Sunday, 29 January 2012

Outing to Swan Lake and Lough Gowna

Report By Tom Murtagh

A squally westerly breeze with occasional, but all too short, spells of sunshine greeted Cavan Branch members and some locals of the area who assembled on the shoreline of Swan Lake, Lough Gowna village, on the morning of Sunday 22nd January for the Branch’s first outing of 2012.
Swan Lake is situated beside Lough Gowna village in south west Cavan and is a wildlife sanctuary providing refuge for a number of duck species during the shooting season on the nearby Lough Gowna lake system. On this visit, Mallard was the predominant species present (c.250+) with smaller number of Wigeon.
Teal, Shoveler and Tufted Duck were also present in small numbers as was a solitary Great Crested Grebe, a Great Black Backed Gull, a pair of Mute Swans and some Moorhen. The ducks were concentrated on the northern shore of the lake and best views were obtained through the scopes. The lake is a great natural amenity for the village and easily viewed from the Granard Road.
After viewing Swan Lake, some members proceeded to do a quick tour of the Lough Gowna lake system, with good views of the lake from Dernaferst Bridge, Aghakine Road and Erne Head (the latter two locations being in Co. Longford). Lough Gowna itself lies on the Cavan Longford border and is surrounded by a mixture of farmland, coniferous and deciduous woodland, with some reed bed cover and a few islands, the largest being Inchmore Island at the southern end of the lake. Viewing of the lake is well served from a network of local roads with a number of public access points, and some good roadside viewing where a scope comes in handy.  On our visit, we spotted  small parties of Goldeneye (with some displaying males) and Wigeon at Aghakine Point on the west side of the lake, a Kestrel hunting over Woodville Forest and, at Inchmore Island (Culray), a small flock of Curlew, some Coot along with Great Crested and Little Grebes, Tufted Duck and a pair of Mute Swans.
The Lough Gowna/Swan Lake catchment area has a good diversity of habitat – farmland, bog, woodland etc. with a number of well-developed public walks and pathways which make for an interesting area for exploration from a bird watching perspective in any season.  This was the first winter outing by the Cavan Branch to this area and all agreed was an enjoyable and worthwhile venture, despite the sometimes inclement weather conditions on the day.

For further information on birding in the Lough Gowna area see:
Birds in County Cavan – JK Lovatt (2006),
Finding Birds in Ireland – Eric Dempsey & Michael O’Cleary (2007)
Ireland’s Wetlands and their Waterbirds: Status and Distribution – Olivia Crowe/Birdwatch Ireland (2005)

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