Exploring the Derryounce bog walk in Portarlington

Albert Nolan


Albert Nolan

Derryounce walk Portarlinton

Derryounce walk Portarlinton

Albert Nolan on brings us on a written journey around at Derryounce Portarlington.

We were up to Portarlington this summer to visit my sister and nephews and collect my son who likes to escape from his family for a few days each summer.

Just up from her house the beautiful Derryounce bog walk waits to be explored and we always takes a few hours to explore its trails and wildlife.

Cars are well accommodated with ample parking by the nature reserve.

The sign on a tree reads that work is ongoing, and nature is the work of generations and passing on a habitat in better condition that was inherited.

The first bird of the day is a Blackcap singing. These used to be mainly summer migrants but, over the last ten years, have started to overwinter and are common visitors to gardens.

The local birds are not going to be outdone by this blow-in, and a wren responds with a song of his own.

We cross the road and start the journey through the Derryounce bog walk.

A living willow hedge has been planted along by the edge of the path.

Willow is very pliable and can be weaved into different shapes. Its spring catkins are a great early source of nectar for bees.

The part of the path is bordered with a mature hedgerow, with a mixture of hawthorn, elderberry, ivy, bramble and sycamore.

This creates a linear habitat and attracts species that live in a woodland edge.

As we walk along we hear a wren and robin singing and find a female blackbird on the path.

Behind the hedgerow there is open farmland and the woodpigeon is a common bird of the fields bordered by trees.

They feed on leaves of wildflowers and especially dandelion and in the autumn dine on the berries of the ivy.

A lone swallow swoops low over the path as he hawks another insect.

He was a feature throughout the walk and all the flowers with their associated insects are a haven for this species.

This walk is a botanical lover’s heaven and every few feet there is a new treasure awaiting discovery.

Meadow vetchling with its climbing yellow flowers and creeping thistle whose purple flower attract bees and seeds are devoured by goldfinches.

Ragwort is the host plant of the caterpillars of the daytime flying cinnabar moth, while the white umbel flowers of common hogweed hum with insects.

Dog rose has delicate pink flowers are red hips in late summer.

Birds often remain hidden and a bit of detective work is needed to revel what specie are in your area. Broken snail shells lay scattered on the path and these are the work of a song thrush.

They use a stone called an anvil to break open the hard shells and get at the soft body inside. Bigger blackbirds often wait in the wings till all the work is done and then step in to rob the thrush’s meal.

Horses are grazing in a field and these are great green lawnmowers.

They keep the rank grass under control and this allows the wildflowers to grow. I find the bright yellow flowers of bird’s foot trefoil and the tall narrow leaved plantain.

Orchids of any kind are always welcome and I find a few Pyramidal orchids growing in the horse’s field.

These flowers are a sign of old undisturbed meadows and the seeds need the help of certain soil bacteria to grow.

The short grass suits insects and I hear the singing of the grasshoppers.

These insects like dry warm habitats and are extremely well camouflaged.

A bright red cinnabar moth is resting on the grass. Its bright colour warns predators that it is unpleasant to eat so it can fly during the day. The cinnabars caterpillars are black and amber and feed on Ragwort.

This tall yellow flower has been left alone by the horses.

With the evening closing in we head back for a welcome dinner and will continue our exploration the following day.