The Emerald Isle

You won’t encounter any snakes when walking in Irish grassland, for instance, neither will you see moles, weasels, the common toad or any small rodents other than the wood mouse. Red squirrels are more in evidence than the gray, for the former are more widespread, while in hill country, especially in Connemara, there is an introduced species of red deer. On remote beaches on western islands gray seals breed and sometimes that nocturnal animal, the otter, may be seen during the day, so undisturbed are these places. Although the otter’s preferred habitat is the shallow sea off rocky coasts, it has also been seen on Ireland’s inland waterways. For many nature-lovers, however, the great interest of Ireland lies in its birdlife, and this is abundant both on the coasts and along inland waterways. From the cliffs of the extreme west, where the chough still breeds well while declining in the rest of Europe, to the mudflats and salt marshes of east- and south-coast river estuaries, which attract spectacular flocks of wading birds and wildfowl, including Brent geese, curlews, redshanks, and teal, Ireland is a bird-watcher’s paradise. When observing colonies of breeding seabirds, including kittiwakes, shags, Manx shearwaters, gannets, and several different types of gull, you should be positioning yourself on some west-facing headland in early summer, where you might even be rewarded with dolphins or porpoises coming within sight of land. Ireland’s rivers and central wetlands, created by the high annual rainfall, offer breeding grounds for many kinds of water birds, including swans, herons, and moorhens. Wild Ireland 248