Plenty of reasons to be wild about Kerry

I LIVE in a beautiful part of rural Co Kildare and I love the landscape and the wildlife that surrounds me. But now and again I get a hankering for something different. And I have to admit that Kildare is slightly lacking in high mountains and dramatic seascapes.

So I had no hesitation about accepting an invitation to spend a few days in Kerry, a county that’s about as different to Kildare as it gets. I was staying in a house on the north shore of the Kenmare River during a glorious Indian summer – hot, sunny days without a cloud in the sky and crisp, cold nights.

I woke early on the first morning, went downstairs and, through the front window, noticed something splashing in the bay. I took binoculars and a mug of coffee out into the sunshine and spent half an hour watching a pod of about 20 dolphins playing those inexplicable dolphin games. You don’t get to see that in the Grand Canal.

The garden was alive with insects. The bumble bees seemed to be on over-time, making up for all those dismal days of rain when the flowers had kept their petals closed. A red admiral butterfly joined them, its colours so fresh and bright that it must have just migrated in from the north of Spain.

Later we drove up high into the mountains to fly fish for trout in a small lake. At the back of the lake was a precipice with a pair of ravens on it, croaking loudly to each other. We have ravens in Co Kildare but when they croak the sound doesn’t echo off a sheer rock face.

Then, far off in the distance, I heard another strange sound… the roar of a red deer stag announcing the start of the rutting season.

The heather was still in bloom, along with some montbretia, and in between I found the unmistakeable rosettes of pale green leaves of the large-flowered butterwort, although the flowers were long gone. This is an amazing plant, particularly to someone from the midlands, because as far as I know in Ireland it’s only found in upland areas of Kerry and west Cork. It’s also found in some mountainous areas of France and Spain but it’s regarded as rare there and the flowers seem to be paler than the ones that grow in Ireland.

It is, of course, carnivorous. The pale leaves are sticky and the edges of them are rolled inwards. I gently unrolled a couple and eventually came across the partly digested corpse of a small ant. Then I sprawled on the warm heather and ate my own picnic lunch.

We caught enough trout to cover the top of the barbeque but before we lit the charcoal we drove back down the hill for celebratory pints in a bar with a view of the sea. The water was calm, just a very slight swell lifting the fringe of seaweed around a rock, a couple of hundred metres offshore. Then I noticed something else was lifting the seaweed – and I hadn’t brought the binoculars with me to the bar. I strained my eyes, trying to make out what it was.

At first I thought it might be an otter – on fine evenings they often venture down to the shore in search of crabs and other shellfish. But eventually it showed itself more clearly and it was a seal methodically hunting through the weed for food. I couldn’t be sure without binoculars but from its size it looked more like a common seal than an Atlantic grey.

Then back to grilled trout with salt and lemon and the thought that Kerry is indeed very different to Kildare.



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