A landscape on the edge
Clare Island is the largest of Mayo’s offshore islands. Its spectacular northern & western cliffs are home to large numbers of nesting sea birds. The most numerous of these are kittiwake, fulmar, guillemot and the greater black-backed gull. Clare Island possesses one of the most diverse geologies in all of Europe and incidentally is the location of Ireland’s oldest fossil. What makes Clare Island particularly important is its geological structure that is dominated by a ridge running from east to west that reaches 1520 feet at Croaghmore. This ridge forms precipitous cliffs on the seaward side, which are an important site for breeding sea birds. The landward side of the ridge is a steep, heathery slope that is home to a variety of rare arctic & alpine flora.
The Clare Island Surveys – Old and New
During the years 1909 to 1911, the most ambitious natural history project ever undertaken in Ireland, the Clare Island Survey, was carried out under the auspices of the Royal Irish Academy. Overseen by the naturalist & historian R.L. Praeger, his was the first major biological survey of a specific area carried out in the world. The data collected during three years of field work on the island by more than one hundred scientists from Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Britain represent the most comprehensive inventory of nature in a single geographical location during the early part of this century.
This original study served as a template for future studies most notably that led by Alan Meyers and published in 2002. His is based on a preliminary survey of two shores: an exposed shore at Leckanny and a less exposed shore at Portnakilly. Mayers ‘new’ study, published in 2007, provides a description of the island from its bedrocks to its biotic communities. It traces the history of human occupation and the impact of human activity on Clare Island.