Wednesday 8th April
A superb breakfast served up by the 'there's lovely' Alice. Goodbye and thanks to her and Dermot for a lovely night's stay and the long ride to Aghatirourke RSPB reserve began. At least the weather was continuing to be very kind to me, sunny and warm with just a little wind coming from the south west.
Puncture! Just before the Republic of Ireland border, reasonably soon fixed despite there being two small holes.The mileage signs caused hilarity just before this happened. 11 miles then 10 to go to Monaghan, then 11 again, back to 10 and finally back to 11. I'd travelled 4 miles during this time and where they had gone for the sign makers I don't know.
Into and straight through Monaghan, into and straight through the Republic, I had no time to sightsee this time.
Blackcap singing in a thicket to the left and as i'm back in Northern Ireland I can count it on the BOU year list, number 179.
Willow warblers! Bird number 180 and conveniently sitting atop a small bush, photographed too.Off onto a very small country lane and the largest gravelled tarmac ever, more like pebbles. No chance at cycling over it, off and push to the top of the hill.
Across the bridges of upper Lough Erne and around to the lane to take me to the ridge top that is Aghatirourke RSPB reserve.
Leaving my panniers under a hedgerow where I had camped back in 2010, I went up to the top and along to the end of the tarmac road. Skylarks, meadow pipits and a lone female stonechat were the only birds on the expanse of moorland that makes up the reserve. I walked up the nearest hill and looked all around, hoping to see an irish red grouse, a sub-species of the version in the rest of the UK. No such luck but the views were tremendous as the sun started to go down to the west.
Back to my stuff, tent up and a very peaceful rest under a star strewn sky.
Thursday 9th April
Up and packed early and off downhill and along the main road to Enniskillen for breakfast at a roadside cafe.Off to the north west and along that side of lower Lough Erne, the views soon became amazing. Once again the weather made the waters blue and the islands shine.
At a garden beside the road I stopped to photograph an alien! As I laughed at the sight, the lady owner of the garden and large bungalow, Clare came around the corner and suggested I looked to my left.
I was in tears laughing. Look at the dog.
Clare was joined by her husband, Dennis and the next hour was spent enjoying their company over a coffee and biscuit. Fabulous couple, so in synch with each other, I really enjoyed meeting them both.Around to the north coast of the Lough and down to the RSPB sign that states that there are 39 management reserves around the Lough! I explored this one, impossible to go to the others, the RSPB puts them all under the banner of Lower Lough Erne reserve.
Summer migrants had been around in force today with 59 singing willow warblers, 7 blackcaps and 8 chiff chaff doing the same and 8 swallows seen. No birds of prey today. The last one was a sparrowhawk that I saw yesterday. Where are they all?To Kesh and then towards Castlederg, I stopped at a derelict Primary school building and went around the back to camp in private. Sad to see a grave in the playground for a teacher who had died at the early age of 23!
Friday 10th April
Another day cycling. I'll be glad when the balance shifts towards the birding side of the tour.Through Castlederg and then on towards Strabane. Just before there, at Sion Mills I saw the church that had Jesus and his disciples above the entrance and I knew I'd been this way before.
Strabane and a foot-long sandwich at Subway with Wifi to catch up with facebook a bit.On the way out of the city I found the musicians again, now fenced off. In 2010 I had fallen asleep against a grassy bank here and not had anything knicked whilst I slept, thankfully.
Into 'Derry to sort out a couple of financial matters and then to Lough Foyle. High tide at this RSPB reserve and very few birds. A number of mute swans were all really.To Limavardy and into a pub B and B for a room, I was accosted by a couple of drunk girls who made me blush. I won't say how! There was a lot of drinking and laughter for a wake being held there after the funeral this morning.
Accosted again, this time by Shirley. “I'm making your breakfast tomorrow,” she told me.