Day 4 – it just keeps getting better. After a leisurely breakfast with namesake Damaris Lysaght, she introduced us to the delights of Barley Cove. An extensive dune and species-rich grassland system that is alive with insects at this time of year. We spent way too long here wandering through the dunes seeing a good variety of butterflies, including Dark-green Fritillary, Gatekeeper and Wall which we don’t get in Kilkenny, and also beautifully fresh Small Copper, Common Blue and Small Tortoiseshell. Also saw another Clouded Yellow.
The grassland here are very species-rich – Lady’s Bedstraw, Pyramidal Orchid, Sea Holly, Sand Pansy and Wild Thyme adding great splashes of colour. The Knapweed was alive with Six-spotted Burnet moths, the ragwort was covered with caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth and, then, a hummingbird hawk moth appeared feeding on a patch of knapweed. This species is on my 10 species wishlist for the tour, so delighted to see it. One down, only nine more to go.
Being shown the caterpillars webs of the Marsh Fritillary butterfly, Ireland’s only legally protected insect, was an added treat. They are surprisingly difficult to find, but Damaris is well experience and found about 10. Seems to be a good year for Marsh Fritillary at Barley Cove this year. The dunes were full of juvenile Wheather, Meadow Pipit and Skylark also. We lingered way too long at this site, before heading to Brow Head, the most southerly point of mainland Ireland, for a quick picnic and the chance of seeing a Basking Shark. No Basking Shark but a family party of the majestic Chough fly low over head, their red bill and legs clearly visible.
The afternoon took me across the Mizen Penisula and onto Sheep’s Head. A severe climb after Kilcrohane took me to a fantastic vantage point where I could see all the surrounding land. The view northeastward back towards Bantry was stunning, with the green of the small fields contrasting with the blue estuary against the backdrop of the Iveragh Penisula. Raven calling overhead completed the picture. The cycle on to Glengarriff was longer than expected, and I covered almost 120km for the day and climbed 1,200 metres. It felt more, and I was glad to get to the B&B (Beer & Bed) before the rain arrived.