17 Aug 2022

Wild About Wildlife: Coolacurragh nature walk

Wild About Wildlife: Coolacurragh nature walk

If you are up that way, take a break in Coolacurragh which is located about about 8 km northwest of Durrow in Co Laois

WE were on a trip to visit my sister who lives in Laois and of course I had done some research on places that would make an interesting stop. I have been exploring Laois for many years and if you are into nature and the outdoors it has loads to offer.

The weather was extremely hot so I was looking for a fairly sheltered walk. Coolacurragh nature walk popped up in Goggle search and it was just a short detour from our route.

The walk was situated down a quite country road and there is plenty of parking at the entrance. Inside the gate the ragwort was full of hoverflies. Plants often have a dual identify based on human perceptions. Across the road on the farmers land this is classed as a noxious weed but here it is wildlife friendly as it supports summer bees.

We were not sure which path to take but presumed it went around in a loop. I think an information panel inside the gate would be very beneficial and also give a flavour of the plants, insects, birds and animals.

We plunged into the dark and cool woods and these conditions were perfect for a hot day. I loved the way the paths are well maintained but nature is allowed to grow freely along the edges.

Where patches of light flittered through the tree canopy tall daises stretched up towards the sun. This was joined by herb robert but the ground also had to be dry for this plant. The wood was very quiet for the first part of the walk with no birds singing.

In the damper parts of the wood, willow was the dominant tree. It leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of dozens of species of moth who in turn become food for hungry birds.

The evocative enchanter’s nightshade grows in even the deepest shade. It has small white flowers and near my house it grows happily under several large conifer trees. Along the path it brightened up even the darkest patch.

We came across one invasive species the Japanese knotweed. There is only one patch and if it is controlled now it can be prevented from spreading and taking over.

Honeysuckle and ivy were scrambling up through the Hawthorn and ash trees and this wood has many different layers that support wildlife.

Our first bird was a wren singing from a lush growth of ferns. It was followed quickly by the quite calls of the bullfinch.

In a gap in the trees a swallow made a brief appearance and I had to look twice to make sure I was not mistaken. It song was the real giveaway and there are plenty of flying insects for the swallow to feed on.

There were lots of tree saplings around the wood and this natural regeneration is a healthy sign. There were several Horsechestnut saplings and I did not notice a parent tree. The answer to how they got scattered around the wood came in the form of a very excited jay. This bird has a shrieking call and buries acorns as a winter larder. Perhaps it mistakenly buried some conkers.

The mucky scent of a fox hung over the path and we were not the only visitors that day. We knew the path was swinging back towards the car, as we heard the farmer’s tractor and the sound of a car on the road.

The last of the trees were a blackthorn, alder and a massive silver bird’s tree. This had a few sorry looking bird boxes on it and putting up a few new ones with be a great project. Also include a bat box.

Back at the car we spotted a lone ringlet flying along between the foxgloves on the roadside bank.

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