|Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus)|
The last time I visited Beartra Strand or Beach near Westport was a long time ago. And I remember it being a sandy beach where we had a barbecue looking out over the drumlins of Clew Bay. I was shocked this time however that due to erosion a lot of the sand is gone and they have huge boulders and rocks in netting protecting the dunes. The dunes themselves are supposed to be protected by fences but these have fallen down. People walk in amongst the dunes creating paths and kids can be seen jumping down chutes of sand in the dunes thus degrading and eroding them further. Dunes are a a very fragile environment and also a habitat for wildlife. The beach itself is mostly rounded stones now and the dunes are in danger of disappearing. I do wish County Councils in Ireland instead of spending time thinking up stupid new bye-laws would do more to protect what we have. This erosion however is great for Rock Pipits (Anthus petrosus) which provide great opportunities for taking their photos as they go about the rocks gathering all sorts of insects.
|Sea Slater (Ligia oceanica) on the stone beach|
The rocks, and washed up seaweed, of course provide great habitat for sand fleas, Sea Slaters (Ligia oceanica) above and other insects which in turn provide food for many birds.
|Clew Bay drumlins and Inishgort Lighthouse|
As I said, Beartra looks out on Clew Bay which is a unique bay where drumlins form many islands such as those above. They are the work of glaciers on underlying unconsolidated material. You can see in the right of the above shot Inishgort Lighthouse.
|Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)|
The bay naturally provides a haven for many seabirds such as gulls and the Sandwich Terns above, whilst the mudflats behind Beartra and towards Westport are ideal for waders.
|Coral Fossils in limestone boulders|
Not all you see is alive, some has been dead for many years, for example these corals fossilised in limestone boulders that were brought in the protect the dunes.
|Chapel atop Croagh Patrick|
Overlooking Beartra is Croagh Patrick which has been a place of pilgrimage since before Christianity, but more so since, since it was here St. Patrick, after forty days of fasting is said to have chased all the snakes out of Ireland. He obviously missed a few bankers and politicians at the time. People still make the pilgrimage on Reek Sunday, some in their feet and in days gone by on their knees. Given the scree nature of the climb, these methods ensured you made your penance.
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