Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ireland: A Bit of Killarney

Our base for our first two nights in the southwest was Killarney in County Kerry, famous for its beautiful lakeside scenery.  From here we visited such non-natural-history venues as the English Market in Cork (well worth a visit, by the way), and began our exploration of the Ring of Kerry, the subject of my next posting.  The Killarney countryside, though, is so lovely that it deserves a brief post of its own.

Killarney features the highest peaks in Ireland, the McGillycuddy's Reeks, though at 1000 metres they hardly rival the Himalayas.  More famous are the lakes that lie at the mountains' base, and the wooded landscape that surrounds them (much of it protected as part of the Killarney National Park).

The view from this particular spot won the particular approval of Queen Victoria's ladies in waiting back in 1861 – hence the name, though it seems perfectly appropriate for Eileen as well.

 Here is what the ladies were looking at.

Gorse (Ulex europaeus)
In early spring there are a few flowers about to add decorative detail, including the prickly, unloved but nonetheless beautiful Gorse (Ulex europaeus).

Bramble (Rubus sp)
These are the flowers of a sort of raspberry, a plant referred to in Britain and Ireland as a bramble (Rubus sp.). Telling the various brambles apart requires, I'm afraid, more skill than I can muster.

American Skunk-Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus)
These bright green leaves spreading from a muddy lake edge are certainly a sign of early spring, but they shouldn't really be in Ireland. This is American Skunk-Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus), an introduced plant, probably derived from garden escapees. Of course, in North America seeing an alien European plant is nothing new – most of our roadside wildflowers would qualify – but the reverse is far less common.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Irish attitudes towards one of the island's most common mammals, the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) would seem to be, at best, ambivalent.  Foxes benefit agriculture by keeping down the numbers of rabbits and rodents, but chicken farmers don't like them and neither do sheep ranchers (though as far as sheep are concerned foxes are more likely to be scavengers and active hunters, even for young lambs). The owner of this particular gateway, alas, did not appear to approve of them.

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