The warm Spring and Summer weather so far, with just the right amount of rain for growth has clearly benefitted all the wild inhabitants at Sheskinmore and beyond. In late May, we had a visit from a local national school and myself and our new volunteer took them for a guided walk around the reserve. The children were delighted with the abundance of rabbits and cinnebar moths and they took the time to sit quietly near the bird hide to enjoy the display calls from the lapwing flying over the lake and the melodious singing from overhead Skylarks.
When I was preparing for their visit I had a walk around the dry rocky slopes west of the mass house at Mullyvea. In late May or early June this is a great place, on a fine sunny day to see the rarer butterflys that occur at Sheskinmore. I was lucky to see a Small Copper and also a couple of Small Blue and three Dingy Skippers. Before I finished my walk I had also seen Tortoiseshell, Green-veined White and Peacock butterflies aswell as some of the early Marsh orchids and very vocal and visual Lapwing. Small Blue are tiny distinct butterflys, with a wingspan of only 16-25mm. Dingy Skipper are also very small and as they are fast fliers they are hard to keep track of. Both of these species use Bird’s foot trefoil as a larval food plant.
Most of June was warm and dry. The water levels in the lough got quite low before I got around to closing the sluice. The muddy shoreline is what attracted some wader and dragonfly species in the past. The water levels need to be maintained to preserve the protected Slender Naiad plant in the lough, but with careful management a balance could be struck to manage the water levels for the benefit of all. The wild flowers grew quickly once the grazing livestock were removed in the Spring and by early June the wet grassland was looking great and more and more orchids were appearing as the month went on.
During April, May and June the BirdWatch Ireland staff were surveying the breeding waders, particularly Lapwing, to assess their usage of the protected area inside the predator fence and to see what other sites they are using as well as to gauge the threat to their breeding success from avian predators such as Hooded crows and Jackdaws. I estimated that there was 7-10 pairs of Lapwing breeding around the Marsh and Lough. Three or four pairs are outside the predator fence. Other survey work outside Sheskinmore was greatly assisted by the good weather. There was corncrake surveying, Chough surveying, Breeding seabirds and Storm petrel surveys carried out as well as a count of the breeding Common seals at the Gweebarra. The breeding bird season is coming to an end, the Common Seals are just beginning, they will continue to have pups for next month and then all haul out to moult in late August and early September.