Life in the Bog: A Nature Walk in Newcastle Bog

Home » Library » The Athenry Journal » Record

To round off a very successful Lady’s Day Festival a nature walk was organised for those of us with an interest in our environment The walk was conducted by environmentalist Gordon D’Arcy, who introduced us to what remains of one of our own very precious Raised Bogs.

He is an expert in his field and led his party down the bog road towards the dry lifeless layer of cut away bog, robbed of all its natural wonder for all time.

There was still heat in the evening sun with little or no breeze as our attention was drawn to the sights, sound and delights of nature at work and rest. The man himself has such keen sharp senses.

His eyesight is that of an eagle, able to identify all species of bird as they duck and dive through the air and sit camouflaged among trees and bushes, his hearing is as sharp as a fox, able to pick up sounds and again identify the species. His sense of smell is that of a bloodhound, informing us of the latest fox trail as we try to sniff it out for ourselves without success, and he could mimic like a myria bird all species of bird life.

Because of the peace and tranquillity on the bog a large selection of butterflies could be observed like the “‘Lary Heath”, which is only found on bogs and feeds on bog cotton; the “Red Admiral”; the “Painted Lady” and the “Peacock” giving us a beautiful display of their markings. The Red Admiral and Painted Lady are migrants from Europe; worth looking them up in your nature book.

The migrant butterflies move very fast and swiftly when it comes to taking off, not like our common variety that move with the grace of a fully laden jumbo jet.

As we combed and sieved our way through the undergrowth of the undisturbed High Bank we came across Scabious with its purple ball flower; Blue Moor Grass, where large colonies of geese can survive; Sundew, a tiny low green plant that supplements its nutrients by catching small insects on its little sticky flower head and hairy stems.

We were also informed that the common frog, which we disturbed as we crunched along under-foot, was introduced to Ireland in 1515. Gordon’s observation of everything going on around him was truly remarkable, a wealth of knowledge and information to be drawn from.

One very common site we did not stumble upon was that of the INDISCRIMINATE DUMPING OF RUBBISH, like bottles, cans. black plastic, washing machines and cookers, etc. Such items are neither migrant nor common visitors to the bog. They are just a bloody eyesore, created by thoughtless people.

Our lovely Licklea River looked in a poor state that evening and hopefully with the help of Gordon, the Newcastle Foróige Club and all interested parties we could clean it up and try out a new technique for filtering water, using net bags of straw.

Life in the bog would not be complete without the midges, who won the day. They were out in force and drove us back to where we came from. Are they trying to tell us something like “leave well enough alone”?

Many thanks to all who participated in the nature walk and Mr Gordon D’Arcy for his time and enthusiasm.

Feature Photo: Gordan D’Arcy, Environmentalist

– –

About this record

Written by Ann Murphy

Published here 09 Feb 2021 and originally published November 1995

– –