Take a hike (with me?): Knocknarea

Knocknarea is a very famous hiking trail near Sligo. Everything I read said it was a loop trail, but as I learned, it is actually a linear trail that goes from the carpark at the base of Knocknarea, over the hill, and straight into town (Strandhill). Thinking it was a loop trail, I kept hiking along dopily until I was close enough to Strandill to read the shop signs. Only then did I snap out of my daydream to realise that it was in fact not a loop trail. I doubled back over the hill double time in order to meet a friend who was picking me up to take me back to Dublin. Luckily, it’s neither that steep, nor that long, so I was able to get to the top from the base in around 20 minutes when I was moving and not idly snapping photographs.
Knocknarea
The “grave of Queen Maeve”, which looks a little like a pimple on top of the hill from a distance (no disrespect intended). It says not to climb on it and indeed I respectfully kept my distance, but there were quite a few people having lunch on top of the grave.
Knocknarea
Panoramic views of the coast on all sides
Knocknarea
The hill is very flat on top and the wind was whipping by at about a thousand miles per hour, without taking a breath. I have a feeling it is regularly this windy at the top without trees to block it.
Knocknarea
I was regularly drenched by passing rain showers, but as a reward, there was intermittent sunshine in between!
Knocknarea
There’s Strandhill…as I learned, you can in fact walk right down to it from the top of the hill. So my hike started at the Knocknarea carpark, went up the hill, meandered around the top, went down the other side almost to Strandhill, then double time back up the mountain and down into the carpark again, haha!
Knocknarea
Knocknarea
Knocknarea
Knocknarea
Knocknarea
Knocknarea
Knocknarea
Knocknarea
There were signs for an ancient village that had thrived here, with the ruins still visible
Knocknarea
Knocknarea
Overall, a very worthy short and easy hike for an afternoon. Or if you want to make it more challenging, go down to the base on the other side of the mountain and run back up again!

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Some photos from the west coast of Ireland, Rathlee

Rathlee
I was on the west coast of Ireland, visiting Sligo last month, and we stayed in a little AirBnB in Rathlee, which is a tiny town on the coast. I spent the mornings exploring the coast and admiring the scenery.
Rathlee
Rathlee
Stonechat
Rathlee
Plenty of birds to enjoy
Rathlee
Rock Pipit
Rathlee
Rathlee
April lamb
Rathlee
Dramatic coast
Rathlee
Rathlee
Ringed Plover
Rathlee
Fluffy willow warbler on a willow
Rathlee
I love this photo of a great tit
Rathlee
Rathlee

Couldn’t decide whether these were curlews or whimbrels…ideas?
Rathlee
Rathlee
Rathlee

Irish mason bee

I think this is a male Osmia bicornis (rufa), which is one of two mason bee species in Ireland. This is the first photo I’ve gotten of an Irish mason bee! I’m really hoping to get a photo of the other species (Osmia aurulenta) because it nests in snail shells! I just learned that Osmia bicornis may have been deliberately introduced to Ireland from the UK for its pollination services.

Osmia bicornis
Osmia bicornis

The cuckoo bee emerges…

…from her host’s nest. This nomad bee lays her eggs in the nests of mining bees, where they hatch out before the host bee’s egg. The nomad bee larva consumes the pollen collected by the mining bee, and then usually also the mining bee egg… so watching her emerge from a mining bee nest was very ominous!
Nomada goodeniana
Nomada goodeniana
Nomada goodeniana

More buffish mining bee photos

I didn’t feel like I did these bees justice, so I went back and got some more photos just to show how cute they are (plus, trying to get a photo of the ashy mining bees there…still failed!).

IMG_8237
You’ll just have to take my word for it, but there’s an ashy mining bee in there
Andrena nigroaenea
Buffish mining bee
Andrena nigroaenea
Andrena nigroaenea
On a clover because she’s an Irish bee
Andrena nigroaenea
So cute!

Buffish mining bee aggregation

I found another mining bee aggregation! I’ve lost track of how many bee aggregations I’ve found this spring, which is a good place to be in, in my humble opinion. This is the largest aggregation I’ve seen in Ireland. It’s on a university campus in south Dublin, and again people walk past on both sides without noticing the hundreds of mining bees flying around. I think the cuckoo bee here is Nomada goodeniana, and the bulk of the aggregation is Andrena nigroaenea (the buffish mining bee). However, I did see some ashy mining bees too, so it’s a multispecies aggregation.

Andrena nigroaenea
Mid flight photo
Andrena nigroaenea
You can see how many bees there are!
Andrena nigroaenea
Zzzzooooom
Nomada goodeniana
I think the cuckoo bee is Nomada goodeniana (it has this frowny face on the back of the scutellum)
Andrena nigroaenea
These mining bees are honeybee sized…I suspect the bright orange pollen is the horse chestnut
IMG_7712
Mid-flight confrontation between the cuckoo bee and mining bees, you can also see the size difference
Nomada goodeniana
Nomada goodeniana
They’re cute though!
Andrena nigroaenea
Not as cute as the mining bees, maybe
Nomada goodeniana
Harrumph! Well, tell us how you really feel!
Andrena nigroaenea
High nest density
Andrena nigroaenea
Andrena nigroaenea
IMG_7850
The only blurry evidence I have that the ashy mining bees were also present