As many of the other IRES 2014 team members have already stated in their blog posts, this experience at Lough Hyne has been more than any of us could have ever imagined. We have been given so many new opportunities, many of which were not expected in the least. Being that the program is a research based, many of us were anticipating that most of our gained knowledge would be related to science. However, that is definitely not the case. I think it is safe to say that we all feel that we have gained much more than a new perspective on science. We have gained a new perspective of the world and the cultures within it, all thanks to the IRES program, Lough Hyne and the wonderful people of West Cork, Ireland. With that, I would like to share a perspective of my own with all of you. Over the course of the past four weeks, I was given many opportunities to foster my passion for photography, and thus have many photos from all of the aforementioned experiences at Lough Hyne. I only hope that they have captured enough of the lough’s spirit and beauty to captivate you as much as the lough did all of us.
During National Heritage week, we were given a chance to learn about the history of Lough Hyne on a walk with Terri Kearney, a coordinator at the Skibbereen Heritage Center. The weather couldn’t have been better, though the steep inclines of the many consecutive hills made us wish for a cooler temperature.
One day, after many hours of hard work at the microscope, I found myself with a few hours of free time during a beautiful moment of sun just before sunset. I took it as an opportunity to go for a walk and take some photos. Just as I was returning from the walk (with very few photos to be proud of), I stumbled upon this gray heron, which seemed to be very comfortable with me approaching it. Turns out, this particular heron was rehabilitated and returned to the lough a few years ago and can be seen fishing at this very spot almost everyday.
During the annual touch tank event held during National Heritage Week, we were able to give back to the community by teaching them about the wonderful array of life that can be seen in lough every day. These two children seemed to be particularly interested in (and slightly afraid of) the velvet swimming crab, which is also known as the devil crab for its bright red eyes and, dare I say, crabby demeanor.
One of my personal favorite moments of the program was our sailing trip around Baltimore. We saw many seabirds, but none of them can compare to the Northern Gannet, which dives straight down from spectacular heights to forage for its food. Though it’s not always easy to spot the bird while it’s in the air, the splash that it creates during a dive is nearly impossible to miss.
During another trip to Baltimore, we had a chance to visit the Dún na Séad Castle, which is most well known for its ownership by a clan of pirates, the O’Driscolls, in the 1400s. The current owners of the castle, one of which is a descendant of the O’Driscoll clan, have renovated the place, living in one half and showing the other as a private museum during the summer.
By Carly Otis