Tag Archives: cliffs

Late Summer Days

Sadly, we are already half-way through August, and only in the last week has the weather become good enough to be described as ‘enjoyable’. But it got exceptionally nice when the weath did come round, and it was a great time to do the Cliff Walk from the town of Bray to the slightly smaller town of Greystones to the south. Here’s a short video I made which gives a pretty good sense of the cliffs on a good summer’s day –

Here is a still image of the beautiful day-flying, and poisonous Six-spot Burnet Moth featured in the video, for those who want a closer look:

When seen in flight many people mistake the Six-spot Burnet Moth for some kind of huge bee or wasp.
When seen in flight many people mistake the Six-spot Burnet Moth for some kind of huge bee or wasp. Like the similarly-coloured Cinnabar Moth it is toxic to anything which tried to eat it.

Slightly smaller than the moth, but burning just as brightly is the Small Copper butterfly, which is especially common along the coast in summer months. It is only slightly bigger than a thumbnail but easy to spot. However, this species doesn’t sit still for very long.

Keep an eye out for this small but beautiful butterfly species.
Keep an eye out for this small but beautiful butterfly species.

Spring on the Cliffs

Early last week, when the weather started to warm up and get sunny as a spring should be, I decided to walk the Cliff Walk between Bray and Greystones, starting in Bray and ending in Greystones. It was a very misty but beautiful day for it nonetheless.

A beautiful day on the Cliff Walk, looking north in this photo.
A beautiful day on the Cliff Walk, looking north in this photo.

However, no sooner had I started the walk than I was surprised to see a big flock of Brent Geese flying south along the cliffs. Normally they would be well on their way to their summer breeding grounds, far to the north, by now.

A flock of beautiful dark Brent Geese flying south along the cliffs of Bray Head.
A flock of beautiful dark Brent Geese flying south along the cliffs of Bray Head.

The strange thing was that not only did I see geese, but there were no Barn Swallows (our only species) or even Sand Martins arrived from Africa yet. I expected to see at least one. In fact, I didn’t see my first swallow until two days ago, and only one at that. Yesterday I saw another two flying fast along the beach from south to north. They are definitely late this year. But on the cliffs last week breeding season was already well under way, with many seabirds staking their claims for nest sites on the cliff ledges.

Nesting colonies of seabirds are often very mixed. Here you can see Herring Gulls (our most common species of gull) and penguin-like Razorbills on the dangerous cliff ledges. Unlike penguins Razorbills are well able to fly, which is they only reason they can reach those ledges.
Nesting colonies of seabirds are often very mixed. Here you can see Herring Gulls (our most common species of gull) and penguin-like Razorbills on the dangerous cliff ledges. Unlike penguins Razorbills are well able to fly, which is they only reason they can reach these ledges.

I was especially glad to see that the Fulmars had returned. These gull-like petrels spend most of their lives far out at sea, returning to shore only briefly, to nest on the cliffs. By June you will be lucky to see one, let alone get a good look at a Fulmar. They can be currently seen nesting both above and below the Cliff Walk on cliff ledges. Be very careful if leaning over to observe them. And don’t get too close either – they are known to projectile vomit a stinking liquid at anyone who they feel may pose a threat, and I’m reliably informed it doesn’t wash off.

Love birds - a handsome couple of Fulmars nesting on a ledge below the Cliff Walk. If you want to get a photo of this lovely species, now is your chance.
Love birds – a handsome couple of Fulmars nesting on a ledge below the Cliff Walk. If you want to get a photo of this lovely species, now is your chance.

Spring Along The Cliffs

Last week I walked the Cliff Walk between Bray and Greystones and discovered that already many seabirds had arrived to begin the breeding season. Kittiwakes were on the cliffs closest to the sea surface and Fulmars had arrived in from the ocean to find nesting sites below and even above the pathway. However, I was most impressed by the Razorbills, which were fishing below the cliffs, moving in formation.

Razorbills enjoying the sunshine below the cliffs of Bray Head.
Razorbills enjoying the sunshine below the cliffs of Bray Head.

These birds look just like penguins, but are decent fliers too. In fact, they are closely-related to the original penguin, the Great Auk. which went extinct in the middle of the 19th century. As I proceeded along the path a seal moved along the cliffs at almost exactly the same rate, and appeared to be waiting, and would then mischievously dive beneath the waves when I attempted to take a photo. From the distance it appeared to me to be a Harbour Seal but it can be hard to tell.

The seal which followed my journey along the cliffs. It's nose is quite blunt which means it's almost certainly a Harbour Seal, aka Common Seal. Ironically they're not as common as the larger Grey Seal.
The seal which followed my journey along the cliffs. It’s nose is quite blunt which means it’s almost certainly a Harbour Seal, aka Common Seal. Ironically they’re not as common as the larger Grey Seal.

The pathway was decorated by the white blossoms of Blackthorn trees and it is a great place to get close enough to the spiky Gorse bushes which are covered in bright yellow and beautiful blossoms. These blossoms have a subtle but quite strong scent. There’s something nostaligic about it and it fills the air along the path right now.

Gorse (aka Furze) blooming by the pathway on Bray Head. Spring is the time of the big blooming.
Gorse (aka Furze) blooming by the pathway on Bray Head. Spring is the time of the big blooming.