Blue Flag Beach in Mulranny, Co. Mayo
Mulranny is one of the Blue Flag Beaches along the Mayo coastline. This popular beach is located south-west of Mulranny village. The Blue Flag is an environmental Award given to communities that make a special effort to keep their beaches and marinas clean and manage them with consideration for the local environment.
Some of the more common birds that can be seen at the beach include:
- Sandwich Tern
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
- Herring Gull
This is the most famous stand of Mediterranean heath, a plant that in Ireland, is restricted to County Mayo. The seashore is fringed by this Mediterranean heath above a saltmarsh which includes English scurvey grass and terrestrial seaweed.
The adjacent woodland is made up of birch, hawthorn and rowan with hazel, sycamore, holly and ash comin in above the disused railway line.
Some oak also occurs. The ground flora includes sweet vernal grass, Yorkshire fog, greater woodrush and tormentil. Where the ground is shady, ferns and woodland herbs are found in great variety. The presence of mosses and liverworts indicate the woodlands western position in the county.
The wood is surprisingly rich in birdlife. Gold crest, great tit, long-tailed tit, tree creeper, spotted flycatcher and willow warbler were noted.
This saltmarsh has developed in the quiet, sheltered conditions behind Mulranny beach. It is distinctive because of it's complex drainage pattern. The grassy sward is composed of typical species such as thrift, Sea Plaintain, Saltmarsh Grass, Rushes and Sedges, Sea Pimpernel with Glasswort and Animal Seablite further down towards sea. The marsh is used by some shore birds for feeding and resting but is possibly too enclosed for larger flocks.
Saltmarshes occur on a small scale all around Clew Bay, but one of this size is rare. It also shows the full transition from sea to land. It has a most unusual arrangement of channels, but few pans on the top surface. The high level of grazing which dwarfs all of the palnts and prevents many of them from flowering is an interesting ecological factor.
On the Western seaboard, low, flat windswept sand plains known as Machair are found. Machair consists of a mixture of siliceous sand derived from glacial tills and sediments and calcareous sand derived from the shells of animals which lived on the offshore platform.
Machair beaches are often found between rocky outcrops or in small bays between headlands. The upper limit of the beach is usually marked by a pebble or cobble ridge behind which there are dunes.
Behind the dunes is usually a gently sloping plain whose degree of flatness is a reflection of age. The level of the machair plain is controlled by the underlying water table. Hence many machair areas are flooded during winter. A seaward escarpment marks the landward limit of the plain.
Machair is a completely vegetation covered coastal plain, marram and lyme grass being the most common varieties found. Orchids can be found in some locations. Grazing has an important role in machair formation and keeps the characteristic plant community in balance.
In times of storm, the erosional function of waves is greatest but it is also during storms that Storm Beaches are created. Cobbles, pebbles and boulders are hurled up onto the shore, usually further inland than the level reached by high spring tides.
The coarseness of this material usually ensures that the backwash of the retreating waves is reduced so that little material moves back down the beach. When the storm subsides, the deposited boulders remain where they were thrown, out of reach of the sea.
Deposited material is never sorted by size and so storm beach material is varied in size although the stones and boulders are usually rounded and smooth from the abrasive action of the waves and the finer material suspended in the water.