Work Log for Field work undertaken by LoughAllenBasin.com during 2012. Press Home to go to Main Site
Wildlife records from Lough Allen 2012
[Pollution Records are shown in red!]
This Log is being maintained by Frances. We would be very glad to receive any Wildlife records
2012 Log End
For much of the rest of 2012 (October to December), we concentrated on David’s WaterLog, as Foam and Pollution were becoming a concern for us in Lough Allen. (See the link to the WaterLog HERE.) In all, 2012 was a mixed year for us... some successes (the Mergansers) and some disappointments — especially the abandonment of The Spit and Corry Shoal by breeding Gulls as the water flooded the colonies. Water levels were high for much of the year, and continued to be so throughout the wet and often dismal late Autumn and Winter. Spiranthes numbers were only fair, the weather, again, probably being the main contributing factor to this. However, we did find Spiranthes in a location where they had not been seen for four years. Small White Orchid (Pseudorchis albida) was a species that we added to our list this year. It was present in very good numbers in various locations in the hills north of Lough Allen. (See link to Small White Orchid page HERE). Many thanks to the people around the lake, and visiting botanists, for their help and support in 2012. Here’s hoping for some good weather and clean waters in 2013!
47. North End revisited
Location: From Corry Strand straight down to Cleighran Bay, crossing open water. Then back along the east and north coasts particularly checking for those elusive Mergansers. Not all inlets were visited on this trip as we covered a lot of ground and it does not seem likely that such a group of young diving Ducks would be attracted to these areas.
Date: 9th October 2012
Time: 10am to 1 pm
Weather: Cool at first but quiet and peaceful with only a slight breeze and a slight swell, 10 - 11°C
Water: 12.7°C, 2.56m. Drumshanbo Datum
Other: Water quality was poor in many places.
With continuing fine Autumn weather we determined to take another crack at the Mergansers to see if they were still present. Also, following on the two previous trips we were determined to see if we could further visibly map the occurrence of pollution. We hope that this work, during this calm weather with no rainfall, might show a pattern of water flowing with associated detectable pollution which will point us to the major contributing river sources of contamination.
5 seen on grassy shore at the north end of Cleighran Bay. Waders are scare around the lake this year and the high water levels may discourage many species. Lapwing would be more grassland feeders than mudflat feeders.
One flying eastwards from the Shannon River. 2 have also been reported by John Davis from his farm north of Srabraggan on the west shore of Lough Allen.
1 Curlew at Yellow River, 2 Great-crested Grebe, 4 Mallard, 4 Cormorants, 1 Great Black-backed and 1 Common Gull.
Unfortunately visible pollution was present over a wide area but with a few sheltered bays appearing clean and not producing persistent bubbles from our propellor. Very slight signs of water deterioration was seen off Corry Strand, but with the small stream there being perfectly clean. Unfortunately we were unable to visit either the Diffagher or Owengar Rivers on this trip. Large areas of contaminated and mildly choppy water was traversed between Corry Point and Cleighran Point. This 4km stretch was uniformly and heavily contaminated with floating blobs of scum. Further inshore, and at the mouth of the Yellow River, the water was clear and brown. It looks as if this river, anyway, is not a major polluter, and the Shannon and its tributaries may be the major culprit. We would love to prove this for sure. It was pleasing to see the area south of The Sluices and north of Drumshanbo (with its Water Treatment Plant) seeming so clean yesterday. Likewise today, the area between Fahy and Kilgarrif was also good until we entered into the Shannon Estuary north of Inishmacgrath (Church Island).
46. Autumn Survey: South
Location: From Cormongan to the Arigna River and then around Inishfail and Holly Island and Corlough Bay north of Drumshanbo. We then returned via Jenny’s Island, The Spit, and Long Island and Round Island.
Date: 7th. October 2012
Time: 9:30am to 1:30pm
Weather: Calm, Sunny at first then becoming slightly overcast with a slight easterly breeze ruffling the water. 10 - 11°C
Water: 12.2°C, height 2.66m at Drumshanbo datum.
This was the second portion of our effort to cover the lake within a short period and under similar weather conditions. After the result yesterday (Log 45 below) we were anxious to search for any further signs of Mergansers. The calm weather of today and yesterday also provided good opportunities to observe the effects of any contaminants in the lake — unfortunately they were considerable!
11 in total, 7 flying north from Gubsrabragan and west of Long island. This included 4 adults and 3 young. Another 4 were seen flying high along the west flanks of Slieve an Iarann.
None seen. We may have seen the last of this species for this year.
3 Curlews, 1 Lapwing, 2 Jays, 12 Mallard, 3 Cormorants. 1 each of Heron, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Great-crested Grebe.
45. Autumn Survey: North
Location: North end of Lough Allen from Drummans Island to Fahy and all the islands and inlets along the north shore.
Date: 6th. October 2012
Time: 1:30 to 4:00pm
Weather: Clear, sunny, slight breeze, 12°C
Water: 13.8°C, 2.7m water level.
Other: Boat launched at Corry Strand below the Bloom Warning sign. Of course there was no bloom and the only contamination was very fast disappearing foaming of an evidently cattle origin — which we regard as acceptable in this environment. There are also increasing numbers on Goats on the shoreline of the lake which may prove a threat to some of our rare plant species next Summer.
The purpose of today’s trip was to observe what changes were taking place in the Wildlife and to avail of the good Autumn weather to cover much water looking for signs of clarity and purity or possible pollution. Contamination in the water at this time of the year may not lead to a toxic algal bloom but it is a good time to observe it and to try, once again, to trace its source and seek its reduction or elimination.
We were delighted to come across a party of these between Gull Island and Rossbeg headland, out in the middle of that bay and not close to either shore. This is late in the year to see such a group. They were active and quite wild and seemed as surprised to see us as we were to come upon them. Unfortunately, this meant that we were ill prepared and, though we could have, we were unable to get any photographs of this party. The 9 birds (all young) took off very quickly and took a long flight all the way south to Cleighran Bay.
We believe this group of 9 young Mergansers may have been a combination of the two broods that hatched out on Lough Allen this year. The last time we saw both broods they were with their mothers at Cormongan and at Lecarrow, north of Spencer Harbour. This was in early August and they were not flying at this stage. Today they looked very independent; there was no sign of the mother birds, and (judging by their grouping together and their liveliness) we formed the opinion that these were young birds preparing to undertake their first migration.
A total of 7 Teal were seen, 5 in Rossmore and 2 taking off from the fen behind the shore west of Drummans Island. Teal often hang around late and return early to Lough Allen but we have no proof of them breeding in the area. They are usually present in very small groups scattered around the Lake during the Winter.
Similar distribution but larger flocks, with 23 in Rossmore and 22 at Drummans and 2 in Druminalass.
4 Cormorants in total, 2 Curlews heard in Drummans Bay, 1 Great-crested Grebe at Rossbeg. A few Gulls of 3 species with 1 Greater Black-backed Gull at Corry Shoal. Greater Black-backed Gulls do not nest in Lough Allen but are scarce Winter visitors.
The proof of the presence of young Mergansers in Lough Allen until October is an interesting finding as it fits in well with international research on the dispersal of Mergansers after breeding and correlates with local records from coastal regions such as Sligo. It seems that young Mergansers mature alone, after a certain period with their mothers, in the place of their hatching and then instinctively know that it is time to migrate — in a similar way to young Cuckoos finding their way to Africa without their parents.
Quite a bit of pollution was observed using our by now standard techniques, particularly in a large area between Church Island and Gull Island where the Shannon was flowing through the lake. This large stretch of water was covered with large blobs of scum which with the relatively calm weather should not have been there.
44. Autumn in a Natural Meadow
Location: Drummans shore
Date: 8th September 2012
Weather: Sunny, clear, temperature 20° C
Water: Clear, temperature or level at lock not taken
As we hadn’t been out by the lake for some time and today being sunny, it seemed like a good opportunity to check out some of the plants that are still around. Visited Drummans Flower meadow, an unimproved grassland meadow that we have surveyed in the past (see link HERE). Here, we have found larvae of two the relatively rare Sawfly (Abia spp.), and also have recorded Marsh Fritillary. It is a meadow that is rich in flower species, especially earlier in the year, when a number of different orchid species are abundant. Today, the meadow was covered in flowering Devilsbit Scabious; this is the main food plant of both Abia and the Marsh Fritillary. Neither of these were found today; however, unusually large numbers of other Butterflies were present in the meadows feeding on the Scabious. The high temperature suited them.
I walked the shoreline as far as Drummans Island. The island itself was cut off by water and the channel into the back pond, where many Wigeon were seen or heard last Winter, was getting quite marshy (about 1 foot deep). Last Autumn/Winter, the region among these trees was so flooded we were able to bring a boat in here.
There was a very diverse selection of plant species in the Flower Meadow, and also along the Drummans shore. Devilsbit Scabious was the dominant plant in these fields. These are the main food plants of the Sawfly and the Marsh Fritillary. No Abia larvae were seen today, or evidence of Marsh Fritillary larvae. However, the Scabious were host to large numbers of Peacock and Lesser Tortoiseshell butterflies; I was quite surprised to see so many moving from flower to flower in the sunshine. There must have been in excess of a hundred butterflies, as well as hoverflies and bees.
Other plant species found included Knotted Pearlwort growing on the top of the shoreline, Creeping Jenny (often found growing in association with Irish Lady’s Tresses Orchid) though only a few were still in flower. Water Mint, common along the shoreline, beach and marshy area, Wild Mustard, on the mainland beach near Drummans island. Skullcap, a plant which is fairly common in Annagh lake, but we haven’t seen it around Drummans before. Also, the attractive large Liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha) growing between stones on the shore. See Log no. 12 (13th April) for a description of another Liverwort species (Pellia epiphylla) found on Bencroy mountain.
Picture above: Garden Spider (Araneus) on False Oat Grass.
43. Practical Conservation
6th September 2012
Apologies for the delay in updating our Log. Unfortunately, just when the weather gets good, one of us gets crocked for the past 10 days. However, we have got the Daubenton’s Bat survey done (More of this anon.) and we have been updating some of our reports on the main Webpage. Also, David, while not walking very well, is still able to use the Internet and has provided this report for inclusion in the LOG.
PRACTICAL CONSERVATION activity.
At a time when many people are under stress it is tiresome to be always hit by demands for drip-by-drip environmental payments. Also, there seems to be a cult of secrecy as to how to pay them. We do feel that Registration of Septic tanks is a good idea and, if the Government is genuine in this, we have a lot to gain and little to fear. So in a moment of constructive office work we decided to register.
We Urge everyone to Register their Septic Tanks!
WHY? We believe many factors are contributing to the disastrous pollution of Lough Allen that has been going on for the past 4 years, at least. Local Authority Treatment Plants and Septic Tanks are probably two of the most likely culprits. We have discussed our observations and our proposals in two Reports published here in 2011 (Establishing the Facts) and 2012 (What to do..?). We would love to have your Comments particularly on the latter. We do propose a Citizen / Government Pact in the latter document regarding the State paying for the remediation of faulty Septic Tanks installed with the Approval and Designs of Local Authorities.
Anyway, the Process:
You will note a slightly jaundiced tone; not meant to be malicious but we would be critical of the way people have gone about this project. It doesn't seem designed to garner popular support for the cause of keeping our water clean?
Firstly, after some searching we eventually found the Website, Believe it or not, it is called ProtectOurWater.ie We had looked under 'septic tank charges/registration, etc...' to no avail and only found a reference to the site in a Newspaper article. Neither have we received a Reminder through the Post or noticed media advertising. But that could be our fault?
So here is the Site:
It’s called ProtectOurWater.ie
The process is cumbersome with many screens and step-by-step input. The page reproduced above is the Receipt page that is finally produced after many pages of entering information. We feel that this could be as difficult for many as we found it, more especially so if you were using poor Broadband. All the questions could have been put on much fewer pages. But it does work and we did eventually succeed in registering. Then we were asked for our €5 (up to the end of September) and after a few more pages we got the above 'Receipt'. As with previous Levy Forms from this Department, you will note that the Receipt merely confirms that they got our money — no 'Thank you for your Payment' or reassurance that it will be in the long term interest of the Environment.
You will be glad to hear that in the subsequent eMail sent out there are a few words of thanks as is right from a Government to a compliant Citizen?
1. Maybe it's our duty — we produce the Shit?
2. It may mitigate pollution of Lough Allen.
3. It may provide a better environment for local Families and Tourists alike.
4. It may provide a better habitat for some of our unique Plants and Animals to survive.
5. If we do our part, perhaps we have more authority in asking Local and Central Government to do their part.
6. Drumshanbo Sewage Treatment Plant may be contributing to the pollution. Let's get a Reed Bed put in there?
These are just some thoughts. We do accept others have different views and agendas. We respect that. Our stance merely reflects our interests in that part of the Local Heritage that we know and value.
42. Daubenton’s Bats: Totals 2012
Location: Shannon River from The Sluices at Lough Allen to Galley Bridge on the R280
Dates: 2012 Surveys: 3rd. August and 5th September.
This was Year Seven of the National Daubenton's Bat Survey organised by Bat Conservation Ireland, and carried out by volunteers on waterways all over Ireland. Our survey area is a stretch of the Shannon River, near Drumshanbo, from Galley Bridge (SITE 1) on the R280 to the Sluices (SITE 10) at Lough Allen. The survey is carried out in two stages in early and late August, but it can run into September.
This year the two surveys were done on 3rd of August and the 5th of September. The surveys are carried out at night, starting 40 mins after sunset. Daubenton's bats fly from dusk and feed solely over water. On a river stretch the procedure is to count the number of Bats flying up and down. It involves recording the number times a bat passes an observation point. Ten locations evenly spaced along a 1km survey stretch are monitored for 4 minutes each. It can be a tiring and mucky job, depending on how the weather has been in the previous few days! Add to that the occasional bump into a sleepy cow in the dark fields next the river, or being pestered by flies on a warm night.
Bats use echolocation to find their way around emitting ultrasounds which are outside our range of hearing. The Frequency of these sounds varies from species to species and this facilitates identification when the Bat is not seen. Daubenton's Bats emit at 35kHz. and a small electronic device (a Bat Detector) converts this inaudible frequency into an audible signal that we can hear. Other bats are identified by different frequencies. Also Daubenton's Bats broadcast a very regular rhythm getting stronger and weaker as they pass the Bat Detector. When this is heard one can often see the Bats passing by if you shine a torch across the river in the direction the Bat Detector is pointing. Without a Bat Detector, Daubenton's Bats will appear to be feeding in total silence. Daubenton's fly just above the water, feeding on insects, at a very constant height. (c. 30cm) Many bats feed over water, but none as close to the water as the Daubenton's or with such a consistent pattern of flying.
Daubenton's bats are medium sized, with long wings pointed at the tips; brown fur above, white below. They are found all over Europe and Asia, considered to be increasing in numbers generally, and are protected by Irish and EU law. In Germany and Austria, Daubenton's are an endangered species. We are lucky in Ireland to have a thriving population of these attractive bats. The bat is mostly found in woodlands close to water. In Leitrim, Bat roosts have been found in tree crevices and under bridges but they also can roost in ruined houses or old churches.
The table shown below shows the number of Daubenton's seen at each site this year. Numbers are down somewhat in recent years. This year we noticed a large amount of foam coming downriver on our first survey; slightly less pollution in the second survey but the water level was higher. This is a worrying trend all around Lough Allen in the past few years, and one which may have disastrous effects on our wildlife if not checked. It is possible that this foam, which is most prevalent near the Bats' most popular area, The Sluice), may inhibit feeding or distract the bats or it may even be harmful to them. We will be correlating the alarming upswing in visible pollution in Lough Allen with any decrease of Daubenton's bats in this stretch of water.
The photograph (above)of a Daubenton's Bat was taken on a separate night to the surveys in the area where we have the greatest concentration of numbers — c 100m downstream of The Sluices (Site 10). We struggle to take good photographs of this species but we do like to use local material where possible. It does, however, give a good impression of these Bats and their warm colouration, and their flight close to water. We always feel a little apprehensive heading out on a Bat survey But we quickly get into the routine and get absorbed in watching and counting these beautiful 'flying mice'. Then, it's just a case of making your way between each site through brambles and weeds. (Rosebay Willowherb along the Shannon can grow in thick swards up to a height of about 2m.)
41. More Spiranthes!
Location: Annagh lake and Kilgarrif
Date: 15th August 2012
Time: 0900- 1130
Weather: Windy and grey, temperature 16° C
Water: Temperature and level not taken. Little foam at Kilgarrif.
The aim of this visit was to check the Kilgarrif and Annagh lake shores once more, to see if any Spiranthes had appeared.
Irish Lady’s Tresses.
At Kilgarrif, no Spiranthes were found. This area was cleared of Alders last year, and there has been no sign of the orchids at all this year. The area is also grazed by sheep which makes the grass cover nice and short; however, it may be too disturbed for Spiranthes to grow. perhaps they will reappear in a couple of years? That’s if the sheep don’t take a liking to them as the horses in Derrintober seem to have!
At Annagh lake, two new Spiranthes plants were found. These were located among the grass and stones below the ‘pathway’ from the Car park along the shore. Both plants looked in good condition; they were probably only flowering for about a week or so. The Spiranthes that we found further along the shore on July 29th are still flowering, but lower flowers have turned brown and withered. This brings the total number of Spiranthes in Lough Allen to 30 this year.
40. GPS mapping
Date: 11th August 2012
Weather: grey, cloudy, temperature 16.5° C
Water: Looked clear, temperature or level at lock not taken
The aim of this trip was to record the number of Spiranthes in Rossmore, and to log their location. We hadn’t checked this area for about a week, and we thought there there could well have been more Spiranthes coming out in the meantime. We searched the whole shoreline in transects, logging each plant, as well as taking its GPS location and photographs to show its location on the shore.
Irish Lady’s Tresses
In all, 14 plants were found and photographed; this compares with 6 that we saw on the 30th July. However, one of the plants we identified on 30th July (and took a very precise location for) had disappeared, probably eaten. This gives us a total number of plants seen this year in Rossmore as 15, which is a poor showing for this area. In 2011, the number of Spiranthes found here was 72. We took GPS readings using EGNOS enabled equipment (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) with a quoted accuracy down to 1.6m and also visual references to pinpoint the position of each plant for future surveys. The tally of Spiranthes for Lough Allen now stands at 28 (compared with a total for 2011 of 85)
The water levels early in the year could be part of the reason why there’s such a poor showing of Spiranthes this year; They also flowered much later than in other years. It would be interesting to compare Spiranthes sightings from other areas in the West where they occur (a few areas in Mayo and Galway) and see if the situation was similar?
D + F
39. A hot day on the lake
Location: South end of Lough Allen
Date: 10th August 2012
Weather: Hot, sunny, easterly breeze. temperature 24° C
Water: Temperature 19.1-21.7° C, Height at lock 2.44m.
Other: Water clear, except near Spiranthes Island and Drumshanbo.
As we had been away for a few days and as the weather had been quite hot, we thought it best to check the lake for any signs of Blue-green algae, as well as covering remaining locations for Spiranthes. We launched the boat at Cormongan and did a westerly transect from north of Long Island to Arigna power station (parallel 16) taking 3 samples across this stretch. Then headed south to parallel 15 at Srabraggan, taking 2 more samples on the way, and then headed roughly eastwards along parallel 15 to the east shore. Three more samples taken at either side and at the middle of the lake. Checked Spiranthes Islands, south end of lake near Drumshanbo, as well as The Spit and the islands.
We took small samples of water from the lake in a number of locations both in deep water and shallower water. All samples were deemed clear following visual inspection on the boat, with a few (3 or 4 usually) flecks of blue-green algae. These Cyanophyceae are normally present in the water. The problem occurs when the water is flat calm, and (usually) when the weather is quite warm when they can form a bloom. Today there was an easterly breeze which had the effect of ruffling the water, probably making the conditions not very suitable for a bloom to develop even though hough the water temperature was very high... 19 to 21° C.
In the southern end of the lake, south of Spiranthes islands and towards Drumshanbo, the water was very murky and dirty looking, with some scum spots. On our last trip, August 5th, we reported a large amount of pollution around the Cormongan islands and south to Jenny’s Island. (See below.)
Irish Lady’s Tresses.
At Derrintober three ‘new’ orchid plants were seen. This brings the total for this area to 11 (and the total so far this year for Lough Allen to 19). We also searched the Spiranthes islands (where we found many in 2008) and the mainland shore at Corlough. Conditions, here, looked suitable but none were found.
Other species seen.
3 Curlews on the causeway to Spiranthes island. One Heron and one Raven on Mountallen shore. One Great Crested Grebe in Wigeon Bay south of the Spiranthes Islands, and two Cormorants (one on Jenny’s Island, one on Long Island).
The muddy looking water (and scum) in the south end of the lake is worrying; it looks like the extensive scum and foam pollution seen on our last visit may have concentrated in the southern end of the lake near Drumshanbo. This is an area (around Drumshanbo lock) where we saw the remains of a bloom on June 6th (Trip 23).
D + F
38. Bats and Pollution
Location: Cormongan and the Islands
Date: 5th August 2012
Weather: Grey and cloudy, NW breeze which strengthened, Temperature c 12.5° C
Water: Water temperature 15.1° C, Height at lock 2.6m.
Other: Large amount of scum around this part of the lake
This was a day of two halves. Firstly depressing, disgusting, disturbing Pollution. A few records ago, we optimistically thought that the amount of contamination entering Lough Allen was ameliorating. Many clean sites were seen! Today the whole lake seems to be ‘destroyed’ with scum. Forgive the non-technical language, but we feel we have to speak plainly to try and get the message across — how serious this is! It is bad for people, it will destroy tourism to the Lake, it may harm livestock and pets! Today was a rough day and there was a long stream of scum coming down from the North, being focussed by Long Island and then streaming southwards and going out through the Shannon. The Photograph (LEFT) was taken on the east shore off Jenny’s Island, sheltered from the wind.
This thin stream of scum is similar to the long deposit found on a calm day in April last year. On that occasion it led to a Bloom in the centre of the Lake. It is inevitable, that with this level of pollution being tolerated, we are bound to get a major Bloom again this year — if we ever get a heat-wave or even and Indian Summer! We must do something to try and track this contamination. It would be nice to see those Council signs coming down next year in the certain knowledge that whatever the problem is, it had been tackled and eliminated. With the flow of water that Lough Allen has, the system should be able to clear itself of excess nutrients in 2 or 3 years?
The purpose of this trip had been to try for better photos of the Merganser family that we saw two days ago, the weather worked against us and we were unable to find the birds! We searched around Long and Round Islands, The Spit and Jenny’s Islands. We had intended going as far as Spiranthes Islands but as the wind was strengthening and appeared to be shifting westerly, we headed for the shore instead.
We were back onshore by 9 am so, the weather promising fair, we determined to do our annual Daubenton’s Survey. This is a duty we have performed for the past 6 years. Being late at night, over rough terrain, and being lazy, we always dread starting this. In particular, this year, with very poor weather and the pollution of the Lake, we were feeling that it might be a bad year for Daubenton’s Bats.
A stretch of water on the Shannon is surveyed from Galley Bridge up to the sluices on Lough Allen, a distance of about a kilometer with 10 stations along the way. At each stop we monitor the number of bats present using an electronic Bat Detector and a torch. We do this work under the guidelines of Bat Conservation Ireland, and similar surveys are done all around the country. We are seeking to measure change as an indicator that all is not well with our Daubenton Bats. Over the years there have been minor fluctuations in numbers recorded but, by and large, they have remained relatively stable.
This year was no exception and numbers of Daubenton Bats on this stretch of the Shannon are good — despite large streaks and blobs of foam coming down the river from Lough Allen. These were mainly in the upper 5 stations and most have made feeding harder for the Bats? We will not give the numbers counted here, as this is part of a 2 part survey and results have to be submitted to the BCI. Photo (RIGHT) show’s one of ‘our’ bats taken in 2010. Apologies for the quality of the photograph; you can imagine how hard it is to photograph these beasts. These are water bats, breeding and feeding near water. They are most active about an hour after sunset when they can be seen endlessly patrolling up and down about 30cms. above water level at a healthy stream or river near you! Unlike most bats, they don’t duck and dive, merely dropping from cruise altitude now and then to pick up some food material from the surface of the water. They are fun to watch and record and can be seen easily just with a torch if you can get close to the water. The survey work takes place throughout the month of August and, I am sure, more recorders would always be welcome. (You will find more information about Bat Conservation Ireland’s Water SurveysHERE.)
Quite a significant amount of scum pollution on the lake, in large streams up to a hundred metres long. These streams were seen in a few different areas, but were especially visible around Jenny’s island and west of The Spit. Photograph of these scum streams at top... Bat population is holding up well despite the adverse conditions this year.
D + F
37. Two Mergansers rearing their young on Lough Allen!
Location: Cormongan, Gubcormongan and the islands
Date: 3rd August 2012
Weather: Grey and humid. 20° C. Light SE wind. Heavy rain before trip, and thunderstorms after.
Water: Clear, temperature 17.1° C, level at lock 2.56m
The purpose of this trip was to survey more of the ‘old’ Spiranthes growing areas (where we haven’t seen them since 2008), and to see what birds (and plants) are around. Hoped we might see some Mergansers, Lapwings or Curlews. Travelled by boat from Cormongan up to the old orchid patch just south of Gubcormongan, landed here and checked the area fully for Spiranthes, but none seen. Also checked the bay north of Gubcormongan, but the habitat is not very suitable here as mostly it is a bare stony beach. No Spiranthes seen here either. Headed south down the lake between Long and Round Islands and landed on both The Spit and Long Island.
Irish Lady’s Tresses.
None found on the shoreline at Gubcormongan (where we found some in 2008), or the bay north of this. None found, either, on The Spit (where we found 2 specimens in 2008). So Derrintober remains the only location in the south of the lake (so far) where Spiranthes have re-appeared.
A female with 5 chicks was seen swimming furiously off long Island’s west shore just after 1:30pm. Very strong looking chicks, but not yet developed enough to fly. A lovely sight! Followed them in the boat at a distance; they swam around the south of Long Island, swimming fast with great splashing while we took a few photographs. Then we let them go on their way and last seen, were headed north not far from Long Island.
We had been wondering if these could possibly be the same family of Mergansers that we saw a couple of weeks ago in Spencer Harbour. This family was notified to us by Joachim Schaefer and Saskia de Jong from Galloways.ie (Pedigree Cattle Owners) who are keen naturalists living on the north west shore of the Lake. (Their Report has been added to Log 27 Below.) Imagine our delight when we heard from Joachim that he too had seen a Merganser family on 3rd August at his place at 12:15. They live near Spencer Harbour which is the opposite side of the lake from Long Island off Cormongan. Both these broods of young Ducks were not yet able to fly and tried to escape by running along the water. The photo shown below was taken at 1:40pm, just 85 minutes after the other family of Mergansers was seen at Lecarrow. There are now 2 successful Merganser females one with 6 chicks and one with 5 chicks. Is it possible there could be more? Mergansers are very secretive at this time of year and tend to hide on islands and in among flooded Alders on the shore.
Male Mergansers have now all left the Lake — now that there work is done! Females will depart as the young Mergansers become self-reliant.
Other species seen.
One Curlew, and three Snipe on the Spit.
Woody Nightshade (Bittersweet) and Wood Dock on Long Island. Himalayan Balsam is getting to be a real problem on Long Island; There is a thick cover of tall plants on much of the east shore. A few plants towards the middle of the island, but none (so far) on the western shore.
Brilliant to see the Merganser brood and to have proof that there are now 2 successful broods on Lough Allen. Any (other) young Mergansers on the lake will probably be ready to fly within a week or two. Perhaps we may see more? Then they will leave us again for the sea (Ballisodare/Sligo Bay?) until next year...
Disappointing not to find more Spiranthes, but it was to be expected. The shore at Gubcormongan was almost completely flooded.
D + F
36. Habitats for Spiranthes
Location: Derrintober shore
Date: 1st August 2012
Weather: Grey, slight breeze which strengthened as the rain arrived later. Temperature 14.5° C
Water: Water level higher than last trip on 30th, 2.46m
Other: Foam pollution on shoreline, especially on mainland south of Spiranthes Islands.
As the area around Derrintober is grazed by horses, we are keeping a close watch on Spiranthes here. An ungrazed shore won’t be suitable for Spiranthes, but an overgrazed one means the orchids get eaten! There appears to be a fairly good balance of grazing on this shoreline, though.
The Derrintober shoreline varies quite a bit; at the north end, there is a broad sandy beach with grass, rushes and Alder trees behind. In 2008 there were large numbers of Spiranthes growing here, but we have seen none since. This year, the area behind the beach is quite wet underfoot. Further south along the shoreline, there is a small ‘bank’ above the shore, which is normally well above the water line even when the water level is high. This is an area where we often find Spiranthes, usually growing quite close to the bank edge, nice and dry and perhaps in the shelter of rushes or yellow Flags.
On the shoreline side of Spiranthes Islands, there is a wide marshy area, often flooded. In 2008, we found a few orchids here among the rushes, but it does not seem to be an ideal spot for them. Today, it was quite boggy and wet.
Further on, just south of Spiranthes Islands, there is a sloping grassy area above a stony beach on the mainland shore, which is good for Spiranthes this year. All but one of the orchids found so far this year are in this general area. (See picture below of general habitat here.)
Irish Lady’s Tresses.
7 specimens found in all, of which 3 were previously seen and logged on July 24th. One other flowering Spiranthes which we also saw on July 24th seems to have been grazed, as no sign of it could be found in the GPS location and around this. The new specimens were good strong plants, one of which was still in bud. A map showing the locations of Irish Lady’s Tresses found so far this year is on the Spiranthes page HERE.
(D + F)
35. Some interesting smaller plants
Location: Rossmore and Annagh Lake.
Date: 30th July 2012
Weather: Fine, warm, slight rain at first, then very sunny. c. 19° C.
Water: Clean. Level at lock 2.34m
Checked back on the Spiranthes in Rossmore, as this is the best site for them around Lough Allen. Five days ago, there were just three specimens here, but they were still quite small, and the flowers were barely open. Visited Annagh lake, to photograph the Lady’s Tresses, and also to check for other plant species in the area.
Irish Lady’s Tresses.
8 plants in all; 6 at Rossmore, growing well, but smaller than the 2 fine specimens that we saw again at Annagh lake. Numbers are very much down on last year (65 at Rossmore 2011). However, they do appear to be late this year because of the bad weather, and possibly the high water levels. New plants are still appearing (in small numbers) each time we do a survey...
(D + F )
34. Lapwings, Micromoths and Dippers
Location: Shoreline at Fahy to beach below Yellow River, Also Annagh Lake.
Date: 29th July 2012
Weather: Cloudy, little bit of rain. c.14 °C
Water: Some foam pollution along shoreline at Fahy, worse at Annagh lake.
There were some interesting species around the Fahy shoreline and Yellow River beach today, but unfortunately, no Spiranthes. We haven’t surveyed this area for a few weeks; it’s an area where we have seen one Spiranthes plant before (in 2008, near the graveyard) but it is an interesting, and secluded area, which warrants further study to record the other plant and animal life there.
Micromoth (on left) in large numbers around the Alder trees at Yellow River beach. Belongs to the Fairy Longhorn family (what a lovely name!)
One Dipper at Yellow River.
3 Lapwings flew over us, heading towards Yellow River beach, but didn’t see them again. We haven’t seen Lapwings for over a month, since the ‘deluge’, when the lake was so high that The Spit was abandoned by the Lapwings, Gulls and Terns. The Lapwings we saw today are probably visiting Lough Allen for the Autumn and Winter; as far as we know, no Lapwings bred on Lough Allen this year...
1 Sandpiper , on Yellow River. It’s quite late in the year for Sandpipers, as the adults often head off to Africa by the end of July. It could be a late-staying bird, or else an adult still with young?
1 Common Gull with one young at Yellow River Beach.
Himalayan Balsam on Fahy shoreline appears to be less of a problem than in other years; very small remnants of grazed plants were all that was visible along the shore where in other years there would be many flowering plants. The sheep and cattle appear to enjoy grazing on this invasive pest! Natural eradication? The only places we saw some large Balsam plants growing was right in amongst gorse and scrub above the beach.
Irish Lady’s Tresses.
Checked Fahy beach, and all along the shoreline to Yellow River, but no Spiranthes. Crossed the river and continued our search along the shingly shore and beach area south of the river. Although some areas along here appeared to be suitable for Spiranthes (with Marsh Pennywort, Creeping Jenny and low, grazed grass) we didn’t find any.
At Annagh Lake, we found just 2 plants. But what specimens! They were the best we have seen so far this year — tall flowering spikes, plenty of flowers open, 2 fine sturdy strong plants growing right next to one another. And, they were in a new location around Annagh Lake, far down the east shore. Though we searched a number of times along the fisherman’s path by the lake, we found no sign of Spiranthes in the locations we found them last year. (In 2011, there were 12 plants in this area.) It’s possible that more Spiranthes may yet come up, as in general, they are later in coming out this year than in previous years?
The level of pollution around the shores of this lake is quite worrying; this lake is normally on a slightly higher level than Lough Allen, the former entrance being blocked by reeds. However, it’s possible that the high water levels up to about a month ago may have washed in some of the foam from the main lake. Now that the water level in Lough Allen has gone down, the pollution may be trapped in Annagh lake. What effect will this have on the plant life, especially the Orchids?
(D + F)
33. Outstanding Biodiversity
Location: North end of the Lake from Corry Strand to Druminalass and all the islands and bays in between.
Date: 25th July 2012
Weather: Warm and dry, mostly calm but with occasional slight northerly breezes. Only short glimpses of sun.
Water: Clean, mostly slightly ruffled but occasionally flat. Level at Lock 2.32m. Water temperature 16.3°C to 18.1°C.
Other: A good day! Pollution was not an issue to day and no foam deposits were seen (but see Comment below)
We were just thinking as we prepared this report... what outstanding Biodiversity Lough Allen enjoys. Where else could you take a photograph (like the one on the Left) showing such stunningly rare plants as the Blue-eyed Grass and the Irish Lady’s Tresses (Spiranthes) side by side. We went out today looking for the latter. The orchid, Spiranthes romanzoffiana, was discovered by a Russian Governor of the then Russian province of Alaska. It is not found in Asia and, in Europe, is now found in Lough Allen and some other Irish lakes and some Scottish Islands.
There have been concerns for this species here this year due to their history of decline, the inclement weather, and the problem of pollution in Lough Allen.
Irish Lady’s Tresses.
Having done a long survey of the southern end of the lake yesterday, we were anxious to visit the strongholds of the species at the north end of the lake. We did this by boat, leaving Corry Strand at 9am and returning at 2:30pm. We visited most of the known sites for Spiranthes in the area — Druminalass, Kilgarriff and Rossmore. Annagh Lake was not covered today as this is not accessible from Lough Allen by boat. At this time the water level in Lough Allen is falling rapidly. A fortnight ago some of the sites for this orchid were underwater. It is not known what triggers the plants to grow and flower but they do seem to like fairly firm or dry substrate. Around the east and north shore of Druminalass the shoreline was very water logged and with heavy growth. No orchids were found and it would seem unlikely that they will grow here this year. The north and south sides of the entrance to Druminalass (a man-made cut) were also checked and proved negative. However, suitable dry and slightly raised ground either side of the entrance looks promising.
We then went to Kilgarriff. Up to 20 Orchids have grown here in the past. However, this site has been destroyed (from an orchid point of view) by man’s activity. The whole bay used to be lined by small dispersed Alder trees, in among which the Spiranthes grew. These trees have been pulled up using a large digger bucket leaving unsightly scars on the ground where water lodges and where little has grown over the past 15 months or so. Higher up the field is a wasteland of exposed boulders. The other (western) half of the bay still has an Alder cover but we have never found orchids there — perhaps the Alders are too thick? The way soil was removed and the flooded areas that now remain may mean that the cleared part of the shore will be slow to provide a suitable habitat for this orchid again — but we may yet have better news! To the east of the reclaimed area there is a suitable shore where specimens have been found in the past. This is still very wet and being actively grazed by sheep so any plants occurring here may go undetected.
Finally we arrived, in desperation, at Rossmore and landed on the east shore just after you clear the entrance and the marshy area. 3 Irish Lady’s Tresses were found here after some considerable transect searching. They were in an established location, were fairly close together, and had only recently emerged and started to flower. (A newly emerged bud is shown on the Right.) The speed at which they were emerging, albeit about 2 or 3 weeks late, bodes well for the ‘crop’ especially if the weather stays warm and reasonably dry as it is at present. Water level is not a problem and seems to be dropping fast at present. e.g. we had trouble landing our boat when we returned to the same place as we launched it!
Not actually grass, really much nicer, this species is present in spectacular abundance in Rossmore. It is now found all along the east shore, whereas in recent years it only occurred commonly in 2 fenced off patches of the middle part of the east shore. This species does not seem at any risk, but this is the only location where we have come across it in Lough Allen, or anywhere else for that matter. If anyone would like to see this species now is a good time and we would be very happy to guide any budding botanists around the location. (We have the landowners permission to enter the area.) Look for it on one of those grey days when you can still feel the sun’s radiation on your face; in bright sunlight it is hard to photograph this species.
Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
On our way in and out of Corry Strand we called to Corry Shoal to see how the Gull colony was doing after they were flooded. Some photographs were taken for a future article on the trials and tribulations of this species. 15 Adults and 3 flying young Gulls were present. It’s a pity all species of Gulls have had a very difficult year with the weather ending most of their breeding activity. No Common or Black-headed Gull chicks have been seen this year and the adults are now quite scarce on the lake.
It looks like conditions are right and, if they stay that way for a while, there may be a good showing of some of Lough Allen’s rarest plants. This is a very significant fact and is very welcome news after a long and difficult Summer
Because of the calm and warmish conditions, naturally, we were on the look out for signs of contamination or a resulting algal bloom. We are glad to report that out on the lake not a single sign of either was seen. The water was clear, transparent, brown and without a single fleck of green wherever we stopped to have a look. It looked good enough to dive into — though this is not given as a serious scientific opinion, at least until we know the source of recent problems. Sadly, too, we were stopped at Corry Strand by 2 tourists enquiring if it was safe to swim on the beautiful beach. We explained the recent history, urged caution and pointed them to the Council signs. Also, annoyingly, there was clear signs of copious detergent discharge in the little stream immediately behind the Council sign warning of algal blooms! Because the weather was so calm this was seen spreading all along the shore either side of where that stream entered the bay. Whatever the effluent in that stream was seems to have been in considerable quantity judging by the spread of scum and foam along the water edge — both when we were launching our boat and returning.
It was a pity to meet bona fide tourists in such a situation. They were the only people we saw at Corry on that lovely day; perhaps that Council sign is working?
(D + F)
32. Spiranthes are back!
Location: South end of lake
Date: 24th July 2012, 0900-1230
Weather: Calm, warm, c. 18° C
Water: Quite clear. Height of water at Lock not taken, or water temperature.
Other: First Irish Lady’s Tresses of 2012!
Today, we checked out the ‘old’ orchid locations in the south end of the lake, namely Holly Island (on the west shore) and Derrintober and Spiranthes Islands on the east shore. On Derrintober shore, there were good numbers of Spiranthes growing in 2008, but none in 2009, 2010 or 2011. On Holly Island, small numbers of Spiranthes were seen in recent years, but the 6 orchids that flowered there in 2010 were disturbed and we haven’t seen orchids there since. Also, up to a few weeks ago, most of the Spiranthes sites all around the lake had been under water. Thus we were a little pessimistic about finding Spiranthes today. But... we were very pleasantly surprised!,
Irish Lady’s Tresses. Four flowering plants seen! These were all on the east shore around Derrintober and looked very fresh. It’s likely that they have only just come up in the past couple of (very warm) days. They were all in an area that is grazed, mainly by horses, and were found on dry ground, fairly high up on the shore, higher than in previous years. We looked lower down on the shore, where we found them in 2008, but we didn’t find any today. Was this a response by the plant to high water levels? The plants were in fine condition, with small numbers of flowers open as yet. We would hope, in the next few days, to see Spiranthes in some of the locations we checked last week in the north end of the lake?
In 2011 in Rossmore, we found Spiranthes quite early, July 9th, whereas in most other years we would have seen them around the 19th July. So they are just a little late this year, but not by much. The water levels in the lake were very high earlier in the year — even up to a couple of weeks ago. We were concerned that the underground rhizomes of the orchid might have been under water at a critical stage in their life cycle, and might not have flowered this year. But happily, at least in Derrintober, they have been successful. The lowering of the water level in the lake, combined with increasing temperatures in the past week, probably were the trigger for their flowering?
Holly Island, though, did not produce any Spiranthes. Their growing area has been much disturbed which is a shame. They are a protected species, and an important asset to Lough Allen. People come from other parts of Ireland just to see them; some even come from abroad. They do not occur elsewhere in Europe apart from the Scottish Islands!
We would be pleased to hear about Spiranthes records from other locations around Ireland this year and see whether they are declining or increasing elsewhere?
Other species seen included Curlew (6), Great Crested Grebe with young.
(D + F)
31. Is Lough Allen getting cleaner?
Date: 22nd July 2012, 1700-1800
Weather: Southwesterly gale, warm, Temperature c. 20° C
Water: Lake very rough, big waves and swell. Water temperature not taken.
We called to Corry Strand and Cormongan in the late afternoon in a south-westerly gale, and were pleased to see much reduced foam on the shore. In the Photo above there is a small deposit of detergent type foam just below the centre point of the picture; some other small amounts were caught up in the detritus on the far beach. This compares with visits in April (10th, 14th, 20th and 22nd) when foam was seen onshore, and in May (6th, 12th, 16th, 20th and 23rd), when greater amounts of foam were seen onshore culminating in the probable algal bloom on 28th May when the two dogs died near Corry after swimming in the lake. On 6th June, there was quite an amount of Blue-green Algae at Drumshanbo lock, and on 4th and 20th July, Blue-green Algae were seen in mid-lake though not in dense concentrations.
Usually, when the wind gets up, the foam is whipped up in the water and deposited on shores, depending on the direction of the wind. Today, there was very little foam on the shore despite the high waves and very strong winds (force 8 for much of the afternoon). Why was this?
Why no foam?
Maybe the level of rainfall in the past month, and generally high water levels in the lake, have something to do with the decreased level of foam seen onshore. Could this have a ‘cleansing ‘ effect, or could the large volume of water passing through Lough Allen clear some of the foam down the lake and down into the Shannon?
Or, perhaps the strong winds whip up foam to such an extent that is it widely dispersed throughout the lake? From Corry Strand we could see very light foamy streaks stretching out in the waves in long lines.
Or could it be that the lake is getting cleaner... are people are becoming more aware of the pollution in the lake and are taking steps to rectify it?
Could the strong gales drive the foam deeper down into the lake thus reducing the amount left floating on the surface??
We were out on the lake and did a long survey on July 20th; the weather was very strange. The forecast was for northerly winds going north westerly It was meant to be anticyclonic! But there was, firstly, a gentle northerly breeze. Then it got very calm and at one stage, the middle of the lake was so calm that we feared that a bloom could happen. But within half an hour, the wind had veered unexpectedly towards the North East, and produced such a strong chop in the lake so that we had to seek shelter in Spencer Harbour for a time. Foam was dispersed in the waves and no bloom was seen during the almost calm period.
WARNING! Whereas we are trying to be optimistic, we may have no justification for wondering if the lake is getting cleaner... Blooms will probably still re-occur if we get any calm, warm weather. It is just curious that on one previous occasion of strong southerly winds the north shore was inundated with large deposits of synthetic foam and on another occasion we saw strong westerly winds also leaving the east shore clear of pollution — like today?
Corry Strand; slight foam deposits in the grass at water’s edge.
Whichever way it goes, we will record the change. It is URGENT that the nutrient levels (pollutants) in Lough Allen be quickly reduced. We all need to take care of Septic Tanks, any Outdoor Washing activities, or any other way Nitrates or Phosphates can get into Lough Allen, reduce the enjoyment people can get from it, and increase the concerns they must address when using it. It can be a beautiful pristine resource once more!
30. Search for Mergansers
Location: Lough Allen West shore
Date: 20th July 2012, 0900-1330
Weather: Sunny at first, then NE breeze veering NW with slight chop. Temperature 16-18° C
Water: Flat calm for a while, then choppy as wind got up. Temperature 16.1° C. Level at Lock 2.34m
Other: Some light foam onshore at Srabraggan and Cartron bay, foam streaks in mid lake. Blue-green algae specks seen near Fish Farm, but v. small amount.
Launched the boat from Srabraggan shore, with the main intention of checking the west side of the lake for Mergansers. Kept fairly close to the shore where possible, checked Srabraggan and Arigna Rocks, and landed on the shore south of Spencer Harbour, as well as in Spencer Harbour itself (for shelter).
Red-breasted Merganser. 4 in all. 3 females in Cartronbeg Bay (between Srabraggan and the old Fish Farm). These were quietly swimming very close to the shore, but flew off east, then south as we approached, in the direction of Arigna/Srabraggan. One male, seen on our return trip, in the water between Arigna Rocks and the shore. This male flew off north (seen from a distance). No young ones seen...
Mallard. 2 (a pair, looked in eclipse?) in the bay south of the old Fish Farm.
Heron. 4+. Seen along the west shore.
Cormorant. One, sitting on Navigation Marker near to Srabraggan
Lesser Black-backed Gull. One, on Navigation Marker near Cartronbeg Bay.
Spotted Flycatcher. 2+, on Alder trees by the shoreline between Srabraggan and Spencer Harbour.
(D + F)
29. Orchid Time!
Location: Rossmore, north Lough Allen
Date: 17th July 2012, 1030-1230
Weather: Cloudy and grey but warm. 14° C.
Water: Water level down since July 4th but level at lock not checked.
Obviously the orchid we refer to is Spiranthes romanzoffiana, Lough Allen’s special orchid. These orchids normally are in flower by mid July so we checked out two of the ‘good’ sites for Spiranthes today, namely Rossmore and Annagh Lake. No specimens were seen, even though the orchid growing areas were not under water (as some had been two weeks ago). The following is a list of the plants associated with the Irish Lady’s Tresses ‘patch’ at Rossmore.
Other species seen:
Heron, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Gull (one of each)
(D + F)
28. Annagh Lake.
Date: 6th July 2012
Water: Level quite high
We have to leave Lough Allen for 10 days, worried about doing this but reassured that we can rely on this years bad Summer to inhibit any more toxic blooms on the lake. Before leaving we decided to investigate a particular unusual Orchid found at Annagh Lake by our Student worker from last year. This has been described as a mutant or not fully developed Common Spotted Orchid by the people in the Botanic Gardens, Dublin. Further inspection this year revealed how right they were. The very young spikes of the Common Orchid very much resemble this plight. However, our ‘Sport’ does not complete the development of the flower in the normal Common Spotted manner.
As you can see from the Photograph, the flowers maintain their upward facing-the-sky posture and the large split labellum (lower lip) of the Common Spotted Orchid remains small and undivided, giving this plant a completely different appearance to the Common Spotted Orchid. Also this inflorescence was entirely white — as opposed to pink and striped appearance of the Common Spotted Orchid. This species, of course is well know for its colour variation and there are many pure white specimens in the area, but no others have been founded with the modified flower shape shown in this specimen.
It is interesting, because of its unique appearance, we can trace this individual plant from year to year. How long will it survive? It’s unlikely to be able to produce seeds but it may, possibly, reproduce vegetatively from its roots.
27. Corry and north end of lake
Date: 4th July 2012, 1800-2100
Weather: Warm but cloudy, Temperature 16-17° C.
Water: Calm, water temperature 17.9° C. Level at lock 2.9m
Other: Blue-green algae seen in surface water, mid lake.
This was our first visit (by boat) to the north end of the lake for nearly 3 weeks. The windy weather recently prevented us venturing out in the boat on a few occasions, so we were waiting for a calm day, like today. We planned to take water samples to test for Blue-green algae, and also to find and photograph the Merganser chicks (A week ago, a female Merganser was sighted with six chicks near Spencer Harbour.) We checked out Drummans Island, Drummans shore, Corry Island and Spencer Harbour and a short distance south of Spencer Harbour. Crossed the lake (taking 2 water samples on the way) and surveyed Fahy Island, Fahy Shoal, Druminalass lake, Shannon Estuary (another water sample here) and Church Island, where we landed. Also checked the Gull islands and (what was left of) Corry Shoal.
Red-breasted Merganser. 6 adults in total and a family of 7 chicks! First, we sighted an non-breeding pair of Mergansers just south of Corry Island, then very close by, a female Merganser appeared with 7 strong chicks (about 10 days to 2 weeks old). Absolutely brilliant to see the female with chicks... these must be the ones seen last week just north of Spencer Harbour. We got close enough in the boat to take photographs, and watched the adult Merganser shepherding her brood in among the Alder trees at the edge of the water. Every so often, she would stop and they would all remain immobile, almost hidden under the trees in the water. At one stage, the adult and chicks scurried across the water at great speed towards shelter. Amazing to see these little ducks so efficient in the water.
To complete the count, saw 3 female (non-breeding) Mergansers ‘cruising’ in open water between Fahy Island and the mainland. 2 eventually flew to Church Island, the other to Fahy shore.
We landed on Church Island to see if the Merganser nest of last year had been used again, but it hadn’t. There was no fresh feather down in the nest area, and some grass was growing inside the nest entrance. However, we could see four or five egg shell remains, very dry and papery, from last year’s brood. Despite the high water levels, and wet weather this year, this nest (and the shell remains) were absolutely dry. It was a good choice of location for a nest!
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 21 in all, plus 3 young chicks. Though their nesting area is now totally under water, the Gulls have remained very faithful to their breeding area; they were quite actively flying between Gull island and what remains of Corry Shoal. One or two were displaying in flight (very fast wing movements) and some tried to dive-bomb the boat, even though we we didn’t go close to either Gull Island or Corry Shoal. It’s possible that some of these Lesser Black-backs might be nesting on Gull Island... a second brood since since many nests and chicks must have been lost when the Shoal was flooded? At the Shoal, we could see 3 quite young chicks in the water among the tree stumps and flooded vegetation. They looked too small to be some of the chicks we saw three weeks ago. Possibly those chicks moved away to safety with the adults (to Gull Island)?
Common Gull. 6, all on Gull Island. 5 were sitting on Alder trees, and one was still on the Alder tree nest. This is a large nest, probably an old Grey Crow’s nest, which has been used by Common Gulls for the past 3 years. It seems an unusual place for a Common Gull, but with high water levels and flooding, it would appear to be a good choice!
Cormorant. 2. One on Shannon River Navigation marker, the other on the old Fish Raft in mid lake (seen from a distance).
Sandpiper. 4+. Two on Drummans shore, 2+ on Church Island.
Heron. c.7 in total. Mostly around Church Island, Kilgarriff, Rossmore, and the shoreline near Gull Island. Earlier in the year, we found a dead Heron beneath the nests in the Heronry on Church Island; at that stage we only saw two or three adult Herons and we worried that the colony was in decline. However, the numbers seen today are a good sign.
Black-headed Gull. 3 seen flying near Gull Island. These are the first Black-headed Gulls we’ve seen since June 10th. Their colony on The Spit was flooded out and abandoned; did they move elsewhere and nest again or have most of them moved out of the area? It would be a shame if these noisy, attractive spirited birds declined in Lough Allen; this year saw an increase in breeding numbers on The Spit, but we think that most did not successfully rear young before the deluge came and their nesting area was flooded.
The presence of Blue-green algae in mid-lake is worrying; given a period of warm weather and calm water these could produce a(nother) bloom? The water samples were examined microscopically and species that can cause a bloom were present, though not in large numbers. (Same species as in the micro-photographs, see Trip 23, June 6th; the chain-like organisms.) (D + F )
(D + F)
26. Cormongan and the Islands
Date: 27th June 2012, 1815-2015
Weather: Sunny and warm at first, Temperature 20° C. Then heavy rain
Water: Very calm, water temperature 16.3° C. Level at lock 2.58m
Other: Water clear, no sign of pollution or algal bloom
We had been watching the weather forecast for this week, and saw that calm weather and fairly high temperatures were expected today (Wednesday). We were worried that conditions might have been suitable for an algal bloom in the lake, and we had promised some local people to keep an eye out for this. As it happened, temperatures only just reached 20° C, and the lake, though a little choppy earlier in the day, was calmer by 6pm. We didn’t think there was much chance of a bloom in the northern part of the lake, but decided to check out the southern part of the lake —and especially mid-lake — to see if there was any signs of blue-green algae or scum. Launched the boat at Cormongan, and headed across the lake to Arigna shore. Went north for a short distance, then traversed the lake again to the shore just north of Gubcormongan. Checked the Islands and The Spit (landed here), and headed home. By this time it was raining quite heavily. Unfortunately, the weather for much of the trip was too bad to take many photographs; but also, there were not many birds around.
We did not see any evidence of Blue-green algae, or indeed any foam pollution along the shoreline or in mid lake. The water was clean and clear all the way, which was a relief. The forecast for the next few days is rather mixed, with a fair bit of rain and wind; these conditions do not favour the development of a bloom. Apparently it is flat calm water that is the main trigger of a bloom, not just high air and water temperatures.
Red-breasted Merganser. There were no Mergansers at all seen around the islands. Numbers in the southern part of the lake have been low this year, though there have been good numbers in the northern part of the lake. However, we got a report this morning from Joachim Schaefer and Saskia de Jong that a female Merganser with 6 chicks was seen just north of Spencer Harbour. Quite an early brood, and many thanks to them for notifying us; great to get this record! The Merganser family could possibly have come from the Cartronbeg Bay area to the south of Spencer Harbour, where we saw a pair of Mergansers earlier in the year in what appeared to be a very suitable nesting area. Or possibly they came from Church Island, where we know there is quite a large contingent of Mergansers this year?
Common Tern. None seen around The Spit or fishing anywhere around the islands. It would be sad to lose these beautiful birds from Lough Allen...
Black-headed Gull. None seen around the islands, across the lake, or in the area north of Gubcormongan, where some other Gulls were seen. Where have they disappeared to? They are quite a common Gull around the lake normally, and outside of breeding times, are often seen fishing around Cormongan.
Lapwing. Again, none were seen.
Cormorant. 3 in all. 2 on Rock hazard markers near Cormongan, 1 near Jenny’s Island.
Heron. One, at Jenny’s Island.
Sandpiper. 6+. At Round and Long Islands, Jenny’s Island, The Spit, and the west shore near Cartronbeg. At least these birds seem to be doing fairly well.
Mallard. 12 in all. In Cartronbeg Bay we saw 11, then one other at Jenny’s Island.
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 6. One near Cartronbeg shore, four off the beach north of Gubcormongan, and one on Round Island.
Common Gull. c. 6 at the beach north of Gubcormongan.
Swift. 2+ , near Gubcormongan shore.
Curlew. One, heard around Cormongan.
The high water levels continue to cause a problem. As we came by the Spit we saw that it was totally deserted; not a Gull, Tern or Lapwing or to be seen on the island, or on the mainland. This is such a change from last year (2011) when there were still Common Gulls (8 plus 5 chicks) and Black-headed Gulls (10 plus 8 chicks) on The Spit on July 30th. That’s a whole month later than this year! The Spit itself was quite flooded. Probably more than half of it was under water, and some of the remaining land was extremely wet and full of puddles. A lone Sandpiper landed on the edge of the Spit while we were there; the only bird we saw around here.
We landed on The Spit (we don’t normally land until the birds have finished breeding) and looked around for any signs of nests or eggs. Only two nests were found; One was the Lesser Black-backed Gull’s nest (in what must be the best nesting spot on the island, at the highest spot between a ring of big boulders). We had watched this Gull being harassed by Black-headed Gulls some weeks ago, as its nest was right in the middle of the Black-headed Gull’s colony. Found just two egg shells... one from a Black-headed Gull, one from a Lesser Black-backed Gull. It was quite eerie finding the place so isolated so early in the summer. Normally it should still be quite packed with Gulls and chicks and other birds. Have they just been victims of the bad weather and high water levels, or have they been affected by the increasing pollution in Lough Allen?
(D + F)
25. Cormongan and the islands
Date: 18th June 2012, 0645-0845
Weather: Grey, no rain, wind southwesterly, temperature 9 to 11.5° C
Water: Some waves, bit of a swell. Water temperature 13.9° C. Level at Lock 2.68.
Other: Water clear, no sign of pollution or foam.
Since it has been over a week since our last boat trip, we needed to see what the situation was like in the south part of the lake, as there has been quite heavy rain recently. It was a little breezy so we didn’t go too far out in the lake. Checked Long and Round Islands, The Spit and Jenny’s Island, and continued towards the Derrintober shore to see if there were any birds around there. Water level was very high and The Spit, in particular, was extremely reduced in size. This is disasterous for the breeding birds!
Red-breasted Merganser. 4 in total. 3 at the west shore of Long Island. (2 females, 1 brownhead male). 1 male in Wynne’s Bay, near the Lock at Drumshanbo. The Mergansers that we saw around Long Island appeared to be quite attached to the place. As we passed by in the boat they flew around the island, but headed back there fairly quickly. However, it appears that these 3 birds may be non-breeding— as yet.The lone male Merganser seen in Wynne’s Bay was acting strangely. It was out in the middle of the bay, displaying quite vigorously, but the only other bird close by was a Great Crested Grebe! As the Grebe carried on fishing and the two birds moved away from one another, the Merganser continued to display — lifting its head high in the air, then sticking its rear end out of the water and submerging its neck. A strange sight, and a rather forlorn one. We have never seen Mergansers this far south on the lake before; they seem to prefer the isolated islands and remote shores. This male must have desperately been searching for a mate.
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 4 in all. 2 on The Spit (1 still on nest, the other near the mainland); 2 on Round Island.
Common Gull. 15 on The Spit; 13 adults and 2 young chicks. One chick on a tiny bit of vegetation in the water, the other on a small boulder. They looked quite young. No other chicks seen on the main ‘dry’ part of The Spit, though there were still some adults sitting on nests. Numbers of Common Gulls are down on last year, possibly due to the large influx of Black-headed Gulls earlier in the year.
Black-headed Gull. None. On our last visit to the south end of the lake, June 6th, we counted 54 Black-headed Gulls on The Spit. Today there was absolutely no sign of them and much of their nesting area was covered in water.
If they were successful in hatching their chicks before the water level rose, where have they all gone to? Usually, it appears that the Black-headed Gull chicks hatch out a little later than the Common Gulls, but today there were still Common Gulls on nests at The Spit, and no Black-headed Gulls to be seen. Perhaps, due to their invasion of the Common Gull colony area earlier this year, they were able to nest and hatch before the Common Gulls... but if that were so, would the chicks and adults not be ‘hanging around’ The Spit? In 2011, we saw Black-headed Gulls with their young chicks in ‘rafts’ in the water a short distance away from The Spit. If they did breed successfully this year perhaps they moved to a more sheltered area with their young, possibly Yellow River beach. (We saw a number of Black-headed Gulls ’families’ here in July 2011— we will have to make a visit there soon and see if they have sought refuge here...)
Lapwing. None seen on the Spit or the mainland around this area. This is very disappointing as at least three Lapwings had been very ‘attached’ to The Spit area up to recently (and one pair may have had a nest on the mainland shore...) The water level is so high on The Spit that there is hardly room for the scattering of Gulls still present.
Common Tern. None seen on The Spit or anywhere around. Their long-awaited arrival at The Spit only took place less than a fortnight ago (June 6th); They were displaying and in fine form that day and we had high hopes that they would not only nest again this year, but also be successful in rearing young. Their nesting area of last year was well underwater. Perhaps they may find a suitable breeding area in another part of the lake, but they would need to do this very quickly. We did see Terns fishing in the north end of the lake on our previous trip, June 10th but assumed they were different birds— perhaps they weren’t!
Sandpiper. 5 in total. 1 on The Spit, 1 on mainland opposite Jenny’s Island, 3 on Jenny’s Island (2 adults, one chick) Good to see that at least one pair of Sandpipers bred successfully on Jenny’s Island, and that they are still to be heard and seen around other islands.
Cormorant. 2, flew north towards The Spit.
Great Crested Grebe. 1 in Wynne’s Bay near Drumshanbo Lock.
The high water levels really appear to be taking a toll on many birds in Lough Allen this year. The difference in The Spit since our last visit was incredible; it was greatly reduced in size — and there was only a scattering of Common Gulls with two Common Gull chicks. Also absent from The Spit were Black-headed Gulls, the Terns and Lapwings. The Tern area on The Spit (where they had a nest last year) is completely flooded, so it’s a disappointing year for them— again. Perhaps the Terns we saw on the 10th June in the north end of the lake were from The Spit? We think that the Lapwings (or at least one pair around The Spit) did have a nest, but today, there was no sign of them on the mainland shore or on any part of The Spit that remained above water.
(D + F)
Young Sandpiper on shore of Jenny’s Island
24. Corry and north end of lake
Date: 10th June 2012, 1815-2115
Weather: Calm and sunny, light westerly breeze. Temperature 18° C
Water: Ripples on lake, later small waves. Water temperature generally 17.8° C but 15.9° C in middle of lake. Level at Lock 2.66m (a rise of 0.52m in 4 days!)
Other: Water clear, took sample mid-lake to examine.
There has been a lot of rain in the past few days, and one of the aims of this trip was to check out the Lesser Black-backed Gull colony on the Long Shoal to see if they were okay. We had a look from the shore around Corry two days ago and the Shoal looked almost completely submerged. Also, we needed to check numbers of Mergansers in the north end of the lake and see how they are doing, as well as keeping an eye out for any possible pollution (foam or blue-green algae) though the temperature lately has probably not been hot enough to cause a bloom. We went from Corry Strand towards Drummans and into the bay to the west of the island. Then kept close to the shore down as far as Spencer Harbour and the bay south of this. We cut across the lake heading for Church Island ( a long haul as the lake is almost at its widest point here and we took a water sample mid-lake). Checked out Church Island, the Little Shoal, Druminalass Lake, Kilgarriff Bay, Rossmore (lake level was so high here that the navigation poles were almost covered). Cut across the Shannon Estuary and checked out the Gull Islands, and finally the Long Shoal, which was very much reduced in size. A long enough trip, but a profitable one, and the weather was good all the way.
Red-breasted Merganser. Probably 14 in total, the main bunch (8) being around Deadman’s Point and the Kilgarriff area. A further 2 pairs were seen on the Gull Islands and a pair in Drummans Bay. A great count!
Mallard. A total of 38 seen today, the largest number that we have seen in a long time (highest was 52 on a winter count, December 2010). 31 were in one big flock in Drummans Bay, 5 off Corry Point, and one each in Spencer Harbour and Gull Island.
Sandpiper. 2, one at Gull Island, another at Drummans shoreline.
Heron. 5 in all (more than we have seen for a while). One on Drummans shore, 2 Shannon Estuary, 2 in Rossmore Outer.
Common Gull. About 12 in total. 2 on the Little Shoal which is east of Church Island. We believe they have a nest here, but the water level is very high and the shoal was extremely reduced in size today. However, they seem to be sitting tight! A further 10 on and around the big Gull Island (including one Gull which is nesting again high in an Alder tree).
Lesser Black-backed Gull. about 20 in total, all on Long Shoal. This is near enough to the numbers we got before the ‘deluge’; however, the Shoal is so much reduced in size that there hardly any room for the birds (or chicks) except on a few large stones and boulders. Some of the nests and eggs must have been washed away, but happily, we did see 6 young chicks, four of which swam out from the shoal, ‘minded’ eventually by one of the adults.
Cormorant. 2 in all, both seen perched on Navigation Markers. One mid-lake, one near Gull Island.
Common Tern. Two seen fishing off Rossmore (Rossbeg Glebe). We don’t think that these are the same Terns as on The Spit. Last year, we saw Terns in this area as well.
Black-headed Gull. 8, fishing alongside the Terns off Rossmore.
So many Mergansers! It was a little hard to keep track of them and to sort out which ones were ‘new’ and which were ones we had seen before. Firstly, there was definitely one pair to the west of Drummans Island, quite far away from all the others that we saw. They seemed to be quite attached to that area, and we hope to have another look along the shore of Drummans island for possible evidence of a nest.
As we were crossing the lake, a pair of Mergansers flew right across from the west shore, heading for Church Island. Around Church Island, we first saw a pair, (female and brown-head male) which seemed to be ‘attached’ to an area on the south shore of Church Island. As they flew off, they were joined by another brown-head male. Immediately after, we saw a further 3 Mergansers... all male brown-heads and yet another male then arrived, this one showing full adult colouration. So far, that made one female, seven males! Around Kilgarriff, we saw a female on the shore, sitting on a rock and she flew off towards the others. That made eight! Eventually, around Deadman’s Point, we came upon a group of six... two pairs, and one adult male with a brownhead male tagging with him. The pairs were displaying and gesturing to one another, and stayed around for about ten minutes while we took photographs. They seemed unperturbed by our presence, allowing us to go so close to where they were just off the shoreline that we nearly grounded the boat!
We figure that the pair we saw flying across the lake was one of the pairs we saw around Church Island. However, there was more to come from these handsome birds. Having just watched the big group of Mergansers, we headed on to Gull Island, where we saw a ‘new’ pair. These seemed very settled around this island, and looked rather different to the other birds we had seen., These had spiky, well-developed crests. As these Mergansers were swimming along between Gull Island and its shoal, we saw a second ‘new’ pair of Mergansers next to Little Gull Island. So, four more Mergansers, making a total for today of 14!
It’s a pity that the Lesser Black-backed Gulls have been affected by the rising water level; These birds used to breed on Gull Island up to three years ago; for some reason or other they then abandoned it and a few started to nest on the Long Shoal. Their numbers have increased there since, with this year’s maximum number of birds being 23, and number of nests eight. However, because of the sudden rise in water level, some of the eggs may have been lost. Recently (about a week ago) there were eight nests on the island, and one with chicks just hatched. Today, we saw only six chicks and as far as we could see from the boat, many of the nests must have been submerged.
(D + F)
23. Cormongan and the Islands
Date: 6th June 2012, 1530-1730
Weather: Calm and sunny at first, then very heavy rain. Temperature 17° C
Water: Flat calm, slight swell in rain, water temperature 16.5° C. Level at Lock 2.14m
Other: Water very clear on lake, however blue-green algal bloom at and around the lock at Drumshanbo!
We hadn’t been out on the lake for some time (apart from a trip to check for Blue-green algal bloom at the north end of the lake on 30th May, see Water Quality page HERE for update). In a time of obvious deterioration in water quality as well as erratic weather conditions it is important to check on the status of elements in our biodiversity, e.g. Gull and Merganser numbers, and to see if the Common Terns had arrived. (In 2011, they appeared around the 1st. June).
We had visited the Lesser Black-backed Gull colony off Corry point at the other end of the lake after what seems to have been a significant bloom of blue green algae there. (They were unaffected.) A report on this episode has been prepared but not included here as we are awaiting further data and permissions. We needed to see what the water quality was like in the south end of the lake and were specifically looking for blooms in the middle of the lake west of Long Island. Unfortunately the weather became too unsettled to allow this. Launched the boat from Cormongan and went straight to The Spit, spending some time lying offshore here. Then landed on Jenny’s Island to check for Mergansers and Sandpipers. Came back via Round Island and Long Island, but by this time the rain was very heavy, so did not land, or spend too much time here.
Black-headed Gull. About 60 in all: 54 at The Spit, about 6 fishing around Gubcormongan. No young chicks seen.
Common Gull. c.20 on The Spit, most on nests. No young seen.
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 4 in all. One on The Spit, still on nest; One on Sandpiper Shoal; 2 on Round Island.
Lapwing. 3 seen on The Spit.
Common Tern. They are back! 2 at The Spit. Very active and displaying. We were delighted to see the Terns back at the Spit at last! There have only ever been 5 there but they are an exciting part of our fauna and could possibly become successful breeders if conditions were fit for them.
At first, we saw just one circling around The Spit, calling, for quite a while as we watched from offshore. We failed to see its mate for a long time and were thinking it was calling out in vain but, eventually it was joined by another Tern and they flew around continually together. One bird caught a fish, and carried it in its mouth while being followed by the other bird. They landed for a few minutes on Sandpiper Shoal, a little distance away, where we saw them displaying. They flew a few feet up off the ground very close to one another and holding their wings very high. They then returned to The Spit where one bird landed on the Inner Spit, while the other mounted a savage attack on non-threatening smaller gulls — vigorously harrassing and attacking the Black-headed Gulls which were nesting at the southern tip of The Spit. These are classic examples of both courtship and territorial behaviour. This is the location where the Terns had a nest last year.
Redshank. 1 at The Spit.
Sandpiper. 4 in all. A pair holding territory at Jenny’s Island, and another pair at Long Island.
Red-breasted Merganser. Probably 5 in all. A pair at Jenny’s Island (male and female) which disappeared to the south but may well have turned north along the east side of Jenny’s island. At Long Island, first saw a pair (maybe the same pair), then about 5 minutes later two females and a brownhead male. So there were definitely 3 Mergansers, possibly 5 overall? They were very active and not particularly settled on any particular area.
Mallard. 8 in total. 6 at Jenny’s Island; Two at Long Island.
Cormorant. 1 at The Spit which flew north.
Black-headed Gull and Common Gull numbers seemed to be okay; no chicks seen yet but it is still early enough for them. (In 2011 we saw our first few Common Gull chicks on June 3rd.) Merganser numbers are much the same as on our last trip; today we saw one pair of Mergansers, and/or a group of 3. This may indicate a decline in Merganser numbers at the southern end of the lake; more work will need to be done.
This is the fourth time we have seen a Redshank on Lough Allen this year... on May 2nd and 20th (Yellow River Beach) and today at The Spit. Saw two Lapwings on the Inner Spit and later saw these two adults and one other Lapwing flying around The Spit and above the Gull colony. Sandpiper numbers appear to be down on last year — but our check of Long and Round Islands was brief, as the rain was quite heavy.
(D + F)
While checking the water level at the lock in Drumshanbo, we noticed that there was an amount of green algae floating in the lock. Also, more worryingly, there were considerable streaks of green spots, typical of the potentially toxic blue-green algae, extending from the mouth of the lock out into Wynne’s Bay. (The canal, to the south of the lock gate, appeared to be clean.) Beside the mooring pontoon on the lake adjacent to the Lock we were able to collect water samples and could see that the blue-green algae were mostly on the water surface and were quite concentrated. When the water settled in the collection bottle the blue-green algae rose to the surface which is an indication that they are active. On looking at these samples there appear to be two or three species of blue-green algae present, of the type that produce blooms. We have sent off a sample of this water to the EPA to be analysed. (See Algal Bloom info HERE)
Some quick photos from Drumshanbo Lock
Out of curiosity these photographs were taken of ‘life’ in the samples. The images show two species of blue green ‘algae’ and other microscopical life forms. This isn’t a scientific selection; just a few pictures selected for their interest and fascination. As we learn more on this subject we will present a specific page on this topic and the possible risks and solutions to increasing eutrophication of Lough Allen.
22. Dogs die after swimming in Lough Allen
The aim of this trip was to estimate the numbers of Mergansers in the southern part of the lake, as we had a good idea (from our previous trip) of numbers in the north end. We launched the boat at Cormongan, checked Long Island and Round Island, headed across the lake to Srabraggan bay and around Gubsrabraggan into Mountallen bay. Checked the shoreline of Inishfale, and the beach with gravel spit (where Mergansers sometimes like to rest) at Derrintober. Back via The Spit, where we grounded the boat on the causeway and took photographs from the boat. Returned via Round Island and Long Island again.
Red-breasted Merganser. 5 in all, seen at the start of our trip. A pair of adults flew from Round Island towards Cormongan shore. Almost immediately, a flock of three (one female, 2 brownheads) flew from Long Island west shore, onto Round Island. These were the only Mergansers seen today.
Lesser-Black-backed Gull. 6 in total. 2 on Round Island (seem to have a nest here); 2 on The Spit (one on nest, being harassed by Black-headed Gulls), the other keeping guard at the edge of The Spit; 2 on Srabraggan Island (definite nest here too.)
Black-headed Gull. c.80 seen on The Spit. Most of these were sitting on nests. Numbers down from last visit, but, being early morning, others were probably fishing in other parts of the lake.
Common Gull. About 40. Most seem now to have settled in the middle of The Spit, with Black-headed Gulls to the north and south of them. They are very peaceful, and do not have arguments with neighbours, unlike the Black-headed gulls!
Cormorant. 3 in total. Initially, 3 seen flying south from Cormongan area. Later, saw one on Mountallen Bay, and two as we were returning to Cormongan slipway, but we reckon that these were the same birds as seen earlier.
Curlew. 2 on the inner Spit, one being harrassed by Black-headed Gulls. But they appeared to be quite settled in that location...
Lapwing. 4 seen. Two on The Spit (Inner Spit, near to where the Curlews were); One on the mainland shore in the grass, a place where we have seen Lapwings in previous visits and think they may have a nest around there. One at Gubsrabragan south shore, near to where we saw one among the grass a few weeks ago.
Sandpiper. 6 or 7 in all. 2 on Long Island, 2 on Round Island, 1 on The Spit, and 2 on Jenny’s Island. Possibly the one on The Spit may have been one of the birds from Jenny’s Island?
Mallard. 12 in total. 3 on Long Island (2 males, one female); 2 on Round Island; 2 on Jenny’s Island; 2 on The Spit; 3 (2 males 1 female)in Mountallen Bay.
Grey Crow. One chick hatched out from nest on Jennys’ island; no sign of chicks yet from nests on other islands.
We did a pretty thorough search for Mergansers all around the islands and the south part of Lough Allen, and just saw 5 birds. We believe that Mergansers don’t stray too far from their summer home patch, and that the birds we saw today are different to the birds seen in the north end of the lake on Sunday. One pair, and a party of three, one female and two brownheads. This ‘trio’ seems this seems quite a common occurrence. Are they a family party (last year’s chicks) or potential breeders for this year? Total number of Mergansers would appear to be 21.
Curlews have been quite noticeable in their absence up to this, so it was a relief to see the two on The Spit. Nice to see them behaving in a territorial manner, and being attentive to one another. Not very likely that they would breed on The Spit, but they have bred (2011) in a location not far from here. Curlews are a very important species and their numbers are declining rapidly, so it would be good to see them breeding in Lough Allen again this year. The Black-headed Gulls were rather aggressive towards one of them, but the Curlew didn’t seem to be too bothered and the Gulls let up after a time.
Lapwings are still around; There may well be a nest on the mainland shore from The Spit., though we are less sure whether there is a nest on The Spit. However, the Lapwings have been on The Spit for quite a few weeks, and are still displaying, and chasing off Black-headed Gulls.
(D + F)
The aim of this trip was to continue our quest for Mergansers, and to get an idea of the total numbers there may be on the lake as well as recording other important species. We launched at Corry Strand, checked out Long Shoal off Corry Point, continued on to have a look at the Gull Islands. From there went as far as Yellow River Beach (and landed there) then back via the small islands and skerries to Druminalass Lake. Landed here and went on foot to check out the south end of Annagh Lake (no Mergansers seen here, very quiet). On into Kilgarriff Bay, checked Church Island, and explored Rossmore Outer and Inner. Back via Long Shoal. A long morning— but a very successful one!
Red-breasted Merganser. 16 in all, most probably, a brilliant number! 1 male near Drummans; A pair, Gull Island; 2 brownhead males on Fahy shoreline followed by 3 birds (2 brownheads, one female) a little further on. These last two groups (5 in all) joined together and flew southwards; Two brownheads at Druminalass Lake (flew out into Lough Allen, followed them and saw them at the south tip of Church Island). At the same time saw 2 pairs on the north side of Church Island! (These flew around the island and headed south.) Then, saw one pair off Rossmore Point, they flew into the Rossmore area but we lost them...
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 23 (approximate number) on Long Shoal. Couldn’t get too close to the island as it was a little choppy; 2, on the Spit off Yellow River beach; 2 on Little Shoal (between Church Island and Fahy shore); 1 at Gull Island
Common Gull. 8 in all. One (on nest?) on Long Shoal, at the opposite end to the Lesser Black-backs; 1 on Gull Island; 2 on Little Gull Island; 2 on shoal off Yellow River beach; 1 on Little Shoal; 1 in Rossmore Inner.
Lapwing. 6 in total. 5 on Yellow River beach; 1 in Rossmore Inner.
Grey Crow. 2 nests seen (on Gull Island and Richard’s Island) both attended by adults.
Sandpiper. 2 (a pair) Yellow River beach; 1 at Corry Strand.
Redshank. 1, at Yellow River beach
Great Crested Grebe. 2 (a pair) in Druminalass lake, fishing. Could hear the male calling to female.
Cormorant. 1, on skerry off Yellow River beach
Mallard. 7 total. A pair in Corry bay; 1 male, Gull Island; 1 male, Yellow River beach; 3 (2m 1f) Rossmore Inner.
Canada Goose. 2 (4?) A pair on the shore between Fahy and Druminalass; Pair (same ones?) in Rossmore Inner, skulking amongst the grass and peering out at the boat. They are very noisy birds and seem to move around quite a lot.
Heron. 2. One at Druminalass Lake, one at Rossmore Inner.
Pleased with the sightings, especially the large number of Mergansers. The warmer weather may be enticing them out of hiding? It can be difficult to estimate their numbers, as sometimes we may see the same pair a few times... we think! But today we were pretty sure that the total of 16 is about right; we were able, in some cases, to follow one group of birds, then catch sight of another group in a different location. Many of the males we saw today were ‘brownheads’ — are these immature males, or just males who haven’t yet attained the green head but are ready for breeding?
A very good day for Lapwings as well. They seem to like the Yellow River area (saw 5 here); there are plenty of isolated open fields around here which would be perfect for them to breed. The other Lapwing we saw was in Rossmore, which would not be so suitable... but you never know! Coupled with other sightings in the south end of the lake, there could be upwards of 10 in Lough Allen this summer.
A Redshank! Most other times we have seen these waders has been in early Spring, when they were probably just passing through. Could they be breeding on Lough Allen? we could hear it calling as it flew around from Yellow River beach to the shoreline, but couldn’t see where it landed.
(D + F)
The aim of this trip was to check the westerly shoreline for birds and plant life. We launched the boat at Srabraggan, and covered the west shore up as far as the bay south of Spencer Harbour. Landed on the shaley beach below Termon Church to see if any Spring flowers were out; checked out the old fish farm raft which is moored a couple of hundred metres from the shore. Also explored the woodland beside the old Arigna Power Station. A disappointingly quiet day for birds and flowering plants.
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 2; one (appeared to be sitting on nest) on Strabraggan Island, the other keeping watch from Navigation Marker just off the island. x
Canada Goose. 2, flew into Strabraggan beach as we set out in the boat.
Mallard. 2 (a pair) in Cartronbeg bay beyond Power Station site.
Swift. 1, in Cartronbeg Bay.
Cormorant. 1, on old fish farm raft out in the lake.
Sandpiper. 1, heard at Strabraggan beach.
Incredibly quiet morning; apart form the birds listed above, we saw Swallows, Sand and House Martins on the lake but not in great numbers. In Cartronbeg Bay (north of old Power station) we had hoped to see Mergansers (on April 22nd we saw a pair here and thought it might have been a good area for them) but no sign of them today. Checked out the old Fish farm raft and there was one Cormorant there. The raft itself is quite a nice little man-made island, with some grass, rushes, and a few other plants (one most probably Water Figwort, though would have to see the flowers to be certain) even a small Willow tree. It’s about 300 metres offshore, and ideal for Cormorants. The depth here was 27m. There were some interesting large echoes on our sounder close to this raft; some on the bottom at 26m, others at 18-20m. Large Pike?
Landed on the shore below Termon Church, where a small river enters the lake (Liverwort stream). The only flowers we saw were Silverweed (few flowers out), Corn Spurrey (small plants, flowers just in bud). Some Himalayan Balsam sprouting up at the back of the beach; perhaps this plant isn’t affected so much by the cool May weather?
Explored the woodland just to the north of the old Arigna Power Station. Good number of old, mature Oaks, also tall Ash, some Scots Pine, and Beech. Near the shoreline the trees are mainly Willow and Alder, with some small Beech. Few Laurel trees, and Rhododendron near the entrance from the main road. Undergrowth mainly Woodrush and Ferns, with some Bilberry. Some Bluebells and Wood Sorrel in flower around the wood. Yellow Pimpernel (seen on a previous brief visit 6 days ago but not checked this time) growing and in flower on the laneway into the Site.
(D + F)
Cormorant Raft on Lough Allen
Whimbrel. 1 flying over at Annagh lake on 15th May
Crossbill. 2+ (Adult feeding young) also Annagh lake, 15th May. (Thanks to John F.)
The aim of this trip was to check the southern end of the lake for breeding birds, especially Black-headed Gulls and Mergansers. We checked out Long Island and Round Island, spent some time by The Spit photographing and counting the Black-headed Gulls and other birds. Landed on Jenny’s Island and checked for birds and plant life here, and returned via Round Island and Long Island and Gubcormongan for a final check.
Foam Pollution along the shoreline of Jenny’s Island
Red-breasted Merganser. 4 seen in total; a female and ‘brownhead’ male flew from Long Island, circled, and probably went towards mainland shore. Similar pair seen off Sandpiper Shoal, flew off West.
Black-headed Gull. 143 in total on The Spit. Most appear to be on nests, both in the south end of the Spit, and the former Common Gull area at the north end. They were aggressively attacking a Lesser Black-backed Gull which was sitting on a rock in the middle of their colony (who occasionally had to shelter beside a rock to avoid the attacks).
Common Gull. 34+ in total. About 31 on The Spit, and 3 or 4 on the inner Spit. More scattered nesting sites than in previous years.
Lapwing. 2 seen. One seemed to stay on the mainland shore on the grass, the other spent most of its time on and around The Spit.
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 3 in total. One in the middle of the Black-backed Gull colony, the other 2 hovering around the edges of The Spit.
Sandpiper. 3 in all; one on The Spit, in the south causeway area, one on Jenny’s Island (heard), and one on Long Island.
Canada Goose. 2 on Round Island. They seem to be moving all around the lake as we have seen them north and south... there appear to be at least two pairs?
Mallard. 3 flew east from The Spit, 1 on Sandpiper Shoal.
Grey Crow. 5+ seen, including a nest with two young on Jenny’s Island.
It is interesting the way that the Black-headed Gulls have increased in numbers so much this year, and have taken over many of the Common Gull nesting sites and we plan to do a special study of these birds. Today, there was a Lesser Black-backed Gull on The Spit, and appeared to be extremely settled, right in the middle of the Black-headed Gull nesting area. The Black-headed Gulls periodically dived towards it, attacking. The Lesser Black-backed eventually moved off the rock it was standing on, and huddled down on the grass at the side of the rock. It was interesting to note its behaviour; moving its head to one side and almost cowering as the Black-heads attacked. We’ve always looked upon the Lesser Black-heads as ‘bullies’ and predators but in this case, it was seriously outnumbered!
Grey Crows may be the worst predators in Lough Allen. Their numbers appear to be increasing, and we are keeping a note of any nests that we see. (There are 2 or 3 on Jenny’s Island). Today, we found two Black-headed Gull eggs (broken open and with ‘stab’ holes in them) on Jenny’s Island, below the trees a very short distance from the Grey Crow nest that contains young. We watched the nest from the boat, a distance away, hoping to see if the parents would come back with any food, but they were too cautious; they only came close to the nest when we moved away, are didn’t seem to be carrying any food, eggs or otherwise. These Crows could have a devastating effect on the success of the Black-headed Gull colony, which is only a short distance away. At least, because of the large numbers of Black-headed Gulls this year, there is a certain amount of safety in numbers...
(D + F)
Red-breasted Merganser. 3 at Annagh Lake today; 2 males (one a brownhead) seen 8am; Male and female seen c. 10am. (Thanks to John F. for the sighting)
Pollution in the form of foam was present today, mainly on west-facing shores. There was a slight amount of foam at Cormongan, but it was much heavier on Jenny’s Island and in patches along the other islands and at Gubcormongan. In some areas, especially some of the islands, the foam was quite thick in patches. These islands are places where Sandpipers often nest, and the pollution could have a serious effect on these birds as they feed along the shoreline. Will pollution be a factor affecting their breeding success this year?
Lough Allen used to be a clean lake; it is only in the last few years that this contamination has been seen, and is increasing. We cannot just sit back and let this pollution spoil the wildlife and amenity value of this lake for the future. PLEASE — Fishermen and Birdwatchers especially — do keep an eye out and let us (or the Authorities) know when you see white foam along the shorelines of the lake, or algal blooms in the water. The lake has deteriorated in quality in the last couple of years; we have to try and contain this problem before it’s too late.
The aim of today’s trip was to check for Mergansers, Sandpipers and the onset of Spring? We visited islands north of Yellow River, went into Druminalass before landing on Church Island. We called to Rossmore and the islands off Corry including the long shoal. Druminalass Lake was was incredibly quiet... no birds and precious few plants! At Rossmore (inner), saw Whimbrel, Mergansers and Sandpipers. Also checked out Richard’s Island, Little Shoal, both Gull Islands. A very good day for birds species (see below) BUT * (see comment at end)
Red-breasted Merganser. Probably 5 or 6 all told. (2 females, 2 or 3 Greenheads and 1 Brown-headed immature male.) At first a Pair flew from Fossil Strand westwards towards the Diffagher River and 1 mature male flew east from Gull Island to the Shoal off Fahy where it remained. About an 2 hours later a pair (with mature male) was well settled in Rossmore Inner when we arrived. On leaving a female with an immature male was in outer Rossmore and flew away south. 3 then departed Gull Island, 1 mature male, flew east, immature and a female headed towards Rossmore). Two more birds were seen together near Corry Strand at 1:30 pm. Interestingly, they were a mature male with a green head and an immature (last season’s?) male with a brown head. They flew off towards Drummans. It is hard to reconcile all these movements and it is possible that there may have been more than the 5 or 6 birds estimated.
Lapwing. 1, Gull Island. (Seen again about an hour later, flew off north).
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 18 on Long Shoal colony (6 nests in all; two nests had 3 eggs, one had 2, two had one egg); 3 on Little Shoal
Whimbrel. 4 in total; 3 in Rossmore Inner and 1 on Little Shoal.
Common Gull. 8 in all. 2 on Long Shoal; 2 on Little Gull Island; 4 at Rossmore Inner
Sandpiper. 1, heard at Corry; 3 (displaying) Gull Island; 2 at Rossmore Inner
Heron. 3 in all; 2 on Church Island (also one dead adult, and many egg fragments beneath nest) 1, Rossmore Outer
Raven. 4, (2 adults and at least 2 young) on Church Island.
Canada Goose. 2, Rossmore Inner.
Mallard. 4 in total; 1 Corry Strand; 1 Fossil beach; Pair, on beach just outside the channel entrance to Druminalass Lake.
Cuckoo. 2 heard, Church Island and Druminalass lake.
Cormorant. 4 in total. 2 on Long Shoal; One flew from Corry Strand towards the Diffagher River; One at Drumshanbo Lock (while checking the water height of the lake)
This was a good day for birds in general; good to have a number of sightings of the Mergansers, though it can be difficult to ascertain the exact number of birds. Whimbrel were a first for us in Lough Allen, and the 3 in Rossmore were quite actively feeding. The Lesser Black-backed Gull colony appears to be doing well with six nests (with eggs) so far. One empty nest was also seen though this may be an old one. The Heronry on Church Island seems to be in trouble. We found one dead adult Heron below the nesting area, and broken eggshells, but no sign of young.
We saw very few Spring flowers, and that is worrying. Due to the cold weather we had had in the past two months, all growth seems to be delayed.
(D + F)
* After such a successful morning, we headed back in a light breeze, to Corry Strand. To our dismay and disgust, the edge of the shore was lined with foam. This was not present when we left at 9 am. when the weather was extremely calm. There was no movement even of the Windmills on Corry mountain then. When we arrived back there was a slight southerly breeze which barely disturbed the water and yet the shore was polluted!
Did someone come along while we were away and pour a load of detergent into the bay OR was that gentle breeze enough to agitate the water and cause pre-existing detergent to froth again? Of course we believe the latter... and this is utterly DISGUSTING! That such a nice lake be visually contaminated and tourists driven away just for the want of a bit of care. THIS MUST BE FIXED! Refer to “Signs of Changing Water Quality”, in last year’s study on Lough Allen Water.
On our recent trips, we commented on the cleanliness of the water in the lake, and this was so encouraging. It was so disheartening today to find that Lough Allen is still harbouring contamination which spoils a beautiful area both for people and for wildlife.
Pristine Lake, no foam, no breeze!
Slight breeze, visually destroyed, amenity
reduced. Who would want to swim here; who
would want to stay here?
This pollution may not be toxic. But it is visually destructive and it may be lethal or choking to wildlife. However detergents, such as this, will enrich the environment and may lead to algal or bacterial blooms — which can be toxic to Man and Beast!
Clean Water! Did a good check by boat around the southern part of the lake, and up along the east shore. The water everywhere was extremely clean and clear— it’s such a pleasant change not to see any foam along the shoreline as there has been in recent weeks. Long may it last!
Black-headed Gull. 85 (approximate count), on The Spit.
Common Gull. 30 (approximate) on The Spit. 2 on Yellow River Beach.
Lapwing. 8 in all. 4 (two pairs) on The Spit or mainland next to it; 3 on Yellow River Beach; 1 in bay near river, Gubcormongan.
Sandpiper. 11 total. 2 displaying on The Spit; 1 flying around Jenny’s Island; 4 (2 pairs) Yellow River Beach; 4 (2 pairs) on shore just north of Stony River.
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 2 in all. 1 on The Spit; 1 on Navigation Marker, bay south of Stony River.
Red-breasted Merganser. 2 (a pair), at the mouth of the Yellow River, Flew south to wide bay south of Stony River.
Redshank. 1 on Yellow River Beach.
Ringed Plover. 2, displaying, Yellow River and Beach.
Mallard. 3 in all. 2 (a pair) on rocky shoal of Yellow River Beach; 1, same area later.
Canada Goose. 2, on Yellow River Beach.
A very good count of Lapwings! On The Spit some were displaying; one bird, however, stayed on the mainland shore close to a pile of cut trees and branches. Was it near a nest? On Yellow River Beach, the Lapwings were quite lively, displaying and flying around, and we observed one pair mating. There appeared to be just one single Lapwing on Gubcormongan. The total of 8 is is the biggest count we have ever had (in summer) of Lapwings on Lough Allen.
In other years, Black-headed Gulls have occupied the southern end of The Spit, and there was a clear ‘No-Gulls Land’ between them and the Common Gulls on the northern end. Today, it was clear that the Black-headed Gulls had moved into the Common Gull colony area, taking up many of the sheltered nesting spots in between the large boulders that the Common Gulls occupied in other years. The Common Gulls were scattered; some in their former colony area in amongst the Black-headed Gulls, some in the southern part of the Spit, and some in the inner Spit, closer to the mainland. The numbers of Black-headed Gulls has shot up this year (a high count of 110 was recorded on April 22nd.) The Spit seems to be their main nesting area. The number of Common Gulls nesting on The Spit has gone down this year, though there are some Common Gulls in other parts of the lake.
We covered the islands, though apart from The Spit, there was very little bird life. Went up along the East shore of the Lake as far as Yellow River Beach, where we landed and scouted around. Quite a lot of activity here, with Lapwings, Sandpipers, Ringed Plover, Redshank and Canada Geese! It’s a site we don’t often get to but hope to visit more often. Saw an interesting patch of mixed woodland around Stony River which we should survey for orchids and other plants.
In all, a good afternoon’s work!
(D + F)
Ringed Plover on Lough Allen
Sandpipers have arrived! At Cormongan this morning, the first thing we saw were two Sandpipers, flying between the boat slip and Long Island, and landing on Cormongan shore south of the Pier. A great sight; we had been anticipating their arrival, though this is, actually earlier than in other years. Sandpipers are charming birds, with their characteristic piping call, and each year, have graced Lough Allen’s islands with their presence, and bred successfully. Unlike the Mergansers, Sandpipers are easier to see, and their piping call is commonly heard around the islands.
Sandpiper. 2, first ones of the year. Flying low over the water in front of the boat slip at Cormongan, and landed on the shore south of the Pier.
Red-breasted Merganser. 3 in total. 1 male, east shore Long Island, flew towards Jenny’s Island; 2 (a pair) on west shore of the lake, flew into Cartronbeg Bay. We haven’t seen Mergansers around this area before. The bay seems ideal for them; it is sheltered, with lots of Alder trees and stumps in the water and woods behind. Watched them for a while, as they swam, fished (and the male sometimes displayed), moving in and out between the trees and stumps. Eventually flew off north into the next small bay (facing north, Mullaghfadda), and then further north towards Termon shore. It’s good to see Mergansers at this end of the lake, and they are looking beautiful!
Lapwing. 2 in all. 1 flying around The Spit, then settling on the grassy mainland shore by The Spit. Watched from the boat, but couldn’t see a second one here; 1 on Mountallen shore, near the water’s edge, which disappeared into long grass.
Black-headed Gull. 110. Numbers are going up rapidly! Most were on the southern end of The Spit in their colony area, but a few seemed to be hanging around the Common Gull colony further north on The Spit.
Common Gull. 40. Most were in their nesting area on The Spit, a few on rocks nearer the mainland. Numbers seem to be down?
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 4 in all. 2 on The Spit, at the very northern tip; 2 on Round Island.
Tufted Duck. 5, in a group near the shore just north of old Arigna Power station. Flew off southwards.
Canada Goose. 2 between The Spit and Jenny’s Island. Making a great noise! We have seen these geese around the lake - north and south- for two or three weeks now.
Mallard. 5 in all, seen at Jenny’s Island, Cartronbeg, and Long Island.
Great to see the return of the Sandpipers, and hope for many more in the next few days. None were seen on any of the islands today,(landed on Jenny’s island which is a favourite spot for them) so perhaps they have only just arrived.
The ‘new’ area of Cartronbeg Bay looks very favourable for Mergansers; we will have to add this site to our regular visits in the south of the lake. The Black-headed Gull colony on The Spit is extremely busy, looks like it will be a good breeding year for them, with numbers well up on last year!
(D + F)
Busy Black-headed Gull Colony on The Spit!
Lapwing. Pair seen in open field near Inishfale. (Thanks to John D.)
What a day — Mergansers are here at last! We have been worried about the absence of Mergansers so, today, we went checking out the northern islands for them and other breeding birds. It was a very cold misty morning when we started out; in fact we waited in the car for a while to see if it was viable. However there have been few opportunities to get out and land-based sightings of Mergansers have been nil since a very distant sighting on the 26th. March. No Mergansers have been seen (by us) in the intervening period and we were wondering was the very cold grey breezy weather preventing them into Lough Allen. So, it was very heartening to see them today...
Red-breasted Merganser. 5 in all. We were very happy to see 5 Mergansers in a group, on the east side of Church Island. Two males and a female on the water, then a pair flying overhead. All flew in the direction of Shannon Estuary or Kilgarriff. 1 male was later seen flying actively around the northern end of the lake from Kilgarriff in the east to Drummans Bay in the west, probably one of the 5 seen earlier.
One of a group of 5 Mergansers that were found today.
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 31 total count. 2 on Little Gull Island; 4 on the rocky shoal off Big Gull Island; 1 on Little Shoal (east of Church Island); 24 on Long Shoal (off Corry)
Common Gull. 31 in all. 5 on Little Gull Island; 3 on Big Gull Island and 5 on the rocky shoal off this; 5 on Little Shoal (east of Church Island); 10 on Derrinvoney Beach, Corry (some in courtship display); 3 around Druminalass Lake.
Raven. 2 on Church Island. Flying and calling, and chasing some of the Herons which nest nearby on the island. The Ravens have a nest here also, but no young seen.
Heron. 4 (5?) Church Island, seen flying from separate nests in this heronry. All nests are in tall trees around the old burial ground on the highest point of the island.
Sand Martin, House Martin, Swallow. Hundreds seen flying low over the surface of the lake around Corry, and the islands
Canada Goose. 1 close to the east shore of Church Island.
Mergansers back in good numbers! Today is the first time we have seen a group of Mergansers this year; it is 3 weeks later than last year. The birds — males in particular, looked spectacular, with bright colourful plumage and in great condition after their winter at sea. They were rather wary, but one male, close to Drummans island, obliged us by staying still while we drifted close in the boat, and took photographs. The previous Merganser sighting was off Drummans, on March 26th... an early female. Church Island, where one Merganser hatched her brood last year is an area where they may well breed on a regular basis.
Good to see the Lesser Black-backed Gulls still holding their territory on the Long Shoal; Numbers up on last year here. Also, a few seem to be returning to the Gull Islands, where they bred a couple of years ago. No sign of Greater Black-backed Gulls today.
(D + F)
Lough Allen looking south from Rossmore
The purpose of this boat trip was to check the water quality in the lake (existence of foam/scum) and to check for Mergansers, Lapwings, and other relevant species
Common Gull. Present on The Spit, many in their usual nesting sites among the rocks, on the northern part. Numbers not taken as to come close would disturb them too much
Black-headed Gull. Present in the southern part of The Spit, again, numbers not taken.
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 2 on The Spit
Greater Black-backed Gull. 3 in all; 1 on The Spit, 2 on Sandpiper Shoal
Ringed Plover. 1, flew from Sandpiper Shoal to The Spit. (heard on our return about an hour later)
Lapwing. 2 on The Spit observed displaying and later, mating
Mallard. 1, flying off the southern tip of Jenny’s Island
Pollution in the form of foam (and occasionally streaks in the water) seen on the eastern shore of all the islands. The water temperature is only 9.3° C at the moment; when temperatures start to rise, this pollution may become an even bigger problem, such as happened in the good weather of mid-April 2011, when long streams of algal bloom appeared in the centre of the lake. Also, no Mergansers seen around the islands, whereas in April of other years, we would have had a number of sightings in this area. They have been recorded in Sligo Bay up to (at least) March 29th, but have seen no further records from Sligo. Where are they!
On a more positive note, this was the first time we had observed mating in Lapwings, and is an encouraging sign. The Ringed Plover was a first for Lough Allen; we hadn’t seen one around the lake before. Perhaps on migration? We saw three Greater Black-backed Gulls in all, two of these on Sandpiper Shoal. This is an increase in numbers from other years. The Shoal (seen below) is quite unprotected, but does have a few stunted Alder trees.
Spring flowers seen (on Inishfale Island) included Lords and Ladies, Lesser Celandine, Cherry Blossom and Sun Spurge.
(D + F)
Sandpiper Shoal seen from Jenny’s Island
The purpose of this visit was to record some of the plant life on Bencroy Mountain, just north east of Lough Allen, and to see what birds were around.
Liverwort (Pellia epiphylla). Found growing in damp rocky cleft of Bencroy sandstone on the mountain. See photograph of full plant on left, with the green Thallus at the bottom, the elongated Seta with a rounded capsule, containing spores, at the tip. The Liverwort was in large clumps, and growing well because of the moisture in the rock cleft. Elsewhere on the mountain, plant life was sparse, due to the prolonged dry (and cold) weather. Samples taken back to the lab to photograph. (See microphotograph on right.)
Peregrine. 1, observed from the mountain flying south.
Raven. 1, seen from the road, flying north east.
Mistle Thrush. 5+, very wild. Observed flying around the vegetation on the slopes, and later, on the tops of trees in the mature forest just below Bencroy.
Thyme-leaved Speedwell. This was the only flower seen growing on the upper slopes of mountain, and only in sheltered, moist areas.
David climbed the mountain, and observed that plant life was sparse, and the area was fairly dry. In March, there was a spell of extremely warm weather, and this, combined with recent dry, though cold, weather, may have contributed to the sparsity of plant species. I (Frances) stayed near the road, looking for plant life around there which included Dog Violet (the only Spring flower seen here), a Lobed Lichen species growing amongst grass and Moss (to be identified), and a small Hard fern, under the shelter of a rock.
(D + F)
The purpose of this trip was to check for Mergansers and other important species along the shoreline from Derrintober (Horse Bay) as far as The Spit, walking along the shoreline. Also, to check out for signs of Pollution, as we have seen some of this in recent trips. (It was about this time last year that we found extensive blooms and scum in the centre of the lake, and large amounts of foam along the shoreline.) Today was the worst day seen so far this year for artificial contamination of the lake shore. This is discussed in today’s Comments below, and will be observed and reported every day from here on in... hopefully with positive observations?
Wigeon. 3, seen flying south from Round Island, and landing in the water close to Sandpiper Shoal
Lapwing. 3, on and around The Spit. Displaying, and chasing off the Grey Crows. 2 of these were initially on the mainland close to piles of brushwood as we walked along, but flew to The Spit and stayed there
Gull spp. Numbers not taken, as we were more concerned about the pollution. However, both Black-headed and Common Gulls are present in good numbers in their respective breeding colonies on The Spit
Grey Crow. 26+, around The Spit. A large group of them were on the mainland beach, making forays onto The Spit every so often. There seem to be more Grey Crows this year than other years, and they appear to be a real disturbance to the breeding birds
Badger. A Sett found just to the north of small river, Derrintober. In sandy soil, under and around Ash trees
Today, for the first time, there was a significant and widely present unsightly amount of foam pollution along the east shore of the Lake. This foam was building up and persistent in bays and parts of the shore facing into the oncoming breeze. We noticed some foam (slight) in Derrintober as we came to the shore by Horse Bay. This was NOT ‘natural foam. (for discussion Go HERE) As we walked northwards, the incidence of foam increased, until it was almost continuous. Not as thick as in April 2011, but quite worrying. There are two small rivers that flow into Lough Allen in this area, and foam was seen in both of them, especially in lower reaches. (One river was checked further away from the shore, where it passes under the Drumshanbo Road, but no foam was seen here.) Photograph of foam was taken at Derrintober.
(D + F)
Extensive foam on east shore...
Red-breasted Merganser. 8 at Kellystown, Ballisodare; 2 at Sligo Harbour, March 29th (Thanks to Beatrice McD, SligoBirding)
Boat trip to check for breeding birds, Mergansers etc., around Corry Strand and Islands on the north shore of the lake. Also to test out safety and other equipment after the winter. The water level is very low for this time of year, so we have to check the sounder is working properly in shallow areas. Some of the areas we visit by boat are close to the shore and are quite treacherous because of large boulders just below the surface.
Black-headed Gull. 5 on Derrinvoney Beach near the Diffagher River
Common Gull. 4 in all; 2 at Derrinvoney Beach near Diffagher River and 2 on Long Shoal (between Drummans Island and Gull Island)
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 13 on Long Shoal
Greater Black-backed Gull. 2 on Long Shoal
Heron. 1 flying west over Derrinvoney beach
Canada Goose. 2 on Drummans Island
Pleased to see the Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Long Shoal, as we have seen very few elsewhere in the lake. This Shoal appears quite long as the water level is so low, though tree stumps and vegetation occur only on the central part of the Shoal. In this central area, about six pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls nested last year; perhaps more will settle this year? Also, the appearance of two Greater Black-backed Gulls is interesting, as in other years we have only recorded them later in the year, and just singly.
No Mergansers or other Ducks seen. One Pine Marten seen in the field behind Corry Strand, running through bushes; later, saw Pine Marten (possibly the same one?) as we drove onto the Drumkeeran road, 100m or so beyond the junction to Corry. It appeared on the top of the ditch, saw us and quickly turned and vanished.
(D + F)
Greater Black-backed Gulls on Long Shoal, North Lough Allen
Checking all along the shoreline for Mergansers and other Ducks.
Wigeon. 5, in Wigeon Bay just south of Spiranthes Islands. Stayed around the Bay while I was there.
Teal. 7, also in Wigeon Bay. More restless than the Wigeon; flew off towards the islands, but four returned a little later to the same area.
Mute Swan. 2, between the floating Pontoon and Derrintober shore.
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 1 on the floating Pontoon, off Inisfale.
Black-headed Gull. 2, Derrintober shore, in the bay near gravel Spit.
Mallard. 1 flew south from Spiranthes Island.
Lapwing. 1, heard but not seen, close to Spiranthes Island.
No Mergansers! And not many other birds around either. The Geological Survey plane was passing very low overhead at intervals. No Great Crested Grebes, only one Mallard, few Gulls. Plants seen included the usual ones (as on 26th March) but also Wood Anemone. This seems to be less common around Lough Allen than the Wood Sorrel (which is not flowering yet). No sign of foam, water very clear. Saw a strange white ball 'growth' on a couple of Birch trees on Derrintober shore; Later found another one that was burst open... a type of Puff ball with lots of dark brown spores puffing out when touched.
( F )
Puff ball on Birch Tree
Checking for Mergansers mainly, but also looking out for remaining Winter Ducks, and early Spring flowers.
Red breasted Merganser. 1 female, seen from a distance, flying from the tip of Drummans Island towards shore north of Spencer Harbour. The first one of 2012! It was quite far away and flying fast, so no photographs taken.
Wigeon. 2 on the shoreline at Derrinvoney, very close to the mouth of the Diffagher River.
Canada Goose. 2. A strange sight to see on Lough Allen! These geese were under the trees on Drummans Island, near the causeway, and making a lot of noise. Eventually came onto the shore and swam out a short distance, but they stayed around all the time we were in the area. Photographs taken.
Black-headed Gull. 2 on the shore at Derrinvoney.
Good to see the Merganser, first one of the season (two days earlier than last year), though it would have been better if we got a closer look. Searched around the island (quietly) but no sign of any others. Water level quite low and very clean, no sign of foam. Vegetation still very sparse on the shore and causeway. Walked back along shore and through Flower Meadow to check for Spring flowers and Butterfly larvae/pupae. No sign of Marsh Fritillary pupae among the Devilsbit Scabious plants, or orchids. Saw Marsh Marigolds, Primroses, Lesser Celandines, few Germander Speedwell and Violets. Sun Spurge very common though plants are still small.
(D + F)
Canada Geese at Drummans Bay
Boat trip to check for Mergansers, also any Wintering Ducks which may still be around Lough Allen.
Wigeon. 15 in all, probably. 2 flew from Long Island towards The Spit; Another 2 on The Spit. (These two pairs flew back towards Long Island); 5 in Wigeon Bay, south of Spiranthes Island; 10 flew off from Inishfale Beach; Flock of 15, seen flying towards Cormongan at the end of our trip.
Teal. Total probably 10; 4 in Wigeon Bay, flew north; 6 in same area, also flew north; 4 flew from The Spit towards Round Island, (but we think these were the same as the earlier group of four)
Mallard. 9 in all. 6, around Spiranthes Island; 2 in open water off Inishfale Beach; 1 at the southern tip of Jenny's Island
Lapwing. 3 seen. 2 displaying on The Spit (Same two seen later on Sandpiper Shoal.); 1 on the shore of Wigeon Bay, just south of Spiranthes Island
Cormorant. 4 in all. 3 flew north from Cormongan area; 1 (Juvenile?) near Spiranthes Islands, flew south towards Drumshanbo
Redshank. 1 on shoreline south of Cormongan.
Common Gull. 21 on The Spit; 1 on Long Island; 4 on Inishfale beach.
Black-headed Gull. 2 at Cormongan, flying over trees and pestering a Heron; 19 on The Spit; 4 on Inishfale beach
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 1 on Round Island
Heron. 3 in total. 1, being harassed by two Black-headed Gulls over the trees at Cormongan; 1 on the shore of Inisfale Island, just across from Derrintober; 1 fishing off Inishfale beach.
Great Crested Grebe. 2 seen. 1 fishing just off the outer tip of Inishfale Island (opposite Derrintober shore); 1 fishing in open water between Spiranthes Island and Drumshanbo.
Raven. 1, heard calling near Inishfale Beach
No Mergansers seen yet, or Sandpipers. Went close to The Spit (both sides of the Causeway) but didn't land. Black-headed Gulls have gathered in good numbers since our last visit, and the Common Gulls are settling into their nesting areas among the rocks. Landed on Jenny's Island, saw the Lapwings on Sandpiper Shoal from here. Travelled down the lake past Derrintober shore, Spiranthes Island and into Wigeon bay. Returned past Holly Island, and the South side of Inishfale, and around into Inishfale Bay where we landed to check the shoreline for Lapwings (a few seen here in 2010). Headed across the lake past Sandpiper Shoal and The Spit (to check the total number of Lapwings) and back to Cormongan via Round Island and Long Island. Covered pretty much all of the southern End of Lough Allen.
Small amount of foam on Gubcormongan shoreline, also on Holly Island. There is a lot of rubbish on the shoreline south of Cormongan; many bags of rubbish appear to have been thrown down from the road.
(D + F)
Checking for Mergansers and other species on Annagh lake, Rossmore shore and out to Lough Allen, also Corry and Fossil Strand. Also had a brief look for freshwater invertebrates in Annagh Lake.
Snipe. 1 on E side of Annagh lake, about half-way down
Mallard. 8 in all. 4 by the reed beds at the S. end of Annagh Lake; 2 on Gull Island; 2 at Rossmore Outer
Wigeon. 3 flew north from the reedbeds, Annagh Lake
Common Gull. 3 on the west shore of Annagh Lake
Teal. 5 on the shoreline, Rossmore Inner
Water Scorpion (Nepa sp.). 1 found under stone on east shore of Annagh Lake. Photograph taken (see below)
Pond Snail. Many seen on stones in shallow water, Annagh Lake, especially where the bottom is sandy
Freshwater louse, Asellus. A few, under stones, Annagh Lake
Freshwater Shrimp, Gammarus sp. A few under stones, Annagh lake
Water level was very low, and vegetation very sparse all along shoreline. Few very small patches of foam on Annagh lake. Rossmore very clean, no foam seen. Navigation channel into Rossmore looks tricky as water level is so low, many tree stumps sticking up. No Mergansers seen, but Micheál from SligoBirding is keeping an eye out for Mergansers in Sligo Bay area; they are still present as of 17/03.
(D + F)
Checking for Mergansers and other Duck species. This was the place we first saw the Mergansers arrive at the end of March, 2011. We walked along the shoreline south, nearly as far as the Liverwort Stream at Termon.
Mallard. 2 on the landward side of Corry Island
Teal. 1 between southern tip of Corry island and the mainland shore
No Mergansers present. Some Spring flowers showing; Marsh Marigold, Wood Violet, Wood Anemone, Barren Strawberry. Saw an early Blackbird's nest on bough of Alder tree, with three eggs in it.
There was some light foam along the shore, which was present as far as we walked. Pondweed in muddy wet area in the Cattle enclosure near the shore; took some home to identify. (Water Starwort)
(D + F)
Blackbird's Nest in woodlands on shore, near Spencer Harbour
This was our first Boat trip of 2012, mainly to see if the Mergansers, or any of the usual breeding birds had arrived yet. We visited the Spit (landed here), also went all around Long Island. Boat handled well. Lake water level was quite low, and causeway at The Spit was almost totally dry.
Common Gull. 18, all on The Spit, some settling down in last year's breeding locations among the rocks
Black-headed Gull. 2. These were flying around The Spit, sometimes landing at the northern, or southern edge of the Spit, but not settling
Lapwing. 1, seen on the Causeway of The Spit as we came near in the boat, but then flew off southwest
Grey Crow. 4 on The Spit
Teal. 4 flew from the Spit towards Sandpiper Shoal.
Great Crested Grebe. 2 (a pair) at Drumshanbo Lock. Seen while checking Lock water level after the boat trip
Lesser Black-backed Gull. 2, on Navigation Posts near Drumshanbo Lock
Pleased to see a Lapwing on the Spit, though we hope that more will arrive. Water quality on the lake seemed fairly good, very little foam seen.
(D + F)
Common Gulls at The Spit
Visited Srabraggan shoreline to look for Mergansers, wintering ducks or possible migrants such as Greenshank. Walked along shoreline and woodland as far as the old Arigna Power Station.
Great Crested Grebe. 2 (a pair), fishing off the S. End of Srabraggan Island
Common Gull. 4 on the muddy bay area to the right of main beach at Srabraggan
Mallard. 2 (a pair), flew off from muddy area to the right of main beach.
No sign of Mergansers or other ducks apart from Mallard. Spring flowers we saw included Marsh Marigold and Wood Violet. Near the old Arigna Power Station site, we found a Badger Sett, quite large and well-used. This was located on a steep slope at the back of flat, high ground, which is quite shaley.
(D + F)
One of the Badger Sett entrances, Srabraggan
Additional records: We have asked birdwatchers (via Sligo Birding Website) to let us know if they have any sightings of Red-breasted Mergansers around the Sligo area, as we want to try and work out when they leave the sea and head for their breeding areas (and Lough Allen).
Red-breasted Merganser. 4 at Gibraltar Point, Sligo Harbour, Feb. 4th, 2 at same place, March 17th. (Thanks to Micheál C. SligoBirding)
This stretch of the River Shannon is narrow, with stones and boulders on the bottom, as opposed to mud and sand. This is the sort of substrate that Pollan like to come to breed, according to a Fisheries leaflet describing their research work on Pollan and breeding around Lough Allen. We walked a stretch of the river, and tested the underwater camera at one likely spot. However, this was just a trial run for the camera, and to see what sort of support frame or lighting we may need for future work in the river, or using it from the boat in Lough Allen.
This part of the river is interesting, and needs further investigation, although the banks are a bit awkward to climb down. Further research is needed on other stretches which may have suitable substrate (small boulders, or 'Cobbles') along this part of the Shannon below Dowra.
Also, the high mud banks in many places may make it suitable for Kingfishers, though none were seen at this visit. Kingfishers need clear water to fish in, and the water today was a bit muddy. Quite a bit of foam was apparent in the river at Dowra, just below the bridge in the town.
(D + F)
Narrow stretch of the Shannon near Dowra, stony substrate
The purpose of this trip was to check for Pollution all around the Lake, and also for Wintering Ducks or other species.
Raven. 2 displaying and calling on the hillside near Cleighraunmore Bay
Mallard. 8 in total. 2, swimming outside Pontoon, Cleighraunmore Bay; 2 at Cemetery Beach, Fahy; 2 on Annagh Lake; 2 at Spencer Harbour
Teal. 3 flew off north from Cemetery Beach, Fahy
Great Crested Grebe. 2 (a pair) on Annagh Lake
The following is a list of areas visited, and whether pollution (foam etc.) was present.
Cormongan: No foam, though some streaks of scum in flooded woodland by roadway to the Boat slip. No foam visible on Gubcormongan Beach but water level too high to walk around.
Ballinagleragh / Cleighraunmore: One or two patches of light 'scum' but no foam in harbour or along the bay.
Cemetery Beach, Fahy: No foam
Shannon Estuary: Checked from roadway gate as water levels high and fields flooded. No foam
Kilgarriff: No foam.
Annagh Lake: Small patches of light foam around lower roadway (which is flooded), none elsewhere.
Corry Strand: No foam.
Spencer Harbour: No foam.
Srabraggan: Very flooded, water halfway up lower part of lane to beach. No foam seen.
Sluices: Foam (the non-persistent sort) below the Sluices, no sign of foam elsewhere.
(D + F)
January Sunset at Cormongan, Lough Allen