Apr 202011

Woodchat Shrike, Rosscarbery -- photo by Colin Barton

Today was an amazing day.

You know those balmy April days that practically taste of the promise of summer… the vanilla-citrus scent of gorse blossom hanging in the unseasonably warm air. Well, this was one of those.

I had a meeting in the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery this afternoon, after which the plan was a leisurely stroll across the causeway and down towards the Warren Strand to meet the family for a picnic on the beach. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? But it gets better.

A quick circuit of the reed-bed revealed an assortment of warblers in the deciduous trees at the western end… willow warblers, chiff-chaffs and a full on X-Factor-style sing-off between three male blackcaps.

DSCI2711There wasn’t much happening from the causeway – some late black tailed godwits and a couple of little egrets in their breeding regalia… they look so much “swankier” when they’re all dressed up.

So it was onto the Warren road, heading for the beach. Something made me stop scanning the estuary for waders and look up into the stubble field behind the houses on the other side of the road. A bird flew up and landed on the electricity wires… I swung up the bins.

Surely not…! I looked again… I was definitely seeing an adult female Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator).

I made my way into the field for a closer look. What a magnificent bird… a first for me, and a fabulous bird to find for yourself. I sent the news in to Colin Barton who runs @corkbirdnews and he was on the scene from Galley Head in short order. I’ve used one of Colin’s photos of the shrike above, as mine are a bit ropey (only had the compact camera with me, and handheld digibining is a tricky skill to master, see below).

These are my best two digibining efforts:

Woodchat ShrikeWoodchat Shrike

And here’s another one of Colin’s – a flight shot – to finish off.

Woodchat Shrike -- Photo by Colin Barton

A yellow wagtail in the same field (dubbed the “Woodchat field” by Colin – which has a nice ring to it, I have to say) was a bonus too, and the picnic with the family was a great way to round off a really fabulous day!

Mar 052009
A magnificent West Cork Beach

A magnificent West Cork Beach

We went to the beach on Sunday one Sunday a couple of weeks ago (taken me ages to post this.. :-().

As I watched the children running across the sand, and the sunlight (that’s right, sunlight) catching spray from the breaking waves I had to consciously remind myself that it was still only February. February in West Cork can be a pretty bleak affair, but today it was absolutely glorious.

I have no doubt that the fickle nature of Ireland’s climate means winter will re-assert her miserable grip again before finally giving up — but for a few days at least spring was most definitely in the air.

That’s one of the best things about living in the heart of West Cork: you get to really make the most of the good days. Out in the garden, down on the beach, up in the woods — you can take advantage of the great outdoors on those all-too-rare occasions when the outdoors in Ireland really is great.

We spent an invigorating few hours on the beach, letting the sea breeze blow away the cobwebs of a soggy winter. It’s amazing how a bracing walk (or an all-out-run in the kids’ case) in the fresh air can raise your spirits, and we were all on top form when we got back to the car, not to mention starving.

There’s something about being near the sea that piques the appetite like nothing else. All that sea air and activity is great, but it doesn’t half make you hungry. Stomachs rumbling, we decided to have lunch out for a change, and headed for Gossip.

Gossip is an unpretentious little bistro-style restaurant on the square in Rosscarbery. The premises has housed a variety of ventures over recent years, but it’s latest incarnation is something of a rarity in today’s Ireland: a restaurant serving good food that offers excellent value.

Elegant contemporary fixtures and fittings combine with exposed stone walls that hint at the building’s history to deliver a comfortable, informal dining atmosphere ideal for families. The staff are extremely pleasant and helpful — another rare find in the Irish hospitality industry today. They immediately put three tables together to make sure our party of five wasn’t cramped.

On Sundays a selection of newspapers adorns a table in the centre of the restaurant for patrons to pick up and read at their leisure. The menu offers a range of bistro-style fare that, while nothing out of the ordinary, includes dishes that will appeal to meat lovers, fish lovers and vegetarians alike. There’s also a large specials board to introduce a bit of variety, including the ubiquitous “Roast of the Day” — the staple Irish meat and two veg.

But the best thing about the menu is the kids’ selection. There are the usual XXXX and chips for those who want them, but you can also order them half portions of anything on the menu — including the full roast dinner — for just €5.

Our three went for roast beef, with mash, roast potato, veg and Yorkshire pudding. I had the steak and ale pie and my wife went for the monkfish. The food while not exceptional, was good, portions were hearty, and you can’t argue with the value. All five of us were well fed, with excellent service, in pleasant surroundings for €38.

We’ll certainly be going back to Gossip soon, and if you fancy giving it a whirl, they are running a special for the whole of Lent — one child eats for free with each paying adult. They’ve also got a colouring competition on for the children — with a prize of a meal for two at the restaurant for mum and dad. Well worth a visit.

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