Sunday 17 June 2012

Three Castles Head 10th June 2012

Three Castle Head and Lissagriffin

Sunday 10th June 2012

Blessed with dry weather, a group of twenty-three adults and children met at Lissagriffin car park on Sunday morning in anticipation of the day ahead; a walk up to Three Castle Head, a picnic and later an opportunity to see the rare Marsh Fritillary butterfly on Lissagriffin Marsh.

With everyone squeezing into as few cars as possible and following a short drive, we arrived at Oughtminnee, where a male Cuckoo, singing his summer refrain, welcomed us.  Led by Peter Wolstenholme, the mile walk out to Three Castle Head, overlooking Dunmanus Bay, must be one of the most beautiful stretches of coastland in West Cork.  Along the way everyone enjoyed the sight of a family of Wheatears; the chicks calling for food, the adult female sounding her warning and the male adult proclaiming his territory with his whistling metallic song.  Competing in song were Skylarks, proclaiming loudly from the heavens or well-chosen advantage points.  This was punctuated from time-to-time by aerobatic Choughs wheeling around the sky calling to each other.

The three fortified towers that comprise 13th century Dunlough Castle never fail to cause one to draw breath due to their spectacular setting.  Once affording protection to the O’Mahony clan, they now provide excellent nesting opportunities to a variety of birds including Chough.  From the nearby reed beds a Sedge Warbler could be heard singing.

Gannets, Manx Shearwaters and Common Guillemots flew across the bay during the picnic and, with the help of Karl Woods, a lucky few saw a Sooty Shearwater; an early record.  With the picnic over, everyone made their way back to the cars and to Lissagriffin.  There a pleasant hour was spent on the marsh looking for butterflies and marvelling at the orchids and swathes of Ragged Robin on display.  Despite having wings like an exquisite stained glass window the Marsh Fritillary is surprisingly hard to see, but five were found and Damaris Lysaght enlightened everyone on the life cycle and habits of this rare and beautiful butterfly.

The forecast rain stayed away and a fine day was enjoyed by all.  Thanks again to Peter Wolstenholme and Damaris Lysaght for sharing their knowledge.



Bird species list:
Fulmaris glacialis
Sooty shearwater
Puffinus griseus
Manx shearwater
Puffinus puffinus
Morus bassanus
Common cormorant
Phalacrocorax carbo carbo
Phalacrocorax aristotelis
Grey heron
Ardea cinerea
Mute swan
Cygnus olor
Anas platyrhynchos
Common scoter
Melanitta nigra
Numenius arquata
Pomarine skua
Stercorarius pomarinus
Herring gull
Larus argentatus
Lesser black-backed gull
Larus fuscus
Greater black-backed gull
Larus marinus
Uria aalge
Common cuckoo
Cuculus canorus
Sky lark
Alauda arvensis
Sand martin
Riparia riparia
Hirundo rustica
House martin
Delichon urbica
Pied wagtail
Meadow pipit
Anthus pratensis
Rock pipit
Anthus (spinoletta) petrosus
Troglodytes troglodytes
Erithacus rubecula
Saxicola torquata
Oenanthe oenanthe
Sedge warbler
Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Coal tit
Parus ater
Great tit
Parus major
Acanthis cannabina
House sparrow
Passer domesticus
Common starling
Sturnus vulgaris
Pica pica
Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
Hooded crow
Corvus cornix
Corvus corax

Butterfly species list:
Marsh Fritillary
Euphydras aurinia
Common Blue
Polyommatus icarus
Green-veined White
Pieris napi
Small Heath
Coenonympha pamphilus

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