TALA 3: [This is one of several pages published under this heading by LoughAllenBasin.com We endeavour to highlight what this area of NorthWest Ireland has to offer as a place to live, a place where interesting Plants and Animals may be found, and as a quiet peaceful location for Hi Tech Enterprise.]

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3. Inishfale (8th May 2010)
exotic trees... wild boar... varied habitat... built structures...

 

Location:  An Island (nearly) at the south of Lough Allen with many exotic trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A different sort of place! Inishfale or OíConnorís Island, is an island of 2 small hills substantially covered in trees, joined to the mainland by a marshy, often flooded isthmus. The end of the peninsula was formerly the site of a residence, built in a  typical north west Ireland fashion, where people established homes or holiday homes on islands in lakes and put in the infrastructure and the  means of getting to them, also putting in walkways, around the perimeter of the estate. Several of these occur in the surrounding counties. Access to the house on Inishfale was was mainly by boat. Inishfale is at the southern end of Lough Allen close to Drumshanbo.

 

 

Inishfale north shore with native and planted tree species...

 

 

It is mainly the trees and the infrastructure that are significant here. Some of the various specimen trees we have observed in the area are named and described below.

There are a wide variety of rather unusual tree  species, ranging from Monkey Puzzles to Lime trees to Wych Elm, which  have either been planted, or are surviving in this area. These are very large trees, many of which need careful management at the moment and are not getting it. Bramble thickets (beloved of the Boars) are also encroaching formerly managed areas. Portuguese Laurel is another invasive species which is probably not doing the area any good. The initial impression we get of the site is that it could be an ideal base for some sort of retreat or study centre, linked to Drumshanbo by boat, possibly, rather than by road, and could provide a unique and distinctive holiday venue for many  people, of many interests.

Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra) (below). A native species, and one not all that common in A huge Wych Elm (Note person at base.)recent years. In the 1960ís and 70ís, Dutch  Elm disease (a fungus carried by an Elm bark beetle) destroyed almost all Common Elms in Ireland and  Britain. The Wych Elm was also affected, but it is slightly hardier and  more resistant to this disease. Some quite old specimens like this one (which is possibly 30metres high) can still be found,  especially in isolated locations like this. Its leaves are not as  asymmetrical as the Common Elm, have about 10 to 12 leaf veins, and are finely toothed at the edges. This tree had many seeds (carried in thin  flattened discs) in clusters or bunches in the higher branches.

Copper Beech (Fagus species) Not a native tree, but one that is often planted  for ornamental purposes. The specimens on Inishfale were, like the other interesting tree species, probably fairly old specimens. This was a  beautiful sunny day, and their reddish brown leaves looked stunning against the various shades of green of the commoner trees such as Willow, Ash and Chestnut.

 

Inishfale is an  environment, different in nature to most of Lough Allen, mainly because of its interesting man-built structures and introduced  plants.

Some of these trees are  not common elsewhere in Leitrim; for example, Copper Beech occurs here,  Copper Beech with Chesnuts...and Wych Elm, described opposite. Most of the trees on the island are hardwoods several large and attractive Scots Pine, a  native tree, are growing here. Some big Horse Chestnuts also occur.

The house is just a pile of ruins at this stage, but there are some interesting  navigational facilities designed to facilitate getting to and from the island from Drumshanbo. These include a harbour for a large  boat or barge, and a turning area with a mooring bay connecting, by a very short canal, to the lake. These are all, unfortunately, dry at this stage, and full of rocks, indicating a change of water levels since the time the place was occupied. But it would make an interesting project to clear out and make navigable again, if the overall problem of Lough Allenís changing water levels could be addressed. (Many of Lough Allenís unique plants and animals are suffering from unseasonably high Summer water levels in the lake over the past few years. e.g. the Irish Ladyís Tresses and the Mergansers.)

The isolation and the dense tree cover, and the rich variety of trees all mean that this Ďislandí provides a valuable haven for several of our more interesting birds. The Raven, Jay, Blackcaps, Woodcock and Flycatcher, to name a few. The Blackcap is now a common species in Ireland but its cousin, the Garden Warbler, is extremely rare. Being aware of the characteristics of its trees and plants, this island seems to provide a possible suitable habitat for this species.

(below)
The Garden Warbler, illustration by W v Wright from his book on Swedish Birds (c. 1910)

 

 

Mature Lime trees...
Lime. We  noticed two or three of these trees, though most likely there are other specimens. This is a fairly old tree (25 to 30 metres high) with typical fresh growth or shoots all around the base of the trunk. Limes  were commonly planted around gardens of big houses in the past, they have an attractive pale green leaf.

 

The Garden Warbler has not yet been found in Lough Allen, but occurs in  the lakes of Fermanagh and rumours exist regarding the Shannon Lakes. This is one the main reasons why we have approached this area, as Garden Warblers breeding here would be a significant asset to the Lough Allen repertoire of rare  plants and animals.

Woodcock have also been seen Ďrodingí through the trees. (Roding is a peculiar type of slow flight and calls with which the  male Woodcock tries to attract the female in Spring.) In the bay between the isthmus and the mainland, Greenshank have been seen on migration in the  Spring, also Teal and Wigeon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the negative side, along with the introduced Portuguese Laurel, Wild Boar have recently been seen on Inishfale and its approaches. (They were seen again on May 15th) In the relatively short time they have been on the  Island, they have done considerable rooting on the shoreline which could be disastrous to rare plants such as the Irish Ladies Tresses orchid or Mudwort, should they grow here. Are Wild Boar  being Ďdumpedí by people unknown in various places in Ireland? As a new and significant player in a delicate environment such as Inishfale they bring the potential to do considerable damage to some of the long established trees and other elements of this unique place. How they got out onto Inishfale  is quite a mystery. Lough Allenís delicate plants and rare breeding birds could be under threat from invasive species such as these and other ones listed elsewhere in this website. Though native to Ireland in the distant past, they are now considered to be an invasive species.

 

Wild Boars, young on left, in Central Europe.

 

 

Wild Boar damage on Inishfale...

 

A small party of 3 youngsters was encountered on a vist to the island in March. These were bright tan coloured and ran off squealing in a typical domestic pig manner when disturbed. Unfortunately we were as surprised as they were and were not able to procure any photographs on this occasion. A much more powerful and deeper voiced animal was later disturbed in dense thickets in the centre of the island. Presumably this was the boar. That animal is still present on the island as of May 2010.

Photograph above shows Wild Boar in central Europe. The habitat is a different type of wood but the animals seem identical to those encountered on Inishfale.

The picture on the left shows where these 3 young Wild Boars were uprooting the ground at the base of a fallen Alder tree. They had gone down quite deep and seemed to be intensively rooting for food when we disturbed them. Whether they would be searching for roots, worms, or other invertebrates as a food source is not known.

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We would be strongly of the view that Lough Allen has a particularly uniques set of rare and unusual plants and animals and that to introduce such potentially fast breeding and destructive animals such as the Wild Boar to an area such as this will only lead to damage to the environment and the reduction of Lough Allenís rich biodiversity. How to remove the Boars... now that is a different question?

 

 

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[MORE TRIPS to come! Including some from earlier dates than this one!]

If you have any interesting records of animals or plants from the Lough Allen basin, we will be very pleased to reproduce them here.