NATURE AND WILDLIFE

 

FISHING

Sea angling

The southern part of the beach can produce flatfish and eel using lugworm and sandeel bait. Spinning for Pollack from Black Rock is also possible.

Coarse Fishing

Enquire locally for further information on fishing the Annagh River.


 

WILDLIFE

Many types of seaweeds, shellfish and other marine life are easy to investigate in the rock pools on Black Rock and on the rocky shore throughout the area. The area is an SAC – a special area of conservation. Spanish Point holds a very high number of littoral reef communities (13 different community types). The low shore and subtidal fringe at both Spanish Point and Cloghauninchy Point have high species richness that ranged from 71 to 85 species. Subtidally, the area is important for its deep, exposed reef communities that are characterized erect sponges and the fragile sea fan Eunicella verrucosa. There are a number of rare species present including the sponge Tetilla zetlandica which has only known from 4 localities in Ireland between Galway Bay and the Kerry Head Shoal. Algal communities are well developed, with an excellent diversity of red and brown algae species.


 

BIRDWATCHING

See information board at the beach for details of species that can be seen locally e.g. gulls, oystercatchers, purple sandpiper and turnstones.


 

GEOLOGY

 

The rocks in Spanish Point date back approximately 317- 320 million years to a period of time called the Pennsylvanian (Upper Carboniferous). They are sedimentary rocks and form part of what is called the Central Clare Group. At the time Ireland was much closer to the equator and large rivers delivered sand and mud to the coast where it was deposited in deltas. Think of the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi Delta today and you’ll have a good idea of Co. Clare 320 million years ago. The deltas advanced and retreated as the sea level rose and fell creating 5 cycles or cyclothems. The oldest two cycles form the Cliffs of Moher whereas here at Spanish Point we have the top of the third cycle (the Doolicky Cyclothem) and cyclothem IV.

Different layers and types of rocks can be seen as you walk along the shore. The rock layers or beds slope or dip in a south-easterly direction as they were gently warped and tilted by earth movements after deposition (a period of mountain building that affected much of Europe referred to as the Variscan). The rock types are sandstones, siltstones and mudstones originally deposited in river channels, on sand bars where the rivers entered the sea, in muddy bays and marshes, and on the sea floor offshore of the deltas. The sandstone beds are more resistant to modern coastal erosion and form the obvious ribs projecting out into the sea.

 

 

Episodic rises of sea level flooded over the deltas and allowed black organic-rich mud and the shells of marine organisms settle to the sea floor for a time. Flooding and retreat of the deltas was driven by melting of ice as the Earth was in the grips of an Ice Age during the Pennsylvanian. The black shales that accumulated at time of high sea level contain abundant ammonoid fossils. These were pelagic animals like the modern Nautilus and their shells settled onto the sea floor and allow the rocks to be dated and the different Clare cyclothems to be distinguished. There is one of these fossil-rich layers on the shore here.

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Goniatites Photo : J.Kruse

 

The sandstones contain many structures that help reconstruct the original environment. You can easily see the ripple marks on the surface of the rocks made by waves and currents – it looks as if the tide has just gone out – but for these rocks the tide went out 330 million years ago.

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http://www.sepmstrata.org

 

There is also a fossil soil layer which formed on a temporary patch of

dry ground between water channels in the delta all those millennia ago. Look out for the remains of fossil tree roots on this surface.

There was once a forest here! Like the Mississippi delta today these

dry ground between water channels in the delta all those millennia ago. Look out for the remains of fossil tree roots on this surface.

There was once a forest here! Like the Mississippi delta today, these Clare deltas advanced rapidly and were prone to underwater landsliding. Locally the layers are buckled and deformed as a result of sliding (best seen on the shore close to the Armada Hotel).

Examples of fossils

 

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Lepidodendron

 

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​Calamites

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Artisia - Cordaites Pith (Photo J.Kruse)
 

Acknowledgments and References
Thanks to Peter Haughton UCD for text, to Jutta Kruse for photographs.
The Banner Rocks by Matthew Parkes, Clare Co. Co. 2014
Syndepositional sliding and slumping in The West Clare Namurian Basin, Ireland. Special Paper No.4 by W.D.Gill Geological Survey of Ireland 1979
SEPM STRATA Society for Sedimentary Geology http://www.sepmstrata.org

 

ASTRONOMY

Low light levels make star gazing a pleasure in Spanish Point.

Five seashore animals to be seen at Spanish Point

 

Limpet or Bairneach (in Irish)

limpet

Limpets are herbivores and feed on tiny algae growing on the rocks – their “teeth” are about one millimetre long and are made of the hardest biological substance known.
 
They move around on the rocks when the tide is in – scraping off the algae.
 
They return “home” to the same spot every time.
 
They grind the rock to make an exact match to their shell so they have an airtight and watertight seal with the rock.
 
They find their way back home by following a trail of mucous left on the rocks – a bit like that left by a snail on land. 
 
 

Mussels or Diúilicín (in Irish)

mussles
 
Mussels are bivalves – they have two shells.
 
Dark blue in colour you can’t miss the mussels – they form  large mats across the rocks. 
 
The bigger the waves - the smaller the mussels.
 
That’s why the mussels here on the rocks at Spanish Point are so small. To have the big mussels you enjoy eating so much you need much calmer waters.
 
Mussels are filter feeders and are prey of the dog whelk.
 
 

Dog Whelk or Cuachma (in Irish)

dog whelk
 
 
 
They look pretty innocent but dog whelks are ruthless hunters and show no mercy to their prey.
 
Known as the "Killer Driller" they saw a hole into the shell of limpets (or mussels or barnacles), squirt acid into the hole to digest the limpet from the inside out and then hoover out the "goo".
 
All that can take up to a week. Yum!
 
It lays eggs that can often be found in rock crevices and seaweed. The eggs look like large grains of rice.
 
 

Sea Anemone or Bundun coiríneach (in Irish)

sea an sea an 2

Sea Anemones are soft and squishy but don’t go touching their tentacles – they sting!
 
That’s how they catch and stun their prey as it passes by.Their prey is drawn into the anemone’s stomach in the centre, the flesh is digested and any bones left are simply squirted  out.
 
They close up when the tide is out or they are threatened.
 
They are close relatives of jelly fish.
 
 

Barnacle or Garbhán carriage  (in Irish)

Barn

Tiny and grey these little animals are rough under foot but they give good grip if walking on wet rocks.

They are filter feeders and Charles Darwin studied them for many years.

These guys are closely related to .... Crabs!

Imagine an upside down crab living in a tiny volcano - that's what's inside these amazing creatures.

If you look very closely, you can see their shells are like little houses with a door that opens at the top.

They only come out to play & "socialise" & eat when the tide is in - they are hiding away inside their shells when you are around!

 

Biodiversity Survey of bluebells and cowslips in the area. Spring 2018

Biodiversity in Spanish Point

Introduction
Who are we?
Spanish Point Community Group was formed in 2015 with the aim of enhancing our area for the local residents and visitors to the area. There are forty-five members who work in a variety of different ways to promote the social, environmental, economic and general development of the area through a series of sub-committees. We work with Clare Local Development Company, Clare Co. Council, An Taisce, Clean Coasts, N.P.W.S., Tús and local businesses to further our aims. We are an established group in the area with several successfully completed projects.
These include provision of an outdoor gym, design and production of historical information panels, development of walking routes with explanatory leaflets, creation of a website (www.visitspanishpoint.ie) and organisation of annual summer events – e.g. barbeque, nature walks at beach. We communicate regularly with all residents of the area by newsletter/ Facebook.
There were six members of the group involved in the preparation of this Biodiversity Plan. We attended a Biodiversity Training Course and workshops on Habitat Mapping, Coastal Planting and the Control of Japanese Knotweed delivered by Mary Dillon and Dr. Janice Fuller from Burrenbeo. The training course and workshops were funded by CLDC through the LEADER programme.

Where is Spanish Point?
Spanish Point is on the west coast of Co. Clare approximately 30 km due west of Ennis. It is bounded to the north by the Clonbony river, to the south by the Annagh river while the whole of its western boundary is fronted by the Atlantic Ocean. Spanish Point is a discovery point on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Why is Spanish Point special?
Spanish Point is a beautiful scenic area with a blue flag beach on the Wild Atlantic Way on the West Coast of Clare. It is approximately three kilometres south of Miltown Malbay on the N67. The permanent population of less than two hundred expands during the summer months as many of the visitors have holiday homes in the area. Many of these non-permanent residents are involved in the Spanish Point Community Group and make a valuable contribution to the development of the area. Spanish Point is also a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area with both a sandy and a rocky beach with a chain of sand dunes which are in need of stabilisation as there are three major blowouts. Coastal erosion impacts the area with substantial rock falls in need of reinforcement with rock armour.

Our objectives are
 to identify and map the flora and fauna
 to preserve and manage the biodiversity and the ecosystems in the area
 to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity.
Part of the area to the north of the beach is of geological and biological significance. The rocks date back over 330 million years and show wave cut platforms, ripple beds and goniatite fossils. Fragile sea fans and rare sponges, as well as an excellent diversity of red and brown seaweeds, make this a special area of conservation.

How did Spanish Point get its name?
Our place name dates back to 1588 when two ships of the Spanish Armada were wrecked off the coast here. According to local folk memory many of those drowned and the few survivors executed by Boetius Clancy the sheriff of Clare were buried in a common grave at a place referred to locally as Tuama na Spáinneach.

History of Spanish Point
The earliest development of the locality began in 1712 when Thomas Morony took a lease of land here in West Clare then referred to as Poulawillin at a rental of £90 per annum from the Earl of Thomond. This land was then purchased in 1750 by Thomas’s eldest son Edmund. It was then divided into two farms and set on thirty-one-year leases to two local landlords. When the leases expired, Edmund’s eldest son also named Thomas decided to come to Spanish Point with his family where he built Miltown House and established the Miltown House Estate. He saw the potential of this beautiful seaside location encouraging friends to come and build saltwater lodges, Morony providing the sites. In 1808 he united with other adventurers to draw up plans to build a Hotel and Tepid Baths which when built was for a short period referred to as “the largest hotel in the British Isles”. This complex which also contained a large square of stables, the Atlantic Hotel, and Tepid Baths attracted wealthy visitors to Spanish Point to benefit from the fresh sea water baths and seaweed baths. The Atlantic Hotel became the centrepiece of early nineteenth century tourism along the scenic Clare coastline. In Spanish Point he also built houses for his own sons and daughters adjacent to the hotel. Many of these houses are still occupied to this day. Further information on the history of the area is available
on www.visitspanishpoint.ie/history.

Resources

www.cldc.ie/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sand_dune_stabilization
www.japaneseknotweedireland.ie
www.gov.ie/en/.../department-of-rural-and-community-development/
www.hawthornnurseries.com/
www.communityfoundation.ie/
www.clarecoco.ie/
www.irishseedsavers.ie/
www.wildlifemanagement.ie/bug-hotels/
http://www.biodiversityireland.ie
Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment
https://www.dccae.gov.ie/
Heritage Officer - Clare Co. Council
https://www.gov.ie/en/.../department-of-rural-and-community-development/
An Taisce - National Spring Clean
www.nationalspringclean.org/
Clean Coasts
https://cleancoasts.org
https://www.batconservationireland.org/
National Parks and Wildlife Service -
https://www.npws.ie/
http://www.biodiversityireland.ie
www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/heritage/natural/buildings_stone_walls.htm

Potential funding sources

The biodiversity subcommittee will investigate, identify and source funding from LEADER, Clare Co. Council community grants and Community Foundation of Ireland by checking the eligibility requirements and completing the application process and hopefully secure the funding.

Ensuring Success

We will ensure success by making certain that all members of our community group become involved in the different aspects of our plan.
There will also be opportunities for members of local businesses and the wider community to play important parts and we will encourage and welcome their involvement. Members of the Biodiversity Sub Committee will monitor and evaluate progress, bring together the diverse strengths within our community and ensure that, through community teamwork, momentum is maintained and that the plan is completed on time.

 

Any queries or questions click here