Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cliffs of Moher, IE - 28 Aug 2011

Today's destinations were the Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, lunch in Galway, and a tour of Connemar Marble Industries.

Listed as one of one the 25 Natural Wonders of the Modern World, the Cliffs of Moher are truly one of Ireland's gems.  I was looking forward to this trip with the anticipation of seeing some birds.  Although many of my target birds weren't present (kittiwakes, puffins, guillemots) I did manage to locate some soaring and roosting Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis).  Unfortunately for me, I was unable to get any decent flight shots of the birds, as they appeared bright white against the almost-black rocks.   I would have to settle for some photos of Lesser Black-backed Gulls as they soared farther out toward open water.

Rebecca, our tour guide, had been here just 3 days earlier, and lamented that visibility was near zero due to constant fog.  We had unbelievable luck, having wonderful views of the cliffs in near-cloudless skies!

I spent some time taking some 'vertoramas' (vertical panoramas) of the cliffs, first from the left side, and then from the right.

We only had about 45 minutes at the place, so I scrambled to cover as much area as possible.  I kept hearing thin 'tseeps' from the surrounding grasslands, but was unable to see any birds other than a few Starlings.  I was along the left side of the cliffs, so I began to work my way to the far right side. Luckily the walk was only a couple hundred meters, so I managed to get to the other side in time to find a single Pied (White) Wagtail perched on the wires next to a small herd of feeding cows. 

I enjoyed photographing the cows as much as the wagtail.  But I needed to see some birds, so I headed out along the edge of the pature, where I found the source of the bird calls: Meadow Pipits (Anthus pratensis). A flock of a dozen birds were chasing each other, but pausing long enough for a few pics from 20 meters or so.

We then boarded the bus and headed toward the The Burren, a natural geologic feature of rocks, mosses and short grasses.  We spent a few minutes taking photos and walking around, but needed to continue on toward our lunch destination in the city of Galway

We would have almost 2 hrs. in Galway on our own, so Robin and I headed to Garvey's Pub for lunch.

After a terrific lunch of Guinness, Smithwicks, Bangers and Mash, and Irish Beef, we headed out for a walk around town.  Much like in Dublin the streets are active with outdoor cafes, shops, pubs, and big crowds.

The group then made a stop at the Connemara Marble Industries for a tour of their factory and some last minute shopping before heading back to Limerick.  Serpentine marble is a specialty of Connemara and is sold world-wide.  We spent some time seeing examples of raw marble slabs and polished final pieces. A wide range of jewellry was available for purchase in the gift shop, and folks took the opportunity to get some last-minute shopping of the trip.   I wandered across the street to their 'museum' and spent some time looking at some of old knick-knacks.

Returning to Limerick, I wanted to spend some time along the river trying to get some pics of the local bird life.  Black-headed Gulls were the most common bird in the area, but across the channel were a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a couple of Common Gulls.  A fly-by Cormorant provided a couple of pics.

Some locals were feeding the Mute Swans and Mallard ducks, which brought the birds in close enough to photograph.  This gave me an opportunity to document both adult and juvenile birds of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, adult and juvenile Black-headed Gulls, and adult and juvenile Common Gulls!

I also managed to find a pair of Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) feeding in the trees overhead.  Lighting prevented any decent images, but a nearby Chaffinch provided a brief glimpse and a quick photo.

We would then end our stay in Limerick with a nice dinner at the Strand Hotel.

Additional images can be seen here:

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