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Ireland Trip - Day 6 - Ireland

Blogging at 21:50 on Sunday 13th August from intended overnighting spot N 51.95363°, W 07.83196° / http://maps.google.com/maps?q=loc:51.95363%2C-07.83196

It was a super-peaceful camp last night and although we saw no more pine martens we did spot a few siskins feeding on birch this morning.

In something of an unusual move for us, we initially back-tracked a few miles for a couple of reasons. As we'd driven through Dungarven we'd seen a splendid spot next to the estuary that seemed to offer some good birding opportunities; plus, leading up to the town on yesterday's drive, we'd seen what looked like an impressive greenway that seemingly linked Dungarven to Waterford.

Sure enough, it does. Not only that but it does it in style. It's only a few years old and has been built and maintained to a standard that any Danish, Dutch or German cycle-network project manager would be jealous of:  https://greenwaysireland.org/waterford-greenway/

Emma Gump was delighted at such a safe and foolproof running prospect and no sooner had I stopped the engine than she was changed and off. She said 8 miles: I knew it would be more.

For my part I took to the bike and after a brief whiz around the not unpleasant seaside town of Dungarven set off up the greenway about 10 minutes later. She'd already run about 3 miles by the time I caught her and showed no signs of even thinking about turning back.

I pressed on ahead and had a very pleasant ride along the smooth and clean tarmacked surface; slowed only by the splendid views and the need to take things a bit easy whilst passing a multitude of people of all ages and persuasions making full use of what is genuinely a most impressive resource. From parents with buggies, through kids on wobbly bikes, to sports and cycle tourists: this is deservedly one brilliantly well-used initiative. Kudos to the people that made it happen.

My total ride time was about an hour and ten minutes but I'd been back at the truck, showered, watched birds and common seals in the estuary (black-tailed godwits present in huge numbers) and fully prepared lunch by the time Emma eventually returned. Her total distance was north of 13 miles.

Whilst eating lunch and continuing to watch the estuary traffic and people started to build and it became obvious there was set to be a hurling match in the GAA stadium not far from where we'd parked. Adults and youth alike filed past the truck and all were obviously in good spirits. Here's the notable bit: innumerable groups of teenage lads filed past the truck and it was slightly disarming to witness them just simply chatting quietly amongst themselves (sometimes about the truck) as they trooped along. Had this been England, it's almost certain that the same groups absolutely would have been loud, swearing, boorish and would have given me - geekishly watching birds out of an unusual vehicle window - a healthy dollop of mocking jibes. I was acutely aware I'd pre-judged a situation through a weary socialised English prism. My country is not in a good place.

After quitting Dungarven we retraced our retrace and headed generally west. Only a few miles into the drive we stumbled upon a mass open burial ground that was the final stop for thousands who perished in The Great Famine (pic). We took the time to stop and had a suitably sombre wander around the (rarely visited, it seems) site and then, feeling slightly unsettled about giant Toblerones, recommenced the westward jaunt.

Which now sees us at tonight's intended overnighting spot overlooking Youghal harbour. It wasn't an easy spot to find as, once again, No Overnight Parking signs are more often than not to be found on most van-sized-or-larger patches of land around these parts.

It's a nice enough spot that's given up more bird species that I'd first thought likely. Amongst the more notable have been: greenfinch, linnets, wheatear, meadow pipit, stonechat, dunlin, ringed plover, sandwich tern, turnstone and a solitary whimbrel; more than likely stocking up on its way back to its African wintering grounds.

One, and only one, of the ringed plover was employing a really productive feeding technique. Unlike all others present, or that I've ever seen (which ordinarily just dart about restlessly and then stab at any invertebrates they happen upon) this one stood still on the sand / shingle and then vibrated / drummed one leg really rapidly. The result seems to have been that this disturbed hidden invertebrates and tricked them to make a bid for escape only to be scoffed by the guilesome bird in question. When it had been successful - and it was clearly eating far more than its peers - it would then repeat the process but with the other leg. I don't know if this is a known behaviour with this species but will try to find out.

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