Friday, 9 August 2019

Scotland to Ireland, But Not Via the Old Scotch Road

There's been a lot of Painted Lady butterflies about recently, and you have probably noticed this. Before I headed off on my visit to Ireland I was giving my car one of it's rare cleans over a lunchtime period towards the end of July, and I had about thirty heading in a generally northerly direction. In fact, right up to heading off to Ireland in early August I was seeing Painted Lady's everywhere I went.

The purpose of our trip to Ireland was to take my Mum's ashes back to the village where she came from. We stayed with my Auntie and Uncle, and as a thank you for putting us up I decided to purchase some chocolates from Kennedy's Fine Chocolates in Orton, which are the best chocolates I have ever tasted by the way and I can't recommend them highly enough. In fact if you click here it will take you to their website. Anyway, I digress!

The reason for mentioning this, is that often when I drive to Kennedy's I drive a long the Old Scotch Road, and I thought I would stop on my way back and have a look along it's wide verges to see if there were many Painted Lady's up here. I walked a section further north this time, and this section is away from the motorway, so it is quieter and one can enjoy the fabulous views in a more pleasant environment.

 The Old Scotch Road

It was quite blustery as I walked along and I think this had a negative impact on butterfly numbers, and in fact I didn't record any Painted Lady's at all! The only butterflies I had were a Small White, five Ringlets and a Small Tortoiseshell.

 And the Old Scotch Road with Wainwright's sleeping Elephants in the 
background (aka the Howgills)

Last weekend, as I mentioned above, Gail and I had a trip to Ireland. We sailed from Cairnryan to Belfast, and during the crossing I like to sea-watch. I divide the crossing into three sections; Loch Ryan, North Channel and Belfast Lough. On the outward crossing I record on Loch Ryan and the North Channel, and inward on Belfast Lough and again the North Channel.

On our outward crossing my totals for Lough Ryan included 36 Gannets, five Guillemots and six Manx Shearwaters. My totals for the North Channel included 175 Guillemots (with lots of young birds accompanied by adults), 23 Gannets, 43 Manx Shearwaters, a Storm Petrel, two Fulmars, thirteen Kittiwakes, five Puffins, three Razorbills, a Great Skua and two Harbour Porpoise.

As the purpose of our visit to Ireland was to return my Mum to her village we didn't really have much time to do any birding. We managed to fit in a visit to the National Trust's Mount Stewart estate, overlooking Strangford Lough, and completed a four mile walk of the demesne. We had a look at the wildflower meadow, and here we recorded a few Painted Lady butterflies, but the only birds that found their way into my notebook were four Goldcrests and a pair of Hooded Crows.

 The Mount Stewart wildflower meadow

Cornflower

The return sea crossing to Scotland included two Black Guillemots, six Common Terns, a Gannet, 16 Guillemots, nine Manx Shearwaters and a Razorbill in Belfast Lough. Whilst in the North Channel we had 54 Manx Shearwaters, four Kittiwakes, 64 Guillemots, 135 gannets, nine Razorbills and eleven Fulmars.

The drive back through Dumfries and Galloway on the A75 yielded a couple of ubiquitous Red Kites!

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