Monday, February 28, 2011

Wicklow weather

Thought I might head inland to Wicklow. Found myself parking up opposite the entrance to the Lough Dan walk and taking my compulsory look down at what has to be the bleakest, most ominous, blackest, most unforgiving bit of water going - Lough Tay - always makes me thankful to be on land.
Drove down to Sally Gap and took a left on to Military Road. I got out and walked a few parts along this road, the landscape is so amazing. It was noticeably silent of bird song or raptor calls. No small birds = no big birds.
The blue sky of the morning had obviously been a temporary hurrah as the afternoon brought rainclouds, several hailstorms and several downpours.
Standing in the same spot on Military Road these photos show how rapidly the weather can change in the Wicklow mountains within 10 minutes. Every photo has the same landscape and a different sky.


When I saw a break in the weather and a continuous blue sky developing again, I started a bit of a climb up Gravale mountain.
There's no path/track going up Gravale, but I figured it might be the only chance I had to get a bit of a walk in, so up I climbed. Even if Gravale is just like a big, heathery, boggy hill the views were amazing.
After a while I decided I wasn't going to go any further and I had a lie down in the heather, face up to the sun and listened to the silence. A raptor flying across or a red grouse appearing out of the heather would have been perfect but instead my phone rang. I was suprised I had reception. 'What you doing', 'lying in the heather', 'well I think I'm going to head down to Derrybawn'. I wasn't going to make it to Derrybawn, but I took that call as the nudge I needed that it was time to head back, so down I skidded back to the car.
I stopped at the organic shop in Laragh for a coffee and a flapjack handing over €6.15!! for the privilege. I was going to say it seemed a lot, but in typical fashion, I just gave her my money and didn't say a thing. At least the coffee was really decent and how often can that be said for takeaway coffee?
I pulled up at Vartry Reservoir and saw Sarah also pulled up there, as we were chatting, another of Sarah's friends turned up - who needs pubs?
Great Crested Grebe - Vartry reservoir
Sarah also thought she saw (and I agreed) a female Merganser swimming with a GC Grebe, but it was too far out and silhouetted against the strong setting sun.
With not much else going on, we headed off, unaware we were about to witness a raptor making a kill. It took us by complete surprise, Sarah spotted it first from behind some trees and thought she saw a moustachial stripe, but it was so quick it was difficult to fix a decent look at it. We thought it was a Peregrine at first, but then switched to it being a Sparrowhawk. Luckily I had the camera to hand so was able to snap some shaky shots and looking back at them, it was indeed a Peregrine Falcon.
Peregrine Falcon, bendy wings

Peregrine Falcon - bluey, grey back

Peregrine Falcon - visible thin bars on tail

Peregrine Falcon - yellow legs and white chin and cheeks

Peregrine Falcon - yellow eyes, moustachial stripe, grey finely barred underwings and body.
I was pleased I managed at least a few dodgy shots, good as a record and to look at and learn from.It was time for me to head home, so I left Wicklow to it's ever changing sky and the beauty it constantly offers (except for Lough Tay, shudder).

Ever changing sky over Wicklow mountains