most suitable area but evidently not nesting yet.

Wigeon. (3) Flying away from Gubsrabragan.

Teal. (12) Six at Mountallen Bay and 4 in mouth of Arigna River and 2 near Spiranthes Islands. These attractive ducks are present in small numbers throughout the Winter and can linger into the Spring but we have never proved breeding in the locality.

(RIGHT)Male and Female Merganser in close pursuit,
maybe courtship ritual?

(Far RIGHT) a pair of Teal on watch at Mountallen

Merganser. (2) A pair first encountered south of Inishfail and flew south. A mature male and female... these looked like a breeding pair. The male was seen on several other occasions in Drumshanbo outer bay, passing north through Inishfail channel, and later leaving The Spit and moving south again.

Heron. Noticeably absent.

Cormorants. (1) This species seems to be becoming more frequent and widespread around the lake. It could be a concern in depleting fish stocks but shows no sign of breeding or quickly increasing in numbers

Lapwing. (0) A null report as areas covered today should have this species present. Cool dull weather conditions may have kept them away or from being observed?

Gulls. 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls at Srabragan Rock, two of them acting like a pair. Two other individuals at The Spit. This species is unsettled in its breeding areas having abandoned Round Island some years ago and relocated to more flooded sites! 1 pair Common Gulls on Arigna Rocks. Gulls are important breeding species for Lough Allen

1 solitary Lesser Black-backed Gull at The Spit, RIGHT

A fine Cormorant posing on a Navigation marker. (RIGHT)


The weather, not particularly cold but not particularly warm, seems to be holding back birds from occupying nesting colonies. Lapwing are scarce, other waders are almost absent. Gulls scattered in small numbers around the lake but with no big concentrations. Mergansers may only have 5 present but, hopefully, more to come? Water levels are high but starting to fall rapidly and, with some warm weather conditions, may be more suitable for breeding and later Summer migrants like the Sandpipers and Terns may start to arrive.

Water contamination remains a slight concern for its potential harm rather than any present pollution. This is not reported here but will be reported though the Yellow Alert flagged above.

7. Stunning Leitrim plants...

Environment Issue!

YELLOW Alert: Some unsightly foam entering Lough Allen at Annagh Lake and present on sheltered shores facing light breezes. (NO further report.)

Date and Times: 1st April, 2014 10am - 1pm

Locations/Conditions: North East Lough Allen. Wind: almost calm at times but SW f 2-3 on occasion. Temp: 7.5 - 10.5°C. Very thick mist at first, clearing by 12 noon. Water Level 2.64 Metres

Summary/Purpose: Site investigation work to check whether lands for Orchid project are now fully exposed by receding flood waters and to monitor condition of other vegetation. This was a trip by foot and areas covered ranged from the Yellow River and the bay south of it to Rossmore inlet and its east shore where Spiranthes romanzoffiana is found during the Summer! It was also a profitable trip for birds and details are provided below. We have put up a Yellow Alert today as we encountered two unsightly pollution issues, one of which can be easily fixed, the other which is damaging the visual aspect of the lake (and potentially its Biodiversity) and more difficult to manage.

But, firstly, a positive note...

Daffodils and Alders — they go so well together.

The Daffodil is a native plant of Western Europe. They are an enigmatic plant of Leitrim as are the ubiquitous Alder trees. What is the connection? Daffodils like fairly well-drained rich soil. Leitrim soil is marl, with much ground up glacial till, poor drainage and easily waterlogged. Alder are famous in many ecosystems for being major providers of Nitrogen to poor soils. Grass grows greener around Alder trees and rushes fare less well. Plus Alders soak up excess water and provide shelter alike for plants and animals — hence the clumps of Daffodils. (Alder also are a source of a superb burning timber for a stove yielding a very worthwhile crop within 10 years.)


Habitat Surveying:


All known locations for our very rare Orchid (Spiranthes romanzoffiana) were surveyed today. All were in good condition apart from the small location shown below. Also, Annagh Lake was carrying detergent based foam in the stream entering it but this was not showing up on the eastern ‘orchid shore’ of that lake?

Mallard: 8, Scattered in pairs around whole area.
Wigeon: 7, All seen together in Yellow River Bay.
Teal: 18, One large flock in shallow water among the trees on the shore of Yellow River bay; flew away on our arrival. 4 at Rossmore
Lapwing: 3, Interestingly these were in Yellow River bay also, but this was the site where these now rare breeders successfully bred last year. Furthermore, two of the birds were actively displaying and ‘claiming’ territory by flying up and down and around and around like big clumsy black and white butterflies all the time calling out with their plaintive ‘Peee...wit’ call! This definitely seems like an area they are strongly attracted to.
Common Gulls: 6 at Yellow River
Great-crested Grebe: 3

A Lapwing in the mist!

Stunning Leitrim Plants!

We were referring to the Daffodils and the Alder in our title. Plants don’t have to be rare to be stunning! It’s something about the way they fit into their environment that makes us remember them and associate them (like the smell of bread) with a place where we were happy. The Aspen tree is another charismatic species around Lough Allen.

The polluted site shown on the Right is actually the location of a rare Rush, the only place in Ireland where it occurs. The Spiranthes orchid also occurs here so within 1 acre you have two exceedingly rare plants. People come from far and wide to view these plants but these very plants also need protection and conservation.

Recording Biodiversity is important but caring for it is also essential as it may all go away if we don’t respect the place where it grows.


Rare Plant location: (at first)

These two photographs were taken today. Two of the rarest plants in Ireland occur at this location. It is immediately evident from a quick survey that this part of Lough Allen is suffering some degradation at present.

Firstly, along the shore lies a small but persistent band of fine bubbled foam. This is of synthetic origin, i.e coming from a source that is not natural, entering Lough Allen, and generating these persistent bubbles which are always unsightly and are linked to Cyanoblooms (or blooms of so called blue-green ‘algae’) which are toxic and harmful.

Secondly, the bushes are littered with rubbish. This is not a locally sourced problem. No one dumps rubbish here! It reflects the large scale flooding during the past Winter when the water reached the height shown by the plastic.

Storm Damage to important Sites:

Very high water levels have affected many important locations around Lough Allen over the past Winter. All around the Shannon Estuary (where it enters the Lake) large amounts of rubbish have been deposited. Quantities were always present but seemed to have been declining over the years. It seems that no one is dumping irresponsibly, or not in large amounts, as the quantity was declining. But with so much rain during the Winter it has simply been washed out of properties and the drains and fields have all been scoured with the resultant loose rubbish being washed into Lough Allen.

We have received offers of help in removing this waste but some is dangerous, and some is in very awkward locations best reached by boat, so we have always intended to do this work ourselves. Maybe if you are out and about you might consider collecting it and disposing of it? The work shown here was merely a matter of minutes!

Rare Plant location: (later)

Same location 20 minutes later. The visual pollution has been removed. This makes the site look instantly more attractive and it can again be appreciated as an area of local and National Biodiversity importance.

Notice, though the area looks so much more impressive, the persistent pollution problem bedevilling Lough Allen for quite a few years now remains. We are working with others to try and control this niggling and fairly slight pollution problem. But while the foam is annoying, the Blooms with which it seems associated are definitely dangerous and damaging to the environment. Unfortunately this contamination issue has proved difficult to trace, to reach agreement on its very existence, and (therefore) to locate and eliminate!

[We must admit this was a cosmetic exercise cleaning only rubbish in the area of the photographs. More remains to be removed later.]




6. Seasons are all mixed up... observing plants not wildfowl?

Date and Times: 30th March 2014 : 10am - 12:30pm

Locations/Conditions: Derrintobber, SE Lough Allen, by foot.. Wind: SE Force 2-3. Temp: 8.5 - 10°C. mainly overcast with some sunny spells. Water Level: 2.72 Metres

Summary/Purpose: Normally Spring is a time for birds and Summer is a time for rare Orchids! But the sole purpose of this trip was to check the status of over-wintering Spiranthes romanzoffiana plants on a site on the south east shore of Lough Allen. As out title suggests our trip was totally successful and the plants are doing well. It is very unusual to be able to publish photographs of this plant at this time of year. They normally aren’t noticed until mid July when their prominent flowers bring them to attention.

As part of a conservation project aided by a farmer in this specific area, we are monitoring the life cycle and distribution of this Orchid in this location over a full year instead of simply logging their occurrence during the flowering season. This way we will be able to best protect this exceedingly rare species in all of Lough Allen. Already, several other farmers are interested in supporting this important conservation task along the east and north east shore of Lough Allen. We, at LoughAllenBasin.com, are learning many interesting new facts about this species as we go — some of which we can find no comparable research  in either Ireland, Britain or North America. It may not have the greatest number of this species but if all our plans for the Summer come to fruition, Lough Allen may have undertaken the first ever conservation project for this declining species.

Conservation area today: shore between band of dry reeds (Winter water level) at top of photo and the lake, is an active area for Spiranthes


Last years Spiranthes romanzoffiana plants emerging from the floods!

It is very pleasing to be able to present these pictures and show three (of four) Spiranthes plants that we carefully marked last Autumn, now starting to re-emerge vigourously as the floods withdraw. All these plants were underwater, some of them for over two months. Like a soggy lawn they are a little bit yellow but now appear to be growing vigourously. We are very surprised at the size of them and wonder can they continue to develop into full flowering spikes but only flowering in July or August?

The tallest specimen (shown RIGHT) is over 4cms. tall and seems to be bursting out of its skin! We will monitor the growth of all 4 specimens over the next couple of months. Spiranthes romanzoffiana is not a water plant but is associated with water for seed dispersal and, perhaps, weed control? Traditional wisdom is that meadows where Spiranthes grows need to be cropped short and certainly rush filled or overgrown wet fields will not support this species. However the long flooding of the past Winter certainly seems to have controlled growth on the wet raised meadow where these 3 specimens are located. Large areas now have a very low swarth and look suitable for an expanded population of this plant this Summer! (But we cannot promise that...)

The sharply curved over-wintering buds can be seen clearly on the specimen shown LEFT. It appears that the plant may be producing a stem and have grown rapidly over recent days. This is an aspect of the plant we had not known before; they were assumed to emerge rapidly and proceed to flower immediately in mid July - August?

Specimen 13/3 growing rapidly as its area dries
out after the flood. This is much taller than it was
when it was last photographed in December

ABOVE: Specimen 13/2 with lateral bud opening
up to reveal a new shoot. (Specimen 13/4,
not shown here, is also thriving. It is the lowest
specimen and only recently above water again.

“Community Partnership”

BELOW: Specimen 13/3 is interesting as it is the
highest plant and would have been above water
much longer. Yet it is less developed. It is also the
only one of four plants to have 2 lateral buds.


Spiranthes romanzoffiana (Irish Lady’s Tresses) is one of Ireland’s rarest plants; in fact it is not even known accurately how many survive in Ireland! However it is known how many there were in Lough Allen in 2013 — just 34! That is a small number but it is more than in many other of its haunts here, possibly only surpassed by Lough Neagh.

It is also a very rare plant in Europe and Asia. In fact, it does not exist in this vast swathe of half the world, apart from in Ireland and Scotland!

We will be preparing a section of this Site showing the life cycle of this plant over the months as it may become clearer in that format. The annual cycle will then be obvious and the times it needs  protection and can be seen and photographed will be clear. We hope this will be available SOON!

We (LoughAllenBasin.com) wish to commend the several Farmers and Farm Families who have indicated their belief that because of its unique occurrence here, its special role in Lough Allen’s biodiversity and being part of the area’s heritage, it should be preserved and protected and have indicated that they can take the steps which may be needed to do this.

It is a long wait until late Summer but we will watch the four plants we can watch. Our time and work is free but there are costs to many in setting aside land and protecting habitats. We would welcome any support for this work. We do not seek support for our work but if it helps conserve a rare part of our Natural Heritage, we can use such support well and appreciate everyone’s contribution.

This is a Protected Species and one which can be used in a Department of Agriculture grant application under the GLAS Scheme.

5. Arrivals and Departures!

View of Church Isl. from middle of Shannon on a cool breezy overcast sky. Large trees in centre hold the Heron colony.

Date and Times: 26th March 2014 : 10am - 2pm

Locations/Conditions: Northern area of Lake from Yugan Lake to Drummans Island. Wind: Northerly Force 1 -3. Temp: 7.5°C. - 8.5°C. predominantly overcast and feeling chilly but with occasional sunny spells and calm winds. Water: Choppy first, quite rough on southern part of area covered, then almost calm by early afternoon. Temp: 7.4 - 8.1°C. Level: 2.94 Metres

Summary/Purpose: Basically to check whether Mergansers had arrived; they were about due! Also, further checks were planned on water monitoring after variable observations in the last Log. Overall  it was a long bouncy trip with little reward until the end when some interesting ducks were found! Also, it was not possible to fine tune water monitoring techniques (photographic) as water quality was uniformly excellent!



Comments: Natural Change and Naturally clean water!



Red-breasted Merganser have arrived to breed!

Great to see 3 Mergansers busy and lively again in Lough Allen, two males together and 1 male on his own. Two of these in glorious early Spring display colouring, one a brown head male. We are curious about this association (and later, competition) of a mature male and a young male. Male Mergansers leave Lough Allen before their young do or the females so it is unlikely these birds could be related. Maybe just good friends that met up at sea and now do everything together?

These birds were very lively and probably only recently arrived in the area. They were extremely flighty and moving very fast, so distance simply made it impossible to get any photographs of these new arrivals. No females have been seen so far; perhaps they are elsewhere in the lake?


Mallard. Scattered in pairs and small groups. Seen less frequently but this is probably because they have dispersed to local breeding areas.


Wigeon. Initially nine seen in Rossmore and then moving out to Gull Island along with other ducks.


Teal. Again in small numbers and mixing with Wigeon.


Merganser. Early arrival of 3 males found in Rossmore and very wild. Immediately flew to Gull Island and then north west corner of Lough Allen. Two birds seemed to me a mature and a non-breeding male closely associated, the other male on his own. Great to see these back and active.


Goldeneye. This seems late for Goldeneye as they are northern breeders and should have migrated by now. Presumably this is the same pair seen in Annagh Lake two weeks ago? (See photo in previous Log entry.)

Goldeneye, extended Winter holiday?

Goldeneye are Invertebrate and Mussel feeders so seem to enjoy reasonably shallow water. Hence their occurrence in Lough Allen is often in shallow lagoons and is very much affected by water level. This Winter water level has been both very low and very high, but they have been present (in different locations) during both cycles.

These are Winter visitors to Ireland and Britain and south central Europe and normally leave early to return to breeding grounds in Scandinavia and northern Europe. They now breed in Scotland (200 pairs); wouldn’t it be great to see them breeding here? This pair is certainly staying around for quite a while? View Arkive.org for more information on this species.


Heron. We were around the area of the Heronry all morning. No Herons or Ravens were present. Both these are early breeding birds and there were many young Herons in the area last Autumn. This Heronry on Church Island (Inish-McGrath) has been very small for many years and it is possible that Herons have found a new breeding site? Otherwise they seem to have suffered some loss or delay in breeding. Only one Heron was seen all day, in Rossmore.



Herons noticeably absent?

Herons are few and far between at present. The island in the photograph (above) is their main breeding colony in Lough Allen but with absolutely no activity so far this year.


Lapwing. One individual bird in new haunt on the west shore of the Shannon estuary in low-lying flooded feilds.


Gulls. Small numbers of Lesser Black-backed (7) and Common Gulls (9) were prospecting known nesting sites on Fahy Island, Gull Island and Corry shoal.


RIGHT: Natural fine beach and beautiful clean water. The decay in the Alder trees is also
natural, though perhaps reflecting increasing water levels flooding their roots and then storms exposing them. Alder Carr
is also seen on far shore. Carr is a valuable habitat, not least for Mergansers, and should be maintained in continuous belts.

Environment Issue!

YELLOW ALERT: Some concern about pollution in open water paricularly south of Corry Strand and in Shannon Estuary. [MORE information soon!]

4. Nature returns to Lough Allen!

North shore of Lough Allen from Corry Strand to Druminalass and Annagh Lake.

Date and Times: 11th March 2014: 10am - 2pm

Conditions: Wind: SW Force 2 at start - Force 4 in afternoon. Temp: 6 - 11.5 °C. Water: Ripples at start, medium rip at Shannon Estaury as wind got up and small waves on return to Corry.. Temp: 7 - 7.8°C. Level: 3.4 Metres

Summary/Purpose: We are taking a short break before the busy Spring season so this was a trip to see ‘what was about’. Goals were to check variety of species present and to observe how water quality was holding up after a very flooded and stormy winter. Biodiveristy was rewarding for the first time in a couple of months! Many species present and active in the more sheltered parts of the lake where it has been difficult to visit for a couple of months. Some water issues will be discussed in the ‘Environment Issue’ box above, but not for a while. Main concern is a lot of rubbish dispersed around the lake due to storms and flooding. A lot of this appears to be coming down the Shannon? Many thanks to the two people we met at Corry Strand for their help and support!

A small Adventure:

Something different occurred today. High water levels have been limiting the numbers of wildlife present and also making access to certain locations very difficult. Today it was possible to go by boat from Druminalass inlet into Annagh Lake — something that is normally impossible due to dense growth of reeds blocking the channel and differing water levels between the two bodies.

This was the first time we have explored Annagh Lake, a lakeshore we often walk as it is one of the sites for Irish Lady’s Tresses, by boat. Shallow on its east shore it goes down to over 10 metres depth close to the west shore maybe reflecting glacial excavation of the basin presently occupied by this small tributary lake to Lough Allen.

A very pleasant journey. Also the water quality in this lake, — which we have sometimes worry about as it seems to be linked to a late Autumn bloom found here last November — was uniformly clean.

Some interesting Biodiversity as also recorded here. See Below...


Entering Annagh Lake through the Reeds for the first time!


Water level on the lake has been falling slowly and with a forecast for a largely dry week ahead it may happen that those Spring birds and plant waiting to start reproducing will find the conditions they need in this very changing landscape. For many of the birds this means exposing shores and islands and shoals where they can settle and lay their eggs. These sites are still deeply under water but lengthening days do drive animals to seek out the conditions they need. The Spring ritual can only be delayed so long.


Lapwings: Lapwings have bred in Lough Allen in large flat meadows often close to the lakeshore. However there numbers are decreasing rapidly and they seem to be trying to exploit habitats that would not seem ideal for them, like rushy damp upper shoreline near the Yellow River on the east shore where some young were seen last year. Lapwings often congregrate on The Spit near Cormongan at this time of year but that too is flooded!

We were pleased to find 9 Lapwing in a flock along with 2 Redshank in a flooded field on the west bank of the Shannon where the river enters the lake. It would be beneficial for the species and potentially valuable to the farmer if wildlife such as this could be encouraged to stay in the area. Given the right conditions it has been shown that Lapwings will congregate in an area where reasonable numbers can breed together in a colony.

This picture shows the present habitat that attracted the Lapwing. This is normally a flat somewhat rushy, but dry, Summer field about 1.5 metres above the level of water in the lake. It looks like an ideal bird reserve at present but it is an established cattle grazing area. How what grass there is here will recover following a few months under water remains to be seen. Possibly the idea of ‘Farming for Nature’ could be adopted here with the twin goals of providing a home for increasingly rarer species and providing diversity of the way land is used.

Is the effort required to retain this marginal land in agriculture use all that beneficial when better well drained hilly land is available behind it? Allowing Nature use such areas could be grant aided by new Agriculture Grant schemes becoming available.

Lapwings are a traditional part of the Leitrim wild bird community and were once widespread and much loved. The Redshank (shown in the top left of the upper picture) is, however, more of a coastal species.

Common Gulls: Unusually these small dainty gulls prefer to nest in trees or stumps though they will also nest on the ground. They are returning in small numbers to the north shore of Lough Allen. Six individuals were seen in known nesting areas.

Lesser Black-backed Gull: Definitely ground nesters and none of these sites are presently available so only 2 individuals anxious to nest were seen tentatively exploring old haunts.

Wigeon and Teal were seen in modest numbers in all the inlets (Rossmore, Druminalass and Annagh Lake) with c. 25 Wigeon overall and c. 15 Teal. Small numbers, but those seen were very wild and hiding out in undisturbed locations. Winter conditions have not been suitable for these species. Mallard were scattered in small numbers. Only 1 Heron was seen and none at the Heronry on Church Island. This is worrying as they are early nesters, the weather and flooding might not have affected them, and they were active this time last year.

Also at Rosbeg Bay, Wood Violets were missing and the Butterbur and Marsh Marigold roots were all exposed with no foliage or flowers growing. (See Last Year. This report was from May2013 but all vegetation was present at this time last years)

ABOVE: Lapwings and 2 Redshanks had
found an ideal Spring habitat for themselves


Goldeneye: As mentioned above it was possible to manouver the boat through the barrier of reeds and get into Annagh Lake. Apart from a few Teal and Wigeon, a pair of Goldeneye was disturbed in here. This seemed quite late for Goldeneye in Ireland as they tend to start migrating to breeding grounds in northern Europe quite early. However, they do pair and engage in fast courtship flights in their Winter grounds in Ireland. Goldeneye are a regular but infrequent visitor to Lough Allen but require a specialised and available food source to attract them. e.g bottom dwelling Mussels and Water Beetles. So they tend to be found in shallower waters off the main lake!


RIGHT: A solitary pair of Goldeneye disturbed as
we entered Annagh Lake enjoying a brisk
display flight.

3. Waterfowl a Courtin’

Date and Times: 7th. March 2014, 4pm - 6pm

Locations/Conditions: Cormongan to Drumshanbo and Islands.  Dry, strong WSW breeze at first with choppy waves (30cm) rapidly dying down to near calm conditions and smaller waves on return to Cormongan. Water 6.7° - 7.2° C in open water and near Drumshanbo. WL. 3.6 metres. Air temp. 4 - 8° C.

Summary/Purpose: Monitoring of water level and on-going projects.




Very high water level and stiff breeze made launching our boat from the main slip at Cormongan somewhat bouncy! However the wind steadily eased and we covered most of the southern end of the lake.


Unfortunately, there is very little activity on the lake at present with water levels high at a time when many birds should be starting to breed.

We checked out the islands off Cormongan, went ‘over’ The Spit. It was completely submerged. And went down to the good Waterfowl area in the bay south of Derrintobber.

Wintering waterfowl are having an impossible time in Lough Allen this Winter. Many ducks and swans are mud or bottom feeders. For dabbling ducks, like Mallard, the bottom is simply too deep and they are restricted to limited feeding onshore. Fish eating ducks (Merganser and Goosander) and also the Cormorants are unaffected by high water. Neither of these ducks were seen but the Cormorants were scatttered around in small numbers.

Two teal were the only Winter ducks present but it is likely they have moved elsewhere into flooded fields, etc, with good feeding.

The flooded nesting sites (such as The Spit) are a concern as regular breeders such as the 3 Gull species and rarer breeders such as Lapwing and Curlew are not to be seen at any of their usual haunts. We need to see a quick drop in water levels!


This image, taken from the boat just south of Derrintober reflects a modern Leitrim scene — wind mills on the mountain and a Conservation project taking place in the foreground!

These poles mark the area where 3 of our 4 study specimens of the Orchid, Spiranthes romanzoffiana are over-wintering.

When we placed these posts on ground a bit higher than normal for this species, we were confident that these rare plants would not be flooded. The one on the right might just be coming out of the water but the other two are well flooded. This may not necessarily harm the buds but, after 3 months, we are a bit anxious to see them again!

Conservation of this valuable plant is gathering pace with the support of local people and the new Dept. of Agriculture Grant scheme which seems ideal. (MORE)

Display Behaviour:

Both the few Mallard present and a single pair of Great-crested Grebes were in breeding mode already. If Mallard breed now they will, most likely survive as water levels are likely to drop!

Grebes, on the other hand, build floating nests attached to reeds. These would collapse following receding water level with probably loss of eggs. Great-crested Grebes seem to be increasing on Lough Allen. They are a bird of ponds and smaller lakes but are now found in pairs in many different parts of the main lake. It will be interesting to find out their numbers and see if there is a real growth. Why the population would expand is unclear especially as they would be very vulnerable to Lough Allen’s widely fluctuating water levels.

LEFT: Male Grebe in breeding plumage!

RIGHT: Mallard very often engage in energetic courtship
flights often involving 2 males!

2. Corry Strand, Drummans & Corry Island

Date and Times: 3rd. March 2014, 3pm - 5:00

Locations/Conditions: Corry Strand, north west corner of Lough Allen down as far as Corry Island and Spencer Harbour. Gentle SW breeze at first getting stronger as we finished the trip. Dry and overcast. Water 5.8 - 6.2° C Water Level 3.8 metres. Air Temp. 8°C

Summary/Purpose: Survey for waterfowl.




Water levels remain very high and no shoreline is available for ducks or waders (Curlew, Redshank etc. ) to feed. Today confirmed that there was no presence of waterfowl apart from a few pairs of Mallard and several Cormorants perching on navigation markers. However, the eastern sheltered bays of Rossbeg and Druminalass were not surveyed, due to a rising westerly wind, and it is possible some birds could be sheltering in there. This was the location where we saw the Gossander a couple of weeks ago.


One Peregrine was seen flying very fast along the shore at the Diffagher River. Always nice to see! No sign of Kingfishers in this regular haunt of theirs either. Otherwise a few Black-headed Gulls and 1  Great-crested Grebe.

1. All quiet and rather wet!

Date and Times: 18th Feb, 1:30 to 3:30.

Locations/Conditions: North Shore of Druminalass and Kilgarriff. Temp 10°C grey mostly dry with occasional sunshine. Wind SW 10 knots. WL 3.9m.

Summary/Purpose: We have had a very wet and windy January and February. Lough Allen has fared better than many parts of Ireland such as the west and south coasts. But it has been too rough, and the water level has probably been too high to make surveys either practical or worthwhile. So today was a preliminary visit to a location which we visited a lot last November. Also, one exciting Biodiversity record... a new one for Lough Allen.




Basically this was just a check for signs of life in an area which had a problem with a Cyanobloom last November when the water levels were very low. Now they are the highest we have ever seen in 8 years. Apart from some empty intact Mussel shells (in the field up the hill north of Druminalass) the signs of the damage that bloom caused have now been swamped!


There is so much water going through the Lake at present it is unrealistic to record water quality. But the mere height of the lake (3.9 metres on the water gauge at Drumshanbo Locks) is a problem and will totally stop or delay some of the many breeding water birds and waders of Lough Allen. Hopefully, the water level will soon start to drop to a more normal level and some calm dry Spring weather will arrive. Many nesting sites are substantially flooded at this stage.


Spiranthes: Our pilot conservation site outside Drumshanbo is now well flooded. The over-wintering orchids there have all been flooded by now; something we predicted couldn’t happen! But this is normal for this species and they can weather this. But it will be nice to see their delicate lateral buds dry and exposed to the sun again, sometime soon?

Goosander: Only one male... but nice to see here. There are up to five in Lough Gara near Boyle. This is the first cousin of the Red-breasted Merganser which will be returning to breed soon. Goosanders are very occasional breeders in Ireland. See BirdWatch for more details!

Male Goosander Mergus merganser

Just a single bird was seen in Druminalass today. Not seen this close relative of the Red-breasted Merganser in Lough Allen before so this was a delightful and surprising sight. When first seen at the south end of the inlet the Goosander was very actively feeding in shallow water near a reedbed at that end of the inlet. It spent a good half hour diving and prospecting very actively. Then preened and dried its wings and digested its meal.

Larger and much whiter than the Merganser this bird is also a diving fish-eating ‘sawbill’ which was a delight to see in Lough Allen, even if a long way away! Any further sightings, we would love to hear the details?